I am going to tell a short version of our story for the benefit of helping you see how we have experienced three different academic settings. I also hope this helps you have context for why we have made the decisions we made.
We began our children's education in a homeschool setting. Our reasons for this were several. We wanted to disciple our children well. We wanted to have maximal time available to shape their thinking and their hearts in a Christ-centered direction. We also believed my son was a bit immature for his age and would not do well in a traditional school setting. Finally, we just plain wanted to spend more time with them.
We homeschooled our children for 2.5 years. We had a love / hate relationship with homeschooling. We loved the time with our children. We enjoyed the freedom of the pace of study, the curricular decisions, and space it provided our family to establish a good rhythm. We hated the additional stress and guilt it provided to my wife as she constantly felt like she was failing. We hated that our children failed to understand that in a room full of children they could not just blurt out whenever they wanted (which is nearly impossible to teach in a home with 2 children). We hated the homeschooling subculture that pretends their wisdom call makes them superior to those who fail to attain their particular level of righteousness (read self-righteousness). However, on the whole we wanted to keep homeschooling.
Why did we stop? Well, my wife became very ill. She could no longer homeschool the children. Thus, we had to move them into a traditional school setting. By God's grace we were blessed tremendously by Country Christian School. Our children entered Country Christian School and remained in that school for 4 years. I cannot stress enough what a blessing this school was. They were incredibly kind to our family. Our children benefited from a good curriculum, good teachers, and made sweet friends. My wife loved helping out at Country Christian and received many of the benefits of homeschooling without the guilt of being the lead person in trying to educate our children academically. Frankly, my wife is really built to fill a support role. Her relationship with our son became incredibly close where it was strained when we homeschooled. The only downsides to the school were that the upper grades tend to over burden the children with homework and in the last year we saw our children's love for reading begin to dissipate.
It was only this year that we made the decision to place our children in the local public school. We did so because we were not pleased with the 6th-8th grade program at our previous school. We loved the school through the 5th grade. But the program was not a good fit for us past the 5th grade. Our local public school, Centennial Elementary, turned out to be a blessing for our family as well. We have only been in the program one year. With that said, the principal and teachers we had at Centennial Elementary were incredibly kind, gracious, hard-working Christian people. They loved our children well. Our children thrived there academically. Further, their love for reading was incredibly well-nurtured at Centennial! The primary downsides for our family at Centennial were that the curriculum is godless (though the teachers were not), my children hated the math book, and my son struggled with the conversations that were to be had on the playground.
Now we are left to make a decision regarding our next school year. The two options before us are to keep our children in the public schools or to homeschool again. We are strongly leaning toward homeschooling again. My wife has been well for more than 3 years and we believe her health will be good for years to come. This removes a big obstacle for us. Our son really wants to be homeschooled as he has tired of hearing about all the middle school antics. He has loads of friends and social outlets. He just hates the zoo effect that occurs at middle schools. Further, he really enjoyed a more Christ-centered curriculum and wants to return to Saxon math. My daughter is happy either way. She is younger and has a sweet group of girlfriends at her school she will miss. However, she would prefer a Christian education and Saxon math as well. Further, she doesn't want to be at the public school if her older brother isn't. I keep reminding her they would be at different schools if they both stayed in public school, but she doesn't seem to care about that.
Our concerns in returning to homeschooling primarily boil down to one big issue. Will our children be self-directed enough that my wife won't feel the need to be constantly hounding them? This concern is largely born out of our realization that my wife does not serve well in the role of a leader. She is an incredible support. When my children can look to her to help them and encourage them all is well. When she must be the taskmaster their relationship goes awry. My hope is that I can bridge that some. But, my best efforts to do so when they were younger did not pan out. My guess is that they will be far more self-directed at this age. They have proven to be so in school.
This concern for my children manifests itself differently for each. Our daughter has the tendency to want to slack off and she pushes back against my wife and not against her teachers. We don't want to provide an atmosphere for her where she is constantly at war with my wife to do her work. Our son is on the verge of being a teenage boy. I do not believe it is healthy for a young man of that age to be under the thumb of his mom all day. In fact, I have seen multiple young men grow up in that scenario and it has not benefited them as adults. Thus, my goal is to take the lead in homeschooling both of them through planning their curriculum, making a calendar, and checking each day to see how their progress is going. I am hoping this will allow my wife to remain in a support role and help them with their studies. This is our planned approach if we homeschool this year. But we won't make that decision for another month or so.
I will post a list of benefits and weaknesses to each form of education (as we have experienced them) in my next post.