Earlier this year, we graduated our first homeschooled student. I have loved this time with her, and the blessing of having her at home. She began her first job this spring, and has done very well, receiving a promotion within two weeks of being hired. Her boss praised her for the hard worker she is, and her friendly personality. During the interview he had expressed concern about her homeschooled status, the old "socialization" issue rearing its ugly head. He soon realized those fears were unfounded. As she began her first job, having her gone for large chunks of time left me with an ache in my heart. Although I miss her when she's not here, I am so thankful for the years we have had with her at home.
Our oldest child, also a daughter, was homeschooled for four and a half years, but graduated from public school. How I wish we had continued homeschooling her through high school! How I wish we'd have had the time with her that we've now had with our recent graduate.
When we began homeschooling in 1987, the grassroots movement was just beginning to take off. We joined the small, growing number of families who were venturing out of private and public education. We sensed a deep conviction that we were to raise up our children to know and serve their Maker, and believed that homeschooling provided the most fertile environment for that. We also observed that the public schools were failing.
We began our homeschooling adventure with anticipation and excitement, our only child at the time entering 5th grade. I must have had some silly notion that just because we signed up for this expedition, life's problems would make way like the parting of the Red Sea. That did not happen, and eventually I allowed doubt and discouragement to get the better of me. I was making homeschooling much more difficult than I would later learn it needed to be, practicing school at home rather than pursuing the more flexible methods I use today. I gave up homeschooling halfway through her 9th grade year. Today, we strongly believe that this was a mistake and regret the decision, as does our daughter.
The three education choices are basically private school, public school or homeschool. Today I understand that when we delegate the education of our children to someone else, we remain responsible to God for the education they receive. I did not fully understand that at the time. Rather, I felt a great relief in putting our daughter in school. I was now "free" from this burden. Different burdens, however, would come as a result of these choices, which our daughter would mostly bear.
We attempted a private Christian school at first, soon thereafter placing her in the public school from which she would later graduate. There were issues and challenges with both of those options, some predictable and some quite unanticipated. In each of those options, a "cram for the test and forget it" education was experienced.
The public school district where she attended is one of the best, placing in the top 25 in the nation. We were also comforted by the fact that our daughter had just met some Christian teens who attended the same school. We later discovered that their Christianity was fairly nominal in the public school setting, as would our daughter's gradually become. During those years, I managed to shake off conviction for the misconception that "I just couldn't continue homeschooling." As other children came along (we would have four more), and the laundry pile grew, I felt buried in babies and housework. Homeschooling seemed more than I could handle. Shamefully, there was an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. While I carried on with my life at home, our daughter was taking the brunt of the choices we had made.
The public school arena took in a plethora of concerns, from irrational, unreasonable teachers, to co-ed sex education with an agenda. The incidents that I could list just underlined the bigger issue: Our daughter was getting an education that was far from true, from rewritten history to evolution taught as fact instead of theory, to situational ethics and relative morality. This was far from the "fertile environment where our daughter could be raised up to know and serve her Maker." At its worst, this education of falsehood can—and often does—lead our children astray. At its best, it wastes our children's time when they could and should be learning the truth concerning His-story and all He created.
Upon entering public school, our daughter was immediately placed on the honor roll, maintaining a 95% average for a time. Once she saw she could meet what was expected of her, she geared down to a slower pace, eventually maintaining and graduating with an 85% average. If we were just looking at numbers, we could say "This all worked out just fine." However, allow me to share with you, in our daughter's own words, just how burdensome and nearly useless her public school education was:
The point is, I learned almost nothing in high school. I remember enjoying "Business Communications" and learned how to read body language there. Just about everything else was crammed for the test and then forgotten. The point is, an 85 average means nothing!
You know that I made some very poor choices as a teen. One factor that helped in bringing me to that level was that I was exhausted and very stressed. The exhaustion affected me for sure. Public school means running, running, running. Loads of homework, 9 periods of 40 minute classes crammed with facts to memorize and difficult personalities to manage and endure in both teachers and students. Swim class; I thought I was going to die from the intense level of swimming (I wasn't up for it) and then run, run, run to Global Studies and take a major test with my hair dripping and my hands shaking; up way too early every morning (to get the bus), to say nothing about doing an extra activity like Marching Band. It was 3 nights a week plus every weekend, sometimes both Saturday and Sunday, and lots of travel. Children under 18 are still growing and need lots of rest. It's the kind of stress that makes you not care about anything. In my opinion, the public school environment has played a big factor in the many suicides the schools have seen. I think that this exhaustion played a bigger role in my poor decisions than any influence that specific personalities had on me.
The general atmosphere of corruption was very affecting, such as hearing profanity constantly and enduring (what I now know is) sexual harassment by unchecked hormone-ridden boys. No Christian friends could have stopped any of this.
Some may feel that our children "need to experience these things to prepare them for life." I do not find such a requirement in the Scriptures. A study in the differences between Greek and Hebrew education shows that the Greek education was to know and experience everything, while the Hebrew education was to know God and His plan for your life. I believe that the Hebrew education is what we are to desire for our children.
When our much-loved, smart, caring, compliant daughter graduated from public school, she was no longer living for the Lord. Our influence had become very small, and others' influence had become great. She longed for their love and approval. She was still compliant—to others, not to us We lost her heart for a time, and were very concerned for the choices she was making. One year after graduation, she recommitted her life to God, and is happily married today in a union committed to serving God. She and her husband have three children, the oldest of whom they began homeschooling last year.
While life still has its many challenges, the homeschooling methods I now practice have brought us through to graduation with my next child. I stopped comparing our homeschool to what others were doing. Before, I tried to equip myself with the only system of education I knew. Today I trust that what God calls us to do, He equips us to do. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
I had also lost sight of God's requirements for our family. Today I keep them in focus. Homeschooling does not save our children, but it does provide the best opportunity for Biblical parenting to take place.
I was able to recognize this time around that our recent graduate was an independent learner by high school. Rather than stressing over subjects that would have nothing to do with God's plan for her life, we allowed her to pursue her interests, including music and photography. She is an avid reader, and has a good understanding of the world around her. She is equipped with the amount of math skills she will need to draw from in life, and has a grip on creation science vs. evolution. Most importantly, she has a Biblical worldview and is able to defend her faith.
In general, I have become more relaxed concerning education altogether, understanding that the school age years are only the beginning of what will be a lifetime of learning. Although we want to give our children a good education, all of the learning gaps do not need to be filled in their first 18 years of life. In reality, we will all have learning gaps until the day we die. I absolutely love learning with my children every day, lessons that concern both academics and victorious Christian living.
Our youngest will graduate from our homeschool in 2017—thirty years after we began. God is the Supplier of all, enabling us and equipping us for the task daily. Psalm 121:1-2 says, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth."
Yes, the same God Who made heaven and earth is ready and willing to help us when we look to Him. May we ever be faithful to His calling for our families as we strive daily to raise our children according to His will.
Deb and Craig Turner have been homeschooling since 1987, and have 5 children and 3 grandchildren Deb enjoys gardening, writing, and would like to get out her sewing machine again soon. She is active in their church where Craig also serves as an elder. Craig is a mechanical engineer.