School Question

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Natalia went to a backyard Bible club hosted by a family in our church. She wanted to try out a group with older children and I figured, why not? She loves people and easily makes friends. Although she's not quite 4 she speaks very clearly and understands almost everything (often more than I realize!) going on around her.

The group ended up being much older. As I had guessed, Natalia wasn't fazed and she participated well, answered questions, asked questions, raised her hand and commented on the stories. She had a great time. But I didn't. I saw several instances of just mean from the older kids. From laughing at a little boy, to scoffing at Natalia when she would ask her questions. My hackles raised. It brought back my main memory from high school: people being mean when they don't even know you. They have no reason to be mean. They just are.

I went home disturbed. I didn't want Natalia to return. I really want to keep the day when she discovers mean people a long way down the line. I told Dave about it, and the question just popped out, "Why would any Christian parent not homeschool their kids? Why would they expose them to this?"

I'm not trying to sound condescending at all. I just really don't understand.*

A few thoughts to counteract things I've heard in the past:

Natalia in the Sand

I need a break from my kids.
Something I realized while on vacation with Dave's family, having a Gramby, a Pap pap, a Granny, two aunts and an uncle around to hold the girls (at this point the only grandchildren), play with them, feed them, etc. really changed my attitude. For the worse. When I have a lot of time for me, when I'm able to just do my own thing, and then am suddenly called back to motherhood, I feel like I'm being inconvenienced. "Argh, really, you need something? I was just about to..."

Normally, I'm used to having two additional shadows. When we are at home, or with just Dave and I caring for them, it's no inconvenience. They are no inconvenience. It's life. It's what I chose and I love it. I love helping and caring and being needed. It's interesting how a week can change that. I wonder if moms would like their kids more if they were around them more?

I'm afraid my kid won't know how to interact and be socialized.
Natalia loves people. She is obviously an extrovert. But after church and lunch with people on Sunday, maybe the pool or the park on Monday, ballet on Tuesday, Bible study Wednesday, another pool or park day on Thursday, grocery shopping Friday, and then time with dad on Saturday and maybe more errands, she really has had an awful lot of interactions with people throughout the course of the week. Sometimes she just wants to stay home but I want to go to the park or the pool this mamma (and extrovert) guiltily admits. She is learning how to interact with people. She sees a lot of people. She also enjoys downtime.

I'm afraid my kid won't learn well at home.
With this one, I just look at myself and say, I'm of a pretty normal intelligence and I did great. If you look at test scores homeschoolers come out just fine on all, if we can just get past our insecurities we'll be okay, right?

What are your thoughts? What, for you, is the reason you say, I won't send me kids to school? What would change your mind? What reason might you say, I really think they'd be better elsewhere?

Until next time,

*I get that there are always reasons for people to be outside the sweeping generality I just made. Please know that I recognize that it's a sweeping generality, but that I still am curious to know the answer. I do understand that some people have to work, others might be too ill or their children are, and that it is additional money out of pocket...I still wonder though...

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  1. I come at this from a different side. We homeschool, but my kids are total introverts. It is a CHALLENGE to get them to socialize. We (unfortunately?) fit the homeschooling stereotype of quiet kids who don't interact with the world. It's not because we don't get out. We do! But they tend to be shy. I was the same way as a I child so I understand and I know they will grow/change over time. Not that this is a reason to send them to public school, though. I went to public school but was still shy. And I outgrew it.

  2. Ming-May Wu

    I do not ascribe to the belief that we must send our kids to public school to socialize, evangelize, or to be competitive. Shy kids who attend public school don't necessarily become more sociable. Children who are sent to public school to be salt and light are exposed to more peer influence than parental influence. They could become more competitive, but I don't want my children to learn how to "make it in this world" and become "hamsters."
    I think homeschooled children can learn socialization better at home with their parents and siblings of different ages. If you plunk your child at school, they are socializing mostly with children of the same age. My observation of many homeschooled kids in my church is their ease and comfort in talking to adults and leading in church activities (i.e.: VBS). Few are awkward or smirky as some public school kids whose "role models" are peers they hang out with all day.
    Not the most well-thought out post on my part but I do believe all of the above. Thanks Jonelle for sharing about Natalia's time at backyard Bible study. I wasn't sure about sending my almost 4-yr old extroverted son to a 5-12 yr old BBS. You might have just swayed me to move forward on that :D

  3. Sarah Cole

    For many people that I have encountered, it's not a question about why they wouldn't homeschool, but why they wouldn't send their kids to school. I know SO many people who went to public school, who feel like it was "fine." And, at least for my disapproving in-laws, their concerns aren't any one of these, but the sum of all of them plus some. I've discovered that convincing them that our children WILL be (better) socialized isn't really going to work. Personally, I think that homeschooling is one big leap of faith, no matter who you are. And you never know if it will come out all right at the end until you've jumped (and sometimes not even until you've landed on the other side). In the case of my in-laws, they figure, you know what you're getting in the public schools, even if it's "not perfect."

    And I frequently encounter the same with my oldest as you experienced with Natalia at BBS. Thankfully, so far, he does not understand (he's 6, and pretty absorbed in his own world). I know that he will, and I know that it will hurt. I've been rehearsing the conversation in my head. It pretty much sucks. But for now, I'm just grateful that he expects the same honesty and transparency from others that he gives to them. He is a gift to everyone he meets--even if the mean kids don't recognize him as such.

  4. I was just having this conversation with my kid sister who believes her tough social experiences in public schools made her stronger, and she wants the same rough road for her own (someday) kids. I've got three boys under five and my oldest is about to start his second year of Sonlight curriculum as a first grader (reading on a first or second-grade level!). My horrible social experiences in elementary school and junior high with bullying and teachers doing nothing about it (sometimes seeming to encourage it) were my first reason for considering homeschooling for my future kids. I started reading up on homeschooling when I was in high school. People say I'm not giving my school credit because I was in AP programs that gave me college credit at my university, but the truth I discovered once at university was that others were far ahead of me due to a thing called dual-enrollment. They'd done all the mind-numbing general ed. requirements while still in high school and now were ready to jump into their actual major programs. Yeah, I was jealous. My public school was one of the best in the state, but I still felt held back by general requirements that didn't interest me at all. Another friend of mine had gone to a charter school designed like a homeschool with a mentor and half-days spent shadowing different professions. He graduated at 16, and received a bachelor's degree from the local college in two years. At 18, he was ready to change the world and had ambitious ideas of how he wanted to do that after serving a mission in South Korea. So the second reason I wanted to homeschool my kids became that obstacle-free environment -- that they could learn at their own pace and get college credit if they wanted even if our local schools didn't offer that program. From my first child's birth, my research became broader and I cultivated lots of other reasons for homeschooling. There are so many pros that the cons of getting a little burned out on parenting and not seeing age-mates every single day of the week pale in comparison. Whenever I do commiserate with other moms about the difficulty of raising three rowdy boys, I often hear, "Oh wait'll they go to school. It's so nice to have a few hours during the day to yourself." It makes me think of the old English standard of sending one's kids off to a boarding school. Of course it's not as dramatic as that, but it's representative of the feeling I get from that statement. As difficult as it is to do this on my own while my husband works long hours with a long commute, it's WORTH it. My boys LOVE books. They think learning is FUN, and they love each other. I can't imagine doing this parenting thing any other way.

    • Faith

      @Katrina - how funny it is to hear that comment from other moms "oh, wait until they are in school." Whenever I hear it and then tell those mothers that I plan to be with them all the way through school, they sort of give me a stare that says "I am SO sorry!" But like you, I wouldn't have it any other way! Bless you for your dedication!

  5. Jonelle

    @ Shannon: what I really like about homeschooling is that any reason you feel is important to keep your kids home, is a reason! Whether or not your kids interact all the time with others isn’t the end all be all (I don’t think). God instilled in them who they are and their quietness is part of the journey they are on. Kudos to you for not caving to pressure that they should be more “out there.”

    @ Ming-May: I completely, completely agree with you. I really think your point that “Children who are sent to public school to be salt and light are exposed to more peer influence than parental influence.” nails another huge hang up for me. I want my girls to be leaders and movers and shakers, but before they really know what they believe and how to respond rightly to others, they need to go through some life, and to have our support behind them. I hope that homeschooling them will allow them the same closeness to my husband and I that I had (have) with my parents.

    @Sarah, I love that you describe your son as a gift to others! The way you described that brought tears to my eyes. :) It is really sad to me that people are great with “fine.” I have several friends in the same boat. There’s not really a whole lot you can say to that. Of course it is their choice (and I’m guessing their children will be fine) but it still makes me kind of bummed.

    @Katrina: Yikes, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to highschool. :) I love the youth pastor’s wife at our church and I would love to be involved with her, but I find myself shrinking back simply because that stage for me was so horrible. It is interesting to hear that your sister felt that made her stronger. I’m sure in some ways I’m stronger, but I sure don’t want my girls experiencing anything like that any younger than I was. Really, I feel like, no matter how hard we seek to be in a bubble (yes, I’m a happy bubble person) you are always exposed to hard things, that is just living in this day and age. Why would I purposely expose myself to more?

  6. Faith

    I couldn't agree more with this post. Since when does Scripture admonish our young children to be the salt and light? It doesn't - it admonishes US to do that! To have this idea that we are supposed to toss our tiny lambs out into the world to "toughen them up" is completely opposite of the precepts of Scripture. Training up children in the way they should go starts at birth and continues well into the young adult years, when they have more freedom but are still under parental authority. Children are given to us for such a short time, and with the downward way things are going in this culture we live in, there is no time to lose in getting them home where they can be sheltered (not isolated) and given a firm foundation which is built by the people in the world who love them and understand them the best. By gently and regularly exposing our children to things like sex trafficking, violence, drug abuse, and abortion - all of which plague public schools and private schools alike - from within a protected home environment where we are able to openly discuss and debate and then go and serve/minister AS A FAMILY, we are not only helping them to develop a heart for ministry when they are "released" from our care, but we are helping them look at situations from a mature perspective instead of them being forced to depend on the perspectives of other teenaged, immature peers which often results in these things being perpetuated. Being salt and light as a family has actually worked out for us in a very unexpected way. Every time we are out and about doing "homeschooly" things, we attract a LOT of discussion and interaction - and we are all able to share about God just because our family seems so different. We are passionate about being a godly example as a family, and homeschooling helps us do that in many ways - we have time and opportunities that those kids who are in school all day would never have. Praise God for the blessing to stay home with them and guard the gate so to speak!

  7. Jonelle

    @Faith: love this! What a great reminder that we the parents are the "salt and light"! Sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed when my friends say they want their kids to be witnesses, I think, don't I want that for my kids as well? I do, but only when they are ready.

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  9. Kathryn

    Thank you, Jonelle and everybody who posted here. How refreshing to read these opinions and concerns that mirror my own. We are about to start our 4th year of Sonlight with our only child (Core D), and a couple weeks ago my husband and I had a great talk about homeschooling. To be honest, I was afraid maybe he was just humoring me, and that he might really rather have our son in a conventional school. I was tremendously relieved to hear him telling me all the reasons HE thought this choice was best for our family (and that his reasons matched my own). Everything posted above plays into it, as well as wanting to prepare him to the best of my ability for whatever life is going to throw his way. The world is a scary place these days, and I don't see it getting better any time soon. I feel like the more I can invest in our son--in terms of time, relationship, education, Christian principles, etc.--the better he will be equipped to face whatever happens, good or bad. My husband and I both survived public school and turned out OK, but we can see so many advantages to teaching our son at home, at least during these early years. I'm so thankful for the opportunity (because yes, time and money are big considerations for many families) and also thankful that Sonlight makes it so easy and fun for me! :-)