I’ve been a bit scarce lately, as far as the computer is concerned – only checking and returning emails, and leaving any pure internet pleasure behind, because we started school last Monday. When I logged on today, I read some others’ home school thoughts, and it inspired me to share our story.
My honey and I are from the place that time forgot (not that it’s that way now, but still slow-moving, which is a good thing when you’ve lived in fast-moving places, and a part of us would love to seek shelter from the wind by moving back, but that’s another story). No one home schooled. We had never heard of such a thing. We moved to the big city of Toledo, OH for a couple of years, and in the time we were there, I learned that some people take their child’s education into their own hands. Huh. That’s different. Out of pure curiosity, spurred on by a bit of fear, since my firstborn was 4 and I had no desire to send my baby into the wilds of big-city schools, I checked out a book from the library titled “The Christian Homeschool” by Gregg Harris. I hadn’t planned to read the whole thing, just sort of see what this idea was all about, but I did read the whole thing, and the seed was planted deep. I began talking about it as something I would like to know more about, and maybe even do. My husband was not at all interested. He was of the “throw them out and let them learn to swim” philosophy (not with swimming, LOL, but with school). But my son was only 4, so there was time for me to learn more, and time for God to work on my honey, so I sought out more information, mostly from the library, and asking questions, as we did not have internet at the time.
We ended up moving from the cold, northern big city, back to the bluegrass, but still far from “home” and still in what we called a big city, although it didn’t seem quite so big after where we’d been. Although I had enough information and confidence to run with the home school thing when my son became the age at which the government feels they should be corralled into the classroom, my husband was still vehemently opposed, believing that we would be “sheltering” him from reality, and that there was no way I could do it, because I was not a teacher! I prayed for God to change his heart and open doors for me, and I enrolled him in Kindergarten with a heavy heart and didn’t do very well hiding my broken heart as he left me each day to spend most of his day with strangers. Little sister was confused and clung to him from the moment he got home until bedtime. We all survived, visiting the classroom often and going to all the class parties and field trips. He quickly became the star pupil to the good teacher, and had her half the day the next year, when first grade and second grade spent half the day together. God did open doors – of revelation to my husband – that maybe this could work, and my prayers were answered when he agreed just before Christmas break to let me “try it for a year”. He was quite surprised and a bit irritated/amused, when I pulled our son out of school at the break and began immediately after the holidays. (He says he meant the “next” year.) So was the teacher, who said, “Oh, not in the middle of the year….he’s my example for the rest of the students!” Although disappointed, she understood what I was trying to do, and offered herself as a source of whatever help she could be, as did the principal of the school. We visited the class often and still went to all the parties, in order to ease my son into a different type of schooling. God was definately in control of this! I was scared and excited and full of ideas and expectations, and it went very well. I went through several curriculums before I found a perfect fit, and I still make adjustments to it as I find components that I like to add or replace parts of our core. We have tried Christian Liberty Press, Bob Jones, Alpha Omega, all which just seemed to feel like moving a classroom style learning into your home, which is not at all what I was looking for. We finally discovered Sonlight, and a love affair was sparked. We love the philosophy, approach to teaching/learning, the style of organizing (like a more structured unit-study) and the piles and piles of books. I quickly realized that I was born a home schooler! I had taught my son, by way of simply spending time playing and showing him things as we did life, more before he entered Kindergarten than he learned while there!
Needless to say, my husband came around full circle. He was duly impresssed by the progress we made in every area, and supports the whole idea completely, now!
My daughter had never seen the inside of a classroom until recently, when a friend who is a public middle school teacher, asked if she’d like to go help her get her classroom ready (cleaning desks, emptying files, bulletin board, etc.). She was interested, and enjoyed the experience.
We use a more structured approach than some, but it is what works for us. This year, we get up at 7:30 (I do make exceptions when we need more rest) eat breakfast, feed the pets, get dressed, and get started. On days that I run, I leave them to the morning routine, and they responsibly carry on. I insist that they do their least favorite (anything that includes sitting at a table and writing) first, and save their favorite subjects/activities for last, when concentration, motivation and energy are waning. This (delight-directed study) I learned from Gregg Harris, in that first book I read so long ago.
This year, my 8th grader is using Sonlight for Bible Study, History, Reading, and Literature. He is also using Keys to Geometry and Keys to Algebra, Sequential Spelling, Apologia Physical Science, and a pick-and-choose (I choose) approach with writing from leftover projects in Wordsmith Apprentice and Writing Strands until I get The Complete Writing Program, which I’m ordering this week.
My 4th grader is using Sonlight for Bible Study, History, Reading, Read-Alouds, Grammar Ace (which uses the Schoolhouse Rock videos!) and some Science. We are also using The Weather Book by Michael Oard, Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, Sequential Spelling, Hooked On Math, Serl’s Primary Laguage Lessons and will also use The Complete Writing Program when it arrives.
Like most home school families, we are never really “done” with school, or are “off”, even though we do use the terms in reference to the book work. We teach our kids constantly, never ceasing, simply by being parents, and lovers of learning ourselves.
Both kids are extremely social, playing rec department sports, and taking private lessons in something when an interest arises, and confidently taking part in any social gathering they encounter, whether they know someone involved-or not! Both of them have always been comfortable walking up to new kids and jumping in with a “Wanna play?” and introducing themselves. Now, they certainly did not get this from me, and since I am very quiet in unfamiliar circles, and rarely introduce myself, their social skills are proof that home school does not hinder a child’s social abilities! I believe that is simply an individual trait that is God-given. I’m not sure if it came from the Gregg Harris book or not, but I remember a quote that I read once, that said something like “Socialization is not sticking a child in a group of peers at their same ignorance level.” How true! We become socialized by interacting and learning from all age groups!
I am truly blessed to live in a country where freedom is a common expectation, and individuality is embraced.