Our Main Reason for Homeschooling: Character Development

This post was originally published in 2015. It might be more relevant now than ever before! Enjoy!

I'm going to start out by saying something that may come as a shock.  It's not the sort of thing you hear many homeschooling families admit, but I will confess it freely.  Here it is:  my kids could probably have gotten a better education in the public school.

Maybe not so much in the early elementary years, but definitely in the later elementary years and on up through high school, I KNOW that my kids would have been taught better and probably learned more, been better challenged and more academically mature, had they gone to public or private school, rather than being homeschooled. (Updated from 2015 and now, of course, with the plethora of online educational options, the world is at our fingertips, so this is not true anymore).

No doubt there are families out there that homeschool way better than I ever have and are able to provide their children with AP courses and great writing instruction and Socratic dialogue — but our homeschool has not been like that.  Academically speaking, my kids' education has been pretty average.  (I've even written a post about our rather ordinary homeschool journey.)

But a “better education” is not why our family homeschools; the academics have always been secondary.  Our main purpose for homeschooling has ALWAYS been to protect and guide the character development of our children.

I have experienced firsthand, both as a student and as a teacher, the type of environment that exists in the public schools.  And the “quality” of the school district has made no difference.  Consider:

As a student in a fairly affluent public school system 30 years ago, I was bombarded daily with sexually graphic conversation, foul language, underage alcohol consumption, and teenage sexual promiscuity. I did not come into contact with drugs, but I knew they were there; and I probably could have procured some without too much trouble.  At that age, I was too impressionable to know how to steer away from most of it.  I was also so desperate to fit in that I tried to conform.  My husband has some horror stories, too, from his time as a student in a larger and more metropolitan, but by no means inner-city, school (can you say “knife fight”?). I mean, this, too, is a form of character development, but is this the type of development we really want for our kids?

As a teacher in a lower-middle-class public school outside of Dallas 25 years ago, I was appalled at the stories I heard from other teachers (one that is still emblazoned on my brain was about students being caught “in the act” in the janitor's closet — this was a MIDDLE school, y'all), by the disrespect of teachers by students and parents alike, and at the need to follow certain rules and procedures solely to maintain government funding.  One of my students, an 8th-grader, was pregnant.  The father was in 9th grade over at the high school.  I saw for myself how 6th-graders arrived at the school in the fall as bright-eyed, innocent children, only to morph into hardened cynics by Christmas.

I did not want any of this for my children.  And I knew that if things were in that condition back then, they could only be worse by the time my kids reached junior high and high school.  I did not want them even EXPOSED to that stuff, much less having to face it each and every day.  I wanted to protect their innocence and give them a chance to develop habits of good character without the negative influences of peer pressure and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.

Some people will say, “our school district is not like that.”  I would bet that they don't know half of what happens in the school building during the typical school day.  I would bet that their kids are not telling them specifically what they are being exposed to, from both students and teachers.

Some people will say I have OVER-protected my children, that they need to be exposed to the harsh realities of the world at some point.  I say that's true — but not at the ages when their characters are being formed.  I say let them grow and learn in a safe environment until they are old enough to know who they are and what they stand for — and I would say that that age is older than most people think.

Some people will say that kids need other adults in their lives to help them learn good character.  I agree.  But that does not mean I want the other adult staking claim on the majority of my child's day.  Especially when that adult is paid by the government to uphold principles different from my own.

Um, so I've probably offended some readers by now.  Please let me hasten to reassure everyone that I firmly believe that all parents must choose for themselves what schooling option best suits their child and their family.  I do not look down on families who choose to send their kids to public school.  In fact, I admire them; and I think they are probably better parents than I am — because they have the wisdom to help their child navigate through the negative influences and still remain intact.  I feel like I would be in way over my head.

I do, however, feel that those negative influences are pretty pernicious.  And many people reading this will not get that.  My kids don't get it.  I just know the behavioral faults and philosophical inadequacies my husband and I have been struggling with all these years, that we feel may be directly related to our experiences as students in the public school system.

I'll be the first to tell you my kids have character flaws.  It's kind of impossible for them not to, seeing who they've got as parents. :-)  But as a result of being with the kids all day, we see those flaws pretty clearly and are helping the kids work through them.  I feel like things would slip by us more if we sent them to school for so many hours every day.

During these formative years of their lives, I want them to spend most of their time in a safe place.  I don't want them to deal with supposed friends suddenly not liking them anymore.  I don't want them to be pressured to have a boyfriend or girlfriend because it's what everyone does.  I want to protect them from classroom discussions and hallway conversations that would steal their innocence.  I was told about sex in fourth grade on the playground by a fellow kid.  I want my children to hear about it from ME.

Homeschooling does not solve all the problems of parenting, y'all.  But for us, we felt it was the best way to ensure (as much as it is possible to do so) that our children's character development was given productive guidance and a safe place to grow in a positive direction.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and I welcome comments from all sides — as long as they are considerate and respectful.  What's your opinion? :-)

It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

59 thoughts on “Our Main Reason for Homeschooling: Character Development”

  1. i couldn’t have said it better myself. This is exactly why we have made the choice to homeschool. Thank you for writing this!

  2. I enjoyed this post and needed the reminder as we enter the high school years. It’s almost like we’re having to re-explain our decision to homeschool our kids all over again now that our oldest will be in high school. Many thought that we’d send them to “real” school once we reached high school. Thanks for being so real – I’m really enjoying your blog.

    1. I am so pleased that you like the blog, Angie! Thanks!! And yes, if we are concerned about our children’s innocence in the early years, how much more should we be in the high school years? You keep on truckin’! I think homeschooling high school has been the most fun — I bet you’ll enjoy it, too. :-)

  3. I so appreciate this post. This is exactly the way I feel and why I want to continue to home school my boys. Now going through a divorce, it has become almost impossible. I have had numerous issues with the schools and don’t feel that they are being protected the way they deserve to be. It has been one of the most difficult times in my life. I am just trying to trust that God will make a way for what’s best for my boys and protect them until then.

    1. Oh, Charissa, I’m so sorry you have to be going through all of that. The truth about parenting is that we are ALWAYS trusting that God will fill in the gaps that we miss through our own inadequacies or the circumstances that we face… He orchestrates what will be BEST for our children, even when we don’t see it that way. Hang in there! Hugs!!

  4. Kathie Morrissey

    Great post! I too believe that character is foundational, and much more important than the academics. A child/young adult with good character will have what it takes to learn anything we may have missed in their education. They will also have wisdom to help them discern better.

  5. Even though I think homeschooling does provide a better education in most circumstances, I agree with you that this reason is most important. Everything you said about sheltering/protecting is something I’ve said this week in my own blog! Love it.

    1. Yes, in most cases I agree with you that homeschooling is a better education, Erika. But for my own kids at the high school level, maybe not so much. They probably could have thrived in AP courses and debate and theater, etc., and I could not provide those things. But I love the people they are becoming. So I’m happy with our results. :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I needed this so much today. I have been feeling like such a failure as a homeschool mom because my kids are not learning 3 languages or reading French literature. There only 9 and 13 but the pressure I feel is intense. But that is not why we chose to homeschool, we wanted to be the ones to raise them. I have gotten off track and been trying to travel a round that was not intended for me. Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability. It’s exactly what I needed!

    1. Oh good, Erica, I’m glad I was able to help! Sometimes I feel pressure because other bloggers seem to have it all figured out and I obviously do not, lol — so it’s nice to hear that you like me just the way I am! That’s what we all need to do, in homeschooling and everything else, is be who WE are, not try to be something (or someone) else. Thanks so much for the comment! :-)

    2. I know your post is years old now. At the time I’m reading it, my daughters are about the same age as yours. And I was wondering how your kids turned out. You sounded like me in this comment and I thought maybe you would see this.

  7. Excellent reminder that developing our children’s character is so much more important than merely educating their minds. It makes me think of the C.S. Lewis quote, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

  8. A million thank you’s for writing this (and everything else.) I think we are cut from the same cloth in regards to our homeschool philosophy. I’m gonna start linking your posts on FB instead of writing my own answers. You say it so much better than I. ;-)

      1. Haha Jenna I hear you on typos being painful. They seem to jump out of the page at me — except lately I find them creeping through in my own writing so much more…!! Thanks so much for your kind words and for taking the time to comment! :-)

  9. I had to explain sex to my child the beginning of 3rs grade. Thanks for the reminder as to why I homeschool! I’ve been teetering on the thought of sending our child back to public school next year- for 4thgrade. Mainly because of the argument “I don’t want to do school today” (which sit down time is only about 60 min). I get frusterated. I need to learn to calm down and go with the flow.
    Again thanks for the reminder.

    1. The tyranny of the everyday frustrations can make us forget the bigger picture sometimes, can’t it? I know exactly how you feel. Hang in there!!

  10. Character really is everything, but perhaps the most difficult to teach to littles! What did it look like for your family in the very early elementary ages?

    1. It probably looked like me being very controlling, lol. Seriously, though, I found that my littles and I did best when we followed a routine. Their characters were not as tempted into getting selfish or unruly because we all knew what the plan was. When incidents did happen, though, there was correction. We also learned definitions of the character traits, which we then used in conversation a lot: “Son, what does obedience mean?” “It means doing what you are told the first time, completely, right away, with a happy spirit.” “Did you obey the first time? Did you have a happy spirit?” etc. etc. It can be tiring to stay on top of the training all the time, but it is well worth it in the end. Hope this helps! :-)

  11. You have articulated exactly why we homeschool, what an encouragement today to know that I am not alone. You stated more clearly what I’ve been trying to explain for years, thank you!!

  12. U speaking from my heart! This is exactly how I feel, and the reason why I started to homeschooling my daughter,and my son soon.Thank you for this writing!

  13. Thank you for writing this! I needed this message today. Do you have any posts on HOW to work on character training? Or the most important things to be teaching? I homeschool my five kids, 2-13, and I’m struggling so much with disrespect, disobedience, kindness, being considerate of others… I’d love to see anything else you’ve written on this topic!

  14. I’m about 2 years late to the conversation here, but found this article through a link on one at Pam Barnhill’s site, and I love it.

    I’ve long said that even if all I did as a homeschool mom was character development and living a rich but non academic life, my children would do great.

    Here’s what I mean.

    Academic subjects can be learned later in life, and often at a much faster speed than in a classroom setting. If you simply lived a rich life with plenty of time spent perusing the true, the good, and the beautiful, along with the work of daily life, the academic subjects as we know them can be learned later.

    I’m not saying a homeschool family should do this, but I’ve seen it to work.

    But you can’t do the same for character development. If you don’t spend time intentionally nurturing and forming your children’s character, you can’t play catch up later. So from my mind, character development is the most important reason to homeschool.

  15. I don’t know how long ago you wrote this, but this is fantastic! This sums up our convictions as well. It really has nothing to do with the academics and my kids MAY end up knowing a little less calculus than if they had attended public school. But, that’s ok. They can always LEARN calculus if it’s needed or if they have a desire. Once their character has been formed, you are talking about many times having to try to undo damage. Not on my watch. I survived public school and I will not put my kids there.

    1. “Not on my watch.” Yes, that’s exactly how I feel! And their character will also help them learn whatever else they want to for the rest of their lives.

  16. We started homeschooling this year. Coming out of a private Christian school is not much different in the sense that my 14 year old had learned so many negative things and his language and his attitude were starting to concern me. We are in the 3rd quarter of his 9th grade year and our relationship is much improved along with his attitude and his growth as a Christian. Just being able to invest your time with them and talking through the questions and every day life situations within your family is a priceless gift.

  17. Thanks for sharing! I agree with this reason for homeschooling, and I’m glad to know I’m not the only homeschool parent who has provided an “average” or ordinary education. Its not all about the academics.

  18. Homeschooling my high school aged sons is not going as I planned. I thought they were going to always LOVE learning…not so much at the moment (9th and 7th). I have told my sons that I cannot DRAG them through high school. I always thought they would take a more active role in learning, but the truth is — they just don’t care much right now about academic things. They do, of course, have their own interests. So, that is not to say that I have given up. They are still young. My husband and I are both, I suppose, pretty academic, so I have to fight feeling disappointed that they do not STRIVE to be GREAT students. I also know that my performance-me colors my thinking. I know that just being able to jump through all the hoops does not constitute learning. So I try to forget about honor rolls and the academic extra-curriculars that they have no interest in and just REST in the fact that they are learning, in their own way, withouth a bunch of external accolades. I hope they will NOT become simply performers and hoop-jumpers, like me. I hope rather that they will, at some point, grab onto the goal of going and being and doing as the Lord asks them to do — even if they were never on the honor roll! And, as you say, I’m glad that they can grow without all of the negative and superficial pressures of public high school. In their time (God’s time, not mine), my boys are going to shine their light. In the meantime, God is working patience and faith in me.

    1. I think a lot of what you are talking about it a boy thing, and the rest is their age. This is SO common. Hang in there! My own son is starting to find his path of motivation at age 18… do I wish it could have been sooner? Of course! But as you say, God has HIS timing for how it all comes together. HUGS!! :-)

      1. Thanks for sharing. I love your honesty about an average education. We homeschool in Cambodia. We don’t have a lot of opportunities academically, but I love the freedom we have to get involved in our ministry and community. Character above academics for us too. My oldest daughter just moved to the States for college and was able to get in to her first choice university. The Lord is faithful in all things.

  19. So true. Wanting to raise our children to love Jesus above all else was our reason for homeschooling. We definitely tried to do a good job on the academics, too, but building them into Christ-like people was first and foremost. We even wrote a character curriculum for our girls to make sure we didn’t get lax about helping them grow to be like Jesus.

    I think it is important, too, that we don’t just teach them how to behave well outwardly. It has to come from the heart, because they love the Lord, not just because we “train” them in godly character.

    1. YES, so true! And ultimately, it is the Lord who will change their hearts. Whatever we do as parents, we are dependent on Him to complete the work. Thanks for the comment! :-)

  20. I SO appreciate this post!!! It explains PERFECTLY my thoughts about homeschooling through highschool! Public school would certainly be “easier” on me and due to our family’s specific challenges, I’m sure my older children would get a better education there. However, it’s my children’s hearts that are my top priority for continuing on this sometimes difficult journey. Thank you so much for this post and the encouragement! ♥

  21. This was an excellent, encouraging article. I have a question though… we have found ourselves in a situation where our teenage daughter’s homeschool peer group has been having a negative influence on her. They are families we go to church with, take a few extra curricular classes with, etc. Removing their influence, which is what i would love to do, would mean removing ourselves from our community. In turn, because of this impact that has been made on her, I worry now that she’s not the best influence on other children and youth in our community. Can you help discern what to do in this unfortunate circumstance?

    1. I can’t see the date you posted, so please forgive me if it’s years old…

      My experience is that after protecting my children from negative peer influences by keeping them out of school and extracurriculars, the most toxic environments they were in were our church and our Christian homeschool group. These are supposed to be morally safe places, but we found they are not. Ultimately we had to withdraw from those groups as well, because we aren’t responsible for the moral development of other people’s kids but we ARE responsible for the moral development of our own.

      We believe in maintaining fellowship, and we were blessed to find a small house church where the other kids love the Lord and I’ve always felt my children were safe. But if we hadn’t found a “safe” church, I would have attended a church where I didn’t feel my kids were safe–but I would have kept them with me and supervised all their interactions. This is called “shadowing,” where kids learn from watching their parents’ social interactions (and participating in them). No Sunday School classes, definitely no youth groups. We believe it’s the parents’ job to teach their children the Gospel, not a volunteer who’s very kind but whom you don’t know well. My parents sent me to a public school, but they also took me along on their social outings, their political activities, and occasionally to work. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse of the adult world (from about the age of 12 up). If you can find ways to engage your teen in your contexts, her social needs will be filled and she will receive affirmation and acceptance from other adults in the community (ones that you choose to include in your own social group). To this day I think those experiences were more formative for me than anything I did with my peers–and it was fun too!

  22. Thanks for the encouragement! This is exactly what I needed!!! You reminded me why I started this homeschool journey and encouraged me to not stop now (it’s been a rough couple months). Thank you!

  23. Tonight, I’m sitting here scared to death. My 15 year old daughter (honors student with straight A’s) is being negatively influenced by her peers to the point that today is her last day at public school. I enrolled in a Christian online academy (I’m terrified to go it alone at this point) plus I have to work full-time. Luckily, I’m a counselor who sees clients out of my home. I believe that I’m pulling her out of public school RIGHT before her judgment could forever change her life. She’s painfully shy and socially terrified of kids. (And, she’s BEEN in society!). But, there’s a group. A VERY persuasive, ultra-liberal group…who has reeled her in and accepted her. I’m praying this decision will point her in the right direction. She’s still defending those “friends” I’m removing her from and asking for get togethers with them… and my hope is that time will fade the memory of them. She’s very active in volleyball and church. I think my biggest worry is that she’s an only child and this house can get awfully quiet. And the child literally has no friends other than that group. Shouldn’t I be looking for ways to help her find friends? Other than our small youth group at church, I have no idea how….Lord, please. Don’t let this decision prompt even more social anxiety. Her dad died 2 years ago and we really need a break :( thanks for listening. I literally know no one who is doing this with a high schooler. She’s a freshman.

    1. I’ll pray for y’all, Denise. If she were my daughter, I’d focus my life on spending “quantity time” with her. Make her enjoy your company and learn to anticipate predictable time and attention from you. It’s probably the wrong time to preach your values, but make sure she knows from your behavior that she’s way more important to you than she ever will be to the peer group.

      Most teens want to be seen as sophisticated and adult–they may not realize it, but they are programmed to seek validation and acceptance from ADULTS because that represents being accepted by the wider society. If you give her opportunities to observe the adult world as you go through it in your daily life, and if she can sometimes interact with adults (of your choosing) in a grown-up way, their acceptance can fill all the needs she is currently trying to fill with peer approval. My parents did this when I didn’t make friends at school, and I believe it saved me from a range of poor outcomes. She might not warm up to this immediately, but you will be laying a foundation you can’t see yet that could be the only positive influence in her young life.

  24. Thank you for these encouraging words! I needed this reminder as we head into the high school years with our oldest son!

  25. I’ve been homeschooling since 2000 and your reasons to homeschool were mine too. I believe so very strongly in Christian education and character development definitely has been the primary reason my husband and I chose to home educate. That being said, one of my five adult children is not walking with Christ. We have to know that keeping them home, reading God’s word daily, and doing everything we can to protect their character will not guarantee us anything. We do our job and we have to trust God to do his. And for some of us, putting our children in public school would be disobedience. Thank you for mentioning that you admire parents who choose public school because they have a hard job. Yes, they do. And we must remember God calls some families to invest their time and energy into the system. Some of the finest young people I know have spent 13 years in public education. Homeschooling is not a formula, and we are not choosing a holier route than another because we’ve been called to educate differently. Homeschooling is wonderful, but it is not salvific. I am sure you agree but I’m writing this because some of the tones of commenters could be hurtful to parents who’ve not been called to this great journey called homeschooling.

    1. “Homeschooling is not a formula, and we are not choosing a holier route than another because we’ve been called to educate differently. Homeschooling is wonderful, but it is not salvific.” YES, I wholeheartedly agree! Thanks for your comment!

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