Dear Stephanie, (My Homeschool Story)

I recently reconnected virtually with a friend from high school and she has some questions about homeschooling.  I thought I would turn my lengthy reply into a blog post.  Please indulge me…

My homeschooling story started about four years ago.  A friend of mine started homeschooling her two daughters after a bus incident and to figure out some behavioral issues that were occurring.  The changes I witnessed in the daughter were, really, amazing.  She went from a withdrawn, slightly intimidating girl to a positive, caring, outwardly-focused girl.  A girl who respected her parents and was well on her way to developing a deeper and deeper love for the Lord.  And the relationship between the girl and her sister was so inspiring.  They were friends!  They were best friends!  Always playing together, not competing for the affections of their mother or father.  It was so heartwarming to see God being so faithful in this very literal way.

My husband, the wonderful Erik, and I were blown away and a tad bit jealous!  We wanted that for our daughters!  I had already noticed the distance between my elder daughter and I growing, even by the end of 1st grade, and I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like the time away from the family; I didn’t like that I was essentially relegated to driver/aftercare provider/homework monitor.  And she went to a great school!  But I wanted to witness the “light bulb” moments.  Not to mention I was tired from juggling schedules with nap times.  Shortly thereafter we listened to a few talks by a preacher named Voddie Baucham (check him out!) and were convinced that God was calling us to home educate our children.  One of his most important points was that education is discipleship.  When we send our kids to Roman schools, don’t be surprised they start looking/talking like little Romans.  That sealed it for us.  Not to mention we were no longer worried about our kids being weird.  They should be weird…  We’re Christ followers.

Anyways, those are the things that propelled us forward three years ago.  I do not regret it.

And, it was awful hard that first year.  Make no mistake, the path is hard, uphill the whole way, break-your heart and will, hard.  But most things worth doing are difficult, right?

Reagan resisted most forcefully.  Although she was only in 2nd grade, she had learned that the teacher was her first authority figure and it took a while to undo that.  And she legitimately missed her friends.  It was quite a journey that year as we sought to help her to understand that parents are God’s authority in the family, not the teacher/school, and that God had blessed her with a sister who would become her bestest (totally a word), lifelong friend.  And I worked extra hard that first year to have lot of fun when all the schoolers were in school… Hey, they don’t play fair either…

We went on weekly play dates/field trips.  We started taking piano, during the DAY, and regular date nights with Daddy were implemented.  Since we had more time together during the day, we didn’t feel bad about letting the girls stay up a bit later.  We read lots of great books, learned poems and songs.  But most importantly, I got to know my daughters.  Reagan, my sweet, mild, deep-thinker daughter is more like me than I realized.  Matilyn is fun, intense, my ultimate go-to girl just loves to help and be around me.  I don’t know if I would know them this deeply if they were still in a public school setting.

The boys, oh the boys, at 4 and 2-almost-3, I am trying to hang on!!!!  I have busy bag activities to try and keep them occupied when I’m doing spelling or reading.  I try to read them a book on my lap before our schooling starts, and I try to remember to take Declan (the youngest) on a short walk daily to get the mail.  He’s the most needy at this point, and also the most trouble when I haven’t purposefully spent one-on-one time with him.  Jack needs one-on-one time, too, usually a story works.  But he’s starting to try and do some “school”.  I guess I’m going to have to start doing some stuff with him, soon.


Recommended Reading:  The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer & 100 Top Homeschool Picks by Cathy Duffy

The Well-Trained Mind is a fantastic place to start, and knowing you, Stephanie, you’ll love it!  I use a lot of what she recommends for the core subjects: The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading is a great reading/phonics manual; we use Writing With Ease for writing; First Language Lessons for grammar.  For math we use  Math-U-See-AWESOME, HIGHLY RECOMMEND.  For handwriting we use Zaner-Bloser workbooks.  For Spelling, Grades 1 & 2, I use Modern Curriculum Press’ Spelling Workouts and for 3rd grade and up I use Spelling Power.  

Then, in the afternoons I do Konos, where we cover science, reasoning, biographies, etc.  Konos is a Unit Study where we study a character trait and then learn all about it over the course of 8-13 weeks.

Reading the 100 Top Picks is a great way to figure out what your teaching style is going to look like.  You can get it at the library.

How do I keep my sanity, you ask?

I’m trying to say no more often to outside influences.  I’m a yes-person.  This is really hard.

I take bubble-baths.  I drink a glass of wine some nights.  Erik and I watch T.V. together.  I read books for enjoyment.

I do not keep as clean a house as I would like.  Erik and I have both had to relax our standards, realizing that this time is quickly slipping away and someday I will have time to clean.  We occasionally hire a cleaning lady and landscaper.  We split cleaning/picking up duties.  I love to cook, but I’ve had to put those crazy involved recipes to the side for now.  And I don’t really bake anymore, which is good and bad.  Good for my waist-line, bad because I buy more things for the kids to eat.

I would say that if I didn’t have absolutely certainty that this is what God has called us to do, my sanity would be gone.  But He provides what I need, especially the grace to admit when I’m wrong, or messed up.  I lose my patience enough that I have to apologize at least weekly to the kids.  But I’m so glad that I do get the chance to apologize because more than any worldly or scholastic goal for my children, I sincerely hope their hearts, minds and souls will seek the Lord and live their lives for Him alone because of their great love for Him. 

And hopefully they see a little bit of my love for Him in my daily walk.  Education is discipleship.  I’m in the business of discipleship.