Homeschooled and Homeschooling

Posted by  | Tuesday, May 26, 2009  at 2:48 PM  
This post is written by Jillian Meyers, a friend of mine from college. She was so sweet to share her homeschool experience with us. She was homeschooled herself and now homeschools her children. Thanks for sharing, Jillian!

I loved the phrasing of this week’s topic “schooling options” because I think that far too often we neglect to consider just how many options there are out there for our children’s education. I’m certainly not well-versed on the many options that exist but one I happen to be very familiar with is the option of home education. I came from a family of four children all of which were homeschooled all 12 years until college. It would be a fair and accurate statement to say that I do not know how to compare my educational experience to other institutional counterparts. I can merely relate what my experience was like for me, how it prepared me for college and life in general.

When it came time to consider schooling options for our oldest son my husband and I agreed that it made sense for us to home school him for pre-K and then kindergarten. It was important to me that my children’s education would not make God’s Word merely a supplement but rather its foundation. Furthermore, homeschooling just made sense for us. After all, I taught my son how to walk, how to obey, how to clean-up, and it just seemed natural that since I knew his learning style and his interests—that I’d be the one to teach him his letters, handwriting, how to tie his shoes, counting and math. After one successful full year of pre-K at home I’ve seen great results. Our family has established a more efficient routine with a little more structure that we would have perhaps otherwise. My daughter has been more eager for learning as a result of seeing my oldest doing “school.” By the second half of the year she was participating in schoolwork as well—learning 68 phonograms, all the books of the Bible, the same memory verses as her brother, counting by 5’s and 10’s etc. etc.. The benefits for our family have been great. I have loved the flexibility that homeschooling has offered. We do “school” Saturday, and then M-Wednesday. I teach the older two (5 and 3) together in the morning and then I work with my oldest on reading and spelling in the afternoon since it requires more concentrated time and the others are napping then. This schedule allows us freedom on days that daddy is home. We also continue to do “school” all year round so that I can have freedom during the school year to take days off here and there to travel to visit family, to take in the zoo or other fun daytrips. Did I mention that I’m loving and appreciating my “second education” perhaps more than my first? I’ve always loved to learn but learning new things with my children is like learning it for the first time. I’ve experienced nothing like it!

The routine that I refer to as “school” is really so much more of what I would consider a lifestyle of learning for us. Yes, we dedicate about 1 ½ hours a day of structured learning time for my oldest and then about half of that time for my daughter at this stage—but I truly believe that just as much is learned from what takes place during the rest of the day as is learned during that short period. We learn just as much on our nature walks with binoculars and our field guides as we do reading a book. Just as much is learned by helping mom with jobs around the house as can be read in a single devotion on responsibility. I’ve come to believe that we can accomplish what many children accomplish in a full-day of school in a much shorter amount of time because of the individualized attention. I believe that my kids have grown to appreciate that they can take afternoon naps/ quiet time, and still have hours to play before and after their neighborhood friends get home.

Of course, the debate way back when and still sometimes today is the issue of children’s socialization. I’m a big fan of homeschooling for the opportunity it affords children to broaden their social horizons beyond that of their peers. Siblings have more opportunities to bond and families are more free to serve, visit nursing homes, deliver Meals on Wheels, visit grandparents, go on family trips to the grocery store where people of all ages are encountered. Granted, at times it has taken more effort to build friendships amongst our children with others; yet, I haven’t regretted being able to be more discerning in that area. We have a neighborhood full of children that love to come and play and that has become our family’s “mission field.” Now with the numerous opportunities for outside educational enrichment through home school academies, support groups, home school sports leagues etc, the argument regarding homeschoolers lacking exposure and socialization has become unfounded.

Does homeschooling shelter my children too much? I believe that it shelters them to the extent that is wholesome for their lives at the age they are at. Can it potentially shelter children too much? I believe it can. However, homeschooling by its very nature is tailor-made for you and your family and what it looks like for one family is not going to even look nearly like what it would look like for another. My children are young right now and it is convenient to teach all of their subjects from home. But the trend is now, and is becoming more and more, a less “home-based” approach for older homeschooled students relying more on supplemental classes through academies, long distance learning and community colleges.

While I consider our experience with homeschooling to be wholly positive there have been some down-sides. While we have saved money compared to the costs of private Christian School we have put forth much more of a financial investment than we would have if we were using the public school system. It’s certainly an investment. There are certainly ways to make it less expensive (buying used curricula, reusing curricula from child to child, curtail supplemental outside of the home classes), nonetheless, I haven’ found a way to beat the financially economical side of public school. Furthermore, the fact that we have all three (soon to be 4) children at home all day never affords a clean house and often times affords a little less than sane mommy when daddy gets home. All of that to say that it can potentially be draining on a marriage and a family life unless expectations are realistic and shared and understood by all within the family.

What does homeschooling look like for us right now and what curriculum has been useful?

Devotions: “Leading Little Ones to God,” “Little Visits with God;” “Child’s Book of Character Building,” “The ABC’s of Handling Money God’s Way,” Keys for Kids, “Family Night’s Tool Chest” (by Heritage Builders)

Music: “Hymns for a Kid’s Heart” (published by Focus on the Family, we’ve also used “Passion for a Kid’s Heart,” “Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart”) We have a kid’s hand bell set with music “Praise the Lord With Song,” a recorder book and recorders for both kids, and a glockenspiel. We’ve also used “Wee Sing Bible Songs” to help out with memorization for example books of Old Testament etc.

Phonics: “Spell to Read and Write” it’s an intensive phonics curriculum which bases its approach on the most basic phonetic sounds, the 78 phonograms that make up the English language. It emphasizes spelling and writing long before reading. It teaches each sound that each letter makes initially. Rather than just learning that C says “k” you simultaneously learn that it says “s” for example. Another big premise of this curriculum that I have appreciated has been that it encourages you to teach your children their lower case alphabet exclusively in the beginning introducing only the first letter of their name in capital format until the lowercase alphabet is mastered. It just makes sense.

Math: We use mostly Saxon Kindergarten math and the manipulatives that come with it. We’ve done lots with play money as it pertains to counting and adding.

Art: I have yet to settle on one particular thing. We like various resources for this. But we’ve mostly been learning to draw from nature using basic shapes to create certain animals. One curricula we used taught how to create objects and animals from basic numbers.

Reading: My oldest has just begun to use Easy Readers and I’ve found that Christian Book Distributors has a great selection of Bible story ones. We make much use of our local library too.

Science: My 5 year old (oldest) just completed a year long age-appropriate science class at a local Christian home school academy. This class proved helpful particularly for some of the lab/ hands-on projects and experiments that would have been time consuming for me to have prepared myself. The only reason we introduced science to him at his age was that his Daddy is a meteorologist and Andrew has had a great interest in the subject.

Considering homeschooling? Where to start? First and foremost, pray and talk to your spouse about what your goals are for your children. Consider one year at a time. What is best for the here and now may not always be what is best for your family. Consider your family dynamics and what suits your lifestyle the most. Read. There are many methods and philosophies for home education. Don’t be bogged down; yet, consider creating a mission statement for your home school (if that is the path that you choose). Select an approach that seeks to achieve that. There is the “Unschooling approach,” “the Charlotte Mason method,” the “Classical Approach,” “the Unit Study approach…” Regardless of what suits your family, there are resources to guide you along the way. Seek out a home school support group. If you live in North Carolina one great place to state is the North Carolinians for Home Education website www.nche.com . Attend a home school conference. Inquire within a home school support group/ network about academies, and other supplemental classes and extracurricular activities that are offered in your area. When it comes to deciding on the particulars of what your home school will look like, remember that the beauty of homeschooling is greatly in part because of the opportunity for creativity. Fortunately, the options for curricula are vast, ranging from correspondence courses/ dvd based, all-inclusive (like ABeka, Bob Jones (just to name a few) both very popular choices), to “piece-meal” approaches which most closely resembles ours. Choose what is best and revise your approach when something isn’t working. Seek out other likeminded friends and perhaps consider “co-oping” or sharing the homeschooling workload by cooperatively teaching your kids on certain subjects.

May the Lord bless you and your families as you seek out from amongst the many options that exist just what would be the best.

1 comment:

Leah said...

Thanks so much for contributing! I like what you said about making a mission statement for your homeschool. I had a mom recently tell me that before I start exploring all the different types of curricula, I should make a list of what I hope to achieve through homeschooling and what our family priorities are. She said that would help me find the method that best complements our goals. I really like that suggestion. Thanks so much for sharing what you use too. I will be starting school with my 3 year old this fall and I've started pulling some things together. Thanks!!

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