Why We Decided to Homeschool… And Then Changed Our Minds

I have been very slow at posting posts lately. I have had several in the works and for whatever reason, well I could probably name four,  have not been able to finish and publish!

This has been a very difficult one for me to actually write. I’ve literally started it more times than I know.

I think it’s because homeschooling has been such a part of my life since I was in 5th grade. It has played a huge role in shaping the person, wife and mother I have become (good and bad!) .

I love so much about it. I hate so much about it! It can definitely be a topic of one of the most emotionally charged conversations you will have. I know from experience. I think that is because so many have such strong convictions about it. Which is important and can be a good thing. It can also build walls and burn bridges. Both of which I have been a victim of and participator in.

Yeah, I’m so sorry.

Well, to catch those of you up who are not on facebook… We enrolled our sweet Livie Rose in a private Classical Christian school after Christmas.

Surprise!!

I have been asked a lot of questions since then. And I want to take the time to explain where we are coming from and what brought us to this point.

Many of you already know this, but Dustin and I were both homeschooled as children. And when it came time for us to decide what we were going to do for our own children’s education it was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I had always assumed we would homeschool. I was a staunch believer in it. Quite legalistic even. I had pretty much made a blanket decision for all of humanity that homeschooling was the best and only option if you were to produce obedient, God fearing children.

In college I even wrote a few research papers on the topic. Home Schooling Vs. Public Schooling was the title of one. I think I’ve burned it since… at least I should if I haven’t already done so.

But isn’t that how it usually is? Most pre-parents have a lot of preconceived notions of how raising children will be. They have it all figured out, until the doctor places that sweet baby in their arms. Can’t you envision their panick stricken faces?? Or are you just remembering your own?

See, I began to see homeschooling as a Biblical mandate. When we apply Biblical principles as
though it were a Biblical mandate, that’s when things start to get fishy.*

We LIKE rules. Yeah, we really do. It’s our nature… the nature that God gave us. He has written His moral code on each of our hearts. We were given the Ten Commandments. The Law. And whether we follow that law or not, we like to make sure others do!

You don’t have to dig very deep to see this. Just sit in a room of 2 and 3 year olds for a few minutes and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We do not have to be taught this. Again, it’s in our nature.

Unfortunately, there is also sin in our nature. So any bit of ‘good’ qualities we may have are often and quickly warped by sin. And this area is no exception.

We hear a really good Biblical principle and find a really good application of that principle and we automatically assume that EVERYONE should ALWAYS follow suit. (I remember learning in a counseling class I took in college that ‘extreme statements’ are NEVER good. EVER!)

I am so guilty of this and not just on this issue.

When Olivia was a young toddler I remember talking to a friend who had children in elementary school. They were having a hard time and she said, “Education is the hardest thing about parenting. It’s just so hard.”

I thought she was overreacting. I mean, really. Education is easy. You just homeschool them! I so unfairly judged her because she had her kids in a brick and mortar school. Sure, you will have hard days and it wont always be easy, but bring your kids home and all of your problems will be solved! Thankfully I didn’t say that to her, but that’s what I was thinking!

The closer the time came to make that decision for us, the more doubts I had. A lot of change had taken place in my mind and heart regarding this issue. And I wasn’t so sure it was always the best option for every family.

I began to understand that I had become super legalistic about a lot of things. I wasn’t really looking at people (or myself) as individuals with individual needs. It had become more about fitting into a certain mold so that I would be accepted by my peers, the leaders of the church, even God. I realized I had become more concerned with what others thought about what I was doing than what God might think. Our decision was being motivated by fear. Fear of man.

There was another kind of fear that was a huge motivator. And I think this is pretty common among many (and sometimes justified). Fear that if I didn’t homeschool, than I would ‘lose’ my kids. That they would ‘fall away from God’. And ultimately, that I would fail as a parent.

Yes, by putting your children in an anti-God environment 8 hours of their day, you take the risk of that happening. No question. Especially if you are not combating that at home with intentional, Biblical teaching.

But I began to take a closer look at the many homeschool families that I had grown up with. What I found was a little confusing to me. I found that if all of those children were put into a basket and you reached your hand in and grabbed a handful, half would come out following God and the other half sadly lost. They didn’t seem to know who they were or where they were going, much less who God was or what He meant to them.

How could this be?

So it wasn’t the ‘fix all’ answer to our problems after all. It didn’t come with a guarantee that our kids would ‘turn out alright’ or that I would even get the ‘perfect parent’ award.

So maybe it wasn’t the best option for every family.

We hesitated.

Things had been so clear before and now we were left with a whole lot of questions that we couldn’t find answers to. It’s hard trusting God when you can’t see the outcome.

To make an already long story a bit shorter…

We ended up enrolling Olivia in preschool at The Parish Church of St. Helena when she was three with much hesitation and trepidation. I was nervous at first. But it turned out to be a wonderful experience for all of us. Especially for my sweet, very rambunctious, very strong-willed three year old, who really did need more than I could give her at the time. I also had a 2 year old and a 6 month old at home and life was really busy for me. Hard even. Very hard.

She ended up staying at that little school for 3 years, including her Kindergarten year. We loved it. I assisted in a preschool class one of those years and had my boys in the preschool program as well. We were all there together. I got to see them on the playground and in their classes. It was so fun.

The following year they were not offering first grade. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. I wasn’t ‘afraid’ of school anymore, the brick and mortar kind that is… Or was I?

I was so comfortable with the situation we had. We were all there together. I loved the environment. Olivia was thriving. Could I put her in a public school?

We explored many options and prayed A LOT! By the end of her Kindergarten school year I was almost beside myself. We were still undecided and I had no idea what to do.

Finally God offered clarity through my husband. Oh how thankful I was for him. He sat me down and said, “This is crazy! You are going crazy! And it’s making me crazy!!” He went on to say that he felt God was leading us to homeschool.

At that point I didn’t care what he told me to do. I was just glad to finally have an answer and be able to move forward.

That first year was quite challenging. Even though I had been homeschooled I had never actually home-schooled! It was tough, especially since I’m not the nurturing, teacher type. I don’t do lesson plans. I find no joy in coming up with fun crafts. Explaining how to add numbers made me feel a little loony at times. And being in a small space with three little ones all day took some major adjusting (attitude adjusting that is)!

It was tough. But I soon found myself learning to love it, if not parts of it. I didn’t feel like it was something we had to do to earn God’s approval or man’s approval. I wasn’t doing it out of fear (well, maybe a little). Mostly we were homeschooling because that was what God had lead us to do that year for that child. It was such a relief.

The next year came around and it was still hard. But I felt more confident and everything was just a bit easier than the year before. I added a kindergartner. We were finding our groove and I was enjoying the routine.

Maybe we’ll become a homeschool for life family after all!

We were approaching our third year of homeschooling. I was expecting our fourth child. For some reason I just wasn’t that nervous about it. It was the first year that I attended our local homeschool conference and didn’t burst into tears upon entering the building!

I had a plan. I knew more of what to expect. I knew which curriculum we were going to use. I had adjusted to being with my children all day every day and had come to love it. And I was excited!

The start of our third year was the best by far. It was fun even! Even with a newborn and schooling an additional one (a total of 3) I didn’t feel too overwhelmed.

And then…

Wham!!

It stopped working.

It had never been easy. We had our usual ups and downs and ruts as most homeschoolers can relate to. So I think my expectations were realistic as far as that goes.

But it became very apparent that we had hit a wall. I don’t know how else to describe it. Other than to add it was extremely intense.

I woke up dreading the day. We couldn’t even make it through a devotional. It was emotionally and mentally draining. And I didn’t know how to move passed it.

That was the thing. We couldn’t move on. I had to stop and that meant getting more and more behind academically. And we were getting absolutely no where relationally either. This was the part that disturbed me the most. 

To sacrifice your child’s education for the sake of bettering a relationship makes sense to me.
But sacrificing you and your child’s relationship for the sake of homeschooling is stupid and prideful.

That’s what we were doing.

I know this sounds a little backwards. If I hadn’t experienced it for myself I don’t think I would have believed it. Homeschooling is supposed to have the opposite affect. If you have a strained relationship with your child and you are able to focus more on them and their heart through the flexibility of homeschooling, then your relationship should be mended! It worked for me as a young elementary-age child and I had seen it work in the heart of Olivia as a first grader.

So I was genuinely caught off guard when the opposite began to take place. The harder I tried, the further I pushed her away. Is it a heart issue vs. a behavior issue? No doubt. Was I aware of that? Yep. Was I taking intentional steps to address that and not just the behavior? You betcha. Did I have the capability to change her heart? Absolutely not. Never will I ever have the ability to change the heart of my child.

I can do my best to foster an atmosphere of repentance through prayer and teaching and heart focus. But it is ultimately up to God if actual heart change is to occur.

The approach we were taking just wasn’t working and her overall spirit was taking a rapid decline. We had to make a change.

A change was needed for other reasons as well.

I have never believed that education is everything. Especially class room education. I truly believe you can produce healthy minded, well rounded, intelligent children in a home education environment. I have seen many encouraging examples of this.

I have also never taken the stance that “It’s just third grade” as I’ve heard many say. I believe it’s important. No matter what grade. Each year you are adding to the foundation of education that will take them throughout their entire educational career! If that is not a strong foundation it wont continue to get stronger on it’s own. It will get shakier and shakier and will make things much harder for them in the end.

So although education isn’t everything, it is VERY important and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

During this time of my life a lot was being demanded of me. And maybe the emotional strain was making things ten times harder than it should have been, but I just wasn’t doing my job as home-educator well – enough.

Things were falling through the cracks. There were many days that I just couldn’t get to everything… or to one of my kids at all. I had a HUGE cloud of guilt hanging over me. I don’t need my children to be academic geniuses. But I do want them to have a fair chance and to receive a good education.

I wasn’t providing that for them.

I also wasn’t providing an atmosphere of learning for Olivia that was suited to her needs. Instead I was squelching them. She is a very bright child. Very artsy if you will. Creative and fun and simply put, beautiful. Gosh, I love this kid. But I am sooo different from her! I admire her abilities and wish I could be more like her and enter her world better than I do. But the fact is, God created me to be who I am… with limitations. I was not cultivating the atmoshpere of learning that she needed to thrive in. In fact, as I mentioned before, the opposite was taking place. None of us (including her brothers) were able to thrive educationally, emotionally or spiritually.

So something had to change.

Some might be thinking, “Well the change needed to happen in you (me) not your educational choice.”

Ok, so now’s my chance to address the home-schooling Mom, thanks for bringing that up!

I think there is a tremendous burden placed on us home-schooling Moms. By others and by our own selves.

It is ingrained in our thinking that we can be and must be everything to our kids. And when we find ourselves failing in some sense we start viewing ourselves as just that, failures, instead of simply overburdened human beings who, wait for it…  have limitations!

 It’s an unfair burden we place on ourselves and others. And it’s also unbiblical.

Only Christ can be everything to our children. And that is not conditional on your educational choices. Christ is so much bigger than that.

I’m so glad that I don’t have to be omni-present in my children’s life to ensure that they will turn out alright. I’m so glad that I can trust a much bigger (than myself) God who cares infinitely more for my children than I will ever have the capability of. And I’m so glad that I don’t have to fit a certain mold in order to have God’s blessings over my life. In our absolute worst state, God chose that moment to bless us with the most incredible mind-blowing blessing – forgiveness and freedom.

I will finish with this.

It was very scary for us to make this step. It kinda happened fast and unexpectedly, although a lot of prayer went into it. I never would have predicted enrolling one of my children in a school mid-year. This was not the plan. But really I guess you could say it was the plan… I just wasn’t aware of it. God had planned this all along.

And I can say that with honesty and assurance and excitement.

I am watching my girl thrive in ways that I’ve never seen before. She is meeting the challenge. She is loving making new friends. She LOVES her teacher (yes, I’ve had to deal with some jealous feelings when I’ve read the “I love you” notes she’s written to her). And she is blossoming as we prayed she would. There have been tears. It has been a huge adjustment for all of us. But overall it has been one of the best things that has happened to our family. I have even seen a huge improvement in my boys, who I’m still homeschooling. The tension is gone and they are thriving.  I have more time for them and the difference is undeniable.

I am so thankful for this confirmation.

I know this is really long, but there is probably a lot more I could say on the subject. But I don’t want to kick a dead horse.

Just remember, no matter what educational decision you make it will never come with a guarantee that your kids will turn out perfect.  As long as you do your best and what works for each child and stay accountable to God instead of man, well, that’s all you can do. And that’s simply what we are trying to do.

We are taking one year, one child at a time and trying to be flexible to the changes that are needed. And we are finding freedom in that.

I see now that my friend of long ago really wasn’t overreacting at all. Education IS one of the hardest things about parenting. You have to do it! There is just no way around it. But it doesn’t have to cripple you either. God really is bigger than you think He is.

*Thanks Russ for helping me put words to my chaotic thoughts. Not that you would ever read my blog, but thought I’d say thanks anyway!

8 thoughts on “Why We Decided to Homeschool… And Then Changed Our Minds

  1. We are so grateful for y'all. I read parts of this to Gary and he said that, “those are reflections of a sober heart and motherly mind.” We appreciate how you know yourself, your daughter, and the Lord and seek to love your daughter, even at the cost of yourself. We love you!

  2. love you, Mika'l. So glad God showed you what path to take and that Olivia and the boys are flourishing. I miss you and hope to get to see you this spring. xo

  3. love you, Mika'l. So glad God showed you what path to take and that Olivia and the boys are flourishing. Being vulnerable helps all of us feel free to be real. There isn't one school decision that works for everybody, and I'm thankful God's shown you what to do here and now. I miss you and hope to get to see you this spring. xo

  4. Well said! Amazing how much pressure we put on ourselves and others to do things “our” way! Breastfeeding is another one of those topics that can really start a riot!

    Kelly McD.
    graceinthisplace blog

  5. Mika'l, you've said so many things that need to be said! I especially appreciated the observation that “It is ingrained in our thinking that we can be and must be everything to our kids.” …except that we are humans with limitations and often faulty reasoning too. I hope someone will dump some cold water in my face if I ever think that I can be everything to my kids or that I should be the only voice of reason in their lives. What a horrifying idea! Anyway….thank you for your bravery and for sharing. 🙂
    -Brooke

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