What We Did Right / What We Did Wrong

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Why We Homeschooled

 

We have homeschooled for several reasons. Some religious and some academic. The reasons that we often reference the most are:

  • religious freedom
  • increased free time
  • customized education

Homeschooling has really blessed our family. But that education has not been perfect. Believe me. We have made several mistakes.

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What We Did Right

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Self-awareness

Reading: Like many homeschoolers, we have emphasized reading. When our kids were little, we went to the library every week. For years and years and years. All of our kids read every day. As they became older, two have continued to love reading. The others choose to read for school, but not as much for fun.

The end result is that all 4 are excellent readers. I believe that happened because we made reading a priority.

 

Even though I adhere to a Charlotte Mason style of education with my children in the younger years, I didn’t push or require slow reading. I let my children approach books in a way that was natural for them.

 

Writing: During the elementary years, I taught them to write with narration, copywork, and studied dictation. My oldest was the main reason I started the Writing Through History books. When my youngest was born, I had four children, ages 7, 5, 2, and newborn. I was afraid that I wouldn’t give my oldest the time she needed when it came to schoolwork. To preplan our day, I created my elementary writing books.

Self-awareness: In homeschooling my children, all four of them, it has been my goal that they be aware of their strengths and their weaknesses. I also desire that they take ownership of their education. It’s a must.

Children need to know that they are not only responsible, but they are also powerful. They have the ability to do evil or to do good. Their choices will have ramifications. Ramifications that will impact not only themselves, but also others around them.

Young thoughtful female student clenching fists with barbell drawn on chalkboard

They also have the power to hurt people, both physically and emotionally. With great power comes great responsibility. They have to be aware of the impact they have on other people.

 

I also want my children to be aware that they are not victims, regardless of what others may do to them or how others may see them. I wanted my little girl to know that she is a person, made in the image of God, protected by Him, and sustained by Him. It is He who defines her, not the church, not her parents, not her peers, and definitely not the world.

 

Why is self-awareness so important? If students don’t take ownership of their education, they won’t learn as much. Curriculum choices don’t matter as much as internal motivation. When students are motivated, they work harder to ensure they have mastered concepts. If they are not internally motivated, parents can only help them so much. Since parents can’t read their children’s minds, there is no way parents can know for sure what material their students don’t understand. Until students want to learn for themselves, they will not work as hard.

 

What We Did Wrong

  • Math…
  • Physical Education
  • Trying to Follow a Specific Methodology Too Closely
  • Trying to Be Too Much Like Public School

Mod aged woman in glasses surprised, studio shot

 

Math: I love math, so I think that love has made it easy for me to teach it at home. Even though I am not perfect at it, I’m not afraid of it. That alone makes it accessible to my children. Children have instincts, too. Sometimes we think that because we don’t know something, if we just pretend to know what we’re talking about it will be okay

On the contrary, it’s best to be transparent, honest. If you don’t know something, just say it, but use it as an opportunity to teach them how to figure out new information.

While we started off strong in math, we messed up along the way. My kids simply did not do enough math problems. I did not over teach to mastery as I should have. Math is like a foreign language. You have to put time into it. We were too inconsistent. But! Because we repeated subjects as needed, without shame, we came out alright. (You have to fail your way to success. Keep trying and never surrender!)

 

Physical Education: My daughter is not the most coordinated child in the world. She needed more push in this area, but I was  injured. I pinched a nerve in my foot, and for over three years could barely walk. During that time, I tried to take my kids to the park, but I couldn’t play with them anymore. I couldn’t run with them. I even cut a tennis shoe in half to try and walk only on my heel to relieve the pressure on the pinched nerve. It didn’t work.

Well during those three years of inactivity, we developed some really bad habits. It has been hard to recover from that. I could have done better. I should have found a way, but the one thing we did right about PE is teach our kids that physical activity is something you have to work into your life. It won’t just happen. After a certain age, it’s up to them.

 

Trying to Follow a Specific Methodology Too Closely:

We sometimes homeschooled our kids in a bubble. As parents we prayed we were doing the right thing for all of them, prayed we were making the right choices. Sometimes we got discouraged and we sometimes lost faith. My husband and I even discussed putting the kids in public school. Instead, we bought new curriculum.

As homeschoolers, when we lose faith in our decision to homeschool, we do that, we buy curriculum. Some of us even start writing it! We think that maybe this new curriculum will shore up our weaknesses and be The Solution to making sure our kids learn what they need to learn. Every now and then we find a real gem.

 

I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent buying books we never read, curricula we never used. Was it a waste of money? Yes and no. I don’t do that so much any more because I’ve experimented enough to know what I like. A lot of it we never used, and some we probably shouldn’t have used. But some we did use and love and still use right now. So whether it was a waste really depends on each individual purchase. What buying curricula did do was give me hope, and helped me to keep going. Encouraging me to never give up.

 

A new curriculum can do that, it can give you hope, but it can also take your money and your time. Be careful.

 

Trying to Be Too Much Like Public School:

Somewhere along the way, early high school for my daughter, we lost sight of our objective. Maybe because I was trying to do too much–school, writing, co-op. We started checking off boxes and tried to do what came next. It’s the main reason she floundered in math. We quit going to the library. We began to rely on our co-op for most of our academics, and didn’t emphasize that our “home” work was just as important. Because of that, we developed grammar and math weaknesses. (Our co-op doesn’t include grammar and math.)

 

 

What We Learned

First I have to preface this section with the following:

We am not requiring nor expecting our boys to acquire this kind of scholarship money; however, we do want them to do their best.

So as their primary teacher, when it comes to traditional academics, I’m really only concerned about their reading ability and their love for it, their writing ability so they can communicate accurately, and their ability to do math accurately. In addition to the three R’s, we really want them to learn Scripture and to find their passions in life–music, writing, etc. That’s it.

With the realization that my sons are not my daughter, we are changing some of our approach to homeschooling. While some boys read as much as my daughter, my three sons are not those boys.

Because our boys are different people with different interests and different talents, we realize we have to make some changes. As I said before, we also realize not to expect any scholarship money. We hope they receive them of course, but our goal upon their graduation from high school isn’t money. It’s for them to grow in God, to grow into His blessings for them. We want them to know that it is He who blesses them, He who sustains them. We want them to know that they are extremely blessed. And with these blessings come responsibility. For to whom much is given, much is required. We want them to know that God will enable them to fulfill His plans for them. And we want them to know that they are loved, no matter what.

Okay, so here’s my to do list for my boys for the years to come.

  1. Require reading. Since they don’t do enough of it on their own, we have to mandate it. I can’t wait any longer for them to fall in love with reading. I have to act on faith that they will one day find THE BOOK that will change everything for them. Until then, 2 hours of fun reading a day.
  2. Limit screen time. Like a lot of boys, they can’t get enough. And even a little is a time sucker and can really slow them down academically.
  3. Encourage music–all of them love music. My three sons play piano. The middle son is also learning the trombone. And hopes to teach himself the guitar. The youngest is self-teaching the harmonica, and is studying the clarinet. (We have a homeschool band, and our kids get the benefit of participating in it. This just started for us. Btw, borrowed and used instruments are a blessing!)
  4. Push ’em outside.
  5. Find more fun Physical Education outlets. (It’s expensive enrolling girls in ballet and boys in gymnastic. So we opted instead for non-traditional classes. They took roller-skating once a week when they were little. Now they take karate taught by a homeschooling Christian mom. She views it as a ministry, and her prices are a steal, rather a gift. (It takes a lot of time and patience to find opportunities like this. Sometimes you have to create them. Like starting a run club for homeschooled children, working toward a 5k. I did this using the couch to 5k schedule. It’s not easy, but it’s cheap and free to run at a park.) My boys need more of this so I will probably have to do the 5k thing again.
  6. Spend less time on other subjects and focus on the 3 R’s. More reading, more writing, and more math.
  7. Double math lessons.(Do a math lesson first thing in the morning, and one later in the day.) (Like piano, the more they do, the easier the work is. Shorter lessons are best.)
  8. And repeat Algebra for all of them. (I’ve learned this builds confidence. Maybe I’ll have a child that proves he doesn’t need it; however, until then, it’s the new norm at our house.)
  9. Be consistent.
  10. Stop worrying.
  11. Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Do math! Do math! Do math! (Rinse and repeat Step 11.)