Here's something that might seem obvious...unless you're me: if you're wanting an objective opinion, don't talk to homeschooling moms about your inner debate to send your kids back to public school or continue homeschooling! I did that last week...believe it or not, it's not helpful. Homeschool moms aren't super objective about public school. Throw that in with the realization that we think differently than a lot of people about church and ministry, and you've got the makings of one confused mother over here! So, here's my attempt at reasoning with myself.
Many of you already know that our family has taken on homeschooling this year. This decision wasn't made out of a conviction based on how horrible we think public schools are, a need to shelter my children from the world around them, or a belief that I have some extensive amount of knowledge that I need to impart to my children. It was merely a decision of convenience. Before "the move" I would lay awake at night (sometimes until 2 in the morning) just stressing about my kids. I'd stress about yoinking them out of an environment that they are familiar with and throwing them into a brand new place in a brand new town where they didn't know anyone or their way around! Yeah. I would lay awake crying about that little scenario. SO...to relieve some of that anxiety, we decided to homeschool, which brought on a whole different KIND of anxiety...but that's a different story. I love to be with my kids (most of the time). Every year, as I would walk them to their first day of school and say goodbye, waving to them, watching their little backpacks bounce on their backs as they ran in...I would hold back tears and wonder if I could just keep them home. I love those guys. They're some of my favorite little people and I don't like to be away from them all day long! (I know that little scenario makes it sound like my kids are little...they're not. I have a 13 year old man-child, a 12 year old mini-me, and a 9 year old version of Will Ferrel. And their backpacks are bigger...but they still bounced when they ran). We actually talked about keeping them home almost every summer. So, I just seized the opportunity this year to give it a whirl. But, looking at next year I am feeling a little torn: To homeschool? Or to Public School?
Soooo...my argument FOR homeschooling? Well, for starters, we may be in for yet another move. We are currently renting our house (until November) out here in the suburbs...but we feel that God is moving us toward planting in the urban areas of North Seattle. Having just put my kids through a huge life transition just to get up here, I didn't think that 2 more transitions within the next year would be the best option for them. (If you're having trouble with the math: 1 transition into public school where we currently live + 1 transition into another school if we move in November= 2 transitions within 6 months).
Another argument for OUR family to homeschool is this: given our thoughts on public school and being where people are, we gave ourselves a year to try this thing out. If at the end of this year, we found ourselves further withdrawn from the general population, then we would know it was the wrong decision. (I strongly disagree with "holing up" with other Christians.) However, last week, as I was talking with another mom (ironically, I was kind of disappointed thinking at first, that I was talking to another Christian), I was struck by the fact that this we are enrolled in quite a diverse school. I looked around and saw so many different nationalities, different religions being represented, and heard different languages being spoken. Later that same day, I was talking to several other moms about our husband's involvement in our children's education. I was struck by the lack of involvement of some of the dads...and the toll it can take on a marriage. And it hit me again. This could be an opportunity to support other parents at this school...By looking for ways to support and encourage both parents in their marriage as well as their homeschooling endeavors.
Finally, my last argument for homeschooling is our family's schedule.
- There is no more rushing around in the morning, yelling at kids to hurry up with their shoes and get to the car, only to drop them off at the school crying and stressed out.
- There's no more homework that takes up the entire evening, or last minute panic over projects that have been forgotten about.
- There's time to rest in the morning when the night before has been a late night filled with meetings or practices.
- There's been freedom in my schedule to be more involved and available for Micah on the forefront of planting another church.
HOWEVER, I agree with Dr. Tim Kimmel (author of Grace Based Parenting) who says this:
"the secularization of the non-Christian community has risen proportionately with our withdrawal from it...the less we need to engage the lost world around us, the more it will be left to its own devices...God left our families in communities to serve as porch lights, if you will, for the lost people around us. We are to be the steady glow that helps them find their way out of the darkness..."
Couple that with children being such a natural bridge between families, and you have our family's convictions. I want my children to know and interact with people who do not think the way that they do, so they can learn to express and stand up for their own beliefs. I want them to be around friends whose home life may be hard or different than their own, so that they can learn what it means to be compassionate and care for their friends' tangible needs. I want them to be around friends from different cultures, traditions and backgrounds so they can learn to relate to all people and respect them for who they are. And, I want to give my kids every opportunity to stand up for what they believe and be aware of the real world that surrounds them. Tim Kimmel goes on to say:
"the real test of a parenting model is how well equipped the children are to move into adulthood as vital members of the human race (not the Christian subculture)...we need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work environments, and raise their families in the most hedonistic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings...they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ's love inside these desperate surroundings."
We need to be where people are. We need to teach our children that THEY can and need to be where people are. It has been our experience that...yes! Public school is hard. I've been surprised at how early those petty girl issues start (you know: boys, clothes, judging one another on appearances, being friends one day and hating you the next...that starts now in 2nd grade!!) I've had a son who was slipping through the cracks because school is not geared to his learning style (which is being a boy). We've had talks on what it means to be gay, and in turn have had the opportunity to talk about what it means to love people where they are at. We've had discussions on standing up for our friends who are being mistreated on the playground. We've had our integrity challenged, and sometimes we've failed, then learned about grace. We've had to live out and practice forgiveness, compassion, grace, and boundaries. But, we've also had countless opportunities to develop and care for our friends, and to have community with people who are not just like us or believe like we do. And, I feel that is what we are all called to.
I have heard the argument that this is great in theory, but not at the expense of our children. I feel the temptation to put aside my faith that God has a plan for each of my children, and make this decision based on fear and "protection." I was talking about this the other day with another (homeschooling) mom who said to me "but the Bible says: the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour... I'm not sending my kids out there, Satan is so much stronger than we are" I told her that I disagree. While that verse is in the Bible, (and yes. Satan does prowl around looking for whom he can devour...)the Bible also says "greater is He that is in you (us), than he that is in the world." In other words: If God is for us, who can be against us? (or) God has defeated Satan through the cross, and because I have accepted Jesus and He is living in me, Satan, then has no power over me. (she looked at me all confused at this point...I had ASSumed that we believed the same since she was sitting there with her Bible open... come to find out, we were coming from two drastically different religious views). I strongly believe that God has an individual plan for each of my children, and while I will do my best with them, His plans for them may just be in spite of my best efforts.