The one RIGHT way to educate your children

Last year, Tate went to a (very affordable, wonderfully diverse) private school for kindergarten. I honestly never thought we’d ever do private school. The year before, living overseas, we worked through a simple homeschool curriculum for preschool. If you asked me before we moved, I’d have told you we’d never, ever homeschool.

This year, we’re homeschooling for first grade. Life’s funny that way.

Kyle and I are both public school products, having attended the same local schools from K through 12th. We both had good experiences, and always assumed we’d default to the same public school route for our own children. Quite honestly, we held to a certain stereotype of homeschoolers. You know the stereotype, too: large families wearing matching jumpers and not letting their kids play with other children. Inept social skills.

In my short stint as a parent, I’ve discovered that there IS one right way to educate your child.
And it’s true for every family, every child.

It’s this: whatever works best for your family.

Nothing less. Our family’s goal in educating our children is to foster a lifelong love of learning. From no particular schooling method will our children be able to learn everything, so the next best thing is to nurture the innate love of discovery and growth born in each of us.

We’ve decided that for our family, the method of education will possibly change each year, with each child. Some years, public school will be best. Other years, an online, independent program might be the best thing.

Factors we’ll consider are each of our children, both of us as parents, and our current life situation. Whatever the method, we’ll approach it thoughtfully, prayerfully, and with a plan. No default mode.

I’ve abandoned any homeschooling stereotype, because I’ve learned it just doesn’t exist. There are too many resources, too many approaches, and too many methods to box a homeschooling family into just one mold. If our family’s culture isn’t wearing denim jumpers, reading only the Bible, and traveling the country for spelling bees, then homeschooling isn’t going to magically turn us into that.

Besides, who cares what the stereotype is? No matter what educational path you choose, it’s still your responsibility, as the parent, to educate your children. You may outsource some subjects to your local public school, but the job is still under your jurisdiction. This year, we’re simply choosing to homeschool as our primary method.

If there’s anything I could encourage you in educating your children, it’s this:

1. Don’t have a default mode. Don’t just assume you’ll do public school, or private, or homeschool. Evaluate each child, each year. Thoughtfully consider your family’s needs annually.

2. Never say “We’ll never _____.” 10 years ago, that would have been homeschooling for me. Five years ago, it would have been private school. We’ve already done both.

A few years ago, I met an elderly American woman who lived in Vietnam during the 60s. When her children became teenagers, they went to boarding school in the Philippines. She told me, “Never say you’ll never do boarding school.”

Honestly, I’m not sure I can say that right now. But I’ve never had teenagers, and who knows where we’ll be at that time. If I’m taking my own advice, then I’d need to not say “Never,” even to sending my teens to boarding school. It’ll all depend on our family’s situation.

It’s still true now, when our kids are little. And it’s true for your kids, too. I look forward to starting the next fork in our family’s educational journey next Monday, when we crack open our books and explore.

Why have you chosen your kids’ method of education right now? I’d love to hear.*

*Note: this is a grace-filled place, and I don’t have much room for nonconstructive criticism of others. I’d rather hear the positives of your choices, not your negative opinions of others’ choices. Ad hominem will be deleted.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. We finished our children’s educational journey 3 years ago when our youngest graduated from high school. We ended up homeschooling the younger two all the way through (K-12), and the oldest was homeschooled 2-12. But we didn’t start out with that plan. When we decided to begin homeschooling we thought it would be for “just a short time”. We evaluated year by year, and in the end, going all the way through just fit our family. We know no other family that did what we did.
    It was a positive experience for our family, partly because we could travel during the school year, and we were able to live overseas for a time, with only a few weeks’ lead time. By high school our kids were quite out of sync with the local public school system; so much so that I don’t know how they would have transferred over to going there without having to repeat a lot of what they had already learned.
    That said, it fit our family well, but that doesn’t mean that it would fit other families. I NEVER tell people that they should homeschool. – I believe that every family needs to make their own decision.

  2. My story could have been yours about 10 years ago…same stereotypes about homeschoolers (actually probably even more since I was a certified teacher!) …and we’ve been homeschooling ever since! 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for putting this out there! This is pretty much the motto that my husband and I have adopted. Our oldest is only 3 1/2 and our youngest just turned 1, so it’s still a little too early to see what their personalities will be like and what might benefit them, but because we’re also in a state of flux living between two countries, we also have 2 different cultural philosophies and numerous public/private school choices within those larger options. It’s very confusing to people who always want to know “What will you do when the girls are school-age?” But we figure we’ll do what’s best for each child (and that may be different for the 2 of them) and we’ll consider our options based on where we are. My oldest spent 5 months in a Montessori preschool in Japan earlier this year and before she started going there I wouldn’t have thought that would meet our needs, but it turns out that she *loved* it and it suited her and I adored the teachers and staff and the price could not be beat….Go figure!

  4. Never say never is exactly right!
    I had no desire to send my oldest son to public preschool last year, but a month after school started we began fostering his newborn baby sister. Because we have 3 other younger children, we decided to enroll him in order to give me a bit of a break. To our delight, he thrived in PreK and I have no fears for him starting Kinder next week. Of course it also helps that my husband teaches at the same school. In an ideal world I would homeschool all 5 of my kids, but I know my weaknesses and even though I’m a former teacher, I don’t know that I could be successful teaching all 5. I have long-term dreams of sending them to a private high school, but in order to afford that I’d probably have to go back to work when my youngest is school-age, which means homeschooling wouldn’t be an option. I just love your advice of taking it year by year and child by child.

    One other consideration for us is for our two African-American daughters to have peers and adult role models who look like them. We live in a racially diverse neighborhood and by sending them to public school they will have the opportunity to “fit in” in ways in which they cannot at home.

  5. Totally planned on homeschooling and did so last year with 3 other moms in a co-op run like a mini-school. This year my husband suddenly got hired on at our church as lead pastor, and I just KNEW i didn’t have grace to do both WELL. In addition to that, our daughter grew up so much this past year that I suddenly had peace that she could go to school and – by the grace of God – be a positive influence to those around her. I can’t tell who is more excited now – me or her! Our current motto is – public school and make it better! We’ll see what next year holds. 🙂

  6. i myself was a product of both private and public schools. when my mom experimented with homeschooling (part of kindergarten) it wasn’t a good fit. i have a teaching credential, but am planning on homeschooling my 2 kids (ages 4 1/2 and 1 1/2). i just feel too protective of my kid’s education to give it away to someone else, but i totally agree that each family has to do what God is telling them to do and that parents are still responsible for their kids’ education, even if they go to school. i do like how much homeschooling has changed and there are so many more resources/support groups now. some of my friends assume that to do it yourself (instead of through a charter school or something) that you have to develop all the curriculum yourself and the complete opposite is true: so many ready-made options out there that it can be overwhelming. Good luck, Tsh!

  7. I totally, totally agree. I also think it’s important to be mindful of working through (and sometimes living with) the problems of negatives of a school/learning situation rather than quickly jumping ship to something else. Someone I know very well was continually shuffled from private school to home school to public school and back again because his parents were never happy with any one situation and continually changing their minds about “what was best.” As you can imagine, this constant change was bad on a number of levels (socially as well as educationally). Anyway, I totally agree that each child’s education should be considered individually, I just wanted to throw out the idea that it’s also okay to choose an education route (whatever it is) and just decide to stick with it (unless it become entirely unbearable, of course!) and accept that no one path is always going to be perfect.

  8. I never thought I’d homeschool. I said so many times. And yet, I start homeschooling my daughter on Monday!
    Thanks for the post. 🙂

  9. I wish you well with homeschooling! We’re on our seventh year and feel privileged to have the opportunity to school our children! Many blessings to you!

  10. I don’t like traditional education, I think they deny children freedom and don’t encourage curiosity, both very important in learning. My daughter was in a traditional school (1st grade) she hated it, she was supposed to be quiet, listen to the teacher, read and complete books for HOURS! I moved her to a Montessori school, now she likes going to school, she tells me everyday that she “had fun” at school and talks about everything she studied. I don’t agree 100% with Montessori (maybe 90%) I also like some Waldorf things but I think the perfect school, the perfect education doesn’t exist and will never do because each child is unique.

  11. The New Me says:

    I really believe that just to be able to live with ourselves, we need to do whatever is best for each child for the season of life we’re in…Even if I’m convinced that homeschooling (for example) is the best route to a good education for my child, there may come a season when we decide it’s not the best option for one or more of our children for a short time…or an extended time!

    I know some people who say “you shouldn’t homeschool unless you’re ‘called’ to do it.” But that’s not how I see it. I wouldn’t say I feel “called” to homeschool, I just believe that for now, homeschooling is the best way that I can fulfill my God-given obligations as a parent. That may not be the best way for you…and someday, it may not be the best way for me.

    The important thing, I believe, is for us to invest the time/energy to seriously consider the question of what’s truly the BEST…and then do what it takes to give that to our children! I get sad when it seems like parents are unwilling to make the sacrifice…or when they don’t feel like they’re able to give what they believe is BEST to their children. The two things necessary are being willing to sacrfice to give our children the best…and trusting that God will provide to fill in the gaps.

    So, I agree with you Tsh, and would remind us all that this “right” way is seasonal for us all!

  12. Love this post! You’re totally right, the only right way to educate your child is the way that’s right for your family/child. Every child learns differently and thrives in different environments.

  13. I’m laughing and nodding. SO TRUE! I ALWAYS end up doing exactly what I said I would never do 🙂 As a mom of 4, I am impressed that you have realized what it took me so many years and children to realize! I , on the other hand, would LOVE to homeschool and my children want nothing to do with it/me. So far, whether in public or private they do great without me 🙂 I am considering teaching other children – funny, right? Just like childbirth: No way is better than the other. A healthy, happy child is the best outcome 🙂 The universe has shown me time and time again – never judge.

  14. My daughter is 3. I was hell-bent on homeschooling, and I even ordered a preschool homeschool curriculum (which is mostly toys, by the way, but a lot of fun to play with). We’re military and I just *knew* that homeschooling would be for us. Then we moved. We live in a great area, a great school district, and my daughter started saying “I want to go to school!” Seeing how social she is, I decided to check out preschools. She now goes to a private, Christian preschool 3 days a week and is thriving. That’s not to say that we won’t homeschool someday, but for now, this works for us. I really appreciate the “do what works best for your family” comment, because I’m sick of the criticism and negativity that people throw out!!

  15. I think the most important lessons here are never saying never and evaluating every choice for every child every year.

    When it came time to take my 2 year old to preschool, I assumed the one 3 blocks from our house in a brand new building with a brand new playground would be best. She tensed up from the beginning like she couldn’t wait to find the exit. I also said I’d never pay an (undisclosed) amount for preschool. But, when we toured the Reggio Emilia school my daughter now attends, she let go of my hand for the first time in her life and confidently started exploring. They brought out a side of her I doubt I ever would have on my own, nor that other preschool methods could have.

    What’s even more amazing is that they brought out a different side of me… a dimension of my parenting that I’d not felt confident enough to explore out of fear on whether or not it would work. As it turned out, their mellow what happens happens approach was something missing from our ship-shape household and learning to embrace that has allowed me to give my little one the chance to create more of her own space in the home/world we share together. If I’d stayed close minded or insisted on location and price I would have missed out on a very special place and time in our lives.

  16. What a great post. That is so true, we are the ultimate educators for our kids. I can identify with the “default” method. Until recently my default method was for my daughter to attend an all-girl school in our area. That was the only school I was considering, and then it dawned on me. I had to evaluate her and make a decision for September, she still going to a private school, but for boys and girls.

  17. I said the same things! Except for me it was “never public school”. I had very bad experiences there but my 10 year 0ld was there for Kindergarten and 1st grade! Honestly, she may still be there except for life changes. A) she had medical issues which make homeschooling best for her and B) I can work from now and C) She (and her sister who went to private school for a year) are doing FABULOUSLY. We are now expecting a third child and tell everyone (because they all ask) that we don’t know how he/she will be schooled. It totally depends on where we are in life: financially, geographically and emotionally.

  18. Tsh – I know I’m a little late in commenting on this post but I’m just getting thru some of my google reader backlog. I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated and enjoyed your tone in this post. A breath of fresh air! As for your question, we public school. We have been blessed so far but try to remain open to whatever God has for each new year.

  19. It’s funny that in general, we as parents know that what’s best for our child changes from time to time- yet we don’t often think of schooling in that context.

    Last year I homeschooled my 12 year old; this year, he’s having a great time at (never say never, right?) a boarding school. That’s was best for him right now, and I’m so happy we didn’t look at the choice to switch as a failure.

  20. We are long-time homeschoolers, but we know several families who have a child homeschooling, a child doing online charter school, and a child attending public or private school, or some variation thereof. It really is about doing what’s best for your child and your family.

  21. Fabulous thoughts on schooling. As a mother of five children, ages 10 to 17, I used to think there was one right way and one right school and if I didn’t figure it out, my children would be doomed. I have now had seasons of homeschooling, and have my children enrolled in both public and private schools. Regardless of the learning environment, we are their primary teachers. That is the real lesson.

  22. We were considering the possibilities and the options were wide before us when our then 1 year child had been so sick his first year and a 1/2 that the specialists pulled him and his older brother from all nursery & preschool options and told us to home school. We have been able to gradually broaden their lives over the years and they are very socially active teenagers. But we had 3 months in 8th grade where he was basically “in the hospital at home”, too.

    #1 is a magnetic leader who is a mild extrovert, did one day a week school for a
    few years, has dual enrolled, gotten some amazing scholarships and is looking forward to starting college 16 hours from home in a few weeks. #2 is a strong introvert, incredibly bright but with some learning disabilities in addition to his health problems and is heading into 10th. He attended 1 day a week school in middle school, but struggled too much in 9th and is at home and gets some tutoring help. #3 is going to be in 6th this year. She is incredibly bright, mildly introverted and highly artistic. She has no desire to go to even the one day a week classes her brothers attended in middle school, because it would take too much time. She finishes off all of her school subjects quickly and well is a year ahead in some and spends the rest of the day involved in artistic pursuits or playing with a friends. #4 is a preschooler, he is highly active, extremely extroverted and incredibly mischievous. Not sure what learning environment will be best for him, but since most of it will be after # 2 is grown all options are available. I have the feeling it will involve lots of field trips, swimming team sports and social opportunities! :-D. Just have to make sure he knows school can’t happen on the peak of the roof! He tried that idea before he was 2! ;o)

  23. Tamra Krohn says:

    Thank you.
    I thought I was a little batty. Each school year we’ve done something a little different. It is so affirming to see I’m not the only one.
    It’s hard to go against the norm and do what works best for your family.
    God bless you and your school year!

  24. Please take into consideration that children need stability and need to feel secure to perform better. So I do not agree to the point that you might change the education plan every year.
    Wish you the best

  25. how long for the home shoolling,what is the different from the les private?

  26. can all poor students who is very clever get the schoolarship?

  27. I think it depend on the character of the child wheater they must join in the home scholling or school,some things nine if the student study in the school the can get and trained social life

  28. I hava an experience for my neghtbor’child when she studies in home schooling it seem bettter,but it apposite with my aunty her daughter prefer to go to the public school where she can meet with all of her friends

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