Homeschol versus Christian School

Homeschool versus Christian School

Homeschol versus Christian School

Some of you may have noticed my absence around here the past few weeks. It wasn’t an intentional break. It was a break that just kind of developed as I needed time to do and think and process. We’ve been processing a lot in recent weeks.  We’ve been evaluating and choosing and wrestling. We’ve been at that place of deciding what kind of life we want for our family.

Choosing a Family Lifestyle

A few weeks ago while at a family gathering, a relative mentioned a graphic design position that had opened up at his place of employment, a large, well-known company in the area. We had just come off a couple of very challenging weeks as a family and wondered if this might be God’s prompting to move in another direction as we had been praying specifically regarding our willingness to do so.  We researched the position and weighed the pros and cons of it. It would be a step back professionally for David. It would be a step back financially in some ways in that it would require much longer hours away from home working than what David does now.  But it would be a job with very good benefits. It would provide a measure of “security” in what we suspect are going to be increasingly erratic times in our country over the next few years.

In the end, David did not apply for the job. It would have taken him away from home all day and still required that he continue to freelance on the side in the evenings in order to maintain the level of income we’ve had lately. (It would have actually locked us in at a lower income level.) It would have meant Caroline and David would get almost no time together. We were happy that we wrestled through the issue as it helped us clarify again what is important to us as a family and how David can best use his gifts and talents in his professional pursuits. Just a few hours after he decided not to pursue the job at the end of the posting, another client wrote to confirm a commitment to a longer-term relationship with a larger project.  We were thankful that God confirmed our choice, something that doesn’t always happen!

Reasons for Considering a Christian School

During the same stretch, we also began to wonder if we should more seriously consider sending Caroline to a Christian school. There is a very nice Christian school in our area where I know she would get a quality, very Christ-centered education. I toured the school last week with the principal and felt overall favorably about it. (It was a very emotional experience for me to be back in a school building. I haven’t been in a school in quite a few years… maybe since I stopped teaching?  It reminded me of how much I enjoyed the anticipation of back to school and the feeling of community.)

We have three reasons for considering Christian school for Caroline.  One, we want a break. Call me selfish if you want, but the thought of having five mornings a week alone or with just David here is so beyond comprehension in my mind that I can hardly express how fantastic it sounds to this introvert. (I won’t even get into what it would be like to have the whole day.)  There is so much in my life that has been pushed aside, put on hold, etc. I know that is a normal part of being a parent, but I am trying to figure out how much is necessary and how much is healthy. The freedom to work freely would also be a tremendous bonus. I think how nice it would be to just be Caroline’s mom and not have to be responsible for every part of her education.

The second reason is for Caroline to develop friendships and for us to be part of a bigger community than ourselves.  The fact that she is an only child weighs heavily on our mind. It would be very easy for David and I to just become total homebodies, but with Caroline that is not wise. I think in many ways it would be good for us to be involved in community at a school. While I know we can be involved in homeschool groups and such, I’m fairly confident they will not provide the same community experience that a school will. That’s just not the nature of homeschooling communities from what I’ve observed in other people’s lives.

And the third (and perhaps most important reason) is that we want other quality Christian adults to invest in Caroline’s life and spiritual development. We often think that it would be very good for her to be under the authority of other Christian adults. Having an only child with a strong personality makes for a very different family dynamic. It is hard to explain, but I think Caroline would benefit a great deal from hearing God’s Word and biblical teaching from adults other than us.

My only experiences with Christian schools have been less than positive ones as a teacher. However, I know so many people who loved their Christian school experience and speak positively of the impact their teachers and coaches had on them.

It is interesting to me that the academics are not really a reason to send her to Christian school. I’m confident I can do that here so the academic part doesn’t even enter my mind. That said, the Christian school has excellent procedures for differentiating instruction throughout the entire school.

The building is beautiful and the classrooms are huge. It is in a gorgeous setting and they have a strong environmental focus which I think is great. (Especially since it will be focused on God’s creation and not crazy science!)

A Complete Lifestyle Change

So what holds us back? It is a complete lifestyle change for us. We will lose our freedom to come and go as we please and will be locked into a school schedule. We will have much less time together as a family. We will have homework to do and lunches to make and fundraisers to do and….and…and… Getting up and getting everyone out the door every morning instead of spending a leisurely morning together as a family… Driving back and forth or else having to put Caroline on a bus every day…

It is also a completely different educational model. The differences between homeschool and Christian school are significant in terms of how Caroline will be educated, what she will learn, etc. That isn’t to say the Christian school model is bad. It is just different.

So that is where we are. At this point I think we are still leaning toward homeschooling, but it is nice to have another choice. It’s strange because a number of years ago I would have been thrilled to have a quality Christian school available for my child. But as my own views on education and family have changed and evolved, I find myself feeling like Christian school is “less” of an education compared to what we could do with her at home. I know that isn’t true in every case, but I do feel like academically I could do much more for her at home than she will probably get at school. Being at home will give her advantages in some areas and going to a Christian school will give opportunities in other areas. Neither is necessarily better – just different. And we’re trying to discern which opportunities and advantages are better for her and how God will choose to use her in the years ahead. We’re confident God is leading us and will take care of her no matter which choice we make. And then we will plunge forward full steam ahead this fall!

The photo is Caroline pumping water at the farm at the Meijer Gardens, one of her favorite things to do there!

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8 thoughts on “Homeschool versus Christian School

  1. Ellen

    Hey! Just realizing I’ve had a lot of these thoughts myself lately. We don’t have the option of affordable Christian school, but I see others wrestling with public vs. private school decisions, and I realize while listening to them that what they’re talking about, whether public or private, is simply a different lifestyle than I want for our family. I have a vision of a simpler, slower pace of learning life where I can take my time with my boys. The thought of a fast pace of school life and so much less time with my children isn’t appealing… although the thought of more time to myself certainly is.

    Things may change a lot as Caroline gets older in the amount of time she’s willing to entertain herself. Getting really involved in a homeschool group might bring more interaction and community than you think. But I understand your worries about finding role models and opportunities for growth for Caroline as an only child. Perhaps a co-op would help? Being homeschooled, we had some great extracurricular teachers that I loved and learned from… like my children’s choir director. It can happen without a school environment, just not on the same scale.

    I’ll be praying for you as you decide…

  2. Brandy @ Afterthoughts

    I think it is nice you have that kind of option! We really don’t have what I would consider a *good* Christian school that we could (1) afford and (2) not have to drive almost half an hour each way. Of course, I am very picky about education now that I’ve philosophized about it all these years! :oops:

    I was talking with a friend recently, who has a number of children herself, and we both agreed that having an only child seems harder in many ways than having multiple children. Obviously, when I had four children 6 and under, I thought I might die, but that was a stage and we grew out of it (famous last words…ahem).

    My oldest was an only child for almost three years, and during that time he required a lot from me–in terms of time, emotional energy, etc. I was happy to give it to him, but I won’t pretend it didn’t wear me out! With siblings come built-in playmates and helpers, it’s true. Obviously this is God’s plan for your family, but I guess I’m just saying that I can envision how hard it might be because I can imagine if my oldest were an only!! :)

    Anyhow…I will be praying for you while you make that decision. Now that we have homeschooled for a few years, I can’t imagine being a “school mom” and all that comes with it. It really *is* a different lifestyle–and there are pros and cons to both, I agree.

    We have never really joined any clubs or groups or anything, but I will say that I agree that community is indispensible. I suppose that is true in general! I am blessed to have many good friends who homeschool, and we regularly encourage one another on this journey. In addition, I have been able to have outside adult influence over my children through these friends–one teaches my children basic sewing skills (while I teach piano)–and a new friend and I will be planning regular nature study days together this coming year. These sorts of relationships have really helped me where I am weak, and I think the other gals feel the same. So if you *do* homeschool, I agree with Ellen that finding some sort of support group could really be helpful. Pray! Years ago, I thought I was going to be going it solo–I was a Charlotte Mason freak here, or so I thought! But God has answered these prayers, and now we have a group of five moms studying Mason’s books together monthly and encouraging each other through this season of life. I am amazed at how generously God has provided.

  3. Robin

    Hi, Sallie – this is definitely a hard decision. I’ve seen three options with my son – he went to a Christian pre-school, then a public school for the first part of kindergarten, and homeschool since Thanksgiving of that year. They are definitely different environments! My thoughts on community are that the community I’ve been able to tap into as a homeschooler is actually more involved than the communities at either the Christian preschool or the public school. I didn’t really get to know any of the other parents at the public school, partly because I had an infant at home and wasn’t able to volunteer much at school. I was more involved with the preschool, but really only knew people on a superficial basis as we waited with the kids for school to start or end, and were involved in some of the parent activities that were set up. The lack of time with my son was a big problem in kindergarten, as it was all day, and then he had homework when he got home, and was so tired he had to go to bed early. It was even worse with my husband, as his days off work are Sunday and Monday, so he missed all but about a half day of “quality time” with him. Since homeschooling, I have met several homeschooling families. We have a chance to meet together, and to really get to know each other and support each other. The kids have friends they can play with during unstructured time, and Rory has much better friends now than he had in school. We have also done a co-op with two or three other families. I teach music, another mom teaches foreign language, and the third teaches history. I know of people who have gotten together to go through particular curricula, also. It does require a lot more focus and time on the parent’s part, but I am less stressed trying to teach and figure out curriculum than I was trying to make the bus stop on time and make sure the lunch was ready and the homework was done! That said, everyone is different, and I will be praying that you find the right fit for your family.

  4. Brenda@coffeeteabooksandme

    That’s a hard decision that is SO individual.

    My daughter went through the public schools and did great but they were different then. There are lots of Christian schools in our area but I’ve heard less than good things about them.

    Most of the kids I know who have gone through the Christian schools really seem no different than those in public schools. There are exceptions (since parents are SO important to the outcome regardless of education).

    Stephanie and I were just talking about the cost of homeschooling today (She uses a program that is rather expensive). But we decided all the expenses in books and materials at least belong to the homeschool family to be used over and over.

    Having homeschooled one child, I know the time can be demanding. There are other options, though. Something like a Mom’s day out. You are in my prayers!

  5. Ann

    As someone who grew up as an only child, I really enjoyed going to school (a small private school).

    I enjoyed being home with my parents too and my nice quiet home. But school was a good contrast of experiences too.

    Good luck whatever you decide!

  6. Sallie @ a quiet simple life Post author

    Thanks for the good comments!

    Re: Brenda’s comment about Christian school kids being very much like public school kids… I want to tread carefully here, but that is also a factor. Although I do think the expectations of the parents can impact this to a significant degree, the daily exposure to children who come from homes with very different standards and expectations is a factor that we think about and I didn’t specifically mention. The school we are looking at is related to the Christian Reformed Church. One of the things I really like about the CRC is that they aren’t afraid to be in the midst of culture and impact it for Christ. One of the things I really dislike about the CRC is that they are often heavily in the midst of culture in a way that makes me personally uncomfortable according to my own convictions. I suspect we would be on the more conservative end of the spectrum among the families when it comes to entertainment choices, dress standards, etc. and I don’t relish having to deal with those questions quite yet. So, yes, that is a factor as well.

    Another one that might sound dumb but that I think about is germs. Not that I am afraid of them, but I know if Caroline is in school she’s going to pick up everything the next couple of years. I told David we might as well factor in another X amount of dollars per year for medical because dollars to donuts we end up at the doctor and on antibiotics several times. Obviously this isn’t a major factor, but it did cross my mind. A sick child = lost work time and the need to work is a reality for us. A sick child also often equals a sick parent (or two) and we don’t get paid sick days. :-)

  7. Kristy @ Heartscribblings

    I totally hear you on the “want a break”. Don’t know if you’ve figured this out as why yet, but only children are hard work!!! I never considered that till I ended up with a full-time 8 year old stepson. Before then, I used to kinda feel sorry for only children for their sake…now I feel sorry for the parents, lol! My husband and I keep recommending to people who are considering stopping at one (not for health issues) to have two at least, warning them that it’s easier than an only child!! That is said with all the sensitivity in the world, though, as we do have friends with only children who would dearly love to have more but haven’t seen it happen. The comment is only made when people are talking at stopping at one for the usual reasons. That’s my disclaimer. :)

  8. Sallie @ a quiet simple life Post author

    Kristy,

    LOL on the feeling sorry for the parents of onlies. Thank you! Having an only IS hard in some ways. On the other hand, we were at Barnes and Noble the other day and two little brothers were bickering at the train table and I said to David, “We never have to deal with that!” :-)

    Caroline has been very into babies lately and been talking a lot about being a mommy and me being the grandma. Her maternal side is clearly coming through! She asked me about having another baby in my tummy and it was a rather bittersweet moment. It was the first time she’s expressed an interest in a sibling. It was really quite sad for me to explain to her there wouldn’t be any more babies in mama’s tummy as I know she would have been a wonderful little mother to a baby brother or sister. :-(

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