Homeschooling: how we began

John and I had our first daughter in 1988, back when homeschooling was still far from mainstream. We both thought it seemed overprotective, maybe even downright odd.  We never imagined ourselves as home-schoolers.  However, the closer our oldest daughter got to school age, the less thrilled we became about the idea of public school.  John and I had both gone to church schools for elementary school, so we investigated a local Christian school and decided to go that route.

Kindergarten for our oldest daughter was wonderful–she had a great teacher, only went for half days, and had only 11 kids in her class.  She loved it.

First grade — not so much.   She had a different teacher and a big class with at least 4 kids who were disruptive.  When I volunteered in class, it seemed that the disruptive kids got 85% of the frazzled teacher’s time.  The noise in the classroom was so great that our daughter was having a hard time completing assignments in class- and I totally understood her distraction.  She often ended up finishing work while other kids were at recess.

Also in first grade, little-girl cattiness reared its head.  Every week or two our daughter would come home upset because last week’s best friend had decided she liked some other friend better.  A few days later, the storm would blow over and they’d be best friends again.   But the social atmosphere was far from placid, even in this Christian school.

Even sadder was my daughter’s new obsession with friends over family. Suddenly she felt too old to play with her 2-years-younger sister. And when I asked her about school, she’d answer in single words. At the ripe old age of 6, it seemed she was distancing herself from our family.

During these early years of my daughter’s school, I was working part time as a labor and delivery nurse at a local birthing center.  I had the opportunity to work with a lovely woman named Karen.  At the time she had 7 or 8 kids.  Like me, she just worked  a day or two a week, and unlike me, she was a homeschooling mom.

She’d just had a baby, and when she worked, she would bring her baby and her teenaged daughter along to work.  The teen hung out in one of the family rooms caring for the baby and doing homework.  Karen would go check on them now and then, pausing to nurse the baby whenever she got a chance.

I got the chance to visit with Karen’s daughter, and discovered quickly that there was something special about her.  She was poised beyond her years, could carry on a thoughtful conversation, and just seemed to radiate kindness.  I remember thinking, “that’s how I want my daughters to be when they’re teenagers.”

I began to wonder how much her demeanor was related to having been home schooled.  As John and I became less thrilled with the private school, I found myself asking Karen more and more questions about homeschooling.  Her laid-back answers were reassuring.  For example, when I asked her how she made sure the kids’ education didn’t have gaps, she laughed and said that everyone’s education has gaps.  The important thing is to teach kids where to find out what they need to know.

The more I talked to Karen, the more sensible homeschooling seemed.  But it wasn’t until the end of our daughter’s first grade year, when it came time to sign our second daughter up for kindergarten, that we really began to wonder if home schooling could be the answer for us too.  When they laid the paper out in front of us, showing how much we’d need to pay each month, we realized that I was going to have to work another day a week just to afford this privilege.

By then we had 4 kids.  The last thing I wanted was to be away from our little kids another day a week, just so that my bigger kids could go to school – especially when I was becoming more and more convinced that my older kids would get more teaching and more attention by staying home with me.  A 1:4 teacher/student ratio beats a 1:24 all to bits.

Once again Karen encouraged me along.  You don’t have to commit to homeschooling forever, she said.  Give it a try and see if it works for you. John and I talked through our options, researched curriculum, and decided to take the plunge.

The year was 1995.

(Part two coming soon)


  1. It is a little freaky how much your story sounds just like mine, right down to the daughter pulling away and the out of control 1st grade.

  2. Daylily Girl says:

    Btw, I love being homeschooled 🙂

    ~ Second daughter

  3. I don’t homeschool my children, and at this point in their lives I am not feeling called to head that direction (largely due to the fact that I know my husband would be dead-set against it). I figure if God has in mind for us to homeschool, He will make sure the idea comes from my hubby.

    But your description of your daughter’s struggles and attitude sure do sound like mine! I can’t wait to read more…

  4. My husband and I always said we’d homeschool, but that was our ideal-not what we chose for our reality. Now seems so convenient to send them off and let someone else teach, so that’s what we do. We also said we’d never let our kids ride the bus or eat from the cafeteria (so unhealthy)… are we allowing too much compromise, or is God still at work on my heart about it? I’m not sure.

    It is encouraging to hear your story though, that you didn’t start off homeschooling. Maybe we’ll revisit this topic for our family as the Lord leads. We have a 2nd grader, kindergartner, and one at home.

  5. Former public and private school teacher here. I totally can relate to the comment about spending 85% of the time on disruptive students. SO SAD! So true though. I so much want to homeschool my children. Looking forward to hearing more of your story. Also, I posted my reaction to your forgiveness post just now…. Thanks for the insight again 🙂

  6. Apart from the fact we are lucky for now in that our oldest is loving school, I can see why you would change. Very interesting, looking forward to next part

  7. I love hearing other peoples’ stories of how they came to homeschooling. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story. I’m praying like crazy that I’ll be able to home school when the kiddos are older. Our daughter who just graduated high school was a public school kid and loved it and did well – but I really sense God leading us towards home schooling now. I have a few years still so we’ll see!

  9. I love your story – can’t wait to hear the rest of it! My oldest is only 20 mos. but I have a passion for homeschooling – I see so many kids who are so obsessed with fitting in with their peers that they are not able or willing to hold a conversation with adults or smaller children, and I think that is so sad. Life is all about our relationships with others, not about being cool, and I don’t think our school systems can teach that to our children. Plus, I think homeschooling is more efficient because of the smaller teacher to student ratio, and the fact that as parents, we already know much about our children that teachers have to & are sometimes not able to learn because of how many children they have to deal with on a daily basis.

  10. i love this and often wonder if we will see different versions of home schooling come about. (living in southern cali where the state budget cuts are so severe with the public schools) i’m thinking some of the good teachers that are losing their jobs coupled with the parents that don’t want their kids with sooo many students, may opt to form small schooling or something. thanks for sharing your start with homeschooling. i also believe it takes a special person to do it. not everyone is a good teacher, and i’m mostly thinking of me.

  11. I have an elem. ed degree. When doing in class time for college I saw first hand that most of the day is filler. Why in the world should an elem. child have homework to do at night? Made me question the whole kit and caboodle. We had our first child shortly after I graduated so I never got paid to teach and that’s fine with me. So glad we chose to homeschool our kiddos. I love it and they are learning so much. I think they also like the fact that they don’t have to be on the bus that rolls by before 7 a.m.! ; )


  1. […] Go here to see the original: Homeschooling: how we began […]

  2. […] Read more here:  Homeschooling: how we began […]

  3. […] Related links Homeschooling: how we began Homeschooling: why we stuck with it Share and […]