It’s back to school time!
There’s something exciting about the beginning of a school year–it’s like the beginning of a journey. Life seems full of hope and promise. New knowledge, friendships, milestones, and memories seem just around the corner.
At my house, we’ve decided to homeschool, so our journey will look a little different than that of others.
A few months ago, I wrote out my eight biggest reasons for making that decision. I’ll share those reasons below.
1. Worldview matters.
Everyone has a definition of what is really real. And everyone’s thoughts, actions, and reactions stem directly from their personal view of the world and reality. Whether conscious of their own assumptions or not, everyone has an opinion about what is really real—and their every thought and action is shaped by that definition. A person’s view of reality determines both who they are and who they will become.
James Sire defines worldview as “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being” (The Universe Next Door, p. 20).
A focus on worldviews and their development throughout history—from ancient to modern times—is a major focus of the humanities curriculum I’ve chosen for my family. The curriculum is called Tapestry of Grace, and through it we will travel from ancient civilizations all the way to today’s world, tracing each culture’s worldview via history books and literature books. My kids will learn to recognize and define not only their own worldview, but that of neighbors and friends, as well. Understanding a person’s way of thinking is key if you want to genuinely communicate with them—especially in a pluralistic society.
James Sire provides eight questions in The Universe Next Door; answering those questions defines a person’s worldview. My kids (when older) and I will ask these 8 questions of each culture we study (and of ourselves):
- What is prime reality—the really real?
- What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
- What is a human being?
- What happens to a person at death?
- Why is it possible to know anything at all?
- How do we know what is right and wrong?
- What is the meaning of human history?
- What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?
I want my kids to be aware of what they believe and why—and I want to be the one to help shape and define their view of reality, God, man, truth, and ethics. The responsibility is too great and the consequences too weighty to lay on anyone else’s shoulders.
2. I want to spend the time I’m given with my children, with my children.
I cherish my days with my kids. I enjoy the routines and rhythms we’ve established, like doing schoolwork during Grace’s nap; drinking our fruit-spinach smoothie after she wakes up; going on a daily walk through the neighborhood; and finding time throughout the day to read stories, do puzzles, build tents, and play games together. We get to read stories about toilets and watch videos about water treatment plants because Josiah is fascinated by how those work.
Both of my kids like to vacuum, mop, and dust with me. I feel like they each get more fun the older they get, because I can interact and talk with them more. I wouldn’t trade any of the time I’ve spent with them (even the hard days) or the memories we’ve made so far. And since our time together keeps getting more fun the older they get, there’s no way someone could convince me to send them away 7-8 hours/day, 5 days/week, 9+ months a year! I can’t think of a better, more enjoyable way to spend my days than training and encouraging and guiding my kids. Each one is a precious gift, given for a finite period of time—and I don’t want to waste that time. I want to cherish it and use it well.
3. I love to teach (and learn).
The purpose of an education is to shape a person and equip them for life. According to John Milton Gregory, the two aims of teaching are 1) communicating experience and 2) inspiring a love for learning (The Seven Laws of Teaching). Both are necessary to reach the goal of shaping and equipping the individual. He describes the communication of experience as “painting in the mind of another the picture in one’s own” (p.9). This means that teachers, in effect, are good teachers if they can clearly transmit (or paint) their own knowledge/interpretation of truth into the minds of their students. Both the worldview and the skill of the teacher determine the outcome, or shaping, of the student.
Several factors enter into a clear “painting”: the teacher must know the lesson/truth/skill to be taught; the language used to communicate must be clear and understood by both; and the information must be given in a way that interests the learner (The Seven Laws of Teaching). This interest compels the learner to recognize, rethink, and relive the knowledge or picture being transmitted (p.52). That’s how one really learns something.
I’ve chosen curriculum with the above factors in mind. For our humanities curriculum, we will start in the ancient world and study the history, literature, and geography of each major civilization. We will then move chronologically through the medieval world, then the American revolution, and finally the 1800’s, 1900’s, and into the present day. Writing assignments and church history will coincide with the place and time studied, as will arts&crafts for younger students and government/philosophy for older students. The numerous connections between subjects—and the “big picture” view it creates–incite a lot of interest and, therefore, the retention and application of knowledge.
The science curriculum we will use in elementary school also moves chronologically through history, highlighting who discovered what and when. My favorite aspect is that every lesson begins with a science experiment to illustrate what is being taught. And the math curriculum we are using includes blocks/manipulatives that are used with every lesson to demonstrate the concept being learned.
I know that my kids are going to acquire the knowledge/truth necessary to shape and equip them for life. That’s the beauty of homeschooling—I get to be the artist. And if I’m not painting well and the message is not being clearly communicated, I can make adjustments accordingly.
4. I love watching my children make connections and enjoy learning.
The expression on my son’s face when he learns something new is precious. It makes my day. His whole face lights up at his newest discovery, this added dimension to his understanding of the world, of God, or of people. He loves to learn, and his memory amazes me. He understands connections quickly and then retains that knowledge long-term. He is really fun to teach.
Knowledge is a record of solved problems (The Seven Laws of Teaching, p.48). Gregory explains that acquiring knowledge involves making connections. He says, “The new and unknown can be explained only by the familiar and the known…the truth to be taught must be learned through the truth already known” (p. 42). A good teacher must know what the student already knows in order to teach the new information well. As both mom and teacher, I will readily know what each child has already grasped and, therefore, be well-equipped to show connections between the old and new. When the connections are made, I then get to delight in their delight. It’s really great.
5. I want a custom education that fits each child.
My oldest son began reading phonetic words at 2-1/2 years old. He is now 3 and is understanding concepts from a 1st grade language arts book. He spells. He is also counting well, adding numbers, and beginning to understand place value. He loves to learn and figure things out. He thinks deeply and feels deeply. Tonight, we were talking (again) about how the world is broken but Jesus is making everything good and new again, like it was in the beginning. He routinely asks lots of questions about death, God, and Heaven. Tonight he asked me what Heaven was like and then told me that he would probably have different eyes in Heaven. I asked why, and He said He would need different eyes because Jesus is very bright, and he will be able to look at Jesus in Heaven (but can’t now). He then told me he was sure that we will have gum in Heaven, too (he loves chewing gum).
It would be unreasonable for me to expect a teacher (whether in public or private school) to be able to adequately challenge Josiah while at the same time meeting the needs of the other 10-25+ students in his classroom. His unending curiosity and questions might even frustrate or annoy that teacher (and the other students), and the last thing I want is for his innate abilities to be squelched. I want to create an environment where each child can flourish and learn subjects at their own level and pace. I want to encourage the growth of God-given abilities and provide support for any areas of weakness.
6. I want my kids to be friends.
Friendships typically grow from shared experiences. My oldest two children play together most of the day, every day. I love watching them jump outside on the trampoline; eat their popsicles together; build tents; create things with Magna-Tiles; color and do crafts; and try to make their baby brother laugh. I frequently hear Josiah say, “Grace, follow me wherever I go!” And then Grace happily complies. They’re adorable. They really are best friends. They spend their days playing, learning, and laughing together. And together, they’re learning how to share and think about the needs of others, as well.
I’ve chosen a humanities curriculum that will enable us to all study the same time period in history together, with age-appropriate, real books. For example, we will all study ancient Egypt together, just with different, age-specific history and literature books about that time period. While reading about the daily life of ancient Egyptians, we will fill out maps of Egypt and make crafts like paddle dolls and model pyramids. We will read stories from Exodus and write about what it was like for Moses to grow up in ancient Egypt.
History, literature, geography, writing, church history, and arts&crafts will all be integrated both at age-level and as a family. For high-school students, additional subjects included each week are government and philosophy gleaned from that period in history. Field trips will also parallel our topic/time period when feasible. The curriculum, called Tapestry of Grace, even includes dad with an MP3 summary of the week’s lesson and age-specific questions for him to discuss with each child. I’m really excited about it. I love that we will all learn about the history, people, and worldviews of the world together, chronologically, and at the same time create such fun, special memories as a family.
7. I want my kids well-prepared for real life.
Vast differences exist between a typical classroom and real life. If one of the main goals for education is to shape and equip one for the rest of life, these differences, in my opinion, pose a problem.
In a classroom, the student is removed from real life and placed in an artificial environment. Each student is surrounded by people very close to his/her own age and maturity level. Socially, this creates a dynamic in which the strongest, most extroverted personality leads in establishing the values and norms for everyone else. Often in our culture, this means that kids are judged as either valuable or sub-par based on external characteristics like appearance or clothing; personal qualities like self-confidence, assertiveness, and risk-taking (i.e. extroversion), or athleticism; or social merits like friendships with the “in” crowd. In many cases, the greatest good seems to be fitting into (or at least surviving) the social scene and making adequate grades to progress and eventually graduate.
Practically speaking, kids are taught to sit quietly at a desk; listen to a lecturing teacher and hopefully ask questions if confused; arrive at the next class on time; navigate the artificial social scene described above in between classes, at lunch, and during recess; and sort out/apply the lesson material on their own through homework.
In real life, people must balance responsibilities at work and at home. At work, most employees are surrounded by co-workers of varying ages and life experiences, and they must learn to communicate and work together. An employee is valued for being skilled at their job and faithfully meeting requirements/expectations. Important personal qualities include responsibility, integrity, and the ability to communicate well with clients, coworkers, and managers. At home, people must know how to clean their house; balance a budget; shop for groceries; cook food; do laundry; maintain the house/cars/yard; and relate well to their spouse, children, or families.
Very few of the practical skills necessary for real life are learned in the 7-8 hours/day spent in the typical classroom. With homeschooling, my kids will be taught both school subjects and practical life skills, because they will be at home, surrounded by real life. We will daily balance schoolwork with tasks at home, with each person taking responsibility for their assigned jobs. Practically, Matt and I will be able to teach them how to clean the house; balance a budget; shop for groceries; cook food; do laundry; relate well to people of varying ages; and fix/maintain the house. I will intentionally develop and encourage responsibility, integrity, faithfulness, and good communication/relationship skills. I will be the one to establish the values and norms they strive for and live by, not the strongest personality in their classroom. Additionally, I plan on ensuring that my kids can shadow people in professions that interest them so they can wisely choose a major in college.
One of the biggest concerns I hear about homeschooling is the fear that kids will not develop adequate social skills for life. People worry that homeschooled kids will be awkward, out of touch with reality, and ill-equipped for relationships. This fear makes several assumptions: it assumes that the relationships formed with peers at school are the best foundation/guide for future relationships; and it assumes that homeschooled kids won’t have the opportunity to form meaningful relationships outside their home.
Neither assumption is true. Growing up, my closest friendships developed through extracurricular activities, church activites, and just hanging out—not with the person I sat next to in class or passed in the hallway. Multiple avenues for building relationships exist, from sports to theater to gymnastics to special-interest clubs in the community. In fact, kids who are homeschooled actually have more time in the evenings and on weekends to pursue their interests and spend time with friends, because they complete their “homework” as part of school during the day, and then they’re done. Regarding school-based relationships, I’ve already highlighted how artificial and shallow they can be, and how few of the social expectations/norms in the typical school actually cross over to the workforce or home life.
8. Homeschooling best enables me to achieve my primary goal as a parent.
I have many goals as a mom. But the most important goal—the “greatest good” toward which I’m striving—is for my children to know that God is good, know how desperately they need Him, and delight in the beauty of His rescue, love, and grace. Jesus died so that we could be forgiven; so our broken lives could be made new; and so our relationship with both Him and others could be restored. He came to make everything good and new again, like it was at the beginning of creation. I want these foundational truths to shape both my worldview and that of my children.
Obviously, I cannot reach this mark on my own. I am just as broken and in need of grace as my children. It is only Jesus in me who can accomplish this goal. Paul Tripp defines parenting as ”unfinished people (we parents) being used of God as agents of transformation in the lives of unfinished people” (Parenting). And he says, “Parenting is a moment-by-moment, day-by day rescue mission.”
Participating with God in His work of change requires a daily, intentional commitment. Change is a process, not an event; it happens little by little, piece by piece. Change requires patience, grace, and intentionality. Tripp says that God “has called you to take advantage of the little moments of life to take little steps with your children. He has called you to be content with adding another piece to their view of themselves, God, others, and life…So each day you look for another opportunity to advance that critical conversation one more step and because you do, you don’t consider those moments where correction is needed to be interruptions or hassles, but gifts of grace afforded you by a God who is at work in the hearts of your children. So you’re not mad at your children for needing you; you’re happy for another opportunity to continue the process. Here, in a phrase, is what you are committing yourself to: many mini-moments of change.”
I think that homeschooling creates the best environment for taking advantage of those “mini-moments of change.”
This idea parallels that of Deuteronomy 6:4-7: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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.”
I want the mundane, day-in, day-out steps of life to take both me and my kids toward Jesus, my beautiful, loving, grace-filled Rescuer. That’s why I’m homeschooling my kids.
This video, entitled Alike, illustrates a small piece of my reasoning behind choosing to homeschool. When I watched it, it made me cry.