Public School vs Homeschool: A Teacher Turned Homeschooler Weighs In
Deciding about public school vs homeschool is a big decision!
There is so much to consider as you decide what is best for your family.
It is such a treat for me to share with you the wisdom and insight from my friend, Amanda, about her decision to homeschool her kids!
She is a former public school teacher and is also one of the women that I reached out to when I first started considering homeschooling. She gave me the push I needed to get going with my homeschool. I will always be so very grateful to her for that!
We originally met because she was hosting a Bible study in her house and both of our husbands were deployed at the time. We also both had no kids – a lifetime ago!
Today, Amanda and her husband have 4 precious girls (ages 8,7, 3, and 2) and live on a farm in Iowa.
I know you will love what she has to share about her faith, life on the farm, and her homeschool.
So Public School vs Homeschooling – Why did you decide to start homeschooling, Amanda?
“Five years ago, God gave me a desire to explore and research homeschooling. As I began to read, ask questions, observe other families, and think through our goals, I really felt Him calling me to homeschool.
This is hilarious because I’m pretty sure that if you’d asked me 10 years ago if I’d homeschool my kids, I’d have laughed in your face! BUT GOD! My whole life is a “BUT GOD” story!”
I can completely relate! I never thought I would be a homeschooler either! Okay, so tell me what life and homeschooling looks like at your house.
“We have more of a rhythm than a schedule, as that works best for our family. We live on a farm in rural Iowa, so our life is often dictated by the seasons and weather. My husband raises corn and soybeans, and we have stock cows that calve every fall before harvest begins.
During the spring, summer, and fall we spend a lot of time outside gardening, mowing, checking cows, washing equipment, giving Chris rides to and from different farms, making and taking him meals in the field, etc.
I’m grateful for the flexibility that homeschooling allows our family. If my girls were in public school they would have to be in bed by 8:00 each night and would rarely see Chris during planting and harvest seasons.
Having them home means they have the opportunity to ride along in the tractor, or help either of us with the random odd jobs that come with living on a farm and caring for younger siblings. My oldest is 8 now, and is becoming more and more responsible and helpful. I don’t know what I’d do without her!
In the winter, the weather brings everyone inside, and the pace slows down. We like to take family vacations during January or February, because it works best for Chris, and is also less crowded and less expensive. Same for zoos, museums, dentist/dr appts–all easier to schedule when public school is in session.”
Do you homeschool year-round?
“You could say we school “year-round”, as I see every day as a “school” day.
There are days where we don’t sit down and do any formal curriculum, but I might have the girls write out my grocery list (spelling/handwriting), read aloud in the hammocks and then give me a summary or predict what might happen next (L.A), follow and measure out a recipe, or calculate something in their heads (math) as we work and conversate throughout the day.
For the most part, the girls play really well together, but inevitably need help knowing what to do/how to process anger, as so many things feel unfair when you’re 7-8 years old. I place as much, if not more emphasis on character training as I do academics.
One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to look like sitting behind a desk in a traditional classroom.
I like to take my girls to the grocery store and have them help me check off the list, load the cart, and greet the cashier. Some days we enjoy eating lunch and playing cards with my grandparents. The girls are starting to understand the logic and scoring behind the games, and occasionally beat my Grandpa, which is pretty hard to do!
Other days we swim at the YMCA or go to the children’s museum with friends. On Fridays we have our Homeschool Co-op, and each mom takes turns hosting/planning a lesson or a field trip.
We’ve gone to art museums, musicals, zoos, studied the continents, the human body, done science experiments, completed obstacle courses, and visited the nursing home, to name a few. I try to alternate our mornings “out” with our days at home, as I get frazzled if we have too much scheduled.”
What does your typical homeschool day look like for you?
“A typical day at home starts with a big breakfast and house cleaning. The girls pick up the house, and vacuum, while I clean the kitchen. To save time, I like to cook/meal prep a bunch of food every couple days, so usually have them help me chop potatoes, veggies, wash produce, or make a batch of cookies or banana bread (with help).
When we are ready for a break, I read aloud to them from a chapter book that ties into whatever we are studying in History or Science. My older two take piano lessons, so they practice while I do a puzzle, color, and/or read to my 3 year old. Occasionally I will have the big girls “teach” her preschool, and they get a kick out of that!
I try to alternate our activities so the girls (and I) don’t get bored. If we’ve been reading for 20 minutes, then we will take a break and go get the mail, have a snack, do a chore, or play outside.
We eat lunch together and then I read aloud to them again. Then they have some time for free play. They love legos, puzzles, drawing, creating rocket ships out of cardboard boxes, dressing up, etc.
Around 2:00, my younger two go down for a two hour nap and I sit down with my older two to work through our curriculum. This usually takes about an hour.
They are close in age, so we read a devotional, Science, History, and L.A together and then I work with each individually for about 10-15 minutes on Math. Afterwards, they complete their independent work while I check emails, look over our calendar, etc.
When they finish their work, I correct it and we talk it over. I like to have them practice their math facts every day. Sometimes I just verbally quiz them, or they use our Math Mat Challenge Game, sometimes it’s a worksheet, or an online drill practice at Khan Academy or Math-U-See online drill.
Then they can listen to “Adventures in Odyssey”, a Christian radio comedy and drama series created for kids. My girls LOVE it, and I do too! We also love to listen to storylineonline.net or our library’s website for access to tons of books that are read aloud.
After nap we might go to the park, ride bikes, draw, paint, watch “Little House on the Prairie” and/or dinner prep.
We eat dinner together, take baths, and get ready for bed. We conclude our nights with “presentations”, which involves each girl reading aloud to the rest of us and then receiving a wild applause afterwards. I read a story from our The Jesus Storybook Bible, we pray, and tuck them into bed (between 8:30-9:00).”
Were you homeschooled as a child?
“No, I went to a very small, rural, public school. It was likely the best case scenario for a public school. My graduating class was only 25 students. It was safe. There were supportive relationships between parents, teachers, and administration and it was generally a positive environment.
I enjoyed school, but looking back now I can see that it was stressful for me. During 4th grade, I began throwing up every Sunday night after a period of laying in bed, trying to get to sleep. I went to counseling, listened to soothing music, and my mom would sit with me until I went to sleep, but nothing seemed to help.
I was struggling with anxiety over the coming week’s assignments, spelling tests, and what outfits I would wear each day to school. My best friend and I would go from being “bff’s” to enemies on a weekly basis, and I really struggled to navigate that in a healthy way.
By 5th or 6th grade, the throwing up stopped but I had a growing dislike of Math and Science, and for years had tried to play sick on Art class days, because I was so self-conscious of my art skills (or lack thereof!) I was well behaved and made good grades, but was not a curious kid. I loved to read “fluffy” books, but didn’t have a desire to learn.
I grew up on a farm 15 miles from the school/town, which had its benefits and drawbacks. We had to ride the bus for an hour each way, so were gone from 7:05 am-4:30 pm each day.
I remember getting off the bus after a long school day, just starving. We’d cram Little Debbies down, do chores, and then mom would push us to finish homework, eat dinner, clean up, practice spelling words, take a bath, and set clothes out/prepare for the next day– all before 8:00 bedtime. During the school year, there wasn’t a lot of free time.
As I got older, school became more and more about extracurricular activities and being popular, and less and less about academics. During my senior year, I really struggled to know “what I wanted to do when I grow up”. I ended up majoring in elementary education and I’m grateful for God’s grace in that, because I enjoyed teaching.”
Can you share with us your experience teaching in the public school system?
“I taught a year of Pre-K, followed by 5 years of 5th grade. I loved both ages! I’m grateful for my time in the classroom, and for the window of perspective it has given me.
I loved “my kids” (students) and poured so much time and energy into my job, and still always felt like it wasn’t enough. I realize now that that’s because it isn’t enough. It is physically and mentally impossible for 1 teacher to meet 20+ student’s academic and emotional needs.
While students are the same age, their varying maturities, life experiences, and family backgrounds, significantly impact their ability to focus, communicate effectively, and process information.
Unfortunately, standardized testing doesn’t account for these variables, and teachers must stick to the scope and sequence of the curriculum vs student needs in order to cover all the material before testing.
There isn’t time for each student to question and seek their own interests, and I think that crushes their natural desire to learn.”
Do you think your experience as a teacher gives you an advantage when it comes to homeschooling?
“People often comment, “Oh, well you used to be a teacher, so you know what to do. I could never do that.” Can I just say, it is not my college education or classroom experience that makes it “ok” for me to homeschool!
Sure, it makes sense. If your husband is a mechanic and your car needs a repair, you aren’t going to pay someone else to fix your car! But, I’m no “smarter,” or more prepared to raise and teach than the next person! I promise! Even the best teacher can’t know, love, and shepherd my children the way that a I/you can.
I enjoyed building relationships and teaching my students, but I REALLY enjoy seeing the “lightbulb moments” in my own children! We are learning much of the history and science together, as so much of the information I’ve previously learned was just memorized for the test and then forgotten. I’m thankful for God’s grace in this! If I/we don’t know, we “google it”, find a book, or ask Daddy!
Homeschooling is more efficient with time and skill, making the lessons more impactful and beneficial. I know where my girls excel and where they struggle both academically and in character, so I can push them in those areas, as well as discipline in a way that aligns with our family goals.
I enjoy our time together, and want to build close relationships with them, as well as sibling relationships, so that we will remain close for a lifetime.
I’m grateful to be living out this calling and absolutely see the benefits, freedom, and joy it has brought to our family!”
Do you ever have tough, pull your hair out days?
“Yes, more than I care to admit! Homeschooling gives me and up close view of my own heart, as well as my girls. Sometimes our days are tough and my own heart is just plain ugly.
Homeschooling has a way of bringing out your sin.
This is frustrating, but such a good thing. It causes me to see my selfishness, ask for forgiveness and then work to turn away from it. I need to continually press into Jesus and ask Him to work in spite of my weakness.
Being with my girls all day also allows me a window into their hearts. Oh, how they want to grumble and complain!
Again, so frustrating, but so good for me to see when they lose their temper and respond poorly to their sister, or when they are struggling to understand subtraction with renaming, and then be able to come alongside them in that.
I want to be the one “raising them up in the way that they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
I’m only asking because the people want to know – how do you answer the “socialization” questions?
“Well, I think “socialization” means different things to different people. Some mean social activity: recess, extracurriculars, prom, etc, and as homeschoolers we can and do enjoy all of those as well.
In fact, I would argue that homeschoolers actually have more freedom and opportunity to interact with others in the community throughout the day, than those sitting in a classroom all day.
Others hear “socialization” and think of social influence: teaching children to conform to the norms of society. This one makes me cringe a bit, because I don’t want my kids to conform to the norms of society!
Still others are talking about the exposure to different cultures and values of different people. School settings certainly have a mixture of students, but so do our community parks, churches, YMCA, soccer teams, etc.
My girls enjoy gymnastics, swimming lessons, and softball with kids in their age groups, and I appreciate that, but I desire for the girls to learn how to navigate social situations with people of all ages and backgrounds, and I think that is best taught by example in natural settings.
I want them to learn how to respectfully carry on a conversation with an elderly woman in a nursing home, so we visit them once a month. I want them to know how to talk through hurt feelings from a friend, so we often role play those situations or have conversations about how a character in a book or movie was hurtful and could’ve responded differently.
I want them to take a genuine interest in others, showing love, and consideration in their conversations and interactions so they can navigate college, interviews, working relationships, and meeting new people. I believe it is as important as the academic portion of schooling.”
Recap + Free Printable to Get Started with Homeschooling!
Amanda is such an inspiration to me and I am so encouraged to hear a former school teacher confirm my decision to teach my kids at home.
If you want to hear more from Amanda check out this post – 8 Moms Give Their Best Homeschool Advice
Amanda and 7 other moms are featured! These women have over 50 years of experience together – so don’t miss it!
If you are in the middle of doing your research to decide about public school vs homeschool for your family – I hope this interview gave you a new perspective!
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