The Homeschooling Post (Volume 2)

by Stefani on 3-September-2009

Scholar

So as I was saying, I was beginning to feel that we needed to find a better way to organize our learning pursuits. Thus far our "organization" has been more along the lines of record keeping – lists of their questions (potential projects), materials we need for study (books, art supplies, etc), photos of projects, samples of writing, lists of books we read individually and aloud. Any planning consisted of late nights spent cruising the web trying to find projects, information, books and ideas related to their pursuits. 

The only honest to goodness curriculum that we've used with any sort of consistency was for math (Singapore – mostly we'd do these together and maybe twice a week or so they'd do a few pages on their own + lots of everyday, practical math and math games and challenges) and reading (mostly library books, Magic Treehouse, Illustrated Classics, Henry Huggins books, and the like + Pathway readers and CLE readers – but without any teachers guides or workbooks, more just as a read aloud so that I could keep tabs on their reading abilities.)

The boys are all reading above their grade levels and are wonderfully comfortable with manipulating numbers. They have done some great projects over the years and have an incredible grasp of the natural world. So, all in all, I have been really pleased, but… something just hasn't felt right. I felt like our days were wonderful but that I was lacking a big picture view of where we were headed.

So, as I said, I began to make a sort of list (noticing a pattern here?) of what it is that I want and need and what THEY want and need from our school experience. 

In the end, it helped me so much in knowing how to move us a bit farther down the path in our learning journey. 

The list, bits jotted here and there over weeks and weeks, said this: 

Time. Above all else, time. I want my boys to have time to study the things that interest them, to ask the big questions, time to go down 10 different roads until they find the answers that they seek. I want time for us to be together. I want unhurried, unfilled time in which to just be… for them, and for me. What time I spend I want to be a good investment – no unnecessary busy work that wastes their time and mine.  I need, somehow, to be able to make time for each child, make time to care for my home, connect with  my husband, prepare meals, and to enjoy my own pursuits. I need to end the day feeling like it was one that was well spent, for me and for them. 

Spark. I want school time to be, if not always FUN, always engaging, thought provoking, empowering – not a set of requirements that they must learn to act within, but the gathering of a set of tools with which to create a life.  

Equipping. I want to come to the end of our school adventure and feel like my men are ready to take on the next phase of their lives. Maybe it's college, or the military, or culinary school or an apprenticeship in welding, I don't know, but whatever it is, I want to feel that I have they have gained a foundation on which they can build that future. This will, of course, mean that they have gotten an academically sound education, but more often than not I feel like this has less to do with facts memorized and tests passed and more to do with having learned to learn, to persevere, to work hard, to dig deeper, to take pride in their work, to communicate effectively and to think critically. 

A Broader View. I somehow managed to leave high school understanding so little about the world and my place in it. I want my boys to grow up understanding that there are as many views as there are eyes to see them, as many stories as there are lips to tell them. I feel like they'll be less inclined to fall prey to peer pressure, or to chase after someone else's established ideal, if they really grasp the bigger picture, the vastness of time and the human experience. 

Self Awareness. My husband and I also talk so much about how we BOTH managed to leave high school with not a clue as to what our gifts and talents were or how those things could help us to create a life that was fulfilling or meaningful. We sort of had these "people in your neighborhood" ideas about careers – you could be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, nurse, vet, policeman, or banker, and that's about it. We both really want our boys to enter adulthood with a firm understanding of not only all that is available to them, but all that THEY have to offer to the world. We want them to know and understand their passions and talents and to help them know that they can build a life upon those things. 

Faith. I don't talk a whole lot about our faith here, for all kinds of reasons that I won't get into now. I just think it's a deeply personal thing for everyone and I'd rather get to know you, and you me, without hitting you over the head with my convictions. BUT, for the purposes of this discussion, our homeschooling choices, it's important to say that we're Christians and that part of the knowledge that I'm hoping to impart to my sons is a firm understanding of what we profess to believe and why. I don't want to raise cultural Christians… folks who go to church because they always have and that's just what people do. I want to raise men who ask hard questions, seek real answers and profess nothing that they can't truly stand behind. And that takes work. I want my boys to actually read and understand the Bible. I want them to grasp it from both a historical and cultural perspective. I want them to know and understand other world religions. I want them to grow up feeling not indoctrinated, but illuminated.

(I realize that this bit may spark all kinds of questions and debate, and that's cool with me. You can click on the "email" button over on the left and we can chat till Gabriel blows his horn if you like.)

Family. One of the things that I love most about being able to homeschool is the ability it affords us to really strengthen family bonds. It can be tough to manage three different learning levels, but I want very much to minimize the time that we are sectioned off… me working with one while the others run amuck or the two older ones doing their work while the youngest is brushed off to his room to play alone. I want us together… they did it in the one room schoolhouses right? Surely we can manage it too. Beyond that I want to have time, OFTEN, to travel to Granny's house, to work on projects with Grandfather, to survey Grandmother's garden, to go to ball games with Nana and Grumpy, to meet the cousins at the park. I want my men, if nothing else, to know that they are a part of a tribe, that they are the next chapter in a long story. I think that those strong family bonds are so grounding and reassuring. 

So… easy right? I just needed to find some sort of plan/schedule/curriculum/ideology/book that would do those things… just seven little things! That's not so hard, right?

Uh huh. Right. 

In the next installment of the epic saga that is our homeschooling post(s), I'll tell you exactly, line by line, what we are hoping will come CLOSE to helping us achieve all those goals. Stay tuned!

jennifer September 3, 2009 at 9:32 pm

wow. what a great list. i adore lists. 🙂 we just made the decision to homeschool. i am encouraged by your words. your reflections. your heart. thank you for being real and including your faith in the list. blessings to you on this journey.

Mad Woman September 3, 2009 at 9:33 pm

I really loved this post, even more than the first installment. I think it’s because you summed up so beautifully all the things that I dreamed of when my children were babies and toddlers. All the reasons why I wanted to homeschool. And yet, I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it on one income. Maybe after I read some more of your posts, I will figure it out. Or at least figure out how to get a balance.

Amy @ Let's Explore September 3, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Just awesome! We are at the very beginning of our homeschooling journey, and I enjoy reading all your reflections and thoughts. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Myrnie September 3, 2009 at 9:43 pm

YES. Yes, this is exactly what we want for our children (and doesn’t every one end up taking different paths to get there??) I was discussing the religion aspect with a friend the other day. I’m nervous that if I homeschool my children, they’ll never be tested on their faith. I went to school, and I made daily choices “Am I going to keep my standards, or join theirs?” I chose to always keep my standards. What will happen if my children don’t go to school, don’t have that constant pressure to conform? Will they be strong? Listen to me, just a worried rambling Mom 🙂

Sarah Jackson September 3, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Really great post, Stef. I think you did an amazing job of summing up what should be important in anyone’s education – at home or not. We all especially need that self awareness and a knowledge of the world and all its possibilities. Thank you!

darlene September 3, 2009 at 10:11 pm

awesome post! like your take on homeschool. right now i am a little more structured, worried that i might miss something. definately easier every year that we go…three levels (K,3 and 4) should be fun but our girls really learn off each other.

Homespun Emily September 3, 2009 at 10:15 pm

I love this list, too. What a great summation of homeschool goals!

Sarah @ Amongst Lovely Things September 3, 2009 at 10:36 pm

These posts are just awesome- I’m gobbling them up. I can’t wait to see how this is all playing out in your homeschool…

Tara September 4, 2009 at 3:45 am

This is one of the most inspiring, enlightening, and meaningful homeschool posts I have read in a long time. You put into words what I have been thinking for years, but brushing aside to deal with the daily grind. It is so easy to let go of your convictions when life gets busy or stressful. Your post helped me to remember that there is a bigger picture out there. We homeschool out of love and respect for our children and our goals should reflect that. Thank you.

renee @ FIMBY September 4, 2009 at 4:14 am

Wow, I am loving this homeschool series. We homeschool our now 10,8 & 6 year old (always have). We’ve been very relaxed till now and will continue to be guided by the kid’s interests and our family values but I am hoping to implement a few more “concrete plans” this year. Can’t wait to read what you’re doing. Ohh.. (rubbing my hands together in anticipation) this is fun.

Catherine September 4, 2009 at 4:38 am

Keep doing what you are doing!!!

Jennifer September 4, 2009 at 6:04 am

I am treasuring your words on this. I feel like this blog is a sort of lighthouse to my upcoming homeschooling journey with my three boys. Thank you so much for blogging, inspiring, sharing this with us.

Sherry September 4, 2009 at 6:12 am

FANTASTIC post! 🙂

Annika September 4, 2009 at 6:17 am

You know, I think your experience with high school is actually quite common, but that people don’t tend to talk about it because high school is *supposed to* prepare you for life. I just don’t think it does except in a few cases–and I think those are cases where the people in question would probably be better prepared no matter how they got their education. I know that when I got to college after being an autodidact through high school and then taking two years to work and live, none of my peers had any clue what they wanted out of life. Oh, they knew what they wanted to study. But how valuable is that when you don’t know why you want to study it?

mommycoddle September 4, 2009 at 6:24 am

yes! yes! yes! but HOW?! 🙂 (It’s the time one that’s getting me right now.)

wonderful thoughts, friend.

waiting for more….

Cassandra September 4, 2009 at 6:28 am

So very inspiring…

Heather September 4, 2009 at 6:54 am

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and the care you take to put your thoughts into words, very inspiring!

Amber September 4, 2009 at 7:00 am

I think those are commendable goals for any parent. I can’t wait to hear how you plan to achieve them. 🙂

Elissa September 4, 2009 at 7:23 am

i LOVE this, dear! wish i had your gumption, but, you know, somehow i think you can apply these even with a public school education. differently, but still a way to focus what you believe about learning because i believe all those things too..

Mama Urchin September 4, 2009 at 7:59 am

I am reading this with great interest Stef. Katie goes to public school but I really try to supplement the broad view, self awareness, and faith. I was just thinking about those one room schoolhouses today as we walked home from meeting Katie’s teacher.

Angela September 4, 2009 at 8:00 am

Wow, you said so many of the things that have been bouncing around in my head. I am going to have my husband read through your post too. Especially your thoughts on equipping, a broader view (this is the one I feel so strongly about and am having a hard time articulating to others), and self awareness.

I am discovering homeschool families often family, time and faith/spirituality as reasons to home educate. But we still need to really think through what that will look like on the ground.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am just so glad to know there are people like you striving to raise boys like yours. I hope my daughter will have a husband raised in this fashion.

Darla September 4, 2009 at 8:09 am

I am going to have my husband read this post and I am seriously thinking of printing it out for my own reflection. We don’t homeschool, but we support our children in so many of the ways you mentioned. As always you stated everything so beautifully, which is one of the reasons I read your blog daily and am constantly “uping the bar” as a stay-at-home Mom. This post may take me to an all new level. Thanks for sharing!

Kate September 4, 2009 at 8:26 am

LOVE IT!!
Amazing articulation of just about every reason my little guys are schooling at home.
The bit about self awareness and a broader view really resonates…
Our process and the piecing together of our curriculum feels ever changing as well. I’m interested to see what you have settled on for now.

Photographing Mom September 4, 2009 at 10:29 am

Absolutely inspiring post. Thank you!

Laura September 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

Wonderful post. Thank you!

I particularly like the part on faith – illumination, not indoctrination is something we should all be aiming for.

jennifer September 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

I love this list, Stefani. What a great mama you are to those sweet boys. Thanks for inspiring me.

Busy Day Cake September 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

It is encouraging to hear someone else with similar yearnings – the yearnings that are not socially valued like TIME. Part of me longs to homeschool. For now my daughter goes to an amazing independent, small school that is the next-best-possibly-better-for-her-kind of place. When I have talked to friends about being sad for school to start, I find very few people understand. Thanks for the camaraderie.

molly September 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm

you’re killing me! i want to know your PLAN! i’m so with you on all of the above. can’t wait for the epic to continue…

Kate September 4, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Yes, yes, and more yes. The thought you put into your “wants” will surely produce ideas that work well for you and your kiddos…

Melanie September 4, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Yay, love the continuation! So inspiring and it has given me something good to think on as I head out the door for a walk. Good stuff, sister!

The Lazy Dazy September 4, 2009 at 5:02 pm

I’m so good at making lists…love ’em.
I’m so good at making schedules…love those too. I’m just not so good at turning my well thought out plans, lists and schedules into routines. Praying! And working on this very thing this weekend. Good timing. Thanks again…waiting for what’s next!

Jenn E September 4, 2009 at 7:02 pm

First time commenter here, I just found your blog a couple of weeks ago and enjoy what I’ve read! 🙂

Sounds like you have a good grasp on homeschooling- do you read Ruth Beechick’s books? If you don’t, I bet you’d love them. She is a common sense person, love, love, love her books. My second favorite homeschooling book is When You Rise Up by RC Sproul, Jr. Gets you thinking goal oriented and not trying to recreate gov’t schooling at home. I highly recommend it.

Thanks for sharing, I’ve really enjoyed it!! 🙂

Jenn in KS

Visty Lindgren September 4, 2009 at 10:25 pm

I love this, so very comprehensive. I wonder, what would you do if one of your boys asked to go to school? I wanted to homeschool, I did homeschool, actually—but when we moved to a new state with no friends or family, we felt the isolation too keenly and enrolled at the elementary. They did that partial year and the next full year, and are now about to start 4th and 6th grades next week. I am a wreck. They say they want to do it, but neither is excited the way other kids are. I feel like it’s not right for our family, but also do not feel I can take it away from them now that they’ve experienced it and say they want to go. They are almost 10 and 12, and should have some say in their own education. But I was hoping that by this time in their lives, they would have had so much homeschooling that it would be integral by now.

I hate how school rules our family life completely, and secretly hope they end up homeschooling in the future. But this year, right now, with my son about to enter 6th grade in a middle school that is sad-looking from the outside and inside, old and decrepit, no art, no recess, no music unless you join band—typical middle school—I don’t know how to handle it.

Stephanie from Texas September 5, 2009 at 7:27 am

this has been enlightening for me. i have considred homeschooling for a while and you have definately helped me on my quest. the sections a broader view and self awareness truly struck a chord with me. i felt the same way. if only i could have even realized that there was a fabulous world out there and it was ripe for MY talking.
good luck on your own personal quest and thank you dearly for sharing it with us.

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 7:58 am

Oh I wouldn’t worry too much about that Myrnie… unless you hide them under a bed for the next couple of decades they’re going to have plenty of opportunities to test their ideas and convictions, I know mine have! And you could just as easily look at it in the opposite way… how much more able will they be to handle those challenges to their faith if they have had the time to build a solid understanding and foundation before they are confronted with that “constant pressure to conform”?

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 7:59 am

I can’t wait to hear all about your new year and GUNNAR being home!!!!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 7:59 am

well stay tuned, because we’ve gotten a bit more structured too! A bit…

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:01 am

Oh Tara! You’ve just spoken to exactly how I’ve been feeling when you say “… but brushing aside to deal with the daily grind.” It is that very feeling that has pushed me to sit down and really confront exactly what it is that we want from homeschooling and then to think long and hard about how to make that happen.

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:05 am

I do think it is a fairly common feeling, but I’m still not sure why… is it just part of the process of growing up (that aren’t really able to fully know ourselves until we are much older), is it a flaw in the system, is it a cultural thing? I don’t know, but it is really disturbing to me. On the one hand I feel in some ways that I needed to go down all the paths that I went down to finally understand where I wanted to go, on the other hand, my husband and I think often about how much heartache and time we would have saved ourselves if we had had a clearer vision at a younger age.
I’ve never parented teens though, my kids are still so little, so I’m really just hoping and praying and guessing at the answers!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:06 am

the time one is HUGE!!! I’ve been trying for YEARS to figure out how to get a handle on that one!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:08 am

Absolutely, Elissa. I have no doubt that with a clear vision and a lot of love you can absolutely apply these ideas to whatever your schooling choices may be!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:10 am

Oh now see… I get excited hearing about walking to school and meeting the teacher and thinking about new supplies and a new classroom… there’s a lot to love about school too. And I have a no doubt that with such a thoughtful, loving mama Katie will reach her adulthood ready to take on the world!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:11 am

Well I can’t think of a better compliment than that! Thank you!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:14 am

Amen to that sister! I have made a lot of plans and lists in my day! I’m trying to take a different approach this time too. Before now the lists and plans and schedules have come AFTER the decisions, more to manage our choices than to help us MAKE our choices.
Good luck to you this weekend!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:15 am

You know, I have heard of Ruth, but not read her books. Sounds like I must get right on that! Thank you!

Stefani September 5, 2009 at 8:30 am

Oh hon. If I could bring over a plate of cookies and a big hug and just sit and chat, I’d be there in two shakes. You are such a good mom, to listen to their needs and ideas even if they are not in agreement with your own. I know that it must be miles more difficult parenting 10 and 12 year old than it is 8,7 and 4 year olds!

What would I do??? I don’t know. I really don’t. I’d like to think that I would be open to their ideas and needs, but I know that it would be very very hard for me. I’ve gotten very attached to the way that our life and our family works!

I suppose I would have to sit down with them and make some lists 🙂 We’d probably talk a lot about what it is that they need and want from school, or what it is that they feel would be lacking from homeschool and then we’d have to address those things.

I’ve been watching some discussions on our local homeschooling email serve about older kids wanting to go to school. More often than not it is a social thing… they want more interaction with friends and they want to test their independence a little. So, what seems like “busy-ness” when they are little (sports teams, clubs, game days, social gatherings, study groups, etc) becomes really essential as they get older. At this point, I try really hard to minimize our “busy-ness”, but I can see that as the boys mature it will be really important to help them find opportunities to satisfy all those social needs.
I’m rambling.
All of this is to say that I feel for you and am sending you a great big virtual hug and then a high five for being such a thoughtful, caring mama!

Sarah M September 5, 2009 at 8:43 am

well shoot. You said it better than I ever could, I’m just gonna’ go on and email your post to my family and friends who think I’m nuts. You hit the nail on the head~
Sarah M

Lindsey Alyce September 5, 2009 at 9:01 am

This is such a great guideline of what you want to teach your children. It was so good and helpful for me to read. I will definitely be looking back on this as my little one grows and learns.

Amy@ProgressivePioneer September 6, 2009 at 9:23 pm

This gets me so excited for when we can really get into home schooling with Sam- he’s 17months now:) I know, I’m a little ahead of the game. But, ideally I’m hoping there won’t be any sort of hard and fast beginning of schooling, but that our lives will simply be about learning and that we can aim to cover certain things, but mostly be guided by his innate curiosity and love of discovery. Thanks for the inspiration!

Barb September 10, 2009 at 6:49 pm

I applaud your determination to give your boys a “well rounded” education/life. You’re one in a million…they are three lucky little fellows!

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