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.
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:
- Dissatisfied with public school.
- Impressed by homeschooling.
- 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…
- Dissatisfied with homeschooling.
- Impressed by charter schools.
- 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.