“I can’t believe I almost missed this.”
That’s what her text said. My friend who just recently pulled her kids out of public school, and began homeschooling them last fall.
I knew exactly what she meant. Because I felt the same way when I began homeschooling our kids the year prior.
“I can’t believe I almost missed this.”
Her words compel me to write this post–because maybe someone reading this, maybe even you, will one day say, “I can’t believe I almost missed this.” That’s why I’m writing this.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more moms (than ever before) are wondering what their options are for next school year. Because of the possibility of children being required to wear masks, and other “restrictions” and guidelines, some parents feel the school “system” will become an even more “systemic,” and sterile environment. (Not the vibrant, hands-on enivronment we are used to in the younger years.) It’s not anyone’s fault. As someone who is married to a teacher, I know that teachers are some of the hardest working and most caring people on the planet. However, because of the state of our world, teachers will have to obey the new regulations, and some parents are wondering, deep down, “Would it be better (would my child thrive more) at home, than at school?”
I want to share 5 unexpected joys of homeschooling with anyone who may be wondering about this. You see, long before the pandemic, I found these joys to be true and solid. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the state of things. It’s just some true, and beautiful, and good things about this schooling choice. I understand, not wanting your 5-year-old to wear a mask is a reason enough to reconsider your schooling options. However, in this post, rather than thinking of why you don’t want them at school, I want you to think about why (just maybe) you do want them at home. What benefits could the atmosphere of your home offer them, that the public school system could not?
But a couple things before I start:
- “Homeschooling” your child during the “Quarentine of 2020” (by means of doing the work teachers sent for them, and doing Zoom classes) while you (and the rest of the world) were totally freaked out every day during the first pandemic of our lifetime–is not what homeschooling is like. Even people that normally homeschool (like me) felt completely out-of-wack, as I dealt daily with my own mounting anxiety, fear, and heaviness because of what was happening in the world. It was a shaky time for all of us. (Everything was shut down. We weren’t allowed many of the beautiful freedoms homeschooling offers, or do things we normally do.) So, don’t let that (bad/horrible/stressful) experience instruct you about what homeschooling is really like. It is one thousand times better when you are choosing your own curriculum, aren’t “sheltering in place,” and the entire world isn’t standing on it’s head. I promise.
- If God calls you to homeschool your kids, Satan will not like it, and will throw a fit trying to discourage you to do it, and make you feel incredibly foolish for even entertaining the idea. Even if you decide it’s a good idea, you will doubt your own ability, and find enough people to talk you out of it. (Ask me how I know.) So if you don’t finish this post, come back to it later. All I ask is that you simply ask God if He wants you to homeschool. He will never steer you wrong. You can read about how I came to the decision to homeschool in this post, “How Do You Raise a Miracle?”
- I am not one of those pro-homeschoolers. And I’m not here to make anyone feel bad if you don’t go this way. I’m not here with a gorgeous Instagram feed of my freshly baked scones, and caligraphy poetry sitting on the table. There is a beauty here. But it’s not always one you capture on camera. In fact, it’s often so hidden that you can’t show it to anyone at all. But it’s good. And it’s real.
- I was not homeschooled. I grew up thinking homeschoolers were “weird,” and I confess, some of them actually are. It used to be, that when I pictured a “homeschooling” family, visions of a family that still dressed like the Walton’s passed through my head, and a shiver ran down my spine. (This was actually one of my biggest reasons not to homeschool. I didn’t want “socially awkward” kids. Or, ones that looked like they wore homemade clothes and didn’t belong in society. Sorry, John-Boy.) But there are literally thousands more families homeschooling today than there were when I was growing up. It’s becoming much more popular, and there are a lot of incredible families doing it.
For all my fears, for all my “list of reasons not to homeschool”–it seems like God exploded each of those myths. And there was a gift waiting on the other side of them. Again, I am not here to discuss the evils of public school. I am simply here to share something good, that I didn’t know existed.
And for anyone reading this, that maybe one day will say,
“I can’t believe I almost missed this.”
Here are 5 unexpected joys of homeschooling:
- Slower mornings. We have three children (7, 3, and 9 months), and I was used to crazy scuffle out the door each morning when we had to get to preschool on time. This is usually the time where mom is shouting at everyong to, “Get your shoes on!” and “Where’s your back pack?!” and everyone is screaming. I’m looking for matching socks in the dryer, and all the children have to poop at the same time. It’s awful. By the time everyone’s butt is wiped, and socks and shoes are on, and we’ve all been restrained (into buckles and car seats), I’ve said some things I regret, and I look like Cruella Deville driving down the road in our mini-van, white-knuckling my steering wheel. Contrast that with this: It’s a cold snowy morning in December, the kids have crawled into bed with me. We lay under the warm covers together, snuggling close. I watch big snowflakes falling out the window, and I’m thinking about how beautiful the snow is. As I see a yellow light flashing out the window, I can hear the breaks. It’s the bus. Relief washes over me, that we can stay here, just as we are in this warm bed together. I don’t have to rush this moment and race down the road in the car, or stand out on the curb, pushing my stroller through the snow. As someone who at one time couldn’t have kids, I cherish this time with them. We have time to linger. To breathe. To wake up slow. I have time to sip my coffee and open my Bible, and they have time to sit with their books on their blankets (we call this “book time”) before we begin our day. Beginning the day this way is peaceful, and makes space for one of the greatest treasures of my life, God’s Word. Right now, we are setting the habit, or pathway, of “books before screens.” As they get older, my hope is that they will turn to the Bible before whatever screen is calling out to them. (Something I’m training myself to do still as an adult.)
- Building life skills. This wasn’t on my radar before we started homeschooling. But you know when you rush out the door every morning, and kind of leave the kitchen and bedrooms like a tornado swept through? (Okay, maybe that’s just us.) But with the children home in the morning, there is time to build some really important life-skills. After we have breakfast and “book time,” we go up and do two things: self care, and room care. “Self care” is simply when we get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth, and wash faces. (You know that nice breakfast residue?) Our daughter is 7, and is now pretty idependent, however still needs me to lay out her clothes the night before. But she’s able to do most of that independently. Our son is 3, and needs more help getting dressed and brushing his teeth. After that, is “room care,” which means, we make sure the clothes make it to the hamper. We make beds. (Again, little ones need more help.) Sometimes I pull up the covers, while my son is just in charge of putting his stuffed animals back on the bed. Lastly, they tidy the bedroom floor, and carry their little laundry basket to the washer. And then it’s done for the day! It’s so nice to walk into a clean, tidy bedroom later in the day. And it keeps it from becoming so disastrous. (**We haven’t always done this, and aren’t perfect at this, at all.) But having TIME to build these little habits each day, is training them to have good daily habits and life-skills. I have adorable little visual schedule cards for our 3 year old who needs to “see” what comes next. In the bathroom, we just stick them on the wall: go potty, wash hands, brush teeth, wash face, comb hair. (You can get those for just a few dollars, over at the Gentle + Classical Preschool) These simple chores and life-skills often take us to 10:30 a.m., or so. But we get to do them in a peaceful way, and we all benefit from keeping the home running, instead of the dump-and-go and “expect mom to clean up the tornado” while everyone is at school. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the chores, and the kids get to learn how to play a part in keeping the home orderly. It’s a work in progress, but something we all have time and space to grow in.
- The gift of motherhood back. I used to feel all weepy about when my daughter would go to Kindergarten. Like, once she’s 5, I have to, “Let her go.” As if, I’d done my job, and had to let her sail away waving from the big yellow bus. Where did this idea come from? Does God’s word say that you have to put your child in school with other teachers? It doesn’t talk about that. On the contrary, there are many passages where we as parents are instructed to train up our children, to talk to them, to tell them the stories of what God did. (Again, not shaming anyone here.) But I found a sense of freedom that I don’t “have” to send my kids to a school. Not only that, but I found a sense of purpose in carrying out the calling God was calling me to do as mother. And not only that, but teaching my kids about Him. God is the most important person in the universe–He created the heavens and the earth–the seas, the waterfalls, the grass, the birds, He put breath in our bodies–so, why would I send them to an institution to “learn” where you are not even allowed to mention His name. Think about that. A life without God is hollow. There is no life without Him. He is literally the Giver of Life. Jeremiah 20:9 says, “But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” When curious little hearts are asking questions, we don’t want them to be misled, or told, “We don’t talk about that here.” We get to be the ones to share the greatest truths in the world with them. For example, one morning Selah asked me what heaven will be like. So, I opened my Bible and read to the kids out of Revelation 21. I couldn’t read it without getting choked up, and I looked up with tears in my eyes and said, “This is the most important thing I could ever teach you.” And I meant it. We had time to talk about it, to think about it, and actually look at what God says. Homeschooling gives us time for these coversations. And time is a valuable gift. (It’s one of our most valuable gifts because we don’t know how much time we are given.) We are all growing and learning, but as their mom, I get to be the one leading these conversations and helping them understand the world they are so curious about.Not only do we have more time for conversations, but more summer, and time being outside. Normally, school cuts off that beautiful golden tail-end of summer. Now, we had a never-ending summer with all of September and October to enjoy being outside in the golden days. While they would normally be in school, we could visit apple orchards, and horse ranches, or have a beach day. I had time to read chapter books like Charlotte’s Web, and The Little House books, and The Magician’s Nephew. Reading together created memories for us that I did not expect or anticipate. I didn’t know that reading with kids (books you love, and they love) actually becomes a shared experience together. You “go” to those castles, and kingdoms, and other worlds together. You fight dragons. You grieve the dog that died in the story, like it was your own. You hear the wolves howling out on the prairie. You cuddle in close. It’s a way to have adventures together without even leaving home. And there is a special connection that comes from reading together. There were many times, when I would get choked up while reading a sad part (like when Charlotte dies), or just a really beautiful part in the story, and I’d look up, and there would be tears in Selah’s eyes, as well. And we both just cry, and hug each other, and hold each other for just a minute. I can’t describe how precious those times are together, memories we both hold in our hearts.
- Sibling relationships. Another joy I did not anticipate was the gift of having Selah and Jesse (and now Zion) home together. I used to argue that I would homeschool if we had an “only” child. (I do think only-child(ren) can have some incredible opportunities being homeschooled, because you can go farther into subjects they want to explore.) But I began to see that when God gave us these three children, they weren’t only meant to be a gift to us, they were meant to be a gift to eachother. And when they are separated all day, almost every day, they don’t get to fully enjoy that gift. Some of my best memories of my own childhood were just playing with my little sister, Hannah, using our imaginations, being kids in our bedroom. Now as a mom, I can see what a treasure this time is. Selah and Jesse are four years apart–but they still love to play together. We “do school” in the morning, but every day, after lunch, they dissapear together into a fort of blankets, with giggles and whispers coming from within. I don’t dare interrupt them during these times. Because whatever world they are in that day, whatever dragons or monsters, they are fighting, they are on an adventure–together. You only get one childhood. And I believe that childhood isn’t just a preparation for adulthood. Wild + Free convinced me that our world is trying to speed up childhood more and more. It’s up to us to slow it down. There is something good, and beautiful, and fun that they get to have right now. And as they fight these dragons, or jump over lava onto the couch cushions, they are forging a friendships, and becoming allies. Do they fight? Of course they do. (Lately, they’ve fought more than ever!) But I have to believe that simply separating them may resolve the conflict for a moment, but it doesn’t resolve the conflict in their hearts. This time together is helping them work through the inevitable conflicts that arise in relationships with other people. Which leads to my next joy…
- Character training. Parenting takes time. Lots of it. I wish I could parent from the couch. Or, my phone. Or, from the bathroom. But I can’t. (Ask me how I know.) Children need more than just me barking at them when they do something “wrong.” They need training, they need instruction. They need time to practice doing it the right way. We need time for conversations about why God doesn’t like it when we lie, about why we don’t talk that way to Mommy, or about why we have to come, when Mommy, or Daddy says, “Come.” It takes time (large, lavish amounts of time) to sit on the bed and help a child confess when they’ve lied, or colored on the wall. It takes time to reach their little hearts. But it’s worth it. They are worth it. And I’m not naturally good at it. It’s something I need to grow in every day. To be more gentle, more patient. To help them walk through this life, understanding that most of all, more than anything else, God wants our hearts. Because we could have the smartest kid, or raise the most gifted and talented kid, but if they have the heart of a dragon…what good is that? We must lead them to the One who is the River, we must lead them to Jesus. We can lay our lives down, we can allow our time and our desires to be stretched out, and slowed down, so that we may be like a bridge that leads them to Christ. That one day, they will desire Him, and run to Him. We don’t get to choose who are kids will be. Homeschooling cannot save anyone. We can’t force them (or anyone else for that matter) to love God. But it gives us an opportunity we would not otherwise have, to have space for these conversations, for this instruction. It’s like having a garden. You cannot force anything, but with gentle hands, and soft soil, and water, and sun, you can help cultivate growth. In them. In you. And in the end, you may just find something beautiful.
I get it. This is a hard decision, and for me, it felt like a wrestling match with God, just coming to this decision. But in the end, I’m so thankful He changed my heart about it. I’m so glad He exploded all my fears. And, I don’t know if He is calling you to homeschool, but can I just ask you–to ask Him? Can I just ask you to lay it before Him? He will never lead you wrong. He may, or may not lead you to choose this, but if He does, He will be faithful to explode every fear. He will provide for you, for every shortcoming. He will show Himself faithful. And perhaps, if He calls you to this, you will find your own unexpected joys (for there are many more than I listed here). And perhaps one day, you will look back on these days you could have done a hundred other things, or chased a hundred other dreams, but you will look back with a happy heart, and more peace than you thought was possible, yes, you will see these little children all around you, you will see in them what Christ saw, you will look into their faces, and listen to their voices and laughter, you will see in them deep treasure, and you will say,
“I can’t believe I almost missed this.”
Do you want to hear more about the “practical” side of homeschooling–but feel completely OVERWHELMED by all the information out there–and not sure what to choose? Let me point you to my friend, Tiffany Jefferson, who is a homeschool mom of 10, has homeschooled for 15 years, and is just incredible. (I wish I had her when I started!) She offers homeschool coaching packages, and can help you get on a clear path of success to homeschooling this year–you will love her. Here is her website and all about her coaching services.