Blog posts of '2016' 'December'

How and Why I Decided to Homeschool

I was never one who planned on homeschooling.  In fact - I said, on several occasions, that I would never homeschool.  Does that sound familiar to you?  I am sure some of you reading this have told yourselves the same thing.

You see, when I was younger and going to school, I had the opportunity to attend a private Christian school.  This was wonderful for me, as I truly enjoyed it.  My grandparents paid for it, so my mom could focus on getting her college degree.  Now the private school  was not without fault, but it was where God had me for that season.  When my grandmother died, our family moved away and I had to enter a public school mid way through my 7th grade year.  That was the worst experience of my life - and continued to be for much of the rest of my schooling years.  This pretty much set in stone, for me, that my children would never attend public school and that a private Christian school would be the place for them.

Fifteen years later, when my children were starting school, I researched all the schools in the area, interviewed parents, teachers and grown alumni.  I selected the school and we began our first born on her path to education.  I, of course, was as involved as I could be - but not as much as I wanted to be.  As our family grew, I discovered what our projected payment to schools would be.  I feel strongly that my children are worth every penny, as I am sure most people do.  However, being an advocate for orphans in the world, how selfish was it of me to spend nearly $600,000 over the course of 17 years for five children to attend private school (this figure did NOT include any tuition increases - which there would certainly be).  (Let me also mention that this was, by no means the most expensive school - infact, it was one of the less costly ones).  I mean - really - how much good could be done with all that money - it could touch the lives of thousands of children.  

Additionally, as I helped out in classrooms, I began to notice that, private school today seems to have become what public school used to be.  Well if that is the case - I am very afraid of what public school looks like now (these are the thoughts that went through my head).  I noticed that children who were respectful, on time, on task and excelling at school would be bored and spend ALOT of time sitting around and simply waiting for other children who were being disciplined, late, not on task or not understanding and needing extra attention.  What could easily get done in 20-30 min time was taking 45-50 min and still not much was getting accomplished.  I also saw the level of homework - even in 1st grade start to increase - not because they should have homework, but often because the teacher just didn't get to finish the lesson in class. That left me, the parent to become the teacher at home.  HMM - that sounds alot like homeschool to me.  Whether I realized it then or not - I was homeschooling.  As I think back - I had already taught my oldest to read, count, add, colors, shapes -  many other things before kindergarten - I guess I was teaching then too.  We are all teaching - actually, whether we realize it or not - we are teaching our kids ALL the time with everything we say and do. 

As I began to consider homeschool more seriously - actually - I was fighting the thought.  Things would come to mind  - "I don't think I would be a good mom if I were a teacher to them too", "I don't have the patience", "it just isn't me", " I like to have my time", "I think they need to be exposed to other authority figures", "I'm not qualified", "I don't want to mess it up", "their education is too huge a responsibility for me to take on",  "what about their socialization", "my child is already in school - she would be so upset to leave her friends".  The list goes on and on - do any of these things sound familiar to you?

Several friends of mine had been homeschooling - some for just a year or two, another for about 15 years.  I kept telling them - "I think that is great for you, just not for us".  But then God started to talk to me about many things.

The first one was regarding public school - where they do the best they can with what they have, and with all the children they have.  They teach what they are supposed to  - which includes tolerance and acceptance of things that I don't approve of.  You see - I decided that I wanted to teach my children right from wrong, teach them to love the sinner, hate the sin and live life accordingly.  In public school, that kind of teaching would never be allowed.  Additionally, history books for public schools are starting to be written in ways that leave out parts of the constitution that talk about God "inalienable rights endowed by . . . " .  I find it appalling that they feel as  though they can replace "Our Creator" with dots.   I do also believe that a high school student, who has been homeschooled and has a strong foundation in their faith and in themselves can be a light in a public school setting.  There is more that I could say about public schools - but to be honest my real issue is not with public vs private schools - it truly is about much more than that.

I started to consider what was important to my husband and I when it came to our children and our relationship with them.  It is truly important to me that our children be each other's best friends.  As you may well know, circumstances change and people move, friends come and go.  Even the best and dearest of friends sometimes leave.  There are seasons for everything and everyone.  Siblings though are forever - if brought up in a close environment and given the opportunity to spend large amounts of time together, have a much better chance of growing up to be close.  Likewise for the parent/child relationship.  

I started to do the math.  How much time do I spend with my children, and of that time, how much is quality time?  If they are up from 6am until 8 at night - that is 14 hours.  We would leave for school by 7:15am and be home from school by 3:15pm.  That gives me six hours with them.  How much is quality time - the hour and 15 minutes spent getting ready for school - was never good at our house - constantly "hurry up - let's go".  My children loved to sleep - no  matter how early they went to bed - it was always the same thing.  It ended up being the worst part of our day - and I hated starting their day that way.  So that was obviously not quality time.  Of the remaining 4 hours and 45 min.  45 min was generally spent on chores and another hour on homework.  That gives us 3 hours where we eat dinner and have baths/showers.  So - let's say we get three hours in a night on school days.  That comes to 15 hours a week.  Don't forget church and other extra curricular activities - but we will ignore those for now.

If my children were homeschooled instead that time would look like this - They could sleep later - if they liked - giving their body the rest it needed and waking up in a good and pleasant mood, not being rushed.  (Don't get me wrong, I completely feel as though being on time and accountable are very important and we do set restrictions around being on time for homeschool).  So if they were to be downstairs by 7:30, we eat breakfast as a family, do 4-5 hours of homeschool, have lunch as a family in there, they do their chores before the neighbor kids get home, we go to a field trip or to the park, prepare and eat dinner as a family - we get roughly 12 hours together.  That is 60 hours a week.  I know some of you are saying - "but I don't think I could handle them for that long - or perhaps they couldn't handle me for that long".  I think that although honest, I think it is sad to say that  - I was nervous of this myself - but do you know that we love each other more and really enjoy being together  - we now miss each other when we are apart.  I think it is a matter of getting used to the new normal for  your family and seeing the blessings in it.  Relationship is very important to me - It is one of the few things in life that you can't loose if you work at it.  Everything else can go away, house, money, career, cars, etc .

When children are away from you for 40-45+ hours a week, you don't have the opportunity to see and hear what they are learning, how they are acting and what they are saying.  They may have a great teacher - but maybe they don't.  Even if they did - that teacher has many students.  When it comes to developing character - only so much can be taught before they are school age.  Then they are spending the majority of their waking hours with other children who are helping to mold that character - whether you like it or not.  That is true for public or private schools.  I know we started to see some behavior changes as early as kindergarten with our oldest.  We tried to nip that as best we could - but we went on and sent her to 1st grade - some things did improve - but there was still some influence there that I did not like.

When children are homeschooled, they aren't just learning math, reading, history, etc.  They are learning how to relate to family members, how to be responsible with their household duties, how to help out when others are sick, how to serve eachother, how to cook, how to clean, how to teach and help siblings, how to take authority from others at field trips.  They are also learning what is important to you that they learn.  I love that we are able to use the Bible as a textbook in so much of the curriculum I use.  Don't get me wrong - we don't just study things from Biblical perspective - but I strongly believe that it should be heavy Biblical based for the foundation years of learning.  We do live in an imperfect world that is dying more  as each day passes.  It is important that as our children grow older, they learn how to handle themselves in the world around them - they are after all - becoming more and more of a minority in their faith, values, morals etc.  It is necessary to be able to live, learn and communicate appropriately and share their views and beliefs also appropriately.  

We did start homeschooling Maddy when she was entering 2nd grade.  She had a little bit of a hard time leaving her friends - but she has adjusted well.  She even said the other day "next year sounds like it is going to be so fun!"  (we just finished school last week and she is already looking forward to next year)   I hope to continue to homeschool - utilizing tutorials when they are older to help with the transition into high school and college.  I am hoping to do a two day a week tutorial and home the rest of the week in jr high and high school.  

As for my other kids - they don't really know any better.  Jackson was in kindergarten for a short time - but would spend all of his free time in class making "I love you mommy" notes - he was not ready to be away from me - he never cried - just would bring home 20+ notes a day.  Zoe is sharp as a tack and loves being home.  Carter and Maraya have gone from knowing five English words to reading, writing, spelling and speaking extremely well and independently in just 18 months.  They are both at or above reading level for their age.  I don't know that I could learn a language that quickly.  

The last and obvious thing I will mention is that I love that I can choose my own curriculum according to what best suits each of my children.  I can choose activities and additional curriculum based on their interests and can incorporate learning in a way that excites them.  I am learning too - which is fun for me.  The best thing though - is when you work with one of your children to understand a concept and you get to see that light bulb go off when they understand and are so proud for having done it.  That is something I don't want to share with anyone else - that is something for me and my child to celebrate - not my child and a teacher somewhere that I may or may not know, who may or may not be invested in my child, who will likely not build a strong relationship with them over the course of one year.  It is a moment for me and my child - those moments don't last and there are not many of them.   Time goes by very quick.  I did some more math - just for trivia sake - there are 6570 days in 18 years.  Approximately 3012 of those days your child will spend sleeping, after weekends, there are only 2206 days left - I don't want to give any of those days to anyone else.

To Co-op or Not to Co-op?

Let me first start with the definition, in my opinion, of what a co-op is.  A homeschool co-op is a group of homeschool families that come together on a regular basis - weekly, monthly, etc, to learn, teach, and socialize.  It is a Co-Operative experience.  Meaning that all families must participate in a teaching, assisting, leading and/or cleaning role.  "Many hands make light work", "It takes a village" - use whatever cliche you like - it means generally  the same thing.  

This is different from a "homeschool group".  When I think of a "homeschool group", I simply think of support and random gatherings.  These can be a huge source of help and socialization as well - and may or may not meet on a regular basis.  It could be just a FB homeschool group that you belong to for support and information, or it may be something that you meet with to gain friendships for yourself and your kids.  Homeschool groups don't necessarily include teaching and classes.

Now back to co-op talk.  Every co-op has a different culture - big, small, religious, secular, academic, strictly fun, etc.
It is truly like a big puzzle and your family is one of the pieces.  You try to find the puzzle that your piece fits into.  That does not mean that just because you didn't "fit" into that group that it isn't a good group - just not good for you and your kids.  I know - I have tried several.  We tried two or three groups while living in TN - just couldn't make a good fit.  That was ok - we survived.  Upon moving back to Oregon, we tried a group for a year, it was fine - but just never felt comfortable.  This year we are trying a different group and LOVE IT!!  Seriously - my kids count down the days until classes start again - and they love the get togethers with kids in between sessions.  I enjoy it too - not always the extrovert - I have come to really enjoy talking with the moms and spending time with them.  

Our first term I tried my hand at teaching a class for the first time.  "Learning about Mexico through Art" - Thank you Deep Space Sparkle and Art Projects for Kids.  I enjoyed it so much, that I taught two classes in the next term - Literature and Art and Butterfly Life Cycle.  Of course part of my desire to teach classes initially was to make sure my own kids got classes that they wanted - but now I am just having fun - so I am doing for the enjoyment of it all.

Is a co-op right for you and your family?  Do you have the time in your current schedule?  Do you or your kids need more socialization opportunities?  Are there things like art or science lab that you would like to do OUTSIDE your house?  Weigh the opportunities  - we have been truly blessed by both our co-op, Firmly Planted and our homeschool group - Faith at Home.  

As with anything there are different seasons.  Although we have loved our Firmly Planted co-op, we are feeling the need for a change in the 2017/2018 school year.  What that looks like yet - I don't know - but it is always exciting to investigate new opportunities.  

Do you participate in a co-op?  What has been your experience?