Sitting here in my dining room on a Sunday afternoon, a bright yellow school bus just drove by my window. I can only guess it is a dry run for the big day tomorrow…the first day of school. Watching the bus drive by, only one emotion fills my heart…relief that my children won’t be on it. While my oldest daughter attended public school from kindergarten through fourth grade, and my middle son for kindergarten, we now choose to home educate our three children. We are entering our fifth year of our homeschooling journey, and every year it just becomes sweeter. I confess, I used to cry every year on the first day of school. After playing the part of a strong, encouraging mom and sending my kids off to their new classrooms with a smile and a hug, I’d make it to the car (or at least to the parking lot) and then the tears would roll. Pain would tug at my heart at the thought of the next nine months of sending my children away every day for six-and-a-half hours to be taught by someone else. Somehow, it never felt right to me.
Then came the day, at the end of our son’s kindergarten year, when my husband and I were invited to join our kindergarten teacher for a conference. We were expecting this to be a discussion of how to meet our gifted son’s academic needs in first-grade. Our oldest daughter, who is also academically gifted, had experienced a difficult first-grade year. While her teacher was a wonderful, Christian woman who loved our daughter, Molly was so far ahead of the mainstream students that she was, well….bored. This made her miserable and frustrated and not very pleasant to live with! (Sorry, Molly.) We hoped to avoid repeating this experience with our second child, so had requested to meet with his teacher and work out a plan for next year. Imagine our surprise when we entered this parent/teacher conference to find not just our teacher, but the principal, the literacy specialist and another teacher that we did not even know. We sat down in those ridiculously tiny chairs (do they hold conferences there just to put parents off-balance?) and listened as our teacher turned the conference over to first the literacy specialist and then the principal. We listened as the specialist gave the results of testing on our son, showing he was reading at a ninth grade level at the age of six. The principal carried on to explain to us that, although our school was known as the “academic” school in our town, it was not equipped to handle kids with such advanced abilities. We listened in disbelief and something akin to shock as Mr. D. went on to inform us that he believed we needed to homeschool our children.
Our immediate response to this was to question the other options. Wasn’t there a gifted school somewhere nearby who could educate our children? How about a Montessori school? They are supposed to be good for gifted children, right? How about a private school, with a smaller student/teacher ratio? As our principal quietly shot down each of these other options and reiterated that homeschooling was really our best option, we looked at each other in wide-eyed disbelief. To hear our public-school principal tell us that homeschooling was “best” for our children, and that indeed, he considered it the best form of education overall, was shocking. We left the room reeling, speechless, and profoundly confused. While we were familiar with homeschooling and had family and friends who had chosen to homeschool, we had never believed it to be what God wanted us to do with our children. We had a somewhat negative view of this method, due to the amount of pressure put on us by others before we even conceived our first child! We wanted our children to be a light in a dark place, and believed that school was that place. We loved the school we were a part of, and were actively involved in that school. Leaving it seemed unthinkable.
The next six weeks were amazing. We began praying about this decision and prayed for God to make it so blatantly clear to us that we couldn’t miss it. We also prayed that if homeschooling was what God desired, that He would change our hearts and attitudes about it. I can honestly say, I have never been more clearly answered in all my life. Everywhere we turned, God was holding up neon signs saying, “This is the path I have for you…trust me, and walk in it.” Every time we picked up the newspaper, it was another article about a public school shooting, or about homosexuality being taught in the schools, or about abstinence-based sex education being banned from the schools. Conversely, we saw many articles about the growth of the homeschooling movement and how successful these kids were academically. We saw test scores that put public schools to shame. Everywhere we went, we met homeschool parents willing to mentor us and share their experiences, in a positive way, not a judgmental one. We even drove six hundred miles to buy a car, because God apparently wanted us to meet a certain salesman who homeschooled his kids and knew the right words we needed to hear. (That’s a long story, but an amazing one). As the end of the school year approached, we knew the answer…while homeschooling may not be an option for everyone, God wanted US to homeschool, and He had completely changed our hearts and we were excited and ready to do this.
Our reasons for homeschooling that year were primarily to give our children a better education and to allow them to be challenged academically. Our reasons four years later have changed quite a bit. Now it is more about the fact that we are convicted that God wants us to disciple our children by teaching them at home and then sending them out to be “lights” in a dark world. The academic benefits are still important, just not the primary reason we continue homeschooling. The spiritual benefits have far surpassed any academic benefit, and the fruit we see in our children is the reason we continue. I can say without any doubt that it has been the best decision we have ever made for our family, and our children would agree. I thank God every day that He turned our hearts toward home and brought our children home, too. Is homeschooling hard work? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. So now, when I see that yellow school bus go by, I smile and think, “Thanks, Mr. D.”
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