We are often asked questions about why and how we homeschool. So we decided to write up some answers!
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
What made you want to homeschool in the first place?
Here in Britain, children start school full-time when they are four years old. When our oldest child, Hannah, was four, we felt she was way too young to start school full-time. She was happy at home, learning in her own environment, enjoying her siblings, her books, her parents and still took an afternoon nap! We really wanted to have a close family and we worried that if Hannah was in school, she would not get to spend much time with Peter as he is often away from home during the evenings and weekends. Both of us went to traditional schools but we know quite a few people in the USA that homeschool, so we were convinced it was a valid option. So we decided to try out homeschooling for a year and see how it went. That was in 2005 and we have been homeschooling ever since. Over the years, we have grown to love homeschooling for many other reasons . . . read on to find out more!
What is your top reason for homeschooling?
One word – TIME. Homeschooling allows us to spend lots of time with our children. We believe education is discipleship. It is not just the transfer of information from one brain to another. Jesus said that when a student (or disciple) is fully trained, he will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40) We believe that children, just like adults, are relational creatures. When it comes to learning (whether academic or spiritual), more is caught than taught. Peter and I want to be the primary influences in their lives. Our most important goal for our children is not that they would be really intelligent or get good jobs or live comfortable lives. What we really desire above all is that they would love Jesus with all their hearts and be prepared to spend their lives serving Him. In order to disciple our children, we need lots of life-on-life time with them.
Are you anti-school?
We never set out to homeschool our children because we were anti-school. (see first question above) It is interesting though, that as we talk to parents of schooled children, most of them recognize weaknesses in the school system. Teachers are being required to teach material that is increasingly hostile to Christian values. Children can face bullying, intense pressure to perform, and a sometimes impersonal institutionalized system that does not recognize their individual strengths and needs. We share these concerns, however we prefer to present our reasons for homeschooling positively. The following are a few reasons . . .
Why we love homeschooling:
- Homeschooling allows us to choose curriculum that reflects our Christian faith.
- Homeschooling allows us to choose curriculum that stimulates the love of learning, rather than stifling it. Our children can avoid the prevailing notion among other kids that learning is not “cool.”
- Homeschooling gives us plenty of time with our children so we can build close and strong relationships with them so we can disciple them.
- Homeschooling allows us to tailor our teaching to the needs and interests of each child and teach at their own pace.
- Homeschooling means the amount of time our children spend learning different subjects can reflect our values. We believe academics are important, but the hearts of our children are even more important.
- Homeschooling allows us to spend lots of one-on-one time with our children. Even with five kids, the teacher to student ratio is pretty good!
- Homeschooling allows us to devote plenty of time to teaching life skills. Too many children are growing up not knowing how to cook, do laundry, clean a house, garden, manage money, maintain a car, etc.
- Homeschooling allows our children to build strong sibling relationships. Again, the key factor here is TIME!
- Homeschooling enables us to determine our own schedule – daily, weekly and annually. We can study when the children are best able to focus, take nature walks on sunny days, and take our holiday times when they suit our family.
- Homeschooling gives our children plenty of time to use their imagination, spend lots of time outdoors, pursue their own hobbies and interests and have time for that often neglected childhood activity: play.
- Homeschooling is giving us the chance to build genuine, deep family relationships because of the sheer amount of time and experiences we share together.
- Homeschooling gives us time to read many and varied fascinating books! We spend time almost every day reading aloud together. Our children all love books and we enjoy devouring fiction and non-fiction alike.
Am I as a parent really qualified to teach my children?
YES! Up to the age of four/five, you will teach them pretty much everything they know – how to walk, talk, brush their teeth, be polite, care for others, recognize colours and shapes… the list could go on! What suddenly changes at school age that dictates that a stranger is the best person to “educate” your children? No matter how you choose to educate your children, we hope you will remember that God has given YOU the responsibility to raise, teach and train your children in all areas. Some people choose to delegate some of their responsibilities to the public/state school system. But ultimately, your children are yours and God has uniquely qualified you to raise and teach them. No one will ever understand your child better than you, their parent. More importantly, no one will ever LOVE your child more than you, their parent.
What if you don’t know a subject that you need to teach them?
Really, the question is, are you willing to put in the work to find out how to teach them? There are many, many resources available to help you teach your children subjects that you may not be familiar with. There are online classes and dvd courses and if you need them, whole curriculums that give you detailed teacher’s guides with day-by-day, step-by-step instructions on how to teach your children. From another angle, one of the immense joys of homeschooling for me, is that I get to learn alongside my children! Almost every day, we have questions about something and we then get to pursue the answers together.
But don’t you have to be really intelligent to homeschool your children?
No! You just have to love your children, be passionate about teaching them and willing to put in the work to help them learn. Homeschooling, or any education for that matter, is not about transferring knowledge from the brain of the teacher to the brain of the child. Education should train a child to think and reason and give them the skills they need to find out what they need to know. No one will ever know everything there is to know and being human, we forget things we’ve learned anyway and have to re-learn them. One goal we have for our children is that by the time they are adults, they will know how to look up information they need to know and have the confidence to teach themselves new skills. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that most homeschooled students become independent learners quite young.
How do you teach subjects like P.E. and lab science and foreign language?
Every homeschooling family handles these things differently but there are definitely ways to teach these subjects! For P.E., we have our kids enrolled in swimming and martial arts classes and we use a computer programme called Rosetta Stone for Italian. As we need help with other subjects, I am confident we will find the resources/tutors/programmes/equipment that we need. It is incredible how many homeschooling ideas and resources are out there – it’s actually overwhelming.
I would never have the patience to homeschool! How do you do it?
Short answer – I don’t! In my own strength, I fail. Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Yes, I do struggle with patience sometimes and homeschooling is a lot of hard work! It’s not for the fainthearted! But wow, what a precious process . . . God is working on me AND my kids at the same time, moulding us to be more like Christ. As we live and learn and work together, He is chipping off our rough edges and building Christ-like character in our hearts. And by His grace, we are growing to love each other and Him more and more each day. A messy difficult process? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!
Isn’t that a lot of work for no reason when you can just send your children to school?
(yes, someone actually said this to me!)
Yes, homeschooling is a lot of work! But we believe our children are worth it!
Have your children always been homeschooled?
Yes, they have. We decided to try homeschooling Hannah, our oldest child, for a year in 2005. One year led to another and we’ve never looked back.
Is homeschooling even legal?
(this is a question asked in Britain as most Americans are familiar with the idea of homeschooling) Yes, it is – at least, at the moment! Sadly, it is illegal in some European countries. At the moment, the law states that children must be educated “by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”
Do you have to follow the National Curriculum?
(another British question) – Short answer – no, we don’t and we have chosen our own curriculum that we feel suits our family and our children better. (check our Our Favorite Homeschool Resources)
What about socialization?
I usually like to ask people what they mean by this question. Here are some definitions for the word “socialize.”
First definition: To place under government or group ownership or control.
Our comment: We are actually fine with our children not being under government or group ownership!
Two more definitions: To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable and to prepare for life in society
Our comment: Honestly, we aren’t sure that spending large amounts of time in the company of other children (most of whom do not come from Christian homes) is the best way to make our kids fit for companionship and to prepare them for life in society. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Most children (even those with godly parents) are still “fools” who need loving guidance from “wise” people in their life who know and love Christ. I can’t think of anyone better to “socialize” a child than parents who love him more than anyone in the world.
Having said all that, we realize it is important for children to spend some time with other children. That’s why we have five! No, just kidding. But really, time with other children is valuable IF there is an adult available to help guide them through the difficulties that may come up as they relate to the other children (ie “socialize” the child). Often, this is not the case in a school setting. Our children do spend lots of time with other people, of all ages. We think this is actually preparing them well for the real world where, as adults, they will need to be able to relate to people of all ages, not just people their exact age. We often have people in our home and they are involved in outside activities such as sports.
Aren’t your children sheltered?
The short answer is, yes! As parents, God actually wants us to protect our children! Jesus had some pretty strong words to say about causing little ones to stumble and millstones. Children are vulnerable. Children need protection as they get to know Christ, study His Word and let their beliefs become strong. I heard somebody say once, “You don’t send children into battle.” They need to be prepared while they are still immature to impact the world for Christ. We regularly talk with our children about different beliefs and religions and worldly attitudes and values. The wonderful thing is that we have plenty of time to let these things come up naturally and answer all the questions they may have. Just like a gardener may keep a young plant in a greenhouse until it’s hardy enough to face the elements, so we are protecting our children from harmful influences while they grow strong in their faith. As they get older, we can gradually expose them to more and more conflicting points of view. Our goal is that they will be on-fire Christians, ready to engage their culture with the gospel. I’ve heard people criticize homeschooling because they think children should be witnessing to their friends in school. By all means, we encourage our children to share Christ with those around them and they do. But in reality, how many Christian children in school are the ones being influenced, rather than doing the influencing?
How do you teach all the different ages at once?
Our children do separate maths and English work but we often combine them for subjects like history, science and Bible. We do a lot of reading aloud. Even though each child may take away different things, they are all are being challenged at their own levels. We use some curriculum that is designed to be used by families and offers different enrichment activities for students at different levels but keeps them all doing the same basic curriculum. I have a weekly time slot with each child to check through all their independent work and answer any questions they have. The older children sometimes help the younger ones with their work too. This cements concepts in the older children’s minds – you have to really know a subject to be able to explain it to somebody else.
What do you do with the baby while you are doing school?
We try to do things that require lots of concentration while the baby is napping. But often, the baby can play nearby where we are working or the children can take turns playing with him or her. I’ve had times where I’ve kept special toys that the little ones only get to play with during schooltime. There are many articles online with suggestions of what to do with little ones while homeschooling. Homeschooling often looks quite different from a traditional classroom and Mummy learns to multi-task and to be creative with teaching time! Sometimes I read to them at bedtime or mealtimes too.
Will you homeschool your children all the way through secondary/high school?
We have decided to take it a year at a time and evaluate before the Lord whether homeschooling is the best decision for each child. Having said that, we think it would take a BIG reason to convince us to stop homeschooling.
Will your children be able to do exams? (British question again)
We have not decided if we will prepare them for American or British university. As the time gets closer, and our children are more certain of what they would like to do, we will research the options more fully. However, we do know that it is possible both in this country and the USA to successfully prepare your children for further studies, both with and without exams (GCSEs and A-levels). In the USA, universities actually often actively recruit homeschoolers as they are often such good students.
Do you work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and follow a strict schedule, like they do in schools?
We do have a flexible routine that we follow each day. I like routine and I think kids thrive on it. Having said that, we are more laid back than a school, since we are a family, not an institution. We can stop what we’re doing if something urgent arises and take time to deal with discipline/character issues that come up. We can take time off during the week if we need to and make up work on the weekends. However, I am a firm believer in routine. For example, I almost never answer the phone or make appointments in the mornings as this is when we are most concentrating on our work. Because we have such a low teacher to student ratio and don’t have to deal with “classroom management” and transitions between activities, etc., we are able to get most of our work done in the mornings, although the older children often have work to do in the afternoons nowadays.
If I am interested in homeschooling (even a little bit!), what do you suggest I do next?
I always suggest people read a book called So, You’re Thinking About Homeschooling, by Lisa Whelchel. My cousin gave it to me years ago when we were pondering homeschooling and it helped me a lot. Each chapter is a story about a different family who homeschools for a different reason and with a different curriculum or style. So, it gives a great overview of reasons why you might want to homeschool and how you could go about doing it. Peter and I are always happy to talk with people and answer questions about homeschooling too. If you know a homeschooling family that you respect, I am sure they would be delighted to share with you too. And finally, pray, pray, pray about it and ask God to give you wisdom as to how you should educate your children. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for us and we praise God for all the time we get to spend with our children. We would love to see more Christian families choosing this way of life – not easy but so worth it!