Parenting

7 Things My Wife and I Learned From 22 Years of Homeschooling

Image via Shutterstock, parents teaching their daughter.

When my wife and I moved to Ohio 22 years ago, we had just two little boys, ages 4 and 2. After looking at school districts, we decided to take on the task of educating our children at home. We wanted to provide an environment that was safe, happy, and committed to providing not only excellent academics, but also a strong moral foundation. So, the “Sanders’ Christian Homeschool” was born in 1994.

Well, now we have four children: the three boys are all grown up and are successful in their career choices. Our “baby” girl is almost grown up and will be graduating this year. So what have we learned?

1. Home education is not for everyone.

Thank God there is so much educational choice in America. We have public schools, private secular and religious schools, and various kinds of homeschooling. In Ohio, some parents enroll their children in public school, but the child does all the education at home via computers. Others feel they cannot do the actual homeschool teaching, so they send their child to a homeschooling family (in Ohio a homeschooling family can take up to three students that are not part of the family).

At first the whole process seemed overwhelming. It indeed takes a lot of commitment and discipline to stick to the schedule and organize the work. (Thank God my wife is just such a person!) We had a little bit of paperwork to fill out notifying the local superintendent (we do not ask permission since it is our right to educate our children at home if we desire), and then we had to buy the curriculum and set up a plan to teach.

Fortunately, we had plenty of help from the “pros” in our local homeschool co-op (the parents who had been doing it for years), and the state organization which we joined (CHEO — Christian Home Educators of Ohio). We also joined HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) since we had heard horror stories of the overreach of state and local governments. (We have been proud supporters of all HSLDA has done to protect the rights of home educators.)

For over two decades the work has been very demanding and sacrificial on our part. I worked full time as a pastor while my wife stayed at home and taught most of the subjects. When I came home, I would teach the kids history (not “social studies”), geography, and their foreign language.

My wife has a B.A. in computer science with a minor in mathematics. My B.A. is in history. I have two masters degrees in theology, and an earned doctorate. However, we have also witnessed homeschooling parents who have only high school diplomas who have educated their children just fine. We have watched their kids grow up, go to college, and go on to successful careers.

Because we lived at that time on a pretty limited income, we gave up some things to do this. Eating out was a rarity. We had only one vehicle. We lived in a very modest home. My wife was the queen of coupons. We were able to work homeschooling into our schedule. We are both very aware that not everyone is able to do this because of other extenuating circumstances. Everyone’s situation is different, and people have to find what works for their family.

Next Page: It was tough, but homeschooling gave us a few very important perks.

2. We had peace of mind.

I never had to worry about what my kids were being taught. We never had a problem with school bullies; we never had the threat of violence in our school. We had complete control of their curriculum, so we never had to worry about conflicts with “political correctness” at school. We focused on academics, and all our kids learned to read and write in the first grade.

Some learned faster than others, but with tried and true phonics and “old fashioned” mathematics (the way our parents learned), my kids never struggled through the failures of Outcome Based Education, “Chicago Math”, or “Common Core.”

3. We developed a child-centric curriculum.

We were able to tailor our curriculum to meet the needs of each child’s talents and academic abilities. Two of my children learned things instantly. The other two struggled in various subjects. We were able to slow down and re-teach and re-learn so they could “get it.” Others could press on as fast as they wanted.

4. We enjoyed the flexibility.

Although we generally followed the public school calendar, we could change things up whenever we wanted. If a kid was sick, we could easily make up the time later. And in our school … there are no “snow days.” Other schools could cancel because of the weather. Not us. We just plowed ahead.

But we could go sledding anytime we wanted! And we went on field trips to museums, national parks, or historical sites. We were never confined to a classroom.

Learning took place on our vacations to Williamsburg, Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, and Philadelphia. In 2010 we finally took the vacation we had been planning and preparing for over 20 years — the “Great Trek” out West. We drove to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone and then through Utah to Nevada. We saw the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Pike’s Peak in Colorado. While the other schools were still in session, our school was crammed in a little van learning all we could of our beautiful country. We will always treasure those times we had together.

5. Our kids were “socialized” just fine.

Early on, people would ask us two questions: “Is homeschooling legal?” We had to explain that nationwide compulsory public education is actually a more recent development in our country and that homeschooling is how most Americans have been educating their children for well over 200 years. We also reminded our friends that in a free country parents have the God-given right to educate their children at home.

The other question was, “How will they be “socialized?” Well, my kids had plenty of interaction with other kids their age. We put them in places where they would meet people of all ages, races, and beliefs. They had swimming lessons at the YMCA, and they joined soccer leagues. They all took piano lessons for years and had recitals.

All three boys studied martial arts and earned their black belts (They have never had a problem with bullies), and my daughter has taken ballet for 10 years. Through speech and debate clubs, mission trips to rebuild homes in impoverished areas, and feeding the homeless in rescue missions, my kids have interacted with all sorts of people. “Socializing” has never been a problem.

Next Page: But did homeschooling hold the kids back at all?

6. Home education has not held our kids back at all.

Our kids all learned algebra, geometry, U.S. and world history, economics, government, classical and modern literature, biology, physical science, and foreign languages. Our oldest earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s in athletic training, and now he is a full time athletic trainer at a major university in Ohio.

Our second oldest son joined the Marines at 17 right after his high school graduation (yes, we have actual ceremonies with 100 or so kids and their families from across the state). He is an infantryman who earned his Combat Action Ribbon in Afghanistan. Today, he is a sergeant and is guarding a U.S. embassy. He also has finished two years of college while on active duty, and soon he will finish his fully accredited degree in homeland security.

Our third son began working full time in a home for disabled people. He just loves this line of work, and is looking forward to a career in nursing. He also has plans to open his own gym and martial arts school some day.

And our youngest is going to be a professional ballerina (Lord willing). She has been training hard at her dance school and at summer intensive programs across the country. After she graduates, she hopes to continue her ballet education at an academy and eventually become part of a ballet company.

7. We’ve learned that we have made mistakes.

No one is perfect. Sometimes we were overly protective in their teen years — maybe even “stifling.” A very wise person told me at that time: “Give them roots, them give them wings. Say ‘yes’ as often as you can.” I lightened up and gave them wings. They forgave me for my strictness and began to flourish. Other times we expected some children to learn as fast as the others, and that created its own set of problems.

We fully realize that homeschooling will not fit every family. Not everyone can do this or should do this. And we know that there are bad homeschoolers! There are people who use home education as a “cover” to keep their kids at home for whatever reason, and in some cases very little education takes place. But it has been our experience that these cases are few and far between.

There are plenty of options in education. I think the key for any educational option is that the parent(s) MUST be involved. Be there. It is our responsibility to make sure our kids not only learn academics, but also develop a strong moral compass. We are glad we took this option. We would do it all over again if we had to. Pretty soon, my wife and I will be “retired teachers.” And we will miss the Sanders’ Christian Homeschool.