I’ve been meaning to write a post about homeschooling since I started this blog so many years ago. With most of the nation and much of the world currently figuring out some method of homeschooling due to Covid-19, I figure now is a great time to finally get this post written and shared.
I started homeschooling our first child 15 years ago. We now have six children, all who have been or are currently being homeschooled. I was homeschooled from kindergarten through my senior year of high school. I certainly don’t have this homeschooling journey down perfectly. I am constantly learning and growing alongside my children, but I do have some encouragement to share from my 30+ years of homeschooling experience:).
What this post will NOT be:
This will not be anti-public or anti-private school post. I know WAY to many wonderful children and families who do NOT homeschool and way to many FABULOUS teachers in the private and public school settings who are doing an incredible job, to bash the public and private school systems. Not everyone is called to homeschool. Not everyone should homeschool. If you’re looking for negative information you’ll find it, but not here. Truth be told, there are some parents with kids in the public school system who do more homeschooling with their children than some homeschooling parents do.
What this post will be:
I’ll share a bit of my experience growing up as a homeschooler and as a homeschooling mom of six. I’ll provide some helpful tips and encouragement for those of who have chosen to homeschool and for those of you who have had homeschooling forced upon you due to this crazy time. Mostly, I’ll share what I love about homeschooling!
My Homeschooling Experience:
I went to pre-school at the age of four. After pre-school, my Dad told my mom he’d like her to pray about homeschooling me in kindergarten. My dad was a youth pastor in Michigan at that time and my mom a stay at home wife and mom to me and my younger brother Micah. My mom thought “No way on earth am I going to homeschool.” She had zero desire to homeschool, but she prayed about it and felt like that is what the Lord wanted her to do. So, they embarked on a journey that would last many, many years.
We only knew 2 or 3 other families who were homeschooling at that time. People thought my parents were nuts. My parents were homeschooling forerunners. I liked being homeschooled. I enjoyed doing my workbooks at the kitchen table with plenty of time for playing outdoors, being with family, going to church activities, and reading good books.
When I was nine my family moved to Colorado. I thought Colorado was like heaven. We moved to two acres of land out in the country. We had a small ditch running through our back yard that I thought was the coolest thing ever. Micah and I discovered a whole new world in the hills behind our home and my imaginative played soared to a new level. The homeschooling community in Loveland was vibrant and extensive. We could hardly believe how many people homeschooled and quickly became a part of the homeschooling community.
My parents asked God to give their children the arts. God provided my sisters and I with a high quality, Christ centered dance classes. God provided piano teachers who taught us both classical and worship music. Our homeschool community performed musicals in the community, and we participated in homeschool elective classes where we learned to create other styles of visual art.
My parents prioritized family devotions, the arts, outdoor play, workbook based school curriculum, church, and hospitality. Jesus was at the center of everything!
I grew up in a relaxed homeschooling experience. Our only testing was done through the state every other year. My Dad taught me math and english, but for my other subjects I was mostly self taught with my mom making sure I was completing my school work each day.
My mom always said, “If I can do it, you can do it!”.
I loved the freedom homeschooling gave me to pursue my passions and to spend plenty of time outside. It kept me connected to my family and distanced from much of the “garbage” in this world. It allowed me to flourish in my own unique giftings and gave me a solid foundation for future work.
There was only one season when I wanted to go to public school, and that was during middle school. I begged my parents to let me go. I thought going to public school would make me “cool” and help me get a boyfriend. I’m thankful they said “NO.”
I did video school for high school which I found boring, (my brother and I often exchanged back rubs or fell asleep during school), but I continued to read A LOT and be involved in extra curricular activities. My senior year I took two choir classes and Spanish at Loveland High School and enjoyed my time hanging out with friends and the LHS Bible Study group.
After homeschooling, I went to Oral Roberts University for three semesters. Eric and I wanted to get married without a lot of debt so we moved back to Colorado and got married six months later. I got my associates degree from Front Range Community College and my Masters of Theology degree from Christian Life School of Theology.
My Experience as a Homeschooling Mom of 6:
When Eric and I had our firstborn son Josiah, just a year and half after getting married, we considered whether or not we would homeschool. We prayed about it and both felt this is what we wanted and were supposed to do. Josiah (19) is now about to graduate from community college with a degree in music technology and production, Emmy (17) is in community college working towards a career in midwifery. Isabelle (13) is in her first year of highschool. Judah (11) is in 5th grade. Tirzah (8) is in third grade, and RuthAnne (6) is in 1st grade.
Homeschooling has had its ups and downs. There have been days when I feel like giving up, and days when I feel like its the best thing in the world. I have children who learned to read easily and children with learning challenges that have made me go to me knees in prayer and search out answers and help. There have been weeks of wins and weeks of losses. There’s so much I could say, but I don’t want to take all day so I’ll get to the fun stuff.
10 Things I love About Homeschooling:
- I get to be with my children (at least my younger three children) most of the day. Now I know for some of you this may seem like torture. I get it. There are days I want to hide in my tub in the middle of the day. Sometimes I do hide:). There are days when I think my life would be easier if I just put my kids in school. But overall, I am SO thankful that I get to spend all this time with my children. I get to know them SO well, and I enjoy them! I get a front row seat to their struggles, their joys, their victories, and their hardships. I get to speak into their life morning, noon, and night. I get to experience morning snuggles, afternoon giggles, and bedtime talks with my kids. I get to point my children to Jesus often throughout the day. There’s no person who loves my children more than my husband and I do and they get to learn in our love and in the love of their Heavenly Father.
- I love the slow pace of our mornings. I don’t know how so many parents get out the door early each morning for school. I love waking up when we are ready (or mostly ready), eating a hot breakfast, snuggling up on our couch, and gently easing into our day.
- I love the efficiency of our “school” time and how this provides my children with plenty of opportunities for creative and imaginative play. We are able to accomplish so much in a short period of time, leaving room for our children to be children and simply play. Ruthie and Tirzah still spend hours playing with their play mobile dolls, outside in their fort, and coming up with various art projects all on their own. Judah has plenty of time to work on cartooning, digital designs, and sports. Isabelle’s part time at home and part time at Olive Tree School allow her to take as many dance classes as she wants, participate in youth group, and still get adequate sleep each night.
- I love learning alongside my children. The older I get, the more I enjoy learning. I get just as excited, if not more excited, about our read a loud books, history lessons, and nature studies as our children do. Learning is fun and there is always something new to learn!
- Homeschooling helps to keep me in the heart of my home. I don’t think of myself as business woman or working professional. I consider myself a full time stay at home wife and mama. But the truth is, I work as co-owner and director of Lighthouse Dance. I spend a good portion of my “free” time organizing and responding to the happenings of our studio. I spend many hours praying for, dreaming, and planning for the present and future of Lighthouse Dance. The Proverbs 31 woman worked inside and outside of her home. Working mamas CAN homeschool. Homeschooling helps me to remember that my life is life is more than dance! LOL. Just kidding, but seriously. Sometimes I need this reminder. Home schooling is a beautiful way I connect with my children. I dedicate my mornings to schooling. This gives me time in the afternoons or evenings to work on dance related needs while my kids play, rest, or are at their various activities. Our kids have never resented the work I do and are eager to be a part it! I think this is in part due to the meaningful amount of quality time we share together each day.
- Homeschooling is convenient. Think travel, spontaneous field trips, sick days, late nights, playdates and more.
- Homeschooling allows for my children with special needs to receive one on one attention and specialized curriculum. My children have different needs and ways of learning. I have one child with dyslexia who I have had to spend a considerable amount of time working with and coming up with ways to help this child learn. This child is now reading well, rarely fights with me over “doing school”, and is finding his own passions and love for learning. It’s been a challenge to teach him, but also a tremendous joy as I get to see the little steps forward and the small victories growing into something huge!
- Homeschooling is fun. The possibilities for fun are endless and I get to have fun right alongside my kids.
- Homeschooling helps me see my need for a Savior and my need for His daily wisdom in my life. Many times I have had to ask God to give me patience, help me know what to do, show me what verse to teach our kids, guide me in a challenge, and remind me what really matters. God is the source of my strength and the strength of my life.
- Homeschooling helps keeps our family connected. I recently had a mom ask me if homeschooling caused me to be closer to or at odds with my children. The answer is closer! This doesn’t mean my children and I don’t ever butt heads. We do, but we work through it and as a result we have great relationships in our home. My teenagers are some of my best friends and they know they are free to talk with me and Eric about anything. Our younger children know I love them enough to discipline them when needed and this knowledge fosters connection and peace. My kids still fight with each other. They do NOT always get along, but for the most part, they sincerely love and enjoy each other.
My Top Ten Homeschooling Tips
- Identify your family’s core values and core pursuits. For instance, in our family we value and pursue Jesus, the arts (especially dance and other visual arts), travel, missions, scripture, church, worship, joy, kindness, and the great outdoors. Let these core values and pursuits be an integral part of your family’s homeschooling structure and daily extra curricular choices.
- Establish a daily rhythm. I’m a fan of rhythms over detailed schedules. For instance, our day looks something like this. Mornings include chores, breakfast, Bible time, Read aloud time, History, Workbook, and Online school. Afternoons include creative play, art, time outdoors, music practice, and more reading. Late afternoons and evenings include dance classes, sports practice, dinner, or youth group. We try to have breakfast and Bible time start at 8:00am but somedays this happens after 9:00am and that’s ok.
- Create a meaningful and relaxed morning time. Our collective morning time is one of my favorite times of our day. We gather for breakfast and then read the Bible together. Sometimes I go along with the curriculum we are using and sometimes I choose my own scripture reading plan. This year we are reading through a Psalm and a chapter in Proverbs every day. Our children take turns reading these passages of scriptures out loud. We also work on scripture memorization. We are currently memorizing a verse for each letter of the alphabet which is our favorite way to memorize scripture. “A All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “B Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” After Bible time, if everyone is done eating, we transition to the couch, get cozied up with blankets and tea and have our read aloud time. I read a chapter or two from one or more books to our kids. I also include our history reading or science read alouds at this time. Every Tuesday, each child chooses a poem to read. After our morning collective time, we head up to our loft or kitchen table to begin our seat work. Some families include worship, hymn studies, or composer studies into their morning collective time. The possibilities are endless.
- Choose a curriculum that appeals to you and works well with your family’s core values and pursuits. We chose to use My Father’s World curriculum as our primary curriculum because of its strong Christian World View and Missions focus, its Charlotte Mason approach to learning, a simple teachers guide, and a format that allows for the curriculum to be completed by lunch time. I also pull from several other curriculums that work well for my different children and their various learning styles and needs. For the Children’s Sake has been one of the most influential books I’ve read on home education and schooling.
- Remember that your curriculum serves you. You don’t serve your curriculum. It’s ok to leave out or to add to your children’s curriculum. We don’t do every problem of every lesson every single day. Checking off all the check boxes is not the goal. Some days you may need to put the workbooks down and go outside to ride bikes. Some days you may need to read a different read aloud book than you planned to read because your children out of the blue became interested in a subject you had no idea they would become interested in. We want our children to learn and be excited about learning. I encourage you to read Teaching From Rest if you’re feeling frazzled by homeschooling or bound to your curriculum.
- Most of our children’s education doesn’t happen during formal “school time.” Life is education. Mealtimes are education. That trip to the grocery store is education. That visit to a retirement home to dance for the elderly is education Playing an instrument in a recital is education. Being a part of a sports team is education. Reading a well loved novel before bed is education. Planting a garden is education. Writing to a pen pal is education. Taking care of pets is education. Playing with play dough is education. Exploring nature is education. The list goes on and on. Change your own perspective regarding what constitutes schooling and rejoice in the countless opportunities for learning that your children encounter every single day.
- Don’t think you have to do it all on your own. I certainly can’t! Math is not a strong suite for me. Years ago another homeschool mama introduced me to Teaching Textbooks. Starting in 3rd grade our children transition to this computer math program that has been a huge help. Our kids go to Olive Tree School on Thursdays for music, art, science lab, geography, and p.e with other homeschoolers. This program has been a tremendous blessing to our family. Josiah, Emmy, and now Isabelle have all participated in the Olive Tree middle school and High School classes. Homeschooling high schoolers is something that felt overwhelming to me. Olive Tree has been a wonderful solution. Our high schoolers take classes with other homeschoolers twice a week and the remainder of their work is done at home. Our high school graduates say their Olive Tree classes were harder then some of their college classes. We don’t have to take an all or nothing approach to homeschooling. I am thankful to homeschool while also taking advantage of some of the excellent supplemental programs out there!
- Choose a few role models to encourage you on this journey. The number of homeschooling voices and resources can often feel overwhelming. Instead of listening to a multitude of voices, be selective in who you choose to give your attention to. For instance, I choose to learn from Sally Clarkson, Wild + Free Homeschooling, and Above Rubies ministry. I’ve gleaned inspiration, encouragement, and motivation from these resources. I don’t listen to everything they say or follow every thing they do, but I pick and choose what will be life giving for my unique family and home.
- Have fun! Take a deep breath! Enjoy the journey. Recognize that some days will feel easy and some days will feel hard. That’s ok. This is normal. You can do this!
- Get outside. I’m convinced that the best place to learn is in the great out doors! If all else is fails, go play outside with your kids, or send them outside while you sit in the house and drink a cup of tea.
I hope this post has in some way been helpful! Happy homeschooling!