Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Homeschooling Journey So Far

I remember distinctly the first time I heard about homeschooling.  Well, I guess it was actually the second time.  For a very short period of time when I was in grade school we had some neighbors who were homeschooled - the kids were weird.  Anyway, the first time that I really engaged my mind on the subject I was listening to the Christian radio on my way to a church function when I was in my early 20's (years before I met Tom).  The speaker was promoting homeschooling as not only beneficial, but the best thing a parent could do for their kids.

I was outraged.  My heart, of course, wanted to do what was best for my future kids and the thought that I had to stay home with my kids and school them made me mad.  I liked my job of designing homes and I didn't want to give that up for my kids.  I wanted my freedom.  I had been a teacher at several daycare centers over the years and, though, I loved kids, I didn't want to do that as my full-time job. Truth was, I was afraid.  I knew that I didn't know how to handle kids 24 hours a day, everyday.  Mentally I came up with every argument against homeschooling (the same that so many Christians hold today) that I could muster and stuck with that thought for the next several years.

Somewhere between giving birth to our first baby, Livvy, and being pregnant with our second, things began to change.  From within I started to feel the weight of my love and responsibility as a mom; I couldn't imagine giving my precious babies to anybody else.  At the same time, close friends who were more familiar with homeschooling, attended a homeschool convention and were sharing such great things, spiritual as well as academic thoughts and statics.  My heart softened.

The next thing I remember is that I was homeschooling Livvy in preschool at age 2-1/2 with several great friends who had kids of similar ages.  We got together once a week to go through a little preschool curriculum, have fun, and fellowship.  One year became two years, and overnight two years turned into five years.  Crazy.

Most of the people that we co-op with have changed, only one of the original group still homeschools.  We still get together once a week to study science and Spanish with our kids.  It is still a wonderful time to work through the curriculum, have fun, and fellowship.  It would be a considerably harder journey without that fellowship.  God has blessed me with a wonderful circle of friends, both those who homeschool and public school their kids.  For that, and many more things, I am so grateful!

Homeschooling isn't just something that "my friends are doing" anymore.  It's something that I/we have adopted as a personal conviction.  Homeschooling, I know, won't "save" my kids.  But, I honestly believe it's their best hope for not just being "raised in a Christian home" but adopting a Biblical world view and living it out.  Having a Biblical world view isn't something that I think most Christians have adopted.  I want more for my kids.

My hope for my kids is for them to know and believe that God is in everything, that He has a plan for this world and for them.  I came out of public school with a warped mixture of God and humanism. I don't want that for my kids.

I know that I am privileged to be at home teaching my kids.  Notice that I said, "know".  I know that looking back in years to come, I will never regret that I kept my kids home with me.  I can't imagine anyone ever looking back and regretting that they homeschooled their children.  Maybe, but I can't imagine it.

That's certainly not to say that there are those other moments, moments when I wouldn't mind sending my kids away for the day.  When I doubt my abilities to teach them, spiritually and/or academically.  When I feel like I'm going crazy because the kids are bickering, whining and the like.  When the day that I planned in my head or on paper just isn't.  When the kids, through their behavior, have just revealed another one of my many flaws.  The list goes on.

Most of the time I still feel like a rookie, like I'm not doing it "right".  I try my best to come up with a plan and then somehow, somewhere it goes awry.  I don't know how to "get it all done".  I'm learning that maybe I don't have to.  I'm trying to let go.  Homeschooling has proven to be a most humbling experience.  I am in constant need of Jesus' forgiveness and grace.  I know that I wouldn't be who I am today (still with all of my faults and sinful tendencies, but definitely more refined than when I began this journey) if I wasn't having to yield, accept and give of myself most hours of the day.

Speaking about our day, I've tried to follow a structured day like the public school's.  I like knowing that somebody out there came up with a scope and sequence that if I follow it, than my kids won't end up totally ignorant.  But, whether it's because I just lack the resolve to stick to the organization that I love, or I just love intuition (ha!), I can't seem to maintain a "model" homeschool that so many others blog about.

With that said we're not true unschoolers either.  I have given an oral spelling test to Livvy over lunch, which Sammy and Ben insisted on being included, and called it good. In between mouthfuls of turkey and cheese sandwiches they spelled their words - Livvy missed 2 out of 65, Sammy showed me that he could do more than I thought, and Ben was actually able to give me the beginning letter to some words.  It was fun.  On a whole, though, it's too loose for me.  So for subjects like math, language, and writing I try to maintain a semblance of a order and routine.

Recently I have read several articles that have made a lot of sense to me and given my heart courage and peace when it comes to how I do or don't structure our day.  The main thrust of them was character.  Does packing a day full of highly structured, above grade level material really matter?  Does it really matter that my kids are getting straight A's (not that I keep grades)?  The honest answer is, no.

By the end of my kids time of living at home I desire them to be socially gracious, mature, secure, God-fearing adults.  There are enough highly educated people out there who frankly are emotionally stunted, self-absorbed, over-grown 3-year olds - people that can't talk openly with their husbands, wives or kids, don't know how to disagree without getting their feelings hurt, and are so "me" focused that they miss the real life that God has for them.  Please don't think I'm judging anyone; I am one of those people and God is doing a work on me so that I am more like Him.  I believe that by having our children home with me I can help them (and me) with these character issues much sooner than if they were not.  Proximity is a great refiner.  I am praying that this desire comes to fruition.

As I've been writing this post (it's been in the works for quite some time) I wanted to say something regarding all those friends or people who stop me in the grocery store and assume I have some qualities that they do not.  My mom sent me a link to a great blog post at The Father Knows Best that says it better than I can, so I'll let her say it for me.

The last five years have been an incredible journey so far!   With some fear and trembling I'm stepping into this new year excited about what God is going to teach us.  I am once again leaning on His promise to provide for where He has guided.

If you're reading this, please note that this is MY journey.  We all hold beliefs.  These are mine.  I wouldn't mind convincing others of what I believe, but that's not my goal here.