Hal’s about It: Happy and We Know It

Mar 1, 2005

All of us find early in the process that homeschooling is very, very demanding. If we aren’t already, most of us become a one-income family. Mom finds her previous days of bliss with nothing more stressful than [everything in the known world] to do with her time while her children are off at school, have now changed. The children suddenly realize that snow does not always mean holiday any more, and the old “but my teacher said” dodge doesn’t work like it used to. Everybody gets stretched.

But for most of us, this is the life. It’s hard work: bothersome at times, downright troublesome days, but generally speaking—a life we’ve chosen and can’t imagine trading.

I discovered a pattern in much of the educational and policy research that confirms homeschoolers’ commitment and satisfaction. If you’re new to homeschooling, maybe you haven’t noticed, but there’s a curious world of reporters, academic types and policy wonks who just can’t quite believe what they see—people actually teach their children at home? And enjoy it? Imagine that.

            Well, the world demands research to prove even what is right before their eyes. The apostle Paul observed, “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” (1 Corinthians 1:22) In more recent times, the motto was “In God We Trust—All Others Bring Data” before the first part fell out of favor. As a consequence, homeschoolers are being studied from all angles—academics, socialization and the like, and overall, we measure up pretty well.

            But mixed in with the predictable questions about curriculum, test scores and numbers of people, other information is bubbling to the surface which says that homeschoolers are happy with their choices, and they show it through their actions. Consider these little factoids:

 

  • Homeschoolers are active in their communities, not withdrawn and isolated. Several studies noted the number of activities the children were involved with and the high levels of civic and political involvement of the parents.
  • Homeschoolers persist in their decision. Most of us, as high as 89% in some surveys, intend to teach through high school. The average homeschool family has been homeschooling for about six years and is in the mid-range of the grade levels.
  • Homeschoolers tend to tend the whole flock. I would expect some families to teach their kids at home part of the years, or have some at home and some at school. Our surveys at the annual conference indicate that while about half of the families had children in conventional school at one time, nearly every one of those families was homeschooling all their children at the time of the survey. Brian Ray’s research in 1990 found that while half of those homeschooling had taken students out of a school, less than five percent had put a child back in.
  • Spending 24/7 with their children seems to make homeschoolers want bigger families. Surveys at our conference and demographic studies show that homeschoolers are raising larger than average families—almost two-thirds of them have three or more children. It’s possible that some parents homeschool precisely because their families are large, and that may make private school tuition unaffordable. But we have observed that many homeschooling families continue to add to their family after they have begun homeschooling.
  • Homeschool graduates are enjoying the results. A survey of adults who were homeschooled found that, in general, they are excited about life, enjoying their work and planning to homeschool their own children. In the spirit of the old Packard advertisement, when we asked the persons who possessed a home education whether they wanted the same for their children—82% of them said yes.

 

Maybe part of the satisfaction is due to the fact that homeschooling is one place where being “mom” is a position of great honor and respect. I know we say it from the podium and our conference speakers do, too: families that make the sacrifice, and the mothers especially, are worthy of a great deal of respect and encouragement. Certainly they’re heroes in my book.

So altogether, it’s interesting to see data that says, yes, these people are finding happiness, purpose and satisfaction in their lives, and they show it quietly and without fanfare whether they realize it or not. And maybe, just maybe, they’re passing that joy on to their children.

Your obedient servant,

Hal

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