Tell Me What You REALLY Think About Homeschooling

We are in our fourth year of homeschooling.  It’s great and challenging; full of wonderful things and also full of headaches and moments of insanity.  The first year or two that we homeschooled, I didn’t hear too much negativity from other people about our choice.  I faced some opposition, but overall, people politely smiled and said (perhaps falsely, but who cares) “Good for you!”

I’m pretty sure the Lord was protecting my sensitive and insecure spirit during those first years.  I was so unsure of myself, I surely couldn’t have handled anyone else being unsure of me, too.  So I took all those smiles and fake “good for yous” and just pretended the world was supportive and thought the best of my family’s little adventure in education.

Lately, I’ve been amused at how opinionated people like to be with touchy subjects like homeschooling.  In the last year, I’ve faced comments such as (all comments listed below have actually been said to someone in my family)….

“And they just let  you do that?!”  Apparently “they” is the authorities and this individual was shocked I wasn’t in jail.  Thank heavens America isn’t there yet.

“You’re not going to do that THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH,  are you?”  The  question sounded slightly menacing.

To my children, “Do you even learn?”  My kids were so dumbfounded by this question, they kind of laughed and then became speechless.  They have obviously not learned how to respond to preposterous questions.

“The thing I’m jealous about with kids that homeschool is they get way more days off.”  Oh, contrary, youngster.  We school through all those ridiculous holidays your government-funded school takes off.  And no, they don’t get to do their school in their PJ’s.

“The good thing about Common Core is that it will keep homeschoolers accountable, like the homeschooling mom who sits home all day and watches Dr. Phil.”  I would like to find said mom and give her a stern talking-to.  Because 1. Dr. Phil  makes ya’all stupider and 2. you’re making the rest of us look bad.  Come on.

I won’t even bother with the usual culprits, “What about their socialization?  But how do you know how to teach if you don’t have a teaching degree?  It’s so nice that you’re home all day–can you watch my kids?  We send our kids to school because we don’t think that we should isolate/over-protect/insulate/quarantine them.”

I rarely have to wonder what people think about the education that we’re giving our kids.  They are so happy to offer me their generous thoughts!

Unfortunately, many people obviously don’t hold homeschooling in high regard.  The people-pleaser in me really has to work hard to put this aside.  I know that I have high educational expectations for my kids (based on their capabilities).  I know that homeschooling is about more than just the kind of education that school can give.  I also have the responsibility of molding Godly behaviors, teaching respect that starts with a fear of the Lord, and showing the love and forgiveness that Christ showed us.  I want my children to love science because God created the world around them.  I want them to understand math to see that God is a God of order, not disorder.  I want them to love literature so that they can empathize with people and understand different perspectives.   I want them to enjoy music and art so that they can express joy and praise to God.  I want them to learn to get along with their family members (often the ones we struggle the most to get along with!) so that they can learn to work out differences and learn loyalty and kindness.

It’s not for everyone.  I’m not one to defend my choice by demeaning yours.  With prayer and God’s grace, public or private school won’t ruin your kid, just like by the same grace, I won’t ruin mine by teaching them at home!  Show the love, people.  (And keep your opinion to yourself until someone asks for it.)





Faith to Begin the Journey

About three years ago, some friends of ours decided to take their two oldest children out of public school and make the transition to homeschooling.  We have always deeply respected these friends as a couple, as parents, and as believers.  We listened to their reasons (stemming from their children’s request to be homeschooled) and we took their advice to heart: “Start praying about the school decision now.  It might seem like a long time away, but it will be here before you know it.”  And here it is…..our daughter is five years old and we’ve been praying about this decision for three years.  We’ve gone back and forth.  At times, homeschooling appeared to be nothing less than a sure ticket into the insane asylum for me.  When our little preschooler told us repeatedly that she wanted to go to the school that we can see through our backyard, we prayed more and sought more wisdom from godly friends.  We even put her in a public preschool this year to give us more experience and wisdom.

So here we sit, practically on the eve of the journey (a new school year begins in about 4 1/2 months!).  We feel confident of our decision to homeschool.  We attended the MACHE conference this last weekend and feel both better equipped and more encouraged.  And so, with faith, we begin the journey that we feel called to–at least for this season.

As we begin, I almost daily have to tell myself to ignore the people who doubt, question, or are just plain shocked or repulsed at our decision.  Today I read a blog post about second-guessing (from the pastor of the church we attended when we lived in the Twin Cities–he has a great blog!)–I was strengthened in our prayerful decision to homeschool and also in my determination to ignore the nay-sayers.

Here is to keeping my mouth shut when faced with the doubters……oh, yes, and here is to faith for the journey (‘cuz I’m gonna need it!).

100% does not leave me with enough percentages…..

My life feels split up into about 50 pieces lately.  So many things going on, so many things I should be doing, so many things I feel responsible for.  There’s only so much I can give out on a daily basis and it ends up making me feel like I’m not able to put my all or my best into anything.  Everything is suffering.  Giving 100% to each day might mean that my kids only get 15%, my husband 10%, housework 20%, ministry 20%, feeding my family a good meal 15%, the hope of getting any quiet time with the Lord or getting in any exercise–10%, the extras–running errands, trying to focus on photography, balancing the checkbook, encouraging a friend–10%.  Which means that nothing is getting the effort or attention it needs or deserves.  Which means that I feel like a failure and a loser at the end of every day.  Which means I can hardly catch my breath or still my racing heart as I think of the next day where I’m giving way too little of myself to way too many things again.

I think that one of my least favorite, over-used words is “balance.”  I might live in a different world than all these people who claim they’ve found “balance” in their lives, but my life seems less like a balancing act and way more like a juggling act.  And I really hate juggling.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Four years ago we packed up all of our belongings and moved out of the suburbs to a small little town.  We were ready to get out of the rat race, we wanted to slow life down, we wanted to downsize our living expenses so that I could stay at home and focus on being a mom and a wife.  Somehow the rat race caught up with me here in this small little town.  I typically have less than one day a week where I am not obligated to an activity or a person outside of our family.  Even when we lived in the suburbs and I spent three days a week commuting back and forth to the city to work, I had at least two full days a week that were saved just for me to spend time with our daughter, catch up on chores, housework, etc.  I have less of that “home” time now and I have an extra child in the mix.  I’m not quite sure how that happened or how this year in particular became so demanding.  I’m sure a big part of it started with me saying a lot of “yeses” and not enough “nos.”

Where Do I Go From Here?

Homeschooling begins next year for our oldest daughter and before it even begins, I want to somehow take a snapshot of this moment in time, I want to freeze the sheer panic I feel on a daily basis, I want to remember this stressful time well enough to stay firm in the “home” aspect of “homeschooling” next year.  Commitments for the here and now have already been made and I have to fulfill those commitments.  I can only focus on surviving to the best of my ability and maybe lowering my standards in a few areas so that I don’t completely beat myself up before summer begins.  The only change I can really make is for the future.  I want to promise to myself and to my family to reserve our weekdays for school, family time, and ministry that we can do as a family.  Lord, give me the strength to uphold that promise!  Give me the courage to say no!  And help me do more than just survive until then…..give me the energy and the strength to give as much as I can to what I have before me.

Reliving Childhood Joy

Today I was Christmas shopping at the local bookstore.  This is dangerous.  I love reading SO much and I love giving the gift of books to my children and to anyone else who loves to read like I do!

Today I limited myself to shopping for my girls and my two youngest nephews.  I walked circles around the children’s section, trying to narrow down my choices.  For my four-year-old, I found a “Fancy Nancy” book which I’ve heard a lot about and which looks cute.  Then my eye ventured over to the “intermediate” section (meaning for “intermediate” readers, not “beginner” readers, of which Annika is neither, mind you).  My eye spied a “Charlotte’s Web” book and I thought that Annika might enjoy hearing that story since she loves the movie.  I grabbed it and noticed a “Ramona” collection….oh, remember the “Ramona” books?  I thought those books were so funny!  I briefly considered getting those, but remembered that there might be some situations that would be work to explain to my four-year-old.

And then…behold….my glance fell upon one of my favorite books from girlhood: “Betsy & Tacy.”  How I loved borrowing “Betsy and Tacy” books from the library!  I remember reading them when I was quite young, so I figured that Annika might be up to listening to me read them to her.  Tonight I googled “Betsy and Tacy” (because I’m random and nerdy like that) and found that there is a whole website and “society” dedicated to these books (other people/geeks must love this series as much as I do!).  I wanted to share with any homeschool moms that have daughters that there is a page on the website specifically for teachers and librarians with reading guides and questions.

Oh, I can’t wait until Christmas!  (No wonder I find no excitement in getting my own gifts anymore….I am way more excited about what my children are getting than anything I could possibly get!)

Only 204 Days Left to Decide

To homeschool our first-born child or not?  That is the question.

Eight years ago when Dave and I got married, this question would not have even entered into our minds.  I think we were still busy wondering which one of us would stay at home to raise any future Yankowiaks that we would have (at 23, the thought of being a stay-at-home-mom was less than appealing to me).  When Annika was born over 4 years ago, we didn’t worry too much about things like schooling.  I knew that we’d get out of the cities by the time she started kindergarten and so we’d probably be in a small community with a good school.  I was happy when we moved to northern MN and bought a house less than two blocks away from an elementary school.

But then some good friends, who began to homeschool their previously public school educated 7 and 9 year olds, encouraged us to begin praying for God’s will for our family and our children and our children’s education.  Annika was 2.  So we began.  I read, I listened to homeschooling families, we weighed the pros and cons.  I even babysat for two young children for two months….they were homeschooled 6 and 9 year olds.  So I was able to roll up my sleeves and give this homeschooling thing a try.

To sum it all up, Dave and I both feel strongly in favor of homeschooling.  We certainly have nothing against public schools (or other options that parents may choose for their children, such as private schools), but we tend to find a lot more advantage in homeschooling–for us, anyway.  Of course, as many homeschool families have said to me, we’d reconsider it each year for each child.  We always want what is best for our kids.

I know that many of you have experiences or strong opinions about homeschooling.  I’d love to hear feedback, both positive and negative.

While I have less than a year to decide what to do for Annika for kindergarten, here is at least a partial list of reasons why Dave and I want to teach our children ourselves. A homeschooling friend told me yesterday that if we have a list of reasons to homeschool, we should write it down as  there would be days where we’d need to look at it….such as the days when boarding school seems like the best option….ha, ha….her comical words, not mine!  So here goes!

  • Relationships.  One of the arguments I hear against homeschooling is that kids need the social interaction that school provides.  I agree completely that kids need social interaction, but maybe the interactions I value are different than what people have in mind.  I believe that the most lasting and important relationships in a person’s life are their relationships with Christ and with their family, particularly siblings.  For all of the wonderful friends I have in my life, my sister and I remain the closest.  We share a long history, after all!  Homeschooling allows my children to be together more as peers than if they were each in separate grades in school.  Dave and I also get to remain the most influential people in our children’s lives, at least a little bit longer.  Who do I turn to today if I need help or support or advice?  Hardly my first grade teacher.  I still often look to my parents.
  • On the family note, I want a flexible lifestyle.  This is something that public school obviously can’t provide.  If my children and I want to serve or volunteer together and we’re homeschooling, we can make it part of our day or even our curriculum.  If a sickness or family emergency comes up, we have the flexibility to catch up with schoolwork at our own pace.  And with Dave being self-employed, our dream is to be able to travel whenever we want or are able to.  Some friends of ours who homeschool are on a 4 week trip out East and homeschooling while they’re traveling.  I love this possibility!
  • To be honest, Dave and I both look back at school and remember being bored.  Not because we were particularly brilliant or anything, but we always had to work at the pace of the slowest kid in the class (and of course, to the slowest kid, it probably felt like we were moving way too fast!).  We want to be able to cater learning to our children’s abilities.  If they succeed, they can move along quickly.  If they struggle, we’ll have the extra time to work with them that a teacher of 20 or 30 wouldn’t.
  • We want our children to have a well-rounded education.  Whether or not I was a Christian, I would still argue that most  public school curriculum is sadly lacking in perspective.  History tends to be primarily American and still fairly Anglo-Saxon in perspective.  Science leans heavy on popular theories, not necessarily showing all theories, or even better theories.  I want to teach my children the value of getting different perspectives, investigating different theories, and learning to think for themselves.  I am not faulting public school teachers or leaders in these areas…..the system is not set up to teach these things.
  • There is a lot of what I call “distracting noise” in schools.  There always has been and today kids probably just face more noise than the last generation.  By this I don’t literally mean noise (although I’m sure there is plenty of that, too).  I mean all the stupid little things that distract you from getting the education that you’re supposed to be achieving for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.  Examples include bullying, peer pressure, confusing moral or amoral messages that probably don’t belong in school (homosexuality, patriotism/nationalism, for example).  I also think that technology has introduced a whole new level of each of these things.  I heard of a kindergartener in the school behind us who had a cell phone with inappropriate sexual pictures on it.  Older kids are texting all day long (trust me, I spend about 2 hours a week with high school girls and I can’t even count how many texts each girl receives in that time) and by being more connected, they are experiencing whole new levels of distraction, pressure, and bullying.  Some of these “noise polluters” are things that we’ll have to teach our kids to deal with in the real world.  But I will argue that my 5 year old doesn’t have to learn about sexuality from her classmate’s cell phone and frankly, my teenager shouldn’t be stressing out about all her friends who are pregnant or doing drugs.  I don’t want to homeschool to put my kids in a safe little bubble.  I want to homeschool so that I can prepare them to face these things in life when it is the right time.
  • I want my kids to be able to stay kids for as long as they can!  Not for my sake, but for their own.  I don’t possibly see how it is beneficial for any child under 10 to spend 7 hours a day in a regimented classroom setting.  Add to that any extra-curricular activities and my young child could be spending up to 9 or 10 hours a day scheduled!  With no time to play, relax, goof off, or bond with her sister or family.  That seems wrong to me.  By homeschooling next year for kindergarten, I expect we’ll spend two hours or less each day on formal learning, leaving lots and lots of time for play, informal learning, and REST!  I honestly remember how tired I felt as a kindergartener who only had to go to school every other day, not every day like the elementary schools here.
  • I want my girls to develop into the beautiful young ladies that God intended them to be.  Without a firm foundation in truth, Godly wisdom, selfless service, and Godly virtue, they will flounder.  They may not fail, but they will certainly struggle to become who God created them to be.  Can children gain this firm foundation if they are going to a public school?  Absolutely. Might it be easier for their moral teachers (primarily their parents) and for the children themselves if they are in an environment that pursues and cherishes these values?  Absolutely.

We still have something like 204 days to figure it out for kindergarten for Annika.  But I think it’s worth weighing and re-weighing the options.  Please give me food for thought if you have any to offer!