Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth; (The Road Less Travelled by Robert Frost)
This poem has always reminded me of how I felt two decades ago when my husband and I decided to homeschool our children. Many families have dramatic testimonies of God distinctly calling them to homeschool, but our decision was not the result of any great spiritual revelations. Around the time my first child was born, my older sister and her husband decided to homeschool my niece and nephew. This decision introduced us and our extended family to the radical idea of teaching our children at home. I had always loved going to school, but my husband, who was largely self-educated, thought homeschooling was a very attractive option. When my oldest child was three years old, my husband declared we would homeschool our children as well.
Our main motivations for deciding to pursue this divergent path of education were educational freedom and the increased opportunities we would have to disciple our children and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We were intrigued by the freedom homeschooling offered, a freedom which would allow our kids to explore the world of knowledge without having administrators and curriculum dictate where they invested their time. While studying was not optional, I tried to give my children control over their education, feeling this was an important benefit of homeschooling. I asked my children questions like – what era of history would they like to study? what pieces of literature would they like to read and analyze? how would they like to organize their study time? what area of science would they like to investigate?
As the children got older and their aptitudes and passions became evident, we were able to tailor their education to help them develop their gifts and not burden them with excessive work in areas of study outside their giftings. My artist daughter had time to take art classes and work on complex projects. My scientist son was able to take classes beyond the normal chemistry, physics, and biology. My musicians had time to practice and develop their repertoire so they could perform full concerts out in public.
We also wanted the Word of God to permeate our children’s lives. We wanted loving each other and loving God to be the cornerstone of our parenting. Homeschooling allowed us to study and memorize God’s Word on a level that would be impossible if our kids were in classrooms 8-hours a day and their evenings were dedicated to homework. My children have thousands of verses memorized and can quote entire books of the Bible. We have had daily opportunities to have the spontaneous, organic conversations about God, life, and salvation. From a young age, we have been able to include our children in ministry opportunities. We extend hospitality so often, one of my daughters compares our house to a Medieval inn. While our children have seen their parents’ weaknesses clearly on display through our intense amounts of time together, they have also seen our faith and can have no doubt about its veracity.
While educational freedom and training our children to know God laid a firm foundation for our homeschool, I was still very insecure as we started. I was very nervous that my children would miss out if they didn’t go to school. What kind of opportunities would my kids have without cheerleading, band, yearbook, and other programs offered through school districts? What kinds of memories would they build outside of school? Most of my childhood memories center around field trips and classrooms and playgrounds. But I can say after two decades in this alternative form of education that while the opportunities that come to homeschoolers are different, they are as enriching, if not more enriching, than those offered within a traditional school. Some of these opportunities and benefits are hard to quantify. My children know each other and enjoy each other’s company. I know if each were pursuing individual paths through their teen years, their comradery could have been lost. But homeschooling allowed us to maintain a family culture through high school. My youngest was born in September, the month her oldest sister would have been a freshman in high school. I am grateful my high schooler was able to enjoy her sister’s infancy and not be away from home for 8 to 12 hours a day during her little sister’s first nine months of life.
While rich family relationships are one huge benefit of home education, there were other amazing opportunities that also came our way. One daughter began performing harp music professionally as a teenager. Her younger sister joined her Irish fiddle playing to her sister’s harp a few years later, and they have performed together regularly. Another daughter became an award-winning nature photographer at 14-years of age. Three of my kids spent two weeks participating in a Bible centered TV show that was viewed by over a million people around the world. Together, two of my kids won over fifty thousand dollars in a Bible memory contest. My science-oriented son has won scores of regional and state level science medals and quite a few national level medals. And while preparing our kids for heaven rather than Harvard was our primary goal, Ivy League schools have recruited my son after he scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.
As I reflect on the last amazing 20-years of homeschooling, there are many things I would do differently. Decisions made out of fear rather than faith tend to be destructive and if I could do things over, I would pray more and trust God more. And I don’t want to paint an unrealistic, rosy picture of homeschooling. There have been unexpected and sometimes tragic twists and turns on this journey, just like there are for every other family living in this fallen world. But I have no regrets about our decision to homeschool our children. When I stood at that crossroad when my kids were young, I could not have imagined the amazing places to which this journey would lead. The rewards have been rich and beautiful and worth all the efforts I’ve invested.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference. (Robert Frost)
Loved your family story!
Good for you.
Have grandkids in school now.
Not happy about some of the stories I hear from school kids.
I would love to meet you and the family for coffee. We are just north of you in Castle Rock and used to love in the Springs. We have just started to homeschool (Abeka) and would love to pick your collective brains!