Our friend Helen Lee tells her story of entering the homeschooling option … and I clip here only the beginning, so read the rest at the link:

When I was 6 and my dad had been hired by the U.S. government to work as an economist, one of the first things he and my mom did after we moved was to call the few fellow Korean immigrants they knew in the D.C. area.

“Where are the good schools?” they interrogated. When they ran out of people to call, they called their friends’ friends and asked the same question.

It took no time to build a list of acceptable school districts, a list that concurrently created the boundaries for where we would consider living. If a city was not on that list, it did not matter how affordable the housing was, how much more my parents could get for their meager dollars—a good school was the only choice that mattered.

Not surprisingly, when my husband and I reached the same point for our family, needing to find somewhere to settle down and raise our three young boys, the school issue became the first factor we considered as well. Of course we were going to live somewhere with a good school district. Naperville, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, had the right school credentials and a critical mass of our fellow church members who lived there. It was an easy choice.

We moved to Naperville for the public schools, but we ended up becoming a homeschooling family.

One day, I was interviewing a fellow Naperville mom for a project, and almost as a side note she mentioned that she had homeschooled her kids. I asked her what her main reasons were for homeschooling, and what she said stuck in my mind: “I wanted them to be able to enjoy their childhood. It goes by so fast.”

My eldest son was then in the Naperville schools as a first-grader, and we were experiencing the opposite of “enjoying childhood.” By the time he came home, ate a snack, did his homework, and practiced piano, it was nearly dinnertime. Every day felt like a grind, every day felt like we were in some sort of elementary-aged pressure cooker.

Also, we’d experienced red flags in his public school education experience, flags that I had just ignored or downplayed, but now they kept reemerging, clamoring for attention. Our son’s grip on basic addition and subtraction facts was shaky. The teacher-approved first-grade readers he brought home were all picture books well below his level. A classmate was being manipulative in his relationship with our son: “You better jump from the top of that pole or else I’ll stop being your friend!”


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  • Education needs to be aptitude/performance based, not age graded. It’s way to social and not very academic.

  • We struggled w/ similar issues. I home-schooled our son for a semester during a switch from a destructive elementary school – also in a “top” school district – to a private school. I spent a lot of time trying to undo the bad habits he’d picked up from other kids & from tuning out nasty teachers. His musical gifts gave him an uncanny ability to mimicry, so when he’d repeat his teachers’ comments, he’d unconsciously use their voices: we could “hear” & interpret both their voices and their (awful, sarcastic, demeaning) tones.

    Our two children had to cope with and face challenging interactions in public schools and private schools. Our daughter heard a classmate in a private elem school for gifted kids routinely act out to disrupt the class & teachers. The girl explained to our daughter & other kids that her mother had told her that was the best method to get her way. Our daughter watched her teachers curry favor of even such parents, because of their wealth/status.

    Helping our kids to grow up understanding and maturing in godly character was the greatest challenge, because whether they were in public, private (gifted), or Lutheran schools, there often were few supportive peers, parents, or even teachers/administrators. They’re both young adults, now. The story & challenges continue, in new ways!

  • Angela

    There are two things I really appreciate about this article. The author mentions her interest began when another mom commented about wanting her children to enjoy childhood. Secondly, the observation of the success narrative that drives our society.

    I have taught in public schools for nine years. One would probably expect me to be all for public school for my own children. As of right now, I can hardly wait to teach my child- at home. And the best reason I can think of is: I want to.

    Often, there is a need to justify the decision to homeschool. And with justification often comes blame. I hope that in time people can begin to embrace their choice, homeschool, private school or public, without the justification and blame-of others or self.

  • That’s great. I love it. 🙂 Excellent reasons.

  • Mike M

    Helen: ironically my mom picked Barrington for us way back when for the same reason. We were cultivated in a culture of learning. It was very rare to find a high school classmate who wasn’t going on to college. All-in-all, our public education was a great experience.
    Today it’s much different. We moved to a town in Wisconsin that has the second best special needs program in the state. However, the rest is no Barrington. In 3rd grade especially, a huge effort is made to “even the playing field.” Our first grader is bored because her teacher spends most of the time disciplining other students. She will be home schooled next year: what a child needs to know in one day can be taught in 2-3 hours. The rest of the time can be spent enjoying life and being a child.

  • Mike M

    If your kids are still under 18 Helen, check out Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development. Our two youngest started their Saturday Enrichment Program today. Fantastic adjunct to home schooling.

  • Fantastic article. Linda and I have 8 kids (age 20 down to age 3) and Linda has led the homeschooling for all of them. Never a day in government schools. I know everyone can’t do it. But our family dynamic is so enjoyable (we’re together a lot more hours than families whose kids go to school). Helen Lee’s explanation is wonderful.

  • Craig Wright

    To give another viewpoint, we sent our kids to public school for their spiritual development and to associate on a normal level with the poor. My wife and I are retired public school teachers, and would not expect to be public school advocates just because we taught in public schools. I know quite a few public school teachers who have their kids in private school.
    A so-called “good” school is mostly a reflection of the socio-economic level of the neighborhood. I have taught in some very tough neighborhoods and have taught with some great teachers, with very good programs.
    I guess that an important factor in choosing public school for our children was that I thought it was such a benefit for me, in growing up in a tough, diverse neighborhood. It deeply affected me in my outlook on the world, and I see that in our two children, who have grown up to be teachers, also. We all have different reasons for the choices we make in what we want for our kids.

  • Craig, I do certainly love what you are saying about the potential opportunities kids have to interact with a diverse group of people if they are in public school. If we lived in a neighborhood with that kind of diversity, that would definitely have been a factor in favor of staying in the public schools. But in our school, I wouldn’t say there is much diversity at all (socioeconomically, and definitely not racially/ethnically!) For us, we are constantly thinking about if and when we should intentionally move to a less-resourced community for this reason.

    Mike M., my two older kids did go to the CTD program last summer, so we are aware of that resource–on the flip side of my earlier point to Craig, the nice thing about living in a well-resourced community is that there are so many opportunities for learning even outside the institutional school level. It makes homeschooling easier, for certain, that there are so many co-ops and classes available whenever we want to dip in to those experiences!

    Appreciate your comments, everyone!

  • Kenny Johnson

    I just couldn’t imagine my wife or I being very good at homeschooling. That’s the main reason that I’d want my son in a more structured environment. That, and, at this time we can’t afford to live on a single income.