We planned to homeschool before we ever had kids. We knew several families whose nearly-grown kids impressed us (one family in particular) and we decided that whatever they did, we wanted to do… and a big part of what they did with their kids was to homeschool them. At first, we saw homeschool primarily as a way to shelter and protect our children from the many evil influences of the world (yes, shelter can be a good thing; I sure was grateful for it during the thunderstorms the other day). Our kids would not have to worry about hearing false things in their science class, not have to worry about learning four-letter words during play time, not have to worry about being bullied or teased. We saw homeschooling as a way to subtract the negatives… and we still do… but as we’ve moved along in our venture, we have begun to see homeschooling more for what it gives us.
Homeschooling gives us flexibility.
We have flexibility in schedule. We can do our school work today or choose to enjoy the sunshine instead. When we wanted to go to Focal Point at the beginning of May, we didn’t have to worry about taking Jaden out of school and what he might miss or have to make up. When July is too hot to play, we can do extra school work and bank time for playing come Christmas. If we want to go visit Colorado family in October, we can pack up our school work and school on the road. Or not… however we choose.
We have flexibility in subject matter. I’m planning for our upcoming school year and asked Jaden what he wants to learn about. He informed me that he is “all about the old west,” that he wants to learn more about gravity (how much is there really to learn? I guess I’ll find out), and he wants to learn Greek. We get to do that! We cover the three Rs, but we have a bunch of extras too. Bible is obviously one. But we also cover purity, character training, manners/ etiquette, cooking, fencing… lots of fun things. We get to choose what is emphasized as well. Purity and character training, in our opinion, is far more important than spelling. So we spend more time on purity and character studies.
We have flexibility in how fast we move. Jaden is a great reader. He reads and understands most anything he gets his hands on. I don’t have to make him read first or second grade material. Right now he’s enjoying a cleaned up version of Sherlock Holmes, a biography on Neil Armstrong and a book on dog training. Math, though, is a bit trickier for him… and that’s okay. We can stay in first grade math and he can move on in other subjects. And he doesn’t have to bear a label or the disappointment of not moving on with his peers.
We have flexibility in how we teach and learn. I learned early on that Jaden and I don’t speak the same math language. I once explained number lines till I was blue in the face and all either of us got was frustrated. Jeremy sat down and in five minutes, the proverbial light bulb was on. They speak the same language and we were able to find a curriculum that helps me speak their language. We do a lot of biology. A lot a lot. Jeremy and Jaden catch various critters, look them over, feed them a few times and let them go. A cicada climbed up next to our front door and suffered through a gazillion flash pictures as we chronicled its escape from its exoskeleton. Art isn’t usually taught with a stack of construction paper and glue sticks; we went to the Philbrook and spent hours examining & comparing the various works displayed. We pulled out water colors and went crazy. We talked about how their favorite books are illustrated. History is learned in narrative form and with real, “living books”… nary a textbook in sight. Science class means making play dough and talking about how flour + oil changes both forever, just like a man + a woman changes both forever. These are not only opportunities to learn; they’re memories.
Homeschooling gives us time.
When Jaden was in public school for his preK year, we hardly saw the kid. Out the door at 7:00AM, home at 3:30PM, out to soccer practice two days a week, off to Wednesday night services, and Jeremy and I had our own things to go to also (Financial Peace University and Tae Kwon Do). I call it the shove-n-shuffle. Shove breakfast down his throat, shuffle him out the door. Shove snack down, shuffle him to soccer. Shove dinner down, shuffle him to bed. I felt like all I ever had time to say to the poor kid was, “Hurry up! We gotta go!” Sure, we had Saturdays… kinda. Usually we spent those mowing the lawn or running errands or correcting the bad attitudes & misbehavior he’d learned from fellow students.
But now we have time. Time to discuss the Bible all morning long if he likes. Time to cook lunch together or mix up some pudding. Time to color and talk. Time to go on a field trip. Time to take three hours in the grocery store and turn it into a real-life math lesson. Time to dawdle at the library. Time to visit members of the congregation. Time to be together as a family, to cuddle over a book, to talk about silly things and serious things.
Teaching our kids diligently as we sit, as we walk, as we lie down, as we rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7) takes time. Training up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) takes time. Whether you view that verse as encouragement to find a child’s “bent” and train them toward it or as instructions to train children in the ways of the Lord– either way, it’s going to take time… and now we have it.
Homeschooling gives us the reward.
This one is going to sound selfish, but here it is anyway. You know those moments that teachers find so rewarding that it makes them love their job? The moments where they see the light go on and know the kid gets it? Those moments are mine. I don’t have to share them. When Jaden was a baby and he turned over for the first time, Jeremy wasn’t home. I was there. I got to see it. And I was thrilled. He was disappointed. He sat on the bed for twenty minutes waiting for Jaden to do it again… but there’s only one first time. All those learning firsts are mine, not a teacher’s– and I treasure them.
I get to hear all the goofy, funny, smart, incredible things my kids say. When they draw something and I can’t tell what it is, I don’t learn about it because it’s written on the page in adult handwriting; I get to discuss it with them. When they make up a new joke or misunderstand something in a hilarious way, I don’t have to hear it second-hand at a parent-teacher conference. I love getting to know my kids in that way!
Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to weave in our faith and His word.
This one is the best one of all. It’s like when we talked about how flour + oil changes both forever. We draw a comparison and talk about how a man + a woman changes both people forever. When we talk about art, we talk about what a great artist God is. The sunsets, the trees… all of it reflects great artistry. So great that it has inspired more artists than anything else. When we talk about biology, we point out the design features God has put into each and every creature. When we talk about manners, we talk about how some are important and others aren’t; Jesus didn’t always obey the cultural norms or take heed of His day’s etiquette (see John 4). That’s a discussion that leads to one on evaluating the why behind everything. It leads to a discussion on prejudice and God’s view of all as equal. The ability to chase these kinds of rabbits is another bonus of homeschool. A faith lived as Jesus lived it reflects itself into every facet of life. In homeschool, we have the opportunity to demonstrate that. Learning is life. Faith is life. They are as intertwined as can be.
I know it’s a long post. Thanks for bearing with me. Really, this is just the tip of the ice burg. I’m so very thankful we have the opportunity and privilege to homeschool our kids. I’m grateful that we can shelter them. I’m even more grateful for what homeschooling gives us as parents and what we can give our kids as students. It’s not always easy… but it’s SOOO worth it.