A picture is worth a thousand words. If it were possible to capture what home education could look like, you need to experience it for yourself. I feel you would remember more by joining in our family moments, flicking through photographs that capture glimpses and seeing our ordinary days. The great, the hard and the messy. A blog post can convey some of what home education looks like for our family, but it’s definitely just a snapshot. As British educator Charlotte Mason (1842–1923) said: ‘Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.’
There are many reasons why parents may choose to home educate their children. There are also many reasons why parents choose to send their children to school. Every family situation is unique and the decisions made are often thought through with great deliberation. The aim of this post is not to throw mud at carefully considered parental decisions which are often made with their children’s best interests at heart. Rather, my heart is to share a little of our very personal reasons for committing to the decision to home educate. It may help those who are seriously considering this path themselves. For others, it may provide greater understanding into why some families decide to home educate.
I prefer to use the term ‘home education’ rather than homeschooling because providing an education does not need to look like school. Homeschooling during the lockdowns in the pandemic was not real home education. Many experienced that incredible pressure to try and do ‘school at home’ in the middle of a global health crisis. It was not a great first impression to say the least!
Learning does not have to happen in a classroom, nor through textbooks and exams to test knowledge. However, it can look like this and many home educating parents have a room which they may call their ‘homeschool room’. Many home educating parents follow a textbook curriculum. Others do not. There are many ways that children learn. Some learn through hearing, others are very visual learners, and many more need to be on the go, using their hands and getting stuck into a project.
For our family, we decided to go down this road for many different reasons. We have had to have conversations with others who may not agree with our choice. It has meant we needed to be really certain about our ‘why’. On the days where it’s tough or we feel particularly weak and challenged, it’s so helpful to go back to the ‘why’.
Here are some of our reasons, but they may differ from other home educating families.
1. Spend quality time together
We only get a few years to spend quality time with our children. If our children were in school from morning until late afternoon, Monday to Friday, we would get limited time with them. They have more time with us to lovingly lead and support them more closely, rather than spending most of the day in a classroom.
2. Work with their learning styles
Education can be tailored to fit the needs of my children and how they learn. Rather than having to be labelled as ‘behind’ or ‘ahead’ of their peers, they are free to learn and engage in their learning in ways that make sense to them. There is no pressure to conform to a certain way of learning. This is especially important as we navigate teaching our son who also has additional needs.
3. Have a wide ‘feast’ of subjects
There are so many wonderful subjects to choose from. They can enjoy poetry, art, reading, music, nature study, maths, reading, cooking, and much more. In the age of the internet, the resources available to educate are abundant and potentially overwhelming! My personal motto for our home education journey is: ‘All of life is learning’. It really is.
4. Keeping biblical foundations and family values at the heart of the home
The whole of our life is centred on the truth, hope and life that knowing Jesus brings. We disciple our children throughout the day. As it says in Deuteronomy 6:4-7: ‘The LORD our God, the LORD is One. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’
We are not Sunday Christians. Sure, we go to church. But it’s not up to the church to disciple our children. They only get a one hour slot a week, or maybe a few more for mid-week groups. That’s really not much at all (and we greatly appreciate the love and guidance from our church family!). However, it’s up to us as the parents to disciple our children from morning until night, every day!
If our children are at school, they will be learning whatever values the school sees as important. We have no idea what is being taught, and often it’s left for peers to set the tone/behaviour of the playground. Bullying is rife. Poor mental health is a feature of many educational establishments today because of bullying, harmful use of social media and more.
We are not the saviour of our children. We cannot protect or shelter them from the harsh realities of life. But we can build up their character in love, preparing them for the challenges that they will eventually face without throwing them to the lions den at such a young age. We cannot force our children to come to know Jesus. But we can gently lead them by pointing them to Him. Only Jesus saves.
We thrive on a flexible routine in our home. The days are usually split into morning, afternoon and evening. Within that there will be more structured learning, but we have the flexibility to go on field trips when we would like, to change what we do in the day, have visitors or go and visit others, incorporate shorter lessons, and make them multi-sensory too. Plus, we can visit places outside of peak times so there will be some perks to that as well! We also have the flexibility to switch up what we are learning, including changing the curriculum or learning we do at any point.
6. Develop social relationships across different ages and generations
The ‘what about socialisation?’ argument is one that most home educators meet with an exasperated sigh. It is assumed that because children are not in school, they are not able to socialise with others or have limited social interactions. I have found so far that my children are very happy and sociable when interacting with a wide variety of people. Whether that is the shop assistants, a homeschool group/co-op/family, healthcare professionals, children who are in school, older or younger children, and other adults.
Schools are very unique in that children are all grouped together by age and stay that way. No other social situation in life is like that. We come into contact with people from all walks of life (especially now living in a city). Even I am having to learn new social skills again, post-pandemic and appreciating the wonderful multicultural place in which I live. Also, as no one cares more about my children than me (and my husband), we will both intentionally do our best to make sure they get opportunities to participate in a variety of activities with others as they grow.
Those are a handful of the reasons we decided to embark on home education. I’m sure there are many, many more! If you are interested in finding out more about home education or have any questions, please get in touch or have a look at my Resources page under ‘Home Education’. There are only a few links to things I have engaged with, but I have found YouTube to be a great starting point to if you want to find out how other people home educate!