The Really Short Version of Why We Traded Private School for Home Education

the really short version of why we traded private school for home education

This weekend we’re heading to the Cincinnati homeschool conference, so I have home education on the brain. When I asked on twitter and facebook what you all wanted to know about our homeschooling journey, you responded. Today I’m covering WHY we homeschool. Stay tuned for details on the HOW.  

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: We’ve been homeschooling our kids for 3 years now.

I never expected to be a homeschooling mother.

The seed was planted way back when we were first married, by sheer coincidence. Susan Wise Bauer was a college prof of mine, and when I found out she’d written a book–any book–I wanted to read it. When I was her student, I didn’t know she homeschooled her kids, or had been home educated herself. Her book was about homeschooling.

The Well-Trained Mind blew me away. It’s the de facto Bible for classical education at home, and it’s amazing. I had two big takeaways from WTM: I wish my education had been like this. And I want my kids to have an education like this.

Years down the road, when our firstborn reached school age, we did consider homeschooling–briefly. I liked the idea of my child being home educated, but I didn’t love the idea of home educating my child. (Are you tracking with me?)

Our local elementary school was among the best in the city, but we didn’t want our kid spending a whopping 35 hours a week there. Plus, my husband worked a nontraditional schedule then, and they wouldn’t see each other much if we sent him to any traditional school.

(You should probably also know that my husband and I are both nerdy-nerds. And really picky.)

We ultimately found an option we loved: a local private school that followed the classical model of education and had a unique shortened school week.

It proved to be a good fit; our son did great there.

Flash forward to New Years’ Day a few years later. I was hugely pregnant with baby #4. We had our second child’s kindergarten application ready to go; we thought she’d love to join her brother at the private school.

I was writing the deposit check when it hit me: if we kept on this track, we’d soon be paying private school tuition for 4 kids. That idea had never occurred to me until that moment.

It was working now, but down the road? We couldn’t afford it.

We’d always had homeschooling in the back of our minds but we’d always had a reason not to. But with that sudden (5-figure) realization, the pros suddenly outweighed the cons.

We decided to give it a try. We’d take it one year at a time. If we hated homeschooling, we could send our kids back to private school. Or the truly excellent elementary school down the road. Or we’d find some other solution that hadn’t appeared yet. One year at a time.

Our circumstances made it easy, or at least as easy as it was going to get: the private school is closely associated with a publishing house, and they were just beginning to offer boxed curriculum for homeschoolers: we bought the kindergarten package. It was $250–that’s a lot cheaper than private school tuition. They didn’t have the 2nd grade package ready for the general market yet, but they cobbled one together for us anyway.

That August, we started teaching our kids at a home. We had two students: a boy in second grade, a girl in kindergarten.

We also had a feisty 3-year-old and a 7-month-old baby.

We had very little idea what we were doing.

But we began.

What are you doing (or thinking of doing) for your kids’ education? If you don’t have kids, I’d love to hear your perspective on educational options.

Comments

  1. melyssa says

    I was homeschooled back in the day and it really worked for me. I was an overachiever, perfectionist, wallflower, who stressed out in large groups, and just wanted to keep my nose in a book all day. All those qualities were not exactly going to blossom in public school! Once I had kids, my husband was on board with homeschooling them too (though he lovingly referred to me as a backwoods, redneck, homeschooler). I kept them home until the middle of 7th grade year for my oldest, and 5th for the middler, then this year we enrolled them in a Waldorf charter school. Though I love the theory and practice behind homeschooling, I hate teaching and know my limits! Ironically, I still write for homeschooling magazines (even an advice column!)

    • says

      “Ironically, I still write for homeschooling magazines (even an advice column!)”

      Hahaha! Hey, I think you sound like you have the qualifications to write it. :)

  2. Amy V says

    We really pondered homeschooling. But after consideration, we enrolled our children in our excellent local elementary. Some things I’ve done to help my kids in the school environment are: to volunteer in the classroom (having that additional contact with the teacher is invaluable), asking what I can help my kids with at home (and making sure that we do it), and taking the time to talk with my kids each day about what their day is like (and I don’t let them get away with just one word answers). The last one is easiest for me when I can walk with the kids to and from school and there’s not much else to do but talk. I love that time!!!!!

    • says

      I’m so glad you’ve found something that works well for your family. And I love that you’re close enough to walk home and chit chat about the school day.

  3. Krystal DL says

    I started homeschooling when my oldest two were 2nd grade and Kindergarten. :) 10 years later and we are still at it. Now I only have one at home. He’s in 2nd grade. The oldest two both started public high school when they began 9th grade. Homeschooling definitely has it’s ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Other students at my kids’ high school think it’s so cool that they were homeschooled. Of course it’s because they think they sat around all day in their pajamas. :)

    • says

      “Other students at my kids’ high school think it’s so cool that they were homeschooled. Of course it’s because they think they sat around all day in their pajamas.”

      Hahaha!

  4. says

    This is what my calculations usually come down to as well. And although on individual days homeschooling is often difficult, I have realized that education is something I’m passionate about and my kids are learning interesting things, so we keep re-upping.

    So if SWB was your professor, did you go to William and Mary? My brother was class of 2003 there, maybe you knew him!

  5. says

    The way you described your reasoning is almost identical to mine! Susan Wise Bauer is a personal hero of mine (although I have to admit I haven’t read her book yet–it sits on my shelf waiting!). Like her, I’m also a college writing prof, and started homeschooling my kids last year. (Now you’ve got me wondering if my own students know this fact about me? I doubt it.) Nontraditional schedules and the sticker shock of multiple private school tuition payments were major reasons why we started considering it (even though I’d previously been adamant about NOT being the homeschooling “type” whenever the suggestion was made to me!). It helped that I had some great examples of successful homeschooling in my life (my goddaughter was homeschooled for most of her education and recently won a full ride scholarship to a private college!). I also have some pretty strong opinions about public education these days, which I’ll spare you. Let’s just say I get to deal with a lot of the after-effects in my classroom, since I meet students after they’ve gone through the system.

    We too take it one year at a time, but I’ve found that this approach to education just fits us so well that I doubt seriously I’ll ever look back. I love that there are so many homeschoolers coming forward these days to share their stories, as it really does provide reassurance that you’re not just that crazy, backwoods recluse hiding your kids from the world! ;)

    • says

      Vicki, I didn’t think we were the homeschooling “type” either. But here we are. :)

      Thanks for sharing your perspective as a college writing prof. I hope your own homeschooling journey is going well.

  6. says

    When my parents made the decision to homeschool me, it was back in the homeschooling dark ages. In fact, in the beginning, HSLDA told my mom not to take me out of the house during school hours as someone might turn us in – see? Dark ages. My four (much older) siblings had all gone to public school in the 60′s and 70′s, but when I came along, my parents weren’t happy with the news they were hearing from our local grade school.

    Long story short, when my mom told my dad that she wanted to try this thing she’d read about in the OLD Homeschooling Bible (“The Big Book of Home Learning” by Mary Pride), Dad told her she had ONE YEAR to try it. One year turned into 12 (K-12, and I did 11 & 12 in one year to graduate early) and we never looked back.

    As a homeschool graduate, I am eternally grateful for the decision that my parents made, especially since we were the only ones we knew who were doing it. It wasn’t the popular thing to do then, like it is now. Being homeschooled allowed me to go with my folks when my dad had medical meeting in Boston, Hawaii, Chicago, New Orleans, etc. My mom and I would do school in the hotel room in the morning, then sight-see in the afternoons. We went to Israel when I was 12 – life changing! I not only had the opportunity to read about history, I could see it come to life.

    My mom had one main concern: she wanted to make sure she taught me how to read, because she said that if I could read, I could educate myself (a la Abraham Lincoln). By the end of Kindergarten, I could add, subtract, and read. My mom felt like a success. :)

    • says

      “Being homeschooled allowed me to go with my folks when my dad had medical meeting in Boston, Hawaii, Chicago, New Orleans, etc. My mom and I would do school in the hotel room in the morning, then sight-see in the afternoons. We went to Israel when I was 12 – life changing!”

      Carrie, that sounds like an incredible experience. This is something that really appeals to me about homeschooling. We’re just trying to push ourselves to take advantage of our ability to travel.

  7. Jennifer H says

    Your reasons for the original school choice were the exact same reasons we had – and honestly, if we had more than one, we couldn’t afford it either and would probably be on the same path you are. I still look at homeschool curriculum sites EVERY SINGLE YEAR. :-)

  8. says

    Our son attends the neighborhood public school, and we love it! It costs us nothing in either money or time, aside from taxes we would pay anyway. We do volunteer there at times and contribute to fund drives and donate stuff, but it’s much easier than making his education a full-time job for one parent or a major expense.

    We feel strongly that every child deserves a high-quality education and that participating in the public system brings us closer to that goal than withdrawing from the system. I understand that homeschool and private-school families (and families without children) do pay taxes and may support the public schools in other ways. But I believe that homeschooling can never solve anything on a societal level because there are so many families for whom it is truly impossible. My son benefits greatly from his 35 hours a week with a highly varied group of peers, and I believe they also benefit from knowing children (not just him) who live in homes with lots of books, who have college-educated parents, who think museums and science experiments are fun…. I know that when I was in public school, even though I was an unpopular child, my enthusiasm influenced a number of kids to read more and to try brain-challenging games and puzzles. If all the smart families pull out of the school system, the schools will be weaker, and the rest of the kids will suffer.

    I don’t mean to offend anyone, and I do support your right to decide what is best for your children. I just wanted to share my perspective to balance the mostly pro-homeschool comments you’ve gotten so far.

    • says

      ‘Becca, you’ve written so passionately on your blog about why your family has made the decisions you have, and I’m grateful for you sharing your perspective here. I appreciate the balance. Thanks for that.

    • K D says

      Becca,

      I love your comments. I do want you to appreciate how much money home schooling and private schooling saves taxpayers. My child has been in Christian schools for Kdg. – 12th grade. We have spent ~$100,000 in tuition in that time. If we had made a different decision the county we live in would have shelled out a comparable amount in school expenses.

      We made the decision becuase of the day-to-day environment we wanted in the schools, we wanted a Christian emphasis. Along with that was time spent each day on a religion/Bible class, taking away the opportunity for other subjects that could have been fit into each day.

      Because we only have one child we could afford this, I’m not sure what we would have done with a larger family. I did not think homeschooling would be ideal for an only child.

      My child will attend a public university, starting in the fall.

  9. says

    I have been homeschooling for just this year (tenth grade) and I am absolutely in love with it! I have tons more free time and am learning a bunch more to boot. Also, the town I live in has a huge homeschooling community, so there are tons of extracurricular activities and events where other homeschoolers can meet each other.
    Weirdly enough, I think I took to it so well because I’m very much an extrovert–it was never even a temptation to let myself get isolated or lose touch with my friends, and I think that’s a big part of what made it so successful for me.

    • says

      Magdalen, it took me a minute to realize you were the student in this scenario! Thanks so much for bringing that perspective to the comments. :)

      Honestly, what you said about free time was a big factor in our decision. I spent a lot of time in school with my head down on my desk (what you were supposed to do when you finished the assignment all through elem. and middle school) and it was so.very.boring. What a waste of time. I didn’t want that for my kids.

  10. says

    Thanks for telling us about this–I’m looking forward to hearing more, especially how you manage to schedule your time so that you still are able to write and such.

    I’m thrilled to be starting classically schooling my oldest at home this fall. (Actually, will start in the summer since it’s swealtering here in SC so we can take some time off the fall to enjoy being outside). I’ll be joining a Classical Conversations community. I actually visited all the the excellent private schools in our area–several good options. And we are in the unique situation of being able to afford them. But when it came down to it, I looked at the boundry-less opportunities that schooling my kids at home would provide, and the many many interests I myself have that lend to me being the right personality to undertake educating them, and we are pretty sure this is actually the very best path for our family, for my kids education. I am a physician, as is my husband, so it goes without saying that we are bookish nerds. Given his 1000-hour-a-week schedule, I’ve limited my practice to part-time volunteer work in free clinics, and I’m still eager to find a way to keep doing that part-time. My dream is to find a french tutor who will keep the kids and give them an immersion day once a week. Foreign language is my weakness.

    • says

      Sarah, I’d be interested in hearing more about what your routine looks like once you find your groove. I always love to hear how other families with two working parents (especially ones who are bookish nerds) are making things work.

  11. says

    I am a curriculum junkie, and I now WANT the jr. classical curriculum for my Little. {I love both Classical and Charlotte, so I’d love to pick your brain about it off blog sometime.}

  12. Nancy says

    We originally intended to “just” homeschool our kids ’til age 8 or 10 then put them in public school. Long story short, not only did we get hooked on the family lifestyle, but after laying it before the Lord annually to see if this was His plan for our family, we received great affirmation year after year. Eventually our prayer turned to, “Please make it clear if this is not what You desire for us”; we homeschooled all three through high school. This is my 20th and last year of homeschooling. The rewards for the time/energy invested, cannot even be described. I realize that God does not call everyone to homeschool, but if He is leading you this way yield to Him and and He will bless! It is not easy but few things of real value in life are (parenting!!). The time to mold your child’s character trumps the academics in my opinion. I often encourage parents considering homeschooling that any time spent doing so will have its dividends. God is faithful. In case anyone reading this is wondering, Son #1 was not super motivated academically but earned his MBA at 24; Daughter is dental hygienist pursuing advanced degree, and Son #2 is already taking classes successfully at community college while finishing high school at home. To God alone be the glory! Be encouraged if you find yourself in this for the long haul. As one of the early commentators stated, we would not trade this time with our kids for anything!

  13. says

    Fascinating! I always enjoy reading about the hows and whys of other homeschooling families.

    Aside from kindergarten, I was homeschooled until high school…and absolutely loved the experience.

    My husband and I now have three daughters (ages 6, 4, and almost 1). We’re currently using the My Father’s World 1st grade curriculum for our oldest daughter, but we are considering other options for next year. Are you still using books by Memoria Press?

    • says

      We’re not using any curricula right now that’s published directly by MP, although we are still using a few of the books they include in their packaged grade level curriculum.

      We OWN their Latin program, and if we ever get around to actually using it that will be the exception. :)

  14. says

    I genuinely do not want to start an argument, and sense that this is a positive and open enough community that I can ask this question. For a number of reasons homeschooling is unlikely for us, including that the local elementary schools are excellent. But I’m drawn to it, and particularly to the idea of supplementing their traditional school experiencing with home learning. So I poked around that curriculum site you linked to, and I don’t see an explicit statement about their philosophy of science and evolution. Does this and other Christian homeschooling curricula teach Creationism as a literal process?

    • says

      Honestly? I have no idea. We’re planning on just doing nature study (no science curriculum beyond that) until 8th grade, so it just hasn’t come up.

      I do know that this is a hot button issue among a certain segment of Christian home educators, and that many curricula do teach Creationism as a literal process. People get FIRED UP about this issue, and there was tons of drama at the homeschooling conference we went to last year because of some creationism-centered dispute.

      I’m on the sidelines on that one, though.

      • says

        Why no other science?

        My son has had a little bit of science curriculum since preschool: Even the two-year-old group did experiments like, “Everybody get a toy and predict whether it will sink or float, and then we will test our hypotheses and make a bar graph.” His school science projects since kindergarten have touched on a wide range of sciences (no evolution or creationism, though) and I think they’re really valuable, but what I like most is the sense that the scientific method is a normal tool people use when we want to find out about stuff.

        • says

          It’s mostly opportunity cost. We’ll do the occasional experiment, and we read books about scientists, but we’ll get to the organized and systematic study of it when they’re a few years older.

          That’s an interesting point about the scientific method. I appreciate you pointing that out–I’d love to at least give my kids an overview of what that’s all about.

          • 'Becca says

            In my article about the science projects is a link to the monthly project ideas distributed by the schools and the library system here in Pittsburgh. You might browse those for ideas for one project a month or something like that.

  15. says

    Even though I don’t have children of my own, I do find this all very interesting because I do some tutoring.From a tutoring perspective, I love how the homeschool environment affords students opportunities that just do not work in other types of schools. For instance, I can spend lots of time tailoring a concept to a student’s learning style and making sure he “gets it” whereas I can’t imagine being able to do that in a school classroom of 20+ students. I also love how homeschooling gives students the flexibility to dive deeply into subjects that interest them, and I find that entire families will get caught up in that intellectual excitement.

    If I’m ever blessed with children of my own, I would definitely want to homeschool. And in the small world files: based on the comments, I think you were at W&M around the same time I was down the road at UVA!

    • says

      You’re so right about the individual help. I’ve always respected teachers but my respect has swelled as I’ve realized how hard it is to give individual attention to a handful of students–let alone a whole classroom!

      I also love how we can dive deeply into subjects that interest us. Obviously. :)

      That’s so fun that you were at UVA! I never visited there till well after I graduated from college, but I had so many friends who ended up there for a grad school. It’s such a gorgeous campus and I absolutely adore Charlottesville! Virginia has some great schools and it’s such a beautiful place.

  16. says

    I love reading homeschooling posts like this ala “We found something that worked, and then it didn’t and we realized homeschooling was the answer”. I’m very used to hearing a lot of rhetoric that HS is the only way to go from the begining so this is refreshing. In fact I just finished up a series about it ” I’m NOT homeschooling… and it’s not the end of the world!”

    • says

      Oh my goodness, of course it’s not the end of the world! And personally, I love knowing that we do have other options here in town if homeschooling stops being a good fit for our family. Knowing there are other good options keeps me from feeling “stuck,” and I would hate to feel stuck!

  17. says

    I was homeschooled for 9 years and I now have three kids. Two of them (and next year, three of them) are currently in public school, which has its pros and cons like everything else. Yay no tuition checks and being hooked into our community in a very tangible way, but boo on a schedule that means that they don’t see my husband very much some days (he also works a non traditional schedule). Also, the pressure put on on testing, at least in my area, is ridiculous.

    I am kind of jealous that you had SWB as a college professor. She seems like she’d be AWESOME to learn from. :)

    • says

      Yep, everything has its pros and cons. I’m so sorry to hear that about the testing–that’s terrible!

      I loved SWB as a college professor. I just wish I had had her for freshman writing!

  18. Rachel says

    I was homeschooled all my life and I don’t thank my mom enough for it. The schools around here aren’t the best (Bay Area, CA), and they would not have acknowledged my dyslexia as a learning disability which would have stunted my learning experience, not enhanced it. Now I’m enrolled in a four year college and preparing to leave. For awhile I thought homeschooling was the only way and my “public school” friends were missing out. But honestly, everyone is different. You really approached this topic tactfully, loved your post!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Rachel! And I’m glad to hear of your personal experience. It’s so encouraging to me to hear home-educated kids say they had a good experience. :)

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