Monday, March 1, 2010

Our homeschool journey

The decision to home school is one that each family needs to make for themselves. How each family arrives at the decision to educate their children at home, is as varied as a field of wild flowers. Not one journey, or flower is the same.

When I grew up, the people who home schooled were either hippies who were thumbing their nose at the government, or the kids who couldn't, for some reason, "hack" it in public school. The two groups that I was familiar with were; too shy, and the social interaction ( more like total chaos ) of high school was such a strain they studied at home, or the kid had enormous discipline issues and had been kicked out of every form of institutional education, and home study was their only option. It was clear that my thoughts of the word home school was jaded by these extremes. I was under the impression that normal kids went to school and that was just the way it was.

After high school I began to babysit for a family that home schooled their two boys. They were not hippies, the children were not shy, nor did they have discipline problems. They were the most normal family I had ever known. They had pulled their oldest out of a private christian school, after he had completed the first grade. I don't recall being present when they did their school work, but I do remember that she never answered the phone during school hours, and they had the coolest school room with the neatest three person desk that the dad had made for the three of them to work at.

Fast forward to 1999 and it is now school time for my oldest child. The thought of him being old enough to be school aged, nearly triggered a panic attack. I remember driving to work and almost being in tears, thinking of parent-teacher meetings, report cards...... oooohhhh he was so OLD now! He was just born,... right?

After I regained my composure, we decided to enroll him in the same private school that I had attended as a child. I was familiar with their system, and knew personally many of their teachers and administrators. He did well, and his sister joined him at the same school a year later. I had taken a job with the school, and worked for a year as a Kindergarten Aide. I had lots of fun my second time through Kindergarten. Then I trained to be a school bus driver. I then became pregnant with my third child, and eventually fitting behind the wheel of a school bus became much more of an issue.

As I left that job, we could no longer afford the cost of private education. During that same time we moved to a different city. The school district in that city had begun to advertise in the media that it was allowing it's teachers to come "out" to their students. I really didn't want my children exposed to that. I just couldn't see how someones private experiences needed to become the social agenda for a classroom of 6 and 7 year old.

That became my initial catalyst into educating my children at home. I called the woman I had babysat for years ago, and asked her what material she used, and we got started. Our first curriculum was from School of Tomorrow, it was an all inclusive workbook curriculum and it worked very well for a very pregnant... and then mother with a newborn.

A few years later life changed again and we needed to move in with my parents for financial reasons. I needed to go back to work full time, and we were not able to continue educating at home. So we placed the older two in public school. My parents lived in a more "conservative" school district, and my original reason for homeschooling no longer applied. During the years we lived at my parents, the kids enjoyed 4th and 5th, and 5th and 6th grades. I learned much during those years. Much about what i didn't want education to be. While my children were in the public system, I was employed by a private school as the secretary, I was learning about education from the inside out.

We were afforded the opportunity to move to another state, and this move would allow me to return to life as a stay home mom. As soon as my kids realized this, the first thing out of their mouths was: "Mom, can we home school?" Initially I was shocked by this request, I thought they had liked being in school. As we talked it through we found out that they wanted to return to a more flexible schedule, and they had a desire to return to more Christ-centered materials than they were receiving in the "public" system.

As we returned to homeschooling, I purchased a different workbook based curriculum, because it was what had worked before, and that is really when it all fell apart. The kids hated it. I really couldn't figure out why... the work seems easy enough. Everyday was like trying to extract teeth without Novocaine.... and I was tiring of the struggle. Half way through that year, we stopped the workbooks all together, and went and got a library card for everyone. We read lots and lots for the rest of that year, on the various subjects that interested us.

This shift away from "boxed" curriculum, is truly where MY journey with homeschooling began. I knew i needed to supplement our trips to the library with math and science, so I began to surf the web, and reading books about different styles of educating at home. Eventually I found what works for our family. We use Teaching Textbooks for Math, and Apologia Science. ( Links to these websites are on the right) I know that many people have a concern about homeschooling their child through the High School years because of these two subjects. I am here to say, that even a NON math person ( that would be me! ) can teach these subjects with these text books. Both are conversational in tone, both come with CD-ROM helps... and answers to every single problem that is given. They are WONDERFUL! The rest of our curriculum is rounded out ( for the older students ) with reading material from Ambleside Online. It is a Charlotte Mason based curriculum, most of which can be found in a library, or they supply the Internet links for you to read the material online.

There are a gazillion curriculum's out there.... don't be afraid to try something, and don't be afraid to say "hey, this isn't working well for our family" Homeschooling may be a cost effective alternative to private education, but it isn't "cheap". You will need to pay a price in time. Time with your kids, time searching for what fits for your family. I will say, the cost of time is well worth it.

What curriculum do you use? What helpful tips do you have to share with other people looking into the idea of educating their children at home?


  1. Hey, Julie
    I am interested in more information about Teaching Textbooks. I was going to order them and then saw the cost. So I looked into it and saw a lot of negative reviews about how the books tend to be a year behind and in Algebra (as I'm looking into for Alex) it isn't very complete. Please send me your review!

  2. me and eli(pre-k)are doing the library thing still. which is easy since math is still counting, sorting and shapes and science is built in to so many of the crafts as lab type activities. since the equinox is comming up we sacked the library for any and all books on how the seasons change, earth rotation, animal habits in spring, holidays/celebrations around the world, weather patterns, cloud types and flowers- which leads me to a question- remeber that cute flower you made with hunter that has all the parts and sat on your kitchen table last year- where'd you get that? i wanna do a cute flower craft and i don't like any i'm findin online so far. if i could have had only one resource from the library i'd have to say "usborn book of the seasons" is the one. it has everything and it spans many levels. there's stuff eli can get easy as well as stuff that's new to me. and there's this really cute book called "handspring" full of spring related poetry. i love it and eli's diggin the pics. we spend alot of time watching short online videos too of animal/nature stuff and i pick up videos from the library when they have 'em- pickins are slim out here for edu videos at the library- plenty of r rated stuff and NO national geographic. ~luv ya~ Kat


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