I know that there are many parents that weigh educational decisions heavily. Nowadays, there are so many factors to consider as we seek to make the best schooling choices for our children. For many, there are myriad opportunities--private schools, public schools, and robust homeschooling options.
In my own experience of homeschooling my six children and then each of them attending private school for eighth grade through high school graduation, I can honestly say that I loved our family, loved our homeschooling experience and loved our private school experience. The following are a few thoughts on this topic from my own journey.
Considering the Costs and Outcomes
In my family's journey of weighing out these decisions, my husband Doug and I had the opportunity to see families around us that helped us make the choices we thought best for our six children. As the youngest of five children myself who all made the choice to home school their own children in one way or another, I could see that their families were different. The relationships they had with one another were incredibly close. Their kids were all very engaging and respectful and fun to be around. We looked at their families and thought, "We want our family to look like that." We drew the conclusion that this was the result of their decision to homeschool. In our decision-making process, we did not see that there were many (if any) real "cons" for our family. The only possible "con" would be my choice to sacrifice doing something else with my kids--this would essentially become my full-time job. And the "pros" that we considered--our desire to impact our kids' character and faith, our desire for our family to be close, the flexibility of homeschooling, having the opportunity to cater to my kids' educational learning styles, the ability to ensure that education was fun and interactive for our kids--were numerous.
There are many families that choose to homeschool their children all the way through high school. For our family, we decided from the beginning of our kids' educational journeys that we wanted to send them to school once they reached a certain age for several reasons. Although there are lots of opportunities for activities like music, theatre, and sports, in the community at-large and even specifically for homeschoolers, I knew that with six children it would be entirely too much driving to go to so many different activities. Sending them to school once they got older and needed outlets for these types of activities made the most sense for us since all of them were offered in one place. I also wanted my children to be in a classroom setting at that point in their educational journey.
Knowing When to Make a Change
Even after an initial educational choice is made by a family, there are life circumstances and unique situations that may call for a change at some point in the journey.
Homeschool families may at some point sense that it is time to transition children to a school setting. We chose when our kids were young to make eighth-grade our goal for when to transition them from homeschooling to a school setting, but we did not hold this as a hard-and-fast rule. As the eighth-grade year is the oldest level of middle school, I was hoping my kids would be able to enter school with a degree of confidence. And academically, I knew that eighth-grade didn't "count" on any transcripts, so it naturally provided a buffer year of adjustment to the new setting. As each of my children approached that age, I sensed that they were ready to make that change--they wanted to be part of sports teams, be involved in drama, and they generally seemed a bit more bored.
For families that have children in private or public school, if parents sense that their child is experiencing depression or significant changes in overall health and/or academic progress, this may be a time to consider change. Homeschooling could be an option in such a situation, but it is critical that parents seek to identify the source of any such changes.
NOT a Reason
I would say that bringing children home for schooling (out of private or public school) to escape something difficult or hard--is not the reason for homeschooling. I believe that, as a culture, we try to make the path smooth for our kids. And I don't think we are doing them a service in helping them avoid hard things. It's so important to pray about decisions to make changes in a child's educational journey. It can be helpful to ask questions like: Will this help the situation? Will this continue to help build their character? Will it improve their academic progress? Or am I just trying to help them avoid something that has become difficult that they really need to press into? Is this an opportunity for us as parents to help them overcome and conquer a hardship that they need to face?
For those of us who are parents, God has given us such a gift by giving us children. I feel like it is our responsibility to make choices about raising them, and raising them in a way that points them back to the Lord. I think that God has called us all uniquely, in the unique circumstances that He has placed us in. I know that as we seek the Lord on what He would have us do when it comes to our kids' education, He will prompt us--whether it's homeschooling, private school, or public school. Oftentimes, these choices require sacrifice (of time, energy, etc.). But I know that whatever God calls us to, He has promised to equip us. When we choose to step out in faith and know that He will equip us for what He has called us to, the blessings that we will receive far outweigh any sacrifices.
[To hear more about schooling options and homeschooling, make sure to check out the podcast episode "Weighing Educational Options: A Homeschool Mom's Perspective" on the "Navigating Your Child's Education" podcast.]