NEW TO HOMESCHOOL?

Greetings, and welcome!  This is Leigh Arevalo, a veteran member of BHN....

Whether you are new to the homeschool world, or feeling a little burned out, I hope that there will be some nuggets here that will help equip, inspire, encourage, or remind you why you chose to homeschool.

My dear husband of 20 years and I went from being "anti-homeschool" to being in a position where we could not imagine living a lifestyle that does not include homeschooling our two boys.  Here is our story and a few things we have learned along the way...

David and I were not raised in Christian homes and the idea of homeschool was foreign to us. As a young married couple, pre-kids, we had only two examples of homeschool families that we experienced.  One family lived an extremely alternative lifestyle to ours; one that we had a hard time relating to.  The other family pulled their child out of public school because the child was struggling.  In our extremely limited scope at the time, we felt this was negative because the child could not "handle" the traditional school setting.

When I was pregnant with our first child, we planned on moving from an apartment into our first home.  I spent hours, HOURS, researching different school districts in the Seattle and Eastside cities and towns.

We fully intended on immersing our kids in the best school district we could afford, but God had other plans for our family.

Arriving home from the hospital with our beautiful, amazing, perfect ( aren't they all? :)) son, I held him in my arms, and gently swaying, whispered to him, "what am I going to do with you all day?"

This is when I went online, researching different activities that would keep my baby mentally stimulated and entertained.  I kept coming across websites that were targeting homeschool families.  I kept dismissing them, because we weren't a homeschool family...

But, some of those websites held my interest enough for me to read a snippet here and there.  Soon, I discovered that homeschool was not, necessarily, "reactive", but that there was a whole world of parents proactively choosing to homeschool their kids.

God captured my interest, and slowly, began capturing my heart, for homeschool.  One website lead to another, and another, and I began wondering if this was something the Lord wanted us to do.  I began reading voraciously, different online resources.

I asked my husband if he would ever consider homeschooling, and his response was an emphatic 'NO'!

When our oldest was six months old, we were blessed with another pregnancy, and all homeschool curiosity went out the window.  With two little ones, ages 15 months apart, we spent the next two years wading through diapers, bottles, car seats, and a double stroller.

When Preschool rolled around, we had to decide what to do.  By this time, God had really seized my heart and I knew this was where He wanted us, but I also knew David was against it.  I started to pray, "Lord, either change my heart or change his."

I asked David if he'd consider letting me homeschool through Preschool.  He agreed...only through Preschool.  The reasons for approval:

  1. Preschool is expensive and with two kids in Preschool, we would have had to make budget adjustments and sacrifice certain hobbies and other nice amenities we had come to enjoy.
  2. We like to travel, and with the perk of my husband being able to work from anywhere, adhering to a school schedule would limit the flexibility to travel.
  3. Really, how much could I mess up our kids in PreK?
And thus began our journey into homeschool...

We were living in Washington state at the time.  Currently, each state has their own requirements for homeschooling.  In Washington, you need to be "certified" to homeschool. This means accomplishing one of four requirements:
  1. complete 45 credits in college
  2. meet with the school superintendent and have them approve you
  3. meet regularly with a teacher and have them approve your lesson plans
  4. take a college sanctioned homeschool course
Even though I had the college credits, I did not feel any more qualified to be a homeschool mom.  So, I started looking into the homeschool courses.  Many of them were over a few weekends.  I kept wondering if there was an online course I could take at home.  It just seemed ironic that I would have to go somewhere else to learn how to teach at home.  I found a website called, Homeschool Oasis by Barb Shelton.  This site is full, full, full of incredible articles about homeschooling.  She also had a homeschool course available, approved by a Bible college in Kelso, WA., that met the requirements for certification in Washington state.  It was something that I could do at home and there was no time limit to complete it.  Music to this mom's ears...

I received a syllabus and HUGE book list to read.  The title of the course was "A Season of Re-Education and Renewing of the Mind".  Going into the course, I thought all I wanted was that magic formula that homeschooled my kids into Harvard.  But, God used Barb to share what He taught her; what His plans were for her and for others that have ears to hear Him.  I immersed in a season of truly re-educating and renewing my mind.  

Here are the main principles I learned and have tried to apply in my heart and our homeschool:

(Most of what I am going to share with you can be found in the books that I have listed at the end.  I strongly encourage you to read these books and ask the Holy Spirit to help build your homeschool with the Bible, and these books, as foundation).

1.  Let go of "School at Home" as the only way to teach .  I first thought that I needed to copy the only educational model I knew; the public school classroom.  I thought I needed a dedicated room, desks, chairs, chalkboard, maps, you get the idea.  I thought I needed specific times for each subject.  (Some might do this, and it works well for you.  That's great!  There is nothing wrong with doing this.  But, this is not the only way to teach our kids, as I discovered.)

I learned that before a parent launches into setting up curriculum for their child, dedicate a season for themselves and allow God to transform their ideas of education.  I also learned that real learning varies along community, cultural, and class lines, place to place, and era to era.  Learning does not need to be confined to the classroom.

Approach curriculum with an "a la carte' mentality; not 'buffet.'  Don't try to cover it all.  Schools don't. (Think about those thick textbooks.  We read assigned chapters, but not the whole thing...)

2. Dispel Myths.  I used to think that I was not qualified to teach my child... that it was not my role...that I did not want to mess up my kids.

Then, I read the book 'Home Education Myths' by Karl Reed.  Here are my personal points of impact:
  • Myth- Only trained educators can teach.  Truth- Lack of self-confidence is a byproduct of secular schooling which leads to a lack of confidence in God who created us and demands we teach our children.
  • Myth- More of everything is better. Truth- Too much contributes to burnout.  Create a family surrounding in a simple atmosphere.
  • Myth- The family cannot provide opportunities necessary for a child's education.  Truth- Every resource in a school is available to a family.  Even more is available to a family via apprenticeship, mentors, following a child's interest vs. a class of 30.
  • Myth- Some parents just can't teach. Truth- This contradicts God's action of giving the child to you!  It is his command that you, "train him up".
  • Myth- Home education is not for everybody. Truth- God commands us to.  Do not cop out.  (Side note:  This seemed a little harsh to me.  I personally believe that you need a conviction and a desire to homeschool.)
  • Myth- Homeschool creates hardships on the parents. Truth- Only if you try to copy the public school.  The home needs to be structured by a Godly pattern.
  • Myth- Children need socialization. (This is the one that gets many seasoned homeschool moms' eyes a-rolling...) Truth- Children do not develop good character from each other.  Good character is developed in a child by learning God's way and by learning to obey Him.  There is a higher risk of negative socialization (self esteem, conforming to peers/group think) in a school setting.
  • Myth-Homeschool kids will not fit into tomorrow's world.  Truth- Who's world? "The State" or God's?
I found a website that looks like it has the book posted in its entirety.  If you wish to explore this more, you can go to Home Education Myths.

3.  Better Late than Early.  I used to think that I needed to start educating my children early and work hard to keep ahead.  I read the book, 'Better Late than Early' by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  I learned about the Integrated Maturity Level (IML).  This takes all developmental areas into account (vision, hearing, socio-economic progress and the activities of the central nervous system).  Make sure that the child is mature enough in all these areas before considering school.  The IML is typically not prior to age eight, and the prematurely forcing a concept will actually prolong the mastery of it and produce a burden that will affect the entire family.  The first eight years are crucial to the child's development of self worth and security.  Do not assume learning disabilities prior to age 8-10.  Younger children learn best through play.

Because of this book, I took the pressure of myself and my young children.  I strived to make learning fun.  If something was a struggle, I shelved it for six months before trying again.  I spent the earlier years (prior to age eight) focusing on character first, academics second.

4. Circle the Wagons.  Being involved in a homeschool community is important for yourself and your kids.  Befriend other homeschool families for mutual encouragement, support, and inspiration.  Keep yourself full and inspired by attending conventions, homeschool group, reading magazines, and blogs.

5.  Create a Family Vision.  The idea of family vision was completely foreign to me.  We lived day to day.  I learned that, as parents, our priority is to bring our children to salvation, then on to maturity in self control, wisdom, and responsibility.  Our goal is to educate our children in the development of intellect and character, and not just for preparation for college or career.  To value the spiritual and character growth of our family and quality of family relationships, and to develop and protect the family unit.  This would then nurture family relationships, which would mature our children into unselfish marriage partners and parents.  Our activities need to reflect our value system.

Six characteristics of a close knit family:
  1. High degree of appreciation for each other
  2. Spend a lot of time together
  3. Good communication patterns
  4. Strong sense of commitment to each other (ex. we watched a 'Supernanny' episode that had three or four brothers. The Supernanny instilled in the boys that they were "brothers for life" and that their brothers took priority over friends.  This is something we strive to instill in our boys).
  5. Religious orientation
  6. Deals with crisis positively
One of the projects was to create a Family Mission Statement.  This defines who your family is; what are the purpose and goals.  This is different from Family Rules.

Once the long term purpose and goals are in place, you then determine your academic approach, child training methods, and lifestyle values.

6. It's Not About the Curriculum.  What?  It's not?  Did I just lose you?  I know, I know, when I first started our homeschool journey, finding the right curriculum was my highest priority.  Whenever I would question other homeschool moms, the first question I would ask was what curriculum they used.

I learned that Jesus cares more about the education of my child than I do.  I needed to slow down and PRAY over what God wanted for our family. 

I read the book, 'The Key to Your Child's Heart' by Gary Smalley.  He shared five different personality traits.  Once you discern your child's lead personality trait/natural bent, then you can discover what motivates them and apply it to homeschool.  Here is an overview of the Five Personality Traits.

From the book, 'Shepherding a Child's Heart' by Tedd Tripp, he encourages you to set clear objectives:
  • List child's strengths and weaknesses
  • Figure out what you are going to do to strengthen the weak areas and encourage the strengths
  • With your spouse, discuss short term and long term goals for your kids.
  • Develop strategies for parenting
  • Find out what God says about children and His requirement for them
  • Focus correction upon attitude of the heart rather than behavior
After you have prayed for wisdom and discernment, prayed and created a Family Vision, prayed and discerned your children's natural bents, prayed and set clear objectives...THEN, you explore curriculum options.

7.  Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."  Ask God to show you HIS heart about your heart.  The words "train up" are a command, not a suggestion.  "In the way he should go" is training in righteousness.  Training is not a discipline.  It is the conditioning of a child's mind before crisis arises.  Proactively prepare your children.  Role play different scenarios.  (Suggested books: Plants Grown Up for boys, and Polished Cornerstones for girls).

Children are trained by the responses and actions (or lack of them) by their principal caretakers.  Each of us has the opportunity to teach our children.  When we are tired, we would just rather administer discipline or ignore the issue.  But, if we are going to take seriously the responsibility for the training of our children, then with God's help, we must not let these golden opportunities pass by.

Give your children the opportunity to rise above the world's low expectations of them.  Praise their efforts in character.  The child who feels needed, wanted, and depended on at home, is much more likely to develop a sense of self worth and a stable value system, which is the basic ingredient for positive socialization.

Create expectations of behavior and be consistent in praise or correction.  Once they understand what is expected of them, let go of the concept of "second chances".  It is essential that parents establish clearly defined boundaries of what is acceptable/unacceptable behavior. (I once had a friend tell me that if you always give second/third chances, the kids will always take it...)

Pray that God will work in and around your efforts and the responses of your children to make them people who honor God.  

8. Insulation, not Isolation.  Create a home centered homeschool and limit external activities, but practice hospitality.  Have friends over.  Host fellowship and youth groups.  Host exchange students and missionaries.  Let your children witness you extend hospitality and give them the opportunity to be gracious hosts themselves.  When kids are older, let them shadow their parent in business dealings.

9. Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  I needed God to help me build confidence to take on this life-changing endeavor.  I learned that the American family has been convinced over the years that others outside the family can do a better job of providing things that the family has always provided for in the past.

Karl Reed, author of "Home Education Myths", said:

"I guess it is very strange that the educational systems that taught most of today's parents would so question the results of their own products."

I learned that there is no one besides me and Christ who is more motivated to see my child strong in character, academics, and all other areas of life.  Even the best teacher and their intentions cannot hold a candle to a parent's love and intent for their child.  I also have come to believe that God never gives us a responsibility without also providing the means and strengths to fulfill it.  He wants us to succeed!

Gregg Harris, author of The Christian Homeschool, wrote about the educational advantages of homeschooling:
  • The significance of parents.  Subjectively, you are the most important person in the world to your child.  You have greater credibility with him.  Public/private schooling risks teacher emulation.  There is no way over who your child spends their days with or what their teacher is teaching them.
  • Moral purity.  With public/private schools, you have no control over the values instilled in your children.  Homeschool allows you to choose a curriculum that reinforces your faith and presents it attractively.
  • Individual instruction.  Homeschooling provides a higher level of individual attention, which provides a better foundation for teaching and learning.
  • Feeling of security.  Children feel most secure at home.  It is in this security, he will venture to take risks and try new skills.
  • Healthy socialization.  When children spend ample time with their parents and siblings in a warm and loving atmosphere, they usually learn to enjoy being with all age groups, including their own.  By watching and imitating others, they learn politeness, and they learn to express themselves confidently with good conversational skills.  When children spend more time with their age-mates than they do with their parents, they become oriented toward their peers.  They will feel pressured to please their peers.  Peer groups form and create their own identity (dress, vocabulary, habits, gestures).  What happens when values of the peer group conflict with those of the family?  The child will have to choose between the two.  Some parents fear that a child who isn't exposed to the "real world" while he is young, won't be able to cope with it later.  But don't worry; the real world has a way of getting into everyone's life.  Nobody is better off being exposed to evil, in whatever form, and that's especially true for children who are struggling through their formative years.  What they need in order to cope with the "real world" is not a detailed knowledge of evil, but an experience of the value of a strong and Godly character.  The home is much better suited to providing that experience than any school.
  • Flexibility.  In school, teaching is confined to the classroom setting and the prescribed hours of attendance.  In the home, there are constant learning opportunities.  The homeschool program can be tailored to the student's needs and interests.
10.  Create a Rich Environment.  As you continue on your homeschool journey, you will learn about the wide variety of educational approaches.  One such approach is called the "Charlotte Mason" approach.  Charlotte Mason coined the term, "Twaddle".  Twaddle is trivial activity.  Something that does not have any educational or practical value.  She encourages you to recognize twaddle early on and get rid of it.  Don't feed on empty calories. The fuller your lifestyle becomes with real life and worthwhile activity, the easier homeschool becomes.  We need to recognize our children's interests and particular traits and allow both to become developed.  We need to set up our home accordingly.  Don't let limited space limit your opportunities.  Create zones for interest.  Create work stations, or even work boxes.

11.  Schedule, Schedule.  I used to think that I had to schedule every second and stick with it.  I learned that I need to pray over what God wants our schedule to be.  I also learned that children need privacy and freedom and to allow for that.  Incredible homeschool mom, mentor, and author, Marilyn Howshall of Lifestyle of Learning, stated in her book, "Walk by the Spirit in your Homeschool Decisions", "The home should become every married couple's primary mission field."  Through this view, all other activities and commitments to other ministries are to be weighed.

Please don't think I'm mean when I say my boys are, "sponges in the morning, and rocks in the afternoon".  Their attention span is markedly better in the morning.  So, I plan my day accordingly.  Academic work in the morning, delight directed/other activities (nature, art, P.E.) in the afternoon.

Include your kids in as many of your activities as possible.  Also, encourage extended family members to include your kids in activities as well.

Instead of scheduling every hour, consider setting aside blocks of time.  From Marilyn Howshall's book, "Develop a Lifestyle Routine", she set a daily routine that looks like this:
  • Household chore time
  • Table time (Seat work for homeschool)
  • Family reading time
  • Productive free time
  • Paid job time
  • Family work, play, and together time
Do you see how there is no set time?  Just at some point during the day, most/all of these will be accomplished.  This creates a freedom and flexibility to have the schedule work around you vs. the other way around.  Having a balanced schedule does not mean allotting equal time for each activity.

Pray for the Lord to bring to light your child's needs and how He is calling you to fill them.

Here is a list of my favorite books and resources that helped me during my season of re-education and renewing of my mind.  This is just a sampling of the many books of the homeschool course.  I pray these resources bless your journey as they did mine.

Websites:
Vision Forum
HSLDA (they also have a transcript service for high school recording Fast Transcripts)
The Well Trained Mind
Simply Charlotte Mason

Curriculum (our family has used all of these at some point in our journey and enjoyed them):
Ambleside Online (free Charlotte Mason approach)
Starfall (free online)
Letter of the Week (free preschool)

Books:
Homeschooling for Excellence by Micki and David Colfax
The Christian Homeschool by Gregg Harris
The Right Choice: Homeschooling by Christopher Klicka
Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gotto
For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley
Better Late than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore
The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
Develop Vision for your Family by Marilyn Howshall
"Come Home" From Homeschool by Marilyn Howshall
Develop a Lifestyle Routine by Marilyn Howshall

Magazine:

Local Resources:
Kingdom Builder Books (This is a homeschool consignment bookstore.  Sells new and used homeschool curriculum.  Also offers a variety of classes.


1 comment:

  1. I had to comment because we too are from Washington and moved here a little over a year ago. Thank you for the encouragement.

    Kim

    ReplyDelete