Contributing Member Introductions

Hello, and welcome to the Honeybee Christian Co-op blog! Here we will post about co-op, our faith, homeschooling, parenting, and just whatever is on our hearts. We can’t wait to share all the fun and craziness that comes with homeschooling our crew! Here is a quick introduction of our contributing members!

Hello! My name ispulk49 Valerie,  and I am a catholic homeschooling mom of 2. I have an energetic 5-year-old boy and a sweet little 6-month-old girl. Giving birth within a week of starting our first official year of homeschooling has made things interesting, but we are so very blessed. In my “free”/me time I enjoy sewing, crafting, reading, watching Netflix, and all things Harry Potter. I’ve been married to my husband, Stephen, for 7 years now. As a family, we enjoy spending time outdoors, going to concerts, and just getting together with family and friends. My son has high functioning autism, so you will occasionally see me post about ASD or special needs topics. Our homeschooling style is very eclectic. We pull from Charlotte Mason, Reggio, Montessori, and Unit Study methods. The biggest thing I have taken away from our first year official year of schooling is that my son will learn things when he is ready, and trying to rush him will only cause both of us frustration.  I look forward to sharing our journey with you!

I’m Charity and I’m mom of 3 kids. They range from 1st grade down to 3 years old so I’m
charityconstantly balancing teaching different grades, keeping up with the house, and getting as much social time as we all love! I have been married for over 8 years and my husband and I were both homeschooled so to us the easiest choice at this point is to homeschool – but we know that any year that could change for any of our three kids. We moved here from out of state 2 years ago and from the beginning, Honeybee Christian Co-op has been our most profound circle of friends. I have learned so much from seeing the different teaching styles of other moms and having this close group of friends for my husband, kids and I to bounce ideas off of, encourage, and pray for. I live for playdates and love visiting playgrounds, libraries, or hosting random playdates at my house. I studied Marketing in college and sometimes do some small marketing jobs from home but most of my time is spent in keeping up with my kids and hanging out with friends at playdates.

Hi! I’m Melissa, wife, and Mama to 3, almost 4, littles. Ages 5,3,2 and one coming in June! Needless to say, our arms are full, but our hearts even more so! I had 0 intentions of homeschooling our kmelissaiddos, but the Lord has used countless ways to open my eyes and more importantly my heart to educating our children. I would say when it comes to homeschool style we are an eclectic family because Mama can’t seem to settle on any one idea or style. Ha! We love to learn through play and exploring the world around us. We love trying new things and meeting new people from all walks of life. I spend most of my time with my little family, but also enjoy studying God’s word, being an active member of my church’s women’s group, spending time with friends, all things crafty and supplementing our family budget with my small photography business. I’m looking forward to sharing about our experiences in homeschooling and hope they will help to encourage others, because if the Lord can equip me to do this, He can equip anyone!!!

Hello! I’m Katie, and I have four sweet little munchkins: triplet daughters who are six 6B382F4F-9D36-41CE-AF8B-5267D1884F03and one three-year-old son. I was homeschooled through high school graduation; my husband Jonathan was homeschooled for several years, as well. We passionately believe that home education is not simply something you can fall back on when running from other options; rather, home education offers so much to families, it is a choice to run toward! We love homeschooling for far too many reasons to list in a short paragraph, but I look forward to sharing some of those reasons with you in my posts! Our own homeschool, with three children finishing first grade and another entering preschool, is an eclectic blend of several styles, but overall, we lean toward the Charlotte Mason method. Our family is very social and we greatly enjoy getting together with friends. I love being with my family and most of my interests flow out of that. I am passionate about quality children’s literature!! I also enjoy reading, writing, hiking with my little family, and encouraging others with the truth of God’s Word. I’m excited about being part of this blog and I hope you are encouraged by it!

30264629_10103714902822104_4075783883545640960_oKaitlin is a homeschooling mama and part-time speech therapist and autism researcher. She and her husband Ted, the fisheries biologist, have four children ages 7 and under. Neither of them were homeschooled or had any experience with homeschoolers growing up, but knew early on in their dating relationship that it was the plan God had for their family. Homeschooling in these early years consists of morning prayers and Bible readings, nature hikes and outdoor adventures, lots of family read alouds, and occasionally a math or phonics lesson. She loves Charlotte Mason, audiobooks, and firmly believes that Cindy Rollins is correct and “reading aloud and narration cover a multitude of sins.”

Hope you enjoyed getting to know us a little better!

Homeschooling Like A Principal

One of the first responses I often get when I mention that I homeschool is “Well, I couldn’t do that, because I could never teach my child _______ (fill in the blank).” I understand exactly why they say that, as my husband and I both agree that neither of us is strong in biology or chemistry and we both know that I’m not teaching math past algebra. However, this fact has never concerned us – and wouldn’t even concern us if we had a child wanting to go into the medical field. Here are three reasons why I’m not worried about teaching my kids all the subjects I’m not strong in.

Reason 1: I Don’t Have to Teach Alone

 Why? Well, because homeschooling doesn’t mean that I’m my children’s only teacher for all subjects – it just means that I get to pick all of their teachers for each of their subjects. Now, I’m not saying that as a homeschooler my goal is to leave all my children’s education up to the tutors I choose – legally, you do have to teach the majority of subjects to your child in most states. However, I do have the ability to purchase video curricula, online classes, or even real life classes for my kids to learn certain subjects. I live within 20 minutes of two different sets of high school science and lab classes that are part of inexpensive homeschool co-ops. I can name three different total video or computer software-based curricula off the top of my head as well as an online school – and I know Google would probably show dozens more. I’ve also heard firsthand of a handful of tutors that are proficient at math or science within an easy drive.

My kids currently learn math from a video curriculum (that I watch with them) and have learned reading and writing from a well laid out step by step program that I literally just open and follow the directions to each day. I can easily get a curriculum that lays out every step of the way for every one of their subjects if I want to, and as it gets harder for me I have other options like videos, online school, co-ops, or tutors.

Reason 2: I Can Still Focus on Their Interests

 Part of my reason for homeschooling is actually so that my kids can focus on their interests in school as well as find out what they are good at for their future jobs. So I have a girl that adores art and crafts, one son that is all about math and engineering, and another son that loves sports and puzzles. I’ll tell you right now that I am not the least bit good at ANY of those things. Since my kids are in elementary school and we live in a great homeschooling area this still is not hard to do at all – in fact, we have free and cheap resources that aren’t even affiliated with homeschooling that focus on my children’s interests. Lowes and Home Depot often have free classes to build stuff, there’s a kids art studio and community center with art classes, there’s a good amount of sports teams that aren’t associated with the school system, and so many other things that my kids can do. And I don’t even live near a big city!

This semester, my daughter is taking art, music, and nature study classes. My oldest son is going to take extra math, PE, hands on science, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and games and strategy classes. My youngest one gets to do art, music and PE classes. I’m not teaching any of these fun extra classes focused on their interests, but they still get to take them with friends and with awesome teachers who love those subjects!

Reason 3: Someday My Child Will Teach Himself

 I was homeschooled and also saw many of my cousins being homeschooled firsthand and I know for a fact that my machinist husband, university math teacher cousin, computer programmer cousin, and engineer cousin didn’t learn all their math from their parents. Granted, three of them went to college and took a lot of higher math there but all four of them worked through math books on their own through the bulk of high school. I saw three of them pouring over Saxon Math on their own and I’m told my husband actually was given the answers and then taught his mom how to do the algebra lesson.

Like a homeschooling friend mentioned to me once, “The end goal of homeschooling is to teach our kids how to teach themselves anything they want to know.” Even in early elementary school I can work towards this goal by letting my kids do more and more independent work while they still know I am there to help if needed. I can also focus on the way my kids learn by turning on a video or audio book for my son, helping my daughter find some way to create things with her hands, and letting my youngest son build his puzzle of numbers.

With the other tutors and curricula that are around me, the extracurricular choices I have, and the independent spirit I can nourish in my children I have no worries that I can’t teach science, math, art, or anything else because the resources are there if you just use them.

– Charity

Encouraging Compassion in My Children

     Recently, one of my daughters, Felicity, got a splinter in her foot. It didn’t hurt too much, but the skin around it was red and irritated. She asked me to get it out for her, and I asked one of her sisters to bring me my tweezers.

     Felicity heard the word “tweezers” and began crying. I hadn’t even touched her foot yet, but fat tears rolled down her cheeks from the very thought of the pain she would soon endure.

     As soon as she started to cry, my third daughter Merideth began crying too. I asked her what was wrong and she responded, “I just hate to see my sister hurt, Mommy!” Violet returned to the bedroom, tweezers in hand, and Merideth ran from the room, wailing.

     Felicity was already crying on the floor in front of me and jerking her foot away, so I decided to deal first with the splinter and check on Merideth later. The room wasn’t very bright, and I asked Violet to hold a flashlight for me so I could more easily grab the little sliver of wood that was causing so much trouble. But when I looked up at her face to see her response, her eyes were already tearing up and she backed away, shaking her head. “I just can’t be here when Felicity is hurting, Mommy! I’m sorry, but I just can’t stay in here!” And she ran down the hall after her sobbing sister.

     I looked down at the sniffling daughter whose foot was in my hand, then over at my son Benjamin, just three years old, kneeling beside his sister and looking on with interest. “Could you hold this light for me, buddy?” He nodded solemnly and held it up high for me. Of course, the scream-inducing extraction took only seconds, and I held up the hated splinter triumphantly for Felicity to see. She gulped a few times, took a couple of shuddering breaths, and told me, “It really didn’t hurt at all! Not even as much as a shot!”

     One problem down, two to go. I praised Benjamin for being a brave helper and went to the other end of the house to tend to the crying sisters. Violet had managed to compose herself and determined that as long as Felicity was okay again, she was fine too. She skipped happily away, but Merideth remained burrowed beneath the blankets on my bed, crying her eyes out. I tugged the quilt back gently and pulled her onto my lap.

     “She’s okay now, Mere-bear. I got it out and she said it didn’t even hurt like she thought it would! You can calm down, honey. She’s okay.” It took longer than I care to admit (and a phone call to her daddy), but my hysterical daughter finally calmed down and was able to stop crying. My heart broke for her, and for the extent to which she’d fallen apart at seeing only the smallest amount of discomfort. I don’t know if the girls are more sensitive toward each other’s feelings because they’re triplets and have spent nearly every moment of their lives together, or if this is a completely normal response for a six-year-old, but either way I didn’t want Merideth to be paralyzed by fear.

     I took her tear-streaked cheeks in my hands and smiled into her troubled blue eyes. “Merideth, I am so proud of you, honey. That sadness you’re feeling because your sister was hurt? That pain over seeing her so upset? That’s called compassion, Merideth, and it’s a wonderful thing.”

     Her eyes opened wide. “Jesus had compassion,” she whispered.

     “That’s right, honey; Jesus had compassion.”

     “Addy had compassion too. She cried when she had to leave baby Esther behind. She left her doll for her.”

    “That’s right, Mere. Addy had compassion too. But you know what? Having compassion for others is wonderful and right and exactly what God wants, but when you feel this way, you have two choices: you can choose to be scared by all those big feelings and run away from the pain, or you can choose to be brave and try to help the people who are in pain. Do you understand that?”

     She nodded quietly, her face thoughtful.

     “Merideth, think about Jesus. You were right when you said He had compassion. Do you remember some of those stories? When Jesus had compassion on the people, did He run away from them?”

     “No.”

     “No, the Bible says that He had compassion on them, and He healed their sick. He had compassion on them, and He fed them. He had compassion on them, and He sent out His disciples to minister to them. Compassion is a great place to start, but that’s not where it ends. Always let your compassion remind you to be courageous and to help. It’s hard and it hurts to be with people when they’re hurting, but it’s wonderful too.”

     Her face had cleared while I was talking, and she smiled at me as she nodded slowly. “I know I can be brave like Jesus and Addy, Mommy.”

     “Yes, you can! You can be brave; God gives us the courage we need when we ask Him for it, honey. Remember that I am SO PROUD OF YOU. I love your heart, Merideth, and I’m so glad to see it caring for others.”

     She gave me a shy smile and a bear hug, then went to check on Felicity.

     I groaned when I stood up from my knees (did I mention it was past bedtime?) but I was glad to have seen my little girl learn something so important amid all the noise of the evening. I don’t know what God has planned for her life, but I know that it is good, and I’m grateful for the task of helping to shape her heart while she’s young.

I want my children to be compassionate and to think of others more than themselves. A splinter is such a very small thing, but I’m glad the Lord could use it anyway.

– Katie

Year Round Homeschooling

“Schoooooool’s out for summer!” …. Well kind of, but not really. For my family, we are what you consider year-round schoolers. I’ve had a lot of people ask about what our summer schedule is like, so I want to take a minute to share. First, I want to talk a little bit about why we do “summer school.” My oldest is a creature of habit. This could possibly be explained by his ASD diagnosis, but here lately I just like to think that’s how he’s wired in general and forget the little details. When we first started school it was like pulling teeth getting him to cooperate and do “table time.” With some compromise on both of our parts, we finally hit our stride in about October. Then December hit. We made it through our first semester!! I turned in our grades to our umbrella school and happily closed our books. We enjoyed a few blissful weeks of free play and play dates. The 2nd week of January it was time to get back to work and it was like starting at square one! I decided from then on, we would school year-round. Now that isn’t to say I don’t make summers special. We celebrated the “end of 1st grade” with our co-op group, and my son knows it’s summer and our schedule is different, but we still have “school time” and here’s what it looks like…

Summer 2018 Plans

-The 3 “R’s”
All summer we will start our day with morning work, which consists of Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic. For reading we continue our All About Reading (currently on level 2), writing is our PALS (Primary Arts of Language) curriculum, and math is Rightstart (hoping to finish level A before the end of the summer, PRAISE THE LORD!! ) I like to continue these because my son is technically behind his peers in some of these subjects, so the extra practice helps us catch up some. Also, these aren’t his favorite, so continuing them through the summer helps us not have that starting and stopping drama.

-Sports
We spend a LOT of time in the summer outside, and as a result we are practicing a lot of sports/physical education. We are wrapping up coach pitch baseball season, right in the middle of basketball clinic, and about to test for our green belt in Taekwondo. That doesn’t even include all the swimming! Lightening up on our science and social studies during the summer gives us the time to focus on these super important skills.

-Enrichment
One thing I wanted to work on most this summer was my son/s diet. He is the pickiest of picky eaters, and quite dramatic on top of that, so meal times can be quite the experience. So this summer we are cooking through a kid’s cookbook! We are using the Usborne Start to Cook. He makes a shopping list each week, reads the recipes, and makes them 100% on his own. Through cooking we are tackling several subjects in addition to getting him a little more comfortable around food!

On top of all this, he also has 20 minutes of independent reading time, piano practice, and a list of daily chores  that have to take place before he can have any screen time.

With all that being said, we still have lots of down time built in. What is usually 4 hours of structured learning in the school year is cut down to probably 1.5 hours in the summer, depending on how long our recipe takes.  It/s amazing how something as simple as opening books for an hour a day throughout the summer helps with our transitions. Now when my son is older and can understand better the concept of school breaks we might build in some more breaks, but for now we will keep on going!

Happy Summer, Everyone!!!

– Valerie

Finding My Tribe – Perspectives of a First Generation Homeschooler

15941230_10103909128861605_3809756327423390882_nI was traditionally educated my whole life. I went through public school, to college, and on to law school with success. Homeschooling was not something I was even aware of until 5th grade, when the local homeschooled kids came in to do state testing with us. Homeschooling was not originally a consideration for my family for many reasons.

When my boys came along, I initially didn’t even think about school, but with my oldest having special needs, my focus was quickly shifted that direction. By age two, I was in discussions with our local school system about what I planned to do with him and his education, because in our state, kids with special needs are allowed to enter the school system at age three to get the extra help and services they might need.

Homeschooling had crossed my mind, but wasn’t something I had fully taken hold of, and in fact, I didn’t fully accept that I was going to homeschool my kids until just months before I actually started to do so. Homeschooling scared me. I knew nothing to very little about it. I wasn’t sure I could do enough or be enough for my kids. I struggled so much with self-doubt that I talked myself out of homeschooling at least a dozen times. I thought of a million reasons why I shouldn’t homeschool.

Then came a voice of reason, a God-send, if you will. I met a lady at my church whose kids befriended mine, and low and behold, she homeschooled. She herself was also homeschooled. I looked up to her as a homeschool guru (and she is!) and took the opportunity of our newfound friendship to inundate her with my questions. For probably a year I would throw my questions at her, my self-doubts, and my lack of experience, and for a year, she had an answer for every question I asked.

When I finally bit the bullet so to speak and made the decision to homeschool, there was an instant feeling of relief… and panic. All my self-doubt was still there, yet maybe quieter. Just making the decision itself was a huge step, but figuring out what my next move would be was just as intimidating.

Enter Honeybee Christian Co-op. My homeschool guru friend had invited to me check out her co-op, and by all the bragging she did, I figured I had to at least take a look. The fact that it was special needs inclusive made me a bit giddy, to be honest.

I came to some initial interest meetings, met some of the moms, and realized that I had stumbled upon something special.  Really though, I think it was less stumbling and more a directed path. Our school year began and within weeks I began to see my children growing socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. I could also see myself growing. That voice of self-doubt began to shrink more and more. On days that I was down or stressed, I would reach out to other co-op mamas and they threw encouragement and support at me like confetti.

Within the first few months, I knew I had found my tribe. The kids were all so sweet and kind to my special needs oldest son. Early in the school year, I witnessed them trying to figure out who was going to help him to class one day. They all wanted to help! The moms were all amazing teachers, as well. My boys were getting amazing, quality lessons on top of time to socialize and make friends. Not only were the moms all amazing teachers, they are all amazing friends. I can’t even remember how many times in the last year that they have reminded me that I am enough for my kids. Our monthly “Mom’s Night Out” is always something I look forward to because, while the guacamole is great, the people I share it with are even better! Finding our tribe really was the best possible thing that happened to our family this school year.

We recently wrapped up our very first year of homeschooling and I must say, it was a huge success. Even more so than I expected. Homeschooling a child with significant disabilities and challenges seemed daunting, but knowing that I had the moms at Honeybee Christian Co-op standing behind me was the key that unlocked our door to success.  We could not have done it without the support and love that was showered on us through our co-op. Feeling encouraged, supported, and uplifted gave us momentum on the good days. Having someone to fall back on made the hard days bearable.

Coming from a public school experience and bringing my kids into a homeschool experience has been a huge shift for me. It has pushed me past my comfort zone in all the best ways. So, to any moms out there who are ready to begin homeschooling, my biggest piece of advice for you is this: Find your tribe. It will make all the difference!

– Lacey

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Spring Recap 2018

As an adult you take warm weather for granted… until it’s January or February and you have four small children trapped inside. You can’t play outside because it’s so frigidly cold. Parks are out. Indoor play places are nice, but usually crawling with some type of crazy flu germs, so you tend to stay away. Well for the McNeal crew, we have co-op to break the monotony of staring at our walls at home. Once a week we get to go enjoy time with friends and learn!

This spring semester was months of fun and new things for our co-op. We enjoyed new members, new classes, and new ways of doing things. We would like to think that we as a co-op are always open to suggestion and change, and that we will benefit from everyone’s ideas.

Our pre-k and nursery class stayed very similar to the fall for subject matter, but our older classes changed it up and got some new learning material.

With Mrs. Valerie, the boys and girls enjoyed a handicrafts class where they were able to learn about and practice skills like embroidery, clay molding, jewelry making, rock painting, soap carving, floral arranging, and many more!

The elementary aged kiddos also participated in a South America study with Mrs. Charity. They studied a new South American country each week, and every child prepared a presentation on a country of their choice. It was such a great opportunity for the kids to take some ownership of what they wanted to talk about and to start building their public speaking skills! On the last day of co-op the two elementary classes combined and cooked an entire Latin meal for all of co-op to enjoy! Here are some pictures of the fun they had!

The third class that was offered was an intro to science class. I came home hearing about chicken life cycles, how our digestive system works, and what vinegar and baking soda do when combined! Mrs. Sarah, their teacher, did a fantastic job even while being very pregnant! We’re thankful to have had willing moms to jump in when Sarah was gone on maternity leave.

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Pre-k had so much fun with Mrs. Lauren and Mrs. Katie. They learned about servanthood and washed each other’s feet. They learned about stars and made constellations with tooth picks and marshmallows, and they topped their great year off with some pretty popular visitors. Two of the MTSU Blue Raider basketball players were able to come read, play, and help out with an end of the year field day! I think the kids loved having these special visitors and especially enjoyed having extra adults to play with them! Below are some highlights from the preschool class this semester.

Mrs. Jessica and her helpers in the nursery class are amazing, to say the least. Teaching a class of students whose ages span three years, especially infants to 3.5 year olds, can be extremely challenging, but they took it in stride! With fun activities like acting like different types of animals each week, singing songs, adding in some arts and crafts when possible and lots of outside time in the warmer weather, the nursery kiddos were sure to have fun!

To watch children who started out as strangers at the beginning of the year leave co-op nine months later as the best of friends is more fulfilling than I could have imagined. We had a great spring semester this year and I can’t wait to see what next year holds!

-Melissa

 

To the Reluctant Second Generation Homeschooler

“Respond, don’t react.”

“Respond, Katie, don’t react.”

If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times. It seems like my mother spent half of my childhood reminding me to be mindful of my choices instead of reacting unwisely and impulsively. Now that I’m a mother myself I often find the same caution on my own lips. More than that, I hear Mom’s voice in my head. And I’ve discovered that the same advice applies to homeschooling too.

It’s like any other aspect of parenting; so much of what we choose to do is based at least in part on our own experiences growing up. Again I hear Mom’s mantra, “Respond, don’t react.” Suppose a mother remembers feeling suffocated by her parents’ restrictions when she was a child. In reaction to that frustrating memory, she declares her child will never be told “no.” That’s not a well-considered response. It’s not searching out which boundaries are actually good for her child, but considering only how far away she can get from the overly zealous boundaries she experienced herself.

Unfortunately, I know a number of adults who were homeschooled at some point during their childhood, disliked the experience for various reasons, and have determined that because they didn’t appreciate some aspects of their own home education, they will not even consider homeschooling their children. None of these friends were abused or neglected in any way. Some of them didn’t like their curriculum; others detested the busywork that took up so much time. I’ve heard people complain about the homeschool groups they were a part of, and I’ve heard people say they always wished they had the opportunity to be part of a homeschool group. Some felt their studies were too rigorous; others wished their parents would have pushed them harder. I’m going to be honest here: not everyone’s homeschooling experience is rainbows and sunshine. But I also know that children don’t always see everything clearly, and that holding fast to mistaken childish opinions after reaching adulthood rarely leads us to good decisions. It’s just another way to react impulsively instead of responding appropriately.

“Respond, don’t react.” This well-worn saying goes for second generation homeschoolers too. Our education choices should never be simply a knee-jerk reaction to our own memories. But we can- and should!- carefully consider our background as we determine what is best for our families. Experience can be a wonderful teacher if you’re willing to learn from it responsibly instead of just tossing it aside. You’re the adult now with the freedom to make your own decisions concerning your children’s education. That video teaching program you hated so much it seems to darken every homeschooling memory you have? Guess what, you don’t have to use that with your children! The same goes with the schedule your mother liked but you didn’t, the poetry group you just couldn’t get interested in, the math curriculum that made math harder than it needed to be. Every single aspect of homeschooling can be altered to fit your family.

There’s a wealth of resources and groups that just weren’t around when we were kids. There’s also a wealth of experienced homeschoolers to learn from. Even if you want to forget everything you did as a homeschooler, you don’t have to start from scratch.  Truthfully, our kids’ experiences will be completely different from our own whether we try to make them the same or not. But remember that’s a good thing. You get to decide what works best for you as the parent as well as what works best for your kids.

 My husband and I are friends with a couple who did their best to avoid homeschooling for several years due only to the fact that the previously homeschooled father was holding on to some bitterness over his own experience as a child. Finally, though, the family was put in a position where their only feasible choice was homeschooling, and even then they began very reluctantly. But by the end of the first year they were hooked. That was a number of years ago now and they’re still homeschooling. And due in large part to their influence, some of their friends began homeschooling too. It turns out that home education is more customizable than our friends initially believed. I hope you realize that can be the case for your family too.

Maybe you didn’t love homeschooling when you were a kid. Maybe your bad memories have made you determined to never homeschool your own kids. But as you consider next year’s educational choices for your children, take a deep breath and relax. Put homeschooling back on the list of possibilities and make the choice to respond carefully and wisely to your experiences instead of reacting out of fear or frustration or bitterness. You’ll be better equipped to make a well-informed decision. And you’ll make my mom so proud.

– Katie

 

Reflections from a Second Generation Homeschooler

Thanks for checking back with us! I hope you’ll enjoy this second half of our little series on how second generation homeschoolers’ experiences affect their educational choices for their children. The first half can be found here.


     My homeschooling experience began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when I was starting fourth grade. My parents had answered a call to be missionaries in the great city, and my mom homeschooled me and my older sister while we lived there (my brother was in college). She had homeschooled my siblings off and on since I was a baby, so she was quite comfortable with it by the time she started teaching me. When we eventually returned to the States, we continued homeschooling all the way through our high school graduations. To say that my own homeschooling days have affected the way my husband and I educate our children now would be an understatement.

    In many ways, second generation homeschoolers have an advantage over parents who were never homeschooled themselves. There isn’t a book, blog, YouTube video, or podcast that can speak as loudly as the voice of experience. And I appreciate that. I joke sometimes that my college degrees didn’t actually prepare me for my life, but the truth is that homeschooling did prepare me, no matter how much my children’s education differs from my own.

     At the very least, my homeschooling experience saved me from any anxiety I might have otherwise felt when my oldest kids reached school age. Since our dating days, my husband (who was homeschooled for a short time) and I knew that we would choose this kind of education for our children. We were confident in and content with our choice; there was no wrestling over what to do when the time came. The thought of homeschooling was never overwhelming. It was normal.

     But both second and first generation homeschoolers have in common the tendency to compare our own educations with what we’re providing to our kids. I’ve heard countless first generation homeschoolers talk about the first time they realized that homeschooling does not mean imitating public or private school at home. This often came after many struggles that were direct results of their initial attempts to force homeschooling to be “school at home.” Guess what? Second generation homeschoolers experience a similar phenomenon, but instead of rebuilding traditional classroom expectations in our homeschool, we tend to expect that our kids’ education will look a certain way based off what we remember from our own childhoods. And just like first generation homeschoolers, we end up realizing at some point that our children’s schooling won’t look like what we imagined in the beginning, and that’s okay.

     When Mom was homeschooling us kids twenty and thirty years ago, the vast majority of the options we have today simply didn’t exist. And when I began looking into what was available for my own family, I was amazed. The incredible variety of curriculum and resources was spread like a feast before my eyes, but I found that I gravitated to the same things that I’d used as a child. And when my daughters were only in kindergarten, I had my first opportunity to recognize that their education wouldn’t be the same as mine- and to acknowledge that that was good.

     I have one daughter who is hard-wired pretty much like me. In addition to her, I’ve got three other wonderful children who are all as different from each other as they can get in regards to temperament, personality, and ability. I learned early on that our homeschool days were going to look vastly different from my own memories. I was six grades behind my older sister, whereas my children are triplets plus one more three years younger. Obviously, our experiences would be different. That one daughter who’s so much like me? She had no trouble at all with enthusiastically jumping into the same routines and resources I used as a kid. Those other two daughters who are so different from her (and me)? Not exactly a perfect fit for them. I had to learn how to determine ways to meet all their needs as well as how to mold it all together to fit our whole family (including little brother). And after three years now (counting pre-K), you could look at my childhood homeschooling compared to my children’s homeschooling and find very few similarities. Not because I had a poor education by any means, but because our homeschool has evolved from an imitation of my memories into something that fits who we are as a family, taking into consideration everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and learning styles, including my own. It’s not the same thing that I did, but for my kids, it’s better because it meets them where they are and draws them forward.

     I look at my son sometimes and wish that some of the things his older sisters enjoyed due to their being my first babies were available to him too. But then I see how his sisters play with him and read to him and cuddle him, and I’m halfway sorry they don’t have an older sibling to dote on them! Each of my children’s experiences growing up in our family will be unique, and the same is true for homeschooling. Their education isn’t going to be the exact same as each other’s, and it certainly won’t be the same as mine. But that’s just one of the many benefits of homeschooling. Each child’s journey is as unique as he or she is.

     As I grow more experienced as a homeschool mom, I am more and more grateful to my own mother and others like her who were working hard to figure out homeschooling long before it was considered a popular – or even acceptable – choice. My education served me very well and led to unique opportunities, great success in jobs and college, and a firm foundation on which to build my family’s own homeschooling culture. I have experienced personally what a blessing this kind of education can be in every aspect of life, and I’m confident that when my children are grown they will say the same thing.

– Katie 


     Charity and Katie obviously enjoyed their homeschooling years as children. But that isn’t the case for everyone. Next week we’ll have a follow up piece for former homeschoolers who have rejected homeschooling as an option for their children because of their negative experiences with it. I hope it will offer some much-needed encouragement and a refreshing perspective.

 

Homeschooling by the Homeschooled

     Thirty years ago, families who chose to homeschool in the U.S. were few and far between. Just as the homeschooling movement has grown, though, so have those children whose parents taught them at home before it was popular. They’re adults now, having families of their own, and many of them are making the choice to homeschool their children too. We have a few of these second generation homeschoolers in our co-op, and two of them have written a short series on how being homeschooled as children has affected the ways they homeschool their own kids now.


    My husband and I were watching a movie last week and the word detention was13450087_10153806979263823_5650168592609421699_n mentioned in reference to high school. I looked over at him and asked, “What exactly is detention? Is it just staying late after school or does it include extra jobs or homework?” He had no idea either… we just both knew it was some kind of punishment. We’re both in our 30’s and I have a double major from college, so there is really only one answer for our ignorance – we were both homeschooled.

     My husband and I were both homeschooled from birth through high school. In my case, my father was even homeschooled from third grade through high school. So my background is a little different from that of most of my generation. I joke that homeschooling is the reason why I know the voices (and songs) of Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, and the Statler Brothers – they are from my grandparent’s generation. My father grew up listening to them at home on records, I grew up with them on tapes, and my kids can hear them from YouTube. 😉 Here are some of the things I appreciate about homeschooling first hand (and try to pass on to my kids) because I was homeschooled myself.

Homeschooling Takes Away Some of the Peer Pressures

     To me, this music passed down through generations is a symbol of something I love about homeschooling. When you homeschool your children, they learn their values and culture and morals from you first, instead of predominantly from their peers. I never had to deal with sexting, constant peer pressure, or underage drinking as a teenager, and I don’t think I missed out on anything!  I can still hold conversations with my peers; in fact, I can hold conversations with people of any age.  As a 10 year old, I would argue with adults on why my homeschool education was still a good education – and they’d stop arguing pretty quickly. One of my best friends when I was ages 6-14 was a man in his older 80’s who I would sit with every Sunday morning after church. He taught me about flowers and poetry and told me what it was like to see horse-drawn fire engines in the old days. What better way to learn history!

     Now, don’t get me wrong, I still had many friends my own age growing up (and still do) and I valued getting together with friends as much as I could. The years that my family was a part of a co-op (where homeschoolers come together to teach different classes once a week) were my favorite ones by far, and I do feel that my teen years were sadly lacking in a social life. However, I have never blamed that on homeschooling. I had many other homeschooled friends who did youth group, weekly co-ops, and other things with their friends on a regular basis. This generation makes a teen social life even easier to set up so I don’t think my kids will lack in that as they get older, either. In homeschooling my children, I just help their first introduction to life, morals, and culture be through me instead of from peer pressure.

Homeschooling is Student-Focused

     My education as a homeschooler was unlike any other – unlike my siblings’, unlike my peers’, and probably not exactly like any other child’s education in this generation either. Even as my parents’ first child, my parents learned quickly that a benefit to homeschooling was to teach each child according to his own abilities and interests. I never took Algebra II in high school; it was beyond my understanding and we didn’t have a good tutor at the time. So instead I studied Chemistry and Geometry after Algebra I in high school and my liberal arts college started me a class lower in math than a typical business major starts with. I caught up when I needed to and learned to love math from my college teachers. I’ve known many students from public school with this same problem – only they had still taken Algebra II in high school but couldn’t understand it, so they got a pass from their teachers. I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide in my head as fast as or faster than most people I know, and I’m not sure that I even use Algebra II in my life at all!

     I have a strong background in mythology, poetry, and literature because I love it! My Mom would turn on classical composers’ biographies and music during lunch, and took us to the National Gallery of Art dozens of times to see her favorite Impressionist Artists. I was reading by kindergarten and writing poems for fun by first grade. I have written and published poems and business articles, and helped publish two business books, and my focus on reading and writing while growing up has helped me in this.

     My mother’s style of homeschooling was to create her curriculum from different companies and mesh them together for each child. Certain curriculums she used for all five of her kids, and others, like math, she would change up, trying to find the right one for each child. I copy her in this way a lot. I use Sing, Spell, Read, and Write for kindergarten and first grade language arts. I use Math-U-See for math, Apologia for science, Story of the World for history, various things for Bible, various things for Spanish, and throw in a lot of random music, art, and hymn appreciation. My first child, S, loves engineering, so we’ve studied things like “How Things Work” and mechanics with him. My second child, N, loves art, so I got her a new art curriculum for next year and I’m constantly getting out craft stuff for her to use. My youngest, P, is in pre-k and loves puzzles, so I’ve been doing more puzzles with him for learning his numbers and letters. Homeschooling individually for my child is just second nature to me because it is how I was raised.

Homeschooling Isn’t A Huge Unknown 

    Ispeak I imagine that most homeschooling parents are wondering if they can do it, if their kid can succeed, find a job, and make their own place in the world with “just” a homeschool education. I remember my mother talking this over with her friends, so I know the fear is real. I also remember the first year of high school when my mom was in a frenzy to make sure I got all my credits in – so I completed over 1/3rd of them in 9th grade. 😉 I remember the visible relief in my mother’s face when I graduated high school and my mom knew she could do it – and had. I don’t feel that same fear in myself though. Yes, of course, I wonder if I’m raising my kids right – doesn’t every mom? But whether homeschooling makes that possible is absolutely no question in my mind. I know enough homeschoolers from my generation that I have seen succeed beautifully in so many different ways because of homeschooling, not in spite of it.

     My background of being homeschooled myself has given me many tools for my own children to help them grow their values, explore their interests, and thrive in their lives. My hope is that homeschooling continues to be the right choice for our family, and that this generation we are raising can build even higher on the shoulders of our own.

– Charity


I hope you enjoyed Charity’s perspective! Check back next week for the second half of this short series! Found here.

The Miracle of Manners

30073725_10103710984883684_376941394_oMy husband and I have spent our entire married life in the South (first Mississippi, then Florida, and finally Tennessee) but that doesn’t negate the first two decades we spent up “north” in Missouri. When I graduated from college and moved to Mississippi to start my first job, I received a crash course in how to behave in this world that was so new to me. One thing I learned (and quickly!) was to say “ma’am” about 300 times a day.

I adapted quickly and it soon became a habit. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am. No, sir,” and “Ma’am?” (my personal favorite used in place of the incredibly rude “huh?”). Not being a born and raised Southerner, however, means that I didn’t mind if people forgot to use this form of respect when speaking to me. It’s still a tad foreign to me even after all these years. We have never taught or expected our children to use “ma’am” or “sir” because none of the other adults in our families expected it. In fact, outside of the South it can be seen as rude and make people feel offended and as if you think they’re old!

This worked for our family and I never gave it much thought…..until that wonderful day we were introduced to Honeybee Christian Co-op. I knew from the first five minutes we had found our “people” here in our new town. I loved the mission, the moms, the children, the classes, the camaraderie, and the support. We joined immediately. The kids were thrilled and “wished every day was co-op!” (That’s called school, kids, and I promise you it’s not as fun as your co-op!) As we attended the classes and interacted with the other families, I suddenly became aware of how un-Southern my children were, despite their Southern births! Nary a “ma’am” escaped their lips when the other moms spoke to them. I was a little embarrassed even though all the moms were very gracious and no one but myself seemed bothered.

I tried requiring this new language in our home, but it was a hard habit to teach. They weren’t trying to be rude, but I was suddenly aware of all the “no’s, yes’s,” and “huh’s” that peppered their language, and it began to grate on my nerves. After a few weeks of trying to reinforce new manners I wasn’t seeing any progress. Then, like most of my finest parenting moments, I blurted out without even thinking, “Every time I hear you say ‘ma’am’ you get a penny!” That did it. That was all it took. Within one day their language had completely changed. After three days the babysitter noticed a drastic difference. Two weeks later their co-op teachers told me how polite and obedient they were in class. I was shocked and elated.

Even though it had only been important to me in light of their co-op teachers, I came to appreciate these manners for myself. And then something surprising happened. Simply saying “yes, ma’am” actually led to prompter, more cheerful obedience. When I called them and heard “ma’am?” in return, I began to speak more respectfully to them as well.

“Paul!”

“Ma’am?”

“Have you brushed your teeth?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Please go do that now.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Followed by actually getting up and going to brush his teeth!

To which I reply, “Three pennies, bud! Way to go!”

It’s a far cry from our previous way of speaking to each other.

“Paul!”

“Huh?”

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“No.”

“Go do it.”

“Ok.” Followed by not actually getting up and going to do it until I repeat myself.

Requiring our children to use these words has truly transformed our family. We are all more respectful, gentler, and kinder. There is less yelling. Less repeating. Less frustration. I can’t believe all it took was a few dollars’ worth of pennies. After a few weeks we brought home rolls of pennies from the bank and dished out their rewards. Each child has enough to buy two whole things from the Dollar Tree, and they thought it was Christmas in April. I didn’t even actually count as it would have been too difficult, but no one seemed to mind as they placed their pennies in their piggy banks one at a time. Gradually we will fade this reward system away, but I have no problem using it for now.

If your family isn’t in the “yes, ma’am” habit, I encourage you to give it a try! Not just because old fashioned Southern people think you should, but because it will foster a more respectful and positive atmosphere in your home. Just like sweet tea, college football, and wearing your Sunday best for church, using “ma’am” and “sir” is one thing the South definitely gets right.

But don’t expect us to start calling soda “coke” any time soon. No, sir!

– Kaitlin

Autism Awareness Day

29939343_10101318383062098_1400571782_nI knew I wanted to write a post for Autism Awareness day, but I had no clue what direction I wanted to take. While autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a spectrum, so too are my thoughts and emotions when I reflect on our journey with it. When reading Sarah’s beautiful series on Down Syndrome, I had a moment of pause. My thoughts on ASD are not nearly as pretty, so if you’re looking for uplifting sunshine, you might just go read her posts instead. That’s not to say there isn’t happiness in what I’m about to say, but it’s more in the form of a rainbow, which comes after a storm. Let’s get to it.

Here’s what autism was/is for my family…

– Autism is your child learning to speak in a therapist’s office after a year of twice-a-week speech appointments. Followed by 6 months of just echolalia (simply repeating what he hears). Followed by even more speech therapy.

-Autism is meltdown after meltdown over any number of things. (When I say meltdown, I’m talking 40 mins of screaming, crying, thrashing, hitting, biting, etc. that can happen anywhere at any moment, for example the grocery store checkout.)

-Autism is practicing everything. Every possible situation. (ex, watching someone else open presents for a birthday party, leaving a playground, how to introduce yourself, how to have a back and forth conversation, family gatherings.)

-Autism is pushing your child outside of his box even though it makes you just as nervous as it does him.

-Autism is watching your child struggle through things other kids pick up instantly and watching him practice twice as hard.

-Autism is LOATHING meal time because you child doesn’t eat anything. (Started as sensory aversion, but at this point it is definitely behavioral.)

-Autism is living in anxiety while you watch your second child develop. Waiting to see if you are going to go down that path…. Again.

-Autism is apologizing for your child’s behavior, again, when you get those stares in public…. And occasionally from family.

-Autism is turning down invitations because the environment isn’t a place where your child would thrive. Canceling last minute because your child is having an off day. Leaving early to avoid making a scene.

-Autism is going over the budget, again, trying to figure out how to afford Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Extracurriculars, and living expenses…. For possibly 2 children instead of one.

Then again….

-Autism is REJOICING over the moment when your child said his first thought (not echolalia, not a repeated phrase he learned), and you still remember it 2 years later (“Dad, I like your hair cut”).

-Autism is CONQUERING meltdown after meltdown, finding ways to help your child cope with the world around him. (And perfecting that hold that gives your child the input needed to help him calm quicker.)

-Autism is LEARNING how to tap in to your child’s amazingly unique brain and help him develop, and learning to appreciate his obsessions and passions (presidents, specifically Abraham Lincoln).

-Autism is GROWING through the struggles, checking off goals one by one!

-Autism is APPRECIATING the little things and big moments. Like how God provides month after month to help keep those supports in place.

-Autism is ACCEPTING your child with all his strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, and teaching everyone about ASD to help them accept others as well.

-Autism is LOVING through the puzzle that is ASD. Loving the extra time you get to spend with your children. Loving the extra hugs and snuggles they want for sensory input. Loving their lack of filter in the most inappropriate moments. Loving the moments of random eye contact.

Autism and I definitely have a love-hate relationship. Some days I can appreciate all the things I listed, but then other mornings I have lots of dark and twisty thoughts about how life isn’t fair. These thoughts have been intensified lately as we are possibly going down this road again with my daughter. Won’t you join me in praying for them and all families affected by autism?

– Valerie