RICHMOND, Va. — When actor Kirk Cameron was asked to consider homeschooling his six children, his first thought was: “Are you kidding? Why would I do that?”
“My impression of homeschooling was, well, just different,” he told thousands of homeschoolers on Friday at the Virginia Homeschool Convention.
As someone who did not grow up in a Christian home and was never homeschooled, Cameron did not view homeschooling as a valid option. But he was growing dissatisfied with the schools and the little time he was spending with his children, four of whom are adopted.
“I thought, how in the world am I ever going to disciple my kids when I’m working so hard, my wife’s working so hard, and we just don’t get enough time to see them and everything that they’re learning at public school or elsewhere tends to undermine all the things we’re trying to teach them in the few hours that we do have with them,” Cameron explained.
It was his friend who convinced him to take the route he thought he’d never take.
More than knowledge, his friend told him, what your children need is wisdom — who God is, who they are and why they’re here. And there’s no one who’s going to teach them wisdom like the two people God has placed in their lives, Cameron recalled hearing from his friend.
Knowing that Cameron would be overwhelmed with curriculum options and figuring out how to educate his children at home, his friend also offered this advice: “You’ve been doing this the other way for so long that the best curriculum you could ever provide for your family is to take them out of the school system and take the first six months and if you do nothing other than learn how to be a family again that will be the best thing you could ever do with your wife and with your kids.”
Cameron, who became a Christian in his late teens, and his wife, Chelsea, soon began to call homeschooling “lifeschooling” because of the fun they were having as a family. And today they are major advocates of homeschooling.
The actor responded to common objections to homeschooling, including the question of how homeschooled kids would learn socialization “if they’re cooped up in your house all day.”
Cameron’s response: “My kids are outside of our house more than anybody’s kids because we’re going places all the time. … And they’re not segregated with just one age group of kids.”
He would often take the children hiking in the mountains, the beach, museums, volunteer and mission trips and to his work.
Cameron would also respond to that objection this way, “You trying to teach your children socialization by sending them to a public school is kind of like trying to teach them nutrition by sending them to a candy store.”
Other common questions he would receive as a homeschooling parent included whether he’d be able to provide a good education and whether the kids would be prepared for college.
To those, Cameron said he believed parents could provide a better education through homeschooling and overall, homeschooled children have been found to be more mature, driven and well-rounded.
The “Growing Pains” actor clarified that homeschooling isn’t always “fun and games.” There were many struggles and challenges but he has no regrets.
“I would never change it for the world,” he said. “It’s the best thing we ever did for our family because we know one another, we know our children.
“There is no amount of money, there is nothing in the world that could ever equate to the investment that we’ve been able to make in our kids.”
Offering encouragement to parents who are feeling exhausted or like they aren’t doing enough, Cameron assured, “You’re doing a great job. … You’re providing them with something they could never get any other day.”
In the end, what’s more important than feeding them information is teaching them to know God’s truth, he emphasized.
What’s more important is not so much the curriculum but the parents modeling the kind of person they want their children to become, he added.
And beyond teaching kids good behavior, what’s more important is staying in relationship with one’s children.
“Family is primarily about relationship. Family is not primarily a correctional facility,” he noted. “At the end of the day, our kids are going to make mistakes … We can preach all the wisdom in the world but if we’re in that ‘me against you right now,’ all of the wisdom and the truth we give to them is going to fall on deaf ears.
“What we need to do is put down the rod of criticism … and regain their heart. We need to get back into good fellowship … If we lose their heart, we’ve lost the battle.”
The Virginia Homeschool Convention took place June 6-8 in Richmond. It is billed as one of the largest homeschool conventions in the nation.