What?! You mean there are people who actually do that? Yes. There are.
In fact, globally, homeschoolers are not a homogeneous group. There are families that homeschool one child while sending another elsewhere for their education. Some school them at home all the way through high school and some choose to encourage their children’s education through outside mentors, teachers and classes. There are benefits to every way depending on your family make-up, tenacity, personalities, health, locations, hardships, goals, freedoms, worldview, needs, and support. But when a family comes to a point of wanting or needing to stop their homeschooling efforts there is little support out there for them.
Families who choose to desist schooling at home are not failures. They have not “given up.” They count the cost of stopping just as sincerely as they counted the cost of beginning in the first place.
I know this, because we are one of those families. In the fall, my oldest son whom I’ve homeschooled “from the beginning” will be going to a small charter school that, I believe, will challenge and enrich him in fabulous ways. Our younger two boys will continue to learn at home. There is a peace about how our family is developing and the opportunities God is giving us. But I feel a bit of the sting from the homeschooling world for our choice. Even so, I’m proceeding in the way I believe my family should go.
If you plan to stop homeschooling, I am here to support you as you find your new legs. Here are a few tips to think through as you process all of your thoughts and emotions.
1. Give attention to your hesitations; explore them. God speaks to us in all different kinds of ways. If you honestly can’t say you love homeschooling anymore, if you’re consistently frustrated, if you’ve tried changing curriculums, plugging into a support group, exploring your family’s learning styles, taking care of yourself, and if you’ve held onto homeschooling loosely so that God can do with it what he will, then keep listening. If the thought of doing this for one more year inwardly gives you pause, those hesitations are telling you something.
2. Find a new solution that meets all of your family’s needs. Will the new structure cater to your child’s learning style and personality? How will the schedule disrupt your family’s day-to-day routine? What adjustments and preparations will need to be made if you’re making a change? Consider everyone’s needs (including your own). If you feel like you’re sacrificing someone’s needs for the needs of another, keep considering other alternatives. This is a whole-family shift. Don’t force it, but welcome the change when it reveals itself.
3. Let go of the voices in your head that said you were “supposed” to do this forever. The only mandate we really have is to love. Only you can know what God specifically wants for your family. God will often move us in different directions and take us through hard experiences. But if we stay in an ideology out of fear of the unknown then we remain slaves to that ideology. We should be constantly re-evaluating every year whether we do so with the intent of stopping or not. If stopping is where you peacefully land, then bravely let it be.
4. Make a choice you can justify. Not only will you have to live with your choice but you’ll also find yourself answering the new voices that will ask, “Why?” Let your rationale for stopping be as sound as your reasons were for starting. Include your kids in this so that you understand each other’s needs. Homeschooling served its purpose for a time. Don’t be ashamed of that. Starting in a new direction should be done so with a resolute foundation.
5. Consider who you are outside of being a homeschool mom. If you are not going to continue at all, you will encounter a mammoth identity shift. Be comfortable, even excited, about who you will become. No one is encouraging you to abandon your children. Even as we daily walk beside them we are always living out our God-given identities, both as their mother and as His daughter or son. Continue confidently in your own journey of “becoming.” Your children will continue to take notice.
6. Stay involved. Stay really, really involved in your child’s education. Continue to be supportive, cheer your child on, help, pray and serve. Studies are clear that children whose parents are highly engaged in their education will have greater success.
Remember, you are not giving up; you are just changing paths.
It is my prayer that these thoughts would be well received by those who are desperately looking for grace in their decision. I pray that it spurs all of us on to encourage one another toward love and good deeds. I wish you peace in your next steps.
Debra Anderson has three sons ages 11 and younger. Her passions are education, mentoring, her husband, writing, church ministry and missional living — not in that order. She has her seminary Masters degree in Christian Education, is married to her pastor-husband of 16 years, and resides in their newish home in Denver, CO. In spite of moves between four different states, she has always home educated her boys — even on the hard days. She maintains a blog at www.emergent-homeschool.blogspot.com.