March 2021 – Weirdos. Socially awkward. Isolated. Unprepared for the real world. These are a few of the countless stereotypes and preconceived notions people have about homeschooled children and their families.
It would shock many to learn of the prominent figures throughout history who were home educated. Numerous presidents including Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, were taught at home. Statesmen such as Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and Daniel Webster were too.
Joining the ranks are many military leaders, U.S. Supreme Court justices, brilliant scientists, artists, religious leaders, inventors, composers, writers, educators, and entertainers.
Many high achievers in the public eye today were taught at home – Tim Tebow, Venus and Serena Williams, and Condoleeza Rice.
In recent years interest and participation in educating children at home have increased.
Dr. Brian Ray, president of National Homeschool Education Research Institute (NHERI), noted in a March 2020 article, “The nationwide homeschool population has been growing at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past several years.”
In mid-May 2020, American Federation for Children shared results of a recent national poll revealing over 40% of parents were “more likely to enroll their child in a homeschool, neighborhood homeschool co-op, or virtual school once the [COVID-19] lockdowns are over.”
Parents considering moving in that direction may find the following testimonies and resources encouraging.
A number of employees at American Family Association are currently home educating. They were more than happy to share their experiences.
Not all families enter into homeschooling the same way or for the same reasons. Hosts of AFR’s Airing the Addisons, Wil and Meeke Addison, for example, did not set out to home educate their six children.
“We served as domestic missionaries to secular colleges and universities before we married and even a short time after marriage. With a missionary mindset, we felt we were sending our children to public school to win their lost classmates to the Lord,” said the Addisons.
They lived in a first-rate school district that employed a good number of Christian teachers. But they soon realized that teachers were not the problem.
“Our children were being adversely affected by peer-to-peer learning,” added Meeke. “Our girls were coming home and saying things we knew did not come from us, and we started to see our girls being discipled by their classmates and following in their ways.”
“They spent most of their day in school so the trade-off was that we did not have as much time with them,” Wil said. “A main feature of discipleship is time, and God provided an opportunity allowing us to remain employed and homeschool simultaneously. We saw this as a blessing and a charge for us not only to educate our children academically, but first and foremost to disciple them in the ways of the Lord.”
Not all homeschooling situations look the same. There is no cookie-cutter plan families must follow. A common misconception is that one parent must leave the workforce and stay home to teach their children.
But there are many ways to homeschool. Jessica and Ben Webb know this well. They both have full-time jobs, yet still manage homeschooling their three children.
“Grandparents can get involved and play a huge role in home education,” said Jessica, administrative assistant at AFA Foundation. “We like to call it co-educating.”
Jessica’s mother-in-law keeps the children during the day. “Our children have their assignments and know what to do; she’s just there to guide them when they need help,” said Jessica. “And my husband and I are involved when we come home.”
It’s about more than just the school work though. The Webbs value the other opportunities home education affords them.
“When they are with their grandparents, they garden, take care of farm animals, and work at the church since my father-in-law is a pastor,” Jessica said. “So they get valuable life lessons as well.”
“We are able to take more control of their overall health and choose what they learn, and that’s important to us,” the Webbs concluded.
Homeschooling is not without its challenges, and no homeschool family would be so naïve as to insist that it is.
Adam, an AFR producer, and Amy Sudduth, who homeschool their five children, ages 2 to 15, are not hesitant to admit the difficulties.
“All families face different challenges,” said Amy. “For us, trying to homeschool with little ones is difficult because their attention span is short and they don’t stay occupied.”
“And the fact that our three oldest have special needs such as autism and learning disabilities adds an extra layer of challenges,” Adam explained.
“Having to teach at three different levels can be overwhelming at times, and trying to find the right curriculum that fits our needs can be difficult, and even still, we tweak it from time to time to ensure a proper fit for our children,” Amy said.
The Sudduths agreed, however: “In spite of the challenges, it’s a wonderful experience we wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Most homeschool families are convinced the advantages far outweigh the challenges and sacrifice.
Abraham Hamilton, AFA general counsel and host of AFR’s The Hamilton Corner, and his wife Maria homeschool their five children, ages 3 to 10. They echo the sentiments of many other homeschoolers.
“The biggest advantage is the quantity of time homeschooling affords us to spend with our children,” Maria said.
“God teaches us in His word that His foremost purpose in giving us the privilege to rear children is to catechize and disciple them,” Abe explained. “As conveyed in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, one of the most fundamental necessities in making disciples is time. We’ve found that time with our children opens doors for discipling them.”
The Hamiltons point out that this is a biblical method: “If we examine Jesus’ method of discipling his rag-tag bunch into His apostles, we’ll see that time with His disciples was the bridge for them to become His apostles.
“So for us, one of the biggest advantages of homeschooling, which we call home-based discipleship, is the opportunity to truly train them.”
Are they prepared?
One of the most common concerns parents express about homeschooling is for the social development and academic preparedness of their children. Research shows those fears should be laid to rest.
According to Ray, 35 years of research “has shown that homeschool students’ academic performance, social and emotional development, and success in adulthood are, by and large, above average compared to that of their institutionally schooled peers.”
While homeschooling may not be right for everyone, it should certainly be considered a viable option for parents wondering what options they have.
… and the Whites
Writer Matthew White and his wife Whitney homeschool their five sons (2 months-11 years).
“In many ways, homeschooling is a lot like parenting. It’s trial and error,” Whitney said. “But we are absolutely certain that when our children are grown, we’ll never regret educating and discipling them, and the time we’ve had together.”
Read more about the Whites in AFA Journal, 3/20.
Resources for home education abound. Visit afa.net/media/480988/homeschool.pdf for a list of resources recommend by some of the AFA homeschool families.
— Randall Murphree