Thinking About Homeschooling? Some Advice from a Pediatrician

“You can’t understand Western civilization without understanding Christianity.”

(photo: Pixabay/CC0)

When Dr. Randolph Matthews’s son was 5 years old, his wife convinced him that they should give homeschooling a try. That was over 20 years ago, long before homeschooling was even close to being mainstream. Although he was a little skeptical at first, they both agreed to try it for a couple of years. They’ve never looked back.

In addition to being a pediatrician for 28 years, Dr. Matthews is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Wake Forest School of Medicine, and a member of the board of at the American College of Pediatricians. For Matthews and his wife, several factors influenced their decision to homeschool. One of them, as is true for many homeschooling families, was religion.

“When I was in public school, I actually took Bible class,” Matthews told me. “That’s unheard of now. And yet Western civilization was built on the pillar of Christianity. So, whether you believe the Bible or not, you can’t understand Western civilization without understanding Christianity. There are a lot of people out there who want their children to have a religious upbringing and that played a bit part in why we wanted to homeschool. We’re a Christian family, and most public schools are antithetical toward religious instruction.”

Matthews has many homeschooling families in his practice. And parents often ask for his input when they’re considering it for themselves. First, he tells them that his family had a great experience with it so he’s a bit biased. Then he tells them they can’t expect anyone else to take the same interest in making sure their child succeeds as they will. And third, he tells them that although the idea of schooling their children for so many years can seem intimidating, they should take it one day at a time.

There are so many homeschooling curricula available now, Matthews says, that parents can choose from programs that walk them through details like how many notebooks and pencils they’ll need, to others that offer a lot of leeway.

Matthews believes that academics is one of the best reasons to consider homeschooling. Many studies show that children who are homeschooled do much better academically than those in public and even private schools. The Home School Legal Defense Fund cites a study conducted by Dr. Lawrence Rudner on more than 20,000 homeschooled students who showed the highest rate of academic achievement. In a piece earlier this year, Business Insider reported that homeschooled children “tend to do better on standardized tests, stick around longer in college, and do better once they’re enrolled.” It also suggests that homeschooling is experiencing a surge, with the number of kids taught at home growing by 3 percent to 8 percent a year since 2012.

Like many homeschooling families, wherever they lived, the Matthews always got involved with a local homeschool group. It was an opportunity for group activities, physical education, science fairs and the like. And for parents, those groups offered support and advice. As the Register recently reported, initial concerns about homeschoolers lacking socialization skills have been largely put to rest. Dr. Matthews believes children who are homeschooled often learn better social skills and interact more politely with adults. He told me that sometimes when he’s with a child who’s especially polite during a checkup or visit, he’ll ask them if they’re homeschooled. More often than not, they are.

Matthews’s wife bore the primary responsibility for homeschooling their son. But Matthews had one day off each week, and that was his day with his son. “I looked forward to that day more than I looked forward to my weekend. It was wonderfully fun. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, our son or his parents!”

The Matthews family homeschooled their son all the way through high school. He went on to college and then medical school, and is now following in his father’s footsteps as a pediatrician himself.