Homeschooling...then and now

To understand the now, we must look back at the then.

What does homeschooling look like in our family? Not surprisingly it is probably different than everyone else's day. The curriculum choices may be different...our family dynamics are probably different...our homes are equipped differently...our children's abilities, interests and personalities are different...our schedules, I am sure are different...our methods are different. What a beautifully unique picture every homeschooling family can portray ~ each one reflective of who they are, their experiences, beliefs and spiritual gifts, skills and talents.

Why do we homeschool? Well, I must say we were not Christians when we began homeschooling. We were parents to only one child way back then and simply desired to do what we believed was best for him. It was heartbreaking when the time came to send our son to kindergarten...I put on a good front for his sake, but inside I was little boy, going away from home for most of the day five days a week. Hard.

He was reading when he entered kindergarten, knew his numbers and colors and other things that some kids were just learning. We thought maybe first grade would be different, so another year later, more of the same. It seemed like a repeat of kindergarten. The teacher needed to teach to the norm...the students that excelled were bored (Zach, which manifested in being talkative because he finished his work quickly) and the students that struggled had to fight to keep up...God bless teachers and all they are trying to accomplish (a whole other topic). A hard place for a classroom of over 20 students. We strongly pushed for testing for the gifted program...but that could not happen until third grade. Oh my, I thought...two more years. So, as a way of them working with us, Zach was able to go over (with a small group of 4-5 other students) to the second grade class during reading time.

Well, that may have helped a little with the reading issue, but it did not solve other the negative influence of behavior and habits that he would come home sharing. What were we to do? Well, because we were not Christians, homeschooling was not something we had ever heard of...until his first season of soccer. His coach was a home school dad...and a Christian. He had our family over (he and his wife) and shared with us about homeschooling and the Christian homeschool support group they led. We were thrilled to learn of another option for teaching our son...but the Christian homeschool group ~ not for us. (If we only knew how the Lord was leading us back then.)

Wanting to seek counsel from those we valued opinions from, we went to his teacher and to the teacher he worked under for the "school's post office"...we spoke with our parents (both my husband's and mine) and of course, we spoke with Zach (funny, looking back now). Zach was excited, we were excited, our family was non-supportive (we were not "qualified" to teach) and the teachers said he was a social child who "needed" the socialization...what does socialization have to do with academics? Besides, a public school setting in a classroom of 20-30 other same-aged peers is not a very well rounded setting. He would need to get along with people of all ages in the "real world", we thought. Furthermore, who loved our child and desired more for our child than his own parents? (Remember, these were OUR reasons and may not reflect yours or other homeschoolers or non-homeschoolers.)

So, against the grain, we withdrew Zach and began our 'adventure' to homeschooling...loving it! That was over 14 years ago with Zach having graduated from 'home learning' in 2008 with some college already under his belt, graduating from the local college this past May with a 4.0 and his AA degree and now working on a dual major at another college these next two years, Lord willing, majoring in political science and economics.

When we started homeschooling, we only had Zach and Austin (who was by my side practically every moment until he was 5 ~ making teaching very easy). We took lots of field trips, read a lot together, played lots of learning games, I wrote his curriculum until 5th grade using the library and workbooks and hands-on activities set around themes...unit studies. When it was time for Austin to enter "school" (age 6 in our state) we had no other thought of how he would home. Now, five other children are part of our family dynamics...all of whom we plan to homeschool (3 of which are currently being homeschooled).

Each year our schedule changes to accommodate our growing family, learning styles, interests and needs in our family...all the while learning happens...academics, yes, but even more important things like character, ministering to others, real life opportunities. I love seeing the delight for learning that takes place when they find something that interests them and they can't learn enough...from history (Civil War, armed forces, the history of our country, Presidents, etc.) to musical instruments (guitar, keyboard, cello, recorder, lap harp) to more hands-on learning (cooking, archery, construction, gardening, etc.). We desire to provide a rich learning environment with opportunities to visit the places they learn about or do what they have read and find interest in.

The Youth Orchestra playing during the Youth Music Festival being directed by the gifted music director, Mr. May ~ we miss him...

A tour of the US Air Force Museum...
guided by a very knowledgeable OH...
Another visit to the Creation Museum in KY...
4-H Archery Camp...

We use a variety of curriculum to fit their learning styles and our family's needs. As they get older and have higher education needs we have the blessing to utilize various resources from video curriculum, online classes or even dual enrollment at the local state college (when and if it is right for that child). Co-operative learning and field trips and private instruction are rich supplements that enhance our children's learning.
Unlike then (14 years ago), the Lord has saved us and our further desire to teach our children truth is now an integral part of "why" they should learn anything. It is the desire to "do all to the glory of God".

Our typical day includes academics like mathematics (from 2nd grade through Algebra), reading (beginning readers to reading the classics), science (through experiments, various curriculums and observation), history (reading from original documents, biographies and other lessons), Bible (Scripture memorization and lessons from Bible curriculum), language arts (poetry, writing, grammar, spelling), geography, state history, thematic studies (like the US Constitution, biographical studies on people such as Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, presidents, missionaries, etc.) and so much more.

Our learning doesn't stop at just the academics though. There are real life skills being learned like cooking, budgeting and managing bank accounts, home managing skills and maintenance, caring for others (important character skills: learning to get along with others, to lend a helping hand, to show compassion and tenderness to the sick or hurt, etc.), responsibility and work ethic (through chores, doing odd jobs well and completely, going above and beyond what is expected, being dependable by keeping one's word, etc.).

Making lunch...

We continue to learn about history, science and geography when visiting different locations on our field trips (re-enactments, docent programs at museums, marine and science centers, state/national parks, etc.). We document this learning by creating books or scrapbooks and journaling about what has been learned.

A trip to Fort Matanzas where re-enactors
made history come alive

Read alouds are another special time of learning our younger children enjoy. Sometimes they will illustrate pictures of what I read, as I read. This is a great way to help with comprehension and retention. I have even scanned some of their illustrations in the past, then had them dictate (if they were too young to write) or write captions under their pictures and created a book which they bound.

We have enjoyed participating in and hosting various learning events including other families with us such as creating "family heritage albums" and manners/etiquette classes to lapbooking classes on different themes/people and oral presentation events.

A wonderful luncheon to complete the two day training in the
Young Lady in Me class...
A Victorian Scrapbook class we hosted to commemorate the
Young Lady in Me class the month earlier...
The scrapbooks that each girl created during our class...

The days as a homeschooling parent are full and the work is not easy...however, anything worthy is usually not easy. We have our times of tears (sometimes from frustration and other times for laughing so hard), our times of setbacks (maybe due to illness or ministering to sick family, neighbors or friends...but that's learning of another kind for us), our times of struggle (maybe a concept just doesn't click...guess what, we can slow down if we need to, look for "another way to teach" it that may make more sense or maybe wait until they are ready in their ability and understanding level instead of plowing through it) ~ but these situations are great opportunities for growth in other areas, be it character or relationships.

For us, being able to teach, direct and provide opportunities for our children to learn and to grow not only in knowledge, but Lord willing, truth is an abundant blessing and I believe, a high calling. One for which I am thankful to have the right to do in this country...for us, learning is living ~ the two are intertwined and the foundation is truth and our hope is in the grace found there.

Because of Him and for His glory ~

Linked to

Winding Down the Week...and a Review of Our Curriculum Choices, too

Winding down our first week…at the beginning there were tears, frustration and tension. I think with all the responsibilities of this season of life (and we all experience and bare it differently) coupled with the desire (and my internal added pressure on myself) to start back was too much. Maybe it was the fact that when we take our eyes off Christ and can only see the "circumstances" it seems very overwhelming. Ever been there?

Then the questions start to come and worry takes can I manage it all? Will these choices be profitable? Is the schedule going to be feasible and will we all be able to keep on track? What happens when things change and the days ahead are difficult? All of these questions take our eyes off Christ and become our focus. Staying there is never good so a renewing of the mind must take place. What is that? Being in the word and taking every thought captive.

The scriptures that helped me and continue to are:

~ Romans 8:1 ~ There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4:6-7 ~ Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~ Romans 5:3 ~More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

~ Matthew 6:34 ~ Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

~ Romans 8:37 ~ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

So, after a challenging start to our week, I say we are finishing better...praise the Lord. The children are adjusting to using some new curriculum selected for this year and are doing well with it. Our schedule has not really needed any tweaking yet, although Zach will be starting his college classes next week, so we'll see a fuller picture then.

Alyssa is very familiar with ABeka, as it is her 3rd year using ABeka academy. ABeka has a great reading/phonics program which has given all our children a wonderful foundation for reading. Their curriculum is colorful which makes it interesting for young children. The reading books are filled with good stories and character lessons, the poetry and Scripture memorization has always been solid…no need to change what’s working, especially since it fits right into this season of life.

Graham (and Kailynn) is joining in with her on some of the lessons…Bible being one of them. Since Bible is first thing in the morning they are able to participate before little ones are laid down for morning naps. I love that the Bible truths are presented with colorful visuals (when applicable), Scripture time, prayer and songs.

Both Logan and Austin are using Switched on Schoolhouse curriculum this year. Several quizzes have been completed already and projects (essay type assignments) have been started. This program is different from our usual methods, but once again, our seasons of life requires some alteration and praise the Lord we have those options available as homeschoolers!

I am fairly pleased so far with the flow of things, the presentation of the materials being taught and the integration of writing into the curriculum. My concern was that they would lose writing skills since this is a computer based program. In conjunction with using SOS, I was able to add non-SOS curriculum to their computer lesson plans, which fills in gaps we believe were important to maintain.

When I asked what they liked about SOS, they said:
  • Austin ~ “The extra Spelling Bee (an extra supplement game) has helped me improve my spelling.”
  • Austin ~ “I like that I don’t have a lot of books to have to store and that I can see my grade right away when I finish my assignments.”
  • Logan ~ “I like everything…History and Geography are probably my favorites. I like the facts and maps in my lessons.”

When asked what they didn’t like about SOS, they said:
  • Austin ~ “I wish the lessons were audio too so that you could follow along in the lesson as the lesson is read aloud. I do like that the vocabulary words can be clicked on to have them pronounced, though, because it helps.”
  • Austin ~ “I don’t like that sometimes it marks answers wrong when I may have just misspelled a word or answered in a different tense, but I am glad that I can send Mom a message so she can check it and override it if necessary.”
  • Logan ~ “It makes me have to type a lot more than I am used to, but I think I will get better at it.”

As the parent/teacher using SOS, I would say that I like:
  • That most of the grading is done for me (with exception of essay answers, writing assignments, additional curriculum lessons I have added that are not SOS).
  • That the children can move on with their assignments when I am not immediately available (whether it’s due to working with one of the other children or taking care of the three little ones) and that they can send me a message (like email within the SOS system) when they have a question, need me to check an answer that may have been scored incorrectly or to let me know they mistyped causing it to be graded wrong…once again, they are not “waiting” for me, but can send the message and continue with their work.
  • In comparison to other “boxed curriculums”, SOS is on the computer therefore there are not books to have to store (student or teacher books) which makes keeping things orderly easy.

As the parent/teacher using SOS, I would say some of the things I dislike are:
  • The sensitivity to what/how the student types the answer (although the settings can be adjusted somewhat, there have been several times this week I have had to go back in to override the computer’s grading of an answer).
  • The limited amount of written work, since everything is answered on the computer lessons. I am used to having notebooks full of schoolwork with many papers from the children during the course of the year to manage. This is a pro and con. To make sure that there is “proof” of the student’s tangible work, I have altered some areas within SOS to accommodate this such as, having them write out their essays versus typing them and adding other curriculum to their overall year that are not SOS resources, such as lapbooks which will include a lot of writing and creativity.
  • The time they are on the computer, so with scheduling I tried to block times in between their SOS times that are not on the computer…copywork, instrument practices, silent reading, etc…to break it up a bit.

Well, that’s an overview of our week and our curriculum choices for this year (at least the major ones). I am looking forward to what the Lord has in store for our year of learning and thankful for the flexibility of making alterations when necessary.

Blessings as you seek to glorify the Lord this week ~

Thanks Darcy for this week's post

School Preparations

Every year summer seems to be the time I utilize for planning, organizing and preparing for the next “school year”. I tend to make a list of areas that need to be focused on, along with redoing my meal plan 5 week rotation schedule (for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack & dinner), creating a new AM/PM chore chart, lesson plans and daily family schedule (which is always needing much tweaking each year…nursing babies, changing “seasons of life”, activities and college classes to factor in).

I have tried to utilize my spare moments and time gifted...“Dad taking the kids out for a while”... to organize and tackle some of the more involved projects.

Here’s what I’ve been busy doing "in between life" these days to help prepare for our upcoming school year…which is coming way TOO fast:

Cleaning out, purging and organizing our school closet
(All school supplies are sorted through and labeled, all curriculums have been re-evaluated, sorted by subject and shelves labeled, game & puzzle boxes repaired then returned to nicely cleaned shelves…sure feels good when things are in order and easily located.)

Computer programs have been loaded and lessons are soon to be done
(We are venturing down a new curriculum road this year, as our season of life requires it…the two older boys will be using Switched on Schoolhouse {along with a few lapbook studies to compliment the SOS lessons} and ABeka video again for Alyssa…we try to do the first three years of school using ABeka – excellent phonics/reading program)

Meal planning and chore charts complete…wahoo!

Lots of books and learning materials pulled to be donated, shared and sold (in the future…) which makes room for the materials we will use this year and future ones.

Cleaned out and organized the kitchen pantry
(This makes meal preparations and food shopping trips to be simplified…keeping things in order saves money and time.)

Cleaning out closets and dresser drawers/baskets
(With 9 people living in less than 2000 square feet, every inch counts – besides my children seem to be growing by leaps and bounds (they are good eaters) – so this needs to be done almost quarterly…back-to-school time seems like the perfect time to do it again.)

Setting up school bins for each child to hold this year’s books, supplies and portfolio

Well, that is a glimpse at some of my preparations for this upcoming year. Still much to fit in before we start our first day on the 16th, Lord willing…on to working on my daily schedule and then lesson plans.

Praying to “start well” and “finish well”…will require God’s grace, my consistency and diligence and my children’s teachable spirit and will to do things thoroughly and completely…a good attitude will go a long way, too.

Blessings as you plan and prepare your upcoming year ~

Link your Home Organization post over at Living Peacefully Less Stressed