Homeschooling is many things, but possibly the most accurate way to describe it is sanctifying. It is fun and adventurous, but not all the time. It is filled with kids learning new things in new ways that excite them, but not all the time. So what do you tell the possibly interested, maybe a bit worried or overwhelmed parent that wants to know what homeschooling is like? You tell them the truth – homeschooling is a wonderfully, overwhelming, exciting experience that shows you just how good and gracious our Almighty Father is. Homeschooling is sanctifying.
Like homeschooling, most things in life are sanctifying because most things in life have the ability to either draw out the Spirit in us and transform us into His likeness or cause us to slip into ourselves more and transform us into the likeness of the world. Homeschooling is definitely no different. Unlike “regular” school, where you can escape the ever-watchful eyes of your children for a few hours on a bad day, homeschooling puts everything on display for them. They get to see almost all of your highs and lows and in-betweens. This is both exhausting and wonderful: exhausting, because it sometimes feels like you have to be the perfect parent/person all day, every day. But it is also so wonderful because it opens the door for you to be real with your children. They get to see that you are not perfect, but that God is. Walking the road of life with your kids is what parenting is all about and homeschooling just enhances that.
So why choose homeschooling? Most parents that make the choice to homeschool do not choose to do so because of its sanctifying nature, though that certainly is a bonus. But what makes it appeal to them when some would say that public or private schooling is so much easier? For many, being able to have a say in what their children learn (or don’t learn) is a big part of the decision. As the primary teacher, the parent decides what the child will learn about the world, as well as how and when they will learn it. Homeschooling allows parents to spend more time helping their kids grow emotionally and spiritually, not just academically. Another reason many parents opt to homeschool is that their children’s birthdays fall outside of the typical start time for “regular” school. Thus a child who has an October birthday would not be able to start kindergarten, even if he or she was ready for the challenge. For other parents, the idea of their child being stuck in a classroom all day is unappealing. Though homeschooling can take all day, there often days when it is accomplished in just a few hours which leaves the rest of the day open to exploring hobbies, skills, and other interests. Along with this comes the advantage of being able to pick your school year time frame – families can take vacations when they want, enjoy longer breaks around the holidays or summer, and can be much more flexible if a family member becomes sick.
Flexibility really is one of the biggest draws of homeschooling. There are not only many choices when it comes to curriculum, but also choices as to what style of homeschooling works best for each family. Some parents choose a more formal method with a set curriculum and schedule each day. Students study the traditional subjects in a format that mirrors regular school in many ways. Other parents prefer an unschooling method of homeschool. This method is more flexible and tends to focus more on students’ current needs and interests. There is also classical homeschooling that focuses on teaching children to think for themselves, much like what was taught by Greek and Roman philosophers. In addition to these forms, there are also play-based or activity based homeschooling styles. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that parents can choose one specific style or mix and match for what works with each child. Within each of these styles are hundreds of curriculum and program choices, some of which are available online and some which are low cost or free. There are also co-ops, online courses, and local classes that are offered to homeschoolers to aid parents in areas that they or a child may be struggling with and to enhance what they are learning at home. So to the parent that fears teaching certain subjects: do not worry, there are lots of resources out there to help you!
One of the best places to start seeking information to help with homeschooling is the internet. Facebook is full of local, statewide, and even program specific groups that want to help homeschool parents figure out the ups and downs of this journey. Veteran homeschoolers are often the best resource for a new homeschooler because they know the best curriculum sales, the most worthwhile programs and classes, a plethora of tricks for helping students grasp concepts, and they are filled with encouragement for the discouraged newbie. Another fantastic place to search for ideas, whether it is ideas for a unit study, printables, art projects, or book inspiration, is Pinterest. Pinterest is a great way to quickly scan much of what the internet has to offer on a variety of subjects, as well as sort ideas for current and future subjects. There are many bloggers that have done much of the work for parents and teachers by putting together unit studies, printables, and other projects that are available (some for purchase and some free) to either download, copy, or print. The next stop is the local library. You can always tell which parents are homeschoolers at the local library (and not because their kids look starved for social interaction) because their arms are loaded down with books. Librarians are excellent resources for finding and ordering not just books on certain subjects, but also various other materials like manipulatives, online resources (which many libraries offer free access to for members), games, technology, science kits, and so much more. Libraries are also a great educational and free field trip spot! Though the cost of homeschooling can often be a deterrent for many families, it really can be done in a cost effective way by utilizing this local, free resource. As mentioned above there are also often many local classes, co-ops, and programs that are geared specifically towards homeschoolers. Though not always free, these resources are invaluable in helping students experience different subjects and gain help with learning difficult subjects. Homeschooling can be, but by no means has to be a solitary journey.
Homeschooling is not the easiest choice, at least not for most families. It takes a lot of work on both the part of the parent and the student, but it is so rewarding! Getting to experience life and learning with your children, moment by moment, can be exhausting, but also very exciting. It is a beautiful opportunity for kids to see how their parents handle the rollercoaster of life. Parents can be flexible around the needs and interests of the students, while also working through areas of life outside of education that might be causing a struggle. Families get to experience together the awesomeness of God’s working in their lives and the world. And in the middle of all that learning, teaching, researching, playing and managing, God is doing His work of sanctification. What a beautiful thing to experience as a family!