May172011

12 Comments

Stepping into homeschooling

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As the current school year comes to an end, a lot of parents begin wondering if homeschooling might be the right option for next year.  My family is finishing our seventh year of homeschooling, and there’s never been a doubt in my mind that it was the right choice.

I believe that homeschooling is the best option for many, but not all, kids.  When I was a classroom teacher, it was impossible for me to know in depth the strengths and weaknesses of every student.  There was only one of me and 25-30 of them.  A lot of my time and attention was spent on classroom duties and maintaining order.  As I taught, I envisioned myself at a bowling alley.  I rolled the ball, or lesson, down the center of the lane, hoping to “hit” as many pins, or students, as possible with the concepts and skills I was teaching.  Kids at the lower end of the spectrum usually received special instruction by remedial experts, and the kids at the upper end were, well, just there.  In my school district, gifted kids were pulled out for three hours of in-depth instruction once every seven days.

There are definite benefits to homeschooling

Now that my attention is focused on just two children, and the two that I know and care about more than any others, I can discuss in detail which subjects and skills are their strengths and where they

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need more practice.  I can observe them work a math problem and know whether or not they understand the concept.  If one curriculum doesn’t suit us for some reason, I know that we can switch to another.  Customized curriculum and individualized instruction are major strengths of homeschooling and reason enough to give it serious consideration.

A huge benefit of homeschooling is that it gives the gift of time.  The kids can be finished with their lessons and learning activities in 2-4 hours, depending on their age and grade level.  That has freed up time for them to take horseback riding lessons, music lessons, skating, drama, sports and P.E. and so much more.  My daughter spends time working on a quilting project, and we’re able to travel during off-peak times, avoiding crowds wherever we go.  Compared with friends whose homes are frantic in the morning with everyone trying to get ready and out the door for school and then filled with homework at the end of the day, our days are much more relaxed.

When I’ve been asked why we homeschool, my reasons have changed over the years.  At first it was just because I thought it would be fun to explore and learn as a family.  Now, I’d say it has more to do with the cohesiveness of our family and the ability to develop two human beings that love to learn, have a positive outlook on life, and have a complete education.

image by katerha

It’s not all a bowl of cherries

Over the years I’ve appreciated the freedom it gives our family and watching my children enjoy learning, but there are definite drawbacks.

In most families, it’s the mother who is responsible for most or all of the schooling.  Sometimes this has made my life complicated and frustrating.   Even though diaper bags are ancient history around our house, I still have to stop and think what we need to pack in order for my kids to stay out of trouble when I have a hair or a dentist’s appointment.  When I’ve had a doctor’s appointment, my kids go along and sit out in the hallway.  Pretty much every errand takes longer.  I’m blessed that I have family within ten miles or so of our house, but dropping the kids off every time I have to go somewhere isn’t usually practical.

Another drawback is that it can take time to find your family’s unique combination of curriculum, activities, and schedule.  Many new homeschooling parents want to duplicate school at home, along with stacks of textbooks, workbooks, and a strict schedule.  This almost never works and they become frustrated.  I’ll share ideas for working through the process of finding what works for you later in this series, but don’t be tempted to give up too soon just because nothing is flowing the right way and the visions you had of laughing together over a science experiment or sharing the excitement of discovering the nuances in Alice in Wonderland just aren’t happening.

It can be tough to be a homeschooling mom

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As a mom, I have to admit there’s a third serious drawback, and that is maintaining my own healthy self-esteem.  I  have always known that I would be the weakest link in our homeschool journey.  I tend to rebel against schedules and am way, way too spontaneous.  When we get off track from school for a few days, I beat myself up.  Over the years I’ve heard so many other homeschool moms do the same thing.

“We’d be further ahead if I could just…”

“My kids are behind in math, but it’s all my fault.”

“I just can’t seem to find the right curriculum…”

Because homeschooling falls mostly on our shoulders, it’s very easy to set a standard so high that, really, no mom could ever reach it.  Every day you do the best you can do.  You’ll see results, I promise.

image by julieeatssweaters

Still want to jump in?

My advice for families considering homeschooling is to consider:

1.  Why do you want to homeschool?

2.  Why do you think it’s the best choice for your kids and your family?

3.  Who will be responsible for the instruction?

4.  Will the family be able to live on one income (assuming the mother will stay home and teach)?

5.  Are there any special circumstances to consider?

If you have spent time thinking about the why of homeschooling, it will be easier to stay committed on days when nothing goes right.

Homeschooling is a radical path.  It changes the way you look at education.  It changes the way your family interacts with each other.  It’s more than just having your kids learn academic subjects at home instead of at a school.  It’s a lifestyle change.

Knowing what know now and having lived through some incredible school days and others that tested the limits of my sanity, I can say that this is the only lifestyle for us.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Coming next: My top tips for beginning homeschoolers.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(12) Readers Comments

  1. If I could say only *one* thing about homeschooling is that it is NOT what anyone thinks it is until they have been doing it for 6 months to a year. I recommend it for everyone.

  2. Good, thorough post covering the highlights and drawbacks. Oftentimes, people only cover the highlights, and don't explain the potential drawbacks to new homeschoolers. We have homeschooled for 9 years, and I wouldn't do it any other way, but there have been days when I wanted to throw myself in front of the big yellow bus and put my kids on it. :) Katy

  3. Excellent article Lisa. Looking forward to Part 2!

    Home schooling is NOT for everyone, but those who choose the lifestyle are usually greatly rewarded. My advice to those considering this change would be to seek out other home school families. Most communities have excellent co-ops with families eager to give advice. You can also ask around your church, if you don't already know the church members who home school. It is critical to way the pros and cons and make the decision that best fits your family's needs.

    We've been home schooling for 8 years. I was also a public school teacher and recognized the limitations and pitfalls of that system. My biggest concerns were the lack of quality and indoctrination of morals and values that were contrary to our beliefs. I also simply wanted to spend as much quality AND quantity time with my children. It has been the most rewarding decision we've made. (Disclaimer ~ That does not mean we don't have our off days. Home schooling is not nirvana. My kiddos and I have our struggles, just like normal people.)

    Finally, home schooling seems to be increasing in popularity. Normally I have 1 mother per year ask me about it. In the past year alone, 3 mothers have approached me…seriously considering pulling their children from public school. One mother even asked if it was more cost effective to pull her daughter from her private kindergarten school. When I shared our curriculum expenses with her, she was astonished at how much she will be saving.

  4. I love homeschooling! It is hard work but it is worth it. Before I started I read a book called A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille and found it most helpful. But learning to educate in the way promoted by that book is very different from the public school system. I have several friends who use that method and they say it takes about 3 years of doing it before you feel like you really get it. I just finished my 2nd year and can see what they mean! There are so many great resources out there but I'd say my top 3 picks are: 1) A Thomas Jefferson Education to provide a way to homeschool and paradigm shift 2) Weapons of Mass Instruction and/or Dumbing Us Down both by John Taylor Gatto to provide a motivating reason and paradigm shift and 3) Charlotte Mason works – check out http://simplycharlottemason.com/ for a primer, free e-books and more tools for your homeschooling toolbox.

    Homeschooling is a lifestyle change for the better! :)

    • I love Charlotte Mason, too. We used Ambleside Online for two years, but this year I knew I would be working on my book and wouldn't be able to always be right there with the kids. We used Switched On Schoolhouse — huge mistake. :o(

  5. Homeschooling has changed our attitudes about everything. Everything is a learning experience. Before we homeschooled I figured my son would learn at school and was done when he got home. Now we try to do a lesson every day, but even if we skip a day for whatever reason we are always teaching because we are in that mindset. We do math while shopping, talk about the animals while driving, read everything from signs to menus, and of course find the answer to the myriad of questions my seven year old has. It is also refreshing to learn along with him.

    Also, it’s not always the mother who homeschools. I am fortunate to have a good job while my husband is unemployed. He has been an exceptional teacher, especially since he was homeschooled as well as a child. If the schoolwork gets done early, they get to go ride a bike, go fishing, or play video games as father/son.

    I too feel we have an enormous sense of freedom. We are free to take vacations, we don’t have to attend conferences, fundraisers, do last minute projects or fill a snack bucket. Mornings are enjoyable without packing lunches and rushing to sit in line at school.

    My son works at his own pace and doesn’t move on until he understands it completely. For me and my family, homeschooling is an enormous blessing!

  6. I'm a homeschooling mum – my boys are 7months, 4 years and 6 years old. It is all homeschooling – teaching your children to walk and talk is homeschooling. Teaching your children to eat with utensils rather than hands is homeschooling. Teaching your children to read etc .. homeschooling!

    There isn't much difference in it all really. It all takes time and patience and presence. I wouldn't do it any differently.

    As my children are young, I am unschooling. They learn through experience, be that falling when standing up trying to walk, or helping me measure out stuff in the kitchen. One day we might look at curriculum but right now it is experiential learning and conversational learning. My children might not know their letters as well as kids in school, but they know a lot more about a lot more, and I'm happy with that :)

    I do agree that there still needs to be "mum" time and that sometimes you get lost in the world of children without having a place in the world of adults. A homeschooling group where mothers can talk about all things is a great release – but sometimes there is a feeling of competition almost between mums which I dislike.

    Has anyone read John Taylor Gatto's work? Brilliant stuff

  7. Homeschooling has been on my mind for some time, and the more I hear, the more it "pulls" me. (And yes, John Taylor Gatto's writing is wonderful & inspiring.)

    I would be curious to hear from anybody who tried homeschooling & found it didn't work for them, and, of course, why not. Or anybody who is currently homeschooling, but reconsidering.

    Also, I know there are all kinds of networks & classes you can enjoy to help your child socialize, but I would love to hear more about the practical aspects of socializing your child. I have an only child who enjoys going to preschool because he loves playing with the other children. We belong to a "playgroup", where he's made some nice friends, but they'll be going to school eventually & making their own new friends. We live in Las Vegas, where neighbors are rather transient, and it's hard to develop a feeling of community (although I am really trying). If anybody has a similar situation, and found a way to make it work, I would love to hear your thoughts.

  8. I am homeschooling our son (6) and daughter (4) tags along for the ride. I assumed kindergarten surely couldn't be that difficult even though I am only a high school graduate. But I've found the difficult thing is prioritizing schooling. I am a homesteader with just under 2 acres but I can during harvest time (which seems like every month except December January and February), garden, we raise chickens every year for the freezer (usually at least 30), there is wood hauling, cooking meals from scratch (for better family health), prepping (I am starting to make my own dehydrated meals and vacuum sealing them) and that's just a fraction of what I do. I am frustrated and need to create a schedule we can live with, but my biggest problem is being grilled by opposers of all that we do (homeschooling and homesteading) assuming that my son is not socializing and not getting a "proper" education. When I first mentioned hs'ng to my inlaws they gave me the hardest time and I said "hasn't anyone in this family homeschooled?" and the MIL said (very condescendingly), "yes, but they were Teachers." more times than not I have to encourage myself that it IS the right thing to do and with God it's possible.

    • Thousands of moms with a high school education only are homeschooling just fine, and so can you! Your children are quite young and don't need a lot of sit-down instruction at all. Find a list of good read-aloud books, on all sorts of topics, and spend most of your school day reading and talking about the stories and new information learned. If you can, buy the book, "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons." The lessons are quick, very easy, and effective. Kids naturally love nature, and yours are lucky to live on a homestead! Learn about animal categories, weather, plants, cooking, and so much more. Ambleside Online might work well for you, since it's free and you only need to track down the books needed for each year. Here's the link for the youngest grade level, http://amblesideonline.org/00.shtml

      If you're able to join a homeschooling group, that would be ideal. If not, try to spend time every week on homeschool forums and reading websites and blogs. http://www.blogs.com/topten/10-best-homeschool-bl

      Be sure to involve your kids in everything you do. A lot of times we don't realize how much they are learning just by watching us. But do read, read, read, read, read! Young kids are like sponges and they soak up everything, and if you have been expecting to have "school" like the ones you attended when you were young, forget it! Workbooks and textbooks, IMO, are not what homeschooling is all about. Good luck and stay in touch!

  9. Neat website. We are a homeschooling family if 3 kids. I Have been homeschooling for 9 years, and will continue. All the advice above is good. But I think the hardest thing about homeschooling by far is the loss of income, when that spouse that is doing the schooling stops working. And if they decide to eventually go back to work after, say junior high, or when the kids get to college, they are starting over at minimum wage…It is a tremendous sacrifice, often not mentioned…
    But I wouldnt trade homeschooling in for anything and woudl do it again in a heartbeat. Most amazing thing to me is that you complete the schooling in half a day, cover different topics than the public school, and your kids still score 2 grades ahed of then on the standardized testing. Shows something is really wrong with the system….

  10. I was Homeschooled since the first grade and never wanted to send my children to traditional school but my husband wanted me too so that is where they have been my oldest is in second and then I have a first grader and then a preschooler. I am quite overwhelmed when thinking of homeshooling and ask my mom how she did it. I am a single mom at this time and am hoping to homeschool even though I only work part time and have very little income for curriculum and books. I thought that it would be simple to just start to homeschool off the fly but it is a bit daunting when you think of the discipline needed to set aside the time and have the patience for this. If I did not feel so strongly about the negative affects of public schools I would likely just continue with my children there, but as of right now it is my intention to start homeschooling as soon as school lets out this summer and I am hoping to school 3 days a week year round. Thank you for this blog it is so helpful.

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