We are new at homeschooling, so new that we can’t even really give advice on programs, schools, classes, co-ops, local homeschool events, discounts, curriculum, learning styles, or anything like that. BUT…I can tell you that we LOVE it! I can tell you that my children are happy and flourishing and that those shameful “behaviors” that the school system couldn’t stop complaining about long enough to actually try to help anyone…well, they are pretty much gone. The decision changed our lives. There is no stress, no crying about school, no mysterious illnesses to get out of school, no teacher’s notes, no medication, few behavioral issues, and something wonderful instead. HAPPINESS. So, today, I am going to share with you “Ten Things I've Learned and Loved Being a Beginner: Our Homeschool Story.”
1. Biting the Bullet
The most challenging thing thus far has been actually coming to the crossroads in our children's education and then making the decision to do it--to pull them from public school. This is probably the largest part of my story, as I fought the notion to homeschool for nearly 6 years before I had the faith to do it! Then I had to overcome the fear of messing up my kids. We were trying our best to provide for our children’s educations, while one of them began to struggle with behaviors at school and was labeled ADHD. It led to a subsequent diagnosis and a medication trial we would quickly regret.
Things at the time seemed great at home. Sure there were bad days and times where she didn’t listen well, but nothing that in my eyes constituted labeling her a problem child; however, I received a different story from her teachers. I received notes describing worries for her maturity and her ability to keep up with school work, as well as complaints that she couldn’t sit still for very long and that she got distracted easily. Not a big deal really in just one child, unless you have 25 or so other children to deal with as you try to teach something. I began to suspect the teacher was simply too overwhelmed to work with an outside-the-box, more active child. She just couldn’t (wouldn't?) adjust the classroom or plans to help my daughter learn at her best, so we decided after much discussion and prayer that after winter break, she and her little brother wouldn’t return to school. Once decided, we moved with swift action to complete registration with an umbrella school and then the journey began…you can read more about the early days on my blog.
2) The Insanity of Choosing The Curriculum
If you have ever considered homeschooling, then I am sure you have seen the plethora of curriculum options out there and probably thought to yourself that it seemed overwhelming.
You are right. It is.
I waded through the idea of purchasing a full curriculum. I heavily considered A Beka as I chatted with representatives, calculated the cost, tried to tell myself it would provide the accountability I needed as a parent, and that it would snuff out my fear of messing up my kids. However, something about bringing the classroom into the home (which is what the online academy does) seemed counter productive, especially considering that the goal for our family was to tailor school to fit my kids and not tailor my kids to fit school. So, I tossed the idea of a full blown created-for-me curriculum out the window. As I researched homeschooling styles, I began to feel like I had no idea what I was doing and that’s simply because, well, I didn’t. I began to read articles and blogs about how others approached homeschooling and it led to something quite unexpected and beyond wonderful.
3) The Importance and Joy of De-schooling
In my exploration of different articles and blogs, I read an article about de-schooling. De-schooling is something that is done immediately after pulling your children from public school. It is the idea of doing nothing in regards to formal education, while you enjoy life---basically observing and enjoying your children. This allowed me to get a feel for their personalities, their best time of day for learning, and see their natural tendencies towards activities as I looked for and recognized clues to discover their individual learning styles. THIS experience led to a sudden revelation.
4) Allowing them to direct things. It's liberating!
My 6yr old little girl loves to read. Her best time of day is split; she an early morning learner and an early evening learner. We started with Bible study in the morning, followed by a break, then I used this website called Easy Peasy Homeschool for ideas. She began asking for a Math book.
5) Tailoring the Subjects to Suit Them
Now that I can see their interests, I can tailor our subjects to fit THEM. Science projects, Bible study, making up a reading program so my daughter can read her favorite books. She is a reader, like me, and absorbs things well this way. So, when she requested an actual Math book (a subject her teacher had been particularly concerned about), I began looking for ideas. A friend recommended this Math curriculum called Life of Fred.
6) Discovering the Goodness that is Life of Fred Math
As I mentioned previously, my daughter learns best by reading and she is an advanced reader. When she asked for an actual math book, I started looking around and Life of Fred math series was recommended to me. I got on their website and sampled the first chapter. Color me impressed! I set out to try it. So, one night I sat her down with a copy of the first chapter and she breezed through it. It is tailored for her learning style. It is quite an enjoyable story line and math concepts are part of the story. I got a chance to order the first several books and WE LOVE IT. We also got the early readers for her little brother who is Pre-K age. He is already reading! So, Life of Fred? Yes, it really is THAT good. (shameless plug for endorsement lol)
7) Discovering My Daughter is an Advanced Reader
She was reading first grade level at school and blowing through the tiny books she brought home. I had bought a few early chapter books awhile back, so one day I introduced her to the hilarity that is Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody (which are roughly at level 2-3). She was so good at reading and comprehension that we quickly moved to the Magic Tree House books and the Boxcar Children. She blew me away reading fluidly and her comprehension level astounded me, as I quizzed her weekly. She remember fine details of the story that even you and I might not recall.
8.) Feeling a Sense of Purpose
The day my friend sent me the link to the movie Indoctrination, gave me a feeling that God had given me a sense of purpose and solidified our decision to homeschool. As many would say, I did have a brief period of feeling I had bitten off more than I could chew and that perhaps, I had made a poor hasty decision. That is, until the day my friend sent me the link to watch Indoctrination for free. Being the curious person that I am, I watched it. I took notes and sent numerous messages to my husband. Although I didn’t really need further confirmation that it was the right decision, it certainly helped solidify some underlying feelings I’d had about school. I felt a little more certain and empowered to face the beast of fear deep down inside me and that day through this movie, my personal Bible study, and talk time with God….that sneaky fear-mongering devil was defeated.
9) Refusing to get caught up in bringing the classroom home
A challenge that a lot of homeschoolers face is being caught up in making your homeschool, just a home version of the public school classroom. I am refusing to get caught up in bringing the classroom home, but rather making learning an experience and an enjoyable one at that. I cannot express enough that the key for homeschool to work for us was in de-schooling (like debriefing--giving your child a chance to release from the public school setting) and letting God take the fear of messing up my kids away from me. It has been the greatest blessing to realize that my child wasn’t struggling with school work, but, rather the stress of conforming to fit inside the little box you are required to fit in to be accepted and successful in public school. Obviously, she didn’t fit inside their little box...in fact, she blew the edges off! She loves learning and her little brother is just trucking along behind her.
10) Discovering local homeschool resources
One day, we visited the local Hands of Science Center with a homeschooling friend. We had planned to spend the morning letting them explore and then having lunch and letting them play somewhere. When we stepped up to the counter, a lady excitedly exclaimed, “Oh! Are you guys homeschoolers?” To which we happily replied, “yes, we are!” She then gave us several schedules for age appropriate activities for our children and a schedule for a homeschool program. There was one that afternoon and she invited us to come. The program was called Arcs and Sparks and featured experiments about electricity. We were all enamored and excited. We renewed our membership so we could attend the activities; it was a worthy investment.
In summary, homeschool has resulted in improving my personal outlook on life, and reaffirmed (through God) that I am making good decisions for my family. I love seeing them enjoy school, get excited over books coming in the mail, learning without a major struggle or fighting to make them complete something, and finally, we have enjoyed a increased closeness in our family as this decision affects so many aspects in our lives! We are so thankful for God leading us to this decision. We are homeschoolers and this is our homeschool story!
My name is Charlotte. My husband, David and I, have three fearfully and wonderfully children ages 4,6, and 14. We live in Manchester, TN. I currently homeschool our two youngest ones and our oldest is finishing this year at school and will join us next year. I am also a full time night shift nurse. Homeschooling can definitely be successful while holding a job. It has really been the adventure of a lifetime. I casually blog about our homeschooling journey at sewinglittleseeds.blogspot.com. I pray our story about the journey that led us to homeschooling is an encouragement and a blessing to anyone who reads it.
I hope that you enjoyed this post sharing the behind the scenes about things that a new homeschooling parent has learned during her early days of her new adventure. This is my third installment of Homeschooling: Keeping It Real series. I hope that you are enjoying this look behind the scenes at what it's like to be a homeschooler, and will continue to check back in for the rest of the series as we continue to give you honest and real peaks at our lives!