Why we homeschool and how we got started
I read a great post by momlovesbeingathome by the exact same title as this one, and thought, “There’s an idea I can steal!” This post ended up being way longer than I thought it would be, but here’s mine:
Before I had even left high school, I had decided that I wanted to homeschool my kids. I wanted to provide for them the academic excellence, freedom, and support that I did not get, as a student. I went to a small, private Christian school, for which my parents (and then, just my mom, after my parents divorced) scraped and saved to send my sibs and me. It wasn’t the best experience. I don’t begrudge my parents their decision to send us there; they were honestly trying to do the absolute best for us kids. However, after elementary school, the education we received was really sub-par. Well, it was probably above average, but when “average” in American schools is so poor, then “slightly-above-average” is still poor. KWIM?
The school was very small, and electives were very limited. My senior year, I had the choice of taking either physics or choir. Singing is my JOY, my delight. When I sing, I most feel like I am doing what God made me to do. Yet, I needed physics for college. What’s a girl to do? I took choir. I got a D in college engineering physics my first semester in college (after graduating as valedictorian of my 16-student senior class, and never getting below a B+ in anything my entire life). My senior year, I could also have taken either art or advanced math. I took math.
My school did not have any kind of formal assistance to help seniors onto further education. 😕 A school that doesn’t really care about education? What’s up with that? Totally by the grace of God, and the kind assistance of Mrs. McCarroll, my English teacher, I was able to obtain a full-ride scholarship to Tulane University. Upon arriving there, I discovered what a miracle that was, as I was surrounded by a school population, 98% of whom were better-educated than me.
After I got to Tulane, I also found out that I could have taken an AP exam and tested out of freshman English. Had anyone told me that at my high school? No. I knew that there were AP classes in public schools, so anything I had heard about any AP exams, I thought just pertained to those in public schools. It ended up OK: I had a delightful year of college freshman English (instructed by a Hasidic Jewish professor who loved debate, and who confided in me that he had given me the only “A” of any of his freshman English students that entire school year. Well, of course. The ones who were “A” students had taken that dumb AP exam and already tested out of his course!)
I also found myself holed up in the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, poring over books to find out why I believed what I believed. My education had been pretty much this: “Christianity is good. Evolution is bad.” The school I went to was so pro-Christian that they didn’t even talk about anything non-Christian. Not in science. Not in history. Not in English. No myths. No discussion of non-Christian religions. It was just lacking.
And… my school provided no extra work, no advanced classes for the academically curious. I felt like there was so much more that I should have learned! So much more that I wanted to learn! But there was little guidance, little challenge, little investigation, little delight in learning. It was a school, I think, established simply to protect kids from what they might learn in a public school. Anything established on the defensive, IMO, is poorly established.
The year my oldest turned three, I started investigating homeschool curricula. Since all I knew was that I didn’t want to use A Beka (which was what was used in my Christian school experience) or ACE (which was used in my husband’s short, but very poor experience in Christian high schools), I was quickly overwhelmed with the options available to me. After more than a year of research, I settled upon K12, which was created by Bill Bennett; I had been very impressed with his book The Educated Child. But the K curriculum would take about 6 hours of my time each day, and it cost about $800. I despaired, because I didn’t think I could do that much school with my 5yo each day, and my husband gave a resounding, “NO” to the cost. Then, a friend from a Bible study stepped in and told me I was making it too difficult; K should take only 1.5 hours/day, and here’s what she used: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Five in a Row, and a simple math program (which I didn’t like, so I’m not linking to, or naming).
I still use “EZLessons,” and am a big fan of it. I still think FIAR is a stellar program. But, even though both my 5yo and my 3yo learned to read that first year, I found myself not wanting to continue. I needed more structure. I needed some guidance and support. But, I didn’t want the hyper-structured homeschooling systems like Alpha Omega; I wanted to be more hands-on than that. But, it seemed that the style of school I wanted to do did not exist: literature-based (not textbook-based), Christian (but not “too” Christian, in light of my history), structured (but not too structured), parent-involved, academically challenging (but not too brainiac — like Classical programs), and not a program that needed me to be amazingly creative.
I was afraid that my inability to well-organize our days was to the educational detriment of my children. I couldn’t plan; I didn’t know what to plan. I needed something/someone to say, “This is what you should do today.” Yet, I couldn’t compromise and do school in a way with which I didn’t agree, even if they gave me a schedule. I gave up and enrolled my son in a charter school, Abraham Lincoln Traditional School for the following fall.
Later that month, July 2003, I was absentmindedly perusing the CBD homeshooling catalogue that had been mailed, and I felt like God spoke to me. He said, “You really want to homeschool, right?”
I replied, “Yes.”
“You don’t really want your son at Abraham Lincoln, right?”
“You don’t really feel like that’s the best for him, right? You’ve wanted to homeschool since before you were even married, right?”
“But you don’t want harm to come to him since you are poorly organized, right?”
(with tears) “Right.”
“Then it sounds to me like you should become better organized.”
In other words, I felt like God was telling me that instead of running from my weaknesses, I should confront them. Instead of accepting a compromise for my child’s education, I should do what I needed to do to better educate myself to make up for my lack.
So, I set to work investigating different homeschooling planners. I also told my husband about the conversation with God, which brings up another point: Prior to starting homeschooling, my husband wasn’t a fan of the idea; he thought only weirdos homeschooled. I didn’t really sell him on the idea of homeschooling, but he begrudgingly let me do K with our son. So, I thought my husband had been supportive of me enrolling Ethan at Abraham Lincoln, and I thought he’d be upset when I told him that it looked like I was going to homeschool him again for his 1st grade year. Imagine my shock when my husband expressed delight! That K schoolyear, my hubby had come 180* about the whole thing, and thought hs’ing was the right thing for us to do! I thought I had done so poorly with our son that first year of school; my husband thought I did great! (But, encouragement is not one of his stronger suits, and he’d never expressed his approval to me.) I was shocked, and viewed it as one more thing, one more “sign” that I was supposed to homeschool.
The next day, I was talking on the phone to one of my few homeschooling friends about my new decision. I already knew that we had similar goals for our children’s education, as we had spoken at length about it before. She said, “I just placed an order for this school year from a company that someone else told me about. I think you need to see the catalogue. They match everything you’re looking for. And, they’ve scheduled it out.” I packed everyone up right then, and went to her house to pick up the catalogue.
I brought it home, read it cover to cover, knew immediately it was right for me — for our family — and started ordering Sonlight materials the following week. That was almost four years ago, and we’ve been “Sonlighting” ever since. I don’t use their language arts (we’ve tried SL, plus a number of other programs; we’re currently using — and loving — Rod and Staff.) This year, we didn’t use their science, and next year, I think I’m going to probably use Bob Jones/BJU which is — gasp! — a textbook-based program, and is sort of a joke because… my husband got expelled from Bob Jones University, which produces the materials. 😆 But, at the heart of it, we’re Sonlighters. We’re currently in Core 3, with my 4th grader and my 2nd grader participating fully, and my K’er participating in some of it.
I’m so glad I — with encouragement from God the Father, my hubby, and my friend– decided to continue homeschooling. This year, our 5th, which is coming to a close (our last day will be June 19th), is the first year I’ve really felt like we’re in it for the long haul. I pray to God that we can continue homeschooling until our kids graduate high school. It has been so effective, and is such a blessing to our whole family. I’m not totally dogmatic about homeschooling; I don’t believe it’s for everyone. But, for those who think that it might be for them, I urge you to at least try it.