Is Homeschooling Too Hard?

emilycleartheshelvesQuestion:

I am thinking about homeschooling my 3 children, but I am getting a lot of negative attitude about it. Remarks like my children won’t be socialized, and it is really hard for parents to do. I know my children will be socialized, they have tons of friends, but is it as hard as everyone makes it sound?

Answer:

My sympathy! I think anyone who has even thought seriously about homeschooling knows just how you feel! My thought on this is that some people may feel personally threatened by the idea of homeschooling, fearing that if it is a good idea, they may have to consider it seriously. When I tell others that I homeschool, the first thing that always comes out of the other person’s mouth is, “Oh, I could never do that!”. Then they continue with such comments: “I don’t have the patience” or “I’m not smart enough” or “My husband likes a clean house”, etc. As far as having patience goes, if we believe in lasting family relationships, just when were we intending to learn to be patient with the ones we love? Better now, than later, I think. As far as being smart enough, what better way to learn than by spending time with your own children, learning together? As far as housekeeping goes, what better way to teach your children life skills than work side by side with them?

dianeemilyrick

Diane (me), my daughter Emily, my husband Rick

I have done both—had my children in public school and homeschooled them—and I personally feel that homeschooling outweighs public school. Yes, it does take my time and energy, but I want to spend my time being with and teaching my precious children. That is my top priority—to raise my children uprightly—and homeschooling makes it easy to spend time with my children and pass on my values, and have fun together and become best friends. When my children went to public school, we had very separate lives. I lived my life and they lived theirs and seldom did our interests cross. When you homeschool, you share the same interests and enthusiasm. Whatever great literature book you are reading aloud, or art project you are working on becomes a fun thing that you share. Field trips, museum visits, and even choice of dinner foods seems to focus on what we are having fun studying at the moment. Vacations become the ultimate educational field trip! All the world becomes your school, and learning becomes a passion.

Just a note: the hardest combination of all is to have some kids in public school and some kids in homeschool. Public school schedules and calendars tend to dominate life. Mornings are a frantic rush out the door to catch the bus, gulping breakfast down before the departure. Kids comes home tired. Homework spills into the evenings, as do performances, Back to School Night, and more. Spring and fall vacations (the cheapest, least crowded, most weather pleasant times) are impossible. Homeschool is a lifestyle that is squelched by the public school calendar.

All ready for the 3-legged race at a homeschool picnic

All ready for the 3-legged race at a homeschool picnic

Socialization is something you have to attend to. When you birth children, you take responsibility for their lives: their education, their physical health, their social life, their religious training, etc. You can’t really shake those responsibilities. Public school can educate your children (although it does not teach them morals and values) and fulfill their need for being around other people (sometimes, as long as they make friends and avoid bullies). When you do not use public school, you have to provide opportunities to fill those needs. Belonging to a homeschool support group and making sure your children have opportunity a few times per week to play with friends, or attend a club or activity where they can be with friends, will do the trick. They will need homeschool friends, friends who share a similar lifestyle, so they have things in common. They can have public school friends, but they may feel left out of that public school scene, as that is generally what the kids talk about. As the years go on, your children will become different sort of people, more educated and better mannered generally, and they won’t feel as comfy with their public school friends, perhaps.

Homeschooling does take attention and work, but this is the kind of work: reading to your kids and playing phonics games with them and doing science experiments and going to the library and writing stories, and such. This really sounds more like “fun” than “work” to me. I love to be with my kids. I want to teach them that life is good and learning is fun and satisfying, and that great literature and fine books can open a whole new world to you. I am very interested in giving them Christian values and faith in God. For me, this is the most satisfying way to live and raise children!

Please come see my advice on Homeschooling: You Can Do It! .  This is a series of simple assignments for the brand new homeschooler or wanna be homeschooler, to give you a taste of how fun homeschooling can be!

 

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Advice to the New Homeschooling Mom

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Some things I wish I had known when I began homeschooling:

1) Put homeschooling first, for your kids sake

When I began homeschooling, I thought that I would somehow just add homeschool to my  already busy life. It didn’t take long to realize that is impossible. There are only so many hours in the day! I came to the realization that in order to give my children a good education, it would have to be my first concern during “school hours.” I had to commit to the priority of educating my kids. I had to turn off the phone, avoid interruptions, and focus on my children—a very joyful occupation!

2) Consider patience as a wonderful virtue homeschooling teaches

As a new homeschooler, I was excited and wanted to tell everyone about my happy new discovery! People seemed to respond to the subject of homeschooling by commenting that they didn’t have the patience for it.  That puzzled me some, as I didn’t suggest that they homeschool, but just wanted to share my own enthusiasm.  A thought began to form in my head whenever I heard a response of “I don’t have patientce.”  When would I really learn patience, if not now?  If I am striving to have a happy family, it seems like a good idea to begin right now. Patience is a skill developed through practice and homeschooling—being with your children daily, gives you lots of practice.

3) Realize you are your child’s best teacher

It’s a good idea to abandon too-difficult learning tasks until the child is more ready, avoiding trying both of our patience!  Organization and preparation will really diffuse a lot of problems. Even with your best effort, sometimes you’ll have a difficult child.  In that case,  it really helps me to think: “If I feel annoyed— I, who love this child so much, who have his future and well being at heart— how would a school teacher feel? I have a vested interest, he is better off with me.”

4) Routine is incredibly helpful because everyone knows what to expect.

Get organized. We have an opening exercise that begins with a pledge, patriotic song, prayer, fun oral quizzing, and me reading aloud. It feels secure to my children to have school start with the same pattern every day. I don’t try to do every subject every day, nor do I think it is wise to break a child’s concentration by changing subjects every 30 minutes. That is not the way you and I enjoy learning. We would rather pursue our interests uninterrupted until our curiosity is satisfied. If you keep getting interrupted, you begin to wonder if it is worth starting anything interesting.

5) Set some ground rules

Some of ours are:

  • All work must be done before play.
  • Doing your best is required.
  • Sloppy work must be redone.
  • A cheerful, helpful, willing attitude is the most important thing you can bring to homeschool.
  • Don’t interrupt while Mom is working with another child. Go on to something else if you’re stuck and Mom is not available.

6) Learning to obey is one of the most important lessons your child will learn in homeschool

Obedience is a hard lesson for all of us, and yet an undisciplined person is not as useful to anyone—not himself, others nor God. Learning to be the master of your own self (self-control) begins by learning to obey your parents. Homeschooling, unfortunately and fortunately, compels us to come to grips with the issue: who is in charge? God gave parents the responsibility to train their children, and part of that training is to be obedient to parents. I tend to be overly tender towards my children, as many mothers are, but children learn best when we are consistent in helping them mind us.  I do think you need to listen and make allowances. Sometimes children are truly tired and need a break or a change of program but repeated choruses of “I don’t want to do my schoolwork”  can undermine your efforts.

7) Education comes in many forms

Flexibility is so important! We drop everything if there is a sunny day in winter and go hiking by the river instead. There is a lot to be learned from visiting the neighbor horse’s new foal. Working on an Eagle Scout project, a 4-H project, baking or sewing, watching birds make a nest— are all very valid learning experiences.

8) Be gentle as your children adjust

If you are just coming out of the public school system, expect a detoxification period. Usually kids are pretty burned out by the regimentation and busywork routine of school. When I brought my children home, my 5th grader could be turned into tears instantly by the thought of reading. I finally decided to totally forget reading for awhile (for that child) and just read aloud to all the children so he could begin to enjoy reading again. Within a year, he was an avid reader who really couldn’t remember ever hating it.

9) Slow and steady

Choose your activities wisely. You can’t do everything! Field trips can be fun, educational . . . and sometimes overly exhausting. Some homeschool moms seem to try to make up for the lack of public school activities by setting up a dizzying round of choir, soccer, scouts, art, gymnastics, etc. . . . rush, rush, too much time driving here and there. We brought them home because we wanted them home and near us. Remember?

One trip that we do deem important is a regular trip to the public library. I ask each child to consider what they want to learn about and make a list. Once in the library, we go to the computer and get the titles and numbers so each child can get their own stack of interesting nonfiction and fiction reading. I think a child could get alot of his education via the library, just following his interests!

10) Don’t rush into buying lots of curriculum

What to buy first? As a new homeschooler I think I made up for lack of confidence with stacks of books. Now, I try to encourage new homeschoolers to begin with the very basic necessities: a journal, Bible, a hymnbook or songbook, a good phonics program, a language arts program and a math program. Basically, that is all you need. There is so much on the market that really can make homeschool easier and more enjoyable but you can also use library books for reading, history, science, health, etc. and buy other things you may want as you have the money. Take care to choose carefully at the library. Not everything at the library’ is worthy of reading! As your first year progresses, you will see what is working and be able to buy the things that are best for your children.

Enjoy the journey! Homeschooling  is a wonderful lifestyle!

 

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For the New Homeschooler

boys-286245_1280Congratulations on wanting to homeschool!

I want to tell you that YOU CAN DO THIS! Homeschooling is a joyful lifestyle that you will love! Don’t get stressed, just come with me step-by-step and I’ll help you get started.

1. First, if you haven’t already, pray. Your child belongs to God—He knows his children best and He wants them to have the very best education. He wants them to have friends that will help them reach their potential and stay firm in the faith. He will help you in making decisions on methods and resources that will interest your student. You need his strength and guidance.

2. Don’t stress over teaching supplies. Colonial Americans educated their children marvelously well with one reader and a slate. You don’t have to be rich to homeschool. Get a library card, paper and pencil, and you will have a good beginning. When you want more, I would be glad to share my recommendations with you.

3. Legal stuff: there are many good websites that detail the legal requirements of your state. Type your state’s name and the words “homeschool laws” into a search engine to find out what your state requires. Generally, you are required to file an affidavit with your school district, telling them of your plan to homeschool, and assuring them that you will spend so many hours and days of instruction. We do not want to copy the long hours of the public school, and when you begin homeschooling, you will realize that structured schooling (math, language arts, etc.) takes just 1-3 hours per day, depending on your child’s age. But, learning goes on all day long as your child reads, cooks with you, experiments, does hands-on projects, discovers the world of nature, and practices the piano, for example. You can feel satisfied that you will easily fulfill the state requirement for learning hours.

4. Read! A well read man is a truly educated man. Make reading aloud to your family a daily event that everyone looks forward to. Start with a children’s classic that has wide appeal to everyone (Little House on the Prairie series, Trumpet of the Swan, Mr. Popper’s Penquins, etc.) and you will ignite a love of reading that will serve your children very well in their path to being truly educated.

5. Get information. Browse this website: I think you’ll find answers to some of the questions that may be on your mind.

6. Friends are so important to making homeschooling successful! Join email lists, support groups, park days, and any other homeschool activity you can find.

My philosophy of homeschool is that it is FUN! Being together with your children and being together learning—I can’t think of much more fun than that. Use hands-on projects, experiments, field trips, educational videos, etc. to keep it fun. Teach them the same subject at the same time (history, science, art, etc.) so you can all be on the same topic for discussions, which eases Mom’s job and makes homeschooling a delightful family project.

I’m rooting for you! Best success!

 

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Homeschooling Myths

Ammon makes a souffle!

I was talking to a young mother that was considering homeschooling her little family, especially her oldest, a very bright 4 1/2 year old. As I discussed her concerns and questions, her ideas sounded very familiar. I realized that I had said those same things and thought that way a long time ago! New homeschooling moms often have the same questions and some of the same ideas. I pondered our conversation for a long time afterwords—what happened to those ideas of mine? How had my homeschool evolved to where it was now, in the years that I’ve been teaching my children? There were definitely myths that had to be dispelled, as well as some good ideas that really worked.

Myth #1: Cooking for Math

I usually hear the enthusiastic comment, “We could do cooking for math!” from those new to homeschoolng. I thought that too when I began. Now that my oldest is 23 years, I want to vouch for the fact that cooking for math is a sweet idea, but it just isn’t complete enough. Yes, it is fun to cook, and you do get familiar with some fractions (1/2 cup, 1/4 tsp., etc.). You can double or triple a recipe (multiplying by 2 or 3) or even increase a recipe to fit the number of eggs you have (proportions). You can figure out how much a meal costs, or learn which can of tomato sauce at the grocery store gives you the most for your money (unit price). All this application of math to cooking takes a lot of masterminding by Mom. My kids were more interested in getting the cookies in their tummies than figuring out fractions while we cooked. Cooking is a wonderful and essential life skill. But cooking is not math, and does not prepare your child for the real world as far as math skills go. Not in the least!

Myth#2: One Room Schoolhouse

Ammon & Louisa at the Statue of Liberty

Ammon & Louisa at the Statue of Liberty

Another quaint idea is that we can run a “one room schoolhouse”. I like that idea. It sounds warm and cozy and a lot like Little House on the Prairie. In reality, you can do some fun and exciting unit studies together with children close to the same age or understanding. But little ones get very restless and older ones are bored and feel they are wasting their time if you try to teach them all the lessons. You can keep the family on the same topic. If you are studying Greece, the young ones can learn about it as well as the older ones, but each level of understanding must be enriched and challenged with age appropriate information for real learning to take place. If you don’t have textbooks doing it for you, you are asking for a lot of lesson preparation and research.

Myth #3: Older Ones Teach the Younger Ones

Wow, that always sounded like a dynamite idea to me because I have lots of children and not so much energy and time. This idea has merit in the fact that the teacher often learns the most when a lesson is presented, due to the preparation time and effort. However, teaching is a skill (as we who teach homeschool know too well—when our own teaching is less than dynamic.) It takes maturity and understanding the level the students are on to be able to teach a good lesson. When I have my older children teach my younger children, I do it for the sake of my older children. I assign it so that the older children will learn to teach children well. It takes them a long time to prepare. They do not have the experience or ability to judge well how long to make the lesson, how much material to prepare, and how to catch the interest of the younger children. Older children can also become quite frustrated (just like Moms do) if their students don’t pay attention, don’t participate, or misbehave. So, it becomes a lesson in teaching and the topic of study is not the issue. From my experience, don’t count on the idea that older children will be surrogate teachers and give you more time. It takes me more time to help prepare my older child to teach, than it does to teach it myself. But it is a very valuable way to help your older ones learn, and the little ones enjoy a change of pace too.

Areas where an older child can be very helpful are: listening to a younger child read aloud, correcting a math facts page, playing a math game or doing a puzzle with a younger child, or watching a piano piece played to make sure it is done correctly. In all of these activities, unless your older child is advanced far beyond the younger, some mistakes may be overlooked: the teaching is not very thorough.

Myth #4:  Write Your Own Curriculum

I remember vividly my first visit to a Homeschool Counselor at her store. She outlined a program for my children, listed and stacked the books and added up the total. I appreciated her advice, but when I saw the total price, I flipped. I figured I could do it on my own, using library books, shopping yard sales for books, and writing my own custom-fit curriculum for my children. Looking back, I now realize I would have been far ahead had I bought those books that seemed so costly and started my children on a ready-made program. Until I had much more experience.  It would have given us a wonderful jumping-off point, and as I learned what my children enjoyed, I could (and have) customized their curriculum.

You can write your own curriculum. Anybody can. It just takes years of homeschooling experience and teaching experience and knowing children—what is age appropriate, what they are interested in and enjoy at each stage, how to motivate them, and what they will need to know for life.

When I began homeschooling, I barely understood these things for my own self, let alone for my children. I spent a year or two of homeschooling trying to do it without textbooks or a program. I thought up topics and made up worksheets spending many nighttime hours. I made long library trips, trying to gather materials, gleaning a few pages from each book. It took major preparation time and it seemed the children could whip through the assignments I created in a fraction of the time it took me to pull them together. Mothers are busy! Trying to create my own curriculum was more than working a full-time job. I just couldn’t keep up with my other duties and try to create a custom-made program, inexperienced as I was.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate using textbooks for homeschooling and ready-made programs even if they aren’t perfect. Some things I have created by myself, but only if I could justify the time spent by sharing them with others who are homeschooling. It only makes good sense to use the things that other experienced educators have written that have stood the test of time.

My favorite math-facts resource, still, after 25 years of homeschooling!

My favorite math-facts resource, still, after 25 years of homeschooling!

Math-it was my first curriculum purchase. I have used it in homeschooling my 7 children and it has saved me countless hours. It would have been foolish to try to reinvent such a useful program for teaching the math facts.

Having children who have “graduated” from homeschooling has greatly altered my perspective. Now I see the short years of homeschooling as precious time that I don’t want to experiment with. I use only the best resources and budget money for the homeschooling materials just like I plan money to purchase the healthiest food. Children can only learn or eat so much during the years you are setting it before them. It should be the highest quality so they will have the best growth.

Myth #5: They Can Still Keep their School Friends

Maybe this works for some homeschoolers, but it hasn’t worked very well for us. My first 3 children were in public school when I decided to do homeschooling. I just assumed that my children would continue in their relationships with their school friends. In fact, because they could get their work done within school hours and had no homework, I thought perhaps they would have more time to play and be able to increase their friendships.

That didn’t work for us, not with one of my children. Why? Because public school is a mini-society that consumes the attention of the children who attend. Everything revolves around who said what on the playground, which teacher is hard, the fight at recess, who is having a test on Friday and the activities and sports—which pretty much leaves your homeschooling child out of the conversation. As they grow up, homeschooling children may find less and less in common with their public school friends because their values often diverge.

We are working hard to teach our homeschooling children values, virtues, manners and religion. Our values are reflected in every lesson, whether science or English. But even good Christian children get a worldly flavor in the public school system: being taught the details of AIDS and same gender attraction, copying the clothing fads, going to rock music dances, feeling pressure to wear immodest prom dresses, racing for the highest grade rather than valuing true education, and more. These experiences create a very different child, and the divergence is more apparent year by year. My 5 to 7 year olds play happily with the children who go to public school. By the time they are 8, 9 or 10, the rift is becoming too great and my children enjoy friendships with other homeschooling children the very most.

Myth #6: Community Classes Will Provide Social Life

It sounds like a good idea, but most of the children who attend community classes also attend public school, and so the same differences I just discussed will also plague your child’s involvement in community classes. Besides, kids need some relaxed and unstructured time to talk and get to know each other and most often, every minute of a class is pretty busy and occupied and talking is usually discouraged. Another drawback: many children take a class with a friend so your child may be a third wheel. Over the years, my children have been involved in many types of lessons: dance, gymnastics, choir, drama, science workshop, swimming lessons and more. They are friendly and talkative.  I’ve taught them to reach out and be the first to strike up a conversation and be a friend.  I’ve seen them in action.  But, attendance at all these lessons never did truly foster a friendship.  You need frequent hours together to create a friendship.  I am not saying that a friendship couldn’t result, but if the class only meets for an hour once a week, it isn’t as likely.

 

Looking for what works in homeschooling? Read Homeschooling Ideas that Work!

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Top 20 Advantages to Homeschooling

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Ammon and Louisa

 

20. Your kids never tell you that you’re a lot dumber than their teacher.
19. If you can’t find matching socks for your child first thing in the morning, who cares?
18. Cleaning out the refrigerator can double as chemistry lab.
17. Your kids have good reason to think they might get spanked in school, but no reason to think they’ll get beat up by a gang.
16. If the principal gives the teacher a bad evaluation, she can stick her icy feet against his legs at night.
15. You can post the Ten Commandments on your school room wall and won’t get sued.
14. You never have to drive your child’s forgotten lunch to school.
13. Your child will never go to their 20th high school reunion, meet an old flame, and recklessly abandon their marriage.
12. You get to change more than diapers; you get to change their minds.
11. If you get caught talking to yourself, you can claim you’re having a PTA meeting.
10. It’s better to be slightly concerned about socialization than very concerned about socialism.
9. You child will never suffer the embarrassment of group showers after P.E.
8. The only debate about the school lunch program is whose turn it is to cook.
7. You never have to face the dilemma of whether to take your child’s side or the teacher’s side in a dispute at school.
6. If your child gets drugs at school it’s probably Tylenol.
5. The teacher gets to kiss the principal in the faculty lounge and no one gossips.
4. Your kids recognize that this list is numerically in reverse order.
3. Your honor student can actually read the bumper sticker that you have on your car.
2. If your child claims that the dog ate his homework you can ask the dog.
1. Some day your children will consider you to be a miracle- working expert and will turn to you for advice.

 

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Newly Out of Public School and Resistant

family7Question:

I need some suggestions on how to motivate my 9-year-old to do any school work. I took Derek out of public school about a month ago after a lot of prayers and heart ache. He was in the third grade and we spent more time at night doing his work because he won’t do it at school. He has never liked school… any part of it… hates to read, hates any part of it and so I have been trying to give him a positive atmosphere to work in and some one-on-one time to help him want to try, but it is a continual fight to get him to do anything. He just says he is dumb and it is too hard. I have only been doing some basic math, a journal, some spelling, some reading—but he fights all of it. Do you have any suggestions to get him to see how smart he is and maybe some way to teach him that will get him going with out me forcing the issue? I have backed off and let him decide when to do it or I have tried to force a time to get stuff done… he wants me to do it for him. I am very frustrated and I have a 5th grader who wants me to homeschool her. I can’t even get this to work with one. I welcome any advice you have.

Answer:

Oh, I sympathize! I think one of the most difficult things I have ever done was to “detox” my 9-year-old son from public school! By the time I decided to homeschool, and got him out, he was pretty burned out in every way. He hated school, wouldn’t do his work, thought he was stupid and beyond hope, showed physical signs of stress and wasn’t “in the mood” for any learning whatsoever. (Now he is a brilliant mechanical engineer!)

avenue-401875_1280I was overeager to jump right into this new project of homeschool with him (the rest of my children were in public school), but I learned the hard way that he sorely needed a break to refresh his mental attitude towards learning. So, after some tears on my part (and his too), I took the advice of an older, wiser homeschool mother and took the pressure off him and let him “detox”. I read Summer of the Monkeys and James and the Giant Peach aloud to him and didn’t ask him to read a word. We talked about it and had fun. I did science experiments with him, and asked him what he thought. We went on nature walks together and looked at birds and went home and looked them up in the encyclopedia.

imageI “courted” him after a manner, and won back his friendship and his respect in me as his teacher. We listened to CD’s that had facts on them, like multiplication facts, the planets, etc. (see Musical Notebooks, Geography Songs, Multiplication Songs, etc.) and without any effort on my part, he began to be able to repeat facts and feel pretty smart. We watched Christian science videos and geography videos. We played math games. I had a scheduled time that we started school (9:00 am) and ended (noon) and I was diligent in doing school all morning, and he began to enjoy the things I had planned each day.

I put a calendar up which had my academic topics listed, so he could look forward to them. He began to anticipate that we’d be learning about “The Ocean” in science next week, for example, and he’d began to notice things, pick up books he suggested we could use for it, etc. It became his learning project too. I expected him to help me with the baby, and help cook lunch. He began to feel more capable and confident as the weeks went on, and look forward to school, and especially initiate his own projects.

mother-hen-374128_1280We got some chickens and rabbits and he took care of them. We taught him to use some woodworking tools. We planted a garden together. There are so many ways to learn! I gradually began to make demands on him: “You do your journal entry and then we’ll read our read aloud book” or “I want you to do this math facts page before we do our science experiments”. I was careful not to overwhelm him, and I was nearby—I didn’t just send him off to do his work.

By the time a few months had passed by, he was a different person. He had reclaimed his personality and his zest for life and learning. He respected me as his teacher, and he knew what I expected each day, and the standard of neatness and correctness I required. He had eased “into the saddle” and was able to do his writing and math and reading happily and look forward to our read aloud time and hands-on projects.

As for your 5th grader wanting to homeschool, I often have felt that homeschooling works “cheaper by the dozen”. It takes just as much planning on my part to homeschool one as all of my seven children. If you are going to study Egypt for example, it is just as easy to gather the library books, plan making cardboard pyramids, write hieroglyphics and see a video on Egypt with many as with one. And it is definitely more fun for the family if everyone is involved. Plus, mother can kill 2 birds with one stone. Well, that didn’t sound very nice, but you know what I mean, I think. You can educate two children with the effort of one!

 

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