So there's the million dollar question. Why do we homeschool? Well, this past year it's been for practical reasons: we haven't stayed in one place long enough to even think about enrolling Michelle in a traditional school. And depending on where we end up being stationed when we get to Africa we may have to because there may not be a school locally available to us. But the truth of the matter is even if we did have a good school available to us we would homeschool anyway. There are many reasons why people decide to homeschool, but for us the main reasons are:
1. We want to give our children an individualized education.
I am a former classroom teacher, so I understand very well the hearts of teachers to give their best efforts to their students. But, I also know it is an uphill battle. One teacher, even a truly wonderful one, can only do so much when faced with the individual needs of many students. I remember one school year that I had a class of 18 students. 2 of them needed serious remedial help in math and writing. 1 was pretty severely ADD. 1 had recently arrived from Germany and spoke very little English. 3 more were probably gifted and needed extra challenges. And then there were the other 11 that fell somewhere in between those extremes! As much as I desired to meet all of their needs, I always felt that I fell short. There was only one of me, and I could only do so much. By choosing to homeschool, I am in a better position to meet each of my children where they are, and to provide the support they need to be successful.
2. We want to develop a strong family culture.
Being involved in overseas ministry means that our family faces a greater-than-average amount of transition. While we certainly want our children to develop relationships with peers and others outside of our family circle, we also realize that they will face goodbyes far more often than the average family living in suburban USA. Because of this, we feel it is even more important for them to find stability, comfort, and friendship in our family relationships. And what better way to do this than by "doing life together" day in and day out?
3. We want our children to have time and freedom to discover who they are.
Homeschooling doesn't have to be 'school at home'. It can be integrated into the daily life our family. This past year for "kindergarten", we have spent maybe an hour or a bit more on our formal school lessons each day. Other things (Bible, reading, literature) have been naturally sprinkled throughout the day. Even after all of this is done, there is still ample free time to play, explore, and discover...far more time than they would have if they were 'at school' for 4-6 hours each day. As they grow older, we want them to have time to develop their talents and interests and participate in service projects without having to constantly worry about keeping up with schoolwork or sacrficing time together as a family as we all run in separate directions with our various activities.
So there you have it. Our top three reasons why we homeschool. Does this mean that I think that anyone who doesn't homeschool is wrong or about to ruin their children? No, of course not. I do think that each family should evaluate all of the options available and choose to do what is best for their family situation, rather than just go by the default of what they grew up with or what others in their community do. I know that we will continue to evaluate what the best fit is for us as we enter different seasons of life. It is very possible that our kids may even attend a traditional school for some part of their education. Time will tell! But for now, homeschooling is a good fit for us and the best means that we see to meet the goals we have for our family.