FBP

The modern-day homeschooling movement has grown by leaps and bounds since the 1980s when a ragtag band of pioneers bravely blazed a new trail. Our family joined the ranks in the 1990s when it wasn’t a given that you knew someone who educated their kids at home. As strong annual growth continued into the 2000s and 2010s, the homeschool community was still a clear minority, but it was starting to approach the scale of private schools in terms of acceptance and awareness.

When the year 2020 started, the number of homeschool students represented a meager 4-5% of the student population and was still dwarfed by roughly 10% in private schools and 85% in the government-run system. Then COVID-19 changed everything.

In March and April, all sixty million K–12 students in America found themselves in a mandatory trial run of “school-at-home.” Whether people liked it or not, they found themselves test driving this thing called homeschooling. By the end of April, surveys surfaced reporting 22%, 41%, even 60% of families were actually planning to continue some form of “school-at-home” in the fall. I was skeptical at first, but as we entered May, June, and July, I saw more evidence that families were actually ready to take full control of their kids’ education.

Make no mistake about it. This is a tidal wave of change for K–12 education. It’s not unrealistic to consider the possibility that one year from now, the demographic split among public, private, and homeschoolers could shift to one-third, one-third, and one-third. That would be cataclysmic for the already failing public system, a bonanza for the private sector, and the likes of a gold rush for the homeschooling market.

New entries into the education industry will likely pop up making all kinds of promises. But remember this. All the rules are changing. The old-guard emphasis on standardized tests? Gone. The high-priced and elite private schools? They may survive but will be forced to compete against a new breed of affordable private education, all of which have to put up or shut up. And what about sports, band, and other extracurricular activities? There would surely be an increase in the number and availability of private tutors, online instruction, and many other educational resources.

New entries into the education industry will likely pop up making all kinds of promises. But remember this. All the rules are changing. The old-guard emphasis on standardized tests? Gone. The high-priced and elite private schools? They may survive but will be forced to compete against a new breed of affordable private education, all of which have to put up or shut up. And what about sports, band, and other extracurricular activities? There would surely be an increase in the number and availability of private tutors, online instruction, and many other educational resources.

And what about homeschooling? Instantly you’re going to see a huge crowd, a tidal wave of energetic and creative parents directing their kids’ education with passion, purpose, and intentionality. It’s going to be awesome!

With all the new-fangled approaches from rookies, veteran homeschooling parents will likely observe things that are outside their comfort zone. You know what? That’s the beauty of home education. Families get to set their own goals, values, and priorities. They can have their own definition of success, and they can pursue it with all the gusto they can muster. And I suspect most of these kids will actually start liking school for the first time in their lives as they get to study subjects they enjoy for long periods of time in the context of a loving family at home where all is safe and sound.

Parents won’t be patted on the head to feel good about participating in the PTA. No. Parents will be large and in charge. Even though they will take on more responsibility than in the past, they will be more excited about their role in the life of their God-given children, which is as it should be. It will be as though the scales fall off and everyone will see things as they really are for the first time. It will be exciting. That’s for sure.

Beware. It won’t be perfect. My encouragement is to let each family figure things out on its own. Now I suspect most parents will ask friends and family and others they trust for some help, support, and advice. That’s good, but let each individual family make its own decisions. Often the best way to learn something new and to make it your own is through trial and error. Correcting mistakes along the way help with the learning and ownership process.

But there are some definite pitfalls to try and avoid. Here are a few.

Don’t bring your public or private school experience home. Let your paradigm be shifted, which isn’t easy. Wipe the slate clean. Feel the freedom. And start fresh. Remember, it’s a brand-new day for you and your students. Go with the flow of the day. Don’t be too rigid with a stressful, arbitrary schedule. Spend lots of time reading. And if you have elementary-aged kids, then make reading time a family event with snuggling on the sofa. Let life happen and keep the relationship you are cultivating with each family member one of your highest priorities. Make sure you celebrate the many milestones along the way on this adventure of a lifetime—the first time kids can read a book by themselves, the completion of a big science project, and definitely high school graduation.

You won’t be wearing masks or social distancing at home. So keep things real, but also healthy with lots of love and laughter. When learning at home, your kids probably won’t stay in one place for very long. Instead of your kids being bored looking longingly out a window while a teacher lectures on and on, let them explore creation outside—what a great opportunity for everyone.

Kids being homeschooled in a Christian home can learn the truth about what it means to be made in the image of God. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, not a lucky product of random evolution.

As a mom or dad fully in charge of your kids’ education, you won’t have to be frustrated trying to implement someone else’s impossible plan. And no political agenda will be deciding what is right for your child. Instead, you can put together your own customized plan for your individual children. What a concept! Everyone wins.

The reasons families begin their homeschool journey are rarely the same reasons they continue. Most get started because of negative socialization, bullying, unsafe situations, or unacceptable academic progress. You probably got started because of the COVID-19 pandemic, something completely outside of your control. But once you or any family gets a taste of home education and the improved quality of life, it’s difficult to think about going back. Homeschooling usually requires a sacrifice of time, money, and energy. But families typically place a high value on education, and homeschooling allows for an emphasis on academics, improved relationships, and an overall quality of life, all of which is hard to put a price on.

Homeschooling was already one of the most significant social, cultural, and educational movements of the last fifty years. Although a relatively small number of students and families were riding this wave prior to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst turning the homeschooling movement into a tidal wave of epic proportions. It’s likely to lead the way during the next fifty years. Will you be riding this educational wave smiling and shouting “cowabunga” or will you be treading water, meandering, lost and adrift at sea? You can’t stop this wave, but you can ride it. And if you do, I predict you will look back and say it was one of the best decisions you ever made for yourself, your kids, and your family.

Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!

© 2020 Davis Carman

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Davis is the president of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of Creation-based science and Bible curriculum. He is the author of five illustrated children’s books designed to help parents instill a biblical worldview in the hearts and minds of their preschoolers. He believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now! You can hear more of what he has to say at the Let’s Talk Homeschool Podcast.