As a graduate of home education, and a currently-home-educating mom, I get many questions about it. I’ve been approached by people who have an inkling— or maybe even a deep conviction— that they want to pursue it for their family; but it’s unfamiliar, scary, or they just don’t know where to begin. 

I want to encourage those considering, embarking, or well underway in their journey of taking the education of their children into their own hands. Let’s look at what home education isn’t, and what it can be by the grace of God.

The Stigma Does Not Represent the Whole

Home education doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes, and it doesn’t save our kids (more on that in my next post). When done well, however, it doesn’t have to be some weird, non-academic disengagement with the world— the way it’s often depicted.

The stigma against home education exists because of the portion of home educators that come from a place of fear and cultish beliefs. That stigma does not represent the whole (nor even a significant portion). It’s merely an easy straw man fallacy.

People are often shocked to learn I was “homeschooled” for the bulk of my education. My ability to socialize, my success in higher education, my lack of long skirts, and my many tattoos make people stagger as their stereotypes of the “homeschooled kid” are shattered. 

Home Education Has Been and Can Be So Much More

The wide range of experiences that marked my childhood are often seen as incommensurable with the fact that I never went to public school. Ironically, these very experiences are a direct product of my education at home. The incredulous responses I receive are proof to me that home education is deeply misunderstood by most people.

Home education has existed forever. Long before the institutionalization of education and the creation of the modern public school, education was a familial and church-community endeavor. 

Most figures we laud in history were educated at home for most of their adolescence, including— but certainly not limited to— Isaac Newton, Ada Lovelace, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Lincoln, Blaise Pascal, Claude Monet, Hudson Taylor, Mozart, Beatrix Potter, and Jonathan Edwards. 

Long before the... creation of the modern public school, education was a familial and church-community endeavor. 

Home education has the freedom to be whatever parents want to make it. It can be a robust, God-glorifying, well-rounded, community-changing, and flourishing method for bringing up children. It can give them a foundation like the deep roots of a tree, that, as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “are not reached by the frost” (The Fellowship of the Ring). It has this freedom because the choices for its direction are made by a family, not a system or machine.

Education is Not School— it’s Discipleship

The British educational philosopher Charlotte Mason wrote: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

Education is not synonymous with school.

Home education is not a replication of school in the home. It goes beyond acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowing, acquiring a degree, a quality career, or money. 

Education is discipleship through life lived together.

The purpose of education is to know and worship God. To love our Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. 

Education is about the development of the whole person. Mathematics, literacy, the arts, science— they are drops compared to the whole ocean of education, which is the pursuit of truth, beauty, and virtue with the intent of glorifying God in every aspect of our lives.

Within the Framework of Family

With that picture of education in mind, “schooling” at home will look different than what occurs within the walls of a school.

As John Gatto wrote: “By redirecting the focus of our lives from families and communities to institutions and networks, we, in effect, anoint a machine our king” (Dumbing Us Down).

Education takes place within our home, within the framework of our family. Families are not machines. This is a good thing— machines cannot provide the way a community can. A network does not love the way a family does.

Our families are gifts in the education of our children, and integral to it. When we educate at home, we don’t have to operate like an institution, with regulated hours and grades. We need not lop off the gifts of an individual child to force them into a one-size-fits-all model of learning.

Education is the pursuit of truth, beauty, and virtue with the intent of glorifying God in every aspect of our lives.

The Aim of Home Education

You’ve probably been conditioned to think of learning as something that needs proof or obvious signposts. Things like tests and lectures and seated, attentive children. It takes practice, intention and concentrated effort on our part to break away from this erroneous thinking. Even though the bulk of research tells us otherwise, we still cling to the notion that without a standardized test to prove it to us, learning must not have happened (see John Holt’s How Children Fail).

We must shift our thinking if we want to be faithful to the education of our children. 

We must recognize the whole person and the God who made them— which is something more easily done at home. 

Relationships are as important as the curriculum on the table. 

Character development is integral. 

God must be center of all. 

This is the aim of home education— not a good SAT score.