Homeschooling: A Practical Tool

Ever wondered about homeschooling your kids?  Of course you have.  Since the first time you took your toddler to the zoo and saw a family with children of all ages wandering around in the crowd-free mid-afternoon.  The perks of homeschooling suddenly became as clear as the freedom of a school-teacher’s-summer.

And then maybe you ran into one of the weird homeschooling families and decided it wasn’t for you afterall.  You didn’t want pale and insipid children who slept and played video games all day. No, kids needed to be with their peers, and under another adult’s supervision. Rules, social cues and respect are as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Homeschooling seems to be one of the most polarizing topics in parenting.  There are no lukewarm opinions.

Love it or hate it, homeschooling is useful.  It doesn’t have to be a total commitment–you don’t have to trade in your gym membership for long dresses and little chalkboard slates for each child.  Homeschooling can be a practical tool, one child at a time, one year at a time, to give your child or children the connection and attention that they sometimes need from you.

Three years ago, my oldest son was really struggling emotionally.  Depression, fatigue, disconnection–and he was only in the fourth grade!  But six years of school (from preK on) had begun to take their toll on him and he wasn’t himself.  God helped me to see that he needed to come home, and only him.  The one-on-one time that we had together that year was healing and beautiful for both of us.  I will cherish my memories of playing catch with the football early in the morning each day when he was on his first flag football team at the YMCA.  We rode our bikes to the library while I shouted multiplication facts to him and he answered them.  He was able to focus on the fundamentals and feel confident in his early education before heading into the middle school curriculum. It was the best solution for him at that time.

In the two years since then, I’ve had a child or two home for the year, on a rotating basis.  I can’t commit to the full family homeschooling experience (especially with my two girls, “gasoline” and “matches”), but I love knowing that it is a powerful option for centering at home, reconnecting with me and their dad, providing more individual tutoring for areas they are struggling in, and teaching them life skills.  My second child really took to baking when she was home last year, and now she makes killer french bread, rolls and cookies. She’s 10.  Budgeting, cleaning, laundry, cooking, music, languages, animal care, gardening–all the things we say we will teach our children after school or in the summer, but then never actually do–they can be built into the homeschooling day, while they still have energy and time to learn them.

If you are worried about one of your children, and think that homeschooling might help, give it a try.  Give it at least three weeks to get into a groove, before throwing in the towel.  When I pulled my two kids out of school last year, I gave the school secretary a smiling and confident disclaimer that if it didn’t work out, we would be back.  Don’t feel like you are stuck if you start it; you can change your mind. Threatening to return the kids to school was the best motivation for them to stay focused on their tasks–we all had a fluid mindset of homeschooling as a temporary situation.

I know I’m a total novice at this compared to a lot of other moms, but from my perspective, here are a few things to think about.

  • Change is powerful as a force of energy and enthusiasm.  Use both public school and homeschool as an instrument of change for your listless kids.  Five-year-olds are usually ready to get out of the house, and 10-year-olds are ready to come back in the house.  Kindergarten is a great way to get kids to mature and learn what school is all about, and they usually have more fun than the average mother can provide in a day, let alone 9 months straight.  Let them get tired of school before turning to homeschooling as a change of pace and scenery.
  • Starting each day with scripture study and meditation is probably the best thing about homeschooling.  It was like one-on-one seminary for my tweens, and they started to soften and listen to the Spirit and have more love in their heart for their siblings.  Just having time for that has produced the biggest change in our home.
  • I’ve done it without a curriculum, just interest-based learning, and that is difficult to maintain.  It always felt like we were falling behind, though he did produce a few great longer stories, rather than many shorter stories. We also really worked on cementing in the multiplication table and basic math facts, handwriting, fiction and whatever science and social studies interested him.  There are a lot of online resources that are free to assist you if you choose to do interest-driven curriculum.  Khan Academy, typing.com, duolingo.com and youtube were invaluable.
  • Having a curriculum is waaaaay easier.  I was led to The Good and The Beautiful by a friend, and have really loved how rigorous it is.  The kids are learning hard stuff!  And it makes it easy to just open the book and look through the lesson with them in the moment–no prep is needed.  It is also really inexpensive.  So, easy homerun.
  • Most homeschoolers that I know use the Saxon Math method, and it is excellent too.  The lessons have a section of learning a new skill or principle, and then a longer assignment that reviews everything they’ve already learned, so it stays fresh.
  • All this is not to say it is easy.  Homeschooling is a full-time gig.  Your house will be messier, your laundry will reach heights heretofore unseen, volunteering at the school or church may take a backseat.  You will feel guilty about the days you didn’t get to every subject.  It’s hard.  Do-able, but difficult.  I just wanted to write that so you didn’t get mad at me when it wasn’t butterflies, cookies, roses and love all the time. You have to be fully committed for the time scheduled.

If your child is heavily involved in sports or music and you never see them after school between all of their activites, homeschooling might be a good option.

If your child is having a difficult time academically, having one-on-one time with you as a private tutor (or hiring a private tutor!) through homeschooling might be a good option.

If your child is emotionally distant or making choices that are sure to lead to darkness, being surrounded by the Spirit and love in their own home might be the best option.

If you are worried that your child needs to be with their peers to develop normally, remember that the best socialization a child can have is lots of quality time with their parents.  The benefits of the year at home will carry over into the following years as the relationship is strengthened.

It’s only a year.  You aren’t signing up for a new life.

3 comments

  1. Great article and insights! Thank you for sharing.

    Our family is getting ready to take a year long sabbatical trip and plan on homeschooling our youngest four children. We’ve been a little nervous about the process but your insights are encouraging. Thanks for being such a great mom and for being willing to share!

    Wil

  2. How is it that you seem to know what I need to hear? The Spirit told me to homeschool my oldest through 1st grade (and with two little sisters at home) because he needed the closeness and the chance to realize that he can slow down and take his time with some things, but that other things (like dishes and making dinner) need to be done at the right time and cannot be put off. It’s been a hard decision, but the Lord knows what’s best for our children each year. Sending him to kindergarten was the best decision for him and for me last year. This year is a new decision, with new challenges and opportunities. And, from an elementary school teacher, a spiritually, physically, and emotionally confident child can pick up the academics fairly quickly because they already have experience with the realities that are taught as symbols in school (letters, numbers, abstract concepts).

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