Sunday, May 17, 2009

Homeschooling a large family

As a mother of 10 children, ages 32 to 1, I have been homeschooling for 18 years. My first two children spent some time in the public school system before they began to homeschool. Three of my children spent a couple of years in a Mennonite church school before I decided to take them out and continue to homeschool them. The others have or hopefully will be totally homeschooled.
My oldest son was totally homeschooled until he went to college. He took the SAT and made a 790 on the verbal section, which put him in the top 1 percent of test takers. He had a 4.0 grade average at the community college he attended and graduated from there Summa Cum Laude, then transferred to Georgetown University in Washington DC, where he also interned at the White House. He scored 170 on the LSAT, which also put him in the top 1 percent, and is now attending law school at the University of Virginia.
My third son took the THEA at 16 years of age, and was admitted into college also. My second daughter took a test in junior high school, and the principal of the well known Christian school where she took the test told me she had scored as high as he had ever seen anyone score. This same daughter took the GED and scored high enough to earn a small scholarship.

These results make me feel like my method of homeschooling was successful, if it was unconventional!

When a parent begins homeschooling, they often meet with MUCH opposition, and they can be a little insecure. They will likely overbuy curriculum, feeling like they need almost everything they see. They may try and structure their homeschool like the public school system, whose efforts at educating children can be questionable, at best, these days. What a homeschooling parent needs to understand is that they know their child and their child’s learning ability better than anyone, and they should trust their instincts in teaching them.

When we began to homeschool, I used all the textbooks, tests, and everything else I felt like the school system would use to educate my children. I spent quit a lot of money, only to struggle with my children’s different learning styles. One child learned very quickly on just about any curriculum I used. Another one I soon discovered had some learning disabilities and struggled with reading, while doing very well in math. Still another needed my constant coaching to stay on course. All the while, I was pregnant or nursing and had little ones at my knees.

I struggled on, but soon had a big case of burnout. I was determined however, to continue to homeschool. I learned when this burnout came, it was almost essential to change the way we did things to make learning more interesting not only for my children, but also for me! We decide to school only four days a week, and make the fifth day a ‘field trip’ day. I bought yearly museum passes and zoo passes. We went to the library and any other place I could find that I felt like would be a learning experience for us. Many people asked me if I made my children write reports when we came home from these outings, but my answer was NO!! I wanted them to look forward to doing these things, not dread the report writing when we came home.
I subscribe to children’s Christian type science magazines. Nature’s Friend magazine is a good one for this. I picked up old National Geographic magazines at library sales. Library sales were also good places to buy all kinds of history and science books that were not textbooks, but just interesting for my children to read.

The longer I homeschooled, the less textbooks I bought. While we had a TV – which we no longer do – I would rent classic movies for the children to watch, and then, I would buy the books for them to read. This stirred their interest in reading some of these harder books. My children were avid readers, however, so getting them to read was never hard, and they soon learned when we were out shopping, if I wouldn’t buy them a toy, they could always talk me into buying them books. I would not buy them the popular children’s books of the day most of the time, however. No Goosebumps books or babysitting club books, certainly not Harry Potter, we read the old classics. I looked for good character building books, books that had good morals and good work ethics. Books where children obeyed their parents and families were usually intact. I also read to my children during our school time.

I did not allow our school hours to drag on all day. School in our house lasted two hours. I was blessed, though, with children who wanted to hurry up and get school over with so they could get to the more appealing things to do with their time. Sometimes I would get up in the morning to find my older children already doing their school so they could have the day free. One thing that helped was that I made sure they DID have interesting things to do in their spare time. We were blessed to live in a country setting. My children had animals to raise and play with, and they also had access to dirt, trees, rocks, bikes, sand piles, swings, bugs, and a mother who cringed quietly in the house while they played with these things. One son was crazy about lizards, and we decorated his room in camouflage, bamboo, and cages, where he raised a zoos worth of different lizards. Another son was interested in cowboys, and his room was painted blue like the sky and I used actually weathered fencing to panel the walls. Barbed wire and cowboy hats hung on his walls. I feel like all these things sparked their interest in life and learning in general. My sons were supplied with real tools, and allowed to use them. My daughters were allowed to cook, to learn handwork where they were interested, and any other activities they liked. One daughter took acting lessons. Another one plays the violin. Two sons play the guitar. I’d really like to get a piano someday.

Years into my homeschooling, I was told that I use the Charlotte Mason method of schooling. I didn’t know what that meant, so I looked it up, and found that sure enough, there was actually a name to what I had been doing all along by instinct. This past year, I finally splurge on the Robinson curriculum and have been very thrilled with printing and finding the more than 250 books available with that curriculum.

Homeschooling does not have to be hard, boring, or time consuming. Children naturally have a love of learning. If the parents will seek to build on that, they can have great success and a lot of fun with their families, and still have time to do the other duties that call a homeschooling mother, namely, cooking and cleaning!!

1 comment:

  1. Very inspirational. This is how we run our homeschool. We are just starting out but it is nice to see other people out there who are making it happen by unlearning.


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