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As a homeschooling mom I have been asked many questions about how it works, how to choose the right curriculum, how I provide my children with opportunities to learn social skills and how I gained the confidence to homeschool. These questions came from a range of friendly sources to skeptical naysayers. I will begin with my own experience and that of my son, which opened my eyes to thinking outside the box.

The seeds of discontent sprouted in 2008 when my second grader told me he wanted to run away from home, but the seeds were planted in 1991 when I was in 6th grade.

Middle School is a wonderful mess of hormones, identity struggles and learning. I was the 6th Grade Class President and had friends, but as a 12 year-old girl I was ill equipped to answer the sexual harassment of my peers and the physical abuse on the bus by older boys. My skin crawled when my shop teacher winked at me, which happened often. He never tried anything but a wink meant something to my 12 year-old self and I was very uncomfortable.  I am wary of the tendency to cut and run when things get awkward. I believe in working through things. But, with the gender based power struggles I experienced in Middle School – I felt acted upon and did not know how to act. The gift my mother gave me, the option to homeschool, gave me the time and experience I needed to return to public school for my sophomore, junior and senior years empowered and not academically deficient. I had no trouble getting into college.

When my 8 year-old son, who was quick to understand his school lessons and easily made friends, announced his desire to run away from home I took notice and pursued the root of the problem. I learned that his struggle was not at home, but at school. His classroom environment was high on anxiety, low on clarity and that the children lost many of their recesses for discipline. My husband and I spoke with the principle and were successful in having our son transferred to a different classroom in the same school. We made the change immediately after the Christmas break was over. He enjoyed his new teacher and no longer wanted to run away. I was content, sort of.

I resented the fact that my influence on my school age kids was so public-school centric. Each morning we woke up to rush them out the door. After they were gone for the best hours of the day, they would return with homework to be done, dinner to eat and then off to bed. I resented the daily log I had to fill out stating the titles of books, pages and minutes I had read with each of my children. One recurring homework assignment that especially got under my skin was that my 2nd grader use his spelling words to fill in the provided crossword puzzle. It often took us 30-45 minutes of trying, to figure out that the crossword framework was impossible to complete because there weren’t enough boxes for the letters. We would draw extra boxes, fill in the spelling words and my resentment would grow. I wanted those minutes with my child to be ours. I did not want 5 days a week to be totally entrapped by “the system’s” tenticles. Over the summer, thoughts of homeschool started to take root in my little mommy-heart and the decision was made when my 2nd-born was assigned to the same class that inspired our 1st-born to run away. Our family’s first round of homeschool lasted one year.

My first motivation to homeschool was driven by my desire to reclaim my right, as Mother, to influence my children’s tender years.

As a military family we received our orders to New York and chose, once again, to put the kids in public school to establish our family in the community and to give the kids opportunity to build friendships around our new home. After two years I had the desire to gather my children around me again. I learned and fulfilled the legal requirements to homeschool in the state of New York and we homeschooled for one semester. Then, for the second semester of the school year we switched gears again as I sent three of our four off to school each morning and enjoyed a couple hours alone with our baby and anxiously watched for our daughter’s kindergarten bus to drop her off around lunchtime. I had gained an attitude toward the public school system that was liberating. My attitude was this: I will use the public school system when I feel they can fulfill the needs of my children. I sent them each day to public school with a secret agenda, “For homeschool this semester we will be experiencing public school.”

Near the end of the school year we moved with orders to Texas. Knowing that we will be here for only one year I gave the children a choice. “Would you like to homeschool or go to public school this year?” Our oldest opted for public school and the younger two school kids opted to stay home. We lived the dual life for a few weeks before, “I think I want to come back to homeschool,” graced my eager ears. Like we made our oldest stick out his difficult circumstances in second grade until the semester ended, we likewise required him to stick with his decision to go to public school. We didn’t want to encourage him to bail on hard situations so we told him that he could return to homeschool at the end of the first quarter if he had straight A’s. He met the parameters we had set and in turn we kept our end of the bargain. I invested in grade level texts for him and he joined the rest of the family in our school day.

That is the summary of our use of homeschool so far, it may sound cruel, disjointed and flagrantly unsettling. It may be unsettling for some children, it is not “easy” for mine, but it works. It works because my kids are mine and I know them.

This history, flawed as it may or may not be, does not answer the questions that I have met with through the years. The “how,” “what,” and a major portion of “why,” has not been, and cannot be, fully addressed. With this post I will try to answer the single query of how I gained the confidence to homeschool.

First of all, when I started to homeschool my kids I had no confidence in my ability; I had no officially recognized qualifications to back the audacity that I could educate my own children. I just had a resolve, a God-given stewardship, a lifestyle that afforded me the time and I had love, not confidence.

The homeschool world can be overwhelming. Choosing curricula is a head-spinning process that weighs heavily on a home-educators mind and heart. This decision is both pinnacle and foundational. There are countless resources available and finding the “right” one, for me, has become a lost cause. I tried to find a great curriculum that I could really fully embrace. I had put myself in a double-bind. Finding a satisfactory, fully developed curriculum was not possible for me at that time because at the beginning of my homeschooling adventure my primary motivation was to cut ties that dictated every facet of my children’s education. I also felt passionate about educating my kids without having to buy into someone’s ready-made curriculum to the tune of thousands of dollars. 

I was seeking freedom, freedom from engrained social norms that most have come to accept as mandatory. I had a fiery fight inside my otherwise conflict-avoidant soul. So in the beginning I lacked not only confidence, but I began the school year without a fully developed plan. This I knew; I knew that I had a solid understanding of 2nd and 3rd grade principles. I bought a book that outlined the goals for each of those grade levels. With that book I began providing the best eclectic education I could come up with – and I saw my children thrive. This was the beginning of my confidence.

As we have tackled a variety of grade levels I have found that I don’t remember everything my kids are learning; for instance, all of the tricks in 7th grade math. But my children do not suffer because over the years I have found that I love using the Saxon Math text books. I buy the companion Solutions Manual and together we decode any difficult principles. The false assumption is that I cannot teach anything I do not know. By seeking out and incorporating worthy texts – I learn with my children and our house becomes a house of learning. It is a beautiful experience. This strengthens my confidence.

I thought that confidence would come through deciding on a curriculum. I thought confidence would come through a degree in early childhood education. I thought confidence would only come through knowing everything before I tried to homeschool my kids. Each of these can add to and support confidence, but the fact is – the perfect curriculum doesn’t exist, except the one I provide through prayer and inspiration for my children individually. Another fact – friends with a degree in early childhood education, who have professionally taught in public school, have shared that even they waver in their confidence to educate their children at home.

As it is with parenthood, so it is with homeschooling. If parents are well socialized, children generally follow suit regardless of their status as home or public schoolers.

Another parallel I have observed is that homeschooling is as much a leap of faith as is becoming a parent. You are never “ready,” so don’t wait for that magical moment before you follow the promptings of our Lord if He is leading you in that direction. Simultaneously, there are ways to prepare yourself, your home and your family to find joy and success, do not neglect these preparations.

Do I have confidence in homeschooling? I have a lot more than I had at the beginning. My confidence comes from seeing my children grow in character and knowledge. My confidence grows as I see them provide piano accompaniment at a youth church meeting. Confidence has also come through discovering the world around us and recognizing our place in the world. Watch this video of the past year’s homeschool highlights:

With my family dynamics right now, homeschooling works wonderfully to bless our home. This may not always be the case so, today, I will appreciate the time I have to gather my children around me, confident that I am providing them, not with what others can offer, but with what only I can offer.

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6 thoughts on “You’re Not Ready for Homeschool

  1. Thanks you very much Martha. I totally agree with you on home schooling. You can accomplish more learning at home in 2-3 hours than can be learned all day in public school, plus traveling time by bus or car! And you get to select the curricculim best suit for each individual child.

    For many years I have kept track of some of the text books being used by schools, which the students are forced to read in order to receive a grade in that class. Some of these books tell lies about our US HIstory and leaders (such as Lincoln and Washington!). Many required English and Literature books have filthy stories, perverted sex and other unnatural feelings described in them, even in lower grade levels. Very sickening. My friends and I, through the years, have monitored local schools and done our best to remove books we’ve considered extremely filthy or undesireable. We’ve been successful many times, BUT that’s only a drop in the bucket as there are thousands, millions of schools all over our nation that still have them in their schools and libraries.

    I’ve belonged to the Phyllis Schaffley group for 50 years or more. She has been a powerful force for decency in our nation’s schools. I’ll send you an e-mail of one of her reports in case you haven’t heard of her.

    Common Core, on the surface, has some good points, BUT some of the required reading books are stories on gay marriage, lesbians, benefits of living together before marriage, and some stories on perversions. So sickening and gross. Most parents are NOT aware of these books being recommended and pushed by Common Core and other adverse groups.

    I’m all in favor of home schooling as YOU are doing it. Some of my friends have done it for years and their children are extremely well adjusted and talented in music and the arts. GO FOR IT MARTHA.

    Date: Sat, 1 Feb 2014 21:58:21 +0000 To: laderagreenland2@msn.com

  2. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Everything that is in my heart about homeschooling… You pretty much just said it all. I’m reading a new book called “Free to Learn” that is sort of knocking my socks off right now. Subtitled “why unleashing the instinct to play will make our children happier, more self-reliant, and better students for life.” I’m telling everyone I know about it. One of the things he’s said that rings (a bit reluctantly) true is that most homeschoolers start off with a strict, school-like curriculum…then slowly…gradually…relax…until they are more or less unschoolers. I had to laugh at that, because that’s totally what has been happening around here.

  3. I totally love this!! This is what education should be like. I know it’s not always possible financially and in other ways as well, but I would submit that in a perfect world, this would be the ideal education for our children. This is what right looks like. No one cares for children like their parents. More and more I think our public school system has things a little backwards. I think what you describe should be the ideal, and public education should be the fall back for those whose life circumstances don’t allow for it. The more I deal with our nation’s education system, the more I think we need a major change. The thought that we need a public nationwide institution to teach our children their basic core values is ridiculous!! And who decides exactly what these core values and principles are to be? That whole thought process is terrifying! I also loved that part about the Louvre. I mean, why read a book about the Louvre when you can go there and see it! (Major cool points for that part!) Talk about your art history class! How much more effective would a state history class be if you could actually go to the Alamo and see what it looks like? And to be able to do all this and not drag our children through the nastier social vices and degraded morals our public education exposes our children to is simply invaluable. Cudos to you MJ. This is Awesome.

  4. Thanks for writing this. It helps me understand home school better. I realized I have a fundamental parenting philosophy difference that I never recognized before. I loved your line “so, today, I will appreciate the time I have to gather my children around me, confident that I am providing them, not with what others can offer, but with what only I can offer.” That sounds pretty ideal to me, and yet it is not how I approach parenting at all. I view my role more as the guide to introduce them and help them learn to interact with the world in a way that will bring them happiness. In my role as guide spending a majority of their time with me is a detriment. I need to be a safe, loving base they come back to and look to as they explore the world. Here’s to parenting differences that hopefully create awesome kids!

    1. Your parenting philosophy is candy to my ears as well. I plan to incrementally swap ratios of home to world so that the kids leave my home with the confidence and capability to engage in the world, through having already experienced it.

  5. As a military kid who has experienced all forms of schooling, (public, private and homeschool) I have found that for us kids who know that we have limited time in the place we are, private school & homeschool is the best form of education. I’ll be finishing out my high school this year & have also found that Saxon is a wonderfully effective curriculum. One major plus with homeschool is that you can work at a pace that suits you best, and truly learn rather than stuff facts & figures into one’s brain.

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