One of my readers recently wrote and asked me,
“Why would you, a qualified school teacher, homeschool your children?”
Here is some of my response:
My teaching background and experience:
I am a teacher with 10 years public school teaching experience. I earned my teaching diploma in Senior Primary Education and later completed my BA degree, majoring in English & Education. I mostly taught English, History, Art, Bible Education, and Remedial Education.
My first teaching position was in a rural government school, and I served in the school’s boarding hostel as “mommy” to about 65-or-so girls, aged 6-years-old to 14-year-olds. The social welfare placed many of these children in the boarding school.
My second teaching post was at an elite public school in the capital city. This school was in the ambassadorial residential area and we had an international and highly educated parent body and an affluent school board.
I was especially inspired to provide key elements in my classes:
- differentiation ~ offer different ways for children to approach an activity, to make provision for different learning styles
- remediation for weaker students
- and extension for gifted students
My thoughts on public schooling (in no particular order):
- Students who had involved parents did well and participated in more activities in school.
- Students with available parents did more comprehensive projects, did the most consistent homework and scored better in tests.
- Students with supportive parents coped better with anxiety, pressure and loss in sport and cultural activities.
- Children with “absent” parents (such as those children living in the boarding hostel, and those with full-time working parents) struggled more with low self-esteem, anger, emotional immaturity, learning difficulties, failures, frustrations, poor peer relationships, withdrawal, hyper-activity, and discipline issues.
- Children who needed remediation did best with one-on-one sessions and the school did not offer this.
- Children with learning problems had low self-esteem issues and “labelled” themselves or were mocked and teased by their peers and they would even resist special lessons or help.
- Gifted pupils often “slipped through the cracks” because there was little or no opportunity catering for their unique thinking and learning styles, their pace and approach. They often exhibited similar behavior to learning-disabled students because they did not “fit in”.
- Children established “cliques” and the shy, isolated child or those that did not “fit in” struggled with terrible self-esteem issues.
- Teachers favored certain children over others and were sometimes as nasty as the children’s peer groups towards awkward children.
- Teachers who were passionate about their students inspired them to achieve exceptional standards in scholastic, athletic, in leadership, as well as in their spiritual lives.
So why did I start homeschooling my first child?
Tess , our eldest daughter , now 17 years old, was born a few weeks premature and at 9 days old became extremely ill with meningitis. When the spinal tap was taken for lab tests, blood was found in her spinal fluid. The MIR showed she also had bleeding on her brain. We were alerted to the need for therapy.
She was diagnosed with right-hemiplegic and cerebral palsy. We did weekly occupational and physio therapy until she was 11 years old. By God’s grace she has achieved a full, functional, mainstream life.
Naturally, my plans to return to teaching after a year’s maternity leave were completely abandoned. I became an “attached” parent; breast-feeding for 2 years, wearing my child in a sling, I was focused and passionate about her needs, interests and development. Among the sphere of similar parents, I first became aware of homeschooling.
After a few years of kindergartener homeschooling with 2 other families, I placed Tess in a private Christian school for grade 1 to grade 3.
Despite the school’s strict Christian ethos and code and their stringent admissions policy, I was troubled about several issues. The children were “just children“, prone to all the negative peer influences I had noticed in government public schools. There was the same type of bullying, cliques, tensions, pride and performances, fears and anxieties, and there was a lack of individual differentiation.
Despite this, Tess thrived at school, but my heart was troubled. I felt that the Lord wanted me to nurture and disciple my child’s spiritual life. I was convicted of “spiritual duplicity”; of the many hours each day of these “other” influences and pressures on my child.
Homeschooling as a family
At this time my husband bought a farm a few kilometers outside a small rural town. There were no English schools and so we had to homeschooling our 3 children.
By the end of our 2nd year of homeschooling a group of new homeschool families from our district gathered at our farm each month .
Many parents from this group told me that they withdrew their children from school for the following reasons:
- Parents made spiritual decisions to bring their child up in the fear of the Lord, according to His Word and principles.
- Parents wanted to spend more time with their young children and nurture their natural desire to learn.
- Families had met other homeschool families and wanted to bring about the change in their children’s characters that they so admired: loving, supportive, caring relationships, respect for one another, helpful and capable, responsible, involved in family business etc.
- Their child could not cope academically in the school system.
- Their child was unhappy socially, bullied or unaccepted.
- The school could not provide for their child’s interests or learning style.
- The school insisted on medication for hyperactivity and the parents did not agree with this approach.
- Negative (and even unlawful) activities at school were a bad influence on their children.
- Afrikaans families wanted to teach their children in English, or equip them with an international curriculum.
- Families were considering emigration and wanted to prepare their children as explained in the reason above.
- Parents were encouraged to homeschool because the trend had become more socially acceptable and well-represented.
Many times over the past 14 years of homeschooling I have declared that our homeschooling decision is NOT cast in stone.
As we navigated our choices for Tess’ high school and her completion certification, we have offered her alternatives ~ an opportunity to study at boarding school or attend college or follow other correspondence courses. She has chosen to continue to homeschool to matriculation.
My youngest daughter has loved the nurturing and loving relationship of homeschool and tells others that she homeschools because she can “get the most cuddles this way” and she enjoys eating snacks while she learns.
She has struggled more than the others learning to read and has difficulty with her spelling. I’m sure that if she were in a normal school she would have been labelled and she may have negatively compared herself with her peers. However, with homeschooling, she has progressed at her own pace and has finally become an independent reader, despite it being so difficult for her.
We are able to cater for her unique learning style and provide a safe and nurturing environment for her to grow and mature.
As I mature and gain experience in my journey as a homeschool teacher, I have realized that I can relax more. As Charlotte Mason suggests, I do not need to direct everything.
I believe that information can be learnt at any time and that there will always be ‘gaps’. As my children learn to research, read and discover, record and express what they have learnt, they develop the most valuable assets.
We are present, connected and attentive to our children in all areas of their lives.
We can consistently nurture, encourage, disciple and discipline our children.
We are living one-life in His life.
We all consider our homeschooling as a privilege.
It is a joy to live and learn and grow together.
What has motivated your decisions to homeschool? How have you grown and changed in this journey? Feel free to share with us in the comments.