These days, more and more families are thrown into “homeschooling” their children due to the “pandemic” restrictions. Some have found their new roles as teacher and principal, a blessing in disguise. While others have grown more appreciative of what professional teachers go through each day. Whether you have always wanted the opportunity to homeschool your children or you are ready for the schools to be reopened, perhaps sharing our family’s humble homeschool beginnings with you may help to offer another perspective and bring to light the unexpected blessings that homeschooling can offer.
When we first started this journey, we had some family and friends that had been homeschooling for a while, but we never even considered it for our own family. At this point, our oldest was 3.5 years old and we had started discussing what our plans would be for her “formal” education. Both my husband and I were public schooled and although we “survived”, we wanted more for our children. We knew that as young babes, they are not fully equipped with the full armor of God and if tossed into an environment that could possibly be hostile towards God and His Word, they would not stand a chance. We wanted to help cultivate a love of learning and not just checking the block or even worse, for them to be left behind in a sea of other children trying to keep their heads above water. We considered the private school option, but those close by were expensive and did not have the best track record. We wanted more flexibility and opportunities for them. Our options seemed to be dwindling before we even got started.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
My husband was still on active duty and his deployment schedule was pretty intense. We also moved frequently as military families do when their tours are over. But it wasn’t until my Titus 2 mentor at the time, brought up homeschooling and how she thought that I would be “good at it.” This was coming from a “professional educator” who gave up teaching in the private sector to stay at home and homeschool her own 6 children. I laughed at the thought of two trained army helicopter pilots taking on educating their children at home, but mentioned it to my husband any way. We started to wonder if maybe it was the option for our family and thus began our research. After much prayer and petition, we decided to give homeschooling a try on a year by year basis.
Has it been easy? Do we do it perfectly? Absolutely not, but even during all the challenges that we have faced as a family, we have experienced first hand the unexpected blessings that we could have never imagined when we first started this homeschool journey, 11 years ago.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE HOMESCHOOL ROUTE?
- God (Trusting in God and His promises): All other reasons are secondary to answering God’s calling as a parent to teach and train our children diligently.
In the beginning, when we first considered homeschooling, our initial thoughts were focused on the many reasons WHY we “couldn’t” accept this mission. But as we continued to pray and seek God’s guidance, our perspective began to shift. We started to focus on the fact that we were already teaching and training our children at home and this “new” formal role would simply be an extension of that. Perspective is everything! We began to focus less on our weaknesses and began to look for our strengths that the Lord had already developed in us and we began to feel a little less hesitant and more curious, and even excited about accepting the challenge.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE UNEXPECTED BENEFITS FROM HOMESCHOOLING?
- Flexibility (Allows our family more opportunities and unique choices): Not all children learn alike and the opportunities to tailor their individual curricula to fit their own personal learning styles are endless. This is such a unique aspect of homeschooling because we have the ability to pick and choose what is best suitable for our child and therefore, we have the ability to promote a love for learning instead of promoting disdain or a defeated attitude toward things that pertain to education or “school”.
When we initially started homeschooling, it never occurred to us just how much we would benefit from the flexibility that homeschooling offers. After our son’s health started to deteriorate at 5 years old, he was in and out of the hospital. It was a 3 hour drive, one way from where we were stationed at the time. Once he was stable enough to go home, he began weekly therapy with PT, OT, and Speech therapy appointments. The doctors also had us work with a dietitian as they put him on the Ketogenic diet where we had to use only approved recipes and had to weigh everything before feeding it to him. Eventually, he had a G-tube installed and we began blending whole organic food and placed him on the GAPS diet which took a lot of prep work and planning.
By year three of his health decline, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer which made life even more chaotic and uncertain. My husband took on all my responsibilities, including homeschooling the other children and helping to research natural ways to help myself and our son heal. Our research led us to these powerful plant-based supplements (read more here) and we added the special blends to both our diets to help restore our gut health and help our bodies naturally detox. We had to open up the capsules and figure out the right amount to give him during his G-tube flushes. His medications gave him so many different side effects and the doctors just kept prescribing more meds. To farm out just this part of his daily routine would have been quite an undertaking for someone else to take on. We wanted to provide him with the healthiest meals possible and be the ones to feed them to him. I cherish those times that I was able to sit down with him and just take a break to talk with him and spend time encouraging him.
Because of our flexible homeschool schedule, (glean fun ideas here) our family did not have to be apart during his or my hospitalizations. We were able to be there for each other without having the added stress of asking for permission or approval for any of our children to miss school days. It gave us a chance to just be present. We are able to bring our lessons along and get them done in the van during appointments or unexpected business trips. Again, we have the freedom to do that. Whenever my husband had a military DONSA (a day of no scheduled activity), we gave the school-aged kids a day off, as well. We have the flexibility to plan family outings, field trips, and vacations conducive to our family’s needs. Life is full of learning opportunities and teachable moments! With homeschooling, we don’t have to miss any of them!
WHAT CURRICULUM DO YOU USE AND WHY? HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PUBLIC SCHOOL?
- Academics (No perfect curriculum): Statistically speaking, on average homeschooling students score higher than many of their public school counterparts. There is no replacing the one-on-one time that our children receive at home versus the 1 to 30 or more ratio in the institutionalized government controlled school system. Colleges actually seek out homeschoolers because they know that they, for the most part have been taught in a way that makes it an easy transition from early education to “higher” education.
Those before us managed to homeschool with just the Bible and life experiences, without any formal curricula or special textbooks. So, the claim that some expensive curriculum is required to teach our children at home, is simply not true. The resources available today certainly make it much easier for one to take on this task, but I don’t allow myself to become a slave to the curriculum. It is there to assist me, not to discourage me if I don’t get every little recommended area covered. Even with “Christian” curricula, we have found that a certain amount of vetting is still required. We have used many different combinations of programs and supplement with homemade lessons that provide them with practical life skills for a more well-rounded educational experience.
Over the years, our homeschooling style and where we do our homeschool lessons (see how we turned our mudroom into our current homeschool room here) have evolved with each military move. We have learned that our homeschool does not need to be just like the traditional brick and mortar institutions. That is the beauty of homeschooling! We can develop a learning environment that suits our family and our lifestyle on our homestead.
HOW DO YOU DO IT ALL?
- I don’t (No perfect homeschool): “Perfect is the enemy of good!” (Voltaire) I have always been a bit of a “neat freak” and I like things to be a certain way. Even as a child, I didn’t do well with chaos or unorganized spaces. My mother didn’t have to ask me to organize, it just came naturally to me. As an adult, managing a neat and organized home became challenging with each new addition to the family, but I did not want to give up control. “God is very purposeful and intentional and He is the God of order”, I would tell myself. True statement, but in our sinful nature, we always manage to take things too far.
Just like Martha (Luke 10:38-42) from the Bible, I had to learn how to slow down, re-evaluate, and reprioritize what really mattered most. No longer do I strive for perfection, but I do strive for excellence in giving my best to the Lord…in whatever the task may be. I am still learning how to let the “small stuff” go with gentle reminders from my husband. Over the years, I have found that being intentional and practical when setting up our living spaces helps simplify how we manage our days. We teach the littles from an early age the “everything has a place and everything in its place” concept. This is a simple and fun way for little ones to learn how to help and work as a team. They realize early on that just because they are little, doesn’t mean they can’t be good helpers. Being little doesn’t mean that they can’t make a difference. This helps build their character and gives them a sense of pride in the work that they are doing. I have learned more homeschooling them than I ever did during my academic “career.” And they enjoy learning new things right along side us.
WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION? AREN’T YOU CONCERNED THAT THEY MIGHT BE MISSING OUT?
- Socialization comes in many different forms (not just in a brick and mortar environment between “school hours”): Many people ask the “what about socialization” question. I think back to when I was a child in public school and ask myself, “What would they really be missing?” I know for a fact they won’t miss things like bullying, sexual harassment, peer pressure, or being corrupted by bad company (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Being able to travel during the homeschool year has given us the opportunity to take our homeschooling on the road and experience new places and new things together as a family. Exploring the country and meeting new people during our trips has helped build our children’s confidence, situational awareness, and self-esteem.
It is never too early to start building their foundation in Christ and setting their eyes on the things above. We are intentional about guarding their eyes, hearts, and minds and helping them make wise choices. That includes who they spend their time with. We have participated in homeschool co-ops, weekly music lessons, local 4H club events, VBS, and of course, youth ministry which gives them time to “socialize” in a safe environment. Our children will spend only a short time of their lives with us and we need to make every second count.
WHAT ABOUT COLLEGE?
- Our goals: Believe it or not, college is not our main focus with homeschooling. If our children feel called to work in a field that requires “special” training, we will do everything we can to provide them a way. However, we don’t force the idea that it is required to be “successful” in life or to do God’s will. The Holy Spirit is our counselor and He intercedes for us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not some inflated and ridiculously expensive college degree where some professors’ beliefs and lifestyle choices (that are contrary to God’s Word) spill into the way they teach young developing minds. Which in turn, can easily lead our grown children astray.
We have been called to bring our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. They are the future leaders that will either contribute to repairing it or destroying it. We want to raise them to be critical thinkers, to ask questions, and not those who simply follow blindly. We teach them to master the concepts and subjects, not to just pass a test or move up a grade. Whose wisdom do we want to impart to our children? Do we want them to base their worth on the world’s standards or do we want them to discover who they are in Christ? We want to give them every opportunity to grow in their walk with the Lord and to build their full armor up, without distractions from those whose main agenda is to chip away the very existence of the One who created them for His purpose, in the first place.
We discovered early on (about a month into it) that this was the perfect fit for our growing family. Now, we are entering into our 11th year of homeschooling with our oldest starting her sophomore year. I will be sharing more lessons learned and practical tips in the weeks to come as the new homeschool year approaches. Hope to see you then.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (KJV)
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house,
and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.