Our homeschool journey has been full of beautiful memories, powerful learning moments, and tons of laughter and love.
I can say with 100% certainty that home education has been the best path for our family.
We've enjoyed setting our own schedule, pursuing each child's interests, and immersing our children in all things good and beautiful. Everything we have done has served a purpose - sometimes not one I could immediately see - but ULTIMATELY I know it all works together for good.
In our new Classical Conversations community I have the joy of getting to know moms who are younger than me - moms who are just starting the homeschool journey.
I am in a new phase of homeschool life. As these moms are worrying about teaching children to read and what math program to choose, we are thinking about the SAT, Latin, and Chemistry! It gives me a fresh perspective and also makes me think about what I would do as a new homeschool mom.
What if I could turn back the homeschool clock? What would I do differently?
I know what you are thinking - it never pays to look back - only forward. I agree with you. In the interest of helping readers, however, I do believe self examination can help those who read this blog.
As I look back I also see my own shortcomings, the grace that was given to me, and how much my whole family has grown in the process.
So this post not only celebrates our homeschool, but also seeks to point out the ways in which we could have changed and/or learned to make things better.
If I could turn back the homeschool clock I would...
Start Homeschooling From Day ONE!
It took us way too long to abandon the ideal of public school! I believe this is because the idea of a public education was deeply embedded in our thinking. We were raised in public schools. I worked in public schools. We were highly invested in them, until we realized that investment didn't pay off for OUR children.
I had actually been homeschooling my children from birth and just didn't realize it. I should have had the confidence to forge ahead and keep my sweet ones at home.
What I say to younger moms is this:
You ARE enough.
You don't need a degree to teach your children.
Don't let society tell you they need to be away from you to thrive.
(As it turns out we had some wonderful preschool and early elementary teachers and also learned some hard lessons in school that helped us decide to homeschool. It all worked out -- but I still wish we'd started sooner!)
Be Strict About Math From The Beginning
This might sound contrary to just letting our kids be little - and I'm all for making math fun - but math is a subject that requires consistency and discipline from day one.
It's extremely hard to back pedal in math - in fact... I think it's impossible.
We waffled between Horizons Math, various math workbooks, living math curricula, and math games. As my knowledge of Classical education increased, I realized that math drills every day, coupled with a good math program are what it takes to produce a student who is SOLID in math.
My youngest benefitted from this knowledge. He has used Saxon Math from the start and he is a good math student. We play games with math and read math storybooks, but the core of our math is sitting down and doing a Saxon lesson EXACTLY as it is prescribed in the book.
(You can throw tomatoes at me if you'd like.)
Over the past eight years we have only used Saxon math with my youngest. We have stressed neatness, diligence, showing your work, and a commitment to doing math every single day.
I wish I would have done this with my oldest.
(Side note: my oldest loves Mr. D Math and I am so thankful for his online math courses that clearly have created a successful math student! If you're searching for a math solution and your child is older, this is what I recommend.)
Read Aloud MORE to Older Kids!
I read aloud a lot when my children were little.
(I asked them for this post and they agreed on their five favorite books: Trumpet of the Swan, Charlie & The Great Glass Elevator, The Great Turkey Walk, Robin Hood, and the 26 Fairmount Avenue Series.)
When my oldest hit seventh grade, however, and we began a more structured program in Classical Conversations, I didn't think there was enough TIME to read aloud. This was a big mistake. I should have taken the time and continued to read aloud.
Once again, I learned my lesson after this and we now build time into our day (during Morning Time) to read aloud. This is a cherished time in our homeschool. The past couple of weeks we've been reading The Wednesday Wars and it's been SUCH fun! (Honestly, we've been laughing OUT LOUD as we read this book!)
I'm amazed at how much my children love to be read to, and how much we laugh and joke about the books throughout the week.
We're creating memories and connections through our read alouds, and this is especially important with our big kids!
(Our three recent read alouds:)
Include More Art
Art isn't a subject I'm comfortable teaching. We dabbled in simple art here and there, but I could have done a better job with art instruction - and cultivating a love of art in my children.
When the kids were older I discovered a great series of art appreciation books - and I wish we would have spent more time with those.
Again, I cannot really turn back the clock, but I can suggest these things to YOU!
Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of AnimalsEd Emberley's Drawing Book: Make a WorldEd Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing BookEd Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces (REPACKAGED) (Ed Emberley Drawing Books)Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos (Ed Emberley Drawing Books)Ed Emberley's Big Green Drawing Book (Ed Emberley's Big Series)Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and TrainsEd Emberley's Picture Pie (Ed Emberley Drawing Books)Ed Emberly Little Drawing Book of Trains13 Artists Children Should Know13 Painters Children Should Know13 Modern Artists Children Should Know (Children Should Know)13 Photos Children Should Know
It sounds so trite - maybe even oversimplified, right?
Who can relax when you have so many children to take care of - children whose education rests on your shoulders - children who need to get into college one day?
As I look back, however, I realize the importance of letting our children be little and staying in our own lane. Our MOST important job is to raise children who love God, love each other, and love to learn. We are raising our children to be confident, independent, and capable of following their own path.
Believe me, if they don't read until second or third grade they will be OK. If they never take a formal "test" until the sixth or seventh grade they will be OK. You will more than make up for any perceived deficiencies with the love, attention, and wonder you are giving them as you homeschool them.
Play games with them. Read to them. Go on nature walks. Giggle. Bake.
It's SO worth it.
As I'm getting ready to graduate one I can assure you that God's grace is sufficient and it's so true -- He fills in the gaps.
Look at these children - I have the joy and honor of schooling them. I've poured my heart and soul into them and I've loved (almost!) every minute. Homeschool is a GOOD thing. Aren't we lucky?