Originally published on American Thinker 3/17/20.
Here in Georgia, the mass hysteria about the coronavirus has caused the governor to declare a “public health state of emergency.” He has advised public schools and daycare centers to close for two weeks in order to curb the opportunities for the virus to spread. It’s unclear which is causing more panic in the hearts of Georgia citizens — the coronavirus, the toilet paper shortage, or the fact that parents will have to be home with their children nonstop for two weeks straight. Many other states are also closing schools, so millions of our nation’s families are suddenly experiencing a little of what it’s like to homeschool.
My husband and I have been homeschooling since our first child was born. That child is now a senior in high school and will graduate in May. Thanks to Georgia’s “dual enrollment” program (which, unfortunately, has just been drastically slashed by the legislature), he will graduate with an associate’s degree in computer networking, along with completing his K-12 homeschool program. Our second child will follow suit next May, graduating with an associate’s degree also. Our younger two kids will start high school and middle school in the fall, so we trust that they will have similar success in their high school years.
One of the great benefits of living debt free –- as we detail in our book, Debt-Free Living in a Debt-Filled World — has been the opportunity to homeschool our children. My last day of full-time, outside-the-home employment was the day before our first baby was born. I worked part time from home off and on for several years after we started having kids, but I’ve brought in almost no income for nearly a decade now.
The only reason we can live on a teacher’s salary and still afford to have me home full-time to educate our three teenagers and one pre-teen at this point is because, before we even had children, we started living on only my husband’s salary. We made sacrifices to build our home debt-free and we live beneath our means, buying only used cars, couponing, shopping for sales, saving up for large purchases, and so on.
And for anyone who thinks that babies and toddlers are expensive, please brace yourselves and begin saving as early as possible, because it has been a shock to the system to experience how expensive it is to raise teenagers! When our youngest turns 13 next year, we will have four teenagers in our home. As homeschoolers, we must foot the bill for curriculum, extracurricular activities, music lessons, instruments, all meals (and teenagers eat a lot), transportation, computers, and so on. There’s no such thing as “free” anything in the homeschooling world, with the exception of taxpayer-funded dual enrollment college classes here in Georgia.
The blessings of homeschooling, however, far outweigh the sacrifices and financial costs involved. One of the biggest blessings of being a homeschooling family is that our children are growing up to be close friends. Unlike siblings who spend most waking hours away from each other in public school classrooms filled with their peers, there are immeasurable benefits to spending concentrated time truly learning to live with people of different ages and with varying personalities and abilities. This presents a myriad of opportunities to learn how to work out conflicts, celebrate victories with each other, and grow in their faith together.
Another blessing of homeschooling is being able to help guide the kids’ character development because a parent is with them at all hours of the day and night and can see everything that needs to be addressed. It might be possible to mask certain issues such as dishonesty or pride or greed or slothfulness or lack of self-control when kids are away from home most of their waking hours each weekday. Being together for concentrated times allows parents to see more and address problems as they inevitably arise.
A third benefit of homeschooling is the wonderful flexibility that it affords. We can go to music lessons in the mornings, karate at noon, or orthodontist appointments right after lunch, and get our academic work done around our activities. Our oldest son started working at his first real job a few weeks ago, so he works three full days each week and does his schoolwork during the remaining days. The possibilities are endless.
So while many people might be dreading the next few weeks, I want to encourage parents to look for the blessings that are available in this opportunity. Enjoy slowing down and spending quality time with your families. So many of us are on the go constantly with various activities and events. It is likely to be a relief not to have to rush around so much for a while. Let’s savor these days of being together. Let’s play board games, watch movies together, cook fun foods, and read good books to our kids. This forced respite from the busy-ness of life just might turn out to include some of the best memories your children will recall later in life.
I hope that many families who are thrown into the atmosphere of homeschooling during the next few weeks will recognize the myriad of blessings that come with this territory. Our children are in our homes and in our care for such a brief time, in the grand scheme of things. Let’s savor every moment and give them the very best of us, pouring love and attention and wisdom and encouragement into their lives. This coronavirus scare could very well be a sweet blessing in disguise for many American families.