As we’ve gone to and fro about what is best for our children for next year (we of course re-evaluate every year what will be best for each child for the year ahead), I’ve been reflecting on WHY we homeschool and really WHY it’s a hard option to top.
We’ve had our experiences with all schooling types–Rico Suave and I went to public school, and we turned out okay (kind of). I will say though that the hardest things I ever went through were through my public school experiences–and while they did shape me–to be honest, I think they caused more pain but more room for me to see the Lord later bring redemption and restoration. I went to college to actually become a public school teacher, and I graduated with an education degree specializing in language arts for grades 7-12. I had the JOY of teaching public school for 4 years before my mommy days–and I was the nerd teacher that went to all the conferences for the school and trained teachers. (The fact that *I* was the one chosen to train teachers is a little scary I tell you;) But in that season I thrived on the brain seminars and studies–and willingly volunteered to go to each and every one. I am, obviously, NOT against public school. For some, this IS the best option for their children just as private school and homeschooling is the best option for others.
Now let me say–I NEVER thought I’d homeschool. In the small town in Alabama where I’m from–homeschooling just seemed weird. That was my perception growing up anyway. I mean…seriously–how do those kids socialize;)?
In the city we live in now, however, it is just as common as public or private…but for ME–it just wasn’t an option;).
A few years before our oldest hit kindergarten age, we put our house on the market to move into a home districted for one of the best elementary schools in our area. I heard great things. It was free. And best of all–it was just up the street. We could literally WALK. I always dreamed of riding my bike to school, so this would be perfect for our littles as I walked along side.
BUT–it wasn’t until after we got settled–that I began rethinking our schooling options. Sure–there was a GREAT public school around the corner. The class sizes were LARGE (so they’d have lots of friends right?). We knew lots of precious families who sent their children there. But something just wasn’t sitting in my stomach on this option for us. Since becoming a believer in Jesus, I filter everything through God’s greatness. To me–science, history, english, art, music–and even math are only made richer filtered through connects to the Creator. This mom that ONCE said my children would be a light in the public school…they could share Christ with others…they would learn how to live in the world–and they would be well rounded–all of the sudden started seeing things differently.
Because to be honest…my littles aren’t to the age yet to be disciples as they are still little sheep. And they are easily led astray. Sure there would be other covenant children in their classes, but with large classes–the teacher would be the shepherd–and having been a former teacher I know how hard it is to tenderly lead 25 sheep. Some get lost in the discipline. Others get lost in the education–as they are too embarrassed to ask for help and hence don’t reach their full potential. And then those who really should be welcomed on to the next level–must patiently wait for the others to catch up. While I like to say this is the real world, this isn’t really how the real world functions…so now that misconceived idea was out.
So, we began pinching our pennies and making a way for our littles to be enrolled in a traditional covenant Christian school near by. It is an amazing school, and one we absolutely loved for the two years we attended. The classes were just under public school size–but not by much. Yet their teaching WAS what I had hoped for as teachers made connections to the Creator in every subject. If a teacher spotted a little one in distress, she’d come to their desk and they would pray together. Truly, it was a sweet time and how thankful I am for this experience–and for my children having this experience. For us, it was a wonderful fit–and we hope to return one day.
BUT…in the midst of our 2nd year in the school, I sensed I was losing my children’s hearts. We are very close, and I could tell in some ways their hearts were hardening a bit–and I really believe the Holy Spirit through a series of events led us to the decision of homeschool for a time. One of our littles needed a small learning environment, and the other–I knew would benefit greatly from being welcomed to go to the next level…even the next grade. We had our children tested to discover their learning styles, strengths, weaknesses and really–what made them tick. I realized it would be IMPOSSIBLE for a public or private school teacher to meet each student’s learning needs in this way–and they would adapt, learn to learn as everyone else did–and they would be okay. BUT still–something wasn’t sitting quite right, and I felt my children really needed something different to reach their full potential.
Rico Suave had been encouraging me to homeschool–and I told him he had lost it. Are you kidding? I felt like I needed a break. I had stayed at home for so many years…changing diapers, potty training, preschool carpooling, playing outside and cleaning up messes. It was MY turn. They would thrive in public or private school I was sure–both being much better options than homeschool…right?
Would they learn ANYTHING from me?
What if we drove each other crazy?
What if homeschooling hardened their hearts more?
What if it drew us apart having me as a teacher AND mommy???
Nope. It was completely out.
Rico Suave asked me to pray about. I said I would…
But didn’t. For awhile. Because–it was out.
He challenged me again. And this time–I prayed. I prayed that the Lord would take ME out of the equation. I prayed if it was best to trust them into the hands of government schooling to show me. I asked Him to show me if keeping them at the traditional Christian school that they loved and we loved–what was working (kind of) was best. Then I finally said WHATEVER YOU WANT…I will do.
A few weeks later, we sat down with an educational psychologist to discuss our options. I explained to him WHY what was working was best. Then we poured over learning styles, strengths and weaknesses–and with both Rico Suave and I in the room, the educational psychologist said, “Would you ever consider homeschooling? You are a former teacher so that won’t intimidate you (yeah right)–I really think your children would do well in these other schooling options, but to be honest–I think homeschooling would be the best fit.”
Are you serious?
And did you HAVE to say that in front of Richard?
I could sense my husband smirking. One you’d NEVER think would be challenging his wife to homeschool. We prayed and prayed some more…and then came PEACE. Followed by excitement.
We took the plunge. Lost our re-enrollment and family fees to the sweet private school. And started researching curriculum. My eyes were opened to classical education–something they do NOT teach at Auburn University in Alabama I tell you–and something I never knew about as a public school teacher despite the countless seminars, brain conferences and teacher trainings. There was but one way to teach–you all vote on the text for the year that all 300 children in that grade will hopefully be taught by–and at best you hoped to just get through 75% of the text by the end of the year. I was used to homework being assigned on Tuesday and Thursdays because those were the days language arts teachers assign homework (whether you need it or not)–and with the demands of reporting grades, meetings and deadlines–so much was lost. And now I totally get why my 7th graders would all say they didn’t love school any more.
With the classical approach, most everything would be hands on. Children dive into novels that enrich vocabulary at an early age (we’ve already been through many of the required reading for 7th grade in kindergarden–and they totally get it!) I was taught that you give children grade level books–instead of challenging them to more…and better yet–with classical education at home we could curl up on the couch together to listen, dream about the characters and what might happen next and discuss the plot. This year…all of that happened–and how fun it has actually been to learn together (because much of this I really didn’t get the first time around).
History came alive as we linked things to Biblical times…something the children have grown up hearing about. Studying Ancient Egypt and Pharaoh paired with the story of Moses–following by popcorn family night with The Prince of Egypt…which led into our science archeological digs together where we chipped away to find mummies and an Egyptian sphinx.
We traveled back in time to Creation and studied God’s amazing works of the solar system which opened our eyes to how BIG God really must be and is…
And while this is all good–the most important thing I saw being shaped–was their hearts. When problems have come up, instead of being sent out of the room or asked to be quiet–we have been able to walk through it together and grow. My 7 year old tough guy began to curl up beside me again as we read Mark Twain, C.S.Lewis and Collodi…while my sweet girl begged for just ONE more chapter…all before lunch when we’d take a break–and many days already be done leaving the rest of the day for play and their own adventures in the backyard.
Might I also slide in one of my favorite homeschool perks? I have to confess that I have LOVED letting my littles sleep until they are well rested–something I learned the importance of in all the brain conferences back in my teaching days. Truly sleep is THE best therapy for the growing brain–and it’s been so nice to have them rise at 8am or some days a bit later when we were up much to late reading…because when she begs for just ONE more chapter–I’m a sucker;). I’ll also add that I am a person that thrives on sleep;). Like–I need it. And I am NOT a morning person. I disdain being rushed in the morning…and it’s been a blessing to my soul to rise, have a cup of coffee and do our first lesson in pjs. Our first “break” is always our get dressed and brush your teeth break before this lesson or that. And some times–you can turn pancake making into math;) [Don’t worry–we totally engage in Singapore math supplemented with Saxon too.]
I was once worried about socialization–and I learned that there really isn’t much socialization in a room of 25 students–as this is really forbidden behind closed doors…and you might even get a note sent home for talking aloud. Really–this is not how the real world functions. My children will never have jobs where there are 25 people of the same age in their office. They will need to know how to communicate well–and even to different age levels confidently. When a boss sees a strength, he will most likely place my grown child in a position to use that gift–just like I am able to see their gifts and teach into them individually rather than one for all.
They have memorized scripture and poems…and there has been A LOT of laughter. They have preserved watching me struggle with an illness this year—and their compassion and patience has grown as we have prayed and trusted the Lord together to get us through this. Some days were completely botched as this mommy was too tired to even think–and other days were filled to the brim with their reminding me that “[they] bet all the other children are out of school by now, so can we go ahead and play???” Honestly, to me–this is as real world and as well-rounded as it gets.
So once again–as we always do each year–we go over the pros and cons…we talk about what is best for EACH individual child–and we never assume what we are already doing or what is working is what is best. We pray–and pray–and pray some more. And this year with my health–we went back and forth. After learning and now experiencing classical education, we found local Christian classical schools…and we applied. We applied at the school we formerly attended and loved. And although we aren’t 100% yet–I have a feeling that those applications and application fees might very well be practice in penmanship and donations instead. And if that’s how the Lord leads us–truly I’m okay with that–and I will trust HIM to give me guidance, strength and creativity to do this one more year.
I have to say I still love when someone asks me where my children go to school. Their reactions are always different–and my favorite response is, “Ohhh.” For the record, I totally understand that response. I was once there too. I thought I could never homeschool. I didn’t know what it was really like (We join 500 home schooled children every Tuesday for our art, music and extra curricula…and we often take excursions on Friday’s with other families–hands on learning at it’s best.) I can truly appreciate the public and private school experience–as we have been a part of both. And I have a new found respect, perspective and appreciation for homeschool.
It’s not what it used to be–or so they say. Or maybe I was too closed minded to even see it for what it really was. We have talked about giving our children the option in high school to go to public, private or homeschool—and it’s really sweet to give them the option now and hear them vote for homeschool…hopefully showing that through all the mistakes I made as a rookie first time homeschool mom that just maybe we did a few things right too.
I wouldn’t trade the time or the experiences we have had together this year for anything–and I can’t imagine all the funny comments and discoveries I might have missed. I know I missed many the two years they were in their sweet little school–but I also know that was a season for bonding with a child that was newly home and needed so much more of my attention. Truly, at the time that’s what was best for our family–so I walk forward with no guilt or regret.
Truly–as we evaluate each year what is best for our children–it’s not necessarily what seems to be working OR the idea of doing the same thing from K-12. There is a season for everything. And for us…this is a season of homeschooling–and one I’m finding so much beauty in.
No matter where your child is–or where their plans are for them to go–you can trust the Lord to lead and guide you into the place that is best for them. Your situation and experiences will be different than mine–and most likely that is because the Lord knows what is best for YOUR child–and this is why He has given you the perspective He has. But never underestimate the things you have never done–or things you “think” are absolutely best for your family…because you just might miss out on an extraordinary experience. I believe the Lord is over the shepherds in many public, private and home schools—and you can trust Him to lead and guide you…as believe it or not–He loves your children even more than you do.
And if homeschooling ever makes your list–you don’t have to be a former teacher OR a genius to do it well. (I’m so NOT a genius…just ask my sisters! Most who know me best will actually tell you that I’m not right. Please don’t make me prove that one;)
I told Rico Suave I’d homeschool for ONE year–and ONE YEAR ONLY…but I’ve also learned to be open and to re-evaluate no matter what my flesh and heart might have once felt. I have a feeling this won’t be our only year homeschooling–and if a mom with Lyme disease, auto-immune problems and even African parasites can do it–anyone can. The Lord always equips you for what He calls you to!
And I promise…we really aren’t weird;)