(*This post has been a long time coming.. Like, I wrote the title back in FEBRUARY guys! But just now, I finally sat down to put allllllll of my thoughts into words. Also... it's really long. :) ...You've been warned!)
As homeschooling is something so close to my heart it's been challenging to put my heart and thoughts to words. I've started it a million times and there's just so much to it, that I keep putting it away thinking one day I'll be able to articulate my thoughts- but there's no better time than now as I know many of you are waiting for this post! Just please know beforehand that this is a jumble of my mind and heart and hopefully it is in some way helpful on your journey to deciding what is best for your family. These are all my own thoughts and feelings- I'm not asking you to agree or disagree, just sharing our how and why. I am not advocating that homeschooling is best or better... or that everyone should do it! Only that this is what is best for us right now. What started as an uncertainty has grown into an undeniable constant because of the blessings we've seen from it, but please know, I in no way judge anyone for doing things another way. Homeschool is not meant for all families. My hope is to share our why after much thought, discussion, research and prayer.
First things first, with a little back story. Seth and I met when we were nine when his family moved into our neighborhood, and If I'm being honest, I thought his family was WEIRD... for no good reason really, other than they homeschooled and that is what I was always led to believe. Seth would come over to play football with his seven brothers and my five brothers... and I always thought he was cute, but he was homeschooled so that was an automatic strike against him. ;) But we still had our moments... more flirting disguised and fighting really. In fact, I'll never forget the time we were playing in a nearby ravine taking turns on a giant rope swing. I skipped in line in front of him, he told me I couldn't do that, so I called him a butthead. He then proceeded to tell me that I was going straight to hell for saying that bad word.... Ha! #homeschoolers Years later I learned he told his little brother that night that he would marry me one day.
Fast forward several years and we both ended up in the same apartment complex in college and let's just say, he didn't look like the nerdy homeschooler I remembered. Like, HELLO he was... well he. looked. GOOD! We started dating right away and one day he casually asked me, "Do you think you would ever consider homeschooling your kids?" and I replied promptly with an emphatic- "Hell no.", :/ I loved school, I could never stay home all day with my kids, I needed the social time, etc. etc. etc. I could think of a million reasons why my answer was, and always would be- NO. Seth didn't press the matter and a short three months later we were married.
Rewind again to when I was 15 years old. In our church, we are given a special blessing of council specifically and personally for us. In mine, I was counseled to use ALL of my energies to educate my children in a place where the spirit would be present to uplift both the students and teacher alike. All my energies. I didn't realize the weight those words would have on my heart at the time, but the moment I held my first babe Isaiah, those words came to life and have never left. Although, I still wasn't completely convinced to homeschool til the day he turned five, and in that moment I couldn't fathom the thought of losing 4-8 hours a day of his life five days a week. I was his MOTHER! How could I just turn him over to a government run institution and trust that they would teach and love him like I did? I knew then the reason for that blessing so many years earlier and was confident that keeping him home was best for us. It was the only way I could honestly say I was using all my energies to teach and educate my child. And that was the beginning of our homeschooling journey.
Everyones homeschooling path looks a little different... and truthfully I am much more laid back than I used to be. Our first year, I had desks and a homeschool room, and a schedule, and a bell, and alllllll the books and curriculum. I got burnt out really quick that way, and knew I couldn't do it if that was how we did it day in and day out. So now, we do what feels best each day as we go. We do a lot of time in nature, a lot of traveling, a lot of exploring, a lot of reading, and a lot of life learning. Each day my kids are required to do their Book of Mormon reading, writing in their journal, music practice, and help in the house. That is every day no matter what. But when it gets cold outside we do much more book work and structured learning. We've always covered what I hoped to by the end of the year this way as well. That doesn't mean we've finished every book... but we've covered more than enough for me to know they're thriving and happy. I don't ever compare them to other kids their age, because that is not real life. No two people are the same, and I know they will learn what they need to when they're ready to as long as I don't kill their love of learning. One of my boys was reading at age five, the other not til he was almost eight! But I made certain to never make him feel like he was behind, for nothing will kill a child's confidence so quickly as that. Each child is different and what works for one, doesn't always work with the next. It's a lot of figuring out as you go and a lot of trial and error.... but again the key is to stay close to the one that knows them best, and He will always guide your steps in this endeavor of teaching his children. This past year we discovered the Good and the Beautiful Curriculum by Jenny Phillips, and I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH! It is the best value for an all around balanced, gentle, and BEAUTIFUL education. It is Christ Centered, and covers all of the different subjects. We have also used Teaching Textbooks for math and love that, as well as Teach Your Child to Read in One Hundred Easy Lessons, and also highly recommend that as well.
For times sake, I think the easiest way to share our why and cover everything here will be to just list it alllll out! :) So here goes.
My Top Ten Reasons for Homeschooling
Forever my number one reason will be time. I only have 18 years... and then they're gone. To teach, nurture, and instill in them all the life lessons and core values they need to be successful in this life and the life to come. Some lessons of character and heart, I feel are best learned at home in a family setting. As their mother I can't live with myself knowing I've given away eight hours a day, five days a week of their childhood. Essentially half of their time with me! With another quarter spent sleeping, and we're left with maybe a few hours at the end of the day. Our time really is so limited! For me, my babes attending public school meant that the best hours of their day were spent away from our family. Growing up attending public school, I remember the hustle and fight it was every morning to wake up and get out the door on time. Too little sleep and an early wake up call, only to fight to get out of bed and rush out the door, with maybe (or not) a quick breakfast to hopefully make it to school on time. And then there's extra curricular activities, sports, dance, clubs, and church activities. When I finally made it back home my parents knew nothing about my day, or what I was feeling, or why I was usually tired and grumpy when I finally made it home each night. Then there's all the homework! It left very little time for me to develop the kind of relationships I wanted with my siblings and parents. We are definitely making up for that lost time now, and building the close relationship I always wanted, but for my children, I desperately want to savor every moment I have of those eighteen years before they're gone forever.
#2: ENJOYING THEIR COMPANY
Every now and then, every mama needs a break... FOR SURE! But believe it or not, I actually enjoy being around my kids as much as I am! The amount of time I spend with them allows me to help shape them into the kind of people I love to be around. They are funny, spunky, creative, awesome little people and I feel so lucky that I get to witness that taking shape in each of their lives. That's not to say they're perfect, far from it- we definitely have our issues, but the more time I have to teach them appropriate behavior in all situations ensures they are becoming the kind of people our Heavenly Father wants them to be, and the kind of people I love to be around. I don't wonder what my kids are being surrounded by, hearing, or learning all day. I know- and if they need disciplining, which they do and will daily- I am there to do it. Sending them to a classroom where they are surrounded by twenty or thirty other children their own age, and one adult means, they are most heavily influenced by other children their own age. If they are kindergarteners, they will act like other kindergarteners, talk like kindergarteners, and primarily only learn to mimic, associate, and converse with children their age. That is not real life! My favorite question that always comes up when someone learns that we homeschool is, "Aren't you worried about their social skills?", my answer? ABSOLUTELY! And that is one of the main reasons we homeschool! I don't want them acting like a lot of the kids do these days, I don't want them talking like I hear some kids talking! And me being able to take them out in the world ensures they're getting experiences and opportunities to learn to socialize in real life settings, and a monitored atmosphere. Age plays no factor in who they will talk to and want to be around. My boys will respectfully have conversations with kids their own age in the same manner that they would approach and talk to a thirty year old uncle/aunt/friend/stranger/etc. Which also helps me to be able to teach them appropriate ways of communicating and addressing behavioral issues as they arise. I want to help mold them into the good people I know they are, and being able to be with them as they explore and learn that, enables this to happen.
#3: WORK ETHIC
A huge part of our homeschooling is essentially Home Economics. :) With five little kids there are always messes that need cleaning up. My kids know its not my job to clean up after them, but to teach them to clean up their own messes. Picking up after themselves, cleaning, cooking, caring for one another and for our home is part of their every day schooling. The boys each do a one load of laundry a day, and everyone helps with Dolly- feeding, holding, changing diapers; we're a team and we all contribute. Seth was one of nine kids that his mom homeschooled- each of them had their own specific jobs and duties around the house each day. Seth learned at a young age that he loved to cook! One of his daily tasks was to bake fresh bread each morning for the family. He also loved construction, art, woodworking, floral design, football and had many other interests he was able to develop at home. A lot of these in a public setting would have labeled him and he would have been made fun of- (actually still was made fun of at church and other activites for being a "flower boy" til he knocked a kid out... then they left him alone. but that's a story for another time.. :) This may have affected his confidence, but at home he was safe and secure in who he was. And those things are what made him the creative hardworking man that he is today. And I thank his mama every day for raising the man of my dreams. Seth and his brothers also were able to help run the family businesses, and eventually at the age of fifteen start their own business. Which is to this day one of the most successful shed building companies in the US. They learned to work because they had a mama that taught them and they had the time to learn.
#4 HANDS ON LEARNING
Seth would also help to run the cashier at his family's business, and learned all of the math he needed in a real life setting at a very young age. He had never opened a math book until he entered college, and then tested into a much higher math than i did. :/ We also involve our children in running our family business allowing them to experience mathematics, home economics, geography and more in real life situations. We hope to travel as much as possible to the places that we are learning about allowing them to see, feel and experience these place and cultures in person, instead of only reading about them in a classroom. Music and arts are also a huge part of our education. Once old enough each selects an instrument and has practice time each day. Isaiah plays the violin, Kingston the cello, and Pearl is in the beginning stages of a master pianist. ;) Of course in an ideal world they practice willing and all by themselves for at least an hour each day, but our reality oftentimes looks a little different. But hearing the sound of a duet finally conquered by my wild boys makes it all worthwhile. My girls love crafting, cooking, and sewing with me as well, and those are some of my favorite memories to date with my kids.
#5 A Christ Centered Education
In all we do, we strive to have a home centered in Christ. I want them to be grounded in spiritual strength and worth before any other part of their education. I want them to feel the depth of knowing their purpose in this life as they learn and discover who they are as descendants of divinity- sons and daughters of a Heavenly King. Our homeschooling revolves around this. He is our center. Each day they start off their schooling with scripture reading and prayer. They learn to read from scripture and learn to write from writing in their journal. No expensive program needed- a simple notebook and documentation of their day to day is great. I want them to be grounded in Christ, and have everything else built on that. I don't ever want it to be an after thought at the end of the day as their heads hit their pillow... for the times we live in, I just don't think it's enough to keep them spiritually and physically safe.
#6 PERSONALIZED EDUCATION
One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is that we can fine tune our focus any way we please. Instead of seeing education as another chore on the to do list, we see learning as something we WANT to do and are excited about! We want them to learn things that they are interested in and passionate about, to fuel that flame of curiosity as long as we can. We also want them to learn and excel at their own pace and not push too hard to kill that flame. Every child is different and learns differently. As we homeschool we can cater to what works for each one individually instead of having them taught as a group and learning at the lowest common denominator. Public schooling tends to have a 'no child left behind' policy which can be wonderful, but yet if no child is left behind that also means no child can get ahead. Seth often shares that people labeled "homeschoolers" as the weirdo smartypants that knew everything, and while he never claims to know everything, or rarely feels like the smartest man in the room, he does claim to be the smartest and best version of himself. Our hope is that each one of our children can reach their full potential as the smartest versions of themselves by studying and learning in the way that works best for them... whatever that may be.
#7 FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
If our children are going to be forging relationships with those around them we want those relationships to be with those that truly love and care for them the most. I want to spend the most time nurturing and getting to know each one of my kids so that there is never even the slightest doubt in their minds that I am here for them and love them unconditionally- always, forever, no matter what. I want the gospel and our family to be their greatest influence. I want them to be comfortable with open discussion as a family instead of turning to outside sources for answers. I want them to turn to one another in times of need and know that siblings, although menaces at time, will be your fiercest and most loyal friends. And that those relationships are the ones that will last forever- not just through the school years. Family relationships are the ones that truly matter.
#8 NATURAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
With homeschooling we tend to have a wide ranging schedule, especially since we run our businesses out of our home. Homeschooling gives us the flexibility to teach in the moment when the moment arises. At times an opportunity to teach may come late in the night with a random question. Homeschooling leaves us guilt free for sleeping in a little extra the next day in order to teach a lesson of value that needed addressing the night before, cause we aren't worried about getting to school on time the next morning! Some of my favorite conversations and moments of growth and learning happen in my bed in the morning as they all wake up and slowly wander in to snuggle in my bed. Our mornings are slow and sacred... and something I know ill miss desperately one day. I make it a point to never schedule anything before one o'clock in the afternoon. Ever. Slow mornings are our jam. :)
Like I mentioned before, I don't want my kids learning how to socialize like most kids do at this age. We don't have any screens for our kids in the house for them to use. We do have a computer that we will teach them to use when we feel the time is right, and that use for the occasional family movie night, but I want them to learn to communicate and use their imaginations, and not get sucked in to the mind numbing norm of video games and tv that seems to dominate our culture these days. Homeschooling allows us to control the environments and situations where they socialize with whom we see fit, versus leaving them to socialize with whoever is in their class or on the bus with them. Some worry that Homeschooling will leave your children lacking socially and awkward ....but friends, who defines that anyways?? Who decides what is normal and what is socially acceptable? I PRAY that my kids never settle for normal. I hope they never just going along with the crowd. I pray they always have the courage to stand out and be different in all the good ways. Never for attention, but for God.
Also... were there no weirdos in your elementary, middle, or high schools? OF COURSE there were! There are socially awkward people everywhere! There are "weird" homeschoolers but there are also plenty of "weird" public schoolers! It all boils down to your upbringing, really. If you are a strong, confident, outgoing person then chances are your children will be too. Bottom line is that homeschooling is about an all around education, and not the determining factor of your social skills.
#10 CONFIDENCE IN THEMSELVES
If you can think it, you can make it a reality. I want to instill confidence in my children that is so deeply rooted that they will never doubt their abilities or what they can accomplish. Did you know that Thomas Edison fought with the idea of creating light for years? And the first few people he confided in told him it was impossible and that it couldn't be done. It wasn't until his sweet mother encouraged him to pursue it that he finally put his idea into action and changed our world as we know it. I want to be that kind of mother! I want to inspire my kids to believe that they really can do anything they put their mind to. The sky is the limit with the right amount of hard work and dedication. I hope they never hesitate to make even their wildest dreams, a reality.
Now once again- I am not saying this is the only way to raise great kids- Please don't misunderstand me. There are many resources and alternatives to homeschooling that are great options! I'm only saying this is our why and our reason in hopes of achieving our family's ultimate best.
Whew friends .... If you're still reading this, you deserve a medal! There is so much more- and I really did condense this, believe it or not! But if I can leave you with one last thought, its this: The notion that we, as mothers, are not equipped to teach our children, is absolute nonsense! That is the adversary! "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." It will be hard, and you will question yourself and your sanity and that's all NORMAL! But with God's help- I PROMISE, you will not fail your kids. You are enough. All they need is a loving environment to flourish and a reminder that they are capable. Now repeat after me... I AM ENOUGH. I AM ENOUGH. I AM ENOUGH. Yes mama, you really are.
Here are a few books I have loved and would recommend you use if you are unsure of where to start on this homeschooling journey. Please don't be overwhelmed and think you need to read them all. YOU DON'T! All you really need to read is your scripture and then get on your knees and pray for guidance. But if you're looking for some extra help, here are a few I love. I'll put an * by my favorites. :)
Also, a few names you might recognize that were all educated at home:
John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Garfield, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, James Polk, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Louisa May Alcott, Alexander Graham Bell, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Frost, Virginia Woolf, J.R.R. Tolkien, and- wait for it.... Tim Tebow and T- Swift.
once more mamas...
I AM ENOUGH