Should We Homeschool?
I remember it almost as if it were yesterday. I wrote a blog post titled “The Heart of Homeschooling” back in March of 2009. It was my announcement to my little blog world that I was about to begin homeschooling My Three Girls. (Which was the name of this blog for quite a while!) Reading it now is so much fun and so rewarding to see how far we have come along in the homeschool journey. In all honesty, I was completely terrified at the idea. We have very academically oriented kiddos and I had all the thoughts that most moms have when contemplating home education. How can I ever give them everything they need? Will I ruin them for life? Will they get behind? How much is enough? Are we doing too much? ….and for the love of all things…. “WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?” Oh how I laugh about that one now.
Now here we are at the end of our homeschool journey. My littlest “Boo” as she has been known on this blog since the beginning, is heading to school this coming fall. We are wrapping up 7th grade here this week and we had our very last homeschool review yesterday with Robin Walker with HCPS, who has been nothing short of fabulous and a huge support system to us through the years. It’s so hard to believe that this chapter of our lives as a family is coming to a close, but we are certainly excited about all that lies ahead!
Looking back at homeschooling as a whole, I have to say that it was probably one of the BEST decisions we made in all our years of parenting. I’m not saying that every kid should be homeschooled. Each kid is so very different. We had MANY years when we had one kid in private school, one kid in public school and one kid in homeschool. There is no one size fits all for every kid, but I WILL say that you CAN homeschool your kids if you feel like you should. I remember how awful the “homework battle” could be each night, and thinking it would be ten times worse if we were to homeschool. I’m so happy to discover that was completely not the case. So much of the homework tears and frustration disappeared once we began homeschooling. Homeschooling is more about a lifestyle than it is about “doing school at home”. Even if you are still tied to a school schedule while having some kids in a traditional school setting, the lifestyle changes spread throughout the family. Relationships strengthen and improve if for no other reason than the simple amount of time you spend together.
As a mom, with the weight of your child’s education on your shoulders, you suddenly become crazy intentional about all the things that make up your child’s environment. For me, it was a deep dive into learning the best ways to not only educate, but to raise beautiful human beings. How to raise these precious babies you are given into productive, functional, kind, giving people who are educated and equipped to do big things in this world. For us, using a combination of classical methods along with Charlotte Mason teaching methods was the perfect fit for our lifestyle and goals in raising children. Charlotte Mason can be easily summarized by her motto “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” – you can read more about that in an earlier blog post I wrote. Educating the whole child – the body, the mind and the spirit should be our goal.
One of the most important things when homeschooling is to have a community or support system in place. While most families like to join homeschool co-ops or other types of groups, we never really found our niche with other homeschool groups. This is totally personal preference and probably based more on our mostly introverted personality types. Plus we didn’t always fit the mold of a typical homeschool family – though what those families look like are quickly changing as more and more are discovering the joys of living the homeschool life! Finding one or two other like-minded homeschool families to journey alongside makes all the difference. There are also SO many online homeschool groups where you develop true friendships, find answers to questions and so much more. My Boo attends live online classes and has classmates from all over the globe!
When I think back to our homeschooling days, the one thing I KNOW I will miss the very most will be our Morning Basket time. This looked different year to year depending on how many kids were home, how old they were, and whether they were in the grammar, logic or rhetoric stage of learning. Mostly, it was our time together spent reading aloud, memorizing poems and scripture, singing together, studying art or music, and all the other beautiful things that don’t necessarily have a place on the typical school schedule. A few years ago I asked all three girls what their favorite books have been through the years. Here is that list – it’s a great resource for planning curriculum, family read-alouds, summer reading or more! We are HUGE book fans around here and I’m not ashamed to admit that we have an entire room in our house dedicated to our family library. This past year in 7th grade our morning read aloud time was mostly spent on this “Emily” series by the same author of the Anne of Green Gables series, L. M. Montgomery. We are looking forward to reading the last book in the series this summer. I think read aloud time will always be a part of our family, even after the homeschool days are over.
We treasure books like we treasure memories, because for us that is what they have become. When those first beautiful days of spring arrive, or the first cool days of autumn and we venture out onto our deck that backs to beautiful woods, we ALWAYS want to read this series in the picture below. The “Among The” series, even though they are directed towards elementary ages, our entire family enjoys them! They are out of print now but can be found on Amazon or a google search sometimes. They are beautiful stories from a century ago that combine clever stories of animals along with the science behind their behaviors while giving great moral guidance! They should be a staple in every child’s growing up years! They are so much fun and can be enjoyed over and over and over again!
I’m a curriculum junkie. There, I admit it. I will desperately miss attending homeschool conferences and conventions. I absolutely LOVED exploring all the options, understanding more about the ways a child’s mind works, how home environment shapes personalities and choosing from the absolute endless array of curriculum options. I will never stop perusing those catalogs that arrive in my mailbox! Once you discover the best ways your child learns, it helps narrow down your methods and curriculum options. I can only speak to what we have had experience with, but for a family who wants to homeschool using classical methods, Charlotte Mason with a Montessori hands on approach, here are my suggestions.
Every year I outline our curriculum for the year here on the blog. I love looking back at the memories, as well as a documentation of everything we accomplished!
7th grade classical curriculum:
HISTORY, LITERATURE, THEOLOGY:
ART & MUSIC:
Bel Air Exploration Art School Homeschool Class – 1st semester
Piano Lessons – 2nd semester
18+ hours per week of ballet, contemporary, modern, pointe, jazz and competition dance team
Boo has found a new passion for piano this year. We have taken piano lessons on and off throughout her homeschool days, but this year she really took off with it. We are so very fortunate to have an incredibly talented neighbor that gives her lessons. Not only is it so convenient, she is probably one of the best around! Finding people within your community to exchange gifts and talents with is one of the beautiful parts of homeschooling. Our brilliant Latin teacher is another one of those gifts! She has given my girl a love for language and grammar through learning Latin that is simply beyond compare. The same goes for the love of music and learning piano.
The Best Reason to Homeschool
So, after ten years of homeschooling, what is my biggest take-away? That would have to be, hands-down – the simple LOVE OF LEARNING that is instilled in your kids. When the chaos of a normal traditional getting-out-the-door-for-school, filled with homework kind of day is stripped away, what is left is the beautiful space where learning is something else entirely. Learning has become a way of life, not something to be checked off the list, not homework that has to be done at the end of a tired and busy day. I myself went to a traditional brick-and-mortar school and once I started homeschooling my kids, I MYSELF discovered a whole new world of learning. When space is given to let them imagine, wonder, create, play and just be kids, learning becomes second nature. This is a foundation you give your kids that they will carry with them throughout all of life. This cannot be taken away, nor can it be quenched. I have seen it happen first hand in my children. My kids who homeschooled longer than my kids who didn’t, their brains function differently. There is more joy in their discoveries, more wonder in tackling new obstacles and ideas, more open-mindedness to other’s opinions, more ease in learning new things.
You don’t have to be a brilliant teacher kind of mom to homeschool your kids, you embark on the journey TOGETHER. You learn and discover together. You put your children in the way of truth, goodness and beauty through beautiful books and engaging lessons. You find the resources that will make their lives beautiful, and let them explore them at their own pace. You come across hard subjects TOGETHER, and you share your views and opinions on them, you look to the word of God for guidance on those subjects, and you create your worldview TOGETHER. You are giving them everything they need to take their place in this world, and to make it a better place. You give them challenging, difficult ideas and subjects and without spoon-feeding them your own ideas or answers, you LET THEM discover the joy of coming to conclusions on their own. This is what true education is and it will serve them for a lifetime.
You momma – yes you. You know your kid better than anyone else. You are perfectly capable of teaching them and creating a life for them that only you can. You taught them how to walk, talk, and use a spoon. You taught them how to share, have compassion and how to do daily chores. You did that by using your God-given motherly instincts and abilities. If you are feeling called to homeschool, I can assure you that it is beyond rewarding for you and your babies. It will be challenging, it will make you a better person, it will make you rise above and sacrifice day after day. It will help you and your kids to see the world differently and make it more beautiful.
Will your kids be weird homeschoolers? Well, maybe. But weird is good, weird is unique, and the weird smart ones who can solve a problem in weird and unique way are the ones that will one day run the world. If getting standardized test results at a 12th grade level while in 7th grade is weird, then I’m okay with weird. Loving to learn may go against the attitude that most kids have these days, but I am SO okay with that. Put your kids in sports and activities that gives them PLENTY of time to be with other kids and exploring new talents and abilities while doing so. Give them the space to be culturally and socially aware, and yes give them a stupid cell phone once they are old enough to handle it. That is how kids socialize today, like it or not. Teach them how to interact in person AND online. Just teach them and love them. Love them through the mistakes they make, and teach them to love others through their mistakes too.
To all the homeschool mommas, cherish up these days with your little ones because they go by in a BLINK. To all the non-homeschool-mommas, it goes by just as fast. No matter how you choose to educate your kids, know you are doing the very best you can for your babies! Just love them and teach them, however you can. Let learning become a lifestyle no matter how you choose to educate them.
Much Love and a Fond Farewell to Homeschooling Days,
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