Guest Post: Nicole Cottrell {a Modern Reject on Homeschooling}

by Laura on June 26, 2011

I think if I were real-life friends with this girl from Arizona, my cool-meter would shoot way up.  Nicole writes culturally-relevant, edgy-faith words over at Modern Reject. You should totally spend some time over at her blog.  Like, really.  In her own words . . .

Im Nicole Cottrell. I’m trained in the fine art of button-pushing and use my skills daily on Modern Reject where I write about the intersection of faith and culture, as well as the unpopular stuff no one else likes to talk about. I’m a speaker, writer, discipler, and coffee fanatic. Feel free to stalk me: twitter: @modernreject


The Homeschooling Nightmare

My daughter is going to turn 5 in a few short months. Yesterday she placed an enormous, glittery, pink , princess, backpack on herself and loaded it up with junk. She said, “I’m going on vacation,” but all I could think of was her eventual first day of kindergarten.

She is going to need to attend school and that scares me, for a few reasons. For one thing, I don’t want her to get bigger. I’d like to invent a child “pause” button for both of my children.
Secondly, the decision of where to send your child to school can be a daunting one.  I have friends who have struggled, prayed, been put on waiting lists, been rejected by schools they liked, only to start  all over again.

There is also the issue, however, of homeschooling. This word used to sound like a dirty word to me. Homeschool. Still sends shivers down my spine. My husband and his brother were both homeschooled through high school and all things considered, are two of the most normal, healthy, Godly guys I know.

But I’m no homeschooling mom. I imagine all homeschooling moms wear denim jumpers and have hair down to their butts. I don’t have a baseball team worth of children or drive a mini-van. Do those things automatically disqualify me or is there more to this homeschooling thing than I assume??

For starters, I’ve discovered that the days of the stereotypical homeschooling mom are long gone. They don’t all reside in Nebraska, Missouri, Montana, nor birth an average 6.8 children.

Instead, many homeschooling moms are actually kinda cool, not that I find this a requirement, but it helps (and not that you can’t be cool from the above mentioned states or if you have a boat-load of kids).

I have also been reminded numerous times by my mother-in-law that once you decide to homeschool, nothing says that you only have to homeschool for the rest of your child’s school life. You could do it for one year or two years, then stop, if you felt that’s what God had for your family.

The problem is, I have a visceral reaction when I imagine myself at my kitchen table playing teacher with my daughter. The thought makes my head want to explode. It sounds to me like one of the most not-fun things I could possibly do. Actually, it sounds more like a nightmare….like a long, drawn out, painfully uncool, nightmare.

I am sure that I have neither the patience, or the perseverance to teach my child on a daily basis. The bad news (depending on who you are) however, is that, as of right now, I think that is where the Lord is leading me.

I have had a few dreams and words from the Lord that homeschooling may, in fact, become my gig. Eek! It makes me want to shout “God, what are you thinking?”

I had the realization, for instance, that as my husband and I have set out and started a house church recently, soon enough our life will be filled with ministry. I used to think that sending my kids off to school would afford me more time to “do ministry” during the day.

However, the realization came when a friend was praying for me about something totally unrelated and I was struck with the notion that ministry does not happen between the hours of 8-5. Usually, it actually happens in the night or on weekends– at times that could even be perceived as inconvenient.

If I was home with my kids homeschooling them, then actually I would be buying more time away from them, so to speak. Having spent all day with them, each day, when I did need to leave to “do ministry” I would not feel as though I did not see them. They too would not be  gone at school all day only to have me leave.

At any rate, school is right around the corner and I don’t feel peace one way or the other. I am open to whatever God has, but I sure hope He starts changing my heart if He wants me to homeschool because as of right now, it still makes me cringe…that and the thought of driving a mini-van. May it never be! But hey, if God handed me a Toyota Sienna, I wouldn’t say “no.”

-Nicole Cottrell, Modern Reject

Question. What are your thoughts on the topic of homeschooling? In favor, opposed, neutral? Got any amazing (as in bad or as in funny) homeschooling stories to share with me? Advice too, I’ll take it.

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  • Laura

    THanks, Nicole for posting here!

    I totally relate to your assumptions about homeschooling. When I first wanted to step into the waters of it, my husband (who worked in youth ministry with highschool kids for 10 years) said (literally), “You can homeschool them as long as they don’t start turning out weird.” Yup, that’s what he said at first.

    Now, 3 years in, I am more than ever OPEN to other options. In fact, if it were cheaper here to send them to english speaking schools, I think they would all go to an international school this upcoming school year.

    But, alas, homeschooling we will do, again. I just buckled and ordered lots from the Sonlight curriculum b/c all the books come with the Study Guides– which we need being here and not having lots of easy access to books. (Oh, how we miss our local library!)

    Anyway, I have committed to pray and try to discern what might be best for each kid, for each school year. I like that that idea doesn’t “trap” me into a future of education, but gives chances for God to direct different ways, different years.

    Positives? I have LOVED the extra time I’ve gotten with them.

    Thanks so much for the funny, insightful post!

  • Michelle

    Ok, first off – I was homeschooled. there I said it. Relief. As for me being normal, probably not. However, I hated homeschool. Wanted nothing to do with it. Wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Then something happened. My daughter started struggling in a small class room. The teacher and principal pulled me in a room and told me how behind she was, how they couldn’t get her to hold her pencil. I started researching and somehow, I felt I must homeschool her. That didn’t mean she didn’t have issues. We later found out she had Aspergers, ADHD, and dysgraphia (undiagnosed, hence the pencil problems). I am now going into year 7 and she’ll be in 7th grade. Now I have 2 others to homeschool as well and they’ve been educated from day one. The one thing people have told is how lucky I am that I started most of my children from day one. They said they wished they would have done it sooner. You know what though? It’s been tough. Homeschool is not easy. It’s not perfect. The thing I always have to keep in mind are the goals I set. Unlike you, I do plan on homeschooling my kids all the way through. That’s a personal decision on my part and my husbands. We just don’t trust the school system to do a better job. It’s not pride. We know our kids best. And God is leading us to keep going. All of that to say, God uses the homeschooling process to keep me humble. I screw up – a lot. I have to say sorry a lot. We hug a lot. We get mad at each other a lot. But we forgive a lot too. And we learn through all of our messes and mistakes that God is able. And I have wonderful relationships with my kids. I hope it stays that way. Homeschool won’t guarantee anything, but as I am obedient to Jesus, I am finding the blessings in the storms of life. And when I mess up, we learn so much from it. Nothing is ever lost or useless. God uses it all to teach me, to teach my kids, to help us grow. So no matter what you choose, just remember that there is no perfect anything. All forms of education have their downsides and all of them have their strengths. Just keep listening to what God wants from you and your family. The great thing about homeschooling is that you don’t have to do “school at home”. It can look however you want it to look. That’s the beauty of it – flexibility and working around your lives. Homeschooling is a way of life, not just something you do for a few hours a day. Your kids are gonna learn beautifully. Oh and by the way, there still are some freaky homeschool moms out there. Try going to a state conference. You’ll see them donning long skirts and long hair and having their 10 kids trail behind them. I went to a conference last year (I hate those things by the way) and there was a speaker talking about how using birth control was sinful and to have 100 kids or you will go to hell. Glad I skipped that one. There are normal homeschoolers, but we are all a little weird 😉 (Sorry this is so long!)

    • Laura


      I loved reading your comment! There is such good meat here– from honest confessions to what you love about homeschooling to how you yourself hated it to extreme conferences. I loved reading your view of it, and I loved your humility to admit that it’s not all perfect but that nothing ever really is. I think one of the things that is hard for nonhomeschooling parents is that so many homeschooling moms are all like “hard-core or die and it’s always wonderful, all the time.” And this can make the rest of us feel insecure and doubtful and like, yeah, whatever. I LOVE how you DIDN’T do that here.

      Thanks, Michelle!

  • Logan

    AHHH Nicole, how did you just jump in my brain and rob my thoughts? Thanks for making me swallow the lump in my throat that keeps prodding me about this too….AGAIN. Seriously….way too close to home on exactly everything I think and feel in this season too. My son is 5 and starts school this fall…a fabulous christian school that I don’t even have to pay for him to attend…makes me feel all the more insane for wondering the same things you are.

    • Nicole Cottrell

      I have special powers that enable me to read people’s thought. Comes in very handy as a blogger.

      I hope your son’s first year of school is blessed and filled with success. Thanks for sharing in my neurosis too. It helps me feel more normal.

    • Laura

      Man, Logan. I hear you. Sometimes it’s a hard thing to discern what is really God-prompting a different path versus what is just my own false guilt or my own perception of what I “should” be doing, ya know? I get so confused sometimes b/c it seems in mothering there are so many options, right? Co-sleep or sleep- train. Spank or time-out. Vegan vs. Mcdonalds. Homeschool vs. Public vs. Christian. ahhhhhh.

      Maybe the process of US deciding the pathway of motherhood is mostly about US growing up, maturing into our own skin and hearts and about US learning to recognize His voice and our wisdom in the midst of practical life choices.

  • Alyssa

    I appreciate your humor as you approach this subject. Mommy-pressure never lets up and we seem to get hit from one side just as we’re finally comfortable with ourselves and the choices we’re making for our families and ourselves. I have four kids and after 16 years having at least one kid at home, I am looking at my first back-to-school September where ALL FOUR are in all day school. This has been a long time coming. I’ve been mostly a public-school kind of mom, and I’m not even that involved with PTG or anything like that. I have homeschooled, enjoyed my one year of it and realized that it wasn’t necessary. I do think it’s necessary and beneficial in some situations, such as Michelle’s with her daughter or my friend who has 8 kids, four of which were adopted from Africa at school age. My opinion: My kids need the diversity and education in public school and public school needs my little lights. As we grow together as a family and in our relationship with Jesus, we are more convinced that our kids are making a difference in the world God’s put them in. It is not violating them, influencing them, dragging them into social humanism or any other dirty thing that some may be afraid of exposing their children to in public school. We have had several teachers over the years refer to our kids as “lights” and “bright spots”. My oldest is happily adjusted enough at 16 to spend her summer in the big city of SF pursing her dream to dance, my youngest is getting ready to hit the big-time-all-day-school adventure. They are bright, compassionate, spiritually growing, mistake-making people who are not homeschooled (although, we have lots of friends who ARE homeschooled and even have chickens in their backyards, drive motorcycles and dye their hair — they’re cool and hip and homeschooled and we’re blessed to know them) Bottom line — take it year by year, trust God with your kids and pursue and authentic faith life in front of them, out loud and in the world.

    • Laura

      Love your insights here, Alyssa. Thank you SO much for being brave enough to offer it. I loved your point about the importance of having our kids influence their worlds and the value of giving our kids an experience of diversity. Such a rich perspective and I love hearing about families who have found that public school is the best choice for them. Have you read that book called “Going Public?” I haven’t yet, but I’ve heard it’s excellent– it’s about a family who are sending their kids to public school with great spiritual intention and how they do that. Might be a good read for all of us!!

      Thanks, Alyssa. Happy summer to you guys . . .

      Love, Laura

      • Alyssa

        I haven’t read that book, but I’ll check it out. One last little thing — I love, love, love teachers. I think they are amazing and they’ve blessed us all over the place with their commitment. My oldest daughter’s public preschool teacher and I are still friends and she still celebrates my children’s lives. :) I think this topic/discussion is quite relevant. Thanks for including it here.

    • Nicole Cottrell

      Thank you for your well-balanced and Spirit-filled response.

      I think you touch on such an important idea–that each family has to make their own educational decisions. There can’t be judgment, shame, or critique for making a different decision than others.

      God certainly has something specific to say about each family, and each child for that matter.

      I so appreciate your encouragement and practical wisdom.

    • Laura

      Also, can I say that I LOVED this quote from Alyssa–

      “Mommy-pressure never lets up and we seem to get hit from one side just as we’re finally comfortable with ourselves and the choices we’re making for our families and ourselves. ”

      I totally hear that.

  • Cheryl

    So so good. Thank you for your humor and honesty. I am right there with you. My oldest starts school in the fall and I assumed we were going to homeschool, but have decided on public school for Kindergarten (I blogged about the decision here: )
    I am going to take it one year at a time. I mainly want at least one of my children to be able to read so that I don’t go completely insane.

    • Laura

      Cheryl, can’t wait to read your post about the decision! Thanks for sharing it. And I loved the last line of your comment. So funny, so true. :)

    • Nicole Cottrell

      One year at a time, as you stated, is so true. If I think about homeschooling for the next12 years, I feel like I too might go insane.

      Looking forward to checking out your post about your decision!

  • Luther

    Well, we are homeschoolers and I like to think of our family as pretty cool. It really is quite amazing because the ” schooling ” part of the day is actually very short as compared to more traditional schools but conversely every moment is a teachable moment.

    It came down to a decision for us as to what God would have us do and a quote ( not sure I will get it right ) that struck us went something like this: whoever is your child’s primary educator will become their primary discipler.

    My wife’s blog,, details our growth as homeschoolers.

    • Nicole Cottrell

      There is great wisdom in that quote. I appreciate that sentiment.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Nicole Cottrell

      There is great wisdom in that quote. I appreciate the sentiment.

      Thank you for sharing it here.

  • Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight

    I generally call myself The Reluctant Home Schooler.
    But, yeah, I have long straight hair, and 6.8, okay SEVEN children – tho I wouldn’t be caught dead in a denim jumper. Strappy tank-tops and jeans, please. I’m not near as cool as Laura Parker, but I don’t think I’m a total dork…and my kids aren’t douche-bags either.

    Five of the seven are now of-age to officially educate. And yup, we’re gonna do the home school thing again this next year. But every year, and with each child, we re-evaluate what would be best.

    The oldest two have been thru a teeny private Christian school, 2 years of public school, home schooling, back to private school, back to home schooling, and now are part-time at the public high school. They take two courses on campus, and do the other stuff with home curriculum. The other kids do a mish-mash of home school lessons, ‘cottage school’ classes with local private & public school, extracurricular stuff…it’s pretty much chaos, but in the very coolest way. The best thing about it all is the TIME with them, the great relationships they have with each other, and the freedom it gives our family. The worst thing about it is the actual teaching part…

    BUT – you can find all kinds of online curriculum these days that practically does the teaching for you, so you can just be the ‘coach’ – cheering on their progress, and not actually having to teach the lessons. I’m not kidding – there’s some amazing video & interactive stuff out there!

    Our journey to becoming a home school weirdo family has been long & slow. Well, we were always kinda outta-the-box weird, in the best way, of course – but home schooling? I drew the line there. No way. Until…well, until I couldn’t resist God’s calling anymore. But even then, I was reluctantly obedient; rotten, I know. We’ve come a long way since then…

    • Nicole Cottrell

      I am so stealing your line. I too will be a reluctant homeschooler.

      It sounds like your family has a healthy, balanced approach. Also, that you are homeschooling for the right reasons, not to insulate your kids.

      You give me hope! Thank you thank you!

  • Sharon @ Hiking Toward Home

    Thank you for this post. And for all the variety of opinions and information in the comments.
    Right now we are at a crossroads as to what to do for next year. We have never done anything but homeschool mainly because for most of it we were in a remote place where it was our only choice.
    We have the opportunity to send our kids to a small Christina school next year. We are still not 100% sure of it. In some ways I feel like I am bailing out on my kids. In other ways, I wonder if the could use a break from mommy for a while. I am apprehensive of the new outside influences. Yet I am scared stiff about homeschooling into high school. My oldest enters 8th grade this year.
    There are other extenuating circumstances that will affect our decision so it has not ultimately been made yet.
    Pray for us/me as we seek God about which direction we should go.

    • Laura

      Sharon, praying for wisdom right now. . .

      I totally get the struggle. The tension of feeling like you are “bailing out” and yet the very real reality that we moms NEED to feel like women, too, and not “just” homeschooling moms. It’s so easy in all motherhood to lose yourself, ya know?

      Praying for the best decision for your crew.

  • Jeremy McKemy

    I like what you said about how homeschooling does not have to be a long-term commitment. I think most people freak out because they think if they start out that way then they’ll have to keep going.

    I’m not a parent yet, so I can’t really comment on most of what you all have said here. I homeschooled up until high school and really enjoyed doing it that way. I hope you find peace in whichever direction you take, Nicole!

    Speaking of minivans and Siennas, I thought you all might enjoy this funny video about being a parent and driving a minivan:

    • Laura

      Thanks for the link, Jeremy. You are one cool dude yourself. I hate that we won’t be able to see you and meet your wife this time around! Bummer. We are heading straight from family beach vacay to Thailand. Maybe next time?

    • Nicole Cottrell

      Thank you for the encouragement. Thank you too for linking the Swagger Wagon. My husband and I discovered it a while ago. We sing it randomly whenever I feel the pressure to succumb to the minivan.

      Love it!

  • Lanette

    First time to comment here, but enjoyed reading this. As a mom of two girls, one who just graduated public high school and another who will be in ninth grade, a public school teacher, and a Christisn this subject has often been a button pusher for me so I decided to respond! First let me say Nicole I have enjoyed reading this and otherposts you have written. I so agree with the “mommy pressure” thing.
    I honestly feel that how you educate your child is a very personal decision . My biggest gripe, and I know this is not everyone, is when people make homeschooling or any other choice in child rearing seem to be a level of superiority in spirituality. It takes all of my self control not to become upset when sitting around with moms who badmouth public school and all of the evils found there. (and yes they do this knowing I teach and send my kids to the pit of iniquity). Here is the thing, each choice has pros and cons. What is right for me may not be right for you. Heck what is right for one child in your family may not be right for the other! So I say weigh the benefits and the cons carefully. Pray, discuss with your spouse and do what is best for your family….and then know as someone else said you can change your mind if you so desire.
    Having two teen daughters I know the road is hard enough without mommy guilt from other mommies. Know yourself, know your kids, know your family and then enjoy the freedom you have as a Believer to make a choice and then hold on for the ride and be ready for the curves

    • Laura

      This is one of the best quotes I’ve read on this whole topic . . .

      ” My biggest gripe, and I know this is not everyone, is when people make homeschooling or any other choice in child rearing seem to be a level of superiority in spirituality.”

      Absolutely I have heard that, too. And it drives me crazy, as well.

      Thanks for your honest, wise comment. Continue being a light in our public schools!

      ps– I was a public school teacher, too, before we started having babies. I have a real heart for the people there. :) Thanks for serving there– you are sooo underpaid!

  • Lanette

    I quit when I had my girls. Just went back four years ago when thy were 10 and 14. Absolutely no regrets for taking a 14 year break! Enjoy your babies!

    • Laura

      THanks for the reminder to enjoy the kids when they are little, Lanette. Thanks for stopping by.

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