Recently, I had impromptu conversations with two mothers who are in the midst of making the “Should I homeschool again next year?” decision. Both of these bright, articulate women have poured themselves into their children and home schooling; both have done wonderful jobs. Their children are well adjusted and are doing well academically. As I reflected upon both of these conversations, I wondered why we agonize so much when our children are doing so well.
Then I realized—sometimes making the decision to homeschool is more draining than home schooling itself. Even though their children are doing very well at home, many mothers agonize annually over whether to continue homeschooling. Here are some suggestions that I hope will help you discern God’s will for the coming school year.
- We need to put our agonizing into perspective by accepting the fact that “agonizing” is part of the home schooling mother’s job description—and move on. When we realize that constant agonizing and re-evaluation are just part of the process, we do not have to consider putting our kids in school every time we find a new situation over which to agonize!
- Take a day off to spend in prayer, meditation, and seeking the Lord. If you cannot afford a babysitter, switch days with a friend. While things are quiet and you are alone, take the time to review your reasons for homeschooling in the first place. If you have never written a philosophy of education, this would be a good time to do it. In my early years of homeschooling, I used to get out my written version of “Why I Homeschool” to remind myself of those reasons on difficult days. Sometimes a few hours of quiet and “alone” time will help you put things in perspective and will give you the time you need to order your thoughts and prayers as you seek God’s guidance.
Do not be afraid to admit where you think you have failed. There is not a home schooling parent or a classroom teacher in this country who is perfect. We all have shortcomings and areas in which we need to improve. Write down the areas that you perceive to be problematic for you and/or your children and begin seeking solutions. Oftentimes, if we allow them to float nebulously around in our heads, problems seem bigger than they are. By giving voice to them, by writing them down, we can often put them in a clearer perspective.
Are you disappointed in your child’s math scores? Hire a tutor, change curriculum, or be more consistent in daily work. Has your child’s behavior been a problem? Record in writing the specific behavior that is bothering you and look for positive solutions. Sometimes your husband, mother, or friend can help you to be more objective about behaviors that need to be changed and help you find positive ways to deal with those changes as well. Do not be afraid to ask for help—it takes a strong person to go to another for advice.
The point is to identify the problem areas that are nagging at you. Commit them to the Lord and trust Him to help you deal with them. You do not have to put your children into a “real” school because your home school is not perfect. There is no perfect home school, nor is there a perfect institutional school.
- Write down and reflect upon the progress you and your children have made, as well as the things that have been successful. Remember to thank the Lord for His faithfulness. We tend to overlook the fifty good things about the year while we focus on three negative aspects. Be optimistic. Everyone will be happier.
- Remember that if your children were “in school,” neither your life nor theirs would be problem-free. Do not fall prey to the “grass is always greener” mentality. Ask your friends whose children are in school what are problems with which they are struggling. You will be surprised.
- If this has been your first year to homeschool, take heart. The second year is almost always better and more manageable. It is like the difference in your freshman and sophomore years of high school or college—once you know the ropes, things get easier.
- Call a friend who has been homeschooling longer than you have and ask her how she has decided to continue homeschooling year after year.
Consider going to the “block” decision-making process. Divide your children’s education into four segments: K5-second grade; third grade-fifth grade; sixth grade-eighth grade; and high school. Commit to home schooling one block at a time. That gives you the freedom to plan overall goals for three to four years at a time, without feeling like you have committed to a thirteen-year process. This method allows you to channel your energies into planning for the next year, rather than committing all of your energy into trying to decide whether or not to homeschool again.
I can still remember the freedom I experienced in 1990 when I decided to homeschool my fifth grader through the eighth grade. I quit worrying about how long I was going to homeschool and began focusing my energies toward the education process itself. Remember, your decision is not irreversible.
Do not allow yourself to fall prey to peer pressure. Do not homeschool because you feel pressure from others to continue. By the same token, do not decide to put your children into an institutional school because of the pressure of others.
Remember the words of the Lord recorded in Joshua, “Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous? Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
- 10. Above all, remember that this is a short season in your child’s life. Now that I have two children who have graduated from college and my youngest will be a senior in high school next year, I can tell you how quickly the years pass. Do not let your fears rob you of these precious, irretrievable years with your children.
If I had only one thing I could change about our home schooling experience, I would worry less and enjoy my family more. However, as a veteran home schooling mom who has agonized much and made many mistakes during my twenty-year tenure, I can honestly say it has all been worth it. I would not trade the priceless gems that we as a family have mined together during the years for anything this world has to offer.
My advice to you is simply this: Go for it! May God be with you and your family as you seek to raise your children in a manner that is pleasing to Him.
Zan Tyler is the home school resource and media consultant for Broadman and Holman Publishers and home school editor for LifeWay Christian Resources, on the Web at www.lifeway.com/homeschool. She and her husband, Joe, have three children and have been homeschooling since 1984.