Right now, we are homeschooling our children. This wasn’t always the case, nor was it always our plan. (In fact, I was a little resistant when I first felt like God was asking me to homeschool.) I certainly don’t think that homeschooling is the only right way to raise a family. In fact, I have lots of friends whose children are thriving in public school, because they are steadfastly and wholeheartedly running the race that God has called them to run.
I think instead of feeling like we have to compete with each other, we should do our best to make space for each other, and recognize that there are benefits and drawbacks to any schooling model. We can learn from each other, and I certainly learned plenty from the year I had Caleb in public school, and the things I saw great parents at our school doing.
Here’s the top 5 things I think us homeschoolers can learn from those who send their children to public school:
(And stay tuned later this week for things I wish I’d learned sooner from the homeschooling community.)
1. They are involved in their communities
Being involved, on any level, in a public school inserts you into your community on a deep level. You frequent local businesses where the school has fundraisers. You hear and vote on ballot initiatives that affect your school. You meet children and parents and teachers who live in your school district. These are important things that take more effort when your kids are not in a public school, but they are nonetheless important, and even if we have to make a greater effort, we should do these things. After all, how can we fulfill Jesus’ command to love our neighbors if we don’t even know them?
2. The recognize importance of other adults in their kids’ lives
I firmly believe that I am the best teacher for my children. But I cannot be their only teacher. First of all, they get burnt out (and wouldn’t you?) when my voice is the only voice they hear in every single facet of their lives. We are wired for relationship, and my kids need other wise adults speaking into their lives.
My public school friends are so great at this. I saw all the pictures they posted at the end of the school year of their children’s teachers, and they sang the praises of the wonderful men and women who have spoken into their kids’ lives over the past year. I don’t want to trust so fully in my own abilities and strength that I fail to recognize the power of having other loving adults telling my kids the important truths that I want to instill in them.
3. They advocate for their children
When you have to trust your children’s education to someone else, you have to learn when and how to speak up for your child when they need it. I am an extreme conflict-avoider, and having my kids at home makes it easy for me to avoid a lot of situations where I would need to speak up on my children’s behalf. But it’s something I want to get better at, so I am paying attention to how my public-school friends are doing this, and am learning from their wisdom.
4. They set aside time to pursue their own dreams
I think this is one of the major assets to having your kids in school full-time. I missed Caleb like crazy when he was in kindergarten, but having just one child at home made so many things easier. I can only imagine what it would be like if they were both in school–I would have a lot more time on my hands to pursue writing or further schooling or a career I loved.
I believe that God has called me to homeschool my children right now, and so I’m willing to set those things aside while I focus on teaching my kids. But I don’t necessarily think I’m supposed to set all of my other gifts aside during this time; I just have to be more intentional about figuring out what things God would have me pursue over the next few years, and then when and how to make those things happen.
5. They make the most of the time with their kids
When Caleb was in kindergarten, it felt like I never saw him. He was in school until almost 4 each day, and he went to bed at 7, five days a week. So we made the very most of those three hours at home, and got out and did fun things together as a family on weekends as much as we were able.
When we have an abundance of time with our kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that there will always be enough time to accomplish what we want with them. But in the last few lazy weeks since we finished school, I have tucked my kids into bed so many evenings realizing I missed so many chances to really connect with them throughout the day. I’m hoping to bring a little more structure to our days and weeks soon, because the eleven years I have left with Caleb are going to pass by way too quickly, even if he does spend all of them at home with me. I don’t want to waste any of that time.
One thing we did when he was in kindergarten was have cookies every Monday after school. It was important to me that he would have fond memories of his time at home, and after a long Monday, we all needed the pause and the treat that 10 or 15 minutes with warm cookies and cold milk provided. It’s something I want to start doing again. Even though there we don’t have a real “after school” time, we can still have a cozy family moment every Monday afternoon if we make room for it.
And if you want to make the most of Monday afternoons with your kids, too, no matter what kind of school they go to (or if they’re in school at all yet), here is my all-time favorite chocolate-chip cookie recipe:
After-School Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/3 c. butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar (I always use dark brown – I like it best)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 12-oz bag chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together sugar and margarine. Add eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake cookies 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 5 dozen cookies. (I always bake one tray, and freeze the leftovers in cookie-sized portions for days when I don’t have time to mix up the dough from scratch. They bake up just fine from frozen; just add a few minutes to the baking time.)