In Praise of Home Schooling

I still get strange looks from people when I tell them that we are home schooling. They stare at me with a kind of “oh, I am so sorry for your children” look. But these people are for the most part clueless about home schooling, and apparently satisfied with their cluelessness. Of all the things we have ever done as parents, the decision to home school was the best one we ever made. I have zero regrets we did it. So let me back up and fill you in, qualifying my remarks, describing our situation, and briefly explaining why and how we did it.

We have four children. Our oldest just graduated with a music degree from Belmont University in Nashville. Our second oldest is a sophomore at Wheaton College in Illinois. Our third is a senior in high school. Our fourth is in 5th grade. She is the last one being home schooled. We’ve had our kids in home school, public school and Christian school, so we have done it all.

Let me hasten to make some quick, up front qualifications. Home school is not for everyone. Christina and I both have teaching gifts. She has an interest in and is able to carry the weight of our school—which we’ve called Evergreen Wood Academy. There is no one way to go about schooling your kids. We know that there are some home school families that are not diligent, but believe this is the exception rather than the rule. We’ve tried to practice conscientious, home schooling. Furthermore, there are many different approaches to home schooling.

Our approach began with concern about the quality of our local schools in Illinois and a sadness that, all of a sudden, we were not able to see our kids much when they entered the first grade. At the beginning, we approached home schooling with suspicion and fear. But we soon discovered a vast support and resource network to help us. We began our first year as “an experiment.” In fact, every year since has been “an experiment.” Rather than adopt a grand plan, we took one year at a time, knowing the kids are resilient, and that our life situation could change at any time.

Our philosophy was to home school early, and give the kids a choice when they got to high school. We were influenced by the words of theologian Thomas Aquinas who once said, “give me a child till he’s seven, and I’ll have him for life.” Meaning—he could shape a person’s mind and heart most by guiding a child in his earliest years. So, we home schooled our kids through Middle School. After that, one went to a Christian school and hated it. He then transferred to a public high school. The next two attended a different Christian high school and loved it. We have no clue what our last child will do.

So why did we home school? Lots of reasons—we believe that….
• it gives opportunities for a Christ centered education
• the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9.10)
• parents are primarily responsible for their child’s education and should guide it
• home schooling makes quality time available to train and influence children
• it will give us a greater opportunity to capture their hearts as well as their minds
• children develop at different paces, and homeschooling allows for individual flexibility
• more education happens faster in one-on-one settings than in a large class
• when it is well done, children often gain a new respect for their parents as teachers
• the family will experience more unity and closeness as we spend time together
• children will develop more confidence and independent thinking away from peer pressure
• children will have time to explore new interests
• communication between different age groups is enhanced
• its flexible scheduling can accommodate my work schedule
• if done right it will develop a lifelong love of learning, reading and service
• public education philosophy is theologically and morally confused
• public education standards have been slipping steadily since the 1960s
• standardized test scores for homeschoolers are well above that of private and public school students

The standard objections people give us for home schooling simply have not stood up either.
• Objection One: shouldn’t your kids be missionaries in the public schools?
Response: not until they have the training to be missionaries and have an adequate foundation
• Objection Two: aren’t you sheltering kids from reality?
Response: we didn’t, we exposed them to more reality through travel, serving and reading
• Objection Three: what about socialization?
Response: they were better socialized than a lot of public school kids we knew because they not only could relate to
their peers (through sports involvement, music groups, home school associations, etc.), but they could also relate and
converse with adults.

Let me be honest, home schooling is not always easy. It takes hard work and dedication. There were days when we felt like we failed miserably. But I’d always come back and say, “Christina, if our kids love to read and learn, can do average math, can write decently and know basic science, they will be ahead of most public school kids. That is NOT failure.”

While we were sitting at the Belmont University graduation exercises this Spring, I turned to Christina and whispered “Look! That’s your first home school student graduating college. You were his first teacher. Congratulations. It was worth it.”

True, we are not done yet. We have one to go. But we are thankful for the privilege and blessings of home schooling. And, truth be told, we don’t feel so odd anymore. We are not alone. As of 2007, 2.9% of all school-aged children in the U.S. were home schooled. Besides that, we take heart from the fact that all four of those guys on Mt. Rushmore were home schooled. They didn’t turn out too badly either.

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  • Lois Ann Atkinson says:

    Amen. We have completed 17 years of home schooling with our youngest, Aaron, entering college this fall. Thank you for this well written piece on the joys of home schooling. I can honestly say that I thank the Lord daily for the blessing of being able to be with my children each day and by His grace to instill in them a love for Him and a love for learning about the wonderful world He has created. Blessings to you and your family.

    • dwsweeting says:

      Lois Ann
      I hope Gala conveyed my congratulations to you for what you have done. What a wonderful investment you have made.
      I really enjoyed reading about your children and their different paths.
      Wish the four of us could get together to catch up.

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