Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ category

Looking Forward

May 2, 2015

I’ve known since I was in high school that I planned to homeschool my children someday.  I probably assumed it even earlier, but I think the decision was conscious and concrete in middle or high school.  My own experience of homeschooling was so wonderful that I had no intentions of letting my kids miss out on what I had.

That intention has never wavered.  It was an important question I asked Sir K before I got engaged, especially because he was not homeschooled.  He responded that I myself was a good argument for the lifestyle, and he has supported my desire from the start.  I’m very much looking forward to the day when I begin teaching my own children, while at the same time I am still a bit intimidated by the enormity of the task.

I probably have a head start of a lot of moms who weren’t homeschooled themselves, and quite a few of those who were.  That head start comes from being the daughter of a homeschool mentor.  My mom has helped numerous other moms get started, whether they were starting at the beginning or pulling kids out of school systems.  I also got to see a lot of the inner working of her eclectic system (although we incorporated from some of the more well known prepackaged curriculum, my mother did all her own planning).  As the eldest, I was trusted to check my younger siblings’ work when there was an answer key, and in high school she even let me check some of my own work.  Not like I was going to cheat by then, I really wanted to know the answers!

Mom also included me in the process of choosing curriculum for myself and my siblings.  Letting me help choose my own materials meant that when I had a strong negative reaction to one history textbook’s confusing page layout, she was able to look for other options before the school year began and not wait till the second week when I was suffering through my lessons.  Part of helping children learn is being able to choose curriculum that suits their individual learning styles, and I got exposure to that early on.

Even with all this background, however, I still sometimes think “how on earth am I going to get started!”  What I remember of homeschooling is mostly the last five or six years of it, not the first.  Teaching a child while also keeping track of smaller children sounds like fun of the exhausting kind.  On the other hand, I know from experience how wonderful homeschooling was, and I would never think of quitting, especially not before I’ve begun.  I know that when the time comes in a few years, I will rise to the occasion, just like I did when facing what seemed like tough problems or subjects in my schoolwork.  I’m not always going to swim well, but I know I have a support system that won’t let me sink.

Those few years are going to go by faster than I can keep track.  You see, I can already number them.  Five years from now, I will be making kindergarten plans.  Yes, Sir K and I are expecting our first this Fall.  While various members of both families are exhibiting characteristic excitement or enthusiasm, Sir K and I are already praying for parental wisdom, and I am thinking of the sweet days to come when I can gather my nestlings on the couch for reading time.  You see, as I’ve said many times and probably written at least once or twice, homeschooling is not an educational choice for me.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and it’s the best one I know.

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The In-Between and the Afterward

December 15, 2014

When my youngest brothers graduate from high school in two and a half years, they aren’t getting a graduation party.  They weren’t keen on the idea anyway, not being social butterflies or party people, but we had a better idea.  Instead, my mother is having a retirement party.

Someone recently asked her what she will do when she’s no longer overseeing their education.  The suggestion was that she might quickly become involved in homeschooling again – her grandchildren.  I was also part of the conversation, and I quickly assured the inquirers that I am planning to homeschool my own children, thank you.  That’s my responsibility and privilege; one which I have no intention of giving up.

This period between being homeschooled and the time when I can begin being the homeschool mom myself is an interesting in-between.  My mother has switched from educator to mentor for me, with the transition lines being very blurry on occasion but nevertheless present.  I am looking forward to homeschooling my children, even though I’m also a bit intimidated because I had such a great mom myself.  I keep thinking that I’ll never be as good as she was/is.  The point, however, is not that I’m as good as she is, but that I do the best I can, and I am trying to keep that in mind.

While my mom won’t be homeschooling my children, I do hope that she and my father can be involved to some extent.  I know of other families in which the children have benefited from taking a subject or two from a grandparent with expertise.  I want my children to know both sets of grandparents well, to respect who they are, and to love spending time with them.  That’s easier to do with my own parents right now, as we live in the same town versus my in-laws, who live 3 hours away.  I intend to give both sets of grandparents their chance to love my children despite any difficulties with time and proximity.

By now, you’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to go back and answer the initial question about my mother.  What is she going to do after she retires from active homeschooling.  I may have given away part of my answer just now.  She may retire from active homeschooling, but I believe she will remain a willing resource for new homeschooling moms like I hope to be in the not too distant future.  She has a library of materials I hope to borrow when my children become ready for them, and I know she will lend them to others as she feels led in the meantime.  She also has many insights into homeschooling approaches and techniques which I hope to discuss as I am making decisions someday.

Yes, we’ve suggested that she write a book about homeschooling.  She says all the books she would write have basically already been written, so that is probably unlikely.  Not impossible, however!  We joke that she may finally have time to finish all those sewing projects that she has had in the plans but never had the time to make.  We’ll see whether she finds enough other things to keep her busy.  Other things like caring for my grandparents, teaching one of our church’s ladies’ Bible studies, and helping my youngest siblings with their projects, studies, and other endeavors.

There is indeed a life after homeschooling, just as there is one in-between.  Both have a great opportunity for serving and blessing others.  We’re both enjoying the stages of life we find ourselves in right now, and looking forward to the next.  In the Lord’s perfect time, we will find out His will for the next stages of our lives, and I know because He planned them, that they will be amazing!

An Average Scholar

August 23, 2014

Do you ever feel like you’re just an average scholar? Like no subject seems stronger than another? Maybe you get good grades, maybe you don’t, or maybe you don’t care because you already know what you’re good at, and it’s not academics. Or maybe you’re like me.

I got good grades in most subjects, certainly by the time high school crept up on me. At the same time, I didn’t have a particular affinity for any of the subjects. I liked music and art, but I couldn’t imagine doing either professionally (wasn’t that good, just enjoyed them).  I wasn’t interested in pursuing science, math, or history.  English either, although I was getting pretty good at writing by the time I graduated high school.

So when I looked for something to major in for college, I felt as if I’d struck out.  It’s not like anyone offers a degree in Homeschooling!  And I already had most of the credits I thought necessary for that one after helping homeschool myself and four younger siblings . . . But anyway, I couldn’t figure out what I was suited for that I wanted to study.

Do you feel like your dream job is elusive?  Like you’re not sure where to fit in?  That was me for a year or more in high school.

I had settled on a General Studies degree, and yes, it was settling.  My favorite thing was books, but they only offer Library Science as a Master’s degree, which I didn’t figure I’d want to go for once finished with a Bachelor’s degree.  So I had something at least, even if it was settling for second best.

That’s when I started to write my scholarship essay.

My father’s company offered a scholarship which would cover most of the cost of the online school to which I was applying.  It required an essay, in which I needed to convince the readers of why they should help pay for my education.  In writing that essay, I realized that I liked helping people.  I made the assertion that they would be benefiting more than just me by helping me pay for college.  That I was interested in helping people around me, and they would really be benefiting the whole community.

As I was planning and writing, someone finally suggested, “why not study helping people?!”  That’s when I started looking into degrees in Human Services.

I ended up building a degree that incorporated human services, human development, and communication courses, all of which were meant to support each other in helping me prepare for a job in the field, as well as preparing me for the rest of my life where I would continue to help people, watch them grow, and communicate with them.

Four years later I walked across the stage with a huge smile on my face, happy with my choice and my direction.  I like to feel as if I’ve helped someone, whether it be simply holding the door for a mother with little ones, or showing someone how to use Excell’s many features.  I’m not a wizard at any one thing, but I have experience in a variety of things, and am very willing to pitch in.

To go back to my question, my dream job was never all that elusive.  I knew I wanted to be a homeschool mom, but I also knew that there needed to be something between college and that!  My dilemma was in what God wanted me to do with the between years.  I’m glad He directed my steps so that I wrote that essay.  I found something that I enjoyed doing, and through writing about it, I figured out how to turn it into something I could study and then practice.  My subsequent work in a couple of non-profits was very rewarding.

Having now left the workforce, hopefully for good, I’m not inclined to say any of it was wasted.  I grew through the requirements of the jobs I’ve held, and through the friends I made among my coworkers.  I’m happy to be home now, but the journey here makes me appreciate it more.

Your journey will look different.  Have you considered what you like to do in your choice of  a career path, rather than just what you’re good at?

I Am a Homeschooler

October 16, 2012

Some would think that since I graduated five years ago and am not yet a full fledged 2nd generation homeschooler, I shouldn’t say that I am a homeschooler.  Many would have said “was homeschooled” instead.  Me, I stick with my “am.”

You see, homeschooling wasn’t just an educational option for us.  Homeschooling was and still is our lifestyle.  Although I am through formal schooling, including college which I did online from home, I still have a learning mentality and because I am still living at home, I am participating in homeschooling if only by being a reference for younger siblings.

Besides, I have every desire to become that 2nd generation homeschooler and bless my children with the same lifestyle that blessed me.  I realize that I’m not the only one with a say in that decision, but that’s beside the point.  God has fitted me to be a homeschooling mom in some very specific ways, and He knows exactly what He’s doing by preparing me for it, so I’m trusting to His timing for the rest.

I’ve often wondered where I would be if I had not been homeschooled.  People will ask, as one did recently, whether I felt that I missed out on things by being at home.  I first said no, and then qualified it – I did miss out, but only on things that I wanted to, such as peer pressure and bullying.  I got a wonderful education without all the negatives that the public school system has by virtue of sticking a whole bunch of kids the same age together and expecting one or two teachers to teach them what they need to know.  For that year.

Looking back over the years, I’m pretty sure that I would have foundered in the public school system.  I was a quiet, shy kid who enjoyed books, but who often had trouble talking about what she read.  I was the kid who took a little more time to work out mathematical things and would have been frustrated had not my mother given me the space to make mistakes and understand the concepts without always getting every problem correct the first time.  I was the kid who enjoyed drawing but wasn’t especially good at it as a child.  I was the kid who liked to learn about the way the world worked, but who wasn’t initially very scientific about it.  I was the kid who loved history, but who had a difficult time remembering all the dates involved.

Because my mom was able not only to take the time to work through difficulties, but also to tailor my studies to my personal interests in some places and my strengths in others, I ended up a very good student by the time I was in high school.  I fell in love with Algebra (which I still use every once in awhile, for those of you who think it’s not relevant to anybody not in the math or science realm).  I learned to express what I read in my own words as well as to express my own thoughts both in the written and spoken word.  I pursued drawing, acrylic painting, and several crafts which give me a wonderful release and are avenues for my creative juices (especially around Christmas time!).  I enjoyed Chemistry in highschool, which I never would have guessed, and I liked genetics well enough to take it as a course in college after fullfilling my science requirement with the Biology CLEP exam.  I eventually learned the essential dates through perserverance, but more importantly, I learned the grand sequence of history as well as the prominent characters within time periods, whereby gaining more from biography than I ever could from memorizing a list of dates.

I also overcame the shyness.  Mostly.  I have a feeling that in a public school setting, I would have been the mousy little girl who got picked on, while my studies would have suffered from that and from not being able to ask the questions I needed answered in order to thrive.  I probably would also have picked up a few bad habits from the other children.  You rarely learn how to grow up from your peers – you learn that from those older than yourself by several years or from adults.

All of this is why I am a homeschooler.

Busyness

October 2, 2012

Do you ever feel like you don’t have time?

Your day is stuffed full and there are still things that don’t get done because you run out of time.  Whether it’s correspondence, housekeeping, errands, phone calls, or (horrors!) blogging, something has to wait another day because this one has no room left.

Sometimes I feel like that at work.  I stuff everything I can into an 8 hour day, and there’s still stuff left for tomorrow or next week.  It’s a good feeling to know that I have plenty to do.  I like to stay busy.  It’s when I feel like I’m swamped at home as well that I begin to worry a little.

I don’t like feeling like my whole week’s schedule is so full that I don’t have any flexibility.  As you know, I am a homeschooler, so I’m used to being very flexible.  We could shift our schoolwork to another time of day at the drop of a phone call sometimes.  Mom would hear from someone that they needed help, and if necessary we would quickly rearrange our plans to accommodate.   Of course, we didn’t throw out our routine for little things, but we were free to change things on the fly.

I had one semester of school during my junior year of college in which I was taking 16 credits during the week and working 15 or so hours on the weekends.  For ten or twelve weeks straight.  The experience taught me that I need my family time, my friends time, and my hobby time if I’m going to be able to give my best in other areas.

If you are constantly on the go, you don’t get time to recharge.   You might think that you thrive on a fast-paced atmosphere and that you can handle the pressure, but I don’t think I’m on too shaky a limb when I guess that even people who feed off full schedules and interacting with other people need to spend some time apart now and again.

My biggest issue with full schedules is that they don’t leave room for spontaneous acts of kindness or for random phone calls or for chatting with your neighbors.  In a world where we are rapidly becoming connected with everyone except those closest to us – thanks to smart phones, email, and social media – I wonder how much busy-ness has effected our ministries.

I work for a Christian organization where people come first, and that includes employees as well as the people we serve.  I have witnessed my boss take time out of a very busy day to talk with an employee who just needs a pep talk, or who has a family situation they need to talk through.  I’ve tried to adopt this attitude myself, taking time to ask my coworkers how things are going, and being sensitive to responses.  Granted, I do have my own work to get done as well, and sometimes I have deadlines calling, but people come first.

I encourage you to think about your own priorities.  When someone calls you and needs to talk, are you available?  Or do you always have things going on?  I understand that you won’t always be able to take time for everyone.  Sometimes you are already having one of those conversations when someone else interrupts your busy day.  But is your natural response to say, “I’m too busy,” or do you look for a way to fit them in?  Think about it.

Jesus was teaching one day, and a whole houseful of people was listening, when the man with palsy was dropped through the roof by four determined friends.  Our Lord interrupted his teaching to deal with this man.  He could have asked him to wait until he was finished.  He could have asked the man to come back another time when He wasn’t so busy.  But He didn’t.  He addressed him then and there.  He answered the burning questions in the man’s heart when He told him that his sins were forgiven.  And then He told the man to rise and walk (in response to the things the scribes were thinking).  And Mark 2:12 says that those who saw “were all amazed, and glorified God.”

How busy are you?

Too busy to help a friend?  To chat with a neighbor?  To help out at church?  To get together with friends?

Or do you leave yourself time in your schedule for those unexpected ministries that God sends you?

Think about it!

Schoolmates

July 21, 2012

Next stop along memory lane: the schoolroom.  Having been blessed with a first floor office/sixth bedroom, we turned the space into learning central.  With two 18-month-olds in the house (when we moved here), we (the three school-aged older siblings at the time) needed to be able to shut the door and have relative quiet sometimes!

I say relative, because my memories of the schoolroom revolve around my schoolmates and the conversations we had in that room.  Hmm.  If my next memory also involves conversations someone is going to discover a pattern!

The office, as we have always called it, is big enough to hold four desks – one each for 3G, Sister, and me, and one for Mom, which held the desktop computer.  We weren’t required to do all our work at our desks, for instance if we were reading the couch was often a better place, but many assignments needed desk space.  Sister and I had desks next to each other, while 3G was against the opposite wall.  We were facing away from each other, but thanks to our swivel chairs, we could turn and talk quite easily.

Mom had laid out the guideline that we needed to be eating breakfast by 8, and doing school by 9.  Rarely did any of us fail in that.  In fact, I made a habit, starting in 8th grade, of coming down early to work on my math before breakfast.

By 9 o’ clock then, we were usually working steadily on whatever assignments we chose to do first.  Almost invariably, by the time we had reached the second or third subject, one or another of us had made some comment, often relating to our present schoolwork, which engaged all three of us in conversation.

We talked about everything from punctuation to geography, and we even branched into some of the same topics we covered in lunch conversations.  Sometimes we had differences of strong opinions, which led to minor clashes between at least two of us, but the third could sometimes diffuse the situation, at least partially.  When that happened, we always had our books to turn back to in order to settle our thoughts.  And usually that was enough for one or both to see that they were wrong.

We never had these conversations when Mom was in the room.  If we heard her coming down the stairs to check on us, the three of us immediately turned back to our work.  She never spoke about it, but I think she knew very well that we talked amongst ourselves, and I doubt she had a problem with it.  But I think she probably did come down whenever she thought the conversations sounded like they were becoming unprofitable or overly long.  We did have other work to be doing!

Sometimes the four year gap between Sister and me was enough that she had a hard time following what I was talking about, although 3G could almost always keep up with (or surpass) me.  As we grew older, this gap seemed to shrink, till we could talk pretty equally when I was in my last years of high school.

Conversations such as these built relationships between me and my siblings.  Sure, we shared other activities.  We did most everything together, either as a family or in twos or threes.  But conversations are what reveals someone’s thoughts, their inner-working, their heart.  And we shared that too.

Today, we still get into long conversations; sometimes it’s two, or another two, or all three of us.  Whether Sister and I talk while she perches on my bed and I sit at my desk, she and 3G discuss the way the world works over a game of Mastermind, or we’re all hanging around in the basement after playing a game, we still enjoy delving into all kinds of topics.  With 3G and Sister away at college for six months out of the year, the conversations have become more limited, and may include other family or friends, but we probably enjoy them about as much anyway.

It’s interesting to think about it, but I probably owe much of my knowledge of some subjects to these conversations.  I was never very good at music theory, for instance, which 3G excelled at, and I never studied writing techniques like the budding author in the family, Sister.  But from listening to them talk about their favorite subjects (these and others), I picked up quite a bit that I never would have remembered otherwise.  Sometimes the concepts were ones I studied long ago, but when I had little interest in them, and my siblings merely solidified things and made them real.  Other times the things they talked about were new, and I’m glad for those too.

For you homeschooling parents out there, I encourage you to allow or foster discussions amongst your students.  Sure, they may take longer to complete their assignments, but they are building relationships and sharing knowledge.  That is priceless, for it actually helps both listener and speaker to solidify the knowledge in their heads.  Don’t feel like your schoolroom has to be silent for learning to take place, or that your students are distracting each other.  They are building the bonds which will in time knit your children together into a tight family circle.

My siblings and I are very close, especially Sister, 3G and I, despite our many differences and the distance which now separates us for half of the year.  And I trace much of that back to the relationships we began in our play and built in conversations, whether in school or out.

Memories from the Kitchen

July 13, 2012

I know, you’re all expecting memories of my mother’s good cooking. Nope. Not even memories of making cookies, which is what the rest of you were thinking. (I’m not a mathematician, so don’t expect my all and rest of you to add up.) Guess again.

My memories from our kitchen are of conversations around the lunch table.

Yes, I remember the other things too, but when I think of the kitchen, I don’t think of what we did, but what we talked about.  Namely, everything under the sun!  I don’t remember how long ago it started, but by the time I was in highschool, we were well into a habit of hour or two-hour lunch conversations.

Typically, we wouldn’t all start eating at the same time.  Usually one of the highschoolers would still be finishing up a chapter or something before coming to lunch.  The conversations would generally start in one of two ways.  One of my siblings or I might simply ask Mom a question about something we were going to do/had read that morning.  Or my mother would ask what school we had left, and the recital of the subjects remaining for the day might spark some question for general discussion.

We talked about everything – stories from Mom’s childhood, the length of time it takes to pay off a mortgage, why other kids don’t act like us, public schools, current events, spiritual concepts, subjects for the next school year, the medicare system and what’s wrong with it, how to prepare for college, and of course, what was for dinner.  Usually, one of the siblings who had started early would get things started, but by the time we left the table, everyone was long finished.

I loved those conversations, even though I sometimes tore myself away before the conversation was finished because I wanted to finish my schoolwork before time to make dinner!  My mother made it a point to discuss things with us that we did and didn’t encounter in our textbooks.   Things we needed to know in order to be well rounded.  Things that we wanted to know.

These days, I am away from home during lunch times except on the weekends, when we don’t often have long conversations.  The conversations still happen, though perhaps their focus has shifted with the changing demographic (two of us are at work right now, and during the school year three siblings are missing from the lunch table).  I hear the discussions don’t get as lively, but I expect that to change as the twins enter highschool.

I think these lunch conversations were an integral part of our homeschooling lifestyle.  What other teacher gets to sit down with her students and talk about anything and everything for however long it takes, whatever day (or everyday) of the week?  I think I learned just as much from those conversations as I learned from any given textbook in school.

When I remember our kitchen in years to come, the strongest impression I will have is of my mother, sitting at the kitchen table or standing at the stove, asking the deep questions that caused us to probe into what we knew or believed about the world or ourselves.


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