Home Education: A Viable Option

christmaseve-004This is the time of year when parents begin to think about the next school year for their children. For those who are displeased with their child’s educational setting, it’s usually the time when options for the following year are analyzed and plans begin to take shape.

Home education continues to be an option available to parents in America, and for that, we should be deeply thankful. In some European countries, like Germany, you can go to jail for attempting to keep your children out of official, government sanctioned schools. It is a precious privilege and hard-won freedom that we parents enjoy today to be able to school our children according to the dictates of our own consciences and our own beliefs. We are deeply grateful.

At various times in my children’s lives, we have had them in private Christian school, a public school, and in home school. Each year presented a new set of circumstances and set of needs and we have tried, year by year, to meet each child’s unique needs as they have arisen. I have home schooled using various means and methods as well. What works well for one student does not work well for another. It is a case of analyzing each child’s academic and spiritual needs and doing the best you can to address those as a mother.

I am not an ideological home schooler. By that I mean that I am not one of those who believes that God commands parents to teach children academics in a home setting and that any other choice is unbiblical. There are groups that teach that. Tom and I believe that we are allowed to delegate academic teaching to others, just as Jewish parents delegated the teaching of Hebrew to the synagogue for their young sons in Jesus’ day. Parents bear the ultimate responsibility for their choices, however, and we need to bear that in mind.

Not all parents are experts in all subjects, not all parents are financially able to have one parent home full time, and some mothers are not physically, emotionally or educationally equipped to educate their children at home. I am for good home schooling and opposed to  disorganized, careless and poor home schooling, just as I am for good schools and opposed to bad ones. It is a decision that parents need to make together with much prayer.

Let me tell you why I am home educating our youngest, Will. Last Spring, Tom and I talked about putting Will in a Christian school for junior high in preparation for high school. While Will attended school for 1st, 2nd and 4th grades, we thought that having him in a school setting for these junior high years would perhaps be a help to him as high school looms. I made an appointment to visit the Christian school nearest us. It has a solid academic reputation, is not large, and uses a good Christian curriculum. They have a uniform dress code, which I think is wise these days, and an award winning history program.

We sat in the 6th grade classroom that day with the 23 or so other students who would be in Will’s class for the next two years. The male teacher, who seemed like a very sincere young man, asked each student to stand up and give a name, an interest they had, and a reason they liked the school. This was for Will and my benefit as visitors.

The first boy stood up. At first I thought he was mentally disabled. Rather than obey the teacher, he began making bizarre noises with his mouth. As the class tittered around him, I realized that the boy was fooling around. The laughs of the class got louder and louder. Eventually he spit out his name and some incomprehensible gibberish and then sat down to the howls of approval from the class. The teacher remained silent at the podium with something of a vague smile on his face. That slight encouragement led to the rest of the class behaving in a disrespectful and foolish manner. Only a handful of the students obeyed the teacher. It was an embarrassing spectacle that was never stopped by the man in charge of the class. I was unimpressed.

I came away that day thinking, how can we send William into an environment like that? He loves to learn. He’s becoming a World War II expert from all of his reading. He loves history and math and science. Furthermore, he enjoys talking with older people, respects authority and knows how to obey. What becomes of a serious student when you place him in a setting where behaving like a fool and disobeying a teacher is the cool thing to do? Those children, as silly as it was, were showing disrespect not only for their teachers, but for us as visitors, and for themselves. The peer pack madness was in full evidence that day.

The child who is an individual thinker, who can concentrate for long periods of time on subjects of interest, who respects authority and likes communicating with adults because of what he can learn is a rare breed today. Home education is able to produce this kind of character largely because a child is socialized across generational lines, is removed from the tyranny of peer dynamics and is given the freedom to explore what he is interested in for more than chopped up little time increments.

Tom and I believe that character is primary. A child may possess a lot of knowledge, but if he has never been taught to honor the Lord, be respectful and to think of others first, of what use is all that knowledge?

A neighbor man of ours thinks a lot of Will. Will thinks a lot of  “Mr. John.” I saw them outside last week talking at length. Our neighbor is a golf lover, and Will likes to learn things from him. Did you catch that? A 12-year-old has learned the value of listening and learning from his elders. What a concept. Sadly, this whole idea has been lost in the idolatry of youth culture that teaches children that their world is the only one that matters. Marketers have a vested interested in convincing the young of this point, and it is to the children’s detriment.

I could write much about the various options in a home education setting. Technology has created an exploding array of high quality choices for parents. Each family has to determine what works best for each child. When you are home educating multiple children at different grade levels, this can be an enormous challenge. William has an auditory learning style and has done best with a structured, distance learning program. He has master teachers who lecture on DVD through the Abeka program in Florida. He uses the Saxon math program. His teacher has a doctorate in math and through the use of a CD-rom, turns Will’s computer screen into a white board where the math lessons are taught each day. He is in Algebra 1/2 this year and is doing very well with it. 

This home educational setup, while more costly than if I taught each subject, only costs us about $1100 a year. For this price, he is getting top flight teachers and academics at a fraction of the cost of a Christian school. (Schools in our area run $5,000-$6,000 a year.) I serve as coach and test grader. Will files his work away each day and records his grades. He’s learning to manage his own education, and it has helped instill discipline in him. He found out that if he gets up at 6:15 each day, he can be done with school largely by noon and still have a good portion for the day for his music practice and his own interests. The flexibility it affords him has been a real blessing.

Each child is different. Each of mine is different. One child does best in a highly structured formal school setting. One of our children needed English as a Second Language classes and special help to catch up. Each need requires thought and attention. Will’s home education program would not have worked at all for some of his siblings. With the Lord’s help, each parent can find out what works best for their children. But I continue to be grateful for the opportunity and privilege of home education. In a world that is increasingly spinning out of control, and with much of Christianity taking cues from the popular culture, sometimes home education can provide the best opportunity for spiritual and academic development.

If you would like more information on the subject, HSLDA.org has an info packet they can send you for free that will help you understand your own state’s legal requirements and introduce you to the multitudinous home education curriculum offerings available today. There are satellite services, CD-roms, DVD classes, correspondence courses, computer based schooling, and gorgeous educational materials of every description. Tomorrow (Thursday, April 23), I will be interviewing a lady on Crosstalk who will discuss the opportunities available in home education. If you have a chance, tune in live at 2pm Central or listen to the archived show any time, both at our website.)

Here’s a little WWII history on the Eastern Front with Will.  🙂

23 thoughts on “Home Education: A Viable Option

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Here, here!

    Home education today is a vastly different beast from when I started 26 years ago! So many wonderful options and opportunities!

    If at all possible, parents should seriously consider taking this task on. With resources available today, it’s not nearly as difficult task as it was wayyy back in the dark ages(early 80’s).

    My youngest starts high school at home next year, and we are just excited about it! And thrilled she will not be subjected to the foolishness/smut/evil on a daily basis at our local high school.

    Oh sure: she will miss prom and football games, but also drinking, drugs and the dreaded ‘health class’ that is so disgusting, I won’t even mention its topics here.

    Plus, it is so nice on cold snowy days, to sit fireside, not having to make the trek to school for drop-off, pick-up, or various activities that eat up a family’s evening.

    BTW…she is much loved by her friends, she is very socially confident and mature.

    I thank God that we are able to take this route, daily. And I thank my good husband, who works hard to make it possible!

  2. christianlady says:

    I am not the perfectly organized “managers of the home” homeschool mom. Still, we push forward and my children learn. I have found that my children know how to socialize with children of any age and with adults. They are often complimented for their behavior in public settings. My children are not into the latest fads, and sometimes lament the fact that they aren’t considered the “cool” kids and yet they avoid the pitfalls that come with being cool. My 10 year old daughter, for example, cannot stand the “high school musical” and “hanna” clothes and crazes. She dresses modestly, and works at ballet and sports as well as drawing and writing. Her mind is not filled with boys as some 10 year old girls heads are at this time. My 12 year old son likes to read all the time, in fact can get into trouble because he needs to do chores and “forgets” because he’s reading. All of my children can entertain themselves when I visit (I have six children 12 and under) and don’t need television to find something to do. I believe this is partly due to the freedom they are given at home to be creative. So many benefits to homeschooling, so many things we avoid by keeping our kids out of public school classrooms.

  3. Mrs. E. says:

    I wholeheartedly concur, Mrs. Schlueter. We are a very conservative Catholic family of six (so far 🙂 residing in California. We had our children enrolled in the public schools, where they grew tired of having to constantly wait for the disruptive students to calm down before a lesson could continue. Finally, the homosexual “marriage” issue was just too much, and forced my husband and me to “wake up and smell the coffee”!

    I don’t have much education past a high school diploma, so I was very fearful of homeschooling; but by God’s grace we are already reaping many benefits, including growing closer to God and to one another. Before homeschooling, for example, our oldest was becoming “too cool” to play with “baby” toys. Now, he happily joins our youngest on the floor to help him set up his Thomas the Tank Engine set. We’ve noticed all our children playing sweetly together, and really becoming friends!

    In talking to other mothers, I’ve learned not many Catholics know about homeschooling options. If this could help anyone out there, here is the curriculum we decided on:


    Seton is orthodox, Biblically conservative (even teaching Creationism!), and totally faithful to the Magesterium. Additionally, their customer service is professional, prompt and always courteous and helpful. The entire staff prays for all their homeschooling families every day!

    We’re so thankful God led us to homeschooling. Thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging post! Your little Will is a treasure! May God continue to reward your efforts.

  4. Tina says:

    We home schooled our daughter, now 18, for her entire 12 years. Homeschooling was not our first choice, but as the years progressed, we found it was the best times in our lives. Yes, there were difficult days, but they were the exception. It was definitely the best choice for us.

  5. Charlotte says:

    Your child used the word debacle – excellent!

    I am going to a Catholic homeschool conference this coming weekend. Second year in a row – I know, way too early for my not even 2-year-old son. But I just want to immerse myself in this culture and know what I’m getting myself into.

    What you’ve written here gives me more fuel for the fire that burns inside of me to do it – to actually homeschool, even though my physical flesh is very weak when I think about doing it. I don’t WANT to do it, still, I feel called to do it because of the “debacle” of the public schools, and the fact that the Catholic schools do not teach the Catholic catechism in proper form (and most of the time they’re using the same secular textbooks as the public schools!), and yes, as you mentioned, the Christian schools many times are lacking. I know a lovely Christian family in Milwaukee whose children all attend a well-known 2-campus Christian school. Because the family is great, the kids seem fine, but when I have visited this school and seen the behavior and dress of the kids who attend, I can’t believe my eyes.

    Your approach of reevaluating each child’s needs each year appears to be the winning approach for all the homeschoolers I personally know. One family I know has a daughter adopted from Russia – she’s in public school because she needs the influence of multiple disciplinarians and she needs the special services the public schools offer. On the other hand, their eldest daughter, when she tried Catholic high school for one year, was miserable. Upon returning to homeschooling for the rest of high school, she used virtual schools with topnotch educators of PhD caliber (just as you described, Ingrid), and she excelled beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Another high-school aged daughter could not tolerate the virtual classroom – she ended up in a tiny, very conservative Catholic Opus Dei high school where her entire senior class consisted of 20 kids. (Although I must note that even in that smallish school, peer influence still has extreme power, and the child that has given this family the most problems and worry is the one that is schooled outside of the home.)

    Our children are too precious to sacrifice to the secular powers that be out there. Each child is unique and special, each child deserves to learn at his/her own pace and learning style. Both my husband and I are fans of homeschooling because we know that public school did us no favors educationally (we were smart, so we got ignored because public schools cater to the lowest common denominator, therefore we became restless and bored) or socially/emotionally/spiritually (can you say DAMAGE?). And that was back in the 70s and 80s! How much worse can it be today? From what I read in papers and on blogs, etc., I’m not willing to let my kid get sacrificed.

    Oh, and by the way, every homeschool family I have ever met or known uses Saxon math. They must have a strangehold on the homeschool math market!

  6. Christina says:

    Thank you for a wonderful post. It seems as soon as a person has children people begin to ask about schooling. My husband and I are already thinking of schooling and our oldest is 3. We are looking at praying about our options though.

  7. Mark says:

    Great article.

    When you said “What becomes of a serious student when you place him in a setting where behaving like a fool and disobeying a teacher is the cool thing to do? Those children, as silly as it was, were showing disrespect not only for their teachers, but for us as visitors, and for themselves. The peer pack madness was in full evidence that day.”

    It reminds me of most youth groups today.

    We aren’t ideological either but we stray more and more to that thinking every year. You know what Proverbs says about being in the companions of fools…

  8. Yemi Ogunbase says:

    Ingrid, we have homeschooled for the past two years and probably won’t look back (I say probably because if one of our sons has an extreme interest in athletics, we may choose a private school in the area, provided his grades remain high). But in this era of “self esteem”, “tolerance” and “diversity”, I felt that homeschooling my children was a way of protecting them while young.

    I think some people think that by homeschooling, the kids have no social interaction, and grow up to be loners. Far from the truth. My oldest son, Taye (8) is able to interact with adults just as easily as he can interact with kids his own age. In most peer settings, he is the most confident, and the ones the kids look to for direction. I attribute this to the education at home, our refusal to “spare the rod” (when needed) and spending time talking with him, rather than parking him in front of whatever junk is on TV for hours at a time.

  9. Danita says:

    Amen! Thank you for such a wonderfully thoughtful post, Ingrid. You have put into words what I so often struggle to do. It’s right for some, others perhaps not. Some flourish while other don’t. There are different curriculums for different kids and I LOVE the fact that, as a homeschool mom, I can focus on what my child needs.

    My son turned into a child he didn’t even like before he begged to be homeschooled. It was his decision and one I probably should’ve made much earlier for him. What a blessing to be able to teach him and see him turn back into the child I used to know. He’s relaxed, much calmer than before, and associates better with others. What language and attitude he picked up at school last year! Wow!

    I’m so thankful that someone has fought for our rights to educate at home.


  10. Joan says:

    Thank you, Will, for your very interesting discussion of WWII on the Eastern Front. I learned quite a few things I didn’t know. This was fascinating!

    And thank you, Ingrid, for allowing us to hear a very learned young man who doesn’t use the word “like” four times in every sentence. How refreshing.


  11. Anjelle says:

    Hi there sister Ingrid,
    Thank you for this lovely post! And thank you Will for that WWII lesson!

    I attended a private “Christian” High School, i use inverted commas because there was nothing much Christian about the place! Except the “Bible lessons” taught by i might add a non-Christian lady!!

    I was the type who would have thrived with home schooling, i too enjoyed being around people of different ages not just my age group, in fact i hated being around just people of my age group i felt my brain was on stand by and it wasn’t growing!

    I am so happy to see a young boy like Will enjoying the learning process! There is so much potential in all children though government, even private schools! (most) are dumbing the children down. Tragedy of all tragedies if you ask me.

    Keep up the good work sister! God bless you all!


  12. Margaret L. Been says:

    Our first 5 children attended public school in the Elmbrook District which, back in the 60s and 70s, was excellent. (I know it’s changed then.)

    Then in 1980 we moved to the country, and home schooled our 6th child for several years–interspersed with Christian Schools.

    There is nothing like a home education, I believe! Our daughter, Martina, loved learning too. We did home school during her Junior High years, as well as for some of the younger grades.

    Martina is a people person–always in the midst of lots of activity. From home schooling, she became a self-motivated leader rather than a follower.

    Later, when she went to the U. at Eau Claire, she had professors there convinced that home schooling is the best in many cases!

    Once of the many wonderful things about home schooling was the quality time I had with my daughter! She did her intensive academic things–science, history, math, etc.–in the morning.

    In the afternoons we stretched out on our sectional living room couch and read aloud to each other, discussing the classical literature which we both love and drinking tea.

    Today Martina is teaching all the English classes, plus drama, at a school for children of Embassy parents in Abuja, Nigeria. She has students from 49 different nations as well as some Nigerians–young people most of whom are exceptionally bright and eager to learn. These students have traveled for much of their lives, and have not picked up that “peer group” mentality.

    Our daughter never lost her passion for literature and learning. Home schooling was great for her! 🙂

    I pray this precious freedom to teach our children at home will continue!

  13. Mrs. C says:

    Found you through Spunky. Hope and pray that our freedom to home-educate continues despite changes in administration. We began homeschooling after my son Elf (then six) continued to be locked in a closet and suspended for his “poor choices.” Problem was, he did not choose to be autistic.

    He has been home about two and a half years now.

  14. anonymous says:

    I’ve never seen this topic addressed anywhere before, and this is a serious plea for help. Please hear my heart!)

    Joan, embarrassingly, I am one of those people who uses “like” four times in a sentence– and I just can’t stand it!!! Regrettable years wasted immersing myself in rock and popular culture before my conversion… have culminated in my speaking like an idiot today. The worst part of it is my children have picked up our poor speech habits, as my husband is not much better! 😦

    If you could hear our family around the dinner table, you would be nauseous! Don’t get my wrong: by God’s *grace* our conversation is edifying for the most part… BUT our children’s speech (and sometimes our own!) is peppered with “like” and “cool” and “dude!” and “awesome” and the rest of it. You get the idea.

    Thankfully, I find that when I write, I can take my time and say things with a little more “eloquence,” but I just *abhor* my speech.

    All that to say, does anyone have any suggestions for a conservative Catholic homeschooling mom… who talks like Cyndi Lauper?!? (Yes, I’m a child of the 80s.) I pray about this and I *TRY* to PAUSE and to THINK before I speak, but I still get nervous and then I sound stupid. I’m also uneducated, which doesn’t help boost my confidence.

    We hardly view any TV, just PBS and EWTN, and we choose our children’s playmates carefully. My husband is aware of this as well, and we have both tried to make a game of it with one another and with the children, pointing out when someone says “like,” but that got old fast as we needed to interrupt each other constantly! AAAUGH!!! 😦

    We want everything in our lives to reflect our *truly* “awesome” God (isn’t it great to use that word the way it was intended?!)– *especially* our speech. Any advice and/or suggestions are very much appreciated!!!

  15. Carol Blair says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for wanting to please the Lord with your speech. Here are some Scripture verses that may help you. I would encourage you to study and **memorize** them as a family.

    1. Paul exhorts young Timothy in I Timothy 4:12: “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
    2. Proverbs 16:13: “Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right.”
    3. Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
    4. Psalm 141:3: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
    5. Psalm 37:30-31: “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.”
    6. Psalm 39:1: “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.”

    I am single, but for more than 20 years I have been involved with homeschoolers as a writer, editor, and teacher. I have taught courses in writing, proofreading, and editing, as well as other topics, and I included in those courses challenges to my students to understand how they sound when they abuse words such as “like,” “awesome,” etc. I also challenged them to purge their speech of these words in the following way.
    In one memorable class, after the initial challenge, I gave each student 5 pennies and 1 nickel — making an elaborate “deal” of putting the coins on each one’s desk before they knew where I was going with all this. I then told them that they were to listen to each other’s speech, and when they “caught” a fellow student using “like,” the one who spoke had to give a penny to the one who caught him. The word “awesome” carried the nickel penalty. Anyone who used up the coins I gave out was on his own for “paying penalties.”
    It worked! Every one of those students began to THINK before he opened his mouth, and the encouragement toward excellent speech began to spread.

  16. anonymous says:

    Miss Blair, thank you so much for taking the time to write!

    I know those Scriptures well, and they are *so* appropriate to pray for the grace to speak well! What a great idea you suggested, to memorize them *together*.

    I’ve even found some more good ones in Sirach:

    “Do not be reckless in your speech, or sluggish and remiss in your deeds.” (Sir. 4:29, RSV)

    “Glory and dishonor come from speaking, and a man’s tongue is his downfall.” (Sir. 5:13, RSV)

    “The sinner is overtaken through his lips, the reviler and the arrogant are tripped by them.” (Sir. 23:8, RSV)

    “Do not accustom your mouth to lewd vulgarity, for it involves sinful speech.” (Sir. 23:13, RSV)

    “A man accustomed to use insulting words will never become disciplined all his days.” (Sir. 23:15)

    “O that a guard were set over my mouth, and a seal of prudence upon my lips, that it may keep me from falling, so that my tongue may not destroy me!” (Sir. 22:27, RSV)

    …and this is interesting:
    “A fool raises his voice when he laughs, but a clever man smiles quietly.” (Sir. 21:20, RSV)

    Wow, your penny and nickel idea is also super! Our children are all under ten years, so an idea like this is right up their alley. I’m going to run this by hubby tonight, and I know he’ll want to implement this one right away!

    I like how you wrote about the “abuse” of words. Yes, I wouldn’t have thought to put it that way, but that’s exactly what it is. Our English language has already been so “abused,” so dumbed down; when I read “Mother West Wind” to my children, for example, I need to explain words that must have been understood by very small children only a generation ago.

    While we’re on the subject, it drives both my husband and me crazy that the word “gay” means what it does today. I like to read old-fashioned story books to our children (with the hope of improving our speech!), in which “gay” is used to mean happy and lighthearted. I thank God that they are still innocent as to the current definition.

    I’m sorry this was so long– I’m rather encouraged this evening, thanks to your fine suggestions! God bless you!

  17. Lisa K says:

    I’m thankful my younger son (age 12) is in a gifted class in our local public school. His classmates love learning and are extremely motivated. The class size is small with two grades in one room.
    Years ago I thought home-schooling was a terrible idea, but I’ve taking the blinders off and realize it’s turned out some accomplished human beings with strong values and confidence.
    I’m lucky both my sons are quite comfortable around adults (I attribute this to Boy Scouts for my younger son and the many years my older son worked as a golf caddy), yet many children are not. Why do we think it’s “normal” to pack kids in with hundred of others their exact age? It’s far more “normal” to interact with people of all ages! I have a strong respect for home schoolers now for many reasons!
    The comment above on the word “gay” brought this to mind. Last year his class put on a play for the school “The Family Under the Bridge” about a “gay” hobo. The teacher actually had to explain to them “gay” meant happy!
    Also, I’ve been listing items on ebay for an elderly friend – many of these vintage books and magazines have the word “gay” in the titles and it’s tricky to describe them in a way that’s not misleading!

  18. Paula says:

    My daughter started middle school this year and I feel as though I have been side-swiped, I am not happy at all. I have tried to look at it from every angle and fasted and prayed and I still don’t know what to do about it. She is a very strong willed person and I don’t know if I could endure her nature day in and day out and make certain things were accomplished. Also she is very social, she loves being around other kids and teachers and she is my last , her siblings will both be away at college, so we would be alone everyday. I know that I could do a much better job teaching her, I feel her education is really lacking right now and it makes me nervous, to try and supplement it after school doesn’t seem to work as she is tired and so am I . The social interaction she has had this year has really upset both of us. I was not ready or expecting much of what she has been exposed to. It is not like me not to be highly involved in my child’s learning, but this year I thought maybe I need to let go a bit. Obviously, I have been through middle school years before with my 2 older boys, but they were at a different school, and things have changed A LOT in the last 5 years. i have experience with Christian school, catholic school , non traditional school and public school. I have a child with mild autism and have been through a lot helping him become a high achiever despite his disability, I was hoping that things would go well with her this year as she has been a real trooper, happy, eager student and a leader in the past. I just am so confused and disillusioned right now, I honestly don’t know what to do. As unhappy as my husband and I are, I don’t think He want’s me to take on home schooling due to all the stress and work I have done with my other child for the past 10 years and he worries about the personality issue etc also. Thanks for listening, I am a very private person but any advice is welcome. I have a good friend who home schooled her 10 kids and she sort of advised me against it. I never went to a public school just doing that was hard for me, but it worked out well for a while Not this year –

  19. Cindy says:

    Ingrid, as usual you did a great job in expressing your thoughts about education. I agree 100%. I am happy that there are many options because there are several variables that need to be considered before picking curriculum or choosing a school. I am thankful we have the liberty to choose still.

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