A Fresh Look at Home Education

A Fresh Look at Home Education
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“I could never do that.” “My kids wouldn’t learn best from me.” “I’m not organized, patient, educated, … (insert any quality here that you think you don’t have) enough to homeschool.” And the list goes on. I know because I’ve said them all myself. For years.

But today – heading into my sixth year of home-educating my children – what I most often say is, “I can’t believe I didn’t start sooner!” Yes, I may question myself on some days, but most days I pinch myself.

For perspective, I have four sons and one daughter, ages 12 to 1. Just like our children have drastically different personalities, they also have distinct learning styles and strengths. Teaching their preferences has been one of my greatest challenges and greatest rewards. There’s really nothing like seeing their “aha!” moments up close, and realizing I had a big part in that.

My intention is not to persuade you to homeschool. In fact, I am quite sure home education is not the best option for everyone. My hope is these next few paragraphs can bring some real-life perspectives on the topic, knock over some pandemic-induced perceptions about it, and encourage the mamas out there who have decided to start but aren’t sure what to expect.

That was me when we embarked on our first year of home education – we knew we wanted to homeschool, but we didn’t have a clue of how to start or what a day in life would look like. I had a few friends who already were home-educating, so that’s where I started. In their dining rooms-turned school rooms, looking at their well-worn workbooks and curriculums, trying to imagine which style of learning and workload my rambunctious boys would connect with best.

A Fresh Look at Home Education
A Fresh Look at Home Education
A Fresh Look at Home Education
A Fresh Look at Home Education

Instead of continuing down the rabbit trail of education styles and curriculum options, I think it would be more helpful for you to read the book “Rethinking School,” and ask yourself Two Important Questions:

And for more than just my thoughts on these questions, I’ve invited some of my favorite battle-tested home education mamas to the conversation.

1. Why do I want to homeschool?

It may sound too simple, but you must know your WHY behind choosing to homeschool. This must be big and clear and emotional. Or the hard days will wear you down. And you will have hard days.

For us, we wanted control over our days, our schedules, and the content that our children were learning. As entrepreneurs who thrive on flexible days and not-so-traditional ways of thinking, this was crucial for us.

We wanted to challenge our children academically, but also include topics and lessons that were centered around our family’s priorities. For example, studying geography for the sake of knowing about other countries where God may call them to serve. Learning history for the sake of knowing our past so we can learn from mistakes. Mastering math for the sake of starting and running a financially successful company. Developing strong reading and writing skills for the sake of being able to clearly articulate Truth to their generation. I can go on, but that’s not why you’re reading this. The point is: I know why we homeschool, and you must be certain too.

For Barry & Evelyn Marchman, who have been home educating their seven children (now ages 25-12) for 20 years, it came down to giving their children exactly what they needed when they needed it – “hacking their children’s education,” as they called it.

“We were able to custom design academic programs for each child based on their abilities, interests, and goals. The children who learned some things faster than others were never held back. But more significantly, the children who did not learn to read until much later found other ways to learn, and they never had to wear a label or feel like they were inferior to their peers in any way.”

They continued, “Our first five graduated high school and went on to college. Our last two may or may not attend college, but we are confident that they will be prepared and equipped to pursue their own goals when the time comes.”

To understand your purpose even better, it’s important to understand the difference between ‘homeschooling,’ and ‘doing school at home.’ It’s a stark contrast. For many who experienced the year-and-a-half of school at home during the pandemic, it made the idea of homeschooling “impossible” – even “awful” for some.

Instead of taking the lead for their child’s education, parents scrambled to complete assignments they never chose and answer to a virtual teacher. (Side note: I have nothing but love for the teachers who passionately taught during that challenging school year.)

Stacy Davis, who has been schooling her four children (ages 14-8) for ten years, loves that she chooses what her family learns about and focuses on. “Homeschooling gives me the time and ability to teach the values I hold closest to my heart. Our family Bible time and in-depth studies are a treasure to my kids’ hearts and minds that I will always be grateful for.”

She agrees that your decision to home-educate must be strong. “It must come from the heart – founded in love, and the understanding that homeschooling will have hard days, discouraging moments, and require a lot of hard work. But the joy, freedom, and focus it has brought to our family make it all worth it.”

A Fresh Look at Home Education
A Fresh Look at Home Education
A Fresh Look at Home Education
A Fresh Look at Home Education

2. Who will be my tribe?

Your people. Your community of fellow home educators who are in the thick of it like you. These friends will be like water well in a dry desert. You’ll likely be amazed at how many homeschooling families and local co-op communities are around you. Join others for field trips, park dates, group projects, and more any chance you get – for your sake but even more so for your kids. The relationships you build with like-minded families will provide you with ongoing encouragement, your children with healthy friendships, and help you all to finish strong.

My friend Amy Hanners, who has six children (ages 23-12) and has been homeschooling for 19 years, agrees with the power of surrounding our children with positive associations.

“One of the greatest rewards of homeschooling has been the wonderful community of like-minded families that my kids have grown up with. Of course, none of us are perfect, but I have seen my kids be supported by the best group of friends during these middle and high school years which can often be difficult.”

In addition to our children’s friendships, it is also common to find undeniably strong sibling relationships among home education families.

Evelyn Marchman expresses this intangible byproduct of home education. “I would consider the #1 benefit of homeschooling to be the strong bonds between the siblings. As young adults now, they seek each other’s opinions when making decisions, encourage each other after failures and breakups, and genuinely cheer each other on in each of their successes. As their mom, it truly is a joy to see their relationships continue to grow and to be each other’s best friends.”

For my young boys, I have seen this phenomenon already in full effect as well. Inside and outside our classroom, they sincerely celebrate each other’s achievements, and the competitiveness stays at a healthy-and-not-hostile level.

As moms, we know the days are (often very) long but the years are short. This bittersweet reality can be softened with a few more hours focused on learning and growing together each day.

Amy says it best from her perspective: “Three of my six children are adults now and have successful careers of their own. It’s true that time is fleeting, and I treasure these years with my younger three because I know how quickly it goes.”

Whether you’re looking for more quality time with your children, wanting to customize their academics and other subjects to your priorities and their style, or seeking more freedom and flexibility in your days, home-educating may be the answer.

And who knows… maybe a year from now you’ll be like me and stop to pinch yourself and ask, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

If you’d like to talk more about this, I’d love that! Leave me a message in the comments and we’ll get in touch!

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Ashlee Ilg
Ashlee is a homeschooling, business-owning mom of five (ages 12 to 1), who lives in the golf cart “Bubble,” otherwise known as Peachtree City. After spending a few years in the corporate world as a magazine editor and website manager, Ashlee and her husband took the leap into entrepreneurship and started a golf cart dealership in their garage. Today, they own multiple companies (don’t worry - they’ve moved out of the garage!) and love encouraging others to also pursue adventures on the roads less traveled. She admits that most of her homeschooling is done outside the classroom, as she has three rowdy boys and another on her hip, along with her one-and-only princess. Speaking of her daughter, Hannah was added to their family through adoption, and it’s fair to say she has added a very sparkly splash of pink to their otherwise team-blue family. When she’s not helping her husband with their latest new venture, or raising the next generation of entrepreneurs, Ashlee can be found either in a (somewhat) quiet corner writing for her blog “Fit & Free with Ash,” or getting her endorphin-fix in a sweaty workout session.