Toward the end of high school, I was intrigued by the uniformity of my peers. On the verge of graduation, I was surrounded by hundreds of people I had grown up with, who had lived life almost exactly like I had for 13 years straight. Sure, there were some variances in family structure and home life. Additionally, there were certain days where orthodontist appointments, a stomach bug, or a stray vacation swapped out the normal routine for something different; but overall most of life was school, homework, and extracurriculars. After 13 years of mostly matching days, as if by some magic spell, “poof” and the uniformity disappeared. We all woke up somewhere in year 17 or year 18 of our lives and the strain of similarities had disappeared, gone into a puff of smoke. Some would go away to college, some to trade schools. Some would commute to college, others join the military, while still others would get married and have children. Some would take a “gap year” for missions work, others enter right into the work force occasionally right into a family business. Some would flounder, others would be wildly successful. Everyone was on the same path for years and then overnight the path dissolved.
In 2013, our oldest child turned five. At the time we had a short list of reasons to keep him home for his education. Our list was actually only one reason: Time. The big yellow school bus comes around 8:00 AM and drops off again at 4:45 PM. Surely, we cannot be the biggest influencers in our child’s life if they are gone from the home for that long of a time span. And so, we began our journey of homeschooling. In the last five years our list of reasons to homeschool has doubled and tripled and now seems almost never ending. We are consistently adding to it and believe the most important reason to educate at home is being obedient to God.
Given my late teenage thoughts to the uniformity of childhood, you could imagine my surprise when we began our journey into the homeschool realm and saw the vast diversity before us. Woah. There are all sorts of categories of homeschoolers and most homeschoolers you meet describe themselves as a blend of the types. Beyond the types of homeschoolers there is mass variety when it comes to curriculum, educational philosophies, resources, schedules, family dynamics, extracurricular choices, and so on. You can use textbooks, living books, online academies, lap-booking, software-based programs, traditional distance learning, or dual credit. You can join academic co-ops, enrichment co-ops, small family-based co-ops, or none of the above.
The world of homeschooling is as vast as the world of public schooling is uniform. From a Biblical perspective, it is abundantly clear that our Creator is one drawn to variety. I am reminded of it every apple-picking season here in Pure Michigan. For the longest time I thought there were two types of apples: red and green. But then, in an effort to spend more time outside and cut down grocery bills, we began to visit the apple orchard more frequently and each week, low and behold, I learned that there was a different variety of apple to pick! How could there be that much variety in apples I thought? But each one was a different shade, from the outside to the inside. Variations of red that ranged to almost purple and all sorts of shades of green. Even the whites inside vary – which doesn’t really seem possible, but the insides are different. I learned, in fact, that there are 7,500 varieties of apples. And I’ve learned that there are 1,750 species of cacti and that the human eye can discriminate between 7 and 10 million color variations. The Amazon rainforest is home to 16,000 species of trees. 40,000 types of spiders. These are staggering numbers. What a genius Creator to design such a vast assortment of everything!
God addresses variety amongst people time and again in Scripture.
So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… (Ephesians 4:11, 12)
And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:28)
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many… If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? (I Corinthians 12:12,17)
And He also addresses variety where the education of our children is concerned.
Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6, AMP)
We are instructed to help our children sort out the talents and abilities God has given to them specifically. Every parent knows that talents and abilities vary widely, even amongst children from the same families. Our oldest three each picked a special interest to pursue this school year. One chose computers, another guitar, and the third geology. In home education, the paths to true learning meander and go many different directions. Even though this makes me feel uncomfortable because it’s not what I’m used to, I know I serve a God who has variety on display in every aspect of His creation. Therefore, I can trust that the path He has lays before us day by day to train and disciple our children is worthy, even when it doesn’t look the same as someone else’s.
Last year I read a transformative book, Answers for Homeschooling, Top 25 Questions Critics Ask, by Israel Wayne. In his book he addresses academic achievement of home educated children.
“Home educated students’ test scores remain between the 80th and 90th percentiles, whether their mothers have a college degree or did not complete high school.”
Academically, homeschooled kids score 25 to 30 percent higher on standardized tests than public schooled kids. This is regardless of methodology or philosophy. There are no stipulations on these statistics, friends. Whether kids are farm-schooled or unschooled or classical schooled or mishmash schooled, they outperform. And so, you know what that says to me? It says to me that however you’re doing it, you’re doing it right. It says to me that whether you have a Pinterest worthy homeschool classroom or no homeschool classroom at all, you’re doing it right. Even if you feel inadequate, and you lack confidence, and deep down you are scared, you’re still doing it right. God guides. He guides day by day. He guides step by step. And the world he created is a vast world full of diversity. It’s the diversity that brings the beauty.
We have bought the lie that education is a linear process, a checklist of numbered objectives. Linear works well for ranking and tracking, but it’s diversity that accounts for the loveliness and intrigue in our world. Right now, it is October in Michigan and the variety of trees account for leaves that are ablaze like fire against the brilliant blue wispy skies.
So be confident in the home education experience you are providing. You are the salt of the earth. Be different. Stand out. Add flavor to our world. Follow God’s leading. Provide for your children what you know they need. And then be bold on your path. It does not have to look like anyone else’s. It certainly does not have to look like a public school classroom.
There are not just two kinds of apples. There are over 7,000. Variety is God’s design. However you are homeschooling, you are doing it right.
Ginny Yurich is a local Michigan homeschooling mother of five. She also blogs at 1000HoursOutside.com where she challenges parents around the world to consider matching outside time with the amount of time kids spend in front of screens. In America, average screen time is currently around 1,200 hours a year. Outside time, and especially free play outside, has been shown to benefit child development in innumerable ways.