Our Decision to Homeschool, part one

{I wrote this post several weeks ago in my journal, but finally felt comfortable enough to share it since, as of yesterday, we are officially homeschooling!  I guess I had to get past cold feet before I could type this one up.  I will write a separate update on how it’s going so far soon!  For now, enjoy some “first day of school” pictures and part one of my list of homeschooling FAQs.  It’s long, but hopefully for those who might be interested in or thinking of homeschooling, it might be helpful.  I have a few other questions I’ll address in a separate post as well.  And please forgive my sporadic posting while we adjust to this new way of life!}

As most of you know, Zion has reached school age this year!  I remember when he was born thinking of the year 2012, when he would start kindergarten, and it felt so far away.  Well, here we are, the adventure is beginning for our firstborn, and what an adventure it will be!

After so much thought, discussion, wavering back and forth…years of it in fact…we’ve made the final decision to homeschool Zion.  It’s hard to know where to begin when explaining the whys, hows, and what fors, so I thought I would take some common questions I’ve been asked about this and respond to them. 

Homeschooling: The FAQ’s

1.Why did you choose homeschooling?

This is, of course, the biggest question of all and kind of complicated to answer.  To start, whatever decisions we’ve made regarding our children, we always begin with asking ourselves, what are our priorities as a family?  What principals and values are most important to us?  When we start with our family’s “mission”, so to speak, then it seems easier to align our choices within that framework.  Some of our top priorities as a family are:

  • building a sense of togetherness and staying connected to our kids as they grow up
  • instilling in our kids a strong faith and teaching them to love and pursue justice and mercy
  • maintaining open conversations about the “tough” stuff of life on an age-appropriate level (i.e. inequality in society, gender issues, race issues, etc.)
  • promoting a lifelong love of learning and pursuit of truth and knowledge

These might sound like a collection of lofty goals, but I think it’s essential to talk about what you want your family to aspire to collectively.  For us, it gives us a sense that we’re all in this together and is the foundation of our family’s culture.  I love the thought that one day our kids will grow up and talk about what we did in our family and they will see the threads of these goals woven through their lives.

So…bringing that back to homeschooling:  we feel that at this point in time, homeschooling seems to fit in the best with these priorities and values.  Having said that, we are definitely going to be making this decision on a year by year basis, as well as basing it on Zion’s needs as a child and student (and eventually Phoenix and the baby, of course).

Speaking of, that was another huge part of the “why”: Zion is a very self-motivated learner, but is also a pretty typical high-energy kid too.  We knew he could handle a non-traditional school setting where he will have more freedom to get outside and be active rather than just sitting in a desk the majority of the day.  He has always thrived and learned so well at home, and once we balance that with his extracurricular activities, I think he’s going to get a very well-rounded experience this year.

Finally, we are NOT homeschooling to “shelter” our kids from “the world”, because we hate public schools, or any other restrictive or fear-filled reason.  This is a highly personal decision to make, and if those are another family’s reasons, we wouldn’t judge them for that…but they just aren’t ours.

2. Do you feel qualified to teach?

If this is a polite way of asking am I qualified to teach, I guess the official answer would be no—I don’t have a teaching degree and only took a few early childhood classes in college.  BUT, Paul and I both have always been good students and still enjoy learning to this day, so we’re motivated and ready for the challenge!  (And he actually is a certified teacher, although I’ll be the primary teacher at home)

Though it sounds cliche, I do believe parents are the experts on their own children, and I think with the right resources to help us, we’ll do just fine.

3. Is Zion excited about homeschooling?  Does he want to do this?

Yes and no.  He’s excited about being home with me for another year.  He’s excited about the things he’ll be learning and the activities we have planned.  He’s excited about starting school and being a big kid.

On the flipside, he’s told me over and over again he wants to ride the school bus, eat lunch in a cafeteria, and carry a backpack to school.  Anytime he hears about a kindergarten kick-off event, he feels sad.  So we’ve talked a lot about those feelings and have been open about the pros and cons of both traditional school and homeschooling.

That being said, we also feel that we couldn’t base this decision on his feelings alone.  Being the adults in his life, it was our responsibility to make the decision in his best interest, even if it might cause him a little pain at first.  I think at the end of the day he’s going to really enjoy this style of education!

4. What style or philosophy of homeschooling will you follow?

This is another big question!  When I initially began researching the idea of homeschooling, around 3 years ago, I was overwhelmed at what I found.  There are as many styles or philosophies as there are types of families.  I already find myself getting defensive on behalf of all homeschooling families when I hear people lumping us all together, because really, how can that be done?

Many different philosophies appealed to us, but over time two stood out above the rest.  The primary one is the Classical education philosophy.  Rather than attempt to summarize this philosophy in my own words, I’m going to include a quotation I came across in my reading on it:

Classical education is language-focused; learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos, and television)…

A classical education, then, has two important aspects. It is language-focused. And it follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of facts, and finally equipped to express conclusions.

But that isn’t all. To the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. Astronomy (for example) isn’t studied in isolation; it’s learned along with the history of scientific discovery, which leads into the church’s relationship to science and from there to the intricacies of medieval church history. The reading of the Odyssey leads the student into the consideration of Greek history, the nature of heroism, the development of the epic, and man’s understanding of the divine.

This is easier said than done. The world is full of knowledge, and finding the links between fields of study can be a mind-twisting task. A classical education meets this challenge by taking history as its organizing outline — beginning with the ancients and progressing forward to the moderns in history, science, literature, art and music…

The classical education is, above all, systematic — in direct contrast to the scattered, unorganized nature of so much secondary education. This systematic, rigorous study has two purposes.

Rigorous study develops virtue in the student. Aristotle defined virtue as the ability to act in accordance to what one knows to be right. The virtuous man (or woman) can force himself to do what he knows to be right, even when it runs against his inclinations. The classical education continually asks a student to work against his baser inclinations (laziness, or the desire to watch another half hour of TV) in order to reach a goal — mastery of a subject.

Systematic study also allows the student to join what Mortimer Adler calls the “Great Conversation” — the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages. Much modern education is so eclectic that the student has little opportunity to make connections between past events and the flood of current information. “The beauty of the classical curriculum,” writes classical schoolmaster David Hicks, “is that it dwells on one problem, one author, or one epoch long enough to allow even the youngest student a chance to exercise his mind in a scholarly way: to make connections and to trace developments, lines of reasoning, patterns of action, recurring symbolisms, plots, and motifs.”

Excerpted from Susan Wise Bauer’s (author of The Well-Trained Mind) article, "What is Classical Education?"

What really confirmed this choice for us is our desire for our children to learn Latin and Greek from an early age, along with a Modern Language, it’s approach to learning history in chronological sequence, and finally it’s emphasis on learning the best of culture (music, art, etc.) alongside academics.  When it comes to education, add these things to the list of what our family values and what we hope to pass on to our children! 

The second philosophy we really appreciate is the Charlotte Mason method.  Again, I’m including a great summary I found online rather than trying to explain it myself:

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centered around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.

By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that atmosphere makes up one-third of a child’s education.

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits — and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.

For example, Charlotte’s students used living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books are usually written in story form by one author who has a passion for the subject. A living book makes the subject “come alive.”

She taught spelling by using passages from great books that communicate great ideas rather than just a list of words.

She encouraged spending time outdoors, interacting with God’s creation firsthand and learning the living ways of nature…

Many homeschoolers have adopted her philosophy and methods as they seek to educate the whole child, not just his or her mind.

Taken from the website simplycharlottemason.com

I particularly love her emphasis on “living” books rather than the use of textbooks, her respect of children as persons, and the nature study aspects of the method.

I think these two styles complement each other nicely and will provide a really good foundation in these early years.

Most likely we’ll continue to do a fair amount of “unschooling” as well, which is basically when you follow the child’s interests and create lessons or check out books and activities based on those interests.  Zion never attended a formal preschool, but we’ve spent the past few years “unschooling” mostly, visiting the library frequently to see what he’d like to learn about and introducing letters, numbers, reading and writing at his own pace. 

I will stop there for now, but in my next post on this decision I’ll share what curriculum we’re using and how we plan on “making it all work”.  In the meantime, feel free to ask questions if you have any in the comments below or email me! 

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#decision to homeschool

#classical education

#charlotte mason





  1. imperfectbird posted this