Monday, September 2, 2013

Being Cool About School, a series: 8 Reasons I'm Glad We Homeschooled

I've said before that this is not an either / or series. We don't do public school now to the exclusion of our fondness and respect for homeschooling. 

I do not regret a single day of our daily living and learning years together at home.

While this is no longer our lifestyle and I'm at peace with that, there are things I miss about homeschooling and that's what this post is about--the blessings and rich lessons from our five years of doing school "around the kitchen table." 

What's the purpose in writing a post like this? It's certainly not to take an indulgent trip down homeschooling memory lane and drag all of you bored readers with me. Well, it's not entirely that.  

I think it serves several purposes actually. First, if you've been homeschooling for a while and feel like you're in a zombied state of monotony, perhaps this post will inspire you to see its gifts and virtues. Second, if you're thinking about homeschooling in the future, maybe these reflections will help guide your thoughts. Third, if you think homeschoolers are crazy or misguided, this post may help you see a bit of its appeal and loveliness. Finally, I hope this post aids all of us in the art of recognizing that even the hard and messy parts {especially the hard and messy parts?} of an endeavor can in fact be gifts of growth and grace.

So here they are, in no particular order: 8 reasons I'm glad we homeschooled. 

1. Reclaiming the time I'd lost and living their little years together. 

As I mentioned in Our Story, Part 1, I had been a working mom until my oldest child was six. Though I had a very flexible schedule and lots of time off, my mind could not simply rest on marriage, motherhood, and managing our home. Preoccupation with all sorts of things was my M.O. 

For me, homeschooling allowed us to reclaim the time I felt we'd lost. Our youngest child has never known anything but my complete availability since he was born. He entered the world during our first year of homeschooling and we have been gobbling him up ever since. {If you think I'm boasting in the glory of that "mommy availability" stuff, don't. This is also why he's the most spoiled of our three. Availability is therefore not entirely a virtue.}  

All of those days together during my children's younger years really bonded us as a family. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a life of bliss each and every day. It was real in every sense of the word. But a mysterious sort of heartstring-tying happened during those four-and-a-half years together and I wouldn't trade the whole world for it. I'm not saying this is a "should" or an ideal or even an option for every mom. I'm simply saying that it was a good and specific gift to me, a time that helped redeem some years of loss and lament. I'd go so far as to say it ushered in some healing for me as a mother. 

2. Learning their strengths and weaknesses. 

It's true. When you're with your kids all the time, when you are their teacher as well as their mother, you see what they're good at and what they're not so good at. For better or for worse, you have a front row seat to it every. single. day. 

This is not a perfect lens. As I mentioned in this post, moms can develop blind spots over time. But overall you really know your kids. 

My oldest was easily frustrated by so many things as a perfectionistic first-grader. Letters that didn't turn out just right, blends she couldn't sound out, sketches that didn't come out on paper the way they dazzled in her mind's eye. Oh my word, it drove me out of my everlovin' mind but I learned so much about her. Through much trial and error, we learned to throw out any curricula with "fluff" and focus on the absolute basics. We learned how to talk ourselves through frustrating tasks and stay calm. And not throw pencils. We learned self-control. And yes, I use "we" on purpose. I needed these lessons as much as she did, especially the one about the pencil-throwing. 

I realize now what a privilege it was to come alongside her. Many days I lost it. Many days. But I'm thankful for the opportunity to have been in the everyday trenches together. Knowing how she's wired {and how she's not} has helped me coach her through public school assignments and teach her how to say "no" as life increasingly presents more opportunities that sound good but will overwhelm her physically and mentally. Knowing her quirks has helped me accept and even appreciate that she needs to move her body when she studies, take breaks, and make use of incentives. 

Can you know your child intimately in these ways if they go to school? Absolutely. You've had them since they were born. You know them inside and out. But for certain kids, especially those who tend to be intense, complex, and complicated-ish, they may need a little more "knowing." I didn't know it at the time, but homeschooling was a gift for me in this way, especially in regard to this particular child.

I've learned just as much about our boys. They're just a bit simpler, at least so far. Though all of our children are vastly different from one another, homeschooling and staying at home provided me with a 5-year magnifying glass into the windows of their hearts and minds. Remember, this was a window that I had somewhat missed in my older kids' earliest years; homeschooling allowed for a bit of catching up.

For my daughter, that window was from age 6-10. For my oldest son, the window was from age 3-8. And for the youngest, the window was from birth through almost 6. No, I didn't view them all during the same age and stage but I wholeheartedly trust that I was able to see what I needed to see in order to know and help them throughout their days ahead. This has been a sweet, sweet gift.

3. We did it. 

I toyed with the idea of homeschooling for years before I actually tried it. In my mind, it was a beautiful thing. In reality, it was a beautiful thing and also a stressful thing and an exhausting thing and a complicated thing. And so many other things I'd never know if I hadn't tried. 

Perhaps "We did it" is a superficial item on the list. But I know myself and I know that if we had never done it, I'd always wonder "what if?" and probably live with some regret. 

4. Obedience and rest in God's calling. 

Though I really anguished over whether to homeschool, once I arrived at the decision, I embraced the "call" to do it and found rest for my soul when circumstances made me wishy washy. Yes, I'd made an extensive pros and cons list, read books, talked at length with my husband, and had coffee with homeschool moms to pick their brains. 

But in the end, confirmation came through prayer and Scripture and leading of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 25, the passage that God used to really cement this decision for me, has nothing to do with children or education. But it has a lot to do with fear, trust, and redemption. I printed out the passage and kept it on my fridge for years as a reminder that our trust was in God and that He had led us down the path of homeschooling for a time and for a purpose. We surrendered the endeavor to Him in the beginning when we said yes and we surrendered the endeavor to Him in the end when we let go. 

I realize now that learning to lean into God's Word and Spirit was an even sweeter gift than that which He was calling us to do. And then not do. 

5. Freedom and flexibility in the young, crazy years.

Want to know what I miss the most about homeschooling? The freedom. Without a doubt. Though there's a bit less freedom as the kids get older and their studies take more time, I will love every single day that we blew off school and went to visit grandparents or traipsed through the apple orchard or played Monopoly. I miss that a string of sick days are not a big deal. I miss working doubly hard one day because we had fun plans the next day. And don't even get me started on field trips. 

My only regret? That we didn't take more of them. If you're homeschooling, embrace the flexibility that this lifestyle allows your family. 

If you're not homeschooling, it won't kill any of you to take a day or two off each schoolyear and go do something awesome together as a family during the week. Though I was public-schooled K-12, my dad always said, "Never let school get in the way of your education." He was great about getting us out of school for all sorts of educational experiences. I hope to do the same now that my own kids are in public school. 

6. The encouragement among the moms. 

I've said it before. Homeschooling is not "normal" and when you're going against the grain, you need specific support. We were part of a one-day-a-week homeschool community that was not part of our church, but we were not part of the homeschool community that was connected to our church. So we didn't really "fit" into any one group but I had a sense of camaraderie with most any mom who homeschooled. Why? Because it's hard. Oh my word, being the mama and the teacher and rarely getting a break--you need some serious encouragement in a way that a lot of "regular school" families don't need. 

But let me quickly say that I now need encouragement in a totally different way. There are pitfalls and pressures and struggles for public school families that require a different sort of encouragement and I have relished the opportunities to pray with and support other public school moms.

Being totally responsible for your kids' education is overwhelming. As homeschool moms, we cheered one another on and shared tricks of the trade and had each other's backs in a way that gave me immense comfort and courage for the hard days. 

Do you know who some of my greatest encouragers were when I put my kids in public school? The homeschool friends I'd made over the years. They knew me and knew my family. They trusted and affirmed our decision. And as some of them have also made the switch, I've been able to return the prayers and cheer them on too. Why? Because this was part of the culture of closeness and encouragement we'd created over the years. I'm so thankful for the ways God continues to weave our stories together.

If you're homeschooling and you're not part of a community, I strongly encourage you to find one. Get together once a week for a park day. Go out to dinner with other moms. It doesn't have to be a formal co-op or organization. But because homeschool can be an isolating and draining endeavor, it's important to have the support, friendship, war stories, and counsel of others. 

7. Moving at our own pace. 

My three kids are wildly different from one another in personality and in skills. I have one with some specific learning struggles and another who breezes through everything. There's a third who seems to be somewhere in the middle and who has yet an entirely different set of skills and challenges.

It was such a blessing in those early years to move at a slower pace in some subjects without the stigma they may have received in school. I'm just being honest. For one particular child, I think it would've had some lifelong ramifications.

For the easy-breezy child, I'm grateful that I could move at a faster pace and hand them book after book to devour and discuss. 

And for the one who's somewhere in the middle, I'm grateful for all the days they had to build and work with their hands and hone their strong skills of observation.

As of right now, all of them are being served where they are and according to their specific gifts and struggles through public school. No, it's not perfect and it's not tailor-made the way homeschool was. But so far no one is getting left behind and no one is bored. 

I'm grateful, however, that we were able to do school in unique ways and at their own paces in the early years.

8. I learned who I am. And who I'm not. 

If you think you're going to learn a lot about the inner workings of your kids when you homeschool, that's nothing compared to the education you'll receive about your own self.

Being with people all the livelong day showed me just how much of an introvert I am. And how selfish I am. And how impatient I am. And how easily distracted I am. And I could go on and on and on...

I learned that it's almost more important to choose curricula that suits you as a person than it is to choose the perfect thing for your kids. I found myself thinking violent thoughts on the days I attempted science experiments in the kitchen and wanting to throw the electric pencil sharpener when I tried to impart my personal zeal for American history to my own disinterested children. I learned that I love teaching...but that I do not necessarily love teaching my own kids in the way I thought I would. I learned that I love curriculum shopping and loathe lesson planning. I learned that I coped by hiding under my covers with chocolate and doing pretend shopping online and frequently glancing at the clock by late-afternoon to see if it was 5:00 yet. Can I get a witness?

I am not exaggerating when I say that homeschooling your kids provides you with a free graduate-level course in self-discovery. What a joy!


Truly, it was often not a joy. But it was good. God helped me overcome some hard days that I couldn't do in my own strength. He showed me that we are sometimes called and equipped to do things we are not naturally gifted to do. But He also taught me to accept some of the things that got in the way of being a good homeschool mom but that have all sorts of value in other ways. 

So many of my own strengths and weaknesses floated to the surface during those days. I wish I could've embraced them instead of foolishly attempting to change myself or change my kids. {But I'll talk more about that in another post.}

Homeschooling gave me the gift of greater self-awareness and acceptance of who I am and who my kids are, as well as who we're not. Those are gifts that continue to help us all. 


There are so many things I still value and appreciate from our years of homeschooling. This isn't even close to an exhaustive list. There are days I wish I could pluck from the past and live all over again because they were so sweet. But since I can't, I hold them in my mind and heart, thankful for the myriad gifts homeschooling gave our family.

If you're currently homeschooling, I encourage you to appreciate its blessings without letting them become idols or non-negotiables. When we turn good things {like flexibility} into ultimate things, it can make letting them go feel like failure or devastation. 

Enjoy the unique virtues and don't take them for granted. But hold them loosely. See them as gifts instead of givens.

My next post: If I had it to do all over again. Ways in which we'd homeschool differently. 


This is the fourth post in a series: 

Being Cool About School: 
Finding Grace & Freedom for Ourselves & Others in Our Educational Choices

{Whether We Teach Our Kids at Home, 
in School, or on the Moon}

You can read the earlier posts in the series here
Feel free to subscribe to the blog if you'd like to receive the rest of the series in your e-mail's inbox. You can do that in the right sidebar. And you may unsubscribe anytime you like. 


  1. I really identify with your list on this post. My schooling choice has been evolving since I started my oldest in public school online 2 years ago. My 5th grade daughter joined him this year and my 2nd grade son is still doing school with me.

    I treasure so much about the family time, flexibility and insight into each child that homeschooling has given me. At this time in life, while working full-time, the online school option takes responsibility off of me, even giving my hubby a chance to shine as the Math teacher that I could never be. I'm appreciating having my little guy all to myself, and he loves the attention.

    Overall, I'm so grateful for the options we have in this country for schooling, and the ways God directs me during each "season" of parenting.

  2. Totally using #5 as a reason to skip town early this Friday and get a few extra hours of Ohio with my parents and my littles.


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