Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why We Don't Homeschool Our Children

Let me first say that this is in NO WAY a commentary bashing those who choose to homeschool their children. I have many friends who successfully homeschool; I know many homeschooled young people who are now in college; and I follow quite a few blogs and Pinterest boards that share homeschooling curriculum, activities, and ideas. This post is strictly a reflection on why my husband and I chose to NOT homeschool. 

It is the first day back from Christmas break, and I'm up eeeaaarrrlllyy preparing breakfast, checking bookbags, and getting lunches packed away. I take quite a few deep breaths as my sons struggle to get back into the routine of getting up early, getting dressed, making their beds, eating their breakfasts, doing a devotion, brushing their teeth, and getting out the door on time.

On the way to school, my oldest child speaks up in the backseat, "Hey, mom? Why don't we just stay at home instead of going to school? You're a teacher. Why can't you just teach us?" Now first off, this isn't because he doesn't like his teachers. In fact, he loves his teachers. I think he's just hitting that age where the novelty of getting up each morning before the sun rises is starting to wear off. His questions lead to an interesting conversation, and I want to share with you what I told him.

A few years ago, when we decided I would be a stay-at-home-mom, Joe and I asked each other the same questions. In that first year, my husband mentioned quite a few times he wondered why I didn't decide to homeschool our kids. After much praying, some soul searching, and many conversations, we decided it was best for our kids to be in the public school system. These were the reasons:

1. Teachers are trained:
As an educator, I know how much goes in to daily teaching. Each teacher has to go through a minimum of 4 years of training {college}, and is required to continue taking classes for as long as they want to keep their certificate. Teachers are constantly trained on ways to better their classrooms, their curriculum, and their relationships with their students, parents, and fellow coworkers. If educating my children was all about reading novels, reasoning through literature, understanding grammar, and applying grammar and all writing skills into developing essays, then, sure, I could homeschool my kids. But I stink at math. I almost failed chemistry. And as much as I love history, I wouldn't make that great of a history teacher. Could I teach my children how to read, write, and do math on a basic level? Sure I could, but why not trust someone who was trained and is held accountable, by not only me, but also by coworkers, principals, superintendents, the president, and tax payers? If I taught my own children, the accountability isn't as intense. Would my children need to accomplish certain goals and pass certain tests? Yes. But I would never really have to keep on my toes knowing that at any moment someone could walk into my home and evaluate whether or not I am teaching to a high standard {which, by the way, SC has one of the toughest standards in the country, many times even tougher than the national standards}. My simple response to my son was that his teachers are better trained and equipped to teach him than even is teacher-mother.

2. Better resources
I have worked in three very different districts, and even before I became a teacher, I was a substitute teacher in two other districts and did my practicum teaching in yet another two districts. That is a total of 7 school districts I have had the pleasure of working in, and I have seen, at least at the middle and high school levels, what kind of resources are available to the students. Even the "poor" districts had more resources than what I could afford or even have room for in my own home. With the constant advancement in technology, the schools are really becoming a hot spot for learning, providing so many incredible ways for students to grow. I volunteer on a regular basis at my sons' school, and I love, as a teacher and as a parent, the opportunity to learn how to work new equipment, to be on the cusp of technology, and to see how the teachers in my sons' school are developing into better teachers.

3. Benefiting from a "free" education
First off, I know that technically I am paying for my children's education through taxes. Even if my taxes go up 1 cent every two years, I know that my money is going to benefit my children. Are schools always using the money wisely? Probably not. But that isn't any different than, really, any government agency. Are some superintendents, principals, and even coaches getting paid a crazy amount? Yes. But no matter how much I complain about it, I still will be paying my taxes. If I'm paying for it, then my children need to be benefiting from it. My children have access to incredible resources, technology, and educational opportunities. When I first started staying at home and we were discussing the possibility of homeschooling, we priced around homeschool curriculum. I consulted with quite a few of friends who homeschool. What I came to realize was that if I wanted to teach my own kids, it would cost, year after year, more money than we could afford. So not only would I be paying for my neighbor's kids to go to public school, but I would be forking over a pretty penny on curriculum for my kids who are staying at home. Financially it just made sense for us to send them to school. And just a little side note here, we did our research before we had kids. We chose to live in a certain area so that our kids would be going to better schools. Is where we live far from our church? Yes. Is it far from my parents? Yes. But for us, making sure our children had a great education was more important to us than living 10 minutes from work, or from the local shopping centers, or even close to our church. And it has paid off. Our children go to a Blue Ribbon School, which means it is one of the BEST elementary schools IN THE COUNTRY. Why not benefit from that?

4. Community
One of the things I stressed with my son during our conversation was the importance of community. While my children are at school, they are not only getting an excellent education, but they are also learning to be a part, on a daily basis, of a community. In a community, you learn to deal with people who are nothing like you. Some are smarter; some are not as smart. Some are incredibly talented. Some are really weird. Some fade into the background. Some have parents who are at the school all the time. Some don't even have parents. Some are model students; some are incredible rude and disrespectful to everyone around them. But everyone is different, and my children need to learn that. As different as each of my children is, they are still well-behaved, good kids who wouldn't dare speak to me the way some students talk to their teachers. I want my children to be a part of the lives of different children. How else will they know how to handle a child who is missing 4 fingers on one hand, or who has seizures, or is so concerned about good grades he hyperventilates if he makes a B on some test, or someone who wears funky clothing if they are not exposed to that person every day? Jesus made it a habit to be a part of the lives of so many different people. He encourages us to get to know each person for who God created. In the past 3 years, my children have learned how treat others who are different with respect. They have encountered bullies, children with serious medical issues, children who are adopted, children who worship differently, children who have no money, and children who have a TON of money. I love they get to know God's varied creation in a simple, controlled environment as the school. And I really think they are better for it.

5. Being Lights in a Dark World
It was fitting that my sons and I had this conversation this morning. Before we left for school, we talked about John 8:12, "Later, Jesus talked to the people again, saying, 'I am the Light of the world. The person who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the Light that gives life.'" When I was giving my reasons to him about why we don't homeschool, we talked, in depth, about community. That lead to us talking about our roles as believers in a community. If we are to carry the Light of the world with us, we need to make sure other people can see that light. What better way to teach my children how to show  the love of Jesus than how to serve Him by serving others? So many times I have spoken to my children about how to pray for their friends or why it is important to speak to everyone in school, including the custodians and cafeteria ladies. My husband and I believe that the best way for our children to learn how to apply what we are teaching them at home and in our church is to act out their faith in their classrooms, on the playground, and in the cafeteria. If they struggle, we are here to guide them and encourage them. Going to school has really taught them how to remember to pray for their non-believing friends. We then talked about what would happen if all believers left the public school to be homeschooled. What light would be left in the schools if all the believers left? What hope would be there for others? Jesus didn't hang out with the religious people. He spent every day around sinners in order to give them hope. Teachers who are believers are very limited in what they can do and say in the schools. But the students can bring their Bibles, openly pray for others, participate in service activities, and share the Gospel to the lost. I love, love, love that I can be there to help them before they go off to college to learn how to do that on their own.

and finally....

6. Being a Part of a Support System for Other Believers
After talking about being lights in a dark world, we then talked about other believers my children know. Both immediately were able to mention their friends who love the Lord. I told them one of the best things about being in a public school was the support system they can develop with other believers. They can pray with each other, pray for each other, and encourage each other. It is so important for our children to learn about being a part of a believing community. I gave them the example of our home group. Each Sunday night, members of our church meet in someone's home to pray together. We lift up prayers for health, for jobs, for relationships, and for so many other things. We rejoice with each other, praising God for the good things he has blessed us with. I explained to the boys how important it is to be a part of a believing community. Could my children be a part of a community if they were homeschooled? Absolutely. Many of my homeschooling mom-friends meet with other believers on a regular basis. But if we are choosing to keep our kids in public school, then they need to be reminded the importance of lifting up other believers in a non-believing environment. And again, what better way to guide them than have them live it out at school under the careful guidance of their believing parents? We personally feel that in order for them to hone these skills before heading off to college is to have years of practice with careful guiding along the way.

I feel like the homeschool bandwagon is taking off, and there are so many incredible resources available that it makes homeschooling a reality for so many families. But for our household, we are choosing to send our children to public school. If you are on the fence about which form of education to provide for your children, do what my husband and I did: make a list of reasons why each one would be good and bad for your family. Weigh those options and decide which is best for your family. Listen to the Lord in which path He will take you and your family.


  1. As a homeschooling mom, I appreciate your comments Jana. I think the most important thing we can each do is to think through what our choices are and make the best decision possible for our children and family. Sadly, too many families just do one thing or another because they just don't think about other options. I remember when we were first considering homeschooling, we were in a community where anything but public schools was radical. You would think I had jumped into shark infested waters with the looks I got from people (and still do sometimes!). The danger is not which of the many options you choose as much as it is whether or not you've even consider the options and chosen one in which to be diligent and purposeful. I LOVE hearing how you do that in a public school setting. Though I won't say homeschooling is easy, I don't think sending your kids off to public school is easy either, if you are raising your children with a heart for the Lord! I am thankful to hear your considerations and decisions and how you are honoring God in them. :)

  2. This is such a breath if fresh air! I'm on the fence about homeschooling. Every blog I read talked about why people choose to homeschool... so it's nice to get another view point. I always go back and forth in my head about which option would be better for my family as a whole. You bring up some good points. I want my children to be exposed to as many resources as they possibly can as well as many types of people as they possibly can... I know this last part can be both good and bad. But if we are mindful parents at home instilling our children with the right values I think this would transfer for to there school experience.

  3. Pardon my typos, I'm doing text to speech for my last comment ;)

  4. Julie, I'm glad I could be of help. I, too, found it difficult to find anyone out there in the blog world who stated why they chose public schooling over home schooling. There are SO MANY support blogs out there for home schooling moms, AS THERE SHOULD BE. As a Stay At Home Mom, and as a former teacher, so many people just assumed we would be home schooling our kids, and I felt there HAD to be other parents out there who were trying to make the right decision for their families. We did a TON of praying, weighing our pros and cons, and decided public schooling was the right choice for our family. I pray your family will find clear guidance as to which option you choose. :}

  5. I was sent a link to a review of a book about a family with 8 children {whew, that's a lot of prepositional statements right there}. The book talks of how you can still glorify God through sending your children through public school. I am going to purchase the book myself AND check out the family's website {www.pritchardministries.org}. I would caution, though, on reading the comments of the review. It literally made my stomach hurt to see believers attacking the reviewer AND public schooling parents. And that is exactly what Satan wants. It does get more encouraging towards the end of the comments. So if you read them, be prepared to see some ugliness come out. Here's the link to the review: http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/going-public-your-child-can-thrive-in-public-school