The Real Reason I Homeschool

IMG_00011Look, there are a lot of reasons people have for teaching their own kids.  Many of them are good and compelling.  But, for me, most have faded over time.  I see my kids growing up and I think, They were always going to be OK. 

And, anyway, homeschooling is hard and can suck the life out of a person, especially a person who used to carry a planner.  Our warm educational fuzzies have grown a little threadbare during these middle years, and the tender platitudes that used to spur me on now find me with my fingers in my ears and, you know, maybe rocking in my bathroom.

But, so help me, there is one thing that hasn’t changed–and that is my need to go slow through this life.  It turns out that a poet crawled into my head and, having rattled around there, came back and wrote a poem that exactly describes my Actual Real Reason for doing this life the way I do.

To wit:

Leisure

by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

That’s my reason, folks.  What’s yours?

The Elusive Work/Life Balance (and how to achieve it)

Ok, so I said I was trying to forget about all things to do with school and educating kids and that is still true.  Nevertheless I came across this intriguing article about home educator moms and their quests to achieve the oft-slippery work/life balance.  This is not a boring topic for me because, well, I’m living the life.  Some of you might be interested in reading this writer/researcher’s take on the “new wave” of moms who are finding a way to get the most out of their lives while keeping their kids close.  Happy reading.

Our Bare (Educational) Bones

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A lot of people ask me what curricula I use  in our homeschool.  With so many educational philosophies, co-ops, and methods out there many would-be home educators feel overwhelmed when trying to decide on what they should emphasize with their own kids.  I get it.  It’s taken me a long time to come to what I feel are the right educational priorities for our family.  And the truth is, our path has as much to do with my strengths and preferences (since I’m steering this ship) as it does with our kids’ individual proclivities.

The thing that scares people about home education is the same thing that makes it so great:  It’s the wild, wild West of learning.  There are no one-size-fits-all rules or methods that are guaranteed to help you crank out superstar kids, or your money back.  Home education happens, well, in the home.  I suspect your home is somewhat different from your neighbor’s in terms of decor, food offerings, movies watched, tears cried, arguments had, memories made.  It only makes sense that each homeschooler’s way of educating is as unique as the home they’ve created and the children they’re rearing.

Still, none of the above answers the question my friends ask me:  But what do you do in your homeschool?  I usually resist going into specifics because I’m afraid that offering up details sounds like a prescription for Doing It Right.  I have no desire to do that as I don’t believe there’s just one way to stoke a love of learning in children.  I am a big believer in sticking to, and emphasizing, what I define as the basics, however.  What follows is a little outline of what we’ve judged to be non-negotiables in our homeschool.

Reading:  We read every day.  I read aloud to the kids from the Bible and I read from a poetry book I really like.  We have discussions that range from the banal to the sublime.  I have middle school boys, I remind you.  Sometimes I have to cut the discussions short as they skid into the embankments of the ridiculous.

My kids are always working on a book of their choice as well.  I assign reading occasionally and they are faithful to read the books I press on them.  However, if I sense a real reluctance about a book from any one of them I usually end up reading it to them instead.  This is because I do not want reading to be compulsory and therefore odious.  (This is a huge thing for me).

Writing:  The kids have notebooks that they fill with everything from doodling and idea snippets to poems and short narratives.  I don’t force them to write in these journals but I do tell them to leave off describing things to me and to “share it with your notebook” from time-to-time.  They each have blogs to which they are semi-faithful to post.  Their posts are, you know, kind-of meh.  But I don’t care.  They’re kids.  Now, in case you think I’m a pretty hands-free mom, I hasten to add that I do utilize a formal writing program that I love.  We go to a little class with other writers, in fact.  This program teaches grammar as well as the elements and style of writing.  This is a non-negotiable in our house.  The backbone of our bare bones, you might say.

Math:  We love this program.  We use it every day.  My motto with math is, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  That’s all I’ve got to say.

And that’s it, folks.  Those are our main things.  We play music, do Latin worksheets, take jujitsu, wade in the creek, think thoughts, read science books, listen to audiobooks, work on our history timeline, go to the library, work on our table manners, feed the pets, do chores, go to church, make friends, travel, dream and pray.  But I don’t count these things as school, really.  They’re just life.

What things do you emphasize in your homeschool, if you have one?  On what would you like to focus more?

 

How Much School Is Too Much? How Much Is Enough?

An email from a reader:

We are in our second year of homeschooling our daughter. She is in kindergarten, so we have not been very formal about it yet. I also have an almost 4 year old and a 9 month old. They all keep me on my toes. I’d like to think our difficulties with homeschooling–being consistent, engaged, keeping good attitudes, etc–can be easily explained by this season of life. But I’m just not sure! I want to be successful and enjoy the time teaching and learning with my children…I really do. 
I have had a difficult time finding a curriculum or curricula that I like and that my daughter likes. It’s been discouraging starting and stopping the few we’ve tried. At the same time, I feel like she is still so young…maybe she doesn’t need a curriculum yet. 
I think my biggest problem is that I feel as though I am doing this alone and I have no direction or guidance. And, of course, part of me feels inadequate and unable to teach my children the way they will need to be taught. 
Currently we are looking into a few different options for next year, two of which include homeschool co-ops of sorts. Like I said, I see the benefits for the future in homeschooling, but it can be so difficult to keep that perspective while going through the day to day. 
Thank you for being kind enough to offer your help and/or encouragement. (Sorry this kind of rambled on!) I look forward to your reply and also reading more on your blog. Have a blessed morning/day!
This is how I answered her:

Oh, A.  I wish we were sitting across from one another at a coffee shop and I could look you in the eye. 

Here’s the first thing I would say:  It is going to be OK.  Really.  Your little girl is TOO YOUNG to be forced to do school right now, unless you can have some workbooks and library books lying around and she picks them up because she wants to be a “big” girl.

The second thing I would say is:  Let her curl up in your lap and just read to her.  The same books, over and over, if she wants you to.  Let her know how special she is to you.  She will NEVER forget that you did this and it will mean the world someday.  She does not need more than that right now. 

Third:  Have you read Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s book, ‘Better Late Than Early’?  If you haven’t, let someone watch the kids while you run to the library to check it out.  You will be encouraged to find that children learn better when they start later with formal seat work, not earlier.

Fourth:  The library is more than adequate to provide you with curricula right now.  But when your daughter wants to read, you might like to try ‘Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons’–but only when she wants to!  I taught all three of my kids to read using this inexpensive resource.  It’s been passed down to my nieces and nephews and is tattered now.

Fifth:  Co-op can be a wonderful encouragement for your child, but the real winner might be you.  I find that co-ops offer some educational benefits to children here and there.  But the biggest beneficiaries are the moms, hands down.  If you can find one that suits you, and one that you can afford, then I’d say it might be worth it.  My kids and I did not join ours until we had been homeschooling for almost 7 years already, but it has been a real blessing for us.

My heart is for people just like you.  I am woefully human.  The Bible calls us ‘jars of clay’ because we are all so ordinary and easily broken.  My homeschool journey doesn’t make sense unless I tell you that it is Jesus who has made all the difference in my impatient, hurried, driven heart.  He is helping me to be kind, loving, patient.  It’s just taking a long time! 

But even with all my imperfections, and please know they are many, I asked my kids the other day if they’d like to go to school.  They looked at me as if I’d said a bad word, though I haven’t spent my time trashing the public school

They said, “Absolutely not!  Never.  No.” 

I said, “But I get angry at you all, and sometimes I want to explode, and so do you.” 

To which they replied, “Yeah but we still pick you.” 

And your kids still pick you.  Your daughter would pick you any day of the week. 

Be encouraged.  You can do this.  I know you can.

Love,

Hannah

For those of you who have a bit more experience on this journey, what can you add to help this mom?  There are many more like her (more every day, if the statistics are correct) and they need encouragement.  Leave your (polite, kind) thoughts in the comments.  I know they’ll be appreciated!