In our family, teaching at home is not a choice but a calling. During our twenties, my husband and I began to know and love God. We were compelled to live our life surrendered to Him. While teaching at an inner-city public school, God impressed upon my heart that He wanted us to serve Him through homeschooling our children. Fortunately, God saw greater potential in us then we ever imagined possible. He used our availability, not our exceptional abilities.
As a child, I had never been treated with gentleness or respect. I was not equipped with the skills I needed to parent. All I knew was that I wanted my children to learn about God and His worldview. Scripture taught me to train my children to be innocent of evil, and I learned firsthand that this was impossible to do in a public school environment.
I quickly learned that life happens and that we were to embrace learning about life as much as we did academic subjects. My well-planned schedule was consistently interrupted with various events of life. After learning that Jesus’ miracles occurred during interruptions, I wanted to see God’s view and purpose for “interruptions” in our life.
Real life often frustrated me, because it never worked out as planned in books. I wondered if something was wrong with me and my ability to follow simple, laid out directions. It was as though my children had already read the teacher’s manuals and were determined to respond exactly opposite to all the carefully explained, no-fail lessons.
Early on, I was heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason, Francis Schaeffer, and the “real book” philosophy to education. We were going to learn from real books, not books geared toward specific grade levels. I filled my home and our day with as many books as possible.
Initially, I taught separate grammar, spelling, reading, handwriting, and math programs for my children according to their learning levels. Through the years, we have learned, for my sanity, to school together in a way that is similar to a one-room schoolhouse approach. Instead of spinning like a top giving three separate spelling tests at the same time and darting from one desk to the next helping with handwriting or grammar, we do most of our school day together.
I shape my children’s worldview by personally teaching many subjects. I strongly believe in hands-on teaching. Last year we used the same art, music, science, history, and Bible curriculum. By teaching my children together as much as possible, I spend more time with them on a daily basis.
We try to begin each day around 8 o’ clock with Bible. Spelling, grammar, writing, and history follow, with a morning break. Then my children do their independent math and reading lessons. After lunch we come together again for science, art, and music. Of course, this doesn’t happen every day, but it is our plan.
Yearly, I tweak my homeschooling plan, eliminating curriculum that doesn’t work and searching to find something to replace it. One thing I can never be accused of is the fear of trying something new. It took five tries before I finally stumbled upon the spelling curriculum we have tried this year, Sequential Spelling, which seems to be a perfect match for my clan. Finally, each of my children loves spelling! Since all of my children were weak spellers, I use the same program at the same level with all three.
We have always used Saxon math. Kindergarten through third grade is teacher-directed, using many manipulatives. In fourth grade, we introduced the coordinating DIVE (Digital Interactive Video Education) CD for independent learning, so I am able to instruct the youngest and help with problems.
For grammar and writing, we enjoy Bob Jones materials, because they offer two weeks of grammar followed by two weeks of writing. I teach all three of my children from the same book but expect higher-level proficiency from my oldest. I don’t stress diagramming sentences and complex parts of speech. The most important goals in language arts are to learn to read and write skillfully, which are essential skills for any child to gain.
To enhance our lessons at home, we select distant-learning classes or classes taught online by a personal tutor. We sometimes use a local co-op, tutorial, or partner teaching with another family. It has been beneficial for my children to receive instruction and feedback from other adults. I carefully protect our homeschool time by not running to frequent activities. In our early years, it often felt like we were car-schooling instead of homeschooling, because we participated in so many private lessons, field trips, and classes.
I have learned that homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. In our tenth year, we have moved past the experimental stage, and by God’s enabling grace, we will homeschool through the high school years. Perseverance has required a steadfast commitment to God’s calling. Now, even more than ever, I am convinced that upper grades are not the time to release children to humanistic teaching.
I treasure the blessing of getting to see my children grow up right in front of my eyes. In the tween and teen years, we thoughtfully discuss issues in history, science, and the Bible. It is a continual gift to be able to “be there” when I need to address and teach about a character issue. Knowing that my children are learning to be knowledgeable of the world through God’s point of view gives me the assurance that they will be ready to be used by God as He wills.
Academic lessons intermittently move aside for real-life lessons. When “life happens” (whether that is an illness, a water pipe bursting, a job change, or an out-of-town visitor), I feel so very grateful to have my children at home, giving me a continual opportunity to influence their lives. I cherish seeing my boys, who are taller then me, still enjoying the fresh air outside on a swing, and I never tire of being handed one of the first flowers that bloom each spring. These gifts are the special treasures of every homeschool parent. I know deep in my heart that I never will regret our decision to homeschool our children through all of their years of school, including high school.
Copyright 2008, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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