In my previous post, I mentioned some of the biggest fears I had about home schooling.
When I decided to bring my girls home, I didn’t really have answers to those fears, but my desire to have them home was stronger than my fears. I told myself that if I was terrible at home schooling, one year wouldn’t put them too far behind. I could just send them back to public school and none of them would be permanently damaged.
I did not pull my son out of high school, so when he started school, I started school with the girls. I did not feel ready. I did not have all my curriculum chosen. I had no lesson plans. I really wanted to wait another week or 2 and have time to get “really organized”. But I suspected that if I put off starting, that I would never get started.
So I gave myself permission to start with what I could do and add to it as I learned more. It would not be perfect, but I told myself that was ok. I had stumbled across a blog post about the Charlotte Mason philosophy of Education and knew almost at once that this was how I wanted to teach my children. Charlotte Mason deserves her own blog post as well. For now I will just say that this philosophy of education insists that information not be dumbed down for children. Children should get to learn by reading from living books about the subject in question instead of slogging through dreary, dry textbooks. A living book is a nonfiction book written by a person both knowledgeable and passionate about their subject so that it “comes alive.” Because this is how I have learned most of what I know, this idea resonated with me.
Day one, we began. We had a song and a prayer. We repeated a poem together. We repeated a scripture together. I gave them a Journal Prompt to write about. I showed them a fun video on KhanAcademy.org (from the section titled Math for fun and glory) about mathematical patterns in nature. I read them a chapter from A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich. I read aloud a story from a Junior Great Books Reader, and we discussed the questions. I asked them each to choose a book to read on their own, and gave them each a piano lesson. We took a walk outside and observed the nature around us.
That was our whole first day, and it was glorious. Even with toddlers interrupting, and my hesitations, it was a wonderful day.
After only a few days like this, I suddenly remembered my fears and laughed to think what I had been afraid of.
I had been afraid that I wouldn’t be organized enough, and wouldn’t have lesson plans prepared. In fact, I was not very organized, and I didn’t have lesson plans, but I did have my Morning Literacy framework, and so I didn’t need lesson plans. The general plan was in place, and all I had to do was insert the right living book for the subject I wanted to address that day.
I had been afraid that I would neglect school in favor of trying to catch up on housework, especially with all the girls home to watch the babies so I could work uninterrupted. Probably if I had expressed this fear out loud to anyone who knows me, they would have laughed themselves silly. I love learning and school above anything. I do enjoy housework, but I only want to do it about twice a week. The rest of the time, I want to be doing something else. So what really happened was that housework got neglected in favor of school for several days until the house got so messy that even I couldn’t stand it. Then I simply declared “Home Economics Day,” and the girls and I worked together to clean up the mess.
Because caring for a home is part of what I feel is my duty to teach them, Home Economics Day makes total sense. Since then, I have refined our chore chart so that chores happen each day as a part of home school. It works like a break from the books. I’ve also added in lessons on developing good habits (such as picking up after ourselves or making our beds in the morning.) Charlotte Mason called habits the train tracks on which our lives run smoothly. I feel so full of joy when I think how blessed my girls will be when they leave home with good habits of cleanliness and self-discipline firmly established to help them navigate life.
I had worried in the past about having weird home schooled kids. This wasn’t actually something I was worried about anymore. #1 My kids have been in public school for a long time and are already socialized. #2 Once I grew out of the high school mentality of needing to fit in, I discovered that weird people are the best kind of people. They are the most interesting and the most fun. They add important advances to our society. We need weird people. Here is a quote from John Green that I love. It sums up how I feel about nerds and geeks and weird people in general:
“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”
The truth is, I want my kids to be enthusiastic about stuff. That is what really makes learning possible.
It is the kids who have lost the ability to feel awe and wonder at the world who are not learning, and will not learn whether they are in public school, private school, or home.
If feeling awe and enthusiasm makes us weird and nerdy, then so be it.
One of my greatest fears was that I would accidentally leave out vital information that my kids needed to learn to be successful in college and life. I realized something though. The people who decide what is taught in school, the teachers and administrators and politicians–those people are all just human. Like me, they can make mistakes. Everyone graduates from school with holes in their education. We simply have to learn the thing we needed that we hadn’t learned and move on.
The only difference now is that I get to choose what my daughters and I focus on. Me. It is a responsibility, but it is also exciting and joyful. All those things that I used to carry around on a mental list “The List of Things I Want to Be Sure My Children Know About”– all those things I didn’t have time to teach them because they were in school or doing homework sent home from school–I have time to teach those things now. Will there be gaps? Assuredly. But no more gaps than any person has when they graduate from high school. Besides, I think it probable that my home schooled children will have fewer gaps in their education and far more skills for self-acquiring- of-knowledge than the average high school graduate.
I was afraid people would judge me. This is a silly reason to not do something, because people make judgments all the time anyway. We all might as well do what we think is best for our family and society without wasting time worrying over who will think we are doing it all wrong. I am fortunate to have lots of support from my husband and all the grandparents and my friends. I do get questions, and those questions sometimes stress me or make me feel judged, but answering them only strengthens my conviction that what I am doing is right for us.
No home school day is perfect, and there have been plenty of problems come up for me to puzzle over. But problem solving–even frustrating problems–is still moving forward. Problem solving is not something to fear either. If you have considered home school, write out a list of pros and cons, and then double check those cons and make sure they are true cons, and not just fear masquerading as fact.