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A Rocky Start to Homeschooling, Then I Found the Path

Makita has posted her current edition of her Friday Freebie. When and how did you start homeschooling?

Here is my entry:
As much as I would like to say that I always felt convicted to homeschool and that my children never went to public school, it would not be the truth. Thinking back to almost 18 years ago when my oldest child was starting kindergarten, I looked into homeschooling but at that time there just wasn’t the supportive community that there is now. I knew we would feel isolated and in those years *before* the internet, homeschooling sounded sort of like pioneering. I really did not have the guts to start.

So off to kindergarten at a private Montessori school she went and she stayed there until second grade. The transition to public school in third grade was horrible. Her teacher did not have control of the class and my daughter sat and read the Little House on the Prairie books for most of the year…….there just was not a lick of challenge for her. By this time I had my second child in the same school in first grade and his teacher pulled me aside and said that I needed to get him out of the school and do something else with him because he was bored out of his mind. The principal had forbidden his teacher from offering any sort of reading to him until after Christmas…..which was months away. (He was a fluent reader in K.) We decided to pull him and put him in private school because I was very pregnant with our third at this point.

Long story short, we muddled through the next two years and then when I had given birth to our fourth child, I announced that enough was enough and I was going to teach them all at home, no matter how hard it was. I was tired of seeing my children wither in public schoolrooms. I was tired of dealing with teachers. I was tired of fund raisers. I longed for some passion in their learning. I craved time with my children and I think they were longing for something that was missing in their lives too. I have shared before on this blog that I was raised to be a career girl so for me to admit that I had a heart filled with desire to be at home, with all four children, and take their education on as a responsibility was a full circle from where I started out.

This was my challenge when I started homeschooling….they were 10, 8, 2, and less than a year old. I had no idea how it was going to go once we started. I just knew it was what had to be done. I prayed a lot for strength and guidance.

Our community had evolved a little as far as homeschooling at this point and we found a charter home study group that offered elective classes as well as a library of books and materials. It was enough to satisfy me that I would be able to homeschool the older two with a little help. I was grateful for the charter at that point since it gave me confidence to homeschool and know that I was not going to “mess up”.

After the first year, I was hooked up to the internet and had ordered a bunch of homeschooling catalogs. This was the major turning point for us. I had my eyes opened to the possibilities and it was a homeschooling wonderland of ideas, resources, and online support. I was now on my way and I had wings.

Eventually I had three homeschooling at one time…eighth grade, sixth grade, and kindergarten and one of preschool age. It was soooooo crazy but wonderful at the same time. I look back at those years fondly and it was sort of like running a one room schoolhouse. Everyone was busy and even the youngest wanted to “do school”.

My oldest opted to go to public high school to fulfill her dream of marching in the marching band…playing the flute. I was reluctant but willing to give it a try. She is an excellent student and I told her when she started ninth grade that if I saw any behavior issues or slacking in academics that she would be pulled back home. She thrived at school and had a very good experience. (I feel like I am betraying the homeschooling community by admitting that but it is the truth, it was the best for this particular child. Some things I can not offer at home.)

My oldest son wanted to try high school too but he didn’t like it so much and he endured two years and then begged to come home. I was so very happy to have him home again and we had some good times during those last two years of high school.

My middle son went to two months of kindergarten. He begged and begged to go on the schoolbus and for some reason we said okay. It was a disaster. He was home before Thanksgiving and has never looked back. He is my “busy” child and he was being squashed in public school by the system. I was ecstatic when he came home again….he is now in tenth grade and we have a fantastic relationship.

My youngest never stepped foot in public school. He is my artistic, musical child and now he is becoming a fantastic writer. All of these things wouldn’t be happening if he were in public school. He can spend hours drawing, playing his violin, and writing stories each day and we can call it school. He reads and breathes….like me.

Relationships. It is all about relationships. This is not the reason we started homeschooling but it is now the reason we keep going. We are a part of their lives. They are still happy to be a part of ours. All four children have fantastic relationships and spend oodles of time together both at home and out with their various friends.

We travel far and wide and spend time on family projects. We dream together and scheme together and it has been so worth every trial and heartache. I had a wise friend say that she sometimes cries at night because of the sheer responsibility of homeschooling but those tears are dry in the morning and when the sun rises it is a new day.

I remember those words on a bad day. The sun always rises the next day and all the fears fall away. I have the added luxury of seeing the fruits before I am finished.

As my years of homeschooling draw to a close, I wonder what the next chapter will be in my life. I pray about that a lot. I know that I never planned to homeschool or there was never any single event or reason for starting but the list of reasons why is getting longer as time goes by. I actually typed up a list for a friend who was contemplating homeschooling and asked me why I decided to homeschool….five pages long it was. Shesh! Aren’t you glad I didn’t share that list!

I would have never found my passions if it had not been for homeschooling. I can almost guarantee that if you homeschool long enough you will become a self-educator. You will rekindle your interest in learning new things and learn alongside your children. I don’t often tell others that as a reason for becoming a homeschooling family but it is a huge part of why we are still doing it after all these years. We are able to indulge our children’s passions and teach them to be self-educated too.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Every Small Miracle-Charlotte Mason Education

walking on a sequoia

“Every small miracle that ceases to amaze us is like a new discovery to our children, as exciting as the discovery of gravity to Newton.”
Charlotte Mason, Home Education, volume 1, page 54

“…We have been seeing flowers for years–but our children haven’t. Flowers are still new and wonderful to them and it’s the fault of grown-ups if every new flower they see ceases to delight them.”
Charlotte Mason, Home Education, volume 1, page 53

I am sharing these quotes with you because they really have impacted how I treat learning with my own children. Often we need to be reminded of things and those reminders sometimes come as a breath of fresh air. My heart reads these ideas in Charlotte Mason’s writings and it encourages me to be a better mom and teacher.

Currently I am homeschooling my fourth child so that means this is the fourth time I have covered basically the same information in the 8th grade……four times. I could just be going through the motions at this point. Putting my feelings aside, I realize that this is the *first* time this particular son has been in the eighth grade and I need to try to be as up-beat about it as I can. It is all new to him.

Today we visited a friend and she has a guinea pig…a really big, hairy guinea pig. My boys have never seen one up close before and they were thrilled. I am not so thrilled with small furry things so I had to put on my “teacher” hat and think of ways to be as thrilled as they are. What is the point I am trying to make? Just that I could have easily been put off by this creature but instead I realized that my boys were excited to see something new so my job was to be encouraging and let them enjoy the experience.

roots of a sequoia
Ever climb through the roots of a fallen giant sequoia tree and out through the hollow center? My boys wanted to…so we did.

So much of what Charlotte Mason taught was about providing time and space for our children to learn new things….meaningful things from their real life. Our nature study is a window into the world for them and we miss out if we limit what we offer because we are worn-out or tired of looking at the same old things. Yes, a pine cone is just a pine cone to us but to our children it has a color, a shape, a texture, and a fragrance…all new and exciting.

Funny thing is that if we allow ourselves to experience these times with our children, we end up enjoying them too. Their enthusiasm rubs off on us and we see things through their eyes….just like it was new to us all over again. It doesn’t matter whether it is looking through a microscope at a leaf, planting a seed in the garden, knitting a scarf, making cookies, or laying down in the grass and looking at the sky. It is the everyday experiences that delight our children and we need to slow down and enjoy it with them. It makes us truly rich.

Try it and you will see,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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