Here it is July already and you haven’t yet made the decision about whether or not to homeschool in the fall. Or maybe you have decided to homeschool, but you feel like you’re not prepared for the task ahead of you. Both the decision itself and the massive responsibility of figuring out how to educate your child can seem overwhelming and sometimes parents are not sure where to begin. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some tips to help you get started so hopefully, you can wade into this new venture feeling confident and empowered.
Tip #1: Get your spouse on your team.
Parenting is a team sport and homeschooling works best when everyone participates. When we first started homeschooling, my husband was “only mostly” on board (like Westley on The Princess Bride was “only mostly dead”). He wasn’t opposed to the idea of educating our kids at home, but he had some serious doubts about my ability to pull it off (since I would be the one doing most of the teaching). Who could blame him? Most days I didn’t think I could pull it off. I had neither the discipline nor the creative skills that I saw in other homeschooling parents and I was pretty sure I was doing a terrible job of it and failing our kids. So at every sign of distress or frustration my husband would say, “Maybe we should just send them to school.”
He thought he was being helpful by letting me know I wasn’t trapped in this new life we had chosen, but in reality, he was not helping. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he was making it really easy for me to bail out, to give up and send them to school. I needed his encouragement, not his confirmation of my deepest fears and insecurities. And some days, my complaints were a cry for help — his help. Unfortunately, I didn’t tell him any of this. I interpreted his “escape hatch encouragement” as a signal that he was disappointed in my efforts. He, on the other hand, interpreted my
occasional frequent complaints as a sign that I wasn’t happy or that homeschooling wasn’t going well. Every time I unloaded to him about a particularly rough day–usually involving little boys who didn’t want to do math–it fed his lack of enthusiasm for homeschooling.
Eventually, we figured out how to communicate better — not perfectly, but better — and he realized that sometimes I just needed to vent. Being home with small children all day, every day and making them do stuff they don’t necessarily want to do (math drills and grammar worksheets come to mind) can sometimes be grueling work. I wasn’t looking for a way out, I just needed him to listen.
And my husband needed me to reassure him that I was up for the challenge of homeschooling–that I didn’t feel like I was feeling pressured to continue. He also needed to know that our kids were learning and progressing, especially in the early years, before he became convinced of the benefits of homeschooling. For our family, that came in the form of me showing or telling him what we had accomplished every day. (And by accomplished, I don’t mean to imply that our kids always did book work sitting at the kitchen table. Sometimes what we “accomplished” in a day was spending hours and hours reading a good book together.)
Like most issues in marriage, communication is the key.
What if your spouse is adamantly opposed to homeschooling or has serious reservations?
See next page to find out.
Homeschooling is most successful when both spouses are on the same page. I’ve known families that are divided on the issue and they manage, but it’s not the optimal situation. Just as it’s difficult (but not impossible) to homeschool as a single parent, it’s much harder (though not impossible) to do it without your spouse’s support, so do what you can to get your spouse on your team before you begin.
There are plenty of ways you can make a convincing case for educating your children at home. Obviously, there are lots of studies that show homeschoolers excelling academically and socially. But not everyone is convinced by studies. Looking at a chart comparing college entrance rates of homeschoolers to public school students may be a hard sell to your spouse who just wants to know if you’re going to be able to teach your 5-year-old to read. And reading academic reports about the social outcomes of homeschoolers may not convince your spouse that your personal children won’t turn into freaks if they’re not properly socialized by the public school.
If you and your spouse are divided on the issue of how to education your children, first, I’d suggest praying with–and for–him or her about this important decision. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Making prayer your first stop as you consider whether or not to homeschool and making God an integral part of your home life will bring a whole host of intangible benefits to your family. If you and your spouse are not in agreement, pray that God would change one of your hearts (and be open to the possibility that it could be yours).
One of the best things you can do to convince your spouse that homeschooling would be a great decision for your family is to spend some time around families that homeschool. That’s actually how we were introduced to what was then considered a really fringe movement. While working with the youth group at our church, we began to encounter homeschooling families and found ourselves saying things like, “This is how we want our kids to turn out” and “We want our family to be like this when our kids are this age” and “Those teenagers actually seem to like their parents!” Anytime we needed a babysitter, we called one of the homeschooled girls, knowing they were almost always more mature and responsible than their age mates who went to public school. Those things were more convincing to us than 100 academic studies about homeschoolers who went on to do great things with their lives. If you and your spouse can spend some time with homeschooling families that share your values, you may find that it’s not such a hard sell after all. The results speak for themselves.
One final thing. A lot of people do get hung up on the socialization issue, wondering how kids will learn how to function in society without the benefit of public school, mostly because they are products of the public school system and they don’t know anything else. I wrote especially for them: Will Your Kids Grow Up to Be Weird if You Homeschool Them?
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