Saturday, January 12, 2013

Homeschool: How and Why We Choose to Home Educate

Before we jump in we want to make sure that everyone reading knows that we are not trying to convince or condemn anyone on the decision of education.  We know that each family has convictions that will guide their decisions and also a host of circumstances that will shape the working out of those decisions.  We recognize that there are many ways to live out convictions and can see that another family, with the same goals could easily make decisions that look very different from our own.  We are certainly not here to say that public school is terrible or that homeschool is the way for everyone.  This is simply part of our journey as a family - a big part - and so, we invite you to take a look at our reasons for home education and are always interested to hear what works for you and your family.

How We Started Homeschooling
When our oldest child was 18 months old his pediatrician asked us if we were enrolling him in preschool.  We weren't sure that an 18-month-old needed to be in school, but without thinking we began looking into some local programs.  What we discovered was that the programs were very expensive and not at all an option on our income.  So we started thinking, "Why don't we just teach him ourselves?".  Thus began our homeschool journey.  We didn't think about it much at the time, but since then we have spent a lot of time talking and reading about homeschooling and turning our decision over to the Lord.

In the process of learning about home education we have discovered three main reasons why we feel homeschooling is the best choice for our family.  I say "discovered" because, like I mentioned above, we really didn't think much of it.  We started teaching colors and shapes, letters and numbers, along with a lot of reading and Bible, and before we knew it we were finding out all of the benefits of home education.

Our primary reasons that we choose to home educate are... provide a strong Biblical foundation on which our children can build their growing faith. promote healthy and strong relationships and a place of belonging in our family. give our children the tools, both academic and practical, that they need to succeed in life.
Joshua, 1.5 years old, telling us about Jesus on the cross, "Cross, cross, done."
Our Faith and Our Homeschool
We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  He came to live, die, and be raised to life that we may be saved from our sins and have a relationship with God.  This is the cornerstone of our faith, our family, and our homeschool.  For this reason, our first and most important reason for homeschooling is to provide our children with a strong Biblical foundation on which to build their growing faith.  You will read in our upcoming posts that Bible is the first subject we teach our children.  We spend time reading the Bible every day, we listen to audio Bibles, kids' Bibles, Bible songs, and anything else that will get the Word of God into our hearts and minds. 

As they grow, each of our children will have many opportunities to choose to follow Jesus or go their own way.  Our prayer is that they will follow Him all the days of their lives.  We know this to be the best decision we have made for ourselves, and so we want it for these important little people God has entrusted in our care. Their foundation must be firm, without cracks, holes, or weak spots. We choose to home educate so that we can give our children this foundation while limiting unnecessary and destructive influences.

That said, our children hardly live in a bubble. We simply wake up in the morning and are confronted with all manner of ungodly attitudes and behaviors. And that's before we walk out the door and into the grocery store or other public place. Our kids, like everyone else, are influenced by the world around them. While they are in our care, we want to make sure that the primary influence is a Biblical one and we choose to intentionally limit other influences.

Our Family and Our Homeschool
Our second reason for choosing to home educate is to provide more opportunities to build strong, healthy relationships with one another. In today's society, busyness can take over and our time together can become very limited. Additionally, if our children were in a traditional classroom setting they would be separated from one another for the majority of each day and that would limit even more the time they have to spend together developing friendships with one another.

Don't get us wrong here, we want for our kids to have strong friendships outside of our family. But we also don't want to be pulled in several different directions as our kids get older. We want to grow together as a family, working as a whole unit to move in one direction. For us, sending our kids away to school would hinder this endeavor. Home education not only gives us a lot of time to spend together, but it also gives us a common goal to be working toward which strengthens our family in and of itself.

Our Kids' Future and Our Homeschool

While academics were certainly not a driving factor in our decision to homeschool, we have come to see the very great benefits of home education in this regard.  We are able to tailor our academic program to fit each of our children, we have time for outside pursuits (music lessons, drawing, practical life skills, etc), and we get to be a part of the entire process.  It's a lot of work and a lot of fun!

Both Joshua and Hannah are working above their grade level at the moment.  If I waited for her to start school, Hannah would still be in preschool learning shapes and colors and possibly writing her name.  As it stands now, she is reading, dictating spelling lists each week, and doing kindergarten level arithmetic.  Joshua is also excelling.  He is technically in kindergarten but is reading and spelling at a much higher level.  At 5 1/2 years old he reads his NIV Bible fluently and is comprehending much of it as well.  These stories are not to brag (although we are excited about their progress thus far) but to share how home education is working for our kids academically.

A Year of Traditional Education
I, Becca, find homeschooling to make life both fuller and at the same time much easier.  Last year we were encouraged to send Joshua, then 4 years old, to preschool.  Because the recommendation came from a trusted friend, we decided to go ahead and send him.  The preschool was a great environment with caring teachers.  He did well there and learned some basic skills of relating with others.  I think he learned more academically (if you can call preschool education "academic" at all) at home, but the experience was generally positive for him.

However, Joshua's preschool year was probably the most stressful of my life!  Getting everyone ready for preschool drop off was a nightmare.  I did have it worked out to a science.  I was prepared in advance, even setting out the night before all of the clothes, diapers, etc. that each child would need in the morning.  I tried to make the most of the time with the girls while Joshua was in school but it interrupted Abby's nap time which meant she was overtired and that in turn contributed to a bed time that was never really what she needed as a 1-year-old.  Overall it was disruptive to the management of our household and the needs of our children.

There were also other related stresses, so that even with all of the preparedness, it was such a relief when non-school days came and I could just focus on the kids and our home without dragging everyone in and out of car seats multiple times a day.  Needless to say, home education has certainly simplified our schedule because it keeps our focus at home.  Very few outside commitments are added to our schedule and that makes keeping up with a handful of littles much more manageable for this mama!

The Proof is in the Pudding
We are only in the very first stages of our homeschooling journey.  In 10 to 15 years we will be able to see even more how our choice to home educate has impacted our children in terms of providing a firm Biblical foundation, a strong family connection, and the academic and practical skills our children need to succeed in their futures.  For now, it looks like it's working - the kids know the Word of God and many basics of the faith, they are tell us that they are best friends with one another, and we are surprised on a weekly basis at how well they are progressing academically.  And we're enjoying the ride!

So, how do your convictions direct your family's decisions?

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