Why Homeschool?

Why Homeschool? December 3, 2013

My wife and I are not exactly fire-breathing homeschool zealots. Homeschooling is not for everybody, and we have friends in Waco whose kids do just fine in public and private schools. But for us, and for many paleo evangelicals and their fellow travelers, the advantages of homeschooling are quite compelling. Recent reports have suggested that the circle of homeschooling is widening beyond traditional Christians, primarily because many parents are realizing that homeschool is the best educational option for their children. (See my report at WORLD Magazine on this topic.) 

As Lisa Miller wrote in a 2012 New York Magazine piece (h/t Rod Dreher), “homeschooling is all too often treated as a monolith: Homeschoolers are either fundamentalists or anarchists, religious extremists or hippies. Rarely, if ever, is it explored as a potential educational setting for so-called “gifted” children–those looking for an academic challenge beyond that which their local educational facilities can provide.” This is just one example of the advantages of homeschooling: it can nimbly account for the strengths and weaknesses of each student.

Rod Dreher writes similarly about his own son’s experience: “He is obsessed with space. . .and our homeschooling situation allows us to let him go as far as his intellect will take him. He does an internship at the Baton Rouge Observatory, and comes home filled with facts and discoveries far beyond the ability of his parents to understand, but that he gets.” We’ve seen similar patterns with our boys. They get plenty of breadth of coverage in science, humanities, and math, but they can run as far as they want with anything that interests them at the time.

I also realized recently that homeschool (done the right way) can help kids see learning as a normal part of life, not something that happens only during government-mandated school hours. A friend was asking about our trip to London earlier this year, and how our kids did with the National Gallery and the British Museum. Were they bored? I realized that our kids would rarely think to complain about “boredom” because going to museums and art galleries just seems normal to them. Going to these museums was not a field trip, or something mom and dad dragged them along to do. Not that they LOVED being there the way they might LOVE “Legoland” or some such thing, but they just see learning as normal and woven into the fabric of family life. They’re content to go to museums; they do not seem to know that it is not “cool.”

Homeschooling is a stellar example of why variety in schooling is essential to strong schools. Kids of different personalities, from different families and different places, have different needs and different learning styles. Contrary to the Federal Department of Education, a one-size fits all education system is crazy. (This is why so many western countries besides the U.S. directly fund public secular AND religious schools, by the way.)

Yes, of course religion is an essential factor in our homeschooling decision, and we love that faith is integrated into their learning in a seamless way. But the flexibility and responsiveness of homeschooling should make sense to parents of all kinds, whether they’re people of faith or not. It’s just good education.

See also my “Do Christian Kids Need Christian Education?” and “Patrick Henry: Homeschooler.”

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  • > a one-size fits all

    Rather, I call such one size fits none. 🙂

    And today my boys will get to observe hawks, wild turkeys, deer, bottle feed an orphan baby calf, fix their own lunch without anybody’s help (that’s been going on for three days now, and they’re button-busting proud of being able to grill a tasty sandwich,) and never have to stare wistfully out of a classroom cage through a glass window, wishing they were outdoors.

    And thus they have no need of chemical restraints like Ritalin to make them sit as still as mannequins if they happen have a bit of Normally Active Little Boy Syndrome.

    It works. The State test results (twice a year) are well “above average” for both.

    P.S. I wouldn’t eat food from a Factory Farm Confinement Facility and I wouldn’t put my boys in a Factory School Confinement Facility either. Eat wild, learn wild; it’s healthier.

  • cimach

    Homeschooled all seven of our kids interspersed with a few years in Lutheran
    Schools and public schools. It worked well for us. Kids doing great in college, marriage, and life. This has definitely become an easier option to consider as of late with all the online resources for homeschoolers.

  • Eric Cepin

    I am not against homeschooling, but I am certainly not a fan. I’ve been a pastor for 14 years, and I have church full of young children who are home schooled. I attended public school, and it was in that setting that I discovered what true spiritual poverty is. My home life and my faith stood in direct contrast to my friends and schoolmates. My family became a safe place for teenage kids who where broken and didn’t know Jesus. In my experience, christian-homeschooling is just a strengthening of the ghetto walls. We are often afraid that something horrible is going to happen to their children, and so we put a basket over some of the greatest lights we have – our children – and we let fear rule under the guise of better opportunity . . .

  • John C. Gardner

    The issues included in this post are quite important. Europeans have supported both private and government schools for many years. The ability to determine or influence the future of one’s own family important-especially in the areas of Christian moral and intellectual praxis. Recent hostility by government at all levels to Christian beliefs is a major challenge to the ability of Christian parents to supervise or minimize to varying degrees the potentially negative and secular excesses in our society.

  • MainlineP

    A thoughtful article. While it is true that other countries assist, in varying degrees, church run schools, and have a tradition of private tutors for the well-to-do, I know of none that promotes parents as teachers. The author and those who home school successfully will always be the exception.

    Most parents are in two earner families, when there is a 2 parent household to begin with (getting rare these days). A single mother with multiple children often has so many issues in her life, and is unprepared to educate herself much less her children. As we go up the income ladder, middle class types often have either no aptitude to educate beyond basics, or a work schedule making schooling impossible. I’d certainly favor enrichment classes for gifted kids (which exist is some places) and vouchers for parents to educate in reputable private or parochial schools. But homeschooling does still have the taint of zealotry (religious and/or political) about it, and in my view such taint is often merited.

  • yes, we agree with each and every point of the article, homeschooling is opening new avenues for the children and laying a path for their success.

  • The article speaks true about why homeschooling and the reasons for homeschooling. Great article.