I hope my last post didn’t discourage anyone who is considering home schooling; that wasn’t my intention at all. I also hope that I didn’t make it sound like any one who tries to home school will always feel inadequate and feel that they are failing. I don’t think those feelings have to go with home schooling. My reason for sharing this struggle that I had, was to warn others against the snare and show how tempting and easy it is to fall into the trap. Now I feel like I need to redeem home schooling by writing about five posts all on the glories and wonders of home schooling to counteract what I said. However, I have other things to say.
There really were so, so many days where I absolutely loved home schooling. I love that Karis still plays with dolls; something that I don’t think she would be doing if she hadn’t had so much time to be at home with me and her younger siblings. I loved reading aloud to the kids, I loved drawing with them and doing science experiments and taking hikes. I loved watching them play outside for hours when they would have been serving several more hours of time at a desk were they in school. I loved watching them learn to read and spell and seeing the creative stories they made up. I had many glimpses of what parenting would have been like before the fall. It would have been a rewarding, exciting adventure of leading another soul to come to know and learn and appreciate all there is to discover in God’s amazing creation. I believe that children would still have to be taught, but they would want to learn and be overcome by wonder. Our days as women would not be burdened with cooking and cleaning and laundry like they are now. I believe that we would still have work to do, because work is not a result of the fall. But our work would not be cursed: grinding, tedious, overwhelming. We would never have those babies-crying-kids-fighting-while-cooking-dinner evenings.
But...on this side of Eden, home schooling can still work. Here are some things that I’ve noticed about families who have made it work:
1) They are set up for kids. They planned for how they would provide for a family maybe even before they were married. Kids are not a blip in their life, but the main focus. They have made wise financial decisions that have allowed them to survive on one income. That one income may not be large, but they have learned the tricks necessary to make ends meet in a two-income economy. Therefore, they are not trying to cram a bunch of kids into a two bedroom apartment and home school. That’s a recipe for disaster. They may not have a fancy house, but they have adequate bedrooms and living space to accommodate play, learning, younger ones napping. Families who have purchased fancy homes in the uppity part of town may find that even though their house is grand, it is not set up for having lots of kids at home during the day. They may do better with a plainer house, in the cheaper part of town, or outside of town, where you can get more practical space for the same or less money, and possibly more land for the kids to explore, garden, etc. Some giant houses only have three bedrooms these days, even though they have three car garages. A kid friendly house probably won’t have the master suite with the Jacuzzi tub and monster closets for him and her, but I believe your family will be happier. Builders these days often don’t have large families in mind. They have large in mind, but not in the way that is helpful for having lots of kids. So it may be a challenge to find what I am talking about. But it is essential that if you want to home school, you plan ahead of time for accommodating kids. Otherwise, you will find yourself overcrowded and just wishing they would be gone at school for a few hours, especially in winter when they can’t play outside.
2) I’ve found that successful home school families survive because they have a thoroughly Biblical understanding of discipline and child training. When this is not in place, you find mothers counting the months until kindergarten or preschool starts; they can’t wait to get them to school. This is a concept that I think home schoolers sometimes get backwards. They see a family that has discipline issues and they say things like, “See what happens when you send your kids to school. I’m so glad we home school.” Now I know kids can pick up bad things from school, but often the heart of the issue is that the parents are not sold-out on biblical principles. Some basics from Proverbs have either never been read, or never believed upon. Bringing these kids home would be a disaster. School is helpful in that it teaches structure and discipline to kids who have none at home. Anyone who wants to be successful at home schooling must first be successful at parenting. When parenting is not going well, home schooling will make things a lot worse. I don’t mean that only perfect parents can home school; of course there are none. But it is helpful to use the language Paul uses in describing what an elder’s family must be like:
1 Timothy 3:4-5 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?
Paul does not say he must be a perfect father to be an elder. But there are certain standards and I think these apply to home schooling as well. Before you home school you must know how to manage your household well and your children must be submissive. Otherwise, home schooling is going to be worse than pulling teeth.
I don’t want to make this post too overwhelmingly long, like I am known to do, so I will leave you with those two observations for now and continue with more later.