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A letter to the world (why we homeschool)

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About Shaun

Shaun Groves writes about the ups and downs of fatherhood and how he manages to stay sane in spite of (or maybe because of?) being a dad. Shaun is a dad of four and travels the world singing and speaking on behalf of Compassion International. He is also his household’s reigning Candyland champion.

Becky and I have four children. We’re often asked why three of them are homeschooled, so last summer I wrote the following answer, from a dad’s perspective:

We sat on the bank of the creek talking about middle school. I suddenly noticed her – really noticed her, took her in.

I was shocked at how her cherub toddler limbs have slimmed and stretched overnight into the beautiful girl beside me. And we remembered together why we chose not to put her on that bus six years ago and why we’ve now decided it’s time.

When Gabriella was five, her character was, according to psychologists with letters after their names that I’ve not earned, wet cement.

A child at five is still defining her ethics: What is right and what is wrong? What are the consequences of both? Does this change when no one’s watching me? Does any of this matter to me at all? Why?

By the time Gabriella was four, our yard had become the preferred gathering place for kids on our street. Popsicles and shade trees and Becky’s hospitality helped. We got to know a dozen kids very well.

A very few of them regularly behaved in ways we wouldn’t want our kids to. Seven year-olds hurling four letter words during a heated game of four square in the driveway. Fist fights. Repaying hurt with hurt. A five year-old describing a sex scene from a movie he recently watched with Dad.

I wanted my hands, and not theirs, in the wet cement for most of the day.

I wanted to be the primary author of the message she would become to the world.

I wanted her to be the kind of person who would reach down and help someone up.

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I wanted her to be merciful, to be a woman who will lead and comfort the small and scared.

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I wanted her to play, pretend, create, imagine. Every day. To pan for gold and follow maps to hidden treasures. To be childish. To be outside.

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I wanted her to ask questions freely – How do sea shells get in a creek? – and be rewarded for it. To value curiosity.

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I wanted her to try hard things without feeling like a failure if she failed. To climb high without quitting – to exceed her own expectations.

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I wanted her to learn about boys and body changes and sex from us and not a movie or a friend first.

I wanted her to see conflict and resolution.

I wanted her to practice her faith, gratitude, generosity, prayer, kindness, compassion – with me.

I wanted to be her definition of a man. Because one day she may choose to spend her life with one.

girl-standing-in-creek

I wanted to be the primary influence in her life for just a little while longer. Gabriella needed me to.

And because I travel so many weekends out of the year – when most dads have the most hours of influence on their kids – we educated Gabriella at home together. But we made this decision with the hope that one day, when the cement dried a bit, when the most important messages had been etched into her by us, she would leave us to mark others.

“…so that when you go to school for the first time tomorrow,” I told her, “you’ll be the kind of person that makes it a better place to be. And you have definitely become that kind of person.”

Today, I hope the middle school down the street is a little bit brighter. (Fingers crossed.)

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Comments

  1. As a homeschooled girl who panned for gold and followed treasure maps into my teen years, I am touched by this piece.

    My daughter is 9 months old. I have some time to decide about whether I’ll homeschool her. But this piece makes me want to. Beautiful.

    Carly, from creating-mom.com

  2. Thank you for this. I’m currently thinking a lot about homeschooling. My little girl is still a baby, but homeschooling in Britain is not as common so there is a lot of research to be done on my part! You put words to some of the reasons why my Husband and I want to homeschool and it makes me feel that all the effort will pay off.
    Jessica´s latest post: {Be Inspired} Yield by Homeland

  3. What a great read, just beautiful and I am sure your gal will shine and make her class a better place!!! I love the relationships that homeschool families have and time together is such a great builder… Our family is close and it is thanks to hours and hours of spending time with each other all day every day. Our kids have been on so many adventurous adventures together, though we have never thought of panning for gold (!!!), more like built kontiki rafts!!! My kids are really each other’s best friends and that is exactly how I would like them to grow up – a team together, ready for any adventures that might come their way. They may not approach the world with the same solutions as everyone else and they may have some unconventional problem solving techniques… but they will have each other and that has to count for a whole lot!!!
    se7en´s latest post: Se7en + 1 Colorful Clipboards…

  4. How wonderful to hear a homeschooling perspective from a loving father. We don’t homeschool because my husband and I have discerned that it’s not the right choice for our family at this time. We are open to it at some point. There are certainly many benefits to homeschooling, which are communicated beautifully in this post. Thanks!
    Kristen N.´s latest post: DIY: Art History-Inspired Halloween Costumes!

  5. What beautiful intentions for you family!

    One point that stood out to me and I’d like to delve into is your wish for your children to learn about body changes/sex/love interests, etc. from you rather than other kids. And you note earlier in your article that it’s the older kids who bring the stories, etc. As someone who has both homeschooled and had kids in school, I’d note that homeschoolers tend to be more multi-age in general. When our community of homeschooling families gets together it is a pack of kids aged 3-16. One of the things I love about it is the organic way it represents how we as a society normally interact — without deference to age groups. But when your six year old is hanging out with pre-teens/teens (homeschooled or not) they are also going to overhear about crushes/body changes, etc.

    We have a 9, 6 and 3 year old and while our goal is not always to have them hear it from us first (though I’d like to think this has been the case so far) — it’s more focused on being aware of what the kids are talking about and helping to arm our kids with knowledge and perspective so they can navigate any territory/topic/feelings they come across in their journey.
    Hillary´s latest post: Why I Chose Midwives (Video)

  6. I love your post. It is absolutely beautiful. It is important for us to be the best influence on our children…hopefully, they will take what they’ve learned and make the world a better place.
    Lisa´s latest post: Single to the Glory of God {Miguel’s Missionary Moment}

  7. I have never considered homeschooling my son…until now. What a sweet and touching piece. It makes me want to make the decision right this minute. He’s 2.5 and is attending the sweetest Montessori preschool, which I feel very comfortable with, but after that, I’m terrified. What will he learn from other kids in elementary school? Wet cement, I love it. Thank you for providing this extremely down to earth prospective.
    Becky´s latest post: What I’m Reading: Ethan’s Halloween Addition

  8. I loved this post, but I just wanted to add another perspective. I am a parent in a household where both parents work outside the home, and it would be very difficult for us to homeschool. I have struggled with public schools for awhile now, but my kids are already at an age where they do not want to be homeschooled- they want to be at school with their friends and not be different. (I have a daughter in high school, one in middle school, and a 3rd grade son, along with 3 other children not in school yet.) I suppose I could try to homeschool my younger children, but like I said, it would be very difficult with our work situation (although, I still consider it).

    As I was thinking about school and all the issues with it, the thought came to me that maybe, just maybe, it is good that my children are not homeschooled. They are still taught values in the home, and when they go to school, they are the example, the bright shining light to other children that might need it. I am not bragging that my kids are perfect (far from it), but they are raised with Christian values in a two parent home and many kids do not have that these days. I have received compliments on their behavior and their ability to befriend children that might need it from teachers and parents. The thought that maybe my kids could be an example and help other kids has led me to teach them values and what our beliefs are with greater resolve and commitment.

    So, even if your kids are not able to be homeschooled, remember that your influence at home is far-reaching and important. They can still be molded, and they might even help to mold others.

    • Absolutely! Thank you for this added perspective, Jessica. It was beyond the scope of this article to delve into but I wholeheartedly believe public school is a great fit for many children, many families, in many communities. We all have to discern what’s best for who and where we are. Great job doing just that!
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Love Does Not Read Minds

  9. What you have written is beautiful and my sentiments match yours, but may I just say that I’m a little tired of these “homeschool is better than public school” posts. Because even though it is not explicitly stated, it is always implied that public school is an inferior method of teaching children. I can tell you unequivocally that my children have experienced every positive impact you listed in this post and none of the implied negatives. As a stay-at-home mom, I anxiously await their return every day, so I can hear them tell me all about the things they learned, the kids (from many different incomes, ethnicities, backgrounds) they interacted with, the variety of teaching styles they are exposed to, etc. I won’t pretend that there aren’t moments that make me uncomfortable, but I see those as teachable moments that encourage real honest discussions with my kids and make them better able to make the decisions that will lead to them becoming the godly, caring, generous adults I long for them to be. I think homeschooling is a great option for those who choose it (four of my nieces and nephews are homeschooled), but can we refrain from making it out to be better than and instead describe it as simply another option?

    • Erin, I do share your feelings, and sometimes I also struggle when I read articles like this, even though I truly appreciate learning about this and hearing each family’s perspective. I know it is most likely not the writer’s intent to say that homeschool is better for everyone, but for me it’s hard to look at my own choice to have my kids attend “traditional school” and not feel a bit guilty. Anyway thank you for sharing your experience, it is a blessing for me to know that it is still possible to have a significant impact on our kids who go to school. I think it’s all about the intentionality and relationship we build with our kids, regardless of specific educational choices.

      • Thank you, Emily. I especially appreciate your idea of “intentionality”. When I said I wait for my kids to come home, I realize it sounds like I’m never there at school. In fact, I volunteer in my kids’ classes every week, in their reading groups, I drop off and pick up my kids every day, we stay after school and they play with their schoolmates as I talk to the other moms, etc. I am very intentional in my role as “school mom”. Another mom I know recently wrote a blog post about the impact she tries to have as a volunteer lunchroom helper in our school. In addition to dishing out food, she dishes out prayers for the kids, hugs, lessons on politeness, she listens to their woes and comforts them, helps mediate conflicts, etc. Not only is she impacting her own kids, but she’s impacting many others as well. It’s all about intentionality.

    • Erin, I apologize if what I wrote came across as an argument against one form of education – especially public schools. My sister and mom and many members of my extended family teach in public schools.

      Parenting is hard enough without feeling like we’re being condemned for our choices along the way. This article is a look at why one family chose to homeschool. That’s all. A different choice is not bad…just different.

      Hope that helps. Thank for the honest feedback.
      Shaun Groves´s latest post: Love Does Not Read Minds

  10. You don’t know how much I love this! As a mother of 3 girls and starting my first year of homeschooling my oldest (age 4), I am glad to read this today. Wet cement is a wonderful way to remember exactly what I am doing each day.

  11. What a wonderful post! Our oldest is not yet 2 but everyday I ponder the notion of homeschooling vs public school. Both my fiance and I work full-time jobs at the moment but insights, such as this post, affirm my fight for figuring out how we’ll be able to live on one income (or have a home-based job) to make homeschooling possible once she is ready.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. I hope it is a wonderful experience for her. But if your goal is to shelter her from those children middle school is the wrong time to dump her back into public school. High school would probably be a better time. Middle schoolers are dealing with so much angst. As a teacher, I love the idea of homeschool when done for the right reasons. But those same kids are still there dad, even more mature.

  13. I loved this post a lot. I homeschool my three kids because my oldest was bullied a lot in school. Plus when I did attempt to put my kids in a public school, the teachers were not able to teach because the kids were so unruly!!

    I also want my kids to grow up to be respectable individuals. Yes, we do Bible studies and teach about character as well. My kids are well rounded for the most part too as a result of being home with us all the time.
    Crystal Green´s latest post: Online Music Education

  14. This made me cry just a little bit. It is hard at school, kids are mean, thoughtless, quick to judge and are just as stressed out as adults with their activities.

    I volunteer a whole bunch at our school and see the meaness with my own eyes. I recall when I first started teaching many moons ago that when an adult was near by the kids generally stopped acting out. But now, it makes no difference. It is so very sad and even sadder when you see the hurt in your own child’s eyes who knows what is right and what is wrong and goes to school in survival mode and can even explain to you not to worry mommy. ” I can turn off their voices now, I am really growing up.”.
    I have great regrets that I did not home school at least Kindergarten. I still had problems with depression and had hoped that sending Johnny to school would give me the time to heal. I backfired but even amongst all these storms and tears and growing pains he still helps older ladies open the door, wants to give extra money in the church basket and longs for a baby brother and sister to read to at night.

    My word, I will cut this short. But I am just so moved.

    In Peace,
    Pam
    Pam List´s latest post: Three Simple Tasks to Help Moms Get Things Done

  15. Such a beautiful post! It’s so refreshing to hear a dad’s perspective; especially such a heartfelt one. I’m sure your little girl will be a shining light at school and others will, no doubt, benefit from her positive experiences. My little girl is just 11 months old and already I feel myself prickle when I think about her exposure to negative outside influences. I brought up the topic of home schooling with my husband recently and to be honest I felt silly raising it because it is so uncommon here in Sydney. We pretty much dismissed it with very little consideration but after reading your post I will do some research so we make a more informed decision. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Concur with the sentiments previously posted about the beauty of hearing from the father’s perspective.
    Nikki’s comment of the need to shelter your children at least through the middle school years is spot-on! We provided our’s that shelter during puberty in the 70′s and 80′s by investing in a private Christian school for the oldest and home school for the youngest. The continued building of strong relationships during those few years between child and parent were without parallel.
    Your cement is not set by the fifth or sixth grade.
    Sam´s latest post: Our newest edition to the Little Kicker Family!

  17. What a wonderful perspective from a father’s point of view. So important. Thank you!

  18. Shaun,

    I love this post. As a homeschooled child who’s parent’s maybe didn’t always get it right I still want to homeschool my kids, and my husband agrees. However, we get so much push back from our extended family and friends/community. Apparently being a Dean’s List, college degree holding professional, manager for a worldwide organization before I resigned to stay home with my son is not proof enough that all homeschooled kids are not “backwards, illiterate, unsocially developed hillbillies”. (almost a direct quote from a family member who shall remain nameless) I’d love to be allowed to quote some of your statements on my blog (https://overseeingthecareofmyhoushold.wordpress.com/) with your permission.
    Thank you – @kitawalker

  19. Shaun,

    I am wondering if the transition to Middle School has been everything you hoped it would be? My daughter went to public school through 2nd grade, and honestly, the other children were the least of my concerns. I volunteered copious amounts of time there and found that most young children really desire to do what is right. Sure, there were some things my daughter learned that I would have preferred to have delayed or handled myself first, but my daughter also learns some social lessons through homeschool groups that need to be explained in a larger context (e.g., if you trick-or-treat, it most certainly DOES NOT mean you are evil).

    Our Middle School, on the other hand, worries me more than elementary school ever did from a peer-related standpoint. And it has less to do with how my daughter treats others (she KNOWS), but how others might treat her and the pressures and ostracization she might face by following her upbringing. My fear, and perhaps it is unwarranted, is that all the time spent building self confidence and a knowledge that you can do anything if you work at it hard enough, could easily be eroded, especially by girls conditioned to eat each other for lunch.

    Did your family do anything above and beyond the years of molding and guiding up to that point to prepare your daughter for potential pitfalls? Did you discuss a plan for sharing and assessing these problems if they arose?

    Thanks so much. I enjoyed your post.

    Cindy

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