Posted tagged ‘Homeschooling’

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.

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!

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.

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.

Scientifically Speaking

March 17, 2012

I realize I haven’t posted much in the way of homeschooling reflections lately, so here’s a long overdue post with some reminiscing.  One of the things I loved about homeschooling was that a kid who wasn’t particularly inclined toward most of the standard subjects was still able to do well in almost all of them.  Yep, personal experience!

Science was never one of my favorite subjects, but did that mean I didn’t take it seriously?  Hardly!

Science was where I learned what made rainbows, where trees came from, why ice cubes float, and how fossils form.  Science is exciting, though some may tell you otherwise.  I sometimes agreed with them when faced with a lesson in Physics, but I truly enjoyed Chemistry (okay, that’s largely because I loved the curriculum from Beginnings Publishing!), and I had fun in Biology (despite not being enamored of that curriculum – Apologia) because I liked investigating the concepts.

We used mostly library books for science until I got to high school.  In 9th grade I did a general science covering Biology, Chemistry, and Physics: Dr. Dobbins’ Rainbow.  Dr. Dobbins made the argument that science is taught backwards in the schools.  Usually students learn biology, then chemistry, then physics.  But the concepts actually build on each other moving from physics to chemistry to biology.  The reasoning behind the way schools teach science?  High school freshmen haven’t had enough math to handle physics yet.  Biology doesn’t require all the math, so it’s a good one to start with from that stand point.

I rather think Dr. Dobbins is right, and these subjects ought to be taught in the reverse order.  Still, after doing his general science, I proceeded to do Apologia’s Biology (fairly average as science texts go, which is dry).  I already liked biology, which was good, because the text would not have inspired me.  At least it didn’t totally kill my enjoyment of the subject.

In my Junior year, I was back to Dobbins’ material, doing his Spectrum Chemistry.  I loved it.  Dobbins makes the most complicated subject sound easy enough to understand, and that is half the battle.  Once you think you can understand something, it becomes easier to understand it.  If you go in thinking it’s too hard, you won’t be as likely to comprehend even the simplest part of something.  I rarely use the concepts I learned in Chemistry, but I still look back on that year with fond memories of dissolving packing peanuts and of washing all our beakers etc. in distilled water after every usage.  Of course, there’s another reason why I may have liked Chemistry.  I got to do it with 3G, who always liked science better than I did and understood it quicker.  There’s a reason he’s going into Electrical Engineering while my degree is in Human Services . . .

Since I had no plan to study anything scientific, many might have thought that I would skip Physics.  That’s not the way I saw it, nor the way my parents taught me.  I had no real interest in Physics myself, but I wanted to take the course for another reason.  I am going to be a homeschool mom one of these years, and with the genes in my family, the chances that at least one of my children is scientifically minded are pretty high.  Thus, I’ll probably be teaching Physics at some point, and I wanted to have some background with the material.  I know many homeschooling mothers will turn high school math and science courses over to their husbands, and I may yet do so, but I wanted to be able to answer simple questions and keep up with my students to some extent.  My mother sometimes referred questions to my dad, but in our case, my mom is a math and computer science major, while Dad is a mechanical engineer.  When Mom would get to the point where she couldn’t explain something any better, she’d refer my brother to Dad.  Notice I say my brother.  I usually didn’t ask the intensive questions!

Despite not pursuing a scientific field in college, I still took the Biology CLEP exam for my science credits, and I took a Genetics course because I enjoyed that subject when I encountered it previously.  So my science studies have already been useful in that way, and in conversations I continue to have with friends, scientifically minded or not, in which science plays a part.

I may not have been the most scientifically astute kid on the block (okay, so that’s a given with my brothers around), but I still enjoyed discovering the whys and wherefores of our natural world.  I encourage all you homeschoolers out there – stop saying science can be fun, and try saying science is fun!

To the students who aren’t likely to go into a remotely scientific field and therefore think science is a waste of time, think about how often it might be nice to understand what your scientifically minded friends are talking about, even if they have to put it in (to their mind) very basic terms.  And think about how interesting it will make your next walk in the park if you look at every tree and know how deep its roots must be.  And think about the times it will be useful to know the best place to put the fulcrum when you are trying to use a lever to lift something. And think how nice it would be to know why the river seems to be steaming in the middle of winter.  Just think!

Science isn’t just fun, it’s an exciting world to explore, especially for those of us who don’t have to memorize the Periodic Table but who can enjoy a hunt for the atomic number of Uranium for a crossword puzzle!

Homeschooling and a New Baby (or two!)

January 28, 2012

Homeschooling is plenty of work for everyone involved, though I think most homeschooling moms and students would say it was worth the effort in the long run. But I have to think homeschooling is at its hardest when you are pregnant or have a new baby in the house. My mother knows all about that, having done it with not one new baby, but two.

I had just turned 10, 3G was nearly 8, and Sister was almost 6 when my youngest brothers were born in the middle of the school year.

Knowing that she was going to be due mid year, Mom and Dad had discussed sending 3G, Sister, and me to public school for a year because she wouldn’t be able to give us as much attention even during the first half of the year.  Dad’s final decision was, however, that whatever she was able to do for us was still going to be better than sending us among strangers in the public school system.

I, of course, was not part of the decision, although Mom did ask us what we thought.  None of us wanted to go to school for even a year.  We wanted to be home with Mom.

Was homeschooling different that year?  Sure!  We did a lot more of our subjects much more independently than we had in previous years.  And we started school sooner.  And we ended later.  But we got to have a week off when the twins arrived.  This, of course, was because Mom wasn’t ready to dive right back into schooling yet, but we looked on it much more as a chance to enjoy our new baby brothers.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing of what my parents did that year.  We all learned a lot, and much of it went beyond academics.  3G and I especially started helping out a lot more with household chores that Mom in her last three months did not have the energy or strength to do.  And we all put in a lot of hours with the twins.  Was it a lot of work to homeschool with two newborns in the house?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.

Thirteen years later, I look at my youngest brothers, now growing like a couple of teenage weeds, and smile to think how small they were when I first visited them in the hospital.  I’ve probably learned more about parenting from watching Mom and Dad with the twins than from my own experience as their child.  And that will be invaluable when I have my own “quiver full of arrows” to raise.  Would I have wanted to miss most of their first months by going to school away from home?  Not me!  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.


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