Why Homeschool?

Now that Blogger is all fancy and has pages, I thought I'd move this trilogy onto one page.  It was one of my first posts.  It's been updated and copyedited.  Oh, and I'm not going to really answer the question, "Why homeschool?" because that is something you must determine for yourself.  What I'm really answering is, "Why do you homeschool?"

In The Beginning....

"Why do you homeschool?" "Don't they miss out on being with other kids and socializing with them?" "How do you decide what to teach them?" "How do you know you are doing a good job?" "Who tells you if you are doing a good job?" "How can you be with them all day long?"

This is just a sampling of the types of questions I've been asked over the past 9+ years I've homeschooled Ben and his brothers. Most people ask with genuine interest and curiosity; occasionally I'll run across someone who thinks I'm just nuts and that I am determined to ruin my children and turn them into social and economic outcasts.

That is not our plan at all.  It all started because of my dear husband.  Homeschooling is his fault. 
Ben was just a baby, really, when the seed was first planted. Off the cuff once, he said, "You should homeschool. You'd be good at it."

My immediate reaction was, "Man, you are nuts!"

At that time, I had a stereotypical view of homeschooling and knew only 1 person who was homeschooling at the time. She was nice and all, but I just didn't think it was for me.
We moved across the country, however, when my Ben was 19 months old. It was during that time that my heart began to soften to the idea. We moved to a more politically liberal part of the country, and I think that the impact of secular and evolutionary influences on my child became more important to consider.
So, I purchased a book on one of our favorite date night activities (hanging out at a bookstore after a fun dinner) -- Debra Bell's Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. It was the perfect book for me to buy, because she held my hand from the beginning questions of "why homeschool" all the way through to homeschooling for high school. Her reasons for homeschooling --spiritual, academic and relational -- resonated with me, and I remember thinking, "Yes, I want that for us!"
I even gave the book to my father once and had him read the chapter on "why homeschool" because I just couldn't answer his questions on my own yet. After reading it, he nodded his head in understanding our desire to homeschool our children.
That's how we started...and I'll thank my dear husband forever for his off-handed comment, his encouragement, his confidence in me, and his financial support for us to chart these wonderful waters.
Our Methodology
So, when Ben was not even 2 1/2 and I started collecting catalogs from homeschooling companies. I'd do internet searches on our verrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy sloooooooow dial-up connection for homeschool curriculum and request catalogs. I don't recall fully how I found Sonlight Curriculum, but it was an earth shattering, life altering discovery. I absolutely love to read, love history (my undergraduate major), and love to cuddle with my son and read to him. Sonlight's rich literature base approach was just the educational method that I wanted for my son. At 30 months old, Ben's education was charted out until he left for college -- all in one catalog.

Now, as a first time homeschooler with The Most Brilliant Child in the World entrusted to me, there just seemed like no reason to wait to start his education. By this time, I was pregnant with Budding Brilliant Child #2, and decided we needed to "play" school and get used to a routine. So, I purchased Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Explode the Code, Sonlight Preschool, A Reason for Handwriting, and Singapore Math, and we were all set to go! We'd read, read, feed baby, read, sit at the table and do some workbook stuff, feed baby, eat, read, nap, feed baby... it was great.

In between all this wonderful bonding time, I also heard about The Well Trained Mind (TWTM) and borrowed it from our library. As much as I'd fallen in love with Sonlight Curriculum, I fell in love with this curriculum guide doubly so. By the time we'd worked our way through Sonlight's preK twice, I began to make plan to change to the neo-classical model outlined in TWTM.

Why? I love the organized nature of the neo-classical model presented by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. It just suits my nature perfectly. I also love that the neo-classical model focuses around history. Again, this suits me. Finally, I really agreed with the three stages that a child passes through in their cognitive development; much of this resonated with my professional training (MA in Communication Disorders: Speech-Language Pathology).

The final key to our educational philosophy involves God. Since one of the biggest reasons for homeschooling our boys was discipling them and preparing them for their role in God's Kingdom, I wanted to make sure that all our studies glorified Him and encouraged us to look for His hand in all that He created.

Skip ahead to more online searches and surfing and I found Tapestry of Grace. This, dear reader, was the cornerstone I'd been missing in my desire to provide a top-notch, Christ-centered curriculum that didn't recreate school at home. I'm quoting from Marcia Somerville and Lampstand Press so carefully explain:

“As Christians, we believe in a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient God who rules and reigns in all the details of history. We believe that He created all the earth and its inhabitants for His divine purposes. Therefore, all of history glorifies Him and teaches us something about Him. Knowing history helps people to know our origins and sense our destiny. It humbles us, reminding us that we are creatures, finite, small, and completely in God’s power. We do not deny that human beings have free will, nor that our choices are real, and have real consequences. But, in our modern world where  we seem to have so much control, it is important for our children to learn that their lives are to fit into God’s plan, not that they are only required
to "make room" in their busy lives for Him.”

The rest of our philosophy can be summarized here:
  • Children are naturally curious and this should be encouraged and nurtured, never sacrificing this curiosity to stay “on schedule.”
  • Children in the early elementary years are in the “grammar stages” of learning: they are learning the details of academic subjects – facts, lists, rules, etc.
  • Education should create children who want to learn, know how to learn, and can communicate what they learn to others.
  • Use living books as much as possible.
I try to keep these points front-and-center as I plan our year, month, and week. I don't always get it all right -- I am very black-and-white and sometimes get stressed out if we stay on a topic too long or don't finish our week's plan as scheduled -- but I do try and more importantly, I pray and ask for God's grace to wash over my mistakes.
Our Mission Statement

I mentioned Debra Bell's book, which jump-started my heart, mind, and soul to consider and pursue a homeschool lifestyle for our family. She clearly articulated many incredibly wonderful reasons for homeschooling her four children, and I like it so much, I created a similar Mission/ Goal statement for our homeschool:

  1. To bring glory to God
  2. To provide an excellent education for our children
  3. To foster a close, trusting, caring relationship with our children
  4. To build godly character in all we do
I'm in my 3rd 8th legal year of homeschooling (in my state, kindergarten is not a requirement), but 9th year overall, I can comfortably say that homeschooling is not just an educational process for the children, but it is a spiritual journey for the educators as well. I am constantly confronted with faults in my own actions and character that I know God wants me to work on. The fruits of the spirit are always being worked on in my life. I am constantly having to trust God with my family, my actions, my choices. I can say without a doubt that I could not homeschool my children without Christ as my strength.

(Well, I could do it without Him, but it sure would be ugly.)