From School to Home: Our Story (Part 3: Big Kids)

Homeschooling big kids is a totally different ball of wax.

Those magical, sweet years of homeschooling littles (see Part One of our story) gave our family so many precious memories. The initial years of homeschooling instilled a love of learning and a deep sense of family in ALL of us.

After we had made the decision to homeschool the kids we then enjoyed several years of Interest Led Learning, Charlotte Mason’s principles, and a spirit of truth, beauty and goodness. (see Part Two of our story)

Life is just so predictable, though. Right when we begin to get the hang of something - to find the groove - things must change. I’m convinced this is God’s way to keep us growing and drawing closer to Him.

When my oldest got close to seventh grade I knew something needed to change. It was at this point that I can look back and see a dramatic shift in our homeschool - not better or worse - just different.

We needed the shift.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part 3: Big Kids) #homeschool

The Appeal of Classical Education

I had always tried to keep current with research about homeschooling. After reading The Well Trained Mind, I had implemented pieces of Classical Education in our homeschool. I knew that even more Classical elements would be a good fit for my youngest.

Grant was a collector of facts. He loved good books. We had been going down a very structured math route with him. I knew that Classical homeschooling would probably be a very good match for him. He was smack in the middle of the grammar stage.

At the same time, I thought that my oldest (Anna) could benefit from a lot of what I was reading about the dialectic stage.

Classical Conversations

A friend of mine introduced us to Classical Conversations. From everything I could tell it seemed this community approach would be the perfect thing for my then second grader.

My daughter was just the perfect age for the Challenge program, so I enrolled her in Challenge A. (equivalent to 7th grade)

(What I didn’t realize, and what I desperately wish I would have known at the time was that it was very hard to succeed in the Challenge program without the prior foundational experiences. I know children have done this, but I do think we do our middle schoolers a disservice when we expect them to jump into Classical education at the age of 12 or 13. It seems a bit like asking a child to bake their own cake without a recipe when they have never baked before and don’t possess the knowledge of what the ingredients are and how they work together.)

My daughter’s experience in Challenge A was much different than my son’s - I think this is because my son had 4 years preparation for Challenge A and my daughter had NONE.

Another observation: Classical Conversations communities vary widely.

My experience was entirely different based on the two communities we attended. I have heard different experiences from friends in other areas. Visit your local community to see if it is a fit for you. Do your research on the background of the company and the community. Research leadership in your area. And… remember that YOU are in charge of your homeschool.

( I have found it helpful over the years to write down our reasons for homeschooling and revisit them several times each year! )

Don’t Ever Tie Yourself to One “Program”

To make a long story short, my daughter stayed in the Challenge program four years.

She gained many good things from her years in Challenge. (I have written about not losing the wonder in high school and the importance of following your child.)

The valuable lesson I learned, however, was that we should never feel an allegiance to one method or program. The minute a method becomes an idol should be a warning signal. We must always stay in our own lanes and follow our child’s lead. In the end, it was important that I listened to my daughter and let her follow her passions.

(My son completed all of Foundations and Essentials and will be entering Challenge I this fall. He has an extremely unusual situation that involves a combination of 10 committed families and children who get along very well. I do tweak the Challenge curriculum and we participate because of the community. I anticipate him graduating with this group of friends, but I have also learned to never say never.)

Another lesson learned? Each child is different!! To assume one method will fit all of your children isn’t realistic!

Our #homeschool story - Part III

My daughter’s 12th grade World Literature class - what a blessing this group has been!

I think, also, that my daughter learned flexibility, grace, and courage in her homeschool high school experiences.

She has been the “new kid” at a local Classical school. She has learned to assert herself and how to step in and make friends. We can see so clearly how God was guiding her journey every step of the way!

The Courage to Be Different

Stepping away from Classical Conversations after the 10th grade gave us a feeling of FREEDOM with my daughter’s education.

She will be graduating in just a few weeks, and has enjoyed a combination of online classes, classes at a local Classical school, and a smattering of classes we have designed together at home. She will be attending college - majoring in Special Education (her great love).

God has been faithful and good throughout her homeschooling journey, and I am thankful I listened to HIM when it mattered most.

Take Some Good From Everything

I feel like a broken record - sharing the lessons I have learned, but there are so many.

Whatever curriculum, program, or method you choose - find the good in it. If it isn’t for you 100%, you always have extracted some good. I am convinced that if we adopt this attitude all will be well.

Life is like that, too - take a little good from everything you encounter, correct?

From our experiences with Classical Conversations, Memoria Press Academy, Mr. D Math, HSLDA Academy, Shormann Math - and many other resources - we have pieced together a unique education for each of my children that I hope honors each of their strengths and talents.

Our #Homeschool Story - Part III

Our sweet Challenge group - my son is the goofball on the top left!

Yes, They CAN Get Into College

Finally, everyone used to ask me if I was worried my homeschooler would get into college.

My answer? NOT AT ALL.

I found that being an unaccredited homeschooler put us into a separate category. We found colleges that were interested in my child and vice versa. If we had to jump through too many hoops to apply to a college then I knew that wasn’t the place for my homeschooler.

I wouldn’t let college acceptance factor into your homeschool high school decision. I tell my friends with younger homeschoolers now to just be sure they meet the state required credits for graduation, be sure your child takes some SAT or ACT prep, and that they can write well.

I sought to maintain the integrity of my daughter’s high school education first and foremost, and it has all worked out beautifully.

Read my series Homeschool to College to learn A LOT more about this topic!

Did you miss a part in the series?

Find them here:

From School to Home: Our Story (Part One)

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two)

My prayer is that you have courage, ideas, and inspiration from our journey.

Questions or comments? Just let me know below!

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two)

Once we made the decision to bring our oldest home it was time to get down to the business of really schooling her.

We took a couple of months to “deschool” (I had read somewhere to give your child a month for every year they had been in traditional school - so we needed about 3 months to get public school out of our system). I needed this time as well to get my ducks in a row.

I began researching curriculum and methods and reading anything I could get my hands on. I ordered a full curriculum kit from Sonlight and we began!

Everyone remarked about my qualifications to homeschoolL

“Your children will do just fine being homeschooled because of your background in education; I have no idea how you could do it without a teaching degree.”

I would soon come to learn, however, that training as a public school teacher was actually a HINDRANCE to homeschooling. The most important qualifications for a homeschooling parent were a love for their children, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to their child’s individuality.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two) — our journey to #homeschool

The Classroom Mentality

I began homeschool with the classroom mentality. This involved:

  • a strict schedule

  • worksheets

  • grading

  • what children “should” know

  • a physical space where learning occurred

Even though we had the beautiful curriculum guide and all of the gorgeous books from Sonlight, I still tried to recreate school at home.

Homeschool Mom Fail #1 (the first of so many!)

I purchased the popular books about what children need to know at each grade level. I tried to supplement Sonlight with some of that knowledge.I followed the Sonlight curriculum guide to the letter.

I made sure all of our written work was complete before we had any rewards like reading for pleasure, playing outside, or taking field trips. (I’m sure this is NOT the purpose of Sonlight - I was just a slave to the curriculum.)

I purchased a gradebook program and began keeping grades.

We said the pledge first thing every morning and sang songs about the weather. (I turned a space in our upstairs family room into our school area - and would make the kids sit and listen to me as I went through our beginning of the day litany - the one I had been used to in public school!)

It was ridiculous.

Thank goodness it only took me approximately 6 months to realize (after reading many blogs and meeting a few wonderful local homeschool moms) I was doing it all wrong.

My child was basically getting a one-on-one classroom education at home. That wasn’t what I desired for her, and over the course of the next year we made many adjustments.

*I still am a huge proponent of the Sonlight box curriculum. I’m just giving you an example of how I wasn’t willing to trust the homeschool process and know that between their resources and what my OWN child needed we would have had a more than sufficient homeschool education for her.

Homeschooling Wasn’t My Plan

Because homeschooling my children hadn’t been part of our thought process for very long we were still adjusting.

I knew I wouldn’t be going back to work full time. I also knew I wouldn’t have any “free time” while both of the kids were in school.

To be honest, it felt a bit like a death of something I had been working towards for 8 years - getting of my children into school so I could do my own thing again. I’m ashamed to admit this. Homeschooling has caused me to die to self again and again, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that blessing. Our lives changed in a few marked ways:

  • Priorities shifted

  • Dependence on God deepened.

  • Friends were lost - and gained.

  • Certain members of our family drifted from us - others supported us 110%.

  • The relationship with my children became oh so sweet - they were (and still are) my buddies day in and day out!

Looking back I realize those first six months of homeschooling were a training ground and deschooling time for all of us. By the time my youngest was ready for Kindergarten I was confident in the decision to homeschool. As we entered the Fall of 2010 I was homeschooling a 5 and 9 year old full time.

I had an extremely eager five year old! I was so thankful to be homeschooling him because he just SOARED! I cannot imagine how stifling a traditional learning environment would have been for him.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two) #homeschool

Things That Worked

I was obsessed.

Homeschooling offered so many advantages. We kept our own schedule, imparted what WE deemed important to our children, and spent time on things that truly interested them. I could see my children thriving.

A wise friend advised me that as long as I was covering reading and math I could follow my children’s leads and do a lot of interest led learning with them. She encouraged me to cultivate the wonder in their lives. This was probably the best homeschooling advice I’ve ever received. We didn’t truly “buckle down” until 7th grade with my oldest and it was just fine!

I decided to piece together curriculum for my children and follow their lead. If I’m being honest this was the most fun time in our homeschool journey!

I was beginning to see the true beauty in customizing their education. Certain resources and activities just clicked with my kids.

We joined a local homeschool co-op that met one afternoon a week. This gave the kids a chance to take fun classes and make friends. Through the co-op we learned about a homeschool literature fair (that we participated in for several years) … all of the wonderful homeschooling opportunities simply snowballed.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two) #homeschool

I was beginning to realize I COULD homeschool my children. The naysayers had been wrong. Imagine that.

When It’s Not All Roses

Please don’t get the impression that homeschooling was all roses. It wasn’t.

We definitely had many beautiful days, but there were hard days, too. It’s the same way now.

Some of the things we battled in the early years…

  • Attitude (from mom and kids)

  • Friendships - it took us a while to find our “tribe”

  • Opposition - from family and friends

  • Isolation - My husband worked an hour away and was gone for long hours - I felt isolated and had trouble finding like minded friends the first few years.

  • Relationships - my kids needed to learn how to be with each other full time - and I needed to learn to be with them full time, too.

These things got better over the years, but it was definitely an adjustment for all of us. Our lifestyle was changing, and I now see that we were actually going through the process of building a better life for ourselves, but it was going to take time and patience.

And then, just when I thought I was getting the hang of things, something happened… middle school!

In Part Three of this series I’ll address homeschooling big kids and how I (reluctantly) adjusted to that transition.

I’d love to hear about your homeschool journey - have you always homeschooled, or did you stumble into it reluctantly?

Leave me a comment below!

Did you miss Part I of the series? Find it here!