Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jean Jumper Post #3 Observations on Successful Home Schoolers

I hope my last post didn’t discourage anyone who is considering home schooling; that wasn’t my intention at all. I also hope that I didn’t make it sound like any one who tries to home school will always feel inadequate and feel that they are failing. I don’t think those feelings have to go with home schooling. My reason for sharing this struggle that I had, was to warn others against the snare and show how tempting and easy it is to fall into the trap. Now I feel like I need to redeem home schooling by writing about five posts all on the glories and wonders of home schooling to counteract what I said. However, I have other things to say.

There really were so, so many days where I absolutely loved home schooling. I love that Karis still plays with dolls; something that I don’t think she would be doing if she hadn’t had so much time to be at home with me and her younger siblings. I loved reading aloud to the kids, I loved drawing with them and doing science experiments and taking hikes. I loved watching them play outside for hours when they would have been serving several more hours of time at a desk were they in school. I loved watching them learn to read and spell and seeing the creative stories they made up. I had many glimpses of what parenting would have been like before the fall. It would have been a rewarding, exciting adventure of leading another soul to come to know and learn and appreciate all there is to discover in God’s amazing creation. I believe that children would still have to be taught, but they would want to learn and be overcome by wonder. Our days as women would not be burdened with cooking and cleaning and laundry like they are now. I believe that we would still have work to do, because work is not a result of the fall. But our work would not be cursed: grinding, tedious, overwhelming. We would never have those babies-crying-kids-fighting-while-cooking-dinner evenings.

But...on this side of Eden, home schooling can still work. Here are some things that I’ve noticed about families who have made it work:

1) They are set up for kids. They planned for how they would provide for a family maybe even before they were married. Kids are not a blip in their life, but the main focus. They have made wise financial decisions that have allowed them to survive on one income. That one income may not be large, but they have learned the tricks necessary to make ends meet in a two-income economy. Therefore, they are not trying to cram a bunch of kids into a two bedroom apartment and home school. That’s a recipe for disaster. They may not have a fancy house, but they have adequate bedrooms and living space to accommodate play, learning, younger ones napping. Families who have purchased fancy homes in the uppity part of town may find that even though their house is grand, it is not set up for having lots of kids at home during the day. They may do better with a plainer house, in the cheaper part of town, or outside of town, where you can get more practical space for the same or less money, and possibly more land for the kids to explore, garden, etc. Some giant houses only have three bedrooms these days, even though they have three car garages. A kid friendly house probably won’t have the master suite with the Jacuzzi tub and monster closets for him and her, but I believe your family will be happier. Builders these days often don’t have large families in mind. They have large in mind, but not in the way that is helpful for having lots of kids. So it may be a challenge to find what I am talking about. But it is essential that if you want to home school, you plan ahead of time for accommodating kids. Otherwise, you will find yourself overcrowded and just wishing they would be gone at school for a few hours, especially in winter when they can’t play outside.

2) I’ve found that successful home school families survive because they have a thoroughly Biblical understanding of discipline and child training. When this is not in place, you find mothers counting the months until kindergarten or preschool starts; they can’t wait to get them to school. This is a concept that I think home schoolers sometimes get backwards. They see a family that has discipline issues and they say things like, “See what happens when you send your kids to school. I’m so glad we home school.” Now I know kids can pick up bad things from school, but often the heart of the issue is that the parents are not sold-out on biblical principles. Some basics from Proverbs have either never been read, or never believed upon. Bringing these kids home would be a disaster. School is helpful in that it teaches structure and discipline to kids who have none at home. Anyone who wants to be successful at home schooling must first be successful at parenting. When parenting is not going well, home schooling will make things a lot worse. I don’t mean that only perfect parents can home school; of course there are none. But it is helpful to use the language Paul uses in describing what an elder’s family must be like:

1 Timothy 3:4-5 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

Paul does not say he must be a perfect father to be an elder. But there are certain standards and I think these apply to home schooling as well. Before you home school you must know how to manage your household well and your children must be submissive. Otherwise, home schooling is going to be worse than pulling teeth.

I don’t want to make this post too overwhelmingly long, like I am known to do, so I will leave you with those two observations for now and continue with more later.


Grace Halsey said...

Hi Leslie,

I'm not sure if you'll remember me from CGS days (we left for seminary just as you guys moved there), but I've enjoyed reading your blog occasionally ever since Archie recommended it on the Bayly blog. Thank you for all the helpful insights and encouragement that you offer--even when you don't realize it!

Andy and I are considering homeschooling our daughter (though she won't be Kindergarten age for 2 more years) and your observations have been helpful. At this point, I don't know how long we'd do it and since we may eventually place her (and our others) in school, I'm curious how your children adjusted when they were put into a traditional school setting after being homeschooled for a few years. Was anything difficult for them socially or did you feel that their adjustment was without much trouble? We are excited about the opportunities that homeschooling offers and are just trying to understand as much as we can about it. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer this (or including it in a subsequent post) and may God continue to bless your family!

Leslie said...

Hi Grace,

I do remember you and Andy even though you left shortly after we came. It's good to hear from you.

My kids adjusted very well to school even after having been home schooled for 4 years (the oldest). One reason may be because we had always been a part of a home school co-op. When we lived in Bloomington, the co-op was very large and they attended classes without me around. Our oldest, Karis, is somewhat shy and so I think this was good preparation for a school environment. Furthermore, when we moved here to Colorado Springs, my kids went to a home school enrichment program at a classical charter school in town. (Actually, not the school they currently attend because it wasn't open yet, but the school their current school is modeled after). They attended this program two half days a week and this was another oppurtunity for Karis to feel comfortable in a classroom.

I think that if you home school with the mindset of taking it one year at a time, then it is important to be in some sort of co-op or enrichment program. Many cities offer enrichment classes taken at churches. As long as they have that sort of experience as well as Sunday school, pioneer clubs, etc., I think most kids will transition well. I know the Bayly's have also done that: home schooled for a time and then put the kids in school.

Well, I hope that answered your question. It's great that you are considering home schooling and I hope it becomes a wonderful experience for you however long you choose to do it.


Grace Halsey said...

Dear Leslie,

Thanks for answering my question. To give you a little background information: We are in a very small town in Mississippi without many resources that are found in other parts of the country (including home school enrichment classes, etc.). We are trying to decide whether it's better to give our children our best attempt at a God-centered, thorough academic education at home (without the help of anyone from the outside since no one else here does that) or whether we can accept the public school situation (where many members of our church are employed--Andy is the pastor of our church) for a while, even though our daughter will be ahead of the other students academically and we really don't know what we'd be exposing her to. I asked the question about "school transition" because I have never felt called to homeschool (until recently) and wondered if we ever moved and found a good school, or became aware of a good school situation outside our home here, would our children have a very difficult time adjusting. I do believe this is a side-issue and one that can't make our decision, but I'm trying to do as much research as possible.

It does seem like we are in a place where God is calling us to trust Him in a new way and not be afraid to be different, so we are committed to pray about it for at least a year and see what happens. I'm actually having fun looking through curriculum catalogs and spending a little "school" time with Clara--just on fun basic stuff that she likes to do.

Thanks again for your help. Keep writing!


Leslie said...

Hi Grace,

I think that so much of the decision on whether or not home school has to do with your situation. On a personal note, I would be still home schooling now if it wasn't for the great school they have the opportunity to attend. There are only two classical charter schools in Colorado and we happen to live 10 minutes from one. Not only that, the other one has a waiting list of 5,000 kids. We were only able to get into this one because it opened just two years ago, and I put my kids on the waiting list 6 months before it even opened, as soon as I heard about it. If it had opened a few years before we moved here or if we hadn't moved here till later, the chances of them getting in would have been slim. All that to say: I think you do need to only evaluate your current circumstances and what is best for your children's education now, and the Lord will direct you if you are to ever move or have different options. The good thing about home schooling is that you only have to sign up for one year at a time. You do not have to commit to it for life and no matter what. So if you do not feel that the school situation would be ideal as your daughter approaches kindergarten, try it for a year.

I think that my kids would have adjusted fine to going to school even if they hadn't done the enrichment program. Isaiah wouldn't have missed a beat. Karis would have been a little aprehensive the first week or so, but she would have gotten along fine. The main thing would be that they were academically prepared and didn't feel lost. Going to a regular public school from home school I don't think that ever comes up. But sometimes going from home school to a Christian school or classical school, some of the home schoolers were a little ill-prepared for the rigorous academic environment and the large demands on their time.

But as long as you are following a rigorous program and not "unschooling" I think that a year or two of home schooling could be great preparation for if they do go to school eventually.

For instance, last year was RMCA's first year being open and the teachers were not all as familiar with the curriculum as they could have been. So whenever Karis' teacher would forget how to say one of the phonograms, she would always ask Karis "how does that go again?" Karis always knew because she had been home schooled. Both of my kids came in way ahead of their peers in all subjects. Isaiah was so ahead of the 2nd graders that they ended up sending him to 3rd grade for reading and math. They all three often complain that school is too easy for them. Karis has yet to come across a spelling word that she didn't already know how to spell. So in some ways, they were better prepared to go to school than if they had been at school, if that makes any sense.

I hope that gives you some confidence that if you do decide to home school, it will not have to be a permanent decision.

Good hearing from you,

Grace Halsey said...

Dear Leslie,

Thanks for that encouragement. One of the reasons that I've been thinking about homeschooling is that I was pretty sure putting our children in the public schools here would actually keep them behind children in other parts of the country. Still, we don't know the Lord's plan for our family, and, even if we never move, we still have the responsibility of giving them the best education that we can. I may be writing to you again in a few years for curriculum advice! :)

It is great to learn of how the Lord planned the timing for your family's move and the new school opening. I am so thankful that we can always trust His ways and depend on Him to guide us! Yours is a good testimony.

Thanks again,