Homeschooling is something my husband and I were discerning since the first of our fourteen children arrived.
It was something that I definitely did not want to do … but had resolved to undertake if God asked me to.
It was the early 2000s. Homeschooling was still considered slightly backwards, summoning images of “weird,” strangely dressed, socially awkward, uncultured kids, sheltered by blissfully ignorant parents.
I had known a few families that challenged this stereotype, but was still aware of the stigma attached to homeschooling.
When we had some of my husband’s friends visit us, they asked if we had thought about where we would send our new baby to school. They talked about different options, private and public, but ended the inquiry with, “Just as long as you don’t homeschool.”
I believe I may be rather atypical in my thoughts on homeschooling. I believe it can be a treasure to families with untold blessings. It is a wonderful way to max out on family time, building close relationships among members. It is a gift to journey with our young children.
But I’m also quite sensible of the obstacles some families face, and though many families overcome these barriers and manage to make homeschooling work for them, others rightly judge their situation, and recognize that it really won’t work for their children.
Mental illness, extreme financial difficulties, physical challenges, and impossible schedules may make it far too heavy a burden for parents to undertake. I’ve also met some parents and children whose temperament and situations truly make homeschooling a less than ideal option.
So, how do you know if you should homeschool?
But I trusted implicitly in God’s ability to sustain me in utterly foreign territory. I had faith that He wouldn’t call me to do something and then simply abandon me. I trusted that He knew what was best for our family.
I believe it is through deeply prayerful discernment.
When I was struggling with the decision to homeschool, I read as much as I could about the pros and cons. I knew, even back then, that there was a growing level of “anti-Christian-values” activism within the schools, and through my own experience understood that even in many Catholic schools, the Faith was being attacked or improperly imparted. My thought at the time was that both my husband and I were able to navigate through the confusion and had even discovered teachers who were gems, guiding and inspiring students.
I still believe there are many wonderful teachers and students who are shining Christ’s light to those who would otherwise have minimized exposure.
However, in my personal discernment, I could feel the Holy Spirit leading me to those articles, homilies, resources, books, and personal friendships that were prompting me to strongly consider taking on the important task of educating my children.
By the time I was expecting my third child (in three years), I knew I needed to finally make a decision so as to begin planning.
I remember one day in particular, praying and specifically asking God to be extremely clear as to His Will for our family. At the end of the day, I really just wanted to respond with a fervent “yes” to His plan for us.
That evening, I attended daily Mass with my husband and young children. Following the Mass, a woman I had never seen before approached us and said bluntly, “I don’t know if you’ve ever considered homeschooling, but there are a group of women who get together with their families, and when I saw you (with your little ones at a daily Mass) I just felt like I was supposed to invite you.”
I thanked her and we exchanged information. Then, after she had left, I cringed at the weight of the experience. That was it. I couldn’t escape it.
God was making it clear that this was where He was leading us.
I had so many feelings: uncertainty, insecurity regarding my abilities, fear of the response from family members, and oh so many more.
But I trusted implicitly in God’s ability to sustain me in utterly foreign territory. I had faith that He wouldn’t call me to do something and then simply abandon me. I trusted that He knew what was best for our family, and now, after having homeschooled for more than sixteen years, I can see the incredible fruits from this laborious endeavor. My oldest has just completed his first year at the University of Toronto, with another sibling ready for post-secondary education in the Fall.
I can’t thank God enough for having directed this important decision, which has had a deep impact on our family and offered profound blessings.
Since Covid, much of the stigma has been removed from homeschooling. For some families, the experience affirmed their belief that their children performed better in brick and mortar school environments, but for others, they were surprised by the gifts they experienced in taking on a more active role in their children’s education.