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The Lord Teaches Us About Socialization and Discipling

by Cindy McD.

Our interest in homeschooling started early. We had discussed homeschooling since before our children were born. But to a large degree we placed our children in government school because of the age old argument, "What about socialization?" My husband works at a Bible camp each summer and unfortunately he had seen some bad examples of homeschooling (so we thought), almost complete isolationism and the kids who were "overprotected and went nuts" when they hit the "real" world. Of course, we have realized since that this has NOTHING to do with homeschooling and everything to do with parenting style.

Our oldest son went to government school from K-2nd. These were difficult years. His first year of school he cried nearly everyday when he got on the bus. My child who ate all the time at home (he has a very high metabolism) came home with his lunch box still full of food. He learned what it meant to be looked down upon because he was different, ("Why do you write so sloppy?" "That shirt is stupid because it doesn't have a picture on it.") By first grade, he began looking, in his childish ways, for a way to fit in. Being the class clown, that was fairly effective. Run the classroom, teacher had loose boundaries so this little first grader took over. Fit in with the crowd, already the wrong crowd at this tender age. These actions and others landed him often in the "Behavior Intervention" room. Mom and dad had to visit the principal. Then on to "In-School Detention" (ISD). Why we didn't wake up at this point, I'll never know. ISD, is the building used for all the troublesome kids in our district, K-12. As you probably can imagine, it was mostly the older kids who were into tons of trouble, things a first grader wouldn't dream of, who frequented this discipline establishment. To this day, I feel sick that I allowed my 6 year old to be placed in this "program" for the day. In second grade, he had a wonderful, Christian teacher who ran a tight ship. For the most part, he had a good year in the classroom, but the "socialization" on the playground was still a mess. Our experience with socialization, by the definition of the world, was horrible. Children left to themselves to "socialize" is nothing more than mob mentality. They are immature and are incapable, at most times, of anything other than immature responses. Healthy socialization is taught only in the setting of a loving family using Scripture as the basis for their decisions.

Our daughter started government school the same year her older brother was in second grade. She excelled academically. The teacher voiced concerns at the first parent/teacher conference that she would become bored because she knew everything that was being taught in kindergarten. Hmmm, another clue that she should have been home? But again, peer interaction was a major challenge. Our daughter by nature is a peace maker. She rarely will "stand up for herself", she just pulls within herself. She made friends with two little girls in the class. It was ok for a while, but one of the girls decided she no longer wanted to share, but wanted the other girl as her own, personal friend. She proceeded to bully our daughter for the remainder of the school year. The teacher did what she could and praised our daughter's sweet spirit, but this situation also left scars. Nearly everyday when the children would get off of the school bus, one of them would be in tears, but they never really knew why.

We were involved in a parenting class at our church in February of that year. As we sat in the sanctuary for one evening's class, out of the blue the thought crossed my mind, penetrated would probably be a better term, that we couldn't send them back to government school. God is amazing, the class had nothing to do with schooling, it was just His timing. I prayed for about a week on this and still felt incredibly strong that this is what God was leading us to do. So I went to my dear husband and he had NOT received the same inspiration that I had. At that time, I was just finishing up a fairly severe depression and our oldest is extremely strong willed. These things coupled with just the normal life stresses concerned him deeply. He prayed for several months and in August of that year, he decided we would give it a one-year trial. Then in the spring of the next year at curriculum purchasing time, he said we would give it another one year trial. Just a few weeks into that second school year and he became sold on homeschooling. He is now the biggest advocate of homeschooling that I know and my biggest support.

Our homeschool journey has not been without its struggles. Our first year, I got pneumonia in October. I think this may have been the Lord's way of telling me that the kids would learn in spite of me! As I mentioned before, our oldest is extremely strong willed. This is an on-going battle. Though it is a difficult, almost daily problem and the main thing that wears me down, it may be one of the biggest reasons I'm glad we homeschool. In a regular classroom setting, his will would not be shaped for God's glory as we can do at home. When he is grown, I am praying that we will see an effective young man that will not be swayed from his faith.

We have also had problems with lack of extended family support. We are the only homeschoolers in either of our families. My parents have been the biggest concern. My father was the school board chairman for ten years when I was growing up. Both my parents were actively involved in supporting the local school district. Their radical daughter (ME!) has become a turncoat! They have told us over and over that we should put the kids back in school. They have gone behind our backs and told our children how many things they are missing by not being in school. They have grilled the kids with questions about what they know and don't know. Our oldest struggles in math and his grandfather questioned him until he was humiliated one evening at the dinner table (when my husband and I were not there). Do they do this to their other granddaughter who is private schooled? NO! These are hurtful things and we had to ask them to not bring it up again. We are at a truce for the time being.

Choosing curriculum has been a struggle as well. I felt drawn to a particular traditional curriculum the first year, but after reading so much from the "experts and experienced," I decided that I must be wrong. We did an eclectic/unit study/literature based approach for two years. We were doing ok, but the kids were not retaining the basics. I was wearing out from researching constantly where we were going and how to cover what needed to be done. We were all frustrated. I had prayed about these things, but the lack of peace we were dealing with indicated that I needed to quietly sit before the Lord and listen. I asked my husband to pray too. He is not very involved in our schooling with teaching and curriculum choice. He prayed too and we both felt lead to use the curriculum I had felt led to the first year. We made the switch and it has been a blessing for us. I continue to fight the doubts when I see information about the myriad of amazing curriculum items that are available, but I fall back on James 1:5-6, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." I must seek our Lord for what is best for my family even if it isn't the most popular approach to homeschooling at this time.

Academically, both our children are doing better. We can tailor their studies to their needs, speed up, slow down, dwell on this, skip that. Our oldest does so much better with someone to hold him accountable everyday. When he was in government school, I'd get papers home with 100% and others with 50%, same subject, same material. I really think it was whether he chose to be tuned in that day or not. I check their work everyday and they make their corrections everyday. They really like the closure this brings. If they are struggling in a subject, that quick feedback is a bonus. Our daughter is about a half a year ahead in math. It has been good to keep her interest by moving at her own pace.

The relationship between all the kids has improved so much. With only three years influence in the school system, the sibling conflict was atrocious. They learned that being close to brothers or sisters was not acceptable. Not that they are perfect now, we have our share of arguments, but they really enjoy each other's company. They have their own world of make believe and games. These memories of childhood in our family will endure for a lifetime. Both children NEVER want to go back to government school. They recognize the benefits. They have no desire to return to the cruelties or as my son says, "To have to be cool." They love to pursue their own interests without someone making fun of them.

Icing on the cake, we have had several people give us unsolicited compliments on the kids. My husband's father commented how much better the kids were communicating with everyone around them (adults included) after being homeschooled for about 1 1/2 years. Several people in churches we visit have commented on how well behaved the kids are and how interesting they are. A young couple we know commented on what a difference they see in our children and some other government school children they know. They observed that our children seem much more interested in life and much less likely just to lie around doing nothing. This couple has just had their first child and said, "Whatever you are doing, that's what we want." God is so good!

The Lord convicted us to homeschool and has shown us the reasons bit by bit. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 of course lays out the basic reasons for raising our children to know God at every turn. But something I had never thought of were the verses scattered throughout the Bible that tell us not to make a covenant with an unbeliever. This hit me hard realizing that by sending our children to the government school we had made a covenant with them to educate our children. Scary thought! II Corinthians 6:14-18 gives a very clear picture of what the Lord would desire of us. "Do not be yoked with an unbeliever", "What harmony do light and darkness have", "Come out from them and be separate".

I am so grateful to our Lord for giving us this privilege. It comes with grave responsibility, but the benefits that we have experienced are tremendous. Our children are best friends, we teach of our God at all times, we can be flexible in our schedule to be with dad, etc. The list is endless. Of our three children, only the youngest has never left home for school. By the grace of the Lord, I hope he never will. I encourage everyone who is wondering about homeschooling to truly petition the Lord and search your hearts. We all doubt our abilities, but again, by His grace all things are possible.

About the author: My husband Robert and I live in northeast Washington with our three children: 11-year-old boy, 9-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy. We are in our fourth year of homeschooling.

We serve as domestic missionaries with the American Missionary Fellowship. AMF is the oldest home mission, over 200 years now, founded in Philadelphia. We have been serving for over twelve years now. My husband is an evangelist at heart. We travel all over eastern Washington and north Idaho sharing the truth of our Saviour. Any Sunday morning could find us five minutes or two hours from home. I'm quite partial to home missions. The USA is no longer a Christian nation, as we are all aware. This makes it a huge mission field.

In my spare time (what's that??), I enjoy sewing, quilting and rubber stamping. I have stacks of fabric insulating our walls waiting to become something besides yardage. I also love to read. From birth, my desire for my children was to have them be voracious readers.

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