Why do families choose to homeschool? The circumstances and reasons are varied. In the “Our Path to Here” series, we tell you our stories.
Homeschooling was never part of my plan. Actually, it is a little funny how short-sighted my husband and I were as we watched my belly swell with our first child. We didn’t really have a plan at all. I had attended public schools all the way through my K-12 education. My husband had attended a public school as well as Lutheran day schools. We certainly knew we would prefer Lutheran schools (of which there were none near us), but when we stepped into parenthood we weren’t really thinking about our children’s education. We were having a baby after all, not an elementary student.
But we couldn’t ignore it for long. As our oldest child grew into toddlerhood, we started getting serious about our options. We realized we would not be comfortable sending him to public school. We knew a couple of homeschooling families in our church, and I had been impressed with their children and with the parent/child relationships they shared. The idea of homeschooling had been growing in the back of my mind, but when it came to making it a reality I was resistant at first. I had a master’s degree in biology. I felt fortunate to be able to stay at home with our small children, but I had always thought of that as a chapter in my life that would be followed by a career. But I could do the math. If I homeschooled these children (now three of them), there was no way I would have time to go back for a PhD and build a career. I would be almost fifty by the time they were all graduated. Was this what I wanted to do with my life?
Homeschooling felt, to me, like a huge personal sacrifice. But when it came down to it, raising our kids in God’s Word was more important to me than any future career. And so I started reading and planning. To my surprise, the more I read about homeschooling, the more it became something I wanted for my family. When fall came along that preschool year, instead of loading everyone up each morning for school drop-off, we scrambled barefoot out the back door to play tag in the wet grass and swing on the swing-set before the Florida sun drove us back inside. We traced letters and numbers at the kitchen table. We sang songs and played and had lunch together. We began reading lessons on the couch while the toddler and baby napped. “School” turned out to be completely fluid with “life,” and I loved that.
We’re several years into this journey now. This year we have a fifth grader, a fourth grader, a second grader, a kindergartener, and a three-year-old eager to do everything the big kids do. As challenging as some of our days can be, homeschooling remains something that I love doing. I love having my kids with me all day, every day. Don’t misunderstand—this is not always easy or pleasant. In fact, it is often hard. But it is precious to me. I love the close bonds we are able to have with each other, and I love the opportunity to think, talk, and grow together without interruption. I love the relaxed pace of our life and the free time that my children have to play and rest and think. I love that my husband and I are the ones shaping our children’s characters; that they are growing up under our authority and influence, not someone else’s. I love that the flow of our daily life is up to me, and therefore easily able to accommodate babies, naps, sickness, and vacations when we choose. I love the academics. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned along with my children; this journey is redeeming my education and enriching my mind as well. I love the freedom I have to tailor each subject to each of my children’s unique needs. They don’t feel that they are behind in areas where they struggle, they are not rushed when they need more time, and in areas where they excel they are free to soar! Most of all, I love that we sing hymns, recite Catechism lessons, read the Bible, and pray together every day. I love that we can limit the outside influences that undermine our efforts to raise our children in God’s Word. We could accomplish some of these goals while sending our children to school, but I love the way they all come together so satisfyingly in this homeschooling lifestyle we are living.
Looking back now, I realize that my initial hand wringing over ALL THAT I WOULD LOSE by starting down this road was pretty over-dramatic. Beginning to homeschool your oldest child is not a commitment to do this thing forever. At any step along the way, we can make another choice. In fact, when our oldest was in kindergarten, we moved from Florida to Minnesota. Our church here has a fantastic K-8 school! Had we lived here from the beginning, we probably would never have even looked into homeschooling. And yet, in the five years we have lived here, we haven’t seriously considered enrolling our kids. This isn’t because we don’t want our kids in the school. We LOVE our school. If we ever feel that it would be a better choice for our family, we will very happily send our kids there. The reason we haven’t made a change is that we DO want our kids at home. I am too in love with this homeschooling lifestyle, too in love with this time with my children, to think of giving it up.
Amanda Moldstad is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, John, homeschool their five children in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.