By Daniel and Stephane Stegeman
When our twin daughters turned 4 (back in 2014), we were torn in terms of how best to educate our children. Daniel grew up in the public school system, while Stephane was mostly educated in Christian schools. Both were options for our kids, but we also had concerns.
Around that same time, we met a couple of homeschool families. The more we talked with them, the more we thought – we can do this! The homeschool movement had been around for a few decades and there were plenty of options when it came to curriculum. It became clear to us that there was no one “right way” to homeschool.
One of the barriers we faced was that Stephane said she would never be a teacher. Her Mom was a retired school teacher and she was well aware of the challenges. In her mind, teaching was for the professionals and learning only happened in the context of a school building. Stephane was also trained as a professional counsellor. To be a home educator would mean putting her career on hold.
As we worked through these challenges and questions, God was with us every step of the way. One thing that appealed to us is that we would be learning right alongside our kids. I remember reading a book by another homeschool parent who said, “you don’t have to know everything to homeschool, just a little more than your kids.” Even though Stephane and I had post-secondary education, there were gaps in our learning and we knew homeschool would benefit us as well. As we thought through and prayed through these matters, it soon became clear that God was leading us in the direction of homeschooling.
At first we thought, let’s just take it a year at a time. Homeschool this year and re-evaluate what’s best for next year. We still have that perspective, but now we have more of a long-range homeschooling vision.
These last 6 years of homeschooling have flown by. Our daughters, Elizabeth and Anna, are going into 5th grade, John is headed into 3rd, and Jeremiah is starting 1stgrade. Our home is kind of like the old style one-room school house. Yes, with three different ages learning at the same time, it can be a little chaotic, but it is possible.
One of the blessings we have discovered is the homeschool co-op. Believe it or not, in 6 years, we have been part of 5 different co-ops. Stephane has been a tutor for 3 of them and it is a great way to enhance learning in the context of home education. A co-op is a great opportunity to learn together as families while sharing the responsibility of education. Stephane and the kids have made many great friendships over the years and it is also an opportunity for Mom’s to share ideas, strategize, and problem solve.
Another huge blessing is field trips! We have been to countless museums, parks, historical sites, zoos, and science centers in order to enhance the hands-on learning experience. As a pastor, Daniel has some flexibility in his schedule, which allows him to be a part of that too. These field trips are fun for all, including Mom and Dad!
One of our core-convictions is that school is always in session, and that learning is life-long. To only think that learning happens during the 9-3 school day, is to short-change yourself. Learning can happen at all hours and the day whether we are at home or away. We also want the kids to embrace the philosophy that they are life-long students. We are striving to lay that foundation stone during these formative years.
One of the myths or stereotypes that we have run into is that “homeschool kids are anti-social.” I am sure that most homeschool families deal with this, but in most cases, it is simply not true. Most homeschooling kids are very social, and their ability to interact with adults often surprises people.
These 6 years of homeschooling have not been without challenges. We would be surprised if anyone entered into homeschooling thinking it is a piece of cake. Homeschooling is not for everyone, but it may be the best option for your family. You will face challenges, and lots of Mom’s have days where they deal with “yellow bus syndrome,” wishing the bus would stop and pick their kids up. However, we believe it is a great way to educate your children, especially with how things are culturally and politically.
Lastly, our greatest desire is not that our kids would grow up to be “successful” from a worldly standpoint. Our greatest desire is that our kids would know the Lord and be disciples of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8-11, Matthew 28:19-20). Perhaps the most important aspect of the homeschool day is our time of family worship each morning. As parents, we are called to put in front of our children teaching that allows them to think through and ponder the great truths of God and the world. “We must take steps to provide a diet which opens doors for each child to build a relationship with God, other persons, and the universe.” (For the Children’s Sake, p. 91)
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more articles on schedule, organization, and curriculum when it comes to homeschooling. This post has given a little taste of our educational philosophy, but future ones will go deeper.