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Earlier this week, one of my friends reached out to me. Because her kids are having a difficult time in public school, she and her husband are considering homeschooling. For the next half hour, we chatted about the realities of homeschooling. How much does it cost? Is it really better than public school? How do you handle subjects that you struggled with—or that your kids may already be behind in? What are the pros and cons? Read on for my answers.
“What are the costs?”
Depending on your approach, you’ll probably need to invest in a curriculum. If you’re on a tight budget, there are affordable options online. Some are even free! Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool provides a free online Christian curriculum. For an annual fee, my SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership includes everything I would need to homeschool all my children (affiliate link).
Receive a 1-month membership on SchoolhouseTeachers for just $5; use the code TRIAL when you sign up. Or take advantage of a 3 month membership for $24.97 with the code FINISHWELL.
“Is it really better for our kids than public schools?”
In most situations, homeschooling is far superior. Moms make the best teachers because they love their kids and want what’s best for them. What we may lack in knowledge and teaching experience, we make up for with sheer determination and a bit of research. Since we have just a few students, we can eliminate the busywork and tailor our kids’ education to them. Whether your kids are facing difficulties with their peers or aren’t clicking with their teacher, you can practically eliminate those issues by teaching them at home.
“I’m worried that I won’t be a good teacher. How do I teach them subjects I struggle with? I’ve always had a difficult time with math.”
I promise that you will be a good teacher. Don’t freak about teaching subjects you struggled with or considered boring. As I’ve taught my kids, those are the very subjects that have been most rewarding for me. As a student, I was horrible at history. Teaching this subject to my kids has awakened an interest I never expected to have. I am learning right along with them.
As far as math goes, there may be a point at which you’ll need help. Does your husband excel at math? Perhaps he could eventually take over teaching that subject.
Often, you can find classes nearby that tailor to homeschoolers. In our area, The Timothy Ministry offers a variety of affordable courses at a local church.
A viable and free online option, Khan Academy, offers complete math courses for every level. I’ve used it to brush up on my own math skills, and all of my kids have used it either as a supplement or as their primary math curriculum.
“I have a struggling reader who’s receiving help in an early intervention program at school. If I homeschool her, how will that affect her scores on standardized tests?”
You can be her personal reading specialist. In this role, you’ll be able to lovingly coach her as she improves her reading. There are tons of tips in the SchoolhouseTeachers.com Literacy Center (affiliate link). You can check out some of their resources for free. If you discover that your child needs additional help, there are specialized programs to help homeschooled students who struggle with reading. Recently, the Schoolhouse Review Crew evaluated one such resource—Pride Reading.
I loved teaching reading. Regardless of my child’s age, it always brought tears of joy when they had their “light bulb moment,” and everything clicked for them. Once they hit their stride, there was no stopping them.
As far as standardized tests go, don’t stress over them. In Georgia, at least, only parents need to see the results. The tests may reveal areas your child needs extra help in or topics you simply having taught yet. Often, they will highlight your child’s strengths. When you are homeschooling, none of this information should surprise you. Through day-to-day personal interaction with your child, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how they are progressing.
“What are the pros and cons of homeschooling? My husband wants to know the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
There are many pros! Here are just a few of the benefits we’ve seen:
- More family time
- Better relationships within the family
- Discipleship opportunities
- Promote family values
- Regulate negative/anti-Christian influences
- Kids can relate better to people of all ages
- Opportunities to vacation in off-peak seasons
- Ability to tailor teaching to your kids
- Kids learn at their own pace
- No busywork is necessary
- Freedom for kids to pursue personal interests
- Older siblings can help teach younger ones
Of course, homeschooling is not all sunshine and rainbows. Here are some of the cons:
- Financial cost
- Many decisions to make
- Requires a substantial time commitment
- An initial learning curve as you all adapt
- Dad may need to help (this could be a pro)
- Emotional drain on Mom—some days may end in tears, for you and/or your child
- Surrendering some “me-time”
The decision to homeschool requires Mom to reevaluate her priorities. It may mean setting aside certain activities or adjusting them to include the kids. Through the years of homeschooling, Community Bible Study has provided weekly fellowship with other ladies and kept me accountable in my Christian walk. It’s also helped my kids to grow in their faith as they attend classes with other kids at the same time.
Utilizing a grocery pickup service or shopping for groceries when Dad’s available to watch the kids has been a lifesaver. On the other hand, taking kids along to the store is an opportunity to link their education to practical experiences.
Homeschooling will affect not just family life, but also your home environment. Our house often appears messy or cluttered. When guests are expected, there’s usually a mad dash to put things in order. After a long day of homeschooling, preparing determinationer for the family is sometimes the last thing I want to do. Cutting back slightly on the academics and enlisting the kids’ help for household chores and meal prep helps lift my burden. It teaches my kids essential life skills, and sometimes they actually enjoy working together.
As we began to wrap up our conversation, my friend reiterated how much she wants what’s best for her kids. It’s heartbreaking for her to see them struggle, but the idea of homeschooling is pretty scary. Will she be able to adapt to having less personal time? And what if she completely messes everything up?
It can be tough having the kids around 24-7, especially in the elementary years. Those grades require so much parental direction. And those fears about messing up? They haunt me too. Even after graduating two of my kids, I sometimes wonder if I totally blew it somewhere along the line.
The best way to overcome these concerns is through prayer. Every year, I pray about our homeschool curriculum. Even before consulting a list of what kids should learn when, I ask, “God, what do my kids need to learn this year?” Although His answer sometimes has little to do with academics, it becomes the framework of our school year.
Reflecting on previous years, I know I’ve fallen short of what I had hoped to accomplish. I’m not perfect. But I trust God to teach my kids those things that I’ve dropped the ball on.
As I have instructed my kids at home, God has continuously taught me through His Word. Some passages have guided, encouraged, and challenged me on the journey. Here are three which have greatly influenced my attitude toward homeschooling.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
1 John 21:15
Jesus’ words to Peter hit me hard when my kids were young. I could practically hear Jesus asking me personally: “Do you love me, Jenn?” My answer was a resounding, “Yes!”
His response? “Feed my lambs.”
I knew He was calling me to set aside my own agenda and nourish the flock of five children He’d given me. It wasn’t always easy. At times, it was downright frustrating. But I knew I was doing what He called me to do.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16
John’s words always convict me. Laying down my life for my brothers—for my children—means giving up my personal desires in order to pour God’s love into them.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
Whenever I start doubting my ability to teach my children, this verse encourages me. I am my children’s teacher for a short time, but God is their forever teacher. Ultimately, they will answer to Him. Holding on to His promise of peace, I can step out of fear and into confidence.
After our short chat, my friend had a lot to consider and pray about. Homeschooling is a huge decision—a serious commitment. Although it can be tough, the rewards are worth it. Before saying goodbye, I promised,
“You can do at least as well as a classroom teacher, if not better!”
Assuring her that I’ll continue praying about her family’s decision, I encouraged her to reach out to other homeschool moms for additional guidance and support. I don’t know what she and her husband will ultimately decide, but I’m trusting God to direct them as they consider their alternatives.
What are some other pros and cons of homeschooling? Can you offer any additional insight or advice that would help a family decide whether to pull their kids out of public school and teach them at home? Please share them on our Facebook Page.