My mother began homeschooling my older sister and myself in 1978. In those days, homeschooling was a tad bit different. There were no homeschooling magazines, no conferences, no support groups, no co-ops, no online resources (in fact, there was no internet!). There were no homeschool legal defense organizations, and even the term “homeschooling” hadn’t been invented yet. They used a different term for us in those days. We were called “truant”!
Because of compulsory attendance laws in each state, homeschooling was effectively illegal. We couldn’t even find a curriculum publisher who would sell us textbooks because we weren’t a school and my mother wasn’t a certified teacher.
In the early days, people had a lot of concerns about homeschooling. How could a mom with only a high school education (or less in the case of my mother) possibly educate her children at home? How would these homeschooled students be properly socialized? Would colleges accept homeschooled students? Could homeschoolers survive in the “real world” and become good, productive citizens?
It’s funny how some things have radically changed over 40 years, and some have stayed exactly the same. Today, educational supplies and materials for homeschoolers are overwhelming. There are almost too many choices! There are many support networks–locally and online. There are state organizations for homeschooling (like MiCHN) in every state. Nearly every major college and university in America has accepted homeschooled students (most of whom do very well there socially and academically). Homeschooling has thrived as an educational alternative.
The common objections against homeschooling have largely remained undeterred by the research and massive weight of evidence that demonstrates on every front that home education works.
At the end of the day, however, the heart of homeschooling is this: Homeschooling is an extension of parenting. Academics are a tool in the parenting toolbox to equip and prepare your child for life. The ability to be hands-on in every facet of your child’s upbringing is the goal of what I call “Full-Time Parenting.”
Homeschooling allows you to have:
- A customized curriculum, tailored to each individual child
- A great student / teacher ratio
- The ability to pass along your beliefs, convictions, faith, and values
- A more flexible schedule
- The ability to incorporate hands-on and non-traditional approaches to learning
- A social environment that allows for socialization with all age levels, not merely peers
- The ability to focus on special interests, learning styles, or learning disabilities
- The opportunity to protect your children from harmful school situations (bullying, drugs, shootings, etc.)
- The ability to travel and continue learning on the road
- The realization that education is distinct from schooling (they are not synonymous terms)
- The chance to tell your children, in a tangible way, that they are a priority, and that you have structured your life to dedicate your best years to their growth and development
My wife (whose family began homeschooling in 1983) and I are currently homeschooling our soon-to-be ten children in our home in southwest Michigan. As a child who struggled with Dyslexia and ADHD, I can honestly say that I would not have academically survived in a traditional school setting. The special care and attention I received as a homeschooler prepared me for life and allowed me to thrive, despite my unique challenges.
I am so thankful for the courage of the homeschooling pioneers, who homeschooled in the face of great opposition (many, including our family, were in court, facing prosecution for violation of truancy laws). Their courage to do what they believed was best, despite a total lack of encouragement from family, friends, church and community, has paid off in rich dividends in my life, and the life of my family.
As someone who has been where you are headed, I want to encourage you that you, as a parent, have been gifted by God for this task of raising your children. Prayerfully do what you believe is the best thing for your child, and don’t be discouraged or dissuaded by the naysayers. They will always be on the sidelines trying to derail your progress, but keep doing the right thing, even in the face of opposition. Keep pressing on!
Israel Wayne is the Communications Coordinator for MiCHN. Israel is author of the book, Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask.