Why a Schoolteacher is Quitting Her Job and Homeschooling

Posted By on April 23, 2010

At my annual review yesterday, my principal gave me quite the compliment. He said, “I love the way you make everyone around you want to be smarter. I finish talking to you and I think to myself, ‘I’ve got to read more!’” We talked about that for a bit, and I realized that the thing that makes me valuable as a schoolteacher is the same thing that makes leaving my job and homeschooling imperative. That thing is a love of excellence.My parents were committed to getting me an excellent education, and thus moved me around from school to school. I went to seven different schools by the time I was in ninth grade. I was the “new kid” for all three years of junior high. I went to a variety of schools, including an all-girls school, a progressive public school, and then a fantastically wealthy public high school that looked like a country club. I also spent three years being homeschooled full-time during elementary school, and homeschooled myself part-time for the last two years of high school. (Yes, you really can do that.)

I can say that every school I went to was exceptionally damaging to my sense of self-worth and my education. Being the socially clueless kid with a bad hair cut (and, later, with train wreck acne) did me no favors in a system where being pretty and hip is a prerequisite to being accepted. Each of my schools had a different system of education where the focus seemed to be on new methods and rearranging the desks every few months. None of the schools focused on assessing student learning. One could know nothing about the subject being tested, fail the test, and get a B because of homework and participation. That kind of grade reflects docility, not knowledge. Nobody seems to care if students actually learn anything, so long as it looks like the teacher is teaching. That’s an important distinction.

The only types of schooling that worked for me were homeschooling and college. I’ve never been good at staying focused on tasks that are drawn out. If learning a new math skill should take 10 minutes to teach and 50 minutes to practice, then so be it—I’m your girl. I’ll listen closely, work hard, and follow your advice. However, I have never been able to focus on a 45-minute lecture while sifting out the 10 minutes worth of usable material. My response in school was always, “I guess I don’t really need to know this, since nobody can explain how it works or why it’s useful.” Asking things like, “How can I use this information?” or “How will I know that I’ve mastered this skill?” were treated like mutiny. (I don’t remember this, but eyewitnesses swear that it’s true: when I was a junior in high school, a few weeks into an allegedly tough English class, the teacher, who routinely graded papers with college-level rubrics, had us pick out plastic animal figurines from a bag, then sculpt our bodies so that we resembled the animal. Apparently my response was, “This is malarkey; I am not doing it,” and then I walked out of the classroom. I do remember dropping the class and homeschooling myself in English, German, and humanities for the rest of the year, taking just a few classes for the rest of high school.)

Based on my experience, I believe that students in regular classrooms learn many self-defeating lessons from their teachers and classmates. These include:

  • The rules are always changing, and since you never know when the teacher is going to enforce them, try to get away with as much as you can until she starts screaming. Then blame your neighbor.
  • You don’t need to think about your education. The teacher will decide what you should learn, you’ll do the things that she decides matter, then she’ll give you a grade that represents how well you can follow arbitrary directions.
  • While the teacher can make mistakes and move deadlines all the time, you will be penalized if you misunderstand the directions.
  • Almost everything you learn is a measure of your docility, not your intelligence or your effort.
  • Working with others is more important than learning actual content. Group projects, no matter how unfair, inefficient, and tedious are here to stay, and if you complain about it taking 10 hours out of class to make a collage that demonstrates 15-minutes worth of learning, tough. Life isn’t fair.
  • Life isn’t fair, so thus it is okay for me to be unfair.
  • Don’t question textbooks, even though most of them are riddled with errors and omissions.
  • Learning is for school, school is painfully monotonous, so learning must be boring, too.
  • Learning is for school, so once the day ends, you’re free to do whatever you find fun.
  • Learning can only take place in hard plastic desks, in crowded classrooms, while being told exactly what to do.
  • Nothing is more important than fitting in. If you don’t fit in, there must be something wrong with you. Maybe you should buy some more accessories? Try a different hair style?
  • The earlier you start dating, the more important and grown up you are.
  • Talking about Jesus is for people who are “not open minded” and are “trying to push their beliefs on others.” Incidentally, would you like to wear a rainbow pin to support the gay marriage?
  • Reading in school? Are you crazy? We have to get ready for the state tests!

As an adult, I find myself reading and studying to make up for the fact that, during most of my years in “regular school,” I didn’t learn anything. Nothing. I can barely describe who fought in major wars, the type of government France has, the capitol of more than half of our 50 states, how to calculate compound interest, how to diagram a sentence, how mitochondria fuel cells, or how electricity makes its way through power lines and into my computer. Given the state of education, I’m lucky I can read, and that was something I learned while homeschooling.

I spent eight hours a day, 180 days a year, waiting for the teacher to get to the point or for the class to stop talking or for us to stop reviewing, for the third time, the material we had already learned, in order to help the kids who had talked right through it the first two times. School is tough on the good kids, because they don’t have the solace of goofing off and enjoying time with their friends in class. They might spend 30-50% of their time in school watching the teacher manage the behavior of other students, while getting scolded for reading during the downtime.

Modern-day schooling is a daily exercise in mediocrity, or worse. Students are taught in hundreds of ways, all day long, that your output doesn’t matter, how much you’re learning doesn’t matter, what you think about it doesn’t matter. What matters are grades and popularity.

Bubbles

Bubbles

I am going to homeschool because I want my kids to have the courage to defend their Faith. (As I recall, there’s nothing quite so scary as being 18 and the only orthodox Christian in a room and having to explain to a humanities teacher that “No, birth control is not ‘the answer to abortion;’ it’s the cause. No, I’m not an idiot, but since you were able to give your left-wing spiel to a captive audience, for the sake of keeping your Church out of my State school, let me offer a rebuttal.”) Some people will say that homeschooling is akin to hiding the world’s problems from your kids; that you prepare them for a soft world that doesn’t exist. I would argue that a well-balanced education will show your kids the reality of the world far more than sitting in a politically biased classroom. (I also fail to understand why shielding kids for a few extra years is akin to child abuse. Does a seven-year-old really need to know about STDs?)

I want my kids to nourish their curiosity, to learn by doing, to write and create for an authentic audience, to have the strength to stand up for their beliefs and the know-how to do so effectively. I want my kids to read, read, read, and then write something personal. I want them to love God’s word, to thirst for it. I want them to see how math and science are fun excursions into God’s How, and philosophy and theology adventures into his Why. I want them to look around and say, “I want to learn more about that!” and “Can we PUH-lease go to the library an extra time this week?”

It’s not all spiritual or academic reasons that keep me up at night debating how structured our schooling will be. (I used to fantasize about being famous. Now I revel in imagining how our son and his future siblings will enjoy mixing formal curriculum with homegrown learning.) A huge reason homeschooling makes a difference is because of how it builds family relationships.

James Jacques Joseph Tissot

Hide and Seek

What shows me that homeschooling is powerful is the lens through which mothers see their children. Many, many mothers in my circle can’t wait for their youngest to leave for school, since family time is riddled with bickering, whining, and general disobedience. Parents struggle to get their children to comply with basic commands, let alone with developing self-discipline. Every day is an exhausting struggle with no end in sight. In all fairness, this is exactly what women have been told to expect out of motherhood, and why they are encouraged to “have a life.” Many people don’t know it can be otherwise.

What I see in families who homeschool is a willingness to tackle problems early. Tommy is being disobedient? Let’s deal with that directly, as often as needed, rather than waiting until he does something “really bad.” Since Tommy is given regular guidance, and his parents love him and know him intimately, Tommy soon starts to develop better habits and becomes a more pleasant child. Tommy’s parents don’t want to send him away to school in order to escape his tirades for a blessed eight hours; they want him to stay home so they can enjoy his company, and rear him like the treasure he is. They don’t “manage” his behavior, they disciple him, and he becomes a more socialized member of the family.

I dream that my children will love each other and will feel without a doubt that they are loved, valued members of the family. They will know through family prayer, habits, and ways of speaking that they are treasured. If God loves us passionately and completely, how better for our children to know God than to fully experience parental love at home? If I want my children to be well socialized, how better to do it than in a multi-age setting that emphasizes moral development? If I want my children to know that they are inherently beautiful and worthy, why would I send them to a school where only the pretty girls and the athletic boys are treated kindly? If I want them to be educated, why would I send them to a system that has demonstrated no ability to educate young people?

I say this as someone who currently teaches: the best teachers a child can have are loving parents. While I know that I am a gifted teacher in the classroom, I yearn to become an integrated whole: a mother who teaches her children and models for them God’s loving, constant presence.

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About The Author

Tess Bomac is a writer and teacher. She works part time and is slowly helping her school prepare for her permanent departure in the spring of 2011, when she hopes to be home full time with her son and Baby #2. She loves reading, writing, piano, and baking all of her own bread. She aspires to know Christ Jesus through prayer, study, and community. If you want to make her angry, use the phrase "it's all relative." If you want to make her happy, send her vegetarian recipes and book recommendations.

Comments

24 Responses to “Why a Schoolteacher is Quitting Her Job and Homeschooling”

  1. Wow, Tess. You just hit on so many important points here that are so often overlooked in the education debate. My favorite part is this: “What shows me that homeschooling is powerful is the lens through which mothers see their children. Many, many mothers in my circle can’t wait for their youngest to leave for school, since family time is riddled with bickering, whining, and general disobedience.”

    Bingo! You’ve nailed it. When people find out I am the mother of nine, their reaction is almost always one of disgust or pity: “Oh, you poor dear. You must have no time for yourself!” or “How on earth do you survive?” I always have to stop, take a breath, then remember that these folks aren’t viewing nine children through the same lens I am. Yes, if I lived in a house full of screaming, angry, disobedient children, I would be miserable. I’d probably want them all out of my hair. But I live in a house with nine unique, interesting, fun, and growing individuals. They aren’t perfect, but they are learning — and they are gifts to me from a loving Father. Bringing up and educating children is hard work, but it is not drudgery. Thanks for this wonderful defense of home education and mothering!

  2. Joy N says:

    My husband hates group projects and similarly structured work environments for one big reason. It allows people who care less about their lives to free-load while the few who actually want to ‘be somebody’ end up doing over triple the work than if they were allowed to simply strive for their own success.

    Individual achievement is being replaced in this society by collective progress. The inevitable result will be that even the workers, dispirited by their lack of ability to enjoy the fruits of their own labor, will stop working one by one. Shortages and rationing will follow…

    My (homeschooled) son doesn’t know how lucky he is that his phonics grade will not depend on how much his peers care about it.

  3. Renee Stam says:

    Great post! I went through public (very liberal) school and then university. I have a degree in Sports medicine and another in nursing! What did I learn through my almost 20 years of schooling–NOTHING!!!!

    Well, patients are not what I’ve learned from a book (most of them are outside what the book would say is the norm). You don’t learn how to interact with people from a book, and what you learn that you’ll be doing in the work field is totally the opposite of real life. (You would think that a nurse should “nurse,” but her work is mostly paper work and pill pushing!!!)

    With all that education I was not prepared to be on the work field. Later, when I met my husband and started our family, I became a stay at home mother, and for that schooling did not prepare me any better!!!!

    I love learning, and I’ve learned more being at home reading, yes, reading and reading books on tons of subjects and not being brainwashed on a curriculum!!! School does not promote critical thinking at all, and I’m a critical thinker. I always have to search deeper to know the whole truth about the subject and that is helping me learn more everyday!

    Doctors hate me because I never will take a medication or a treatment before doing my “recherche.” They want their patent to be compliant and and follow their advice blindly. Same with the education system; teachers want students to learn the material without asking any questions!!!

    Ok, sorry about the rant over here!

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post! And our daughters are being taught at home and will learn to have a critical learning perspective :-)

  4. Wow, Tess. Thanks for this wonderful insight! I have one 8 year old daughter and I am beginning to feel like God is leading me to homeschool her. I would NEVER have said that before, not even 6 months ago. My daughter is in 2nd grade, and so far we have had issues every year with the curriculum or teaching style of the public school system. Yesterday was earth day, and my daughter came home telling us about recycling and saving the earth, and my husband I proceeded to tell her OUR views. She started to argue back, and we stopped her and said, “Honey, the teachers teach you what the government tells them to.” Then it hit home for me. I looked at my husband and said, “I can’t believe what I just said. That sounds horrible.” He agreed. However, he is completely against homeschooling. We both were for a long time. I am just now starting to see and understand the value and urgency in it. I am praying that God will unite our minds and hearts to tell us what He would have us to do.
    My only question is this; What about all of the students that have graduated from public school and are extremely intelligent? They may be pastors, doctors, business owners, etc. It is clear that they are serving Christ and following Him, and they are very well educated and did very well in public school and are very intelligent, and it is clear that they DID learn something in public school. I am a product of public school and I enjoyed my experience, but that was a very long time ago and schools are different now.
    Thank you for your passionate article that opened my eyes a little bit wider!

  5. quilt2day says:

    I love this! It’s as if Tess climbed in my head and wrote what I don’t have time to write. I’m a former teacher who was good at her job but now feels ‘whole’ educating, training, loving, and parenting my own family. I also was amazed at how far I “made it” without having a decent education. I’ve learned so much since graduating from high school, reading and educating my own children.

  6. Jacqueline M. says:

    As a student who currently attends public secondary school, I agree very much with the majority of what was said here about it. At school everyone is concerned about what grades they are getting, not what they are learning, and the way we are graded is absolutely crazy. You can ace a class if you show up, fill in blanks and copy your homework off the students who actually worked. It is incredibly frustrating. The more I hear about it, the better homeschooling sounds. It sounds like home-schooled children learn a lot and it is difficult not to envy them. I hope that if I have children I can home-school them.

  7. wordywife says:

    I attended public school K-12 and had mostly good experiences; but I can recognize certain things in this article that happened to me, and I wouldn’t want happening to my future children. I attended various schools over the years but all put a huge emphasis on standardized testing, rather than learning. On several occasions in high school, I had teachers who would spend the majority of class time trying to push their liberal political agendas on us. I can remember very little of what I learned in science or math classes. Sex ed classes taught us that “sex is good and normal” and “experimenting is fun.”

    I don’t currently have children but I’ve been putting thought lately into whether homeschooling is the better choice.

  8. Prairiepastorswife (and anyone thinking about or curious about homeschooling),

    I recommend you read So Why Do You Homeschool by Mimi Davis. It is a great little book full of information in a question and answer format. It is a great resource for families even remotely considering or wondering about homeschooling. I have led (and currently lead) a homeschool group for about four-years and have homeschooled for over a decade – the book is definitely worth reading for someone where you’re “at” on this issue.

    The book is available at amazon.com and perhaps even your local bookstore.

    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Wayne Hunter

  9. ladyscott says:

    Wow! What a great article!

  10. Tess Bomac says:

    Hi All, thanks for the feedback! It feels great to share my first article with LAF.

    To PrairiePastorsWife: my husband used to be very opposed to homeschooling because his hyper-liberal family considers attending public schools a form of patriotism. However, he is now in favor of it after his first year of teaching in a tough city school. He has started to see how despite his degrees, his passion, and his commitment to his students, it’s pretty hard to make much impact on any one of his 30+ students in each 45 minute period. He has also seen how many teachers are burnt out, and who don’t really care about what happens to each student down the road. Knowing that both of us would sooner die than let our son come into harm’s way puts in a poor light the level of commitment even a great teacher has. There is simply not a person on this planet who is more invested in our son than we are.

    My hubby’s not sure about “homeschooling the whole way”, because he isn’t sure what high school looks like, worries about having misfit kids, etc. However, he is willing to start out homeschooling, and I have no doubt that time and experience will demonstrate what a beautiful path it is.

    I recommend that you check out a variety of books on homeschooling and ask him to read them, or ask him if you may read key passages aloud to him (I do both). See if you can take baby steps–maybe finish out the school year at home, or start homeschooling in the summer and see how it feels, or start by supplementing regular school. Keep your husband in the loop so that he can see what is really going on at home and at school.

    I really do think that for most people, all they need is a taste of freedom and success before they want more. So give him a taste!

  11. Joy N says:

    prairiepastorswife – I would submit that these intelligent Christians who graduated public school were able to succeed in spite of the drawbacks of the system, not because of it. A properly-centered kid with the right personality raised by strongly moral people is able to weather it with less of an impact.

    Granted, the public school system is still partially localized and so it is better in some districts than in others. I have a cousin in another state who has a very good public school, but the one in my area practically necessitates homeschooling.

    I’d encourage you and your husband to get involved with your local school. It won’t take long for the experience to either help make the institution a better place for your child or strengthen your (and his) resolve to homeschool.

  12. nea says:

    Oh yes, I agree. I’m a teacher, too, and even though I kind of loved my work, it sure confirmed me that I would NOT want my future (don’t have any, yet) kids go through that system. Our public school system in Finland is pretty good for a system, but still. The main reason for me is, that I don’t want my children to be raised by anyone else. Because that’s what school is most about, raising children to be as the teachers want them to be.

  13. As a current public school teacher, I was very interested in this article. I am at a place in my life where I want to be home very badly with my two children, but my husband says I have to work one more year. So, I keep praying and keep learning all while I am waiting to come home.
    A lot of what you say is true, though I will say that I work in a rural area school that still holds true to the values I believe in, so if I have to work, I am so thankful for God placing me here. Recently God has given me a business plan in my mind that I shared with my husband, and this is why he said I can come home after one more year. I am asking God to help me be faithful in every way I can be while I am working, so that I can come home and do what I believe God is impressing on my heart so much. Every day I see my four and six year old growing older, and my heart aches for their lives. My six year old has accepted Jesus, but I see her heart being swayed by the world. My four year old has not, and God has impressed on my heart to really pray for this. He is so strong willed. I pray that God blesses your homecoming richly, and that someday, we can share in the joy together.
    Blessings to you!

  14. ladyscott says:

    Prairiepastorswife,

    The success of some Christian public schooled children is the result of one or more of these:

    1. The child is unusually self-disciplined in getting an actual education and keeping their faith.

    2. The parents are very hands on with faithful upbringing and encouraging education.

    3. The child actually went to a halfway decent public school.

    4. The hand of the Lord was with the child the entire way.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    My favorite part was also the observation that so many mothers can’t wait to send their children to school to get them out of the house. I live in a very well-off suburb of Chicago and I see this all the time.

    Jennie…I wanted to thank you for an insight you gave me with your comment. I have always struggled with how to reply to people who wonder how I manage with 9 children at home all day. It has never seemed difficult to me and I feel as though my attempts at explaining so have been unsuccessful. But, now I realize that I and the person making such a comment are looking at the same situation through completely different lenses. I find my children interesting and pleasant to be around, whereas the commenter is assuming that my children are just the opposite (despite evidence to the contrary.) This helps me in trying to communicate how blessed I feel to be able to spend the time with my children that I do.

  16. Anna T says:

    That was a terrific post. This was exactly how I felt in school – and you defined just the reasons why we plan to homeschool, too.

  17. jjsmom says:

    Tess, you have posted a remarkable and timely essay. I will be exiting my teaching job this June. There are many reasons for this; mainly to return to my God given job as a stay at home wife. However, I have become increasingly disenchanted with the politics of schooling. Yes, the public schools have their problems. The same problems are found in private schools as well. As a middle-aged educator and experienced mother, I must advise younger mothers to stay home and home school their children.
    I say this even though I was educated in both private and public school, as well as a large public university. For those mothers who don’t think they can “handle it”, I say “YES” and in fact you must try. Your child’s future depends on it.

  18. Great post! I have worked in the education sytem here in the UK (mostly with children who have behavoural and emotional issues) and my husand still does but we home educate our children. My eldest daughter was in public school for one year before we pulled her out; I hated that feeling that we/she was just another ‘number’ in a huge ‘system’, a class room full of precious people who would enable the school to achieve ITS targets, teachers pushing them through so they could tick THEIR boxes – another face in a meaningless crowd, another child dropped off to an institution masking itself as an oversized, over rated day care for big kids!! PHEW – we have tasted the freedom and LOVE it!

  19. Abbysmom says:

    I’m curious about whether any of you have considered or tried of these options and if they worked (or didn’t work) for you or why not you would/would not like them:

    1) A private Christian or Jewish school, whether it is run by your church, synagogue or temple or is nondenominational.

    2) Homeschooling in collaboration with a nearby Christian school for a reasonable fee. I’m sure there are variants of this, but this is what one Christian school in a nearby city did. You have a teacher to support you with homeschooling. She/he doesn’t dictate what you teach, but visits every month and is available at other times as well. The school wasn’t huge, but the home school students were welcome in the extracurricular activities they had.

  20. Georgia says:

    I agree with homeschooling. With today’s technology parents can homeschool their children even if they are not academically inclined. I cannot understand why so many societies feel that you need to send their children to public school to be socialized. I am a substitute teacher and I see a lot of hostility in many children. I strongly believe that peers cause more damage to a child than parents. How can a student live up to their potential in the type of setting? Subs are also abused. Too many parents know their job descriptions better than they know their children. As long as the public school continues to exist we will have a nation of people who are ignorant and arrogant. They do not need more of our tax dollars. We need school choice and the parents need to get more involved with taking better care of their children.

  21. Thank to the ladies who wrote notes of encouragement! I spoke with another friend who homeschools her 2 kids (we have about 4 families that we are close to that homeschool) and she gave me great insight as well. Thanks so much!

  22. This is an incredible essay on this subject. It’s concise, but filled with great details. It’s fair to both sides, but your passion for home-schooling is clear. I did a research project on home-schooling (I was home-schooled but went to a public university) last semester, and I discovered many of these same things, but I doubt I could have put them as beautifully as you. Thank you so much! I will certainly be sharing your post with others who have questions about home-schooling. :)

  23. Heather N. says:

    This is such a great article! I actually had my husband come over and I read part of it to him! I also really liked the part about how people view their children through a “different lens”. My children are (usually) a joy! People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I would like to have more, and I only have three. And I don’t even know how to respond to that without sounding like I think I’m superior! It is something I struggle with a lot. I don’t view my children as a burden to be endured and that is foreign to a lot of people I meet. Thanks for the great article!

  24. Mrs. Eva H. says:

    I do want to throw out that not everybody who decides to have their children attend school (whether a Christian school or public school) does this because they want them out of the house, and do not like them. For many the decision is a hard one, but they honestly believe that this form of education is best for their children. Whether they are right about that or not is one thing, but we have to be careful to attribute the motivation of a few to all.

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