I never planned to homeschool. I was the product of a private Christian school and my husband was a public school graduate. My mom had been a teacher for years and John’s mom had worked in the public school system for years. Homeschooling had never even crossed my mind. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.
But, then I received a phone call.
You know, the kind of call that reminds you of your own school days. It was a call from the principle of the school where my two oldest boys were attending I found myself being summoned into the principles office just like I had been so many times throughout my own school years…but that is another book in and of itself.
Naturally, since these were my first two sons and I was still a young mother, the thought of being asked to come in and discuss my boys struck fear into my heart. As I sat through that conference, I heard several things…things that left me pondering and wondering.
I was told that I had a choice about my 2nd grader. I could choose to have him move to 3rd grade with his class. But, I was also told that there was concern that he would fall behind because of the transition to more lecture style teaching in the 3rd grade.
In my mind, I had a pretty violent reaction to lecture style teaching in the 3rd grade, but I held my tongue and continued to listen.
The other choice I was given was to have this same son repeat 2nd grade. However, there was concern that he would be bored. It appeared evident to the teachers that he was grasping the concepts but he was having trouble expressing those in written format. Hmmmm…..well, in the small class setting at this school (maximum class size of 8 ) I wondered why the teacher couldn’t adapt her assessment style for a different style of learner. Why couldn’t they be more innovative and why couldn’t they think out of the box.
But again, being the young, first time mother, I continued to hold my tongue.
Much to my surprise, I was then told we needed to discuss our 1st grade son as well. Wow! My 1st grader appeared bored in class and seemed to be easily frustrated by his peers when they did not grasp a concept as quickly as he did. Once again, in my mind of course, I wondered why, in a class of eight, the teacher could not adapt teaching styles, projects and material to meet the needs of the individual student. There was talk of moving him up a grade and I found myself imagining the dilemma that would put me in as I tried to explain this to my two sons who were the best of friends.
I wrestled and wrestled with what to do. John and I prayed and talked and I happened to “stumble” on the idea of homeschooling the boys. I mean, how hard could it be at this early age. In my mind, I envisioned a schoolroom with desks, a chalkboard, an American flag, a teacher’s desk, bookcases lined with all sorts of education games and books. That’s it! I would do school at home.
My start to homeschooling was quite inauspicious. I didn’t feel convicted to homeschool. I didn’t make the decision out of concern for the spiritual well-being of my children. I decided to homeschool based on the unmet educational needs of my children. No writing on the wall and no banner in the sky. It was a practical decision. At that time, John wasn’t jumping up and down on the bandwagon but at least he was supportive. We didn’t know what else to do. We had bright boys whose needs were not being met even though we had put them in a private Christian school with extremely small class sizes.
As we talked, we began thinking of homeschooling as an “out of the box” solution to our dilemma and the “out of the box” opportunities it would provide our children and our family. It was THEN and only THEN that we began to realize how powerful this approach could be. In the course of our conversations, we began to realize that:
-We could tailor make each of our son’s education based on their strengths, weaknesses, interests and desires.
-We could schedule their education around our family life instead of our family life around their education.
-We could impart our values to them by taking advantage of those teachable moments that happen when we least expect them.
-We could adjust teaching styles to match the learning styles of our children.
-We could “camp out” on topics of interest to our children.
-We would have more time to instill the character qualities that we felt were important to the development of “men after God’s own heart.”
Bottom line, we began to realize that if we developed goals for each of our children and for our family as a unit, if we knew what we wanted to accomplish by home schooling, then the choices we would face throughout the process would almost be already decided. So based on that fact, we began to talk about what we felt were the most important things for our children to know, to have instilled, to have learned from us before they left our home and established homes of their own. As we talked, I began making a list of those priorities and put them in an information gathering notebook. This notebook was meant to serve as a guide to help sort through all the other information I knew I would come across.
This process of learning to apply “out of the box” thinking to my children was the beginning of “homeschooling me”. I had always been a creative thinker and had always been able to see opportunities in every set of circumstances, so I didn’t think applying this to education would be that difficult. Boy, did I have something to learn. Some “breaking free” needed to take place in this journey of “homeschooling me”.