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