Why I Chose Homeschooling: A Librarian's Story, by Jane-Emily

 

I always check far more books out of the library than I can actually read. It’s a hazard of the job. If something looks interesting, I will take it home and give it a go. Somewhere around the fall of 2002, when I had a toddler and a baby on the way, a book titled Real Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home was on the table of new non-fiction. I took it home with me. I had heard very little about homeschooling, and I’m always up for learning about people and educational methods, so I thought I would find out what these strange people were all about. I had never, ever considered homeschooling myself; this was more like anthropology than self-help.

It was an interesting book and many of the families recommended their favorite homeschooling titles, so I got those out of the library, too (mostly through InterLibrary Loan; my own library didn’t have too many homeschooling titles). The majority of the books talked about homeschooling as an endeavor belonging solely to conservative Protestants, which I am not, and while I was interested in them in order to learn about this thing called homeschooling, I was not at all attracted by the lifestyle myself. The books were also more inspirational and encouraging than they were about exactly how to teach children at home; more for people who were already in the middle of it than for prospective homeschoolers.

Then I checked out The Well-Trained Mind, by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. This was a very different book. It was almost entirely about how to do homeschooling. And it laid out an education that seemed to be very near my own ideal. I didn’t know I had an ideal education in my mind, but there it was, in this book, except for all that stuff about Latin. (Who does Latin?  More on that later.) I was looking at a book that described the education I wished I’d had.

I am a fairly ordinary product of fairly ordinary California public schools. I was expected to learn grammar and writing by osmosis; I studied American history several times but hardly ever got past World War I; I knew little about anywhere else except ancient Greece; on the whole, my education through high school was kind of dismal. I was not well prepared for the excellent public university I attended, and only figured out later how much I had missed simply because I didn’t know how ignorant I was. The idea that this was not inevitable for my own children–that there were other possibilities–struck me all of a heap.

I wanted this for my daughter. But I had never before entertained the idea of homeschooling, and it was a daunting one. Could I do it? Dared I do it? I had always assumed that I would go back to work part-time once my (as-yet-unborn) youngest went into school, and homeschooling would derail those plans. And how on earth could I do this? I decided it was lucky I had plenty of time, and that I could take a while to think about it and pray and see what happened.

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I waffled for a full year. I could not let go of the idea for more than a day at a time. As I took my little girl for walks and to the park, I wondered what I should do. I talked about homeschooling, but I didn’t know anyone who did it, and no one seemed to be very interested. My husband was in favor of the idea, but didn’t want to pressure me into it, and so refrained from comment. I didn’t seem to be able to get an answer to my prayers about it. It took me some time to figure out that if I couldn’t even go two days without thinking about homeschooling classically…well, that might be my answer right there.

So, I came to homeschooling through my desire for a classical education for my children. All the other benefits were things I figured out later on; I was all about the academics at first!  I found other homeschoolers in town, too, and made friends.

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First day of school

We are now in our ninth year of homeschooling, which seems completely impossible when I say it! I have read many, many books about homeschooling and even attended a couple of conferences. I’ve read most about classical education, and so far my vision has never wavered; that vision has been refined and improved, but the principles that so impressed me eleven years ago are still the center of my homeschooling philosophy. That doesn’t mean I live up to them, but I try!

The benefits to our family are probably impossible to quantify completely. I am so grateful to have been able to be with my children for so long. I’ve been able to give them so much rich literature, history, and science. One of my major goals was to avoid some of the math-phobia that so many of us have, and I think I have done well there. We were able to deal with my younger daughter’s vision issues with so much less difficulty than she might otherwise have had. Of course, it hasn’t been a smooth road (none of us get that!), but I have never regretted our decision to homeschool with classical principles.

 

Jane-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian jane-emilyat the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict.

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Why Homeschool: We Order Our Lives to Love What is Beautiful, by Briana

by Briana Elizabeth

I never, ever thought I’d be a homeschooler. Ever. My mother home schooled my brother for a while to catch him up when he had a rough year, but my kids were fine! They didn’t need any catching up, everything was idyllic. They were enrolled in a quaint grammar school where everyone knew everyone and there was no administrative or regulatory nonsense going on, so as I saw it, everything was perfect.

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My oldest son who had ADHD was doing well on his medications, and had some wonderful years, along with some skin of his teeth years. But the school was working with him, and he was making his way through with support and a lot of hand holding. And then everything came to a screeching halt. He had had a bad year, and when I had asked about his IEP’s, the teacher was astounded, she never knew he had one. And, remarkably, they had not known about his 504 for years. Which was also my fault, because I trusted the school to do its job. Regardless, now he was failing to the point of no return. Meaning, that if in the last marking period he earned all As, he still would not pass 7th grade. Our family was working with a wonderful psychiatrist at that point, and he drew a line in the sand for my son. “If you let him fail, he will never ever be able to move beyond that failure. You cannot let him fail.”

He was 3/4 of the way through the school year, and with that statement from our very trusted doctor, what was I supposed to do? The only thing I could do: homeschool.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, I need to be pushed really hard into some things in life. Homeschooling was one of them. And that, in the case of my son, was a horrible fault on my part, and not my only one. Beginning on the day I took him home to school him, the truth of what the schooling experience had done to him started to come out. It was a slow leak. I guess because the pressure was off, he felt safe to share what he had been going through. Even thinking about it now almost brings me to tears, how I didn’t see how his soul was being maligned, and his spirit was being crushed. I was one of those parents, you see, the ones that thought that school was good, and teachers were right, and medications were what good parents did. I was one of those parents who just never questioned what the professionals told me. I thought I was teaching him to persevere and work hard. I thought he was learning diligence. I was very, very wrong.

Being propelled more by fear, I also began to classically homeschool him–or what I, at the time, thought classical homeschooling was. It seemed like the best thing to do because of the high quality of the education, and because when people asked, it sounded awfully spectacular. As if I were giving him a private school education at home. It did appeal to my pride, I’ll be honest.

And then we crashed and burned again. Of course we did, I was schooling from a place of pride. My not even giving him a break and then throwing him into Logic and Latin were just about the worst things I could have done. I took the pressure from school and now gave him no safe place to decompress. Out of my fear that I would ruin him, I piled every subject on him, with all of the work that the books told me to. And, to top it off, I was frantic about what I had now learned he had missed all those years he was in public school so we had to do double-time and make up for what his education was lacking.

img_0737After the first year of homeschooling, even though it was horrible, we decided to take my 4th grade daughter out of the public school system. You see, even though I had so horribly messed up homeschooling at that point, and the shine had worn off the penny, the beauty of the classical ideal started to come through. And I had learned the hard way that the public schools were not in any way able to teach to those ideals. The final straw came when my daughter was not only being bullied and physically hurt at that sweet idyllic grammar school, but when she started crying over her homework. Long division was the culprit. And as I tried to help her do her homework, all I got was, “Mom, you can’t help me, I have to do it the way the teacher taught me.” Of course I called the teacher and asked what the problem was only to be told again, “Please don’t help your daughter, we’re teaching them a new way to do division and you’ll only confuse her.” My daughter continued to cry over her work, and then began to think she was stupid. This from the star pupil, teacher’s pet, and most popular girl in her class. You could just see the light leave her eyes a little more each day.

She was too smart to end up thinking she was stupid over long division. She was starting to truly believe that about herself, and I was having none of it. We pulled her out at the end of the 4th grade.

So with a baby on the way, I now had two children homeschooling. In this case, ignorance was bliss. I had no choice but to do it, and so I did. I let up on my son some, and now I knew to ease my daughter in. I started to teach myself along side them, because what I learned most of all was that my own education was so lacking that I needed remedial work right along with them. Why I stuck with classical homeschooling was that through my own learning, and theirs, I came to understand the historical precedence of a classical education, the wisdom of it, and, lastly, the sheer beauty of it. It gave me peace to know that no matter what my children did with their lives, they would have a base of knowledge that they could build upon for the rest of their lives. That they would be given the tools to learn more, to understand, and to become fully human.

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I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years now, and I have 5 children who have never known what it is to sit within the walls of a public school. To be honest, they are my my most amazing students. They are the ones that learned Aesop’s fables on my lap, who started Latin in third grade, who gained the benefit of my learning that depth is better than breadth, and that more work doesn’t make a better student. But all of them, even though I so profoundly wronged my oldest son, understand the rightness of why we order our lives to love what is beautiful. And that, in the end, is the goal of a classical education.

 Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

"That Is It! They Are Coming Home," by Kristen C

 

I never, ever, ever wanted to homeschool.

I thought all homeschoolers were weird, or at least pretty socially impaired. The nice, clever, well-adjusted homeschoolers that I knew were clearly the exceptions to that rule. I had had a decent education from both public and private schools, my husband had had a great private school education, and we both anticipated our children would follow along similar foot steps.

We were so wrong.

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Our daughter’s first day of preschool in 2007

Our first child was nothing like what we expected. She was fast-moving, smart as a whip, and never, ever slowed down. She wanted to explore and to learn and to see and to touch and take apart everything. After we had our second child shortly thereafter, I was exhausted. Our son didn’t sleep well and didn’t ever want to be away from me. We decided to put our daughter into a preschool  program a couple days a week to give me a bit of a break and to get her ready for Kindergarten in a couple of years. It didn’t go very well. Our daughter didn’t want to sit when it was time to sit. She didn’t want to walk in a line, and she certainly didn’t want to take a nap when all her friends were so close! Usually a very happy child, she left each day frustrated and I left each day beat down from hearing all the things she had done that day that had exhausted her teachers and that weren’t in line with their expectations. The final straw came the following semester after she had been placed in a room with new teachers. She had once again refused to nap and to sit silently on her mat, and she was brought to the director’s office. Yes, our barely three-year-old had been taken to the director’s office because she wouldn’t lay still for 45 minutes. The day I talked to the Director was it for my husband and me. There is a place for rule following and for doing things you don’t want to do, and every child needs to learn to obey. However, there is also a place for appropriate expectations and this wasn’t appropriate for my kid. So we pulled her out the following day and I started to Google “How Do I Homeschool?”

As this all was happening, I had slowly begun to meet more and more homeschool families that had happy and well-adjusted kids. I started to think that maybe these kids were the rule, and maybe the weird ones were just like the weird kids in public schools. I began to be aware that not all homeschool families were the same and that they all had their own reasons for homeschooling and none of those reasons were as abnormal as I had thought.  Maybe homeschooling wasn’t as fringe as I thought it was? Then my husband started to notice, too. He whispered to me at church one morning, “See those kids? They are homeschooled and they aren’t weird at all, huh? I think that family over there homeschools, and they aren’t weird, either.” So when we pulled our daughter out of preschool it was my husband who suggested that we try homeschooling to see if that was an option. After all, we could still put her in Kindergarten if it was an epic fail.

After we made the decision to give it a go, I went into full research mode. I checked out every book on homeschooling the library had. I asked every homeschooling person I knew what they liked and what they hated. I looked at the internet for hours upon hours upon hours. And at some point in that rabbit hole, I came across The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, and my life completely changed. Here was what I had been looking for, here was my blue print, here was the proof that I could actually do this and do it well. The idea of a Classical Education appealed to the History major in me, and to the disciplined nature of my husband. We knew that if we kept this structure around our school, we could let our kids march down the lines of it at their own speed. The best of both worlds.

So we trucked on, following our Classical Education ideals, for a few more years and a few more babies, loving every minute of homeschooling. I loved being able to pick my battles and let my daughter grow at her own pace. I loved our slow days and our time together, and our kids were learning awesome things. I did NOT envy my friends with their early morning drop offs. At least, not until a few months after our fourth baby was born. Our fourth baby was an easygoing baby but still a baby. He needed to be nursed and held and cuddled. At the same time, I found that our third child was in dire need of attention, and I wasn’t giving it to her. I was trying to teach the big kids and mother a newborn, our house was a wreck, and our little toddler girl was getting lost in the shuffle. At my wit’s end, I decided to put our older two into public school right away.  I didn’t know if it was for good or if it was for a break, but I knew I wasn’t giving anyone what they needed.

For a few months, everything went okay. Our little kids got the attention they needed, our big kids received consistent schooling, and our laundry was always done. Our school was lovely, our teachers were nothing short of God-given, and our kids were making friends.  What they weren’t doing, though, was learning much. Both kids were marking time academically, and forgetting a lot of those wonderful Classical Education foundations we had worked on while they were at home. They were getting embroiled in a lot of school-kid drama and bringing home awful attitudes towards each other, and worse, towards schoolwork. Their teachers worked with us, but as I came out of my exhaustion I knew that this wasn’t working. One evening after the kids had gone to bed, as my husband and I went over the newest thing our daughters teacher had called us about, I mentioned that she had somehow forgotten how to carry while subtracting, something that she knew cold while homeschooling. My husband lost it. “You mean they are acting like little jerks AND getting dumber?? That is IT. They are COMING HOME.” And that was that.

Since then, I’ve adjusted the expectations I have for myself and my home. I’ve worked on making time for the little kids a priority and we’ve dug back into our Classical Education plans, and things have been moving along quite well. Our days aren’t perfect. We’ve had a diagnosis of ADHD for my oldest son, a looming one of ADD for my daughter, some food allergy issues, and all of the regular teaching issues that pop up. Our days aren’t perfect at all, but they are Good Days. I can do attitude adjustments as the need arises and I am able to take the time to explain why we have to do things — why it’s important that we follow most rules and why some rules need to be broken. I can walk my son through his math as slow as a snail, knowing that he is actually learning the material and not being pushed further than his ability. I have taught three kids to read and have another one hot on their heels. Homeschooling has allowed my children to play to their strengths and to work on their weaknesses off-stage. There is no one staring them down as they struggle. Choosing to homeschool has been one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made, and from here on out, we plan to stick with it for the long haul.

Kristen C13021867383_2cf4e968cb_q. is a homeschooling mom of four, living deep in the heart of Texas. She loves history, running, and camping, and drinks more coffee than is prudent. Kristen blogs about her daily adventures trying to classically homeschool kids who would always rather be up a tree than writing anything, ever, at www.unsinkablekristen.blogspot.com