An Honest Look Inside Homeschooling (Part 1 ~ Why?)

You can read the introduction for this series here.  

***I’ve been working on this post for a bit each morning for a week, trying to clearly develop my thoughts. Then yesterday, arguments happened. Emotions ran high. I felt like running away or going to my room and hiding under the covers until it all passed. Impressive huh? I wondered how in the world I could even write such a thing as this — questioning if I should be homeschooling at all. I told you it was going to be an honest look, didn’t I? The truth is, sometimes I don’t want to be the teacher, the principal or the school administration and I’m certain that my students sometimes feel the same way. It’s great when it’s all running smoothly, but when it’s not, we ALL feel like running away. But, isn’t that real life? In those hard moments, we need to forget the schedule and get some guidance. At first glance, this setback seemed to derail every good thing I thought I could share about homeschooling, but after taking time to sit down and address deeper issues, I realized that the event actually affirmed what I’ll share with you.

In this post, I’m focusing on why we homeschool. The answer to this question will vary for each unique person and family. We can’t assume that our decision is right for others. We can share some of our reasons why, but they’re just that — ours.

The ultimate reason why we choose to homeschool is to help our sons develop good character. We want them to have the best possible relationship with God, themselves and others. We believe that our character most influences all future success — that it has far-reaching effects for good or bad, just as we have witnessed in ourselves and others. This is not to say that our efforts will guarantee good results. We can do all we can to create an honest, open environment, but our children still have wills of their own. So, we hold on loosely, knowing that we are responsible — but God is always in control.

To be honest, a traditional school could perform the function of transmitting lots of information to our children better than we do. It’s a well-oiled machine. A machine will rapidly produce products in great quantity, but often, quality is sacrificed. The scheduling, memorization and testing are far more rigorous than what we require, but we believe that other important parts of us — our hearts, souls and hands may be neglected when too much attention is placed on the acquiring of knowledge apart from regular opportunities to assimilate it and put it into practice. This is especially important in the context of relationship.

Let me give you a picture of two paths to compare…

Imagine travelers on an interstate. It’s the fastest, most convenient path for travelers to get to their destination. Rest areas are few and far between. There’s rushing, aggression, accidents, traffic jams, frustration, stress, and disconnection. The emotional and relational needs of the travelers aren’t given as much priority as simply completing the trip.

Are we there yet??? 

Now, imagine travelers on a winding, back country road, stopping along the way to explore. There’s natural beauty, delight, relaxation, curiosity and connection. It’s not so much about arriving at a destination as it is about the journey.

Both paths can get you to the same destination, but one seems to allow for a better overall relationship-building experience. The natural, slower environment places a priority on spiritual, emotional and relational needs.

How we arrive into adulthood is likely going to set the pace for how we continue to operate throughout our lives. We want our sons to be as spiritually and emotionally healthy as possible for their future roles as husbands, fathers, friends and employees.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” -Frederick Douglass

We need time to take a good look at our roots…

I’m not saying that we never rush or have frustrations or “collisions”. Of course we do. That’s why we need lots of down time and opportunity to address those issues. When we’re in a constant rush and focusing only on surface problems, our deepest selves are neglected. So, the overall priority and pace of our lives can be drastically different depending on the road we travel.

We need time to take a good look at our growth… what do we need more of? less of?

My husband and I don’t believe that we can meet all the relational needs of our sons. We actively seek opportunities to get them connected with the rest of the world (not at all hard to do) and this includes people of every age and kind that we meet along the way doing everyday things.

Most of the boys’ connections with their peers are with public-schooled children — which is something we believe to be critical for homeschoolers. We can’t have good character without humility. We aren’t inferior or superior to anyone else, so I don’t want us to be isolated from people who do things differently than we do.

Our road is a winding one…

We’re realizing that we need to implement something new next year, and that is involvement in a co-op, which is where other homeschoolers meet to learn from and with one another. Our boys need to see that they aren’t alone. If adults need that kind of support — our kids surely do as well!

This honest look inside homeschooling won’t be complete if it’s only from a parent’s perspective. You’ll be hearing from our sons — what they like and don’t like. This slower path allows us to better take their needs and desires into account. They have a voice, which we think is critical to helping them grow into their own unique identity.

You may be thinking  who is she? what does she know?

I would agree with you. I have lots of questions and doubts, which (in a way) confirms that my decision to continue on this road is the right one — at least for now. Honest questions can lead us to more diligently search for answers. An openness to being wrong allows for easier correction. We live authentically, hoping that our sons will be encouraged to live this way as well.

Yesterday, when I was in a doubting funk, I was uplifted by Michael Hyatt’s latest podcast episode: The 3 Forces That Shape Character. I highly recommend listening to his wisdom on this issue. If you’d rather read the transcript, click here. While the content is really for adult listeners, I couldn’t help but think of how much more important these truths are for building strong children.

So, that’s our ultimate why. It’s not always smooth or easy or convenient, but that’s the stuff of real life and opportunity for the development of good character. There is much more to share. Ups, downs, twists and turns are sure to come, but encouragement won’t be far behind. = )

In life, faith & art ~ Jamie

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