How We Do School: A Guest Post from Joy

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Last week I shared a little bit about my educational background and how our family has gone against the grain in choosing to homeschool. Then JessieLeigh shared her story of how she and her husband came to the conclusion that public school was the best choice for their family.

Today Joy, web designer extraordinaire, homeschooling whiz, and my good friend, shares how she and her husband homeschooled, public schooled, and found themselves back to teaching their children at home.

Describe your family

My husband, Jeff, and I have three children. Jaden, our only son, is 12 years old and is entering the 8th grade next year; Jerah is 11 and entering the 6th grade; Joely is 7 and entering the 3rd grade. We withdrew our oldest two children from public school in 2005, following their 2nd grade and Kindergarten years, and we’ve been homeschooling the last five years. Our plan is to homeschool each of our children through high school.

What state do you live in?

We live in Texas, the land of homeschooling freedom. Homeschooling families in Texas are treated as private schools, so we are given substantial latitude in our ability to choose our curriculum and operate the way we want. There is no mandatory testing or oversight of our homeschool by the state.

What’s your educational background?

My husband has earned a bachelor’s degree in Music and Bible. I, on the other hand, finished a 3-year program at a Bible college, got married, moved to Alaska and then on to South Carolina, where I went back to school for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing degree. I dropped out of the nursing program three classes prior to graduating in order to have my third child.

What were “must haves” for your children’s education?

When we first started homeschooling, really the only ‘must have’ that we had in mind was pure academics. But we soon realized that education is more than academics.

A real education goes beyond just developing a strong understanding of mathematics, science, and history, and learning how to communicate clearly through the spoken and written word.

A real education is the training of our children to become capable and responsible Godly adults.

To that end, we now have two other ‘must haves’ for our children’s education:

  1. The establishment of a biblical worldview
  2. The development of strong parent-child relationships

Through homeschooling we have an excellent opportunity to help our children develop a biblical worldview. This doesn’t mean we teach our children exclusively about the biblical wordview. On the contrary, our children learn about other worldviews as well. They study them and analyze them.

In the end, if our children adopt a biblical wordview, it will be because they fully understand what it means and they’ve chosen it fully-informed. They won’t believe “just because Mom and Dad believe.”

Because we spend so much time together as homeschoolers, the relationships we have with our children have grown deeper and deeper. We talk to each other, listen to each other, do things together, and enjoy each other’s company. Sure, it’s not always fun and roses, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Having a close relationship with our children is vitally important, and for us, homeschooling fosters that relationship.

So even though we started homeschooling for academic reasons, we are sticking with it through the long haul for even better reasons.

How did you research your decision?

I actually homeschooled my oldest at the beginning of kindergarten for about 4 months. And it was a horrible experience. I’m sure having a 3-year-old and a newborn at the time didn’t help either, but I was constantly stressed out under the pressure to finish the curriculum.

My son didn’t fare any better either. He was constantly in tears and he struggled with much of the work. Finally I gave up and enrolled him in our church’s private school, much relieved to be done with it and vowing never to homeschool again.

So a few years later after my son’s 2nd grade year, when we realized that he wasn’t learning in school and we contemplated homeschooling again, I was scared. Very scared. But God impressed upon me that if He was in the decision, if He wanted us to homeschool, He’d help me through it.

So I read books on homeschooling. And I read. And I read some more. And God made good on His word and He led me to read some books that were a tremendous help to me. They made me recognize some of the reasons why I struggled so much the last time I homeschooled, and they gave me confidence in my ability to succeed this time.

I checked out dozen’s of homeschooling books from the library, but a few of them really stuck out to me.

What advice would you give to families considering or reconsidering this decision?

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. But at the same time, homeschooling might be the perfect fit for your family, even if you don’t think so right now. That was definitely the case for us.

If you are considering homeschooling, remember that academic success shouldn’t be the ultimate goal of quality education. If a child obtains an excellent academic education but lacks a biblical worldview or a meaningful relationship with his parents, has he really had a quality education?

— Joy Miller, a hopeless bibliophile and recovering perfectionist, is also a stay-at-homeschooling mother of three, ages 7, 11, and 12. She blogs at Five J’s where she writes about striving to raise lifelong learners. Joy, her husband Jeff, and their children, call Texas their home.

What is a “must have” for your child’s education?

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  1. This was a great post! I love to read that parents are taking control of their child’s education. I have taught in the private school industry for 14 years. If I had not that option, I would have homeschooled my children. Now, I am an administrator of our church’s private school. I started our school because some parents do not have the option to homeschool, and this is the next best thing. We have a safe enviroment, where our children can be educated, but also be taught Godly principles!

    Enjoy your blog!

    1. @karen, I also am curious about this…Our daughter is 4 and this is something I have wavered on considerably…She will not technically begin Kindergarten until 2012 because of her birthday, so we still have time to consider and in the meantime we are working with her. We recently began Hooked On Phonics and I have looked into other programs as well. As an only child I fear she will lack skills she needs to interact with others if we keep her home from public school.

      1. @Elise, Sorry, Elise, I didn’t add you to my reply to Karen 🙂 Here’s how I responded to her question about homeschooling only children.

        There are usually many opportunities for homeschooled children to interact with others (i.e. to develop proper social skills). The main method is simply by watching others who have good social skills (i.e. mom and dad). But there are also opportunities through out-of-the-home classes, homeschool support groups, church activities, etc.

        In my experience, ’socialization’ is rarely a problem with homeschoolers, and even only children aren’t doomed to be socially awkward if they homeschool. And in my opinion, public school is probably one of the worst places to learn proper social behaviors

        I wrote a post on socialization that I think applies to homeschoolers regardless of the number of siblings in the family.

    2. @karen, There are usually many opportunities for homeschooled children to interact with others (i.e. to develop proper social skills). The main method is simply by watching others who have good social skills (i.e. mom and dad). But there are also opportunities through out-of-the-home classes, homeschool support groups, church activities, etc.

      In my experience, ‘socialization’ is rarely a problem with homeschoolers, and even only children aren’t doomed to be socially awkward if they homeschool. And in my opinion, public school is probably one of the worst places to learn proper social behaviors 🙂

      I wrote a post on socialization that I think applies to homeschoolers regardless of the number of siblings in the family.

  2. Oh, so timely for me!!!

    We are in a sticky spot right now with education.

    Our oldest is going into 6th grade and is an easy learner. We’ve always loved public school.

    Our next son is nine and is dyslexic. Same school, different experience. Until you view public education through the eyes of a child with learing differences, you just do not see the hurdles.

    They have held him back once. They wanted to hold him back again. Since first grade they have been pushing the hold him back card. They do not want to accomidate him. The list goes on and on. It’s kinda ugly to say the least. (We are in Texas.)

    We have started looking into homeschooling. At first I was 100% against doing it. Not against homeschool, just against doing it. It seems like such a huge undertaking and it stresses me to even think about it.

    We have a total of 5 boys. The reading material you share here is outstanding! I will be looking into these books right away!

    In the meantime, we wait to hear back from the Office of Civil Rights as we have filed a complaint because the school refuses to accomidate our son or acknowlede his needs except for when it comes to the standardized state testing…. don’t even get me started.

    Pray fo us. Pray for our public education system.

    Great article!

  3. This is such a great piece- thanks for sharing your view, Joy! I love reading about the intelligent and appropriate choices other parents are making regarding their children’s education. I think the worst thing ANY of us can do is just assume that “one way is the right way”. I think knowing your children, their needs, your family’s vision, prayer, and doing your research will result in finding a great fit. Thanks for this post!

  4. I’m going to be honest, hopefully without being offensive. The Bible clearly tells us to be IN the world but not OF the world. So if we pull our kids out of public school, how do we teach them to shine a light into a broken place? I struggle with this daily, as the area we live in has reprehensible public schools and we will not be able to afford private schooling. I’m not against homeschooling, but part of me feels like it conflicts with Christ’s call to be with the broken people like he was. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Sam. Thanks for your thoughtful question as well as your disclaimer to clarify your tone. So helpful in online discussions! Right back at ya.

      My husband and I did an exhaustive search of Scripture to find the exact verse you were referencing. And nowhere could we find “Be in the world, not of the world.” We were stunned, because we, too, had gone under the assumption that the phrase was Scripture. It is often used as a paraphrase, section heading, or sermon topic, but those are not the words of Scripture.

      The Bible doesn’t command us to be IN the world. God knows we already are. He made the world; He put us here.

      He does instruct us not to be OF the world…….Certainly the message of John 17 exhorts us not to be “of the world.”

      We’re also commanded to raise our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. Raising children who love God and know His ways is necessary before they can go out and “be a light in dark places.” Even if we chose public schooling, my reasoning for doing so would not be with the idea of them to be missionaries. I don’t think that children should bear that responsibility.

      I don’t believe that homeschooling is withdrawing from the world. In fact, my children and I have grown so much together and learn so much about the world together. A homeschool schedule actually enables quite a lot of freedom to serve within one’s community and to interact with people in a way that they might not otherwise have the opportunity.

      And quite honestly, there are broken people in private schools, public schools, and everywhere we turn.

      1. @Jessica Fisher,
        I have a 2nd grader who makes straight A’s, very independent while doing homework & projects. We’ve had no school problems. However, I feel as though the Lord may be leading me to HS. He has to be my #1 reason simply so that I know whatever happens, good or bad, I am in His will so I don’t need to give up. But as far as someone without any experience in HS, my biggest incentive right now is being able to use Christian curriculum. I cannot afford private school but I know that whatever God leads us to, He will provide. My daughter already expresses an interest in HS but not because of anything negative at school. Our town has a co-op that I know will be helpful, including socialization skills. My point being…just pray & know what God is leading you to do before you do it.

  5. I also live in Texas and have been struggling with this topic considerably, every day my decision wavers and I still have 2 years to think about it! My 4 year-old will not begin school until she is almost 6 because of her birthday. Do you have any specific pointers for the rest of us Texans regarding homeschooling?

    1. Not sure what kind of pointers to offer a fellow Texan other than to rejoice that we as Texas homeschoolers have a LOT of freedom to educate our children as we deem best. We only need to notify the school district of our intention to homeschool, and beyond that, we’re left to teach our children without oversight from ‘the State’.

      Additionally, I believe the TAKS tests in Texas and the way most schools in Texas deal with them are some of the main reasons why many people take their children our of public school before 3rd grade. I’ve seen way toomany schools ‘teach to the TAKS’ all year from 3rd grade on and then after testing is over in April, no more learning happens. So sad.

      Add to that the intense pressure the TAKS puts on some students, to the point where they become physically ill (I have several friends whose children experienced this due to the TAKS), and I’m even more thankful my children never had to submit to the TAKS.

      We still do standardized testing yearly, but it’s nothing like the fiasco which is the TAKS.