By Jennifer Dees
When I first began homeschooling as a mom with two small boys, ages 3 and 5, my reasons were pretty simple. At that time, my passion for homeschooling was mostly a passion to be with my own children day in and day out. I wanted my children (and any future children we had) to have great sibling relationships, and I was convinced that this could happen with lots of togetherness. I wanted to have the luxury of time built into our relationships. I liked the idea of being able to see them interact throughout the day, and I want to be there to teach through the moments of conflict and play. I also saw homeschooling as a way to keep our Christian worldview before their eyes, with ongoing conversations throughout the day. These were my husband’s and my primary reasons for starting this homeschooling journey, and these are still central to our answer when asked, why do you homeschool?
But it turns out that our reason for homeschooling has been an ever-evolving organism.
Since those early days, we’ve fallen in love with a great many books and hymns and poems as a family. These are now a part of my “here’s why I homeschool” list. Our early book loves were The Little House on the Prairie series, the stories and poems of A. A. Milne, The Hobbit, White Fang, and The Chronicles of Narnia. These works are our great friends forever. Then came the Little Britches series, the Yearling, Robinson Crusoe and others. In addition to these books, one of the richest wells we drew from was learning hymns together. These were conversation starters into deep doctrine, and these are family anthems and balms for our hurts. We feel a deep kinship towards anyone who loves these same hymns.
Spending hours reading aloud to my kids has been so formative, especially in those younger years, when they weren’t able to read the kind of books on their own that have the rich vocabulary and complex ideas that I wanted them to be saturated in. Audio books have been used quite a bit by us too. We do a Charlotte Mason education, so there is a big emphasis on the classics and well-written literature that inspires kids to think. We don’t do tests or grades, and rarely any fill-in-the-blank style workbooks. Those were not the things that inspired me in school or taught me how to be a thinker. I didn’t want my children to develop a habit of reading just to find the answer to a comprehension question. I wanted them to enjoy our books, and our books became a big part of our family culture, in a way that no test can account for or measure.
Even if you aren’t currently homeschooling your children, reading to them aloud is a great way to build togetherness. When you love the same books, you have endless examples for the kind of character to strive for and the kind of character to avoid. Reading books together puts parent and child on journey together through a story, and we emerge closer, with a shared store of memories to drawn on for years to come.
Many family hobbies and projects are also a part of our “why we homeschool” category. Playing music together and being able to regularly visit two nursing homes in our area are on this list. Chores and gardening and seeing my children caring for their siblings as part of our daily rhythm make the list too. Today, my nine year old will read to her three year old brother, and my teenage sons will do myriad tasks for the younger two throughout the day. This is the beauty of togetherness.
Oftentimes, our days end without much measurable proof of success. And we rarely get everything done on out list of things to do. We teach “…precept upon precept, line upon line.. here a little, there a little.” And somehow these small moments add up to an education, by God’s grace.
As stewards over our children, we strive to teach them, as it says in Deuteronomy 6:7, ”…when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” And none of the time we spend presenting Christ to our children is ever wasted. His Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Knowing this should have a significant impact on the value we place on our teaching time with our children.
I am thankful for the moms who went before me, who were the voice of not stressing over whether or not my children read early or did other things at the same age as the norm. I want a peaceful, unhurried home, and homeschooling allows us to foster that. There were voices in my life that wanted me to stress more, to sign up for more things. They worried that I wasn’t worried enough. But it turns out that giving my kids a love of books has made them the kind of thinkers that are interested in the world around them. And now my oldest children are self-learners. When the after-church conversations turn deep, my older children want to be a part of it. Conversations around theological and political topics are part of the atmosphere of our home. And not being in a rush has been one of the pillars that held up that roof.
These days I find myself looking at my two tall teenage sons, sprawled over the furniture, reading their favorite novels or listening to sermons and podcasts. And I am thankful that their family gets to be a bigger influence over their thinking than the opinions of their same aged peers, for a few more years.
I haven’t done everything right, and not everyday is peaceful and unhurried. But I am always thankful for the togetherness the Lord have given us through homeschooling. I am thankful that everyday I get to ask myself, what matters the most for this school day? How does our Christian worldview bear on this topic we are studying? What does the Bible have to say about the way we work on our math, and the importance we give to it? As homeschoolers, we are in an ongoing conversation about educational philosophy, always asking: What matters most for today?
Whatever kind of schooling you choose for your family, and whatever books you use, know that we plant and we water, but God is giving the increase, and in His timing. God can use you with all your imperfections in the lives of your children. And He uses us as we continue to ask the mundane question, What will we learn today?