I can’t believe it’s been a year since I wrote my first post about our plans to homeschool. My beautiful oldest daughter just finished her kindergarten year after being in a wonderful homeschool co-op at the Christian school I worked for. It really feels like the time just flew by…sort of.
During this year we definitely had our struggles and battles. There were those moments that seasoned homeschooling parents warned me about where I questioned why in the world I decided to homeschool. Some days I really felt that we were just doing work- worksheets, workbooks, assignment after assignment- to keep up with the co-op schedule. Many times I was bored yet stressed, and so was my daughter, and that meant complaining, arguing and frustration all around. All I could think was “at least in a full-time classroom with other kids doing all this work would be fun! Am I doing the right thing?!”
I started to question our decision to homeschool…and that’s when everything changed!
I began to really dive into the world of homeschooling- unlike I had really done before. When we started last fall I felt strongly led by God to homeschool, but didn’t really understand “the world of homeschooling”. I was comfortable with doing the co-op, and considered it to be the perfect option for us. It was an established way to blend “regular” school and homeschooling and it was all laid out for me. “The best of both worlds” I would say.
Over the past few months I have discovered that the “world of homeschooling” is a vast, complex world with overwhelming diversity. There are so many STYLES of homeschooling. Most families naturally lean toward certain styles based on what works best for them, and often blend different styles, so it is true when people say that every family homeschools differently. Different homeschooling style examples are: classical, co-op, public curriculum, in-home classrooms, unit studies or unschooling.
Yes, homeschooling was still the right choice for us…but what STYLE?
After only a little bit of time diving deeper into the world of homeschooling, the Lord definitely confirmed that homeschooling was still the right choice for us, but maybe I needed to put WAY more effort into it. (Really, God? More? I’m pregnant with #3 and our first year was crazy enough! You want me to put MORE into it?)
When I read this post on unschooling from Weed ‘Em & Reap things started changing rapidly for me. I felt a rush of new inspiration for homeschooling but anxiety over the way we were currently doing things. In other words, I began to realize that the way we were trying to homeschool was not right for our family, even though we were part of a great program. My motivating passion for homeschooling had always been to keep a desire to learn alive in my children. So many teenagers see graduation as being “released from prison”, and it seems that most teenagers learn a lot- or enough to pass- but don’t have a life passion or direction once they are “free”. I want my children to always remain excited about learning and following their life passions. I also want my children to have a universal awareness and a desire for (and hopefully experience in) mission work locally and around the world. I soon began to deeply believe that interest-led learning is the style we need to accomplish all of these goals.
Take it to the Lord in Prayer
I began to pray fervently for God to guide us in making decisions for our future in homeschooling. Very soon God was answering my prayers very clearly and leading our family life in a drastically different direction. On a Monday I told the homeschool co-op director that I had our re-enrollement check ready to turn in for first grade, but by that Friday we were almost sure that we were not going to return to the co-op style of homeschooling. Only a few weeks later we believe the Lord confirmed to my husband and I that I needed to quit my job after the school year ended. I LOVED my job teaching high school performing arts. Working with high schoolers was such a blessing and I had been led so strongly to this ministry over the past few years. But with a third baby coming and all these new decisions we made about homeschooling, it was clear that working part time as a teacher could no longer fit into our life. It was bittersweet to let go of that position, but I also have total peace that it was the right decision. (By the way, this decision meant losing 1/3 of our income…and we need every penny of our regular income to meet our monthly budget and aren’t certain where that money will come from. But we know from experience that where the Lord guides, He provides!)
The biggest lessons I learned
I’m not saying I know everything. I’m still a TOTAL BEGINNER, but these are the most important lessons about homeschooling I’ve learned this year:
- Homeschooling is a calling. It’s not for everyone, but for those who are called there isn’t a “right” way to homeschool.
- I should feel empowered by homeschooling, not defeated. Not every day is going to be a good day, but we need to follow the homeschooling style that works for US, and not just copy the style that another family follows. The part-time/co-op style of homeschooling didn’t work for us. That felt like we were just going a lot of homework on at-home days and actually gave us less freedom than we needed.
- There are a lot of people that have disdain for homeschoolers. Even though they wouldn’t say it to your face (though some do), they make it clear that they believe you’re going to destroy your child.
- People can say really annoying things like “How do you socialize your kid?” or “I know people that homeschool so that they don’t have to get up in the morning.” Then there are the teachers and education-system-loving people who would very kindly ask me, “Awww, you’re really going to homeschool again next year?” or something like that, as if they expected us to realize how foolish we are and come to our senses and get into “normal school”.
- I’ve discovered the horrors of “Common Core” and am so glad I’m not going to let my kids be dumbed down to this horrid level of public education. I know if I weren’t homeschooling and my kids were in public school, I would surely feel the need to homeschool them on weeknights and weekends to make sure they were reaching their potential. (*I’m part of Facebook groups that are against Common Core and actively post political information where voting and action from citizens is needed. Even if you aren’t in the public system, it’s important to fight against this if you want to save our country from a federally mandated education system, which is unconstitutional and I believe will destroy our nation.)
- While we participate in a ton of social activities with other people every week- church, play dates, fun with other homeschooling families, dance, sports, etc.- I don’t want my kids to be “socialized” by their peers and the culture we live in. The “socialization” question is seriously the most annoying and ridiculous argument against homeschooling that there is! In my experience, homeschooled teenagers and young adults are uniquely able to manage intelligent and mature conversations with adults, as opposed to other kids who have spent most of their childhood only with their peers of the same age. This is not always the case, but to me the difference is apparent and significant.
- I’ve met so many families with the most amazingly respectful, intelligent, driven and passionate teenagers that leave me thinking, “how can my kids end up like that?”. Guess what they all have in common? They have been homeschooled their whole life! I’m not saying you have to be homeschooled to have these qualities, but it is clear to me that my observation is not just coincidence.
- I read this book called “One Million Arrows” which ignited a deeper passion in me for homeschooling and confirmed to my husband and I that God is the one leading us down the road we’re on, even though it takes sacrifice and more effort. I highly recommend this book for Christian families hoping to disciple their children in a life focused on serving Jesus with passion.
- I have fallen more in love with the concept of homeschooling now and am SO excited to move forward with the freedom of interest-led learning.
So here we are. My oldest is a “first grader”, but we aren’t taking a summer vacation and beginning first grade when everyone else starts school. We are no longer “schooling” but we are learning year-round as a natural part of life. When we have busy activities (like summer camps, having a baby, etc.) our home learning load is lightened to match what’s going on. I am coming up with monthly or weekly “themes” that are relevant to life events and relate to what my kids are most interested in. There are so many resources available for homeschooling that it takes very little effort to come up with more than enough ideas based on the theme that address all areas of education (Bible, history, math, science, grammar, reading, handwriting, etc.).
I’m hoping to post our monthly school-at-home ideas and plans. This is kind of the “Unit Study” approach to homeschooling. You can find those posts here.
While I still want to follow different curricula that I like and make sure my kids are learning important age-appropriate skills and lessons as they grow, it just makes so much more sense to start with the flexibility of interest-led learning, or even “unschooling”. I plan to always ensure that my homeschooled kids are learning everything “normal school” kids are learning (and much more) to ensure that I keep all doors of opportunity open for them- be it medical school, Bible college, or being a stay at home mom. Like I said, full time homeschooling is going to take a LOT more time and effort from me, but I think it is the best decision for my children and our family! I don’t want to let the next 20+ years fly by without intention and purpose, and I definitely don’t want to put my kids’ entire lives in the hands of “the system”.
As I come across a curriculum that I like, we’ll incorporate it. I love working through math workbooks and am obsessed with the Logic of English system for reading, writing and grammar. I’m not forcing it, though, and I’m not going to fight over getting a worksheet done.
*I’m a strong parent…I don’t let me kids get out of things because they don’t want to do it. If a lesson needs to be learned or an assignment of sorts has to get done, I will make sure it gets done. I’m just committing to a style of learning that avoids the struggles that destroy a child’s desire to learn. For instance, I hate to think of all the families who spend their evenings- the only time they have together during the week days- fighting over homework getting done and waiting for a few hours on a weekend to spend quality time together.
I’ll keep you updated on how things work out for us. The best part of being a homeschooler is that I’m not alone. I have a “real” fellowship of homeschooling families through my church as well as thousands of homeschoolers I’m connected with online- both local and distant. That support is empowering and encouraging. I hope this post has offered you a feeling of empowerment and encouragement!
If you’re a homeschooler I’d love to hear your thoughts. I find that support and advice from other homeschooling families is so valuable and encouraging!
PS: All of these photos are taken from field trips. I’m excited about having more freedom to take more field trips because these were wonderful learning experiences for all of us!