Homeschooling: Why We Did It, Why We Stopped

If you’re a parent wrestling with the pros and cons of educational options for your children, my wife and I can sympathize. A few weeks ago we officially enrolled in a local Christian school (a classical academy). It will be the first year our children have attended school outside of our home.

So why have we quit? Why did we choose homeschooling in the first place? Perhaps the answers to these questions will be helpful to some parents who are trying to sort out what they ought to do.

Why we homeschooled

Four reasons come to mind when I look back on why we chose homeschooling.

Reason 1: the extreme moldability of very young minds

Our children are now ages nine and twelve. But when we began homeschooling, our oldest was five. We were not about to place them under the tutelage of adults who hold to views completely different from ours on who we humans are, how we got here, what life is all about and what distinguishes right from wrong.

An old adage says the important things are more caught than taught. It’s an oversimplification, perhaps, but there is a lot of truth in it. Attitudes, values, priorities, the often-unstated principles we base our evaluations and choices on—these are the most basic and pervasive components of thinking Christianly, and they are more observed and absorbed than studied. (I realize you can think Christianly without being born again and loving the Lord. Neither of these is a substitute for the other.)

My wife and I continue to believe that placing young children in a godless environment for 35 hours a week 9 months of the year and planning to counter that influence at home and church is naïve. Parents have enough of a challenge dealing with the sinful inclinations that are standard equipment with kids.

When it comes to shaping how kids look at the world and their place in it and how they view God and their relationship to Him, their first “thinking years” may well be the most important ones of their entire “educational experience.” If that’s the case (and I make no claim to having proof that it is), it makes sense for parents to handle that early education process personally if they can.

Reason 2: “because we can”

I don’t know what adventurer is supposed to have been the first to say “because it’s there” when asked why he wanted to climb a high mountain—and in reference to mountain climbing, that never seemed like much of a reason to me! But when it comes to homeschooling, a variation of that reason is a strong justification: “because we can.”

Not everybody can homeschool. For some, just keeping food on plates and clothes on backs requires dual incomes, and neither parent can stay home and teach. I believe there are far fewer of these than make the claim, but I accept that they exist.

Others have the time but simply lack the skill. It’s hard to imagine a parent who cannot handle kindergarten and first grade, but I’ve met a few whom I would not advise to attempt homeschooling beyond that point. Doing the job well requires personal discipline, a solid grasp of reading and writing, and at least a willingness to learn a bit about “how to teach” (if the parent doesn’t already grasp that intuitively).

And it requires a solid understanding of the basics of “how to parent” as well—a skill set that seems to be on the wane. Parents who do not understand that they are in charge and also understand how to behave like they’re in charge cannot operate an effective learning environment.

In the case of our family, my wife was apprehensive. But we were pretty sure we could do it for a few years. We both have college degrees and experience working with children in teaching situations. And though being in charge has never been easy, we understood what it meant and the basics of how to carry it out.

Reason 3: the non-problem of socialization

It’s a common stereotype that homeschooled kids are isolated and, as a result, do not learn how to relate to their peers. The stereotype is not entirely unwarranted. I’ve met some very shy and backward homeschooled kids. But when I reflect on the most socially unskilled kids I’ve known over the years, many of them were not homeschooled.

If isolation is the cause of social backwardness, how can it be that any public or Christian school educated kids are socially clumsy recluses? The situation must be more complex than that.

It’s been my experience that homeschooling intensifies both the strengths and the weaknesses of the homeschooling family. So, in addition to genetic factors and who knows what else, kids acquire distant and awkward social habits because they are members of families that are socially distant and awkward. And in many cases, no school can do anything about that.

In our case, we found that our children quickly made friends everywhere they met other kids, whether at playground visits, libraries, clinic waiting rooms or church activities. Though our church hasn’t provided a large number of opportunities to interact with other children, it has provided some, and the homeschool years have included frequent visits from neighborhood kids who came over to play—usually several times a week for several hours.

I don’t personally believe that “socialization” is the great evil that many homeschoolers seem to think. The term is widely misunderstood. But “socialization” in the sense of “learning how to behave in groups of people who are not your family members,” is not inherently prevented by homeschooling. A little extra effort is required for homsechoolers to accomplish that kind of socialization, but not much. In any case, the practice of bunching kids with other kids exactly their own age for just about all of their waking hours is way overrated.

Reason 4: lack of alternatives

My wife and I both attended Christian schools for most of our own education. Our parents made major sacrifices in order to accomplish that. Now it’s our turn. But when our kids first reached schooling age, the only Christian schools we were aware of (that were even sort of nearby) were just not a good fit with us philosophically. Though we both experienced some years in schools with very legalistic environments (“legalistic” here means “resembling legalism”) and came out of those experiences mostly sound in heart and mind, a legalistic environment wasn’t an option that commended itself as long as homeschooling was possible.

The cost of Christian school tuition appeared to be impossible for us to handle as well.

Why we stopped homeschooling

A combination of factors brought us to the decision to enroll the kids in a Christian school. For one, it became increasingly difficult to keep them at grade level in a couple of important subjects. For another, our oldest has reached an age where the parent-child dynamic is sufficiently challenging without being within the same couple thousand square feet of living space all day every day. Since both kids are now older and thinking more independently, the urgency of shaping attitudes and values personally isn’t what it was either. Of course, we don’t expect to delegate that to others entirely any time this side of their adulthood, but we do expect to do so increasingly as they mature.

These factors prompted me to take a look at the educational-options landscape again and see what might be available. When I discovered a Christian classical academy thirty minutes from our home, things appeared to be coming together. Meetings and interviews grew our confidence that this was worth a serious try. The school is small enough to have many of the advantages of the homeschool, but staffed well enough to offset the weaknesses of our particular homeschool. The idea of even older old-fashioned learnin’ than what I received growing up added to the appeal.

We still don’t really know exactly how we’re going to pay for it (let’s not tell the school board about that, OK?). But sometimes you decide first what you value and commit to it, and figure out the financing on the way.

We continue to believe homeschooling—even through high school—is a great option for many families. And I’m convinced that even though homeschooling has become very popular, it is still an underused option for kids’ early years. But schooling at home “all the way” isn’t for everyone. We’re looking forward to working with our new educational partners.

Aaron Blumer, SI’s site publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, Georgia and worked in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.



Thanks for sharing. We have provided home education for our children until this year. On September 9, our 3 school-aged children will all be attending a Christian school for the first time. Our son will be in 8th grade and we just felt the need for him to be in a school. After visting a Christian school in February, we liked it, and my son wanted to attend there. The problem for us was money. So, my son and I would get on our knees regularly and pray about this. Too make a long story short, God provided the funds for all 3 of our school-aged children to attend there this year.

One of the things that being a school teacher did for me—and the education that preceded it—was make it unmistakably clear that there really is a teaching skill set. It is not just “Well, you know the subject and you communicate what you know” or even “You just follow the curriculum and stay one lesson ahead.” You can get by that way to a point, and the advantages of the small, highly personal environment of homeschooling help it along, but there’s nothing like a teacher who is just really good at teaching. Put that skill in someone who shares a biblical view of the world and who loves what he/she is doing—and who understands his/her relationship with the parents (in a school that does as well)—and you have something really priceless.

This whole thing is new to us and we’ll see how it works out, but I’m very optimistic. My oldest will be learning a good bit of Latin this year and my youngest will be introduced to it soon. The Saxon math is far superior to what I received in school. The writing curriculum looks very thorough and well thought out. And seventh grade studies logic (probably eighth, too, but I don’t one in eighth grade yet). So the grammar, logic and rhetoric paradigm is becoming a reality (the elementary and jr high did not ‘go classical’ until pretty recently).

Edit: one more thing I like about this school… though I haven’t seen them put in these terms exactly, it’s clear from how they do things (chapel is only once a week, for example) that they do not view themselves as primarily a disciple-making institution. To me, that’s a huge plus. We already have the home and church for that purpose. All a school needs to do is mesh with (rather than conflict with) those efforts at home and church and with that as a constraint, provide a really good education. Of course, looking at all subjects through the lens of biblical principle does contribute to discipleship—more than folks might think—but I believe many schools stray by taking on themselves too much of the burden of trying to spiritually nurture students. It’s not what a school is for. It shouldn’t be like revival meetings with some readin’ ritin’ and ‘rithmetic tacked on.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Aaron. Great post. I was raised in an unsaved, secular home by parents who beleived in the high value of education. My teachers taught me, but Mom and Dad reinforced and inspected my work. They did not do the work for me, but expected my best performance. My experience as a public school math teacher many years ago, and now as a volunteer tutor show how far our public system has changed. Now, if there is a problem, the parents automatically seem to assume the school did something wrong. There is little sense that the student and the parent are responsible for the education process. By the way, it seems the same in church far too often. People come as consumers rather than as participants, and are unhappy when “their needs are not met.”

I have told our people, and it is my firm conviction, that the parent is the key to the education process, and that the parent has the primary responsiblity before God. Regardless of where you choose to have the formal education of your children take place, you cannot “pass the buck” of responsibility. There is no perfect system, but God has established the family and the church for our spiritual growth.

Dick Dayton

Good post. We stopped homeschooling 6 years ago. It was a tough decision for us because we had no Christian schools in our area that we thought ideal. We ultimately stopped becuase our youngest had autism and took too much time away from homeschooling our kids. At the time we found a LCMS school that has been the best alternative for us. But that school only went to the 8th grade. So now my oldest is a sophomore in the public high school. That has been scary for us but the Lord has been gracious. Our youngest, with autism, his in public school because of all the services he needs (full-time aid, occupational therapy, speech therapy). And our two middle ones are still thriving in the LCMS school.

I have learned over the last several years that all of the options (homeschool, Christian school, and even public school) can be the best option. There is no cookie cutter solution.

Roger Carlson, PastorBerean Baptist Church

Dear Aaron,

We homeschooled our children all the way through. But we were blessed with a great support group, and that made a big difference. We also paid a fee to have Dr. Paul Kates tailor make the curriculum based upon the style of learning and proficiency of our two children. That helped a lot. So did co-op classes.

But having been in the home school world since 1990, it is amazing what I have observed, which echos what you said:
It’s been my experience that homeschooling intensifies both the strengths and the weaknesses of the homeschooling family. So, in addition to genetic factors and who knows what else, kids acquire distant and awkward social habits because they are members of families that are socially distant and awkward. And in many cases, no school can do anything about that.
I have seen some of the kids of control freak and stubborn families turn out terribly. Homeschooling is not the “guaranteed” method it is cracked up to be. Healthy, balanced, fun-loving families experienced generally good results; crusaders, extremists, and obsessives, not so much. Control freaks often end up alienating their children in the latter teen/early young adult years. I have seen kids with involved parents in decent public schools and Christian Schools turn out well, and I have seen kids with everything against them turn out well, too. Still, all in all, I have to say that I think the home-schooled kids did better as an average, both academically, socially, and spiritually. But not by the margins that are claimed. I also know how one bad kid can damage many others.

I think my kids would have done well in a Christian school, but I do not think we would have the bond we have. And I do not think they would have had time to develop specialized areas of interest that they have developed (they are both amazing artists, for example, and my son became cadet commander of the Civil Air Patrol chapter). But, on the other hand, if we were a sports bunch (which we are definitely NOT), a school would have been better for them.

All that to say that it is not a matter of one size fits all.

"The Midrash Detective"

Our children attend a small Christian school. It has seemed at times like the school would not survive another year which leads us to think about homeschooling. This would not have been an option for our older child (14 yrs.). Maybe its my fault, maybe it is his, or both, but we don’t get along doing school work together, and I think his mother would have been only slightly better. Thankfully, we haven’t had to cross that bridge. If we didn’t homeschool, then the only other options would be cyber-schooling through state of PA or public school.

Others have the time but simply lack the skill. It’s hard to imagine a parent who cannot handle kindergarten and first grade, but I’ve met a few whom I would not advise to attempt homeschooling beyond that point. Doing the job well requires personal discipline, a solid grasp of reading and writing, and at least a willingness to learn a bit about “how to teach” (if the parent doesn’t already grasp that intuitively).

And it requires a solid understanding of the basics of “how to parent” as well—a skill set that seems to be on the wane. Parents who do not understand that they are in charge and also understand how to behave like they’re in charge cannot operate an effective learning environment.
It’s really sad to think that there are parents that have attended our churches for years that still do not possess the basic parenting skills. And what’s worse is when a Christian parent realizes that they lack parenting skills, but shrug their shoulders and thank God that 1) they can send their kids to school for someone else to deal with 2) they are counting the years and months until their kids turn 18 and can be legally kicked out of the house. It is not coincidental that parental involvement is a meaningful component of a child’s educational success, regardless of the institution or method.
…it became increasingly difficult to keep them at grade level in a couple of important subjects.
In what way, if’n you don’t mind my askin’.

Thanks for posting this, Aaron- it’s good for people to understand why different families have chosen different options.

Thank you for an open and candid post on your homeschooling experience. Although homeschooling is a fine viable option, it is not for everyone. And it may or may not be the best option under specific circumstances at a given time. Your post opened the door for others to share. This thread, I think, exposes the fallacies of the enthusiasts who would make homeschooling a mandate for all Christian parents. One size doesn’t fit all.

Thanks, Aaron. What you posted is familiar ground to us, too, in many ways, since we often stop and evaluate the very same issues, give or take a few, that you’ve articulated. We’re still on the homeschooling track, and do plan to stay there throughout the kids’ educational process, unless something major happens to make that course an impossibility. I really do think you’ll like the “classical” approach…I have learned SO much myself simply by taking that general approach with the kids. (I’m currently working my way through Plutarch’s Lives to prepare for discussions with my seventh grader…and actually enjoying it!)

Hey, I’m just curious…Do you happen to know what curricula your kids’ classical academy uses? You mentioned Saxon math (which we really like, too), but what about logic, history, Bible, literature and science?

Thanks again for your post. God bless you and your family as you make this transition.

Thanks Aaron for a great post.

We were exploring options for our kids a few years back and Christian school was so expensive. And with so many little ones around (we have five girls the oldest is 7), it made homeschooling a less likely option. We found a classical charter school and were blessed to have our admission accepted (through the random draw process). Next year our oldest will start Latin. The school is a public school but they emphasize a “virture” each month (chastity, fortitude, temperance, etc.) and require parental involvement at every level.

As one who was homeschooled or in various Christian schools my whole life, the public school idea was at first scary. But both my wife and I feel that we were so sheltered that we can hardly relate to people in the world at all, and a public setting where parents can shepherd the child through various discernment issues as they grow up can help counter that. Obviously, the quality and other factors about a particular school can vary widely. So it isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach by any stretch.

Another observation about Christian school is that far too often small churches cut corners on kids education. I saw more than a few schools run on a shoestring budget that were frankly awful. Some kids did well, but they were self-motivated. Christians need to do Christian schools well, not just put anything together that flies. And I also found the Christian curriculum to be quite slanted when it comes to American history too. I used to think Washington and Lincoln were closet IFBs who wore shirts and ties with a big Bible under their arm to every Sunday service!

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

We just jumped in with both feet this year with our oldest (1st grade) for the simple reason that there is no Christian school around. We’re praying about starting one, but, as you know, the obstacles are huge. We live in the Deep South, where private schools were started about 50 years ago for the purpose of continuing segregation. To this day, they seem to have succeeded, mostly, and there is actually an all-black public school in our area. Anyway, while the majority of public school teachers are professing Christians, and the environment tends to defy the IFB boogeyman stereotype, the idea of truly “Christian education” is practically unheard of and even unimagined. We’re trying to convince people that we’re talking about something they have probably not seen or heard of.

So, with no other viable option, we have begun homeschooling. I do have a couple of questions, though, for those who have been through this:

1. How do you integrate Latin and other classical components into an otherwise traditional curriculum?

2. Any advice for the homeschooling mother, who also must tend to a 1 and 3 year old?

Faith is obeying when you can't even imagine how things might turn out right.

That’s a great recommendation, Bro. Hayton. I would also recommend… Cathy Duffy’s curriculum reviews . Trivium Pursuit is a good blog about classical homeschooling.

Homeschooling with young children requires an extra degree of discipline and creativity, but if children are trained to sit still and listen, to play quietly for reasonable periods of time, and even to get involved to some degree, it isn’t all that difficult. It helps if you have a dependable but flexible routine- which sounds like an oxymoron, but a solid schedule IMO is serves as a framework on which I can hang tasks and activities in a shape that works well and makes sense for us.

I think for children it is important they have a good stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast, and plan short breaks throughout the day with healthy snacks and plenty of water to drink. Spend some time with the little ones first, doing household chores together, perhaps to music or an audiobook. When it is time for the older ones to have some instruction or quiet time to work, younger ones can color their own ‘school’ pages, and bitty ones can play in an enclosed area.

Also, don’t feel as if all educational activities must happen during traditional ‘school hours’. We often have history after dinner, sitting around the living room, reading biographies, watching a DVD, and talking about what we’ve learned or what we’d like to know more about. We have science class once a week, spending about two hours reading, watching DVDs, doing experiments, working on projects or presentations, or going on a nature hike.

Our goal has always been to get away from the idea that learning is something you only do a few scheduled hours a day. Instead, our philosophy is that learning is something that you do constantly, and what’s more, it’s FUN.

BTW, Bro. Hayton, I agree that many Christian schools (while their intentions are good) often are poorly organized and lack academic discipline and quality. Others are merely public schools with a cross on the door and Chapel 3 times a week so everybody can feel good about themselves without actually accomplishing anything either spiritual or educational.

Why are we studying Latin?

Cultural literacy, mental discipline, etymology- for starters. We study Greek and Latin briefly every year until high school, and then more intensely, adding on other languages such as Spanish, Hebrew, and Italian. And it’s fun.