Before my family began homeschooling we were committed public schoolers. We did not know any families that homeschooled, did not know a thing about how it worked and frankly did not really care to learn. Then God changed everything, always a good thing, and showed us in a very short time that we should take our kids out of school and start down this wonderful wacky journey. For more about that read here http://wp.me/p5FpqF-f8 .
Once we were convinced of the what we should do, homeschool, the next steps was to figure out the how? How in the world are we, two parents who never considered anything other than public school and one who works full time going to teach four kids day in and day out. How are we going to do it in a way that would be productive for them and prepare them for the world. Memories of our struggles in certain subjects that we had not thought of in 20 years suddenly bubbled to the surface and began to haunt us — the ghost of Spanish II awakening you at 2 am is nothing to take lightly, Como Se Dice, Yikes! How in the world are we going to teach the kids things we don’t ourselves know?
When we began to tell people about our decision we also began to be inundated with questions about the kids socialization — why does the checkout lady at Walmart care about my child’s socialization — and simple logistical questions. What is your schedule going to be like? How are they going to do gym? What about labs for subjects like chemistry?
On particularly challenging days with too many questions, I would come home from work and find my wife curled up in the corner rocking and hugging herself, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this” But we did not turn back, though at times we wanted to, because we were certain that it was God leading us and where He guides, He provides. So we kept going, kept researching and now years later are grateful for every day we get to spend with our kids teaching them.
It was a close one though and there were times when turning back seemed less scary that continuing forward — it just seemed too hard. If you are there reader, I get it — taking the homeschool plunge is just huge and sometimes seems like you are being dropped into the heart of a central African country with no training or preparation. I emphasize seemed though because the truth is despite homeschool involving hard work, it is doable work for every family if that is how you are being led. Everyone can do it. No matter if it is Mom, Dad or Grandma and Grandpa leading, the huge amount of curriculum, classes and programs out there today in different formats allow children to receive great educations no matter the challenges.
A common concern, make that fear, I hear from parents is that given their educational background they don’t feel comfortable teaching their children – they think that because they were uninterested or poor students they will not be able to teach their kids. This is just not how homeschool works today – it is just not totally reliant upon what we know or don’t know. Rather, it is more like the old expression about standing on the shoulders of giants. There is a wide variety of homeschool programs (often referred to as curriculum) available that can provide as much or as little of the actual structure and schooling as you need or prefer. Much of the hard work of choosing lessons, subjects and planning out week schedules is part of the program and has already been done by a person with expertise in the area. You just research which one to use, send away for it or order it on the internet and within a week or so can have a school program for the whole year arrive at your house ready to plug and play.
If you want to be a hands on teacher involved in the lessons and interacting with your child in teaching, there are programs that are tailored to this and incorporate it throughout the year. Charlotte Mason based programs often involve a lot of teacher directed interaction and read aloud portions of teaching — Hearts of Dakota is one and has worked very well for us but there are many out there. I have myself have enjoyed the history portions of the read aloud as the books involved are fun, interesting and present a view of American history that I was never taught at school growing up. I have a degree in History and I learned a ton.
If you feel unable to do so or you simply prefer a different structure, there are programs that incorporate this choice into their teaching. ABEKA has been a mainstay of the homeschooling community for years. Their program has the children watching a teacher teach a class in Florida recorded on DVD’s they send you. You simply put them on and have your child watch and work along with the class.
Though it may sound boring, we have used this as well and the children who have watched the DVD’s really enjoy it. We are actually surprised how much our child who is doing ABEKA loves it as it was supposed to be a temporary solution for us. He enjoys it so much that he wanted to continue and to meet the teacher and other students if he can. The teacher includes them in activities and it is as if they are part of a classroom, but without the junk that goes along with that. If you are feeling scared or inadequate as a teacher but called to homeschool, it can be as simple as putting in a DVD and checking work against a key.
On more difficult individual subjects there is stand alone courses and programs that you can use to fill in that gap. Math has never been a strong point for me, but my children have learned advanced math courses from computer based programs and from online tutorials. They are now way better than I ever was with math. They have also taken online courses in writing and English to supplement their base curriculum. Labs are also covered through programs available and making crystals at the kitchen table can be fun for the whole family — the young ones learning along with the big guys. Our children also have the time for supplementing their educations with such things as talks from Ravi Zacharias on Apologetics thanks to the internet.
In addition to the materials available, homeschooling has become very popular where we live resulting in a large number of co-ops and tutorial programs cropping up among the community. They can be as basic as a few families getting together at the park to run around on a regular basis or a complicated as a weekly professionally run school type atmosphere that directs the work at home during the week. We are part of a program that meets weekly and where parents volunteer and teach classes in areas that the group may not have expertise in — foreign languages, sciences, literature – and also those that are just fun — lego club, robotics and gym. It has been a blessing for our kids. As a homeschooler, it is comforting to know that though we have left one community behind we have joined a whole new one with thousands of members. We are never alone and there are plenty of resources to help.
Shooting straight with you, I can say that homeschooling is not easy – there are some struggles that are unique and I can guarantee that you will get to know your own faults better as you see them lived out every day in your kids (why in the world are you doing that, oh because I do it all the time) but it is doable…..and wonderful. No matter who you are and what you feel about your competence, there are ways to fill in your gaps so that you can experience the good parts and raise your kids how you choose. Don’t miss out on all the blessings because of fear. Perfect love casts out all fear!