Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why we homeschool

Homeschooling is a pretty big part of our lives, but I recently realized I haven't really addressed it here. I've been thinking about it lately as some people have asked about our schooling plans as the kids get older, as I've talked with friends about their schooling plans, and as I research what I need to know if we move to Colorado. There are many reasons that we homeschool, but hopefully I'll successfully hit the high points here.

Here's the first thing to know. I don't care if you homeschool or don't homeschool. I am not a vegetarian who thinks everyone should be vegetarian and I'm not a homeschooler who thinks everyone should homeschool. I think there are many, many schooling options available and that families should make the right choice for their family.

We started because sending Isaac to preschool felt wrong in my gut. When Isaac was 3, our friends started talking about where their kids were going and which days and it felt wrong for us. Then Isaac was 4 and people were talking about the second year of preschool and I wasn't up to carting him to 2 1/2 hours of preschool with a 2 year old and a newborn. Too sleepy. Couldn't do it.

Then it was kindergarten time and Isaac was doing well with the playing and preschool stuff we'd done at home and dance class was going well and I had these three kids who loved each other and got along so well and were growing up together in a way I couldn't see happening if Isaac was at school. I prayed about it and read about it and we talked about it and finally decided to give homeschooling a whirl for kindergarten.

Kindergarten went well, Jim was fully on board, and here we are finishing up fourth grade, second grade, and kindergarten, plus a baby thrown in for good measure.
this is where Asher hung out for the first few months of his life while I sleepily taught the others

Homeschooling works for us. Jim has an unpredictable work schedule so we can do extra work when he's really busy and then take a day or two off when we haven't seen him for ages and he has a few days off.

Homeschooling works for us. I'm terrible at getting people up and dressed and lunches made and in three different places by 8:30 am. Don't even get me started on hair brushing. It would never happen. Ever. I am better at getting people up and having a long, chatty breakfast before getting our school day started.
Letter matching game in catcher's gear. Sure. Go for it. Hides the bed head.

Homeschooling works for us. I would be terrible at getting people home from school and fed a snack and homework done before sports and dinner and bedtime. Basically I am terrible at being in a rush and when I am I get cranky and then the whole house is cranky. It's no good.

Homeschooling works for us. Isaac loves history so I base a lot of his curriculum on what we're learning in history. Audrey loves cursive so she started it in first grade. Elliot loves math so I let him do as many pages as he wants. When they are stuck on something we practice until it's learned and I teach it in another way until it makes sense to them. When they get it we move along. We can plan field trips, or even road trips, to extend our learning.

Homeschooling works for us. I love that we can share and discuss our faith throughout the day. It can be part of history, science, and writing. It is not relegated to one class or a prayer before lunch. We can talk about Christianity alongside the other major religions of the world and discuss why we believe what we believe, while also teaching tolerance, love, and understanding for people who believe and worship differently than we do.

Homeschooling works for us. We can finish our day quickly, work harder for four days in order to take a long weekend if we have out of town visitors, start late if we were up late the night before or start early if we need to get done early. The flexibility is great, but we also have a set amount of things we have to get done each day and week and year.
We can bring school to doctor's appointments

We can take the day off when nana visits

Homeschooling works for us. The kids share a relationship they wouldn't share if they were gone all day and busy all evening. I get to hang out with them all day and learn along with them. If they have a question about school I know just what they mean because I taught them or learned it at the same time.

Homeschooling works for us. I have more say in their peer group than I would if they were in a school setting. I do not choose their friends or protect them from all of life's bumps and bruises, but simply because we're with them more often, we have more knowledge of who they're with and what they're exposed to.

Homeschooling works for us. Our bigger kids saw the ins and outs of bringing a baby home and getting adjusted and making the day work in a unique and beautiful way. The relationship they have with Asher is so different than it would have been if they were at school during the day. Not that it would have been bad. Not at all. But it definitely would have been different.
such sweetness

Oh the love!

oh, the pride

asher starting his botany education early

Homeschooling works for us. I can use co-op and videos and books and friends to teach the things I'm not comfortable teaching and use the expertise of others to benefit my kids' learning.
water sampling

mixing it up

out on the canoe for more samples

We're all trying to raise good, kind, well-adjusted kids. Thankfully there are thousands of different formulas that get us to that final answer. (Thankfully there's also therapy. heeheee) What works for me won't work for you and might work for him. Unfortunately we can't take all of the credit for all of the great things our kids do, but fortunately that also means we don't take all of the blame when they make mistakes.

Confession time: There are days I want to run out and beg the school bus to take my kids for just one day. Heck. Three hours would work. I want someone else to deal with the occasional math time tantrum (it's always math) and curriculum planning. Yet here we are. All these years later.

I love learning with these kids. Mohenjo Daro. East and West Pakistan. First word sounded out. First sentence written. It is an honor. I think spending the day learning with them uses many of my strengths and downplays my glaring weaknesses. I certainly hope that it draws on their strengths and challenges them in their learning. I would love 10 minutes or 58 seconds to myself, but I also know I will not regret the decision to be their mama and their teacher. Some days I feel sure I am not enough and failure is imminent. Other days I am sure we are all just where we are supposed to be. I think I'd feel that way no matter where we lived or how they were schooled because I think as parents we are always second guessing ourselves and hoping against all hope that we are doing our best for them. I think they'd do fine in school, but this is what we prefer and what works for us now and I'm so thankful we have the option to teach our children at home.

Summer is upon us. We are finishing up the last of our lessons. It'll take longer than usual because of the August addition of sir Asher. And that's ok because that's part of life and learning. We'll continue reading and math and listening to our history books and CD, but we'll also take it easy and read more books together, Mary Poppins is first in the queue, and play outside and head to the beach.

The kids are growing and learning and I am so proud of them. They love to learn. They are curious. They are confident. But at the end of the day, the people they are matter more to me than the information they know. Everyone can use google or a calculator or a dictionary to answer a question. I want to know they'll hold the door open for a stranger, notice a lovely sunrise, write a heartfelt thank you note, and read for the simple love of meeting new friends in the pages of a book. This could happen at a public school, charter school, online school, private school. The road we've chosen is homeschool. It's the right road for us.

How do you keep your kids engaged and learning (or at least not forgetting everything) over the summer without it feeling too much like formal schooling?

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