Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homeschool Q&A: How long and Why

I am often asked by friends and acquaintances for help or advice on homeschooling. I love answering those kinds of questions and helping in anyway I can, but sometimes there isn't time to sit and have a lengthy conversation. So I thought I'd start blogging through questions and then I'll have this as a resource to point people to.


And here's where the disclaimer comes in.

Disclaimer: I am in no way the final authority on homeschooling, and I am well aware of that fact. I have opinions and ideas (some original, but most borrowed or adopted) and I love to share them, but I fully believe that you are the best judge of what your family's need are. I share with the idea that you will glean from me, as I have and do from others. I also share hoping for and expecting grace. Homeschooling isn't for everyone and I believe that and am okay with that. But, it is what my family does so I have ideas and thoughts about it.

The first few posts come from a list a friend sent me. She is in the beginning planning stages and has some questions. Since busy schedules are keeping us from a face-to-face conversation I thought I could type it out for her and also file it away for others.


Q: How long have you been homeschooling?

A: Well, the last job I had before HH and I got married was for a local company that supports homeschoolers through state testing, classes for students, help with special needs students, and tutoring. In order to fill out my schedule more I became a tutor. With the guidance of my boss, who has been working with homeschooling families since HH was in kindergarten (at least), I ended up with a full schedule of clients that I homeschooled for their parents. This was from 2001-2004.

Most of my students were ESL students who had a difficult time in the public system because of the language barrier and the lack of time for one-on-one instruction. I also had two girls with special needs that I met with three days a week for 3 hours each day. I would homeschool them and send them home with work for our off days. It wasn't typical homeschooling, but it served the need of the families and I really feel it gave me the confidence to homeschool my own kids.

Our kids have only ever been homeschooled. I started with Abiah when he was about 4. I only started that early because he was ready and interested. It wasn't much at first but it gave him a little something different to do during the day.

Q: Why did you decide to homeschool?

A: Well, for me, the answer to this has evolved. HH and I knew we wanted to homeschool our children before we were even married. It was something we had talked about and decided to do. I think in the beginning, though, it was more of what we knew. HH was only ever homeschooled and I had homeschooled 8th-12th grade and then was already homeschooling other kids. I don't know that there was a lot of depth or thought put into the decision. It's just what we wanted.

I learned quickly, though, that it wasn't enough of a reason. On the hard days I generally would end up in an internal rant that ultimately ended in me deciding it was all HH's fault; I homeschooled our kids because he made me.Totally not a fair conclusion, but Crazy Momma Internal Ranting rarely is.

A year ago this last fall I came to a breaking point. I shot off a text to my dear friend who I admire and who has gone before me a few years and I basically said "I can't do this anymore! I don't know how to school my child and get him to do his work! I've tried everything! He hates school and I know he could love it!"

She ever so gently responded, "Yes. He does hate it. I think you need to take a break and start over."

I knew she was right, but it hit me in the gut. Not because of her, but because I was lost. And starting over seemed daunting and how do you do that with a toddler and two crazy girls running around, all who want your attention too?!


The short story is that we took a week long break and I prayed and researched, spent time with my kids and talked to HH, and researched and talked to my friend. In the end I know the biggest change was what happened in my heart, but another part of the change was defining my vision for homeschooling our children. I still don't have an exact list, but during that time, and since, I have read and re-read many times over this post from Ann Voskamp. For me it was like reading what my heart wanted to say and wanted to want, but didn't know how.

Another reference for me was For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I had to take this one in slowly and I know I'll go back to it many times over. It is a beautiful breakdown of Charlotte Mason's educational theory. My ideas of what education should look like were challenged, as were the approaches I have taken with my children. It was a continuation of the gentle redirecting my heart and mind needed.


There were also a lot of little things. A blog post here. A conversation there. It all added up for me.

I have a long list of books to read to continue my own education on homeschooling and I'll share as I finish them.

So, after all of that back story, what I tell people now when they ask Why? is this:

I believe I am the best teacher for my children. I know them best and have the time to give attention to ALL their needs, not just their scholastic ones. Education is important to me, but to me education is also more than math facts, timelines, and proper grammar. When a struggle arises between teacher (me) and student I have the time to dive deeper and look for the heart behind the attitude or behavior.

I also have time to learn their strengths and weaknesses and I have the freedom to let them work at a pace that fits them. Traditional math didn't work for Abiah so we switched it up and he is thriving. Sometimes Abiah likes to walk while he practices memorization. Hazel likes to sit on top of the table while we work together. Both Hazel and Amelia prefer to be dressed as princesses while schooling.  And Jackson likes to climb things all day. 

Also, I don't homeschool because it is easy for me. I do it because I love to. I get comments all the time from other mom's about how I must be so much more patient because they could never do what I do. 

No. I'm super impatient. Every single day I fight impatience and selfishness. Occasionally I win, but mostly I don't and we do lots of apologizing. Homeschooling is just what I've chosen to do. Everybody's job drives them a little crazy even if it's their dream job, like mine. 

Also, I just really like being with my kids. The day-in-day-out is hard and raw, but it's the best thing I've ever done and it's the only thing I ever wanted to do. When Jackson was born I remember freaking out because I had 18 years left of homeschooling. It seemed like an eternity and I didn't know if I could make it that long. This last fall when he was potty trained I almost cried because I realized that I only have 16 more years of homeschooling left. Oh, the pendulum and how it doth swing.

Another reason for me is that I agree wholeheartedly with Ann Voskamp when she says, "We personally don’t believe that children are called to be kingdom warriors in the public school system because, in our humble, and very possibly misguided opinion, that doesn’t seem a level playing field. There are agendas operating there that may leave a child at a disadvantage. But do we need to walk with our children in the world with a vibrant, fearless faith that has full confidence in an all-powerful God? Yes!" 


I believe I read a post (that I can't find!) (Okay, here's one, but I don't think it's the original that I read, but you'll get the gist) from another homeschooling momma that likened her children unto tender young seedlings who need time to mature in the greenhouse until they are strong enough to withstand the weather and storms of the outside world. My hope is that we shelter our kids enough to hold onto their innocence, yet we are honest about real life and the real world enough so they make a smooth transition from our home to where ever they may end up. We talk about real things and we talk about a real God and his real love and real power.

I would add that I also think it would be cheating our kids to place them in an environment where they are basically raised by, and in turn raising, their peers.  Aside from the adult to child ratio in typical classroom settings being extremely low, the awake hours spent away from parents and family and with peers leaves the majority of influence up to the other children in the class.

And we pray it all comes out right in the end because, really, we all as parents are just doing what we feel is right for our children. A wise friend challenged my moping about past parental mistakes by asking, "Do you ever make a decision with the purpose to hurt or damage your child? No! You make all decisions believing that it is the best thing for them." And, it's true. That's what we're all after, right?

 So, for us, this is a part of why we homeschool. I hope this glimpse into our hearts as parents and educators of our babes encourages you whether you intend to homeschool or not. Like I said above, you are the best judge of what your family's needs are. God gave your children to you because he knew you were exactly the parent they needed. You are doing a great job.

Be blessed, ya'll!

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