“Is this actually attainable, or just beyond the bounds of possibility?” one of many questions I thought to myself while deciding on whether or not to homeschool.
Funnily enough, as I’ve been working on this post for a week now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just published an article about school enrollment decline. They stated that there was a 47% increase in enrollment in homeschool throughout Wisconsin (31,000 children) and public/private school declined in enrollment. Last week, a Colorado paper reported that their state’s homeschool enrollment doubled this past year. Those numbers are not from the “virtual public schooling at home” season everyone found themselves in, these statistics are parents pulling their children out of secular school and filing homeschool enrollment forms.
Without knowing that homeschooling was going to be the trendy option, it was a decision our family had been considering since before the birth of our child. There are too many reasons, but I decided to share some of them today…
We are already living an unconventional life, so why not continue with that trend? We are part of the 31% world population that places God as the primary focus of our lives, weaving Him into every area of our daily living. Our desire to extend that into learning is impossible to achieve in a public school setting and even today, private schools are on the brink of being forced to comply with the same political agendas that public schools are starting to follow. This is not a political blog, so I’ll refer you to do a search on Google about some of the mandatory topics that are being flooded into schools across the nation.
In homeschooling, there’s zero pressure to conform to the world when you learn in a home environment. There’s little “keeping up with the Joneses”, there’s no abandoning matchbox cars and barbies because “only babies play with toys”, there’s no pressure to abandon values at the insistence of peers. It provides a better opportunity to let individuality and education flourish. A saying has been stuck in my head…“It’s easier to water a garden than it is to have to constantly weed it.”
No child is left behind in homeschooling. I mostly blame my public school education on my inability to know basic math. As a struggling subject, it wasn’t long before I got left behind. A teacher in charge of 30 students, who’s on a strict timeline to go over the set instructional topics, cannot pause and give an extra week of support to the few students are behind. What did two hours of math homework matter when you didn’t even know how to do the math leading up to it and stayed up until 1am sobbing and Google searching geometry information? In the same grade, while I struggled with math, there were high schoolers who struggled to read outloud…10th grade students with a 5th grade reading level. Students who didn’t know what the Holocaust was because the History teacher only had enough time to briefly skim over WWII before jumping into the Cold War, students in science class that were as lost as they were in math because at some point you have to start bringing in math skills that they didn’t posses.
Parents are responsible for their child’s education regardless of homeschool or secular school. Some of the struggles above have to do with the children’s home lives not supporting their education. I think many assume that if in school, it’s the school’s responsibility to teach a child. But again, a teacher of 30 students can’t be expected to teach every child to read at the same level at the same time. They require additional reading at home, homework help, parental support. Parents are a key part of education regardless and the jump to homeschooling isn’t that outrageous of a thought when considering the current involvement.
The love of learning isn’t a personality trait that we are born with, it’s something gifted to us as we grow up. While we all faced various challenges in the classroom, it’s a difficult environment for true love of learning to flourish as originally intended. It’s well-known, and acceptable, that going over history in the 6th grade is reading from a boring textbook, filling out another worksheet to help memorize important dates and names of men, and cramming for a test that we won’t remember next year. Don’t forget those paragraphs and papers, only regurgitating facts you read minutes ago, responding to paragraphs only in accordance to what you know your teacher is looking for. It’s more likely that one leaves school as copy/paste student instead of independent, free-thinkers. The one example that comes to mind is the bar scene within Good Will Hunting. The show-off college guy was attending a prestigious school and clearly thought highly of himself in regards to his education. The main character, Will, destroys that notion as you can clearly tell the difference between an independent learner who received education from school and a student who just has memorized what he has read.
There was also the wrestling over Fish’s specific needs as a student with ASD. He’d be receiving Special Ed support and have an IEP, but he wouldn’t be challenged in math or continue his head start of learning to read. If enrolled today, he’d be ahead academically but would struggle in other ways. School would challenge him in the wrong ways, he’d be pushed to the max in terms of sensory overload, School is meant for academic education and when laying it all out, the cons were higher than the pros. There’s more freedom and opportunity to be true to God and the person that He created you to be in the choice of homeschooling.
Countless studies show that homeschool graduates are not only better educated, but they have a love of learning that can’t even be compared to most secular graduates. They score above average on state tests and college ACT/SATs, all despite their parents education level. There’s no concern of social aspect as “87% peer-reviewed studies on social, emotional, and psychological development have proven that homeschool students perform significantly better than those in public or private schools. (NHERI.org)”. Personally, to date, every single homeschooled child that I have ever met in my life is far more polite, socialized, and educated than their peers.
We want to value art, music, nature, and literature as much as math, science, and history are valued and we want our child to learn at his own pace. For the past year we’ve been following various curriculum to feed our hungry learner. This year, he’s expected to attend K-4 in the public school down the block. This month, I’m ordering 1st grade math curriculum because he flew through the yearlong Kindergarten math in 6 months. He counts to 50 in the car or grocery line for the fun of it. The Kindergarten language arts book we are working on is too easy & we’re speeding through it as a review in the hopes we can get to some more challenging parts to stay on for a while. It’s honestly only overwhelming because I feel I can’t keep up with his appetite for learning.
How It’s Going So Far…
It’s been a full year since we’ve taken the plunge (which was a “let’s see how it goes” type). We do schooling six days a week and through the summer for “Homeschool K-4”, but I’ve quickly learned that grade levels don’t matter in homeschooling because it doesn’t accurately reflect their true learning level.
For organization, I have a large binder with our [loose] schedule, book lists, and work that is saved to show growth. Online, I use a daily tracking app to record what we did each day, which isn’t really needed now but the habit of doing it will be beneficial once he turns six and I have to record and submit hours of learning for the state.
Every morning, we snuggle up with books to start our day. It’s usually books from the library (80 books recorded for the month of July), though recently we’ve been reading The Chronicles of Narnia. We just finished The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and while I was hesitant at first, the result is inspiring. This four year old sat through a chapter book with no pictures, and is now running around with a play sword and shield, pretending to be Peter Pevinsie in the front yard. He retells the story better than my 13-year-old sister explains the plot of her favorite film. The simple art of reading outloud, with a book deemed too difficult for him to comprehend, has opened a door that Fish struggled with as a kiddo with ASD.
On Monday’s, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we pull out our purchased curriculum. Right now it’s Simply K, by Masterbooks. Earlier this year it was Math Lessons for Living Education, Level K and Kindergarten 1 by ChristianLight. In the Simply K curriculum, each lesson focuses on Bible time (Biblical stories, character teachings & memory verses with motions), rhyming (fun poetry, vocabulary words & letter recognition), life skills (weather, emotions, safety/emergencies, hygiene, etc), and ABC writing/early reading. It doesn’t take much of our time in the book, but is reinforced the rest of the day.
Aside from reading and the small curriculum, what we do depends on many factors. If it’s a beautiful sunny day (or we are having a bad day), we’ll go outside and tend to the garden, go to the park to make friends and explore, go to church for animal care & riding, catch bugs, play sports, go swimming, find new parks and trails to explore, or go on walks, attend co-op classes, or rec center classes. We have a nature book and have lots of chats about the world and life, and I’m constantly pulling out my phone to answer questions like, “What happens when the bees bring the pollen back to their home?”
If it’s a day where Fish is thirsty for extra schoolwork, I’ll pull out worksheets, Handwriting Without Tears, BOB books to read on his own, Hooked on Phonics, work on Sight Words, or pull out ASL flashcards. If its too hot or cold to go outside or we just feel like homebodies, we pull out board games made for kids (and strategy ones made for adults). He’s encouraged to create through Lincoln Logs, Creative Flakes, Legos, Colored Wooden Shapes, Playdoh, math manipulatives, creation kits from the library, or various art supplies. When we are sick, or vacation time, or serving others, we try not to fret over a missed school day since not only do we have a full year of learning, every day ends up being a learning day. Long car rides listening to audiobooks, dance parties with music blaring, or relaxing bath time with classical music, or sitting outside and just being bored, spending a few hours at the library, caring for the home, baking. Even on these slow break days, there’s something to add to our tracking system.
I know our schedule and routine will change as time passes, and curriculum will change along with the approach for learning and I’m excited to see how far we get on this journey. I’ve already written a novel already, so perhaps I’ll share more specific information in the future.