Answering people about home-schooling becomes a little like that. At first I wanted to really help them understand with full-blown explanations, a list of books I had read, and statistics. Later, it became, "Eh, I just love to teach my kids" with a shrug and a change of subject.
You learn after a while there are three questions in the same one:
So, why do you home-school anyway?
Interpretation: Are you nuts/crazy?
Why is it you home-school, again?
Interpretation: Do you really think you're way is better than ours?
I'm curious why you home-school.
Interpretation: I'm curious why you home-school.
Even though it's not necessary to run through a list of whys every time someone asks you, it is important to sit down every now and then and find out the answers for yourself. A shift or change in why you home-school can determine what curriculum you use, whether or not you keep home-schooling, or what extra curricular activities become a part of your life or get cut off the list.
The truth is, I don't even know all of my own whys. I know some of them really well and others I sort of run into...like, yep, there's another reason. Other reasons grow, change, shift or even disappear over time.
Here are some of mine:
- I feel called to home-schooling. For some, that may seem like a cop out answer, but I don't think so at all. God knows all things, including where our family and our children are headed. God can see the future and I can't...so in trusting His direction for my life and the lives of our children, we also trust Him in our destinations. Josh and I prayed from the time we were married until our oldest was two years old, seeking God's direction in this area. I was mainly public schooled and Josh was primarily home-schooled, so we saw this decision coming even before we had children. If I had no other reason than this, it would be good enough for me to obey God in what He called me to.
- Individualized Study--other than the previous reason, this is probably my strongest pull in home-schooling. If every single teacher and leader in the school were a Christian, prayer were still allowed in the classroom, bible taught as a subject in equality with math, and every child was a good influence on our children...I would still home-school. I absolutely love the freedom to allow studies to take off in wonderfully deep directions. Knowledge is limitless and I don't believe that every child needs to know the same exact bits of it. Sure, every child needs to know how to read and do basic math, but who's to say that one child doesn't need a spoonful of Columbus and a feast of Roman Civilization? Who's to say one child needs merely a basic understanding of mathematics and another child needs to spend hours a day leaping ahead to understanding numbers at a level rarely taught in elementary studies.
- Learning in the home atmosphere--this is one that developed over time for me and is now one of my favorite benefits of home-schooling. When we first started, I set the kids down at the table and we had a specific place and time to study. Now, our entire home and yard are places of learning. The day I gave into this was the day I found the joy of home-schooling. On a cool spring day, I may find one child balled up in a quilt on the front porch reading "Heidi" and drinking Chai Tea and the other child up a tree with a spiral notebook writing a story. On a hot day right before or after summer break, it wouldn't be unusual to find both children in a wade-pool in the middle of lunch break and then swinging in their swimsuits with a good book. I've found that the more comfortable my child is the better the information sinks in (with a few exceptions like handwriting and math drills).
- "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..." Prov. 1:7. I believe this. I believe that all knowledge, not just biblical knowledge, begins with the utmost respect and reverence of God. Step by little step, I think public schools are being pushed further and further away from the respect and reverence of God. I think that separating God from knowledge is about like separating H2 from O and expecting to be hydrated anyway. There are some parents who can and do work at mixing God back into their child's public school education successfully. My parents did. I personally feel like that would be an uphill battle too complex for this mama.
- I wanted for my children what God told the Israelites to do to teach their children. "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up..." Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 (but really 6: 1-9). I envisioned for my children that everything they learned, along with the knowledge of God's ways, would be integrated into every aspect of their lives--while cooking breakfast as well as while playing outside, while studying the bible and while studying science, in good days and in bad, all throughout the day. I wanted to be in the middle of a math lesson and be able to grab an apple out of the fridge to show them what 1/8th looked like. I wanted to be out in the back yard picking Basil, and be able to compare it to the pruning that God does in our own lives to allow us to grow. And, I wanted these kind of lessons to happen on the spur of the moment. Home-schooling provided the greatest opportunity for this in our family.
- Learning to live, not just to learn--this wasn't one I really thought about ahead of time, but more realized as time went on. Learning was our primary goal as we home-schooled, but I had lots of one on one time with each child to teach things beyond book learning. Abby's now 10 and has been able to cook simple meals, wash dishes and clean up the kitchen, run the washer and dryer, and change a diaper for the past two years. Recently, Abram has taken on learning to run the washer and dryer. He's also been helping unload and reload the dishwasher the past couple of years. Both of my older children know how to understand what Bubzy (almost 2) wants as well as I do. They've learned his toddler speech along with me. It's not unusual when I get sick, for Abby and Abram to pretty much take over for the day.
- I love teaching! There is something so special about seeing the light in your child's eyes brighten when s/he finally understands something that's been a challenge for them. When my oldest was learning to read, it brought me to tears every time she hit a new milestone. We had learned it together. I had learned how to teach a child to read and she had learned to read. It was an amazing feeling!
- As a bonus, I don't have to worry near as much about drugs, violence, promiscuity, and bullying when they school at home. All children, whether schooled in public school, private school, or home school still face temptations when they're around others. It just happens. When I hear from teacher friends and people working in the schools, however, I know that kids have changed a lot since I was there. It's not uncommon to hear of gang activity, sexual activity as early as 5th grade (shocking!), drugs, and bullying. Children who school at home still play with kids in the neighborhood, go to club or sports activities, and Sunday school. However, the numbers of children and the somewhat controlled environment do tend to decrease the chances of the most serious worries. One cul-de-sac in our own neighborhood has less variety of influence than an entire cafeteria of children. It's just numbers. There are non-Christian people and kids that go to church, but far more that are believers than not. You may still find a bully on the basketball court, but sports and club activities are full of children who's parents care. You rarely have gangs and violence coming from these families--wherever their children go to school. It's not full-proof protection, but it does reduce exposure to the worst of the worst.
- I have the time. Flexibility is so important to have when teaching children. They may fly through several lessons and then get stuck on one thing. At home, I have the time to sit day after day on that same foundational information my child needs to learn before continuing on. It may seem quite a bit slower, but there aren't many holes in their education. That doesn't mean my time isn't packed to the gills during school--I just have the freedom to spend that time where the child needs it.
- And last, but definitely not least, I want my children to see themselves for who they are as people and not by what grades they make or who they hang out with or what bag they carry.