Our Homeschooling Journey
If you have homeschooled for more than a few years, you've probably changed your philosophy or methods at least once. Over the 20 years that we have homeschooled, our "school" has changed ALOT. I can't say that I have arrived, by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure has improved. I have a longer term goal - raising up a family that sees that they were created for God's glory, who are building His kingdom, and who are mandated to take dominion over every aspect of their realm of influence. How we implement it may be adjusted, but that is the long term goal.
That is not how we started though. When my oldest child was approaching "school age", it was clear that she was not ready for kindergarten, nor was I ready to let her go. She had been a premie, growing along at the 5th percentile, and was developmentally just barely ahead of her sister, 17 mo. her junior. Homeschooling seemed to be my answer and I found myself so relieved not to send my children away all day. My goals initially were simple. I just wanted to help my small children remember the alphabet and be able to count to 2o+, let alone read and do arithmetic. I was assured that they would get it by osmosis - I hung out with an "unschooling" crowd. For the most part they did learn the basics, but I also discovered that I had 2 children that were struggling. I constantly wondered if I should be getting them extra help, or if I was just impatient and needed to wait for their development to catch up. My children were pleasant, obedient, and well mannered. We had alot of fun with friends, exploring beaches, going to parks, and reading to them aloud.
When I was expecting my 6th child we got involved with a small group of homeschoolers who were exploring what services the schools might be able to offer us in terms of a meeting space for parent led classes, art materials and library access. It was the beginning of a growing trend for public schools to open "homeschool resource centers". It seemed innocent enough, and I could use some suggestions for my more challenged children. I met other moms like me, and we met other homeschooled kids for playmates. I was encouraged, and the teacher running it homeschooled her own kids, and was a great advocate for us. Services included tutoring, classes, and a growing library of resources, as well as a computer lab. As the services expanded, so did our obligation to record keeping, and then eventually the decision to enroll part-time or FTE (full time enrollment). Then there was more curriculum mandates, and more testing, and more questions, and mandatory meetings with advisors. It became cumbersome, and as my family grew, if each child just took one class each, we were either camped out there, or going back and forth which was interruptive to those at home. We weren't home enough to "homeschool". Ironic. I threatened to pull out several years in a row, and finally did after 10 years in the program. By that time we had made the decision to let the older kids go to the public high school. They struggled and were overwhelmed by the rigors of their college prep high school. It was an intense change for which they were unprepared. There were two solutions that made it work. One was the trade school connected with our district that allowed my boys to spend half of the school day learning carpentry and automotive technology. The other solution was our local alternative high school which allowed contracts and smaller class sizes, and advisors who cater to a more creative way to learn, and offered my learning disabled son an opportunity to get special services. My last public school student will graduate this June from that school.
Two years ago I felt the impending doom of sending my next daughter into the system. I had seen how I was losing my children's hearts. The last straw was hearing my older children recall daily chastisement for being part of our large family. I will not send them to the wolves anymore. I am more confident than ever that there are a miriad of ways to get an education. We have never lived in a time when so many resources are at our fingertips, if we only would look. I have used every curriculum under the sun. Some were duds, but I have learned that some workbooks keep us progressing sequentially through some basics. I like Explode the Code for phonics, Spelling Workout, Abeka grammar, Wordly Wise for vocabulary and Singapore math for younger kids. We are using a combination of Saxon, Aleks.com, and Teaching Textbooks for older kid's math. I have used several history programs, like History of the World, and Alpha and Omega for a time. I like reading biographies and even primary documents aloud, then supplementing with library books, although we do that in spurts too. Does anyone else struggle with returning library books? Seems we are always missing one or two. I hate fines! I would rather own books we love anyway. I have also discovered AmblesideOnline.com which is a Charlotte Mason website that is chocked full of resources that can be found on the internet or at the library. I love the out of copyright books available as audio books (librivox.org) while we look at the illistrations from Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) or the Burgess Project(childrensbooksonline.org). I especially enjoy this with my younger children for nature science, as Thornton Burgess has two great books on birds and animals. There are even early readers available on the web. For older kids I love Apologia science books. Outstanding and very good apologetics too. This year Katherine and I have been participating in a humanities course studying Antiquities through a Christian worldview with another family that is yet unavailable to the public, but is so outstanding that I will commit to it for the next 3 years! I am learning as much, maybe more than she is. Lest I forget, the Bible, we are working our way through Proverbs for our half hour a day of copywork, and are reading the Bible through.
What I know is that although our "school" is far from perfect, we are mandated as Christian parents to instruct our children - not the church, not the government. Although my older children may feel like guinea pigs that I practiced on, they have grown into responsible, respected adults who are reliable and hardworking employees, spouses and parents and most importantly, they're walking with the Lord. Ultimately they belong to Him and we are lent them for just a little while.
My latest goal: teach better communication, both written and spoken, so that my children may be arrows who will be able to "not be put to shame when they speak with enemies in the gate".
What are your goals?