Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homeschool with Confidence

 When I began to homeschool twenty years ago, I knew I was doing the right thing, but at the same time I was unsure exactly how to do it.  It was fearful, new territory, and a lot of people criticized my choice to teach my children myself.  I did not want to fail at this.

While making sure my children got a good education was a goal, my main reason for homeschooling was that I wanted to raise moral, born again Christians, and after having exposed my first two children to public schools, and even private Christian schools, I had learned that while some children thrive in that environment, the biggest number of children don’t.
Many parents who sent their children to public school told me they wanted their children to be missionaries, to be a light in the darkness.  But how do we expect young children to do what is hard for adults to do?  Jesus trained his own disciples for three years, and then sent them out in twos.  The Bible says “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”  (1 Corinthians 15:33)  It also tells us that “he who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”  (Proverbs 13:20) We can’t let the enemy fool us that it’s the other way around. 
Let’s train our children first, and when we are sure they are well grounded, then send them out to be missionaries.  The time we spend with the unsaved should be in the context of saving their souls, not joining them with our guard down.  Jesus spent much time with sinners, but when he wanted to relax, he took his disciples and went out on a boat or up into the mountains.

While I felt confident about teaching the moral part, I wasn’t as sure of myself about teaching the “three R’s”.  I had barely passed quite a few subjects during my own schooling.  I truly had not liked school.  How was I going to not only instill a love of learning in my children, but also learn to like teaching something I had never enjoyed or excelled in as a child?

I was quite surprised when I took my second daughter out of the sixth grade at a pricey Christian school, and found that she could not tell me what a noun or a verb was.  She had always made very good grades. 
Maybe this wasn’t going to be as hard as I thought.

And it wasn’t.  And then again, it was.  In the beginning, I tried to imitate the way public and private schools taught.  We had lots of expensive textbook for every subject.  I thought I had to make sure my children completed them.  We struggled through a couple of years, and I burned out quickly.

The burnout was what saved us.  I was still determined that even if my children never learned another thing, I would not send them back to a public school.  So I began to rework my thinking.  Number one, I had to know that I was not only a homeschooling mother, but I was also the mother of babies and toddlers, and they needed my time and attention, too. I also had a house to care for, meals to cook, laundry to wash, and groceries to buy.  So I decided that our formal school day would only last two hours.  If my children were balking at finishing up their work, then something was wrong.  They were not enjoying learning, and if it was taking them all hours of the day to finish up their assignments, they were probably not really learning anything, either.  
Did they really have to struggle through a dry grammar book once they had the basics?  Wouldn’t they learn to speak and write well by the example of quality reading?  Was it necessary that they trudged through boring history books and take tests, when there were amazing novels and biographies to be read?  Couldn’t the library, nature magazines, National Geographic magazines, the museum, Botanic Gardens, and our own small farm take the place of Science textbooks? 
I soon found many more profitable ways of teaching my children than slaving over textbooks.

It took years, but my fruit finally began to show to the people who were so sure I was ruining my children, and that they would never amount to anything because I had sheltered and homeschooled them.  My first child, who only spent a couple of years homeschooling, is a paralegal and has also gone on to homeschool her own children.  My second daughter is a stay at home mother who has not homeschooled, but has children in gifted programs in the schools they attend.  My third child, and the first one who was totally homeschooled, just finished law school at the University of Virginia and is off to Japan in October with a full scholarship for an advanced law degree.  My fourth child works in an organic butcher shop.  My fifth child was accepted into the University of Texas in Austin and completed a year there, although, for various reasons, is not going back this fall.  My sixth child, who is not quite 18 years old, is going to the local community college as a high school student.  My seventh child, a girl, is still homeschooling, excelling in spelling, writing and photography, and a child I get many compliments on for her ladylike appearance and demeanor.  Refreshing is a word people often use to describe her.  My eighth and nineth children are just starting to homeschool and my littlest one will start in a couple of years.    I expect them to flourish, too.

In the Bible, God tells his people often to “be strong, and of good courage.”  As a homeschool veteran with nearly twenty years and several grown children under her belt, I want to encourage others who are just starting out with the same words.  The Lord is on your side.  The Bible assures us in Galatians 6:7 that we will reap what we sow, and verse 9 says if we do not give up, we will reap a harvest.
Sow good things into your child, sow bravely, sow deliberately, sow without growing weary, and you can enjoy the harvest.  It will take time, but it WILL happen, and it will be well worth it.

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