Many years ago, my husband John asked me to consider homeschooling our children. I immediately responded, "Are you nuts?" John pointed out that I was judging something I knew little about, and he asked me to research homeschooling, so I could make an informed decision. I reluctantly agreed, but my mind was already made up—I would never do something as crazy as homeschooling! But to my surprise, the more I educated myself about homeschooling, the more appealing it became. Today, I homeschool our five children, and here's why:
1. Stronger family relationships:
Homeschooling enables our family to spend lots of time together. As a result, we're a close knit family, and the kids aren't embarrassed to be seen with me or their dad in public. Homeschooling also facilitates stronger relationships with extended family members. For example, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2008. She needed help, so the kids and I moved into my parents' house three hundred miles away, for several weeks at a time. I structured homeschooling around my mother's physical needs, and we spent a great deal of time with her, throughout her final year of life. During this year, my mother and I had various talks about God, and she accepted Christ as her savior! I will forever be thankful for this season we spent together, and for the portability of homeschooling that made it possible.
When kids spend eight to twelve hours a day with peers, versus only a few hours with family, their attitudes, values, and behaviors tend to align more closely with those of their peers. I chose homeschooling to reverse this ratio of peer to family influence, particularly in the area of spiritual discipleship. Here's why this is important:
• 88% of children raised in evangelical homes leave church at age eighteen, never to return.
(Source: Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, 2002)
• 93% of adults who were homeschooled hold the same faith/religion of their parents and continue to attend church.
(Source: Home Educated and Now Adults, Dr. Brian Ray, 2004)
In 2004, Duke University and University of Arizona researchers conducted a study called "Social Isolation in America". Their findings:
• 24.6% of American adults have zero confidantes (close friends with whom they discuss important personal matters).
• 42.8% of American adults have zero confidantes outside of their families.
These statistics are the long-term results of the accepted socialization process, which is less about developing the character traits of a good friend, and more about learning:
• Your place on the social ladder, which is based on externals—looks, clothes, friends, etc.
• Who you're allowed to associate with.
• Behaviors designed to shield yourself from social humiliation:
-Focusing on externals, because that's how you're judged.
-Prioritizing social status of friends over quality of friends.
-Stifling individuality, to fit in with others.
Homeschooling removes a huge level of this form of socialization from my children's daily lives. It enables me to provide healthier socialization opportunities, where my kids can more easily develop social skills conducive to relational success in adulthood: emotional honesty, effective communication and conflict resolution skills, character traits of a good friend, and confidence to embrace God-given individuality.
4. Personally tailored curriculum:
There are many excellent homeschool curriculums available today, and a growing number of colleges, athletic organizations, fine art schools, and museums offer programs for homeschoolers as well. As a result, I can provide each child with learning opportunities tailored to individual interests, learning style, and aptitude. Furthermore, if a curriculum isn't working well, I'm not stuck using it.
Kids learn quickly when they're being taught individually, which results in more time for exploring personal interests.
6. Learning for mastery:
Homeschooling provides increased opportunities to learn with long-term mastery, rather than cramming and regurgitating on tests, as a goal. In Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, author David Guterson explains the results of the latter method of learning, by describing an experiment he conducted five times when he worked as a teacher. In this experiment, Guterson spent a week preparing his students for a test they took on Friday. On the following Monday, he had his students retake the test. The results:
"None—no one—has ever received an equal or higher grade on the test administered on Monday. Most, in fact, receive a considerably lower grade, missing, often, twice as many questions on Monday as they missed on Friday."
7. Higher expectations for kids with special needs:
Homeschooling enables us to provide our two autistic sons with greater individual attention, higher academic expectations, and healthier social opportunities than they probably would have experienced at school. As a result, they're functioning at a higher level than expected, given the predictions we received when they were younger.
Homeschooling isn't an easy choice. It involves enormous financial, career, and lifestyle sacrifices, as well as unwanted criticism. Despite these challenges, I've chosen to homeschool because I want to give our children what I believe is the best education option—just as parents who put their kids in other types of schools strive to give their children what they believe is the best education option. In the end, I think that's something we can agree on: we're all motivated by a desire to do what's best for our children, however that ends up looking.
Marlene Molewyk is a homeschooling mother, writer, and speaker. She previously worked as a broadcast journalist for an NBC affiliate, a production assistant for The Oprah Winfrey Show, and a corporate public relations manager and consultant. Molewyk is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and she blogs at http://marlenemolewyk.blogspot.com.