I’ve been posting a lot of big-picture ideas about homeschooling lately, especially on my Facebook Profile. Many people don’t know my background in homeschooling. Frankly, not until I thought through the last 20+ years of my involvement, I hadn’t quite realized how impacting Wendy and I have been.
When Wendy and I graduated from high school (1986 and 1988), schooling at home wasn’t even an option. At the time, there was a silent minority of people facing persecution and jail time, setting the foundation for homeschooling that parents like us got to enjoy later. I fell in love with Wendy in 1990 and married her in 1991 — plus adopted her two children, both students in our local public school.
We were young, gung-ho parents. The both of us volunteered when we could to help in the classrooms. We were dissatisfied with some of our children’s teachers, plus irritated by some of the educational methods — some downright experimental and harmful, like whole language. Our girls didn’t appear to be happy or learning much, anyway. I suspect a lot of public school parents even today feel similarly.
Our closest friends at the time, so close they helped facilitate our wedding, were pioneer home schoolers. Their kids were happy and well-versed and were our children’s best friends. We couldn’t help but be attracted to the idea of home education. We attended some conferences for home educators and eventually decided to take our children out of school and try it out.
This story is similar to most home educators:
- Dissatisfied with public school.
- Impressed by home school friends.
- Decide to give it a try.
But my involvement was peculiar: I was a public school teacher. I had several awkward moments sharing with my coworkers and administrators about our educational choice. I didn’t find strong opposition from teachers (other than a couple union types who got bent out of shape); there was a genuine interest in the idea. I was a novelty in the public school world, and I even wrote an article in Educational Leadership, a publication read by professional teachers nationwide. (I republished the article recently: Why Parents Choose Home Schooling)
The article was republished in a few educational textbooks, plus got some fanfare in Minnesota’s state homeschool newsletter and World Magazine. It outlined the four reasons most parents choose home education. I’m fairly proud of the analysis, and it helped set the stage in the national discussion of homeschooling as a viable option for parents. The article outlined four reasons parents choose home education over public or private education:
- Social. Though socialization is the most common question skeptics have toward home education, it is actually one of the reasons parents choose it. Weighing the options of positive and negative socialization, parents opt for the home over the social structure of a classroom.
- Academic. Even in the early stages of development, the test results were impressive. Today, home educators consistently score above their public school counterparts, so much so that the educational benefits of the method is hardly disputed.
- Family. Eight hours a day plus extracurricular activities weighs on a family unit. The homeschool alternative gives families plenty of leeway to structure their time as they see fit, not as a school system sees fit.
- Religious. Public schools have a history of hostility toward people of faith, especially so in the 1980s and 1990s. These decades were riddled with court battles for simple displays of prayer or the teaching of religious history. Homeschool parents had had enough of that.
I didn’t start off as much of an advocate for home schooling as I am today. For the first five years or so, Wendy and I considered going back to public education. “We’re taking one year at a time,” we’d say to those who questioned us. However, year after year of trial and error, I couldn’t help but compare the benefits my children were enjoying compared to that of my students in my public school classrooms. Now 20 years into it, Wendy and I don’t even think of going back.
A few fence-riding years into our journey, the Home School Legal Defense Association started a debate league. Being a debate coach for my district, I jumped on board and became the Minnesota coordinator and assisted HSLDA on some foundational decisions. That set the stage for my family that we’re still playing today, now several leagues and thousands of families strong. Homeschool speech and debate is today considered the “homeschool sport.”
The rest is history. I was laid off at my school district in 2000 and chased a career in journalism. I moved my family to Colorado and was Senior Internet Editor for Focus on the Family. I left in 2004 to give full-time attention to my growing ministry, Training Minds Ministry, for home-school debaters. Our school today consists of avid speaking and debating (we have two National Title Winners in the family, and we’re aiming for more) plus a co-op in Colorado Springs.
We’re not even close to being finished; everyday is an exciting new adventure for us. I have five observations of our 22 year journey…
- We made this up as we went along. This is a scary idea for some, but not for the Jeub family. We’re nonconformists by nature, which is both awesome and risky. I welcome the challenge of home education, always have.
- We don’t have all the answers. Wendy and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I suspect we never will. Even 20 years into this, we’re trying new things that appear to work and dropping old things that don’t. This is no different than public education — they constantly experiment on our kids — the only difference is that we admit it. Such is the nature of honest education.
- We are an extremely diverse community. Don’t be quick to peg the homeschool community. It’s impossible to stereotype them, just as impossible to stereotype all public schoolers. This hasn’t always been the case (I’ll touch on this in the next post), but today the community is extremely well-rounded and diverse.
- We wouldn’t trade this for anything. When I compare my childhood with my children’s, there is little comparison. The opportunities my kids have had as home educators greatly outweigh the opportunities I had as a kid. Same with Wendy, and most other homeschool families I know.
- We are evangelistic, not proselytizing, about this. Wendy and I think homeschooling is great, and we would be very happy to hear if you decide to home educate. However, we aren’t pounding this over anyone’s head. All parents should have the freedom and elbow room to moozie-on-into the idea as they find the ability to do so. It’s a liberating direction for your family, not a judgmental one.
I share all this to give you some context to our story. As I type this out, I’m humbled at the impact homeschooling has made on my family. We’ve graduated four children into the world out of homeschooling, and we have 12 more to go.
I suspect there are some big things happening with homeschooling. I’m not quite sure what God is up to, but it’ll probably be big. Speech and debate fits into it somehow, as does a radical shift from puritan-type legalism to a freer, diplomatic educational approach for families. It is an exciting time in history to be home educating.