When do we homeschool? Well, the simple answer is all the time! Homeschooling has become a lifestyle. In this lifestyle, there is not a distinction between life and learning.
A little history…
There was a part of us that always wanted to educate our children from home. Well, sort of. As long as it was easy enough that it could fit into our lifestyle. We wanted to be able to continue living as we were, and figure out a way to maintain our careers, and squeeze homeschooling into the rest of our life as we knew it.
We thought that homeschooling would be a wonderful opportunity for our children to form stronger attachments within the family. As adoptive parents, stronger attachments were (and are) a high priority. We also had a desire for our children to have a Christian education. We wanted God to be a part of their everyday studies, not solely reserved for Sunday School. We wanted to have our children schooled in a healthy environment. An environment where they could truly learn and grow without the negative influences of peer pressure. An environment free from the confusing messages from secular thought that could bring doubt to their developing faith.
It actually seemed exciting and even FUN to educate at home. We saw it as an opportunity to take learing “out of the box.” We loved the idea of having more flexibility for our busy, growing family. We thought about how beneficial it would be to meet our children’s needs as individuals. We were excited to know what they were studying, and to learn it ourselves so that we could offer guidance. The idea of approaching each child’s education by understanding how they learn – understanding their learning styles and their strengths, brought more excitement! The possibilities were endless! We thought about how we could actually encourage our children to pursue their God-given talents and strengths as a part of their education. Our desire was to intentionally spend time with our children. We wanted to have deep discussions about life, faith, and social issues. Being together as a family, having conversation and solid relationships – we wanted to do it!
This was all very encouraging…and we had a few concerns…
The work. Lot’s of work. Could we really do this? No, maybe not. We had a busy social calendar, ministry calendar, careers. What if some of those things suffered? What if we could not keep up? We could try and fail! So we wavered. We had convinced ourselves that we needed more time away from our children, and that they needed more time away from us. Maybe full-time, formal education in a classroom would be best after all. We tucked the idea away again for a little while longer.
We made good money and enjoyed great vacations. Every now and then our hearts would be stirred and we wondered if we should consider home education. However, the dollar sign and various concerns others had about socialization were two factors that drove us to keep our children in school and keep up with our extremely busy lifestyle.
So, here came the question…when? When could we homeschool? Maybe after we are financially secure. And when would that be? Maybe when we are perfectly organized and our calendar slows down a bit. We quickly realized, there was no perfect time or circumstances. We would have to make changes and be flexible. We began to take a serious, honest look at our lives. We decided to start by attempting to rearrange our schedules in such a way that one of us parents would always be home with our children.
This worked. We lost some income. We juggled our lives. We had to start making some different choices, but ultimately we figured out how to make it work. With younger children at the time, we found we could start academic work around 8 am and have 5 subjects completed by noon. Such productive times. The rest of the day could be spent however we chose. There was reading and crafts, and Lego building, and great imaginary play. Cooking, shopping, playing at the park, light sabers in the back yard, and time together. We were an active part of our children’s young development and that felt good.
As we added children to our family, children with different learning styles and different needs, and we again had to reevaluate how we were doing things. Through a series of events, it was clear that I was to be home full-time. It was also very clear that my hope of the 8 to 12 school day was no longer an option. I began to look at education differently. It was no longer about how much we could accomplish quickly. I became concerned for the quality of their work, and their depth of knowledge. I wanted to see their character strengthened and their faith increasing. Most importantly, I realized that our focus needed to become more about discipleship.
Because nurturing and discipling our children does not have a true stop and start time, I had to move out of this model that I had in my mind. You see, I am a product of the public school system. I tried to emulate that classroom model in my home in many ways. Scheduling a shortened school day was important to me. I thought, let’s just get the work done! As I spent more time at home with my children, I realized that there was never a time when the work was done. They needed time with family. Within the context of family great learning, healing and loving happens. Homeschooling became our lifestyle – not just something we did. It became a part of who we are. There are subjects that we cover each day and yet, the subject matter and life are not separated as they are in a school system.
In our home, there is not this clear distinction between learning times and fun times, learning and discipling, learning and nurturing, learning and life. It is all learning and it happens all the time. That is the “when” of our homeschooling life. Learning and living are fluid.
Still, many will ask what a typical day in our home looks like. Well, as you can imagine, every day is different as our calendars are different. And because we have the immense pleasure of living on an island, there are many mornings that we visit the beach for a swim. We also school 6 children of varying ages, grades and needs.
On the most predictable days, my children wake up and accomplish a few personal chores that take about 20 minutes. We share a hot breakfast together and pray to start our day. After breakfast we all have household chores to attend to…and once those are complete everyone begins their studies.
My older children are self-directed and responsible. They have their lesson plans and know exactly where to begin. In the course of the day, my high school students cover a variety of subjects. Bible, history, science, math, writing, reading, spelling and foreign language.
My elementary school children have lesson plans as well. These plans are reviewed together daily. Their subjects include: Bible, history, science, math, writing, reading, and arts and crafts, and a lot of outdoor play.
My Pre-schoolers work to accomplish many different tasks such as completing puzzles, ordering the alphabet and numbers, identifying colors, reading, phonics, imaginary play, sorting toys by colors and shapes, singing songs, and lots of outdoor play.
There is so much more to say about when and how homeschooling happens. Ultimately, it is an honor and a privilege to be home with my children. Watching and participating in their learning is a joy!