I have to admit it, this year we actually did consider putting all 3 kids into public school. You see, we graduated from our 2 year missionary training program in May and were planning to go to Peru to serve. However, the Lord has HIS own plans and timing for our lives and instead of going overseas, the door to Peru closed but the Lord opened a door of opportunity for us to stay here at the TX-Mex border and make this our mission field for the next few years. David is going to serve as the Student Minister (for Kindergarten - 12th grades) at our church here in South Texas. We live just 12 miles from the Mexico border. Since we were going to stay "stateside" for the next few years, we considered public school. We talked about it a lot, we researched the school system here, we talked to teachers and administration at the schools here, we discussed it with our kids and we did lots and I mean LOTS of praying over this. We discussed the opportunities the kids would have to make new friends here in our community through school, being able to invite new friends and their families into our home, opportunities to share Christ, the extra-curricular activities like band, chorus, sports, etc. they could be involved in and the extra help they would get with their learning issues. However, after several weeks of discussion, deliberation and prayer we made the decision to continue homeschooling.
When it all boiled down, we remembered why we had chosen to homeschool in the first place. We didn't choose homeschool because we had to....we chose it because we felt called to it, we felt it was the best decision for our children, and we wanted to do it. In fact, our 2 daughters both went to public school for several years and I was heavily involved in the public school (PTA, homeroom Mom, etc) and David attended every event and activity he could as well. They had some great experiences and some that I wish they could forget! Our oldest daughter was clinically diagnosed with moderate Dyslexia and Dysgraphia not long after she started 3rd grade. She was getting some intervention in school but we were watching her get further and further behind, not retaining necessary information and watching her self-confidence and self-esteem diminish too quickly. We also wanted them to have a more Biblical education. We wanted them to grow up with a Bible knowledge that was equal to (if not greater) than their academic knowledge. We could not afford a private, Christian school for all 3 kids and after much research, talking to friends/family who already homeschooled, and praying about this big decision, we decided that homeschooling was the best choice for our family. Our son has never gone to public school and has always been homeschooled. He was clinically diagnosed with severe Dyslexia at age 7.
Homeschooling is not easy! There have been many days I've shed tears out of frustration, tears of fear (that I'm not good enough in teaching them), tears of sadness as I watch them struggle due to learning issues, etc. Then the first year of homeschooling I think I simply tried to replicate public school at home. We had "desks", curriculum that would rival any public school curriculum, we had set "times" for each subject, I had a grade/attendance book, etc. and I was so frustrated when our day didn't go like my schedule said it should! The 2nd year was a little less "structured" but still pretty much the same. Last year, I had a "light bulb" moment: homeschooling means we can do it our way...the way that works best for our family and our schedule...the way the kids learn best....work at their own paces....using whatever methods they need to both understand and retain what they need to be learning! So, we ditched the schedule, we ditched the curriculum that looked like public school books, we lost the desks and we schooled in such a way that our kids actually enjoyed learning and I enjoyed homeschooling! I also realized that our kids can "learn" in simple everyday life activities and sometimes the greatest lessons they learn are outside of our "homeschool time" in the mornings. We still used some curriculum but it wasn't so formal, textbook-daunting type materials.
* I want to be our children's biggest cheerleader academically. I want to be the one who is encouraging them as they learn and lifting them up when they are struggling with concepts and not rushing them or pushing them to go on ahead even though I know they aren't ready to move forward just because the education system says I should.
* I want to be there beside our son listening when he finally catches on to reading and can read with confidence and a smile. Until then, I want to be the one smiling at him (even though he is struggling to read) and encouraging him with each little word he utters as he tries his best to read while we sit on the couch together or while he is in my lap "reading" to me.
* I want our children who have learning issues to learn that they will not be defined by them. That yes, they may have struggles and they may learn a little differently than others, but they can still be awesome in whatever God calls them to in life despite these issues. I want to be the one teaching them to have self-esteem and confidence despite the "labels" the world wants to so quickly place upon them because of their learning issues.
* I want to be the one who gets to see them excited as they learn new concepts, who see their eyes sparkle when they finally "get" it and to be their biggest encourager when they've tried something hard and failed.
* I want our middle daughter (who has no learning issues) to be able to work at her own pace and move forward when she is ready and not be held back by "grade levels" or having to keep pace with a classroom full of students who all work at varying levels. Homeschooling gives her that freedom!
* I want to be the one they ask questions to every day (even though sometimes I consider giving them 3 popsicles a day to use to ask questions). I love some of the questions they can come up with as they study and learn though and sometimes we have great laughs together over them or deep, serious conversations as they grasp to understand what their little minds don't understand. And sometimes I wonder how in the world they derived their question and where it came from!
* Sometimes I just want to sit at the table before we open up any homeschool book and pick up a crayon or marker and draw pictures with them, spend time talking to each other and sharing stories and then plaster our refrigerator with the artwork we created together.
* I want our kids to know that having a relationship with Jesus Christ is the single most important decision they will make in their lives. Thankfully, all 3 of our children have now accepted Christ and we begin the process of discipleship and teaching them to share the gospel with their friends.
* I want to teach them to be good wives/husband one day and this comes through Biblical teaching as well as teaching them household skills now. It's not always easy and they don't always do chores the way I want but this is how they learn and I constantly have to remind myself of that as we do chores together each day. It isn't about doing it my way. It's simply about them learning how to do it.
* I simply want to homeschool our children...........and there are a million more reasons why!
We know everyone doesn't agree with that decision. Given that we have 2 children with learning issues, we get a lot of "advice" and "pressure" to put them in public school where they could get additional, specialized help but we truly believe we can give them just what they need at home. We don't have any hard feelings or judge those who go to public school. We used to be one of those families. In fact, my sister is an amazing elementary school teacher who teaches in a Title 1 school and I am constantly in awe of her teaching skills, the way she handles her class, her unique teaching styles, and the impact she is having on those kids lives. However, the Lord has led us to homeschool and He has given us the opportunity to do it and we are so very, very thankful for it. Our children are blessed with great friends at church and in the community and we are joining a homeschool co-op in our area this year also.
My prayer, as a new school year begins, is that whether you homeschool your children or they go to public/private school, that the following prayer cover your children and mine. I'm not sure where this prayer came from but I read it recently in a back to school article and loved it. It reads as follows:
Please guide our children's hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Help them focus and learn this year.
Give them favor with their teachers and peers.
Help them make Godly friends and be a Godly friend.
In Jesus name,