Now that the back-to-school sales have started, and the buses are making trial runs through the neighborhood to get their routes down… I confess, I am beginning to get anxious about starting the school year. I have not been posting much about homeschool because we have been on summer break, and have been preoccupied with our pending move and the sale (or lack of it) of our home. Obviously, from our blogrolls and my “about” section at top left, you can tell that we are a homeschooling family… and although we are not set to any state school schedule (being a Texas homeschool family – where homeschooling is free), we like to keep on a schedule similar to the public school’s to help ourselves stay more accountable. This also makes visiting with family and friends who are not homeschoolers much easier.
I had a discussion today with a friend of mine over email. She was telling me of her thoughts about homeschooling, and the reasons why she has not tried it yet. It got me to thinking about my own reasons for homeschooling, and I thought I would share them since this is the time of year school is gearing up. One of my friend’s comments was that she felt like she was too disorganized to attempt homeschooling, and she was afraid she would procrastinate the year away. This made me laugh, as I had this very same discussion with God in my prayer journal last night. Even veteran homeschoolers (of which I do not classify myself) have fears and doubts about their abilities. I am sure that many moms who would attempt homeschooling and have not, share this common fear as well. I am not any different, and I have homeschooled our kids for a total of three years. My children are only 8 and 6, but they are entering grades 3 and 1, respectively this year. I stay in prayer about my ability to pull off another successful year. The wonderful thing about my ability is that my ability is not all that is required of me – my obedience is. “God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.” I would say that just like everything in life, homeschooling requires an amount of FAITH. At some point, each homeschool mother has looked a dwindling checkbook, a loss of free time, and a load of work dead in the eye and took that first step off the homeschooling cliff!
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT – PRIVATE SCHOOL
There was one year, when my children were in preschool and a second go-around at Kindergarten, that we tried a Christian private school as well. I worked as the school’s registrar and kept their database of student records running. I saw the applicants files, their essays and test scores, their personal information, and medical information. I knew who was accepted and who was declined. I saw differences in the applicants who were from public school, other private school, and homeschool settings. I was able to see just from these applications what kind of fruit homeschooling produces. I knew who was expelled at our school (yes, they have discipline problems in private schools, too!) and for what reasons (the same reasons you would expect in a public school: “sex, drugs, rock&roll;”). My kids attended school on their elementary campus, and I worked on their junior high/high school campus, so I saw most of the kids every day and interacted with many of them. Ours was a large private school, and very expensive (to the tune of ten thousand dollars a year for my two kids who were in the earliest grades). While there were many benefits to private school as opposed to public school (less competition and more ability to excel in sports and clubs, better quality of academics and teachers, more Christian values than public schools had to offer), I still saw a lot of the same problems and down-sides to the private school setting as opposed to homeschooling (which we had done for one year previous to my employment there). One of the main down-sides being negative socialization skills. My daughter came home with a new trick she had learned in her three year preschool class: eye-rolling. My son followed around another child who was sent to the principal every week, and ended up being extremely distracted by this “friendship” for most of the entire year. This child was later requested to leave the school (a kindergartener!) because of behavioral issues. It did not help matters that we had already covered all the Kindergarten material at home (and more), and he was somewhat bored. I was very thankful that we had such a lively and interesting teacher for him that year. She went out of her way to keep him engaged, and I was so thankful for her. Of course, in any school situation, there will always be positives and negatives, and I in no way want to cast all blame to any particular schooling method or group. We just learn as we go and make choices based on what we feel is best for our family. After being publicly educated, having our children attend a private school, and trying homeschool out… we made the educated choice of the later as the method that would be best for our family.
I found out that the private school I worked at where my children attended were using secular Science books (the same that the public school uses, in fact). For a Christian who believes in Creation, this concerned me. Secular books are full of macro-evolution and humanistic view points. The school’s answer to me when I asked how the material would be presented was “It is up to the individual teacher how they present the material”. Obviously, there was not an official policy regarding this teaching. So each year, I would be forced to confront my child’s new teacher (who was busy with her other 20 students and their parents) and interview her on her beliefs. In homeschooling, I am the primary teacher, so I am able to teach from many different sources, and explain each subject in light of the Truth. We still learn about the theory of evolution, I admit, but it is taught in accordance with fact, and not many of the lies in the textbooks that are out today. And, we include the “theory” of Creation as well. I feel that this is a balanced view of Science, that my children may or may not get in private school, and most assuredly would NOT get in public school.
BONDS OF LOVE, GODLY VALUES, GOOD FOOD
I also homeschool because I want to know my children and I want our bond to be so strong that when their teenage years come, they are not forced to look elsewhere for guidance or answers. I often feel sorry for the parents who’s children will grow and leave home so quickly, leaving an empty nest behind and very few memories of time spent together… because they spent most of their time apart. Yes, I’m sure that there are involved parents in the public school system – I have heard of the PTA. But, honestly, what percentage of parents are really involved? If you are like me, and need a level of accountability to get things done, it is much easier to let things slip to some extent. With homeschooling, I have no excuse but to be intimately involved in my children’s learning, activities, field trips, accomplishments, and difficulties. I am the one they run to when they “fall on the playground” or get bit by an ant. I’m the one who supplies their “lunch tray” so they get their favorite foods quite a bit more often, and I know they will be getting a much healthier diet at home! My son was given to eating white bread PBJ sandwiches, a chocolate chip cookie, chocolate milk, and greasy potato chips every day at his private school! I didn’t find this out until half way through the year that he was opting out of the school hot-lunch tray with only the raise of a hand at the beginning of class!
Homeschooling provides a lot of time at home to bond and grow along side your parents… and this is a wonderful way to instill Godly values and virtues in your child that will be overlooked by the curriculum in the public schools. I have met some astounding teenagers who have been homeschooled since their early childhood years. It is so amazing to me in this day and age to see a teenager who can sit and enjoy an intelligent conversation with an adult! The many teens I have met who are homeschooled are much more reserved and polite than most teens I see today. Their parents are close to them. I see them hugging and holding hands with mom, walking arm and arm with dad, doing community service projects for others in need, and being much more attentive and responsible in college and political activism. I am sure that homeschooling is not the only reason for their positive character, but also, the involvement their parents have with them and the respect and love they have been nurtured by as they have grown. There is more time for involvement in your community when you are not bound by the same schedule as the school system. I have met homeschool moms who run campaigns for political candidates, meals on wheels, ministries with run-away children, and many other community blessing causes that have been manned by homeschool children as volunteers. These are just some of the positive extra curricular activities that homeschoolers fill their time with to teach responsibility and character to their children.
Academically, homeschooling has provided more than I would have dreamed possible. I was planning only to stay up to grade-level standards because my main focus has always been the character of my children rather than just the academics. But somehow, through God’s blessing, my children have exceeded academic standards and much more. My six year old daughter can read on a 3rd or 4th grade level. She reads the Bible out loud to us at night, and hardly misses a word (unless it is a strange Hebrew name – and most adults would falter at this). My son who is eight can read encyclopedias, lengthy books about Scientific discovery, and short novels. He is reading on a junior high level, and has yet to enter third grade! My children have a love for reading and learning. They ask questions, want to look up answers on Google, help me pick library books and school topics to learn about, and request interesting field trips. I have read hundreds of times more along with them since I have started homeschooling (these past three years) than I ever read in my own elementary career in public school. They are able to devour library books (some 20-30 a week) because we make it a huge part of our schooling.
In Math, they are both either on grade level, or a bit above grade level. My second grader (not yet finished with second grade in April of this year) took a third grade public school Math test that I acquired online, and he was only three points shy of passing it! At least half of the material, we had not even covered yet, since he was only in second grade! There are so many wonderful curriculum choices you can make as the homeschooling community has grown and now offers such wonderful products!
History comes alive in our homeschool. When we studied American Indians for four weeks, we actually painted a teepee, went canoeing, made Indian crafts, shot bows and arrows, did a rain dance, visited the museum’s Indian display, visited an Indian trade shop, and had an Indian feast with real buffalo burgers, pemmican, and maple sugar candy. When we studied Medieval times, we went to a sword shop, we went to a play, we went to see stained glass cathedral windows and built sand castles at the beach, we made chain maille from pop tops and beading wire, we watched videos about British history and the Black Death, and we had a medieval feast in our decorated garage with friends and family, serving up medieval dishes and dressing up as knights and damsels. The hands-on learning that we do really bring to life the material in the books we study from, most of which can be found in the local library. Our main curriculum is a “Unit Study” technique, which offers the ability to really dive deep into a subject and fully understand it as it relates to us now and our history and future. I can honestly say that I WISH I had been homeschooled in this manner! I have learned so much that I never knew after my public school career.
As for Science, we have had just as much fun! We have blown up volcanoes with real fire and ash, we have practiced mechanical erosion on sandstone and learned about different types of rocks, we have done chemical experiments and visited nature centers, we have taken field trips and watched videos. The list goes on and on. Many of our experiences would not have been possible if we were chained to a desk or limited to the use of a school bus for outings on occasion.
Another big plus is being able to teach towards your child’s gifts. I was blessed to be able to have my children in an all homeschool choir this past year, and they did three concerts, two of which were in public. When you homeschool, you have much more time to really learn what makes your child tick, and to help them and encourage them in this area. My son is really interested in robots, engineering, and design. There are programs such as Lego Robotics clubs which allow children to hone these skills and compete in competitions nationwide. Many of these programs offer exciting benefits such as scholarships to colleges and college credit for courses taken. Colleges are also latching on to homeschooled children by offering incentives and actively recruiting them. Gone are the days when you might expect a jail sentence for violating truancy laws… the pioneer homeschoolers who went before us have suffered at our expense to pave the way to this blessed generation of homeschoolers. There are huge homeschool inter-city email groups and countless local co-ops to join. There are tutors, programs, sports groups, music groups, play groups, field trip opportunities, and more. There is no lack of curriculum or activities for you to participate in today in homeschooling, but rather a WEALTH of both.
NOT THE EASY CHOICE
To tell you that homeschooing is an easy choice, I would be lying. It is an arduous task that requires your full self to be poured into it. You have to plan, set goals, and carry through. You must study your children and learn how they can best be taught. You have to organize yourself, your school supplies, and your time. Each day is a new adventure. And for every perfect school day you have, there are at least three or four days where you wonder if anything sank in those little minds you are leading. The key to homeschooling is lots of prayer. And somehow, on your worst days, you will get a little hint from Heaven that makes the entire process worthwhile when your child will say something that lets you know he or she has truly learned what you have been trying to teach them. Or you will get a comment from a neighbor or friend about how well behaved and intelligent your children are. It is so wonderful to get encouragement – especially when you are your own worst critic. When you receive these small rewards, you will know that God is smiling on you and patting you on the back for your sacrifice. Even though you will have burn-out and bad days ahead, there will also be times of refreshing to keep you motivated to march on with the task you feel that God has called you to do.
AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART
Homeschooling is a heart choice… because if it were only a head-choice, many of us would have abandoned the ranks long ago! It is much easier to drop your children off on someone else’s door step and work an eight hour job in the adult world. It is much more financially rewarding as well! There are many days when you have to budget luxuries out of the schedule. Not only are you making this sacrifice, but you are paying school taxes in to the public system anyway… and getting none of the high-dollar benefits. But, for all it’s hard work and sacrifice, homeschooling is it’s own sweet reward as well. The excitement in your child’s eyes, the ability to be there and see them learn something new, the laughter and tears you’ll share along the way, these are the beautiful gifts you receive as a homeschool parent. So if you asked me why I homeschool, in just a few short words, I would tell you this: “Because I love my kids… and because God entrusted their minds and hearts to me – and I want to honor Him by everything I put into them.”