A Mother’s Journey into Homeschooling
Why Didn’t the Jews Send Their Children to Pagans for Training? Because: "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:40) ...So They Trained Their Children Themselves
About eight years ago, God started tugging at my conscience after we placed our two daughters in the local public school. We chose the public school system for three reasons: 1) our finances would not allow us to send them to our Lutheran church’s parochial school, 2) even had our finances been sufficient for a private school education, the church’s school soon closed, and 3) our Christian parents and grandparents had attended public schools, so it just seemed the normal thing to do. Besides, with our youngest now attending first grade all day, it was “my time to enter the workplace” once again, this time as a part-time teacher’s aid for the same school system.
Week after week I spent time with other people’s children: preschoolers whose teachers negligently left them in soiled diapers; elementary students with special needs—most of whom were taking prescription drugs to keep them manageable; and EI (emotionally impaired) high school students who were left to do little or no work but, instead, watched nearly pornographic music videos and played computer games most of the day. I spent time with children who were starving for conversation with adults, who had broken families, no proper winter clothing, fevers and runny noses. I witnessed bullying, loneliness, and, especially, apathy.
All the while my mind and heart would intermittently drift back to my own children. Who was spending time with them? How were they being comforted and cared for? Most importantly, what were they being taught? I felt empty and wrong for leaving them under someone else’s charge. It felt unnatural for me to be separated from them, as if I had abandoned them. Most everyone else I knew raised their children this way, so why was it so hard for me? I prayed to the Lord Jesus and asked Him to show me what I should do.
Is Homeschooling an Option?
After weeks of praying I went to my husband, Brad, to explain what I was going through. I asked him if he thought homeschooling might be an option. Besides some friends of ours who lived states away, my brother and his wife were the only couple we knew of who educated their children at home. Our pastor and his wife homeschooled their youngest daughter at that time, but with the understanding that it was only temporary, until she was ready to go on to a nearby Lutheran high school. Brad said he did not want to go that route. He seemed to want to avoid the stigma that went along with homeschooling. Besides, we had always assumed that I would work outside the home to help with our family’s income. I tried to shake off the ache I was experiencing, but I just couldn’t. So I continued to pray to the Lord.
As I prayed I became aware of so many obstacles that prevented us from teaching our children at home. The first was expectations. Good moms work outside the home to help provide for their families, to be good examples to their children, to do something important (other than make and keep a home), to better themselves, to provide their children with better opportunities. Such were the expectations, but I found I no longer believed them. Consequently, Brad’s expectations and my beliefs no longer coincided. I knew we could never make it work if we were not working together for the same purpose—to raise our children “up in the training and admonition of the LORD.” (Ephesians 6:4) Furthermore, my mother was a public school teacher whose approval still meant a lot to me. While she was supportive of my brother’s family, I felt that she had different expectations for me and my family.
The second obstacle I recognized was finances. We were already living paycheck to paycheck. How could we afford for me not to return to work? Or, if having given up my second income, how could we then afford curriculum, field trips, and other necessary homeschooling materials?
Thirdly, I worried about the government, the entity responsible for educating the vast majority of American youth. I knew homeschooling was legal, but I did not know what challenges might arise with regard to school officials or other authorities if we decided to pull our children out of the public school system. Would there be a social worker involved? How regulated would their education be, even in our own home? Could our children be taken from us if everything did not go according to some state mandate? These were difficult questions to ponder—more than I could bear alone. Once again, I turned to the Lord in prayer.
Identifying the Problem
Over the next couple of months events took a turn for the worse. Early on, Hannah had been labeled with ADHD. Despite our objections, both the school and her doctor recommended some kind of behavior medication. And Morgan, our good-natured little girl who used to get along with most everyone, was now suffering from anxiety. She was being excluded from newly formed cliques, even in first grade. Increasingly, she said before school that her stomach hurt. Most every day when I picked her up she would burst into tears and say that she did not feel well, that she wanted to go home. In addition to her social problems with her peers, she was afraid of the teachers and staff. One day, she was so afraid to ask to use the bathroom that when we picked her up from school, we found her soaked to the skin in her own urine, too mortified to tell us or anyone else what had happened.
Then came the proverbial “last straw.” One afternoon, on our way back to school from a routine doctor visit, Morgan and I stopped for a treat. She seemed happy—and so was I—to have this little one-on-one time. But on our way back to school she began to physically shake. I asked her what was wrong; she asked if we were going back to school and then began to cry. We sat in the school parking lot until she had calmed. Then, as we reached her locker, she began to shake and cry again. She hugged me tight and asked me not to leave. Morgan is not a manipulative girl—she has always been compliant, sometimes shy, but ready and willing to please. Something was definitely wrong. As she tried to regain her composure I led her by the hand to her classroom. The students were arranged in a semi-circle, facing the board, while the teacher wrote math problems on the board, her back to the class.
Not wanting to leave Morgan in her current condition, I sat at her desk and held her in my lap. Just as she began to calm, the teacher, whom we had known for two years and who had been to our home for dinner during the summer, said aloud, “Morgan, your Mom has to go home now. You’ll be just fine.” I could not believe my ears. Parents were supposed to be allowed to stop in the classroom at any time, and I was being told to leave. I was hurt and incensed. Should the school have authority not only over my child, but over me, the parent, as well?
I knew at that moment that our “experiment” with the public school system was over. Somewhere along the way we had compromised. God had given our children to us, and we, in turn, had turned them over to the state for their upbringing. Nowhere in Scripture did God give us permission to do that. Against the teacher’s wishes, I sat with my shaking daughter until she was convinced that I placed her well-being ahead of the desires of her teacher.
Overcoming the Obstacles to Homeschooling
That afternoon when Brad arrived home from work he knew something was wrong. When I told him about the day’s events, he said simply, “Well . . . we should just do it, then.” I was surprised, until I remembered my prayers. This was God’s answer to them. I thanked my husband and quietly thanked the Lord, amazed by His faithfulness. The first obstacle, our unaligned expectations, was removed.
Now in concert, Brad and I discussed our second obstacle. First, we decided to trust God to get us through our financial concerns. Second, we realized that the cost of daycare before and after school ate up so much of my part-time income that I really only made about a thousand dollars during the whole school year. Third, after taking a closer look at the real cost of public education—driving every day, fundraisers, donations of classroom materials, school portraits, etc.—we realized we could save a lot of money simply by keeping our girls at home. Finally, when we explained to our pastor and his wife that we intended to homeschool, they offered to let us have whatever books we needed from the parochial school that had recently closed. It was sad knowing the school was no longer open, but even through that loss God was faithful to help us in our time of need, to help us train our children in the way He intended.
The third obstacle—government regulation and legality—was overcome by our discovery of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) [link to website]. It offers legal protection, advice, and assistance if needed for about $10 per month, a benefit well worth the cost. Through HSLDA we learned that our state’s laws had been some of the most restrictive, but through its efforts and the efforts of many families who paved the way for us, they had become some of the least restrictive in the country. We were free to train our children at home with any curriculum or number of hours we thought was best for them. Most importantly, their faith would be fed daily.
Finally, the Lord only had to convince me that we could do it. The question kept recurring: could I really do it? I still felt like I needed my mother’s support. When I went to her and explained our intentions, I ended our conversation with, “I just don’t know if I can do it. What if I’m not cut out for this?” She answered simply, “I believe you can.” When she showed her support for what God was trying to do in our lives, it was as if He opened my eyes to His providence and just removed the fear. He showed me that I had been more concerned with everyone else’s opinion—the government’s, the school staff’s, my mother’s—than with His direction about how we ought to train our children. On my own, I knew I could not do it; with Him going before me, why should I be afraid? God had answered every prayer and knocked down every obstacle in our path. Then, as if to provide extra confirmation, when we decided to switch to a new pediatrician, we found that he was a Christian and a homeschool father of eight children. He encouraged us in every way. God truly had shown us His patience, His grace, His way.
Seven Years Later, and Most Thankful
This fall will mark the beginning of our seventh year of educating our children at home. In those seven years we have seen our children recover their love for learning, something they nearly lost during their time in public school. We have also grown closer as a family, a reversal of the trend of seven years ago when we were growing apart and felt as if we were losing them. I thank the Lord that He caused us to remove our children from that system, which we have since learned has as its antecedents: paganism, socialism, atheism, the Unitarian “church,” Prussian Germany, and even Marxism. Based on our experience, the public school system—whether accidentally or intentionally—weakens families and smothers any faith in the God of the Bible. Homeschooling has been the God-given solution to these pervasive problems.
Recently, Brad and I began to ask ourselves, “When did the church begin to give up its children?” Why is the Body of Christ, for the most part, sending its children to “Caesar” for training? Is is any wonder that they are returning as pagan “Romans,” rather than as faithful Christians and fellow members of the Body of Christ? Is it any wonder that, having sent them into the world for training, we are losing them to that same unbelieving world?
We want to pray for the church, that it will wake up before it is too late—before its children have become disciples of “Caesar” rather than disciples of Christ. Will you pray for the church also? We know there are single-parent families, single-income families (like ours), families with financial burdens that prevent them from educating their children at home or sending them to a Christian elementary school. We know, also, that with God all things are possible. If people are at least aware of the problems associated with public education, they can pray and ask God to show them a better way to train up their children.
In regard to Christians who are public school teachers—they desperately need our prayers. The degree to which they are allowed to share their faith may vary. It is the system for which they work that is the cause for alarm. Ideally, Christian teachers in a pagan system can lead by example, letting the light of Jesus shine into a dark world. But the public school teacher also faces big obstacles, such as curriculum mandates to sponsor humanism, relativism, and naturalism.
True, God may still choose to bless some students, and their teachers, through (or despite) public schools, but my family’s experience has revealed how much more effectively parents themselves can minister to their children through homeschooling, especially when well-supported by their pastor. I pray that God will make His good and gracious will equally clear for other families.
Mrs. Danielle M. Olson and her husband Brad live in Michigan, with their two daughters.
TAGS: Motherhood, Homeschooling