Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.Let me walk upon the waters. Wherever You would call me.Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith will be made stronger. In the presence of my Savior. I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves. My soul will rest in Your embrace. I am Yours, and You are mine. -from Hillsong United, Oceans I get emails and comments frequently asking questions about our homeschooling experience. These include everything from our curriculum choices to when I get my "own time" and everything in between. As we are finishing our third year of homeschooling, I am here to share a bit about our experience. I am not here to say that our way is the right way or that everyone should be homeschooling, but will share with you why we have grown to love this way of life for our family.
“The beauty of home education is that it gives a family more time together–time to solidify relationships, to communicate values, and to focus on each child’s individual needs in a consistent and unhurried atmosphere.” -Kimberly Hahn & Mary Hasson
When my husband and I made the decision in 2011 to home school our children, we were without doubt that God was calling our family to this lifestyle. I say lifestyle because it is so much more than just school. It is a way of life. It is a way of looking at the world and learning and living together. Every experience during our day is a learning experience for our children. We have loved the slower pace of life homeschooling has given us. As the quote above says, we now have more time to focus on family relationships and values.
When we started schooling at home our children were 7, 5 and 2. We have continued to see the relationships between our children grow in unforeseen ways during these three years. I am keenly aware that our children are getting to know one another in ways some siblings may never have time for. We are so grateful to continue to see their bonds and love for each other grow. They have learned to play together, regardless of their ages. One question I am often asked is if my children always get along. Of course not. They are children after-all, but they do get along most of the time. They have a beautiful relationship that I thank God for.
I love that I have been able to be such an integral part of their education. This includes helping decide what our children will study and how they will study it. This also includes being a physical part of that learning daily. This week my son realized he could now read chapter books and he sat down and read an entire book after lunch. As I watched him, I was filled with so much joy, witnessing his confidence and new found love of reading grow. He started to learn to read in 2011 when we began this journey. During his pre-kindergarten year we used a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I have not pushed him, but let him excel at his own pace. It is such a gift to experience this with him. We had many frustrating days we had to get through to get here, but it is such an example of perseverance and determination for both of us.
“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” -John Holt
One of the valuable lessons I have learned during this time is that there isn't a "right" way to homeschool. I have met many families thriving with this lifestyle, yet not one of them are doing it the same way. I love that! As each child is unique, so is each family. We have switched and tweaked different curriculum over the three years. While curriculum is important,I feel like there is so much to be learned outside of it, especially while children are young.
I believe wholeheartedly that children should be given ample freedom in their day to explore without continuous time schedules or planned activities. They seem to thrive when they can spend time doing things that interest them. My oldest daughter loves baking and I have started to give her opportunities to explore this love. My son is fascinated with drawing, maps, and reading facts. My youngest daughter has a love of painting that continues to blossom with each week that passes. All three of our children play soccer and the older two children attend choir and Awana (a youth program) at our church. We have limited our outside activities as we want to continue to enjoy this slow pace and not fill our free time with commitments. This has been instrumental for our family. All of us are happier having time to do the things we enjoy outside of a schedule. Some days this means we take school outside and picnic and explore. Others we have play dates and visit with friends or family. While others we have to attend to errands or other responsibilities that do arise.
This brings up something very important. When you decide to home school, you do give up having those hours of the day free from children. This means that if you are like me, with a husband who travels often, or at work during the day, you will be grocery shopping or doing other errands with kids in tow. Just two weeks ago, we had to stop school to go to Sears and Home Depot to compare clothes dryers after ours died. Obstacles, doctor appointments, and the such arise. This is a reality. We have been blessed to have a college student to help, one morning a week the past few years. This has been very helpful, but most often, our children are with me when we need to get household errands done. When we began homeschooling, these things seemed to be more challenging, but as the kids have gotten older and I have learned ways to manage these outings best, it is very doable. Time with children passes by quickly and I realize in a few years my oldest will be able to babysit. It seems like just yesterday she was in her pre-school years. It is so important to remember that each phase of life is just that, a phase. Children change and grow at this crazy rapid rate. In the short three years we have home schooled I have already seen how their ages change our family dynamics in many ways. My older children, now 10 and 7, are both very helpful. I really try to soak in each of these phases of life. I feel like our days are filled with ample "alone time" for me, for them, and for me with each of them. Ultimately, I love the togetherness we share through this way of life.
I am asked all the time what a "normal" day looks like. I am also asked what our youngest child does while the older two are doing their studies. These are great questions and ones I had myself before we began this journey. First of all, our days vary. I would like to say a typical day starts at 9:00 am with everyone awake, fed, and in the school room, starting handwriting, but that would be untrue.
Many days our son is up before the girls. On some of these days, I begin to work one on one with him while they sleep. This is very beneficial, because once he is finished for the day, or at a point he needs a break, he can play with our youngest daughter, while I work with our oldest. Our children are 2 1/2 and 3 years apart, which has worked out really well with our schooling. There are subjects we can actually combine for the older children, which is a wonderful advantage; and they can also help their younger sister with learning activities or just play.
Like I said before, our youngest was only 2 when we began schooling at home. We decided that she would not attend preschool and would be at home learning and playing with us. I can not imagine our days without her at home. There were times when we first started that we had to wait and do some of our work in the afternoon while she was napping. There were also mornings we had to completely stop school and go outside and play because it was too challenging. She has always had an interest in art, coloring, cutting, exploring. I have encouraged her from day one to join us at the work table. This wasn't always "convenient" or quiet, but with persistence she has learned to be a wonderful part of the classroom. Honestly, our days aren't always perfectly smooth, but I don't expect them to be. I love this time with my children and cherish it in ways I never imagined.
Our learning environment may look like a typical classroom in many ways, but it is also very different. Some days we are in our designated school room while other days our classroom is the back porch. We have schooled in the kitchen, the park, Mimi's house, etc. There are days when the weather is so beautiful that we leave our studies and head out to explore or play. I love that we can start our day whenever it works for us and that our weeks are very flexible. As I mentioned before this is a lifestyle not just a school choice. The book studies and table work are only a small part of our learning together.
“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all.” - John Holt
I am often asked how long we will home school. We don't know what the future holds and continue to pray for God to lead us in parenting our children. I do know that, we cannot imagine another way of life right now. I have found such peace in this way of life and my heart has been so full. We will seek God first always and see what He asks of our family in all things.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -Corrie Ten Boom
Many people, who are unfamiliar with homeschooling, always ask about the socialization of our children. I love how Mary Kay Clark addresses this:
“Don’t worry about socialization. Wherever people congregate, there is going to be interaction, socialization.” Where is it written that it needs to be in schools? -Mary Kay Clark
As I close today, please know you are more than welcome to email me any time with your own questions on homeschooling. I know that the friends and mentors I had as we began this journey continue to be invaluable.
I can share with you over and over again, how this experience has been such a blessing for our family, while others may have had complete opposite experiences. I do not believe this is a way of life for everyone. I share these experiences, so that others who feel they are called to home school their children, can also be encouraged. I know that the schools where we live are wonderful and filled with amazing teachers. My husband and I both attended these schools and most of my children's friends attend these schools. I know they have amazing opportunities that we miss, but we feel that the benefits for our family are greater than anything we are giving up. There have been times on this journey that have been challenging, even lonely, but each time we have gone to God in prayer and He has always provided what we needed. Not only have I grown as a mother through teaching our children, but my faith in Jesus has grown in abundant ways. This journey has taught me about obedience and living a life that God has asked of me. That doesn't mean it will always be easy or convenient.
Today in church the guest speaker, Bobby McGraw, spoke after leading our youth for Invasion weekend (a weekend for the youth of our church). He spoke about living in obedience and living a life that works. The first point he made was that our life should be "controlled by the Father's desires." We often try to compare ourselves on earth to look or be like everyone else, but trying to fit a mold doesn't work. If we are committed as a family to what God wants, we can fully experience the blessings from Him in an amazing way. I do not mean material blessings, but that He will provide what we need, according to His will. "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."-Philippians 4:19
We are trying as a family to be obedient to God and pursuing to honor Him in all we do (not just in homeschooling), which translates to being different in today's world. We strive to live and teach our children to be the opposite of what the world teaches. Life is not about self satisfaction or self gratification, life is about sharing God's love with others and learning how He desires to use us for His purpose. This does not mean we will not fail along the way. We most certainly will. We are striving for these things, but we are also learning to live and give grace to ourselves and others.
For our family, this calling is so much more than a choice of how we will educate our children. We are doing more than educating our children by having them home on a daily basis. We are nurturing and investing in them for the sake of Jesus.
As parents, we all have to find what works best for our family. I will forever be grateful that we listened to God's call to change our path three years ago. It was scary and unknown, but it has been filled with many blessings.
My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control.Consume me from the inside out Lord.Let justice and praise become my embrace. To love You from the inside out. Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades. Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame. And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise. From the inside out, O my soul cries out. -from Hillsong United, the Inside Out.