Homeschooling is Scary: Four Reasons Why I Didn’t Think Homeschooling Was for Me

IMG_9500It’s been almost one month now since we did what is to some the unthinkable.  We withdrew our children from a great public school where they had wonderful and caring teachers and, by the government’s standards, were doing well academically.  This was one of the most difficult parenting decisions we ever made…

Our story is a short one.  In graduate school I thought that homeschooling made perfect sense.  Then I had children and it made no sense to me at all.  I couldn’t imagine anything more frightening than being responsible for their education…in addition to everything else.  Couldn’t someone else do that?  Just figuring out what to make for dinner each night was taxing enough for this mom.

Then God opened my eyes to the realities of what had become our family life.  I spent some time with a homeschooling friend and watched her children intermix reading and playing.  I watched them smile, laugh, and run around like, well, children.

In stark contrast, a few hours later I picked up two young-ins who were exhausted, grumpy, and emotionally and physically spent after a full day of elementary school.  There was no meaningful conversation about what happened during the day.  There was no recap of all they had learned or experienced.  There was very little smiling.  They didn’t want to run and play. They wanted to watch TV, play a video game…check out.  I tried to engage them, but even after their favorite snack, they had nothing left.

I thought about how much happier and more relaxed my friend’s children seemed.  And, I thought…Hmmm… there may be something to this homeschooling thing.

But, I still wasn’t going to do it.

Why would I need to?  My son brought home stack after stack of school papers with the number 100 at the top.  My daughter’s kindergarten testing showed she was excelling.  They were fine… 

Then, within the course of two weeks, God showed me otherwise.  We started to piece together that, although grades were good, our children weren’t really happy.  They were struggling.  My daughter shared that every morning when she entered the school building, “her brain told her, ‘I want to go home. I want to go home.'”  My son shared struggles of his own that had turned into some level of anxiety.  He had been complaining of stomach pain morning and night — I had written it off to food sensitivities but soon realized that it was nerves not dairy.

The homeschool option seemed so easy.  And, yet, it seemed so absolutely and completely frightening.  What if people thought we were weird?  What if they wouldn’t listen to “mom” as their “teacher?”  What if they got behind and didn’t get into college and ended up living in our basement for the rest of their lives just because of this one, monumental decision?  What if . . .

I researched. I prayed. I asked lots of questions.  I cried. I researched some more.  I cried some more.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  Both kids were begging for it.  But, could I? Should I? What if. . .

I didn’t even know where to purchase a denim jumper…

Now, four weeks into homeschooling, I can say without hesitation that it was the absolute best decision we ever made.  I feel like I have my children back.  I don’t know that I had realized, fully, how I had lost them.  But, I now feel as if I have reconnected with them and it’s wonderful.  They play.  They learn.  They wake up when they want to.  They aren’t stressed.  They laugh. They smile. They are relaxed.  They are, in a word, happy.  

Isn’t that how you should feel when you are five, six, seven…?  Candidly, you have the rest of your life to be beat down, right?

The stomach pains are gone.  They play outside…a lot.  It’s hard to bring them in at bedtime.  They want to learn.  They want me to teach them.  In fact, in rare moments when cooperation is a struggle the mention of going back  to school is all they need to shape up.

The most unexpected result of this decision: how much happier I am!  It’s ridiculous really.  I never thought I would like it so much.  They say we lie to ourselves more than we lie to anyone else… It’s true.  There were lots of lies I had told myself about homeschooling, my abilities, etc… They all turned out to be just that: lies.

Here are the four top lies that almost stopped me from making what has been a life-changing decision for our family:

1.  I’m not a teacher… My track record in the teaching department was sketchy at best.  I couldn’t get my eldest son to hold a crayon at age 4, yet alone write the letter “Z.”  He flat refused.  There is no way that I would be capable of teaching them to read or count.  That would certainly require a professional.  In fact, just one hour of teaching the elementary school class at our church requires me to take the rest of the day for recovery.

How could I teach them every single day?

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Homeschool learning and birthday party preparation worked together perfectly on this day…

But, here’s what I’ve learned.  Teaching my own children is a little easier than teaching a stranger’s.  We were struggling with math today so I got out my son’s Legos and, thus, started speaking his language.  My daughter has no problem doing math papers if she can write the answers in pink crayon and color the page as she likes when she’s finished.  We are following a curriculum that is a classical style of education and my children love it.  It’s extremely different than the style they had at public school, but the focus on memory work and learning facts to music is perfectly suited for them.

The truth is, I’m not a teacher. I could not do what the amazing men and women who teach other people’s children everyday do.  (And, God bless them because they are special and necessary!)

But, here in my own kitchen, I don’t have to be “that” teacher. I can just be me.  My children don’t have to conform to a classroom either.  They can do their own thing.  They can recite the answers while chasing each other around the table.  They can work on school for an hour and then go do something different when they lose focus and come back to it when they are ready.  We have amazing freedom to learn in ways that suit all of us well.

2.  I must be “called” to homeschool…  The first thing that many of my Christian friends tell me when we talk homeschooling is that they don’t know if they are “called” to homeschool.  I could write a whole post on how I believe Christians overuse the word calling…but for the sake of space in this post, I’ll say that I do not know whether or not I am “called” to homeschool.  I feel like a lot of times we overuse the word “calling” to include anything we aren’t sure we want to do, are equipped to do, or would enjoy.  We act like God gives us happy feelings for things we should do and unhappy feelings towards things we shouldn’t.  I just don’t think that’s true. We are sometimes called to hard things.  We are often commanded to do things that are very difficult (loving others and staying married come to mind as easy examples…).

God didn’t write on my bathroom mirror that I was supposed to homeschool.  Instead, we had to use the wisdom He’s given us to assess the situation we were facing and the options that were out there.  I feel like God revealed to me, AFTER, the decision was made that I had been negligent in the arena of my children’s education.  (I didn’t know what they were learning.  I barely read the weekly newsletter and made it through the take home papers).   I was relying on someone else to take care of it.  Now, I would be in the driver’s seat.  It would be up to me to steer them down the road of what they would learn.  Ultimately, it would be better.   Yet, I don’t think God showed me that until we had them home for a full week.  I felt no conviction about my previous lack of involvement in their schooling until well after our decision was made.

3.  Homeschooling will make my days harder (and boring)  I’m selfish. I like my free time.  I have four children, half of whom were in school for eight hours a day.  Making the decision to bring them home seemed like it would be a killjoy to that three hours of “mommy” time I had every afternoon while the younger kids napped.  In just a few short years I would have an empty house and I could pursue *my ambitions* again.  Homeschooling would take us in the other direction…

Would I ever have a free moment again if we decided to homeschool?  What about ME???

Then there’s the fact that I like some flexibility…I’m scheduled but I had no desire to wake up and do the same thing every single morning.  That. would. kill. me.  I couldn’t do the “school every day” thing. Yikes.

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School at the zoo…not too shabby…

The lie was that school offered me more freedom.  The truth has been that not having them in school is extremely freeing.  I don’t have to set an alarm clock.  I don’t have to stress that they’ll be too tired to get up at O’dark thirty, if we don’t get everyone into bed at 8pm sharp.  I don’t have to wake up and pack lunches everyday.  I don’t have to plan my whole day around a 3pm pick up time.  I don’t have to worry about signing reading logs, projects I missed in the take home folder, or where little readers are hiding.  I am free.

Oh, and our days it seems are also free!  We get up and get around when everyone’s ready.  We eat breakfast leisurely.  I don’t have to yell at anyone to hurry.  I let them play and then we do school when I think they’re ready to focus.  If I have something going on personally, we can take a day off.  Or, if we just need to get out of the house, we have that freedom… like the day we went to the zoo.

As for my ambitions…My children have this amazing ability to entertain themselves…and that does give me some freedom to do things I enjoy, like blogging!  I really feel like I have MORE free time and I feel like the time I do have with my children is the BEST time of both of our days…not the end-of-the day “anyone got anything left” scraps.

4.  Homeschoolers are…well…you know…weird…  I might just have to come to grips with the fact that maybe I’m ALREADY weird and I just don’t know it.  I mean the Bible says that Christians are a peculiar people.  It candidly is WEIRD (defined as unusual) that I want to spend time with my kids.  It probably is weird that I really like watching them learn and having the opportunity to figure out how they learn and what areas God has given them special and natural abilities.

But, beyond that, I don’t think that being a part of a formal school environment is what classifies a child as weird or not-weird. I’ve known some pretty weird kids that go to school.  I’ve met some weird kids that stay home.  I’ve also met really fantastic adults who were homeschooled and I’ve known some successful adults who were products of a public school education.

The REAL question is: Will my children have friends now that they are homeschooled?  I’m planning on it….  They go to church. They have extra curricular activities. They actually belong to a homeschool co-op which offers them a chance to do school with other kids every week.  I don’t think that not being with kids their exact same age for eight hours each day is the training they need for life success.  Watch this video if you don’t believe me.

I read the most awesome blog post ever on that “s” word that everyone stresses about in relation to homeschool…you know…socialization.  (Read it here — if most of the people that asked about socialization actually understood what socialization meant they’d never ask about it…I digress…read this post.)  But the bottom line is — why do we place so much value on having our children become like their peers?  Is that really what we want?  I think I’d rather have my children learn how to stand apart from the crowd… I’d rather affirm their uniqueness and help them discover the special ways God made them different and the specific purpose for which he created them.

Is it weird that my first grader is learning to write cursive, memorizing Ephesians 6, and can almost flawlessly sing a song reciting the top 200 major events in world history, in order, after just three weeks of homeschooling?  Yes.  Is it weird that my kindergartener is learning Latin and loves it.  Yes, that is weird.  I’m cool with that.

The truth is: I have little control over what other people think of me and my kiddos.  It’s a personal choice and if others can’t respect it, that’s out of my control.

Do I now believe that everyone should homeschool?  Not necessarily.  Just like I hope others will respect this choice we made for our family, I can respect their choices.

But, do I completely understand why homeschoolers are such zealots about it?  Yes, absolutely.  And, when I hear others recite any of the above reasons as the “why” for not doing it, I get sad.  I know they are missing out!

Homeschooling has changed our lives for the better.  If you are thinking about it and some of these lies are holding you back… call me.  Have your own life-changing homeschool story? Share it here…

UPDATE: If you want to read an update on homeschooling is going for us two months in…click here.

10 Comments
  • Sylvia Jue Taylor
    November 25, 2013

    Heather, this is so great. I have thought about homeschooling and have all the same questions and concerns you addressed! In a few years I will have to make a real decision and will be referencing this again!

    • Heather
      November 30, 2013

      Ahhh…it was a tough decision Sylvia – so I hear YOU! :) But, it’s been really great! :) Call me when you get to that point and I’ll give you our 3 year update (or is L 3 already…maybe 2 year update…time is flying!)! :)

  • Becky Myers
    November 27, 2013

    Heather ~ nice to ‘meet’ you! Found my way here after talking to your mom … she was so excited for you! We’ve been homeschooling a looonngg time here in PA. Our oldest is 19 and amazingly graduated without one of us hurting the other ;) ha ha We have 5 more children (ages 16-6) to go so we are certainly in this job for the long haul. So many rewarding days ~ they truly do balance out the challenging days. One thing I remind myself when things get tough (like repeating pre-alg 3 years in a row with our oldest) is my relationship with my child has eternal value ~ algebra really doesn’t.

    Praying for you today!
    Becky

    • Heather
      November 30, 2013

      Hi Becky – Nice to MEET you too! Thanks so much for sharing your story and your encouragement! We are loving it so far…and I’ve only heard wonderful things about your children as a fine example of how great kids come out of homeschooling!! :) You are so right – eternal value…we lose sight of that so quickly in today’s society. Thanks for stopping by the blog! :)

  • Velma
    December 7, 2013

    Found you through Christine Hoover’s blog. I resonated with all your words. I’m exhausted with this traditional schooling routine and to make matters worse I am a teacher and I want to check out when I get home. I have wanted to homeschool, but my husband is church planting and we were relying on my paycheck. He is now drawing a salary, so we hope to homeschool next year. I’m praying God will make a way financially. What curriculum are you using? Also, how do you live on one salary as a church planting family?

    • Heather
      December 7, 2013

      Thanks for your comment Velma! Homeschooling has definitely been a huge help to us in the thick of church planting because our schedule is so much freer during the week– when my husband can actually take a day off — versus on the weekend when he can’t. I would recommend all church planting wives consider it for that benefit alone!! :) I needed a relief from stress somewhere in my life…and homeschooling has given me that. As for financially making it…I quit my (well-paying) job…as a step of faith…before we started seminary because we felt strongly that I should stay home with our children and that God would provide for us. He was miraculously and incredibly faithful to do that –above and beyond that which we could have expected or hoped for — through seminary and our first three years of this church we are planting. So, I’ve never returned to work…with the exception of some part time blogging and work at the gym! We are using Classical Conversations and I’m about to start Math U See because it has been recommended to me. I love the Classical Conversations program because it includes community every week -but it does have a minimal cost. There are lots of great programs you can do though…I know you’ll find the one that resonates best with your family! As a teacher…you’ll have an EDGE!! :) Best to you as you pursue this new direction in the year(s) to come.

  • Ericha
    January 19, 2014

    Heather,
    Thanks so much for posting this! We just recently made the decision to homeschool out kids as well. I thought all the same things you did but this article brought really good perspective. Would love to get in touch with you. Seems like we’re taking similar paths and would love to bounce some ideas off you!

    • Heather
      January 19, 2014

      Sure! We are about 3 months into our homeschool adventure and I love, love, love it. Best decision we’ve made. I’m planning to post again about it this week as an update because I’ve had lots of people tell me they are nervous to do it and request a status update! I think you’ll love it too! Do you still have my email? It’s same as always been …texasheather at yahoo. :) Would love to catch up!

  • Ruth
    September 14, 2014

    First, I want to thank you fir sharing this post. I googled about being scared to homeschool and this was the first thing to cone up. It is very encouraging to here that you aren’t disappointed with the public school system. We are not either. My now first grader is exactly how your children were when the came home from school. She has a two year old sister that she played with beautifully in the summer, but now has no patience for her. You touched on every single one if my fears. I’m encouraged by your words. I haven’t had a chance to go through the rest of your blog. I was wondering what your thoughts were on homeschooling with a two year old and 5 month old at home. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to balance it all. Thank you

    • Heather Creekmore
      September 15, 2014

      Hi Ruth. Thanks so much for your comments. I’m so happy that you found the post encouraging. I wrote that almost a year ago and I can say with full assurance that we still love it and are happy we made the decision to homeschool. As for your question- how to do it with babies at home, I’d say you can definitely do it! Remember, you don’t have to work for 6 hours a day. She’ll probably be able to get through everything in an hour or two. So, take advantage of nap times (assuming your littles still nap). You can probably find some work that she can do somewhat independently while your youngers are awake and juggle keeping them occupied with checking on her and then plan time for the two of you to work together on harder subjects while your youngers are busy. If all else fails, you may even be able to plan your days where you work with your daugther for an hour in the evening if your husband is home then or if you have other help at that time. All that to say – you can do it! I know you can! It may just require some extra flexibility and a committment to experimenting until you find out what works best! :)

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