(Digital Editor's Note: This article was published first in the March 2023 print edition of The Stand.)
“Educators love their students and know better than anyone what they need to learn and thrive,” claimed a tweet last November from the National Education Association (NEA).
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos disagreed, insisting that parents know better what their children need.
A brief dialogue highlighted the ideological divide between opposing viewpoints concerning just who is best equipped to educate the future generation.
Dr. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, published an article last September citing the growing popularity of home-based education.
According to Ray, some 3.1 million students, roughly 6% of school-age children, were homeschooled during the 2021-2022 academic year, up from 2.5 million the previous year.
Much of that growth could be attributed to parents disgruntled by the lackluster response of many schools to COVID-19. However, Ray revealed that even before the pandemic, “the homeschool population had been growing at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum.”
Ray also stated homeschooling may be the fastest-growing form of education in the nation, and though it is “an age-old traditional educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting-edge and ‘alternative’ … is now bordering on ‘mainstream.’”
Should a family decide to wade into the waters of home education, they may initially feel overwhelmed with the process of simply getting started.
Is it legal?
Undoubtedly a result of the overwhelming secular push for state-run education, many parents are left wondering if homeschooling is even legal. The short answer is yes.
According to thehomeschoolmom.com, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but homeschool laws are unique to each state.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) provides detailed information on how to withdraw from public school, individual state requirements regarding testing and mandatory subjects, record-keeping, state-approved curriculum, home visits by officials, and additional information.
A large disparity exists from state to state. As an example, Mississippi’s only legal requirement is for parents to notify the school district that they are homeschooling their child, but there are no mandated teacher qualifications, subjects, or assessments.
On the other hand, some states such as New York do have mandated subjects and assessments. Thus, it is wise to consult with a trusted organization like HSLDA.
How do we start?
One of the more challenging decisions a prospective homeschool family will face is choosing what and how to teach. A wide range of curricula and programs exists, from secular to Christian to on-line, DVD-based, co-op, multi-family, church settings, and more.
To imply that there is one perfect way to homeschool would be misleading and would further undermine one of the wonderful benefits of home education, which is teaching in a way that is conducive to individual learning styles. Every family is different, and every child within the family is different. Some will perform well in a very structured environment, while others will thrive in a more classical, relaxed approach.
Some students are very motivated and will work at a fast pace and complete their work quickly, while others will perform better with a slower pace, requiring more breaks or outside time. Some will excel in bookwork, while others will gravitate toward hands-on activities and real-world learning environments.
Resources exist that take all this into account. The beauty of homeschooling is that parents, not the government, are in control of making the best decision for their children.
For Christians, the greatest benefit of educating at home is the ability to provide a seamless education across all subjects that point back to the foundation of it all – God. After all, educating at home is about more than mere education, it is about discipling the next generation of godly men and women.
Tips from experienced parents
Matthew White and his wife Whitney have five sons and have been homeschooling for eight years. Their personal insights reveal why they choose this path for educating their sons.
Matthew: I was a mediocre student, at best, and never enjoyed school, likely because of the formal education process under which my peers and I were taught. It was a one-size-fits-all approach, and that approach did not fit me.
Seeing our children with their various personalities and different learning styles makes me appreciate the freedom to tailor an education process that works best for them.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself.” I strongly relate to his words.
Looking back, I can say with certainty that, aside from basic math and reading skills, I use very little – and remember even less – of what I learned over 12 years of formal education. I want better for my children than that, and homeschooling affords us that opportunity.
However, education is just the icing on the cake. The opportunity to disciple them and help them grow into godly men is our utmost calling. What better way to do that than in our home, under our leadership and spiritual guidance?
Whitney: As a former public school educator, I must admit I never intended to homeschool and was a bit skeptical of doing so with our children. Neither Matthew, nor I, nor any of our family for that matter, had ever considered homeschooling as an option, and we even faced some opposition at the thought.
I couldn’t be more grateful that – after prayerful consideration – we decided to go against the conventional wisdom of the day and bring our education in-house. Having been taught traditional teaching methods, I found myself having to “unlearn” so that I could teach my boys. It took a few years and some trial and error, but after finding what works best for us, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
As a student, I remember being expected to consume and memorize vast amounts of information but was not taught how to reason and think through things, thus I actually learned very little in the process.
Fortunately, by home educating our children, Matthew and I are, in a sense, redeeming our education. We’ve learned more in the past eight years with our boys than we did in our own K-12 experience.
It’s not easy, and I wouldn’t want to paint a glamorous picture, but it’s worth it. We start every day in the Word. As a family, we’ve grown closer to each other, but more importantly, closer to the Lord. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.
Concerning resources and getting started, the Whites say, “Just start.” Don’t expect immediate perfection. There will be trial and error. If possible, find a seasoned homeschool family as mentors to share their failures, triumphs, and insights.
If something isn’t working, scratch it. Don’t be afraid to mix and match and have a hodge-podge curriculum. Take advantage of the abundance of free resources that exist. Remember, you are in charge, and no one knows better than you what is best for your children.
THE WHITES’ RECOMMENDED RESOURCES
▶Answers in Genesis
▶Bob Jones University
More resources at: