Last spring I met a young mom, Elizabeth, at a homeschooling conference. Her oldest was not yet of school age, but she was thinking about homeschooling. Here Elizabeth shares her insights on the prospect of homeschooling:
Our Homeschooling Discernment Process
Homeschooling has been on my heart for over two years now, which might not seem like a long time to some but for me it is over half of my “new life” as a parent. In the past three and a half years God has blessed us with two daughters, a son and another daughter due in April 2019. I wish I could say the decision to homeschool was made the second I felt a draw to it in my heart, but the truth is that we still don’t know what is best for our family. Below are the factors that are playing a huge role in our journey towards making this decision:
My husband and I will not make the decision of whether or not to homeschool based on fear. That being said, fear is a sly snake that had slithered its way into every element of our discernment process (dispite how hard I’ve worked to keep it out!). First, it was a fear of the world that heavily drove me to want to homeschool: fear of bad peer influences and bullying, fear of inaccurate doctrine being taught in school…the list goes on. I prayed about this fear for a long time, and I was finally given the light and faith that if it’s God’s will that our kids attend traditional school, He knows what is best for them and He will provide for them (Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 29:11). I must trust that His ways are higher than my own (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Once I got over the fear of my children going out into the world, a new fear popped up on the opposite side of the spectrum: the fear that I cannot homeschool. The fear that I am not good enough, that I’m not organized enough, that I’m not smart enough, and that I’m not dedicated enough to teach my children well. I’m continuing to pray about this, as well as taking some practical steps (see below) to see if these concerns are warranted.
OPENNESS TO LIFE
I’ve been pregnant four times in four years, and pregnancy is not an easy thing for me. In fact, it’s a bit of a living hell because I suffer from bad prenatal/postpartum depression, as well as all-day sickness for the first half of gestation. It’s debilitating to the extent that this past fall when I was suffering with first trimester nausea and depression I “decided” with “certainty” that I would never homeschool. When I’m in these seasons of darkness, I am just short of being non-functional and in that state it is essentially impossible for me to homeschool. This is obviously a real, tangible problem.
Of course, now that that season has passed, homeschooling is back on the table for me and I have hope again that it might be right for our family. And so I wonder, how can I be open to life (and all the depression that debilitates me on and off for the year during pregnancy and the period postpartum) and still homeschool well? Do we give up having more children in order to homeschool the ones we have? To me, this doesn’t seem like the answer God is leading us to. Still, I’m just not sure what the way forward is in this regard and whether it is a grave enough reason not to homeschool.
THE PRACTICAL OF THE DAY-TO-DAY
My husband helped me to realize that the best way to see if homeschooling works for us is to dive right in and do it. This is also a good way for me to see if my current fears about being dedicated, organized and smart enough are warranted.
I wish I could say that I’ve jumped right in and we’ve thrived; the truth is I’ve had several false starts. I tried one curriculum that required just too much outside material gathering and preparation for me to keep up with. My lessons were also unfocused and the children quickly lost interest.
So that came to a discouraging end very quickly.
Next, I tried to incorporate small educational activities into our day (simple things that I came up with on my own, such as looking at/talking about the letter A). But then I became pregnant, first-trimester sickness and depression set in, and that plan quickly fizzled out as I switched into survival mode.
Now we’re on to our third attempt (and third time is a charm, right?). This go around, I’m using an old edition of Seton’s Early Literacy Pre-K book, plus their Religion Pre-K book. I’m working through a few pages a day with my oldest while my younger two nap. For the first time its been a joyful, beautiful experience that I look forward to daily. My daughter also eagerly asks every day when we’re going to “do school”. So we will continue down this path and see where it leads us!
OUR FAMILY VISION & HOMESCHOOLING
Our vision for our family is to have a Christ-centered home, where we live to serve one another. The family is the domestic church. It is important to me and my husband that our kids are raised to be others-centered, as opposed to the self-centered person the secular world would have them become. We want them to seek truth, not self; to value people above possessions and prestige. We want to raise helpers, individuals who work for the good of the other. We want them to grow up in a warm, joyful home that is a haven where they come to know God and His love for them. We want to encourage and foster their God-given curiosity and love for learning. We want to raise readers. We want to raise humans who seek out God’s beauty in the natural world around them, who treasure and respect that beauty and who work to protect the gifts God has given them.
I definitely see homeschooling as conducive to our family vision.
While there are reasons in favor of us homeschooling, we’re still hung up on a few things: can we really do it, or will the work and stress that come with it cause an unhealthy imbalance within our family? Will my medical and physical limitations harm my children’s growth and education? In the past I have been known to take on too much (things that God did not want me to do): would I be doing just that by homeschooling, knowing I have real limitations?
For now, we will keep one foot in each world (a couple mornings a week at preschool for the big kids, followed by some afternoon homeschooling) and see where God leads us over the next year and a half as my daughter prepares to enter kindergarten.
If you are a homeschooling family, how have you persevered with school through difficult life seasons? Or if you concluded that it was not God’s will for your family to homeschool, what were the limitations and realizations in your home that led you to the different path God has planned for you?
Elizabeth is a SAHM to Sienna (3), Sammy (2), Rosie (1) and baby Zelie (due April 2019). When she’s not busy changing diapers or chasing after little people, Elizabeth enjoys going on dates with her husband Paul, reading, writing, eating dark chocolate and drinking coffee (preferably all at once). You can find her online at bumpsbabiesbooks.com and on Instagram @lizziestoddard
5 thoughts on “Should I Homeschool? One Mom’s Discernment”
Ellizabeth, oh how I can relate to your struggle with challenging pregnancies! I, too, have extreme, debilitating nausea and vomiting for the first half of my pregnancies (we have five children). I’ve homeschooled through those long, bleak months, but they often involve doing nothing more than reading books together and/or doing some basic math, as well as anything my older kids can do independently. Given the flexibility of homeschooling, though, it has always been okay that we have “lost” a few months of rigorous academics because we are able to make that up once I’m feeling better, which is usually week 19 or 20 of my pregnancy. We then move into high gear and work through our subjects until the baby arrives, at which time we take another break, although one that is much shorter than the pregnancy break.
Your current approach…preschool in the morning and homeschooling in the afternoon…sounds like a wise one and seems to be working for you. If you continue to enjoy homeschooling as much as you (and your daughter) are now and feel like the Lord is continuing to lead you in this direction, homeschooling her for kindergarten would probably be a great decision. Homeschooling is not easy, especially with many little children/babies in the home, as well as tough pregnancies and postpartum times, but God pours out so much grace onto us during those difficult times, and in many, many ways strengthens our families during the struggles. Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t times to consider school for some or all of our children. There are situations when that makes sense, too. The most important thing is to always turn towards the Lord and ask for His guidance. He will lead us down the right path. I will keep you and your family in prayer as you discern. God bless you! Karen
We have five children ages 12 to 3 and we don’t home school. Our children go to the local Catholic state primary schools (actually in the next parish because they have single-sex schools). I work full-time and my husband is the home maker. To be honest we never thought of home schooling at the outset. I always believed children would lose out socially. However, since then we have met many families who do home school and it has taken much of the mystery away from it. If any of our children were unhappy in school, or we were unhappy with our choice of schools, I think we would be very open at this point to my husband taking it on.
I think there are lots of pluses to it, not least the logistics, we have three different pick up times, next year 4, not to mention my daughter getting to her new secondary school which will be another challenge. My husband leaves the house to do pick ups at 1.10 and gets home by about 3. there is a bit of play time built in for the younger one while waiting for the older one. But you would do a lot of home schooling in those two hours! One Mum of six I know who home schools says please don’t praise her. She does it because it’s easier!
I do think if you home school that you have to be very deliberate and organised in ensuring your children get to mix with other children beyond the family, especially important as they get a bit older. The benefit is they are probably mixing with kids you choose, the disadvantage (maybe) they don’t get to encounter a diverse range of other children, experience with whom can prompt good family discussions.
Some of the other benefits of school life I can see are the diverse spectrum of interests and experiences my children encounter, presentations about different nationalities and cultures, singing in a national song competition, carol singing for elderly people, debates, representing the school at sport (some recent examples from my own children). Also the diverse class based activities , in art, music, science , where maybe another teacher in the school with expertise in these areas gives them some classes . I think if we were homeschooling we would have a more limited curriculum.
Finally, sometimes an outside perspective on your child is valuable. Someone who gets to know your child quite well over the course of the year. My 10 year old’s teacher mentioned something at his P-T meeting before Christmas, something I hadn’t spotted. A new way of behaving that if let develop would be a problem. I really appreciated his bringing it up. he wasn’t over-stating it , but it was great and really gave me pause for thought. It also had benefits beyond the one incident as it made me realise I was probably giving to much time and energy to the two ‘challenging’ children and the youngest and perhaps ignoring the needs of the two ‘good’ ones.
Then perhaps it’s good sometimes (always?) that Mum/Dad and teacher are different. Are they different roles?
Anyway, very best wishes for your decision. if your heart is set on it, try it (as you are), it’s never to late to change. I know a Mum who home schooled till her children were 6 which to me is very attractive!
Best wishes for your new baby!
Always re-read before you post! Missed a few ‘toos’ there!
Egad! I’m not sure where the missing “toos” should go… maybe you can enlighten me. Ah well, I should know better than to try to post something with a toddler on the loose! Thanks for the heads up!
Dear Elizabeth, I have 4 kids and my pregnancies and post-births are pretty hard on me. I’m basically out of commission for 18 months at a time, which sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. During those months, we keep homeschooling to the bare basics – math, reading and writing. There were many, many days when I would homeschool just for an hour each day, and the kids would bring their books to my bed. Now that they’re older (they’re 11, 9, 5 and 3), the older kids are increasingly independent so I plan their workload the night before, and they take it from there. I’m the opposite of relaxed and I’m constantly worried if I’m doing enough to educate them, but somehow, mysteriously, the kids seem to do fine and keep up with their grade level. When I recover my health and my sleep, then we return to a full workload. It’s not perfect, and there are many aspects of our homeschooling that could be improved, but at the end of the day, for us the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the difficulties and challenges. As hard as these periods are, when we look back at them we see how they have helped our family become stronger and closer.
Your children are quite young and I will confess to you that my kids do very little “official” school until they are in grade 2. Before that, we focus on math basics, reading and basic writing, which takes less than an hour a day. We also spend a lot of time reading/listening to good books. Everything else (science, religion, history, etc etc etc) is learned through conversation, play and osmosis. I wouldn’t worry about the academics yet.
Homeschooling is not for everyone and is not a decision to be taken lightly. But I guarantee that if you and your husband decide that homeschooling is the right choice for your family, it can certainly be done during difficult times.
All the best for your family and new baby!