Our First Day of School…after 23 Years of Homeschooling

Why half of our children are attending school this year

Yesterday was the first day of school. Six of our children will be attending Monument Academy, a charter school three miles from our home. Yes, this homeschool advocate is sending a bunch of his kids to a public school.

To tell you the truth, I don’t believe our homeschool beliefs have changed much at all.

To tell you the truth, I don’t believe our homeschool beliefs have changed much at all.

The cat’s out of the bag, I suppose. This decision has been in the works for about a year, the seeds planted even before that. Wendy and I have been rather quiet about it, at least publicly.

So when I posted pictures of my children being dropped off at school, a flood of comments and personal messages came in—some encouraging and some expressing concern. I assure you: a lot of thought, study and prayer went into our decision to go back to school.

While it seems like a radical change, let me share with you a few observations of what brought us to our decision.

Homeschooling Has Changed

The Jeub family homeschool journey started in 1992. I was a public school teacher fresh out of college when we decided to cut ties from the way we thought we were going to go (or, perhaps more accurately, the way the establishment thought we should go). Public education at that time was awful, at least from where Wendy and I were living.

I remember a few experiences that influenced us to take our 1st and 3rd grader out of school. When I volunteered to assist my daughter’s teacher, I got to see an overworked, grumpy and verbally abusive man rule over his classroom. I was a substitute teacher in 30 districts in Central Minnesota where I witnessed some of the most horrific environments for children (with some exceptions, of course). Meanwhile, a few families in our church were experimenting with home education and were having fantastic results.

So, in 1992 the decision to pull our kids from school and educate them at home was — for us — a no-brainer. As I explained in My History With Home Education, our decision was quite logical. Wendy and I were:

  1. Dissatisfied with public school.
  2. Impressed by homeschooling.
  3. Convinced to give homeschooling a try.

To homeschool in the 90s was radical. Personally, I have never seen myself other than (1) a caring parent and (2) an educator. I love my children and I want them to have the very best education possible. In the 90s that was the “radical” homeschool option, and though it isn’t as radical today as it was then, I value any form of education that is best for my children. You should, too, whether or not you are a parent or educator.

But along our journey homeschoolers in general somehow began to think we were it, the panacea of education. We believed a great exodus from formalized education would somehow rid our family of all our behavioral, educational and social problems. Home education was “God’s way” of educating and formal education — especially government institutions — was from hell.

Well, most of us didn’t come across that strong, but we often sounded that way. How naive we were. The reality started to surface among homeschooling’s biggest advocates, including myself.

I know and respect many leaders in the homeschool movement. Some of them are my best friends. We generally have an unsettled disposition about us, and sometimes it sets people off. If someone tells us that we should conform to the way they think we should conform — especially if that “someone” is the government or its institutions — we have a libertarian beast inside us that lashes out and battles the threat to our freedom.

I still have that beast inside me, and he’s a welcome beast that I appreciate from time to time whenever “someone” tries to manipulate me or my family.

But over the years in the development of the homeschool movement, that “someone” turned from “the world out there” to our very selves. Homeschoolers and their leaders began throwing down expectations upon its own people, and we followed. We stripped ourselves from the freedom of our roots and replaced it with bonds of legalism.

Your family may have prospered in this environment, but this hurt the Jeubs. I cannot recall anything good that has come from my attempts to set up legalistic formulas to raising my children—homeschooling included. God has been a bit rough with me whenever I’ve tried.

So much family dysfunction and personal bondage can be trailed back to downright awful ideas. Homeschooling itself isn’t an awful idea, but it got hijacked along the way by hierarchal, manipulative and legalistic folks. Like wondering Israelites trying to make their way in their newfound freedom, some erected idols and worshipped that which they thought brought their freedom.

Yes, I’m talking of legalism, patriarchy, and ideas of the like. If you are a brand new homeschooler, you may not know what I’m talking about. Good. Homeschoolers are ridding themselves of these harmful ideologies, my family included.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the people left behind made some significant changes.

Schooling Has Changed

Not everyone in the 1990s jumped off the public behemoth like homeschoolers. Many freedom-seeking believers stuck around to start the charter school movement. They fought hard to take back what local districts didn’t deserve: the right of parents to educate their own children. They bucked the egocentric, my-way-or-the-highway education that was adding to the ruination of public education. The same discontent we homeschoolers felt in the 90s were felt by most other parents, and rather than bucking the system altogether, they decided to fight them.

In a way, this movement was a coup d’état. Through legislation, charter schools took back parental control from public schools and put it into the hands of the parents where it belonged. Monument Academy proudly sprawls all over its website, “Celebrating 20 Years of School Choice.” Their History page reads:

In 1995, a group of parents came together believing that they could create a school where high academic standards, small class sizes, and respect and responsibility are valued and emphasized.

This is exactly what most homeschoolers believe education should be for their children. Personally, I throw in a spiritual element and say that it is our God-given responsibility to expect high academic standards and emphasize strong values like respect and responsibility—in and out of our homes.

Do you see how the tables turned? Twenty years after my exodus from formalized education, I am…

  1. Dissatisfied with homeschooling.
  2. Impressed by charter schools.
  3. Convinced to give it a try.

This is where we are at. And yesterday the kids had a great first day of school.

We Have Changed

You should know that we haven’t sent all the children to Monument Academy. Know this: we are still very much advocates for homeschooling. For the record:

  • The two oldest (Isaiah and Micah) are crushing it at Colorado Springs Early Colleges;
  • the next two (Noah and Tabitha) are attending High Country Home Educators (and I’m teaching both a writing and a debate course for other homeschoolers);
  • Keilah, Hannah, Josiah, Havilah, Joshua and Priscilla will be attending Monument Academy;
  • and Zechariah and Elijah will be schooled at home by Wendy.

Quite the mix and match of educational options, isn’t it? I suppose we have changed quite a bit, but I see it as adaptability. I’d like to pull back the curtain a little bit more and share two more thoughts.

First, Wendy and I have been humbled greatly in the past few years. Several homeschool leaders have. For us, we’re pulling in a lot of what we do as a family and taking care of ourselves. It may appear secretive or controlling or whatever-the-haters-say, but it isn’t. It is turning the camera off our personal lives and focusing on that which is most important. This is one reason we chose to keep this decision to ourselves, up till now.

Second, we are more focused on God’s will for our life than ever before. This has been an awesome twenty-three year journey. The more Wendy and I let go of what others think we are or should become — our own misguided ideas included — the closer we get to a robust and exciting relationship with Jesus Christ. I admit that another reason we hesitated about sharing our decision to send kids to school: We knew there would be judgement from the hardcore folks. We’ve learned to brush off the judgment and be ourselves. In a very real way, this is me and my household serving the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

I honestly believe this year’s approach to our children’s education has never been healthier.

Are you a debater? Join me in Colorado in July for the Training Minds Camp!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Annmarie AndBill Rozelle

    While you didn’t have to give an explanation. I appreciate hearing how you came to your decision. It is a very personal one and not one anyone should judge. You are blessed to have a decent charter school nearby. In NY (not NYC) they are still very limited and heavily controlled.

  • Great post….seems like you two are growing like crazy and I love watching things morph and change. God’s pretty awesome that way. 🙂

  • Kristina DeVries

    We home-schooled our kids for 2 years and it wasn’t working for us. We didn’t want them to just to go a public school though, so we carefully considered a few charter schools and our kids have been going to a great charter school for 3 years (this is the 4th) and it works so much better for us. They demand parent involvement (2 parent homes have to volunteer 40 hours a year), they welcome you in the classroom and we are happy! I love your quote: “Through legislation, charter schools took back parental control from public schools and put it into the hands of the parents where it belonged.” That’s exactly it!

  • Raquel Rizzuto Hitchcock

    Wow, I love the honesty in how you arrived at this decision. I love that both of you are willing to be open to alternatives. Best of luck at school, I bet the kids will have a blast!

  • I am glad that you are doing what is best for your family and I appreciate your sharing of how you came to this decision. Last week we sent our #2 child to private school for 9th grade. Man, if it weren’t for the toddler, baby, traveling, and my 11th grader still to homeschool, I would have cried like it was kindergarten! We are taking it year by year, asking God each step of the way what He would have us do for the education of our children. I don’t want to keep homeschooling just because that’s what we do! I am still very pro-homeschool, but not so militant about it that it is the only way. It is amazing to see just how much the homeschooling movement (and people and resources and attitudes) has changed over the years.

    • “Year by year.” Funny, that’s what I said when I started homeschooling 23 years ago! 🙂

  • Kurt Frankenberg

    Chris,

    You are modeling all the reasons why people choose homeschooling or public schooling in the first place. Responsible parents want more control, busy parents need help. And the MOST important piece of the whole puzzle is the children.

    Seems to me that you’ve determined to stay completely involved with each child’s education whether they are in public school or at home. As a homeschooling friend of mine told me, “EVERYONE homeschools”… meaning that whether the kids are in public school or not the values are ultimately modeled at home and the homework gets done there too 😉

    Bully for you, being in a place that you can pick and choose the BEST options for each Jeub. Each individual child’s needs are what get addressed in the end. Great job, Jeub!

    Keep Stepping,

    Kurt

    • Thanks Kurt! I sure appreciate your support.

  • Andrea Denner

    Hope you all have an EXCELLENT year!

  • herewegokids

    My family has been very hurt by patriarchal homeschooling advocates and their philosophies. It caused me personally a crisis of faith (I was an MK from a Baptist background and attended the
    “World’s Most Unusual University”. 4 years ago I became Catholic.

    We homeschooled our oldest child who is now married, all the way through. The 2nd one graduated as salutatorian from her public online school here locally. Our 3rd who is a jr. is the youngest student to ever be allowed to enter our community college in the computer programming major (he started as a sophomore). I am homeschooling my 8th grader in public online which requires very little from me other than oversight. A friend of his whose mother works fulltime and whose dad is disabled also comes to our house daily w/ his laptop in the same program. I have a 6th grader who has done well for 2 years in the public school but will probably come home to do online once he’s in jr high, his choice. And lastly, I have a 4th grader and 1st grader in our Catholic school.

    Along the way I contracted Lyme disease but was not diagnosed until after many years. I experienced severe depression and when I recognized I could no longer continue doing well with their schooling it was a real blow even though it had been almost killing me. I was a mom in charge of the welfare and education of 7 souls, and I was barely able to care for myself. It was a horrible, very dark time and I only pray grace will cover the ill effects.

    Our chosen alternatives of course have not been and will not be perfect. There are still challenges, complaints, offenses….however we have been freed in our MINDS to make the choices we feel are best each year. It is wonderful. I commend you for doing what you have decided is best for you and for your children. I hope they will love their new school!!

  • Anna Mary

    We have homeschooled our children since 1999. I do think it is important to stay true to your own family and not get swept away by the expectations of others. I hope your kids have a great year!

  • Eleanor Katherine Skelton

    I am so glad you seem to be trying to do what’s best for each child.

  • Amy Hall

    Wonderful! Sounds like a great decision.

  • Carol

    THANK YOU for involving your family in our educational system! As a Christian and public school parent (and pastor’s wife), it is difficult to watch Christian family after Christian family socialize and educate only with each rather than enter the HUGE mission field of our schools. Our influence cannot be overstated! When I volunteered in my daughter’s classroom yesterday, for example, I took it as an opportunity to support the teacher, connect with the kids and pray for them by name (even when making copies of worksheets or other paperwork-y kinds of tasks).

    I implore other Christians not to withdraw but to dive in. My husband and I (we were both led to Christ by people in our own public schools growing up) are committed not only to our own children’s spiritual, emotional, educational and social development, but to our neighbors’ children — that is, those within our community — as well. Can you tell I feel strongly on this topic??? 🙂

  • Donna JustDonna

    You’ve just told my story (with only 7 children). We began the switch to different charters last year and I teach Classical, English and Debate at one of the charters as well. We are still growing! The rise of charters is good even when not all charters are the best. Public schools in our area have become more competitive with the rise of charters and thereby offer greater services, programs and smaller class sizes. Parental involvement and transparency in charters allow parents to assess the quality of the programs and the management. We are actually in the process of transitioning two of our children out of a charter and into a public school for this very reason.

    Most importantly, I have found that I some of my children thrived in their new environments and I have been able to minister to more families than in my homeschool circles. Additionally, we’ve had the ability to nurture talents in our children that we couldn’t have done on our own. We praise God for affirming these decisions and pray He will encourage your family as you step out in faith!

    • Very nice response! I am curious about your debate class. I’m currently rewriting our Blue and Red Books to adapt to classrooms. Would you like to be a part of reviewing them?

      • Donna JustDonna

        I would be interested…What’s a good way to contact you directly? I taught CC for several years and am now teaching in a charter/hybrid program. It is their first year for debate, so I’m introducing very elementary ideas. They are not ready for policy debate yet but I hope to begin that next year.

        • I see we’re FB friends. I private messaged you.

  • I needed to hear that! My parents homeschooled me and my two siblings in the 80s. Hard core folks we were back then, down right weird! It has been a journey for me to heal from the negative legalistic aspects of the movement back then. I’m thankful for what my parents offered us but it’s not always easy to unravel the good from the bad, and there was bad.

    Having been raised as a homeschooler my whole life I assumed I would homeschool my kids. When it came down to it God very clearly led my husband and I to public school, some due to health reasons on my part. At first I was ashamed. Certainly I was less than a good Christian mother if I couldn’t or wouldn’t homeschool. God has gently shaped my heart and thinking. I believe firmly the key to raising healthy children is discipleship and that can happen in just about any context. My son is in middle school now and my daughter in second grade. Our experience with public school has been amazing. We have had incredible Christian teachers making a profound impact in the classroom.

    It wasn’t said in so many words, but even as a child I picked up on the fear and moral superiority that was behind much of the movement. In a lot of ways it didn’t produce disciples, it produced pharisees. I’m still recovering.

    I think it’s beautiful when we can step away from the tide of public opinion, in any arena, and follow God’s lead. I hope this is a year of wholeness and happiness for your family.