“I’ve been thinking about homeschooling, and I wonder if I could pick your brain a bit.”
We homeschooling moms tend to get a bit giddy whenever we hear those words. We love drawing potential homeschoolers under our wings, gushing about our favorite curricula, the many ways our children are flourishing, and the endless opportunities available to a homeschooling family.
And if all of our gushing isn’t enough, there are plenty of other pro-homeschooling sources. Blog posts and articles highlight the benefits. Many colleges have picked up on the advantages of recruiting self-motivated homeschoolers. Even if there are “reasons you shouldn’t homeschool” articles, they usually include statements such as, “If you don’t want your kids to have personalized learning…”
A Spiritual Calling?
For those in Christian circles, it can be even worse. Homeschooling is often equated to a spiritual calling, putting additional stress and strain on godly families who are seeking to truly determine whether or not they should begin – or even continue – homeschooling.
I obviously believe in the benefits of homeschooling. I chose it for my own children, and I love helping other moms learn how to homeschool well. But, I also know beyond all doubt that homeschooling is not a spiritual calling. As Christians, we are all called to be servants of the Lord God, walking in full obedience to whatever commands He sets before us, including raising our children to honor Him.
So, where does homeschooling fit into that picture?
Well, it is a decision point for how we fulfill our calling to honor the Lord. Just like any other decision we make, whether or not we homeschool falls more into a daily obedience to His instruction than into a category of calling. This is why homeschooling may be the obedient choice this year, but not next year. This is why two families equally devoted to serving God can make vastly different education decisions. And this is why, even in a single family, homeschooling may be right for one child but not another.
How Do I Decide?
“So,” you may ask, “what does that mean for me? How can I know for sure whether or not I’m supposed to homeschool.” There’s no clear way for me to answer that question for you. There are many times I have struggled to answer it for my own family! But, I can walk you through some questions and considerations that can guide you as you boldly approach the throne of the One who knows the best answer for your family.
Start with Prayer
Does this seem obvious? Perhaps, but many of us fail to be intentional about this. We let our communities serve as our consciences, whether we are in a community that believes all children should be homeschooled or one that believes our presence in traditional schools is important for obeying the Great Commission.
Take time to actively distance yourself from every voice except the Lord’s. Journal out all of your preconceptions, questions, concerns, and uncertainties and lay them before Him. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you walk through practical decision-making steps. Then trust Him to respond.
Continue with the Practical
Now you’re ready to work through practical questions. Get out a notebook, because you want to make a record of each step (we’ll talk about that more later).
What educational options are available to your family right now?
Take a moment to make a list of all of those options. (Yes, all of them, even if you know right off the bat that some are not acceptable.) Actually, this might take more than a moment because it is important to invest some time in research. You may be surprised by the variety of options available in your area – things you never would have considered had you not decided to truly contemplate the “to homeschool or not to homeschool” question.
Once your list is made, strike out any that are obviously and undeniably not viable options. As you do this, keep a couple of things in mind:
- Many private schools offer scholarships, so don’t rule out that option simply based on perceived unaffordability without first researching financial aid options.
- For the time being, you are looking at viable options for the immediate school year. Don’t worry about the long-term considerations yet. That will come later.
What you have left is your workable list. If only one option remains on the table, your decision is easily made. If not, keep going.
What are your family’s needs?
Now, step aside from the list for a moment and consider your family. What is your weekly schedule like? What opportunities are available to ensure that relationships are built between parents and children, as well as among siblings?
Academics are undeniably important. But, it is also critical for children to learn what a solid, godly family looks like. Consequently, relationship-building is critical. This can only happen if you actually have time together. Homeschooling often equips that relationship-building time, helping families learn to truly interact with one another, especially in a situation where schedules would conflict otherwise.
But, the reality is that intentionality is required whether families homeschool or choose more traditional education options. Considering your family’s interaction opportunities can help you see whether or not homeschooling is needed for relationship-building to be a possibility.
What unique needs do each of your children have?
Our children each have their own individual needs, passions, interests, and overall life direction. We cannot separate educational decisions from these individual aspects of each of our children.
While homeschooling may be a perfect fit for one child, another may need to handle the pressures of being surrounded by non-believers while still living under parental support and advice. Some children need the one-on-one training that comes from having Mom or Dad as their sole teacher. Others benefit greatly from classes or training that can’t be provided at home.
Sometimes the greatest need is for the family to be unified in the decision, whereas other times it is more important for each child to be aware that their individual needs are being considered and evaluated.
What talents, interests, and extra-curricular opportunities need to be considered?
Some things – including a solid education – are worth more than the opportunity to play football or be in the band. But, there are times when a traditional school provides the only affordable option for solid extra-curricular activities for some families. It is very valid for non-academic interests to be a consideration when trying to decide whether or not to homeschool.
What about you, Mom?
Too many times, potential homeschoolers consider every aspect of the homeschooling decision except for one of the most important: themselves. Guess what? You are important, too. Not to be discouraging, but homeschooling is hard. It adds a great deal to the already full-time job of being a parent.
With any step of obedience, we have to count the cost. Are you willing to learn something new on a daily basis? Whether you are a planner or not, can you find a way to prepare well for your children’s education, either on your own or with the help of another homeschooler? Will you be able to invest relationally or financially in resources that will help you be disciplined to finish the task once you start it?
We have to be careful to never, ever make excuses when it comes to homeschooling. That’s disobedience. But, it is important to recognize the seriousness of the homeschooling decision and genuinely evaluate our own investment capabilities, stage of life, and passions. The command for us as parents is to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) There are many factors to that admonition. How does homeschooling fit?
What is the big picture?
Sometimes contemplating the pieces of the puzzle provides enough insight to make a decision. Other times, though, it is important to step back and put all of the information together. If multiple children are involved, it is important to weigh the needs of each individual child with the needs of the family unit as a whole.
Now is also the time to weigh the immediate against the long-term. Here are some questions to considering that balance:
- Does this year’s decision leave our hearts and minds open for the possibility of a new direction next year?
- In the long run, what things that seem like “needs” this year will actually just be preferences? How does that weigh on the decision?
- What sacrifices will have to be made to support the decision? Is everyone on board with those sacrifices? If not, how can we address unity now instead of suffering the negative consequences of disunity along the way?
Stand Confident in Your Decision
How many parents do you know who have never second-guessed a parenting decision? I imagine the number is very low. Second-guessing is like second nature to us. But it can also be crippling to our ability to follow through with our decisions.
First, establish your “Ebenezer” (see 1 Samuel 7). Remember when I encouraged you to journal the experience? This is why. You need to have something tangible to refer back to every time those doubts pop up. Reminding yourself of the whys of your decision can help you walk this road with confidence.
Make the best of where you end up and encourage your children to do the same. As a family, discuss and learn from your experiences. Find ways to make the most of the avenue you have chosen. Choose to stand confident, no matter what, and commit to listen to the Lord’s guidance throughout the year and as you work through the decisions-making process for next year.
Should you really homeschool? That’s between you and the Lord. His command is to honor Him. Let Him guide you through the rest!