10 ways homeschooling encourages the spirit of a child

Homeschooling lets us tend to our kids’ spirits as well as their education.

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My husband and I never planned to homeschool our four kids—we fell into it one child at a time and now love it with an unexpected intensity. As the years have gone by, I’ve realized that homeschooling offers more than just educational benefits: our kids have grown intellectually, sure, but also spiritually. Our experience in traditional schools led us to believe that the typical classroom just doesn’t address the needs of the “whole child” and that homeschooling allows room for parents to attend to all the aspects of a well-rounded education. Below, 10 ways that homeschooling has nurtured the spirit of my children in ways I hadn’t expected.

1. They are in charge of themselves

It’s interesting to follow the paths of children who are not being led by the rules of a classroom and told to conform, day in and day out. My children are free thinkers and unapologetic question-askers. We generally take a weekly field trip to museums or local sights, and once we’re there, the kids take the lead. They ask questions of the staff and learn about the things that interest them most. Not rushing to meet a bus, or following a group or chaperone through a list of required activities, allows them to seek knowledge not because they are told to do so but because they are truly interested in a subject.

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2. We are able to surround ourselves with people who lift them up

I don’t think we need to make every day sunshine and roses for our kids, but we do try to be part of a community who aren’t going to teach them their first swear words and introduce them to the “mean girl” culture. My daughter was recently invited to a birthday party for a girl in our area who is generally not nice to her and introduces topics that are not appropriate for their age. If they were in a classroom setting, she would have been anxious to attend like everyone else, but because we don’t have those social pressures it was easy to RSVP with a no. An afternoon spent with friends and family who nurture our spirits is much more enjoyable than one spent dodging insults. Choosing who they associate with, rather than being forced into groups, has taken the social pressures off my kids and shown them that their choices are important and supported.

3. They’re not afraid to be children

Avoiding the social pressures of school has allowed my kids to act their age. None of them are trying to fit in with a “cool” crowd or impress older kids with how they dress. This has been especially nice for my nine year-old daughter: Like many girls, she would be giddy if I let her wear lipstick outside of our living room, but she’s not pushing the envelope and trying to jump ahead five years in how she dresses or who she hangs out with. They make choices in fashion, activities and interests based on what they truly enjoy—not what may impress someone else or elevate them to the popular crowd.

4. My kids stay true to themselves

This is by far my favorite benefit for my unique kiddos—and all of our kids are unique, aren’t they? The day they start leaving their interests behind, just to impress others, we all cry a little bit inside. We’ve had many moments in which my kids just do what they want to do, and don’t think twice. My son doesn’t love all the typical boy stuff, and he has no clue that he might get ridiculed in a school setting for taking ballet. My daughter has some significant learning difficulties that she has no problem discussing in the open. If they were in a classroom day in and day out, I have to wonder if they would lose a bit of their pride if others laughed at them or told them they aren’t “normal.” It is very important to me that my children appreciate that they each have a unique spirit, and homeschooling has allowed us to make that a priority.

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5. They don’t create social divisions

All of our homeschool activities are with families of kids of all ages, so there is no daily division by grade level or gender. At our homeschool outings, my daughter heads for the artsy kids while my son discusses magic tricks and theater with whoever is interested. My youngest hops around to whoever suits his mood that day. I’ve seen great improvements in their confidence in communicating with people of all ages since we began homeschooling. They are sure of themselves and don’t feel like they are risking rejection in social settings, which nurtures their spirit at such an important time in their development. No more being afraid to talk to an eighth-grader or avoiding the high-school lunch table.

6. My kids have plenty of time to explore all of their interests

If you ask, my kids will enthusiastically tell you this is their favorite part of being homeschooled. Schooling a small group of children takes much less time than teaching a class of 25. My son who attended public school the longest mentions daily how happy he is with our shorter days. He enjoys making costumes and painting his face to go with the character, and he has time to practice both. I have time to take him to the fabric store (and sneak in lessons on measurement) to support his projects. They all have time to try things they might not have time for if they were getting off a bus at four and racing back and forth between evening activities and piles of homework.

7. They get enough sleep!

Kids are notoriously over-scheduled, and sleep seems to be the first thing sacrificed. My kids have a normal bedtime and are able to sleep until they naturally wake up every day. They have the chance to start school when they are awake and ready to learn. Allowing them to be their best selves is such an important part in supporting their development and honoring their needs on a very basic level.

8. They honor their own strengths and weaknesses

My seven-year-old is doing fourth-grade math, yet struggling with first-grade reading. My nine-year-old keeps using his fingers to count out story problems but can master a new spelling list every two days or so. I’ve seen teary-eyed children forced to begin reading too early and kids ready to bounce out of their seats because they don’t have the attention span for standardized tests. We honor their educational journey by allowing them to learn at their own pace. So much pressure is alleviated from their young hearts by introducing them to information when they are ready for it.

9. They support each other on a different and better level

My kids can fight over who’s using the green cup with the best of them, but since we’ve been homeschooling I’ve noticed a new level of camaraderie develop. They are all on the same team when it comes to their school day. They’ve learned to support and encourage each other and have more time to just be friends. There is something to be said for spending your days with people who love you unconditionally, even when you’ve spilled your orange juice on their spelling list.

10. I’m always here when they need me

I know homeschooling is not an option for everyone, but I’m so glad it is for us. The other day my son was riding his bike and took a bad fall. As I lifted him onto the counter and cleaned and bandaged his war wounds, he finally calmed down and said “I’m really glad I was at home when I did that.” I knew just what he meant—he’s always been my sensitive, easy-to-cry one and knowing our house was 10 feet away was a huge comfort for him. All kids have those times when they need a hug, 10 Band-Aids or their mom. Our whole family has an extra feeling of security knowing I’m not even a phone call away when they need me most.

Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson is the mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. She lives in a noisy house in Michigan where she finds the occasional quiet moment to write. Jessica is the author of the children's book "Soon" and the blog FourPlusanAngel.com.

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