December 18, 2017

The Blessings of Home Education

Dan and Terrie Zeller

The last twenty-five years has witnessed the growth of the home school movement into a stable, organized, and accepted means of education. Home education brings many challenges to a family in terms of time commitment. It demands great investment of energy and life, but the dividends yielded by that investment will pay out for a lifetime.

My wife and I have just completed our fifteenth year homeschooling our children. Assuming that we complete the process with all of our kids, we are just now at the halfway mark. We have also had the privilege of working with our church’s homeschool helps ministry for the past eight years.

We have spoken with and counseled dozens of families contemplating home education or struggling with homeschooling issues. We have answered many questions, researched many topics, and learned many things along the way. Our own attitudes and philosophy toward homeschooling have evolved greatly in these years, and we would like to share with you some of what we have learned.

We are going to be homeschooling this year. What do we do now?

We’ve seen a wide diversity of circumstances that have brought home education into a family’s life. Sometimes financial pressures have put Christian schools out of reach. Sometimes discipline problems have closed other doors. Increasingly more common, however, are parents who just want to be more involved in the lives of their kids, discipling and teaching them.

Our advice to anyone contemplating home education is to see God’s hand in his circumstances. In His sovereignty, He brings to each of us exactly what we need to accomplish His good pleasure in our lives. The burdens and circumstances we encounter are specifically designed for us and our children by the God who knows everything, who can do anything, and who loves us with an everlasting love. If God brings home education to your family, the blessings that will come with it are without number. Be faithful and see what God does in you and your family.

So how do I get started?

As with any commission from God, we have a responsibility to be faithful. Sadly, we have seen a few parents fail to understand this principle to the academic neglect of their kids. Most of the homeschooling families that we know, however, are hard working, faithful, and committed to discipling their kids and giving them an education that will enable them to effectively serve the Lord.

Our message to those who are considering home education is to be ready to make a life investment. Minimize other activities and make time to teach your children. Our experience has shown us that regardless of the availability of materials or teacher’s manuals, effective home education involves a parent who is willing to set aside other activities and interests in order to tackle the job of teaching.

There are a lot of good curricula and materials available for home education. Take time to find one that will work for you, but don’t expect a set of books to do all of the work. Teaching the material will be your job. With patience and dedication to the task, a parent can grow to enjoy it. Some curricula are designed to allow the student to study on his own with little supervision. While judicious use of this kind of self-directed study can be helpful, we would urge you to make time available and teach.

Find a good home school support group in your area— perhaps just a few other families if no organized group exists—and get involved. The camaraderie and fellowship you will enjoy on group field trips and other activities will be an immense help.

What about social development? Won’t homeschooling make it difficult for kids to find friends and “fit in”?

Our reply to this legitimate concern is that you will find other outlets for social activity. A home school group, your church, sports programs, and other activities will provide many opportunities for social development.

Remember, however, that you have the ultimate responsibility for the social development of your children. God has given you this wonderful opportunity to develop greater communication and relationship. Take it! We have about twenty or so years to affect our kids’ hearts and help set the course of their lives. Take a few steps back and get a broader view of the opportunities God has created for you.

Where will I find the time and energy for all of this?

No direction from God comes without His offer of grace. As with any ministry God gives to us, our primary role is one of faithfulness and meekness. That’s where God’s grace comes into play in our lives. More than likely, you will drop some other time-consuming activities to make time for your home school.

Amazingly, you may find that homeschooling will give you time: less time in the car and more time with your kids. We have heard many parents say that they feel like they have regained their families after they have begun homeschooling. Your time will only be as complicated as you allow it to be. Our advice would be to eliminate the clutter of your day—especially if you are just starting out.

I have tried homeschooling, and I just can’t handle it.

My favorite saying on this subject came to me on a particularly trying day. “Parenting will show you where your limits are, and homeschooling will take you there.” There are trials with homeschooling to be sure, but God has promised never to take us beyond the reach of His grace.

Don’t make your home school harder than it needs to be. Probably the best advice my wife ever received came during her first year of teaching. We had our first son sitting in a little desk, complete with pencil in pencil groove and books under the seat. The whole ordeal was a fiasco. In desperation, my wife called the publisher of the books we were using and talked with one of their writers who said to her, “How old is he? Five? Oh honey, just put him in your lap and read to him. Enjoy your son and help him love and enjoy learning.” What a remarkable transformation. We sort of relaxed and hit our stride. Like I said, that was fifteen years ago. He is now in Bible school studying for the ministry and is on the dean’s list.

One of my wife’s favorite sayings is “It’s never too late to change.” Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of home education is the inherent opportunity to be flexible. Within reason, you have the opportunity to try just about anything you can think of to communicate effectively with your kids. Be creative. Do what it takes to keep his attention—and yours. Take a field trip. Visit a museum. Buy an aquarium. Invite a missionary into your home. You have lots of latitude, so find ways to make your home school work for you and your children.

I’m just not sure that I am qualified to teach my children.

I can understand this concern coming from the parent of a high-school-age young person. I am amused, however, when I hear it from the parent of a first grader. My standard reply is, “What on earth can your six-year-old possibly need to learn this year that you do not already know?” If teaching technique is the concern, then I would wonder who taught him to tie his shoes. Who taught him his colors? Who taught him about Jesus? Oh, Mama, you can teach. You do it every day. The material might be a little different, but you are probably the most perfectly suited person on the planet to teach your child. And I will guarantee that no other teacher will love your child like you do.

For your high-school-age kids, there are many very helpful programs available: video courses, computer software, and even co-op teaching with others in your area. With a little determination, you will be able to use these resources effectively. Most of the high-school-level video courses come with teacher’s materials that will be very helpful to you. Don’t be intimidated by high school coursework. You will be surprised to find out that you will catch on to the material much more easily than you did twenty years ago.

What about testing and evaluation?

The primary reason that classrooms are so full of quizzes and tests is that quizzes and tests are the only way for a teacher to keep up with ten or twenty or thirty students. As you work one-on-one with your child, you will know exactly what he is and is not catching. Tests and other written work will be important to document his progress and establish grading records, but you will know how your child is doing just by working with him on a daily basis.

What about my learning-disabled child?

My wife and I have struggled through this one. Several of our kids have been diagnosed with dyslexia. One has both visual and auditory dyslexia. Not only do the letters move around, the words don’t sound the same every time. When we had him tested, we were told that he would probably never read past a sixth-grade level. We considered placing him in a school for special needs kids, but were told by the school principal, “The best place for him is in your home. If you can work with him there, he will get the best education available.” That was ten years ago. He is now in high school and reading well.

What about getting ready for college?

In spite of volumes of evidence to the contrary, some people still consider home education to be somehow inferior to that of a traditional school. Thanks to years of proven success on the part of homeschooling families, many, if not most, colleges recognize home education to be excellent preparation for college-level course work. I contacted a large Christian university to inquire about their experience with home educated enrollees. I was told that homeschooled kids adjust well to a classroom environment, possess very good communication and independent study skills, and do well academically in general.

You will need to get familiar with your state’s requirements for high school graduation and the entrance requirements of the college your child plans to attend. Make sure that you provide course work that will meet these requirements.

Be sure to maintain records during his high school career. You would do well to find a high school transcript form and use it to keep your child’s records. More than likely, you will be able to obtain a sample transcript from the college that your child hopes one day to attend. Include on the transcript any noteworthy accomplishments that are related to his educational career. This may include participation in academic or fine arts competition, sports programs, science fairs, etc. Remember that it is his transcript—not a diploma—that will be important to his entrance to college. His transcript along with the results of his entrance exam will be the criteria upon which his acceptance will be based.

Home education has become such a wonderful blessing to so many families. Lines of communication are established that will last a lifetime. Opportunities for genuine discipleship are innumerable. All of this, however, comes at a price. You will give up some of your ambitions and a great deal of your time for a few years. With faithfulness to the task, however, you will find that you can make no better investment.

Dan and Terrie Zeller are members of Faith Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina. They have been involved with their church’s Home School Helps Ministry since 1997.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September / October 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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