I had been homeschooling for a while when I wrote this, but was still baffled, I think, to find myself doing so. For years I had insisted I would NEVER homeschool, which I thought at the time somehow made me unique among homeschooling moms. I’ve since learned how wrong I was in that department, but now that the oh-my-goodness-how-did-I-end-up-homeschooling?? feeling has long since faded away, I still like to look back and remember the road that led me into an educational choice and a way of life I never dreamed I would experience.)
My “homeschool epiphany,” as I like to call it, didn’t happen overnight. I never saw an angel, I had no supernatural dreams, and I never heard the audible voice of God directing me to homeschool my children. The process, (and notice I said process,) was a slow one. Through time and careful research and diligent prayer and one interesting “happenstance” after another, my opinions evolved over time into what they are today.
You see, my less-than-favorable view of homeschooling goes way, way back. Not many people were homeschooling when I was a kid in the 80s, but I knew a handful who did and, if I may be honest, they weren’t exactly stellar examples of what homeschooling can be. And, unfortunately, those first impressions were lasting impressions for me. Even as a child I understood the importance of a good education and I just didn’t see homeschooling providing that.
I’ll cut myself a little slack here because I was a child when I came to that conclusion, but, sadly, the anti-homeschooling mentality stayed with me for years to come.
Add to it that I myself was a product of the public school system. I went to public school K-12 and graduated with what I considered a very good education. And I didn’t sacrifice my Christian testimony in the process, either! By the grace of God I lived my faith throughout my public school years and had many opportunities to be a light and a witness for Christ. And in the years immediately following graduation, I clearly recall insisting that my own children, (who didn’t exist yet,) would go to public school just as I had done. There they could receive a fine education and have an opportunity to show the light of Christ to others.
But my ideas and opinions have been turned upside-down since those days! First of all, just because somebody I knew way-back-when gave their homeschool a lackluster effort does not mean homeschooling can’t be done very, very well. Some people are awful basketball players, but that doesn’t make basketball a terrible sport. Even an unathletic, uncoordinated, out-of-shape person can learn to play a decent game of 3-on-3 or H-O-R-S-E, provided he’s willing to invest some time and effort into honing his skills. In the same way, with the proper investment of time and effort even an uncertain, inexperienced, feeling-anything-but-qualified parent can hone their homeschooling skills until they’re an adequate, if not exceptional teacher to their children!
And I know there are those of you thinking, “Okay. Maybe it can be done well, but that doesn’t mean it can be done well by me.“ Save that thought. I’ll get to it eventually…
Once the bloom of high school graduation had fully faded and especially as I had children of my own, my view of those public school years began to change. I began to realize that the good education I received had far more to do with my own motivation to learn and my love of reading than it had to do with any of the public school methods. And that’s no insult to any of my teachers! I had some very good teachers who did the best they could with the class sizes they were handed and the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all education they were expected to provide. My high school biology teacher taught me to love science for the first time ever in my life. Though I had struggled for years with even the most basic math concepts, an extraordinary math teacher somehow helped me grasp trigonometry so well I excelled at it and even found myself loving it! That was pretty amazing. And I appreciate these teachers’ contributions to my education.
But that said, it would be unjust not to also mention some of the very bad teachers I had in the course of my school years, like the angry 3rd grade teacher whose constant yelling left me terrified of her and constantly faking illness so I didn’t have to go to school. Then there was the 7th grade history teacher who always seemed lost in class and one day couldn’t read a graph until I finally went in my frustration to her desk and explained it to her. I can’t forget the angry algebra teacher who only got frustrated when people didn’t understand, so students stopped asking questions and learned to hate algebra and not do algebra. There was also the 9th grade World Civ teacher who spent every class period telling us about the evils of political conservatives and the 12th grade English teacher who ignored English and taught moral relativism to the point we questioned if murder was really always wrong. I could go on and on.
But what about the issue of being a light for Christ in the public school? Oh, how my mind has changed on that one, too! Granted, by some miracle of grace I survived public school with my faith intact, but it was a dangerous gamble I refuse to take with my own children. We all hope our kids will stand for Christ when put in a situation where they must choose, but to ship them off to school for hours every day in hopes they’ll be salt and light might actually be more like throwing them to the lions and hoping they know how to run! To expect a child or even a teenager to stand for Christ in circumstances that may be far beyond their spiritual grounding and maturity, especially when their faith comes under fire from adults placed in their authority, is an awful lot to expect.
And even if that child manages to be a light for Christ, like it or not, at least some of their innocence will be sacrificed in the process.
I was exposed to absolute filth at far too young an age in the public schools. My parents could monitor the children who came to our home and limit the playtime we had with neighborhood kids, but they had no control over who sat behind me on the bus or who I met in the hallway at my school or who sat beside me in class. Pornography regularly made its rounds on the school bus. Bad language started in the elementary grades, but was rampant by middle school. I would be embarrassed to share here some of the discussions that went on openly in class as early as 6th and 7th grade.
I had to listen to classmates spew the details of the music they listened to and the movies they watched and was sometimes even expected to listen to it or watch it right in class. We watched an R-rated movie in the 5th grade, one so gory I only made it about 2 minutes in before I asked the teacher if I could leave the class. My classmates later informed me I missed full nudity as well. I still remember those bloody images some 25+ years later.
In middle and high school, particularly around holidays or testing periods, movies with horrible language, extreme violence, or graphic sexual content were allowed to play with no regard from a teacher busy grading papers or reorganizing their supplies. Sometimes such movies were hand-picked for their “educational benefit” and shown to the class. Looking back now, I don’t even know why I never protested, except that it seemed pointless. It was an ungodly place: It didn’t surprise me they were watching ungodly things. And while it was offensive, it was also incredibly common and not much different from the trash I heard in the hallways or saw on the bus, so rather than make a scene, I would quietly ask to be excused from the room. To their credit, I never had a teacher refuse me when I asked to opt out and go to the library for the class period, though I had friends who were not so fortunate at their particular schools.
I’ve been out of school 18 years now. No one can convince me its gotten better and most people will agree it’s far worse. And urban, suburban, or rural school district–it really doesn’t seem to matter. My husband graduated from one of the top school districts in the state of Texas, a rural district with top-notch schools and some of the best teachers in the state. He insists his school was no different from mine.
But remembering all of this the way I do, seeing my own public school experience for what it really was, I don’t want to put my child in that kind of environment when there is an alternative. I can’t speak for anyone else and I don’t try to tell anyone else what to do, but I just can’t.
So what is the alternative? Christian school is the obvious choice, but Christian schools aren’t cheap and for far too many people they just aren’t a financially viable option. And while there are many fine Christian schools out there, sometimes I feel many parents are all-too-eager to enroll their children in schools where the term “Christian” actually applies very loosely. A school filled with delinquent public school outcasts cannot provide a good environment for Christian education, but neither can one filled with students and teachers who all claim Christianity, yet live lives that demonstrate absolutely no difference from the world. Sometimes a school filled with blatant sinners can be less dangerous to a young mind than one filled with religious hypocrites who have all had an “experience with Christ,” yet in no way has it affected the way they live their lives.
I know, I know. I’m too wordy. But you have no idea how much I’ve brooded over all these things. My decision to homeschool is not one I’ve taken lightly. And no, I’m still not done with the subject here. Even when I had decided that homeschooling could be done effectively and that public school absolutely was not an option, I had yet to conquer my greatest objections to homeschooling my own children.
And that’s where the real epiphany began…