On Becoming

One day last week I spent a couple of hours lounging on the back deck of a friend’s house, sipping ice water from a mason jar and watching our children play all over her back yard. Over the course of the afternoon we chatted about many things, the majority of our conversation related to raising children. We talked about different movements in the homeschooling community, about our own experiences growing up, about our desires for our children in their relationships with one another. It was the kind of mom talk I really enjoy, open-hearted and filled with a longing to know and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in our roles as mothers. Yet even as we spoke with conviction and passion, we knew that we often fall short in the day-to-day stuff that our kids see. At one point, my friend said, “Sometimes I think about sending them to school for just one year so I can get myself worked out, then bring them back home when these areas of my own life have been dealt with.”

Oh, how I can relate to that! How many times have my own plans for self improvement been thwarted by the seemingly endless cares and concerns of all the people who depend on me? But the truth is that none of us will ever arrive at the end of our growth. We are always still becoming who the Lord would have us be. And as mothers who spend nearly every hour with our children, that stretching and changing happens in front of the all-seeing minds and hearts that are our responsibility and privilege to train, no matter how much easier it seems it would be to hide away for a while and come back to them once we’re “done.”


When you walk into my house, the first thing to greet you is a large sign on the wall that says, “Come and see.” My husband and I made the sign not long after buying this house, wanting to express our deep desire that all who enter our home find Jesus here. Not due to anything good in us, but because of the One who knows us intimately, yet chooses to love us and draw us close to Himself anyway.

I love that phrase. Jesus used it in the first chapter of John, when two of John the Baptist’s disciples heard Him speak and wanted to know where He was staying. They wanted to know where to find Him again. He responded with an invitation to join Him there, saying “Come and see.” And they followed.

The very next day Jesus called Philip to follow Him, and when He did, Philip found Nathaniel and told him that he had found the Messiah. Nathaniel scoffed at anything of value coming from Nazareth, but Philip didn’t try to convince him. He issued the same invitation, “Come and see.” Meet Him yourself. Watch. Listen. You’ll know Him, I promise.

That is our desire for everyone who enters our home, and certainly for our own children. Watch, little ones. Listen. He is here. He is at work.


Last week, after the afternoon of listening to and sharing with my friend, my family and I got to attend a super fun backyard “housewarming concert” put on by the founder and director of UTR Media, who just happened to be moving to our town. One of the incredibly talented musicians who shared his gifts with us that night was Matthew Clark, who sang, among other things, his song “Kumalo.” (You can listen to it here.) I loved the song from the first moment I heard it, and my children and I have been singing it ever since.

Kumalo, Kumalo, I am not a good man,

Not a good man;

What can I say?

Only that the Lord has shown me grace,

Only that the Lord has shown me grace.

Reach your hands out, hands out,

Even though you know where they’ve been.

The Lord has made them gloves now, gloves now;

They are hiding Jesus’ hands,

So reach out His hands in your hands.

*Chorus*

Let them see you, see you,

In every place you fear to be seen.

They will find His mercy, mercy,

And say, “Surely if the Lord can save you,

He can set me free from all my sin.”

*Chorus*

‘Cause I am the older son,

Angry at my brother’s welcome.

And I am the younger son,

Happy to be wallowing in filth again.

And I still fight to believe

That the truest thing

Is that I’m rising with the Son from the river

When the Father calls, “Beloved, I am well pleased.”

What a beautiful image! God uses even our shortcomings to display His great mercy and grace to those around us. Is that not encouraging?


Sometimes it does seem like it would be simpler to get away from our children just long enough to “fix” all of our faults so we can raise them perfectly. But even if we could do so, that robs them of the privilege to walk with us as we grow and become more like Jesus. The testimony to His goodness and forgiveness and grace that we live before our children every day means so much more than anything else we could ever teach them. When we fail, may they see our humility. When we are weak, may they see His strength. As we grow, may they look with wonder upon the Potter ever molding us more and more into His own image.

I want my life to be an open invitation for my children to come and see all that God has done and is doing in me day by day. It’s messy, learning to live with each other, but sometimes in the midst of that mess I can see glimpses of something truly glorious and holy. Those are the moments I want my kids to hold on to. I know I can trust our loving Father with my imperfect mothering. In His hands it becomes something incredibly precious, far beyond what I could imagine.

– Katie

New Year, New Routine!

Happy new year!!

I’m the kind of person who likes routines. Lists checked off in an orderly fashion, charts made up of neat lines and clear fonts, new planners with all the possibilities of the fresh, clean year spread among their pages – these are the things that make me excited. I’m not generally a huge fan of change.

Of course, my husband is a huge fan of change. In his personal life, he is spontaneous, not much of a planner, and completely unimpressed at the sight of a year’s calendar precisely filled in and color coded. Marriage to him for almost ten years has certainly taught me to enjoy the unexpected.

We also have four small children. The oldest three are triplets- there’s a curve ball I didn’t see coming! We’ve homeschooled from the beginning, and our daughters are now halfway through second grade, with a little brother following along in preschool. I still appreciate routines and having a flow to our days, but I’ve learned that different seasons of our homeschool will require different kinds of routines. And the last few weeks of our fall semester convinced me that it was time to make some adjustments.

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Reading in a box. Why not?

In spite of having a “classroom” of kids with three children all the same age, our school days don’t ever look like that of a typical class. Homeschooling multiples deserves a post (or series of posts!) all on its own, but to keep to the point, I’ll just say that there are some subjects we do together and some that they do with me individually. I needed to figure out a way to ensure that each of my four children had focused time alone with me each day, and also that my son, who will be four in a few days, wasn’t left to his own (often destructive) devices when the girls and I were busy doing some of our joint work. I also don’t like telling him to be quiet or sit still for long periods of time. He’s still a little guy. He needs lots of loud, jumping, running, crashing free play every day.

(I should note that my second graders don’t do a lot of independent work. I don’t have stacks of papers they can fill out on their own while I work with someone else. They have independent reading every day, followed by a short narration, but that’s about it.)

After a lot of thought, this is what I settled on:

We kept our early morning routine of waking up and taking care of our chores, feeding pets, and practicing instruments before breakfast. After cleaning up, we head into the living room for morning time together, as usual. But that’s where the new routine comes in.

After morning time, the girls each grab their current independent reading book andimg_3636 disappear to various quiet corners of the house to read while Benjamin and I color, count blocks as we build, sing the alphabet song, and rhyme with our school puppet Petey the Puppy. Spending this one-on-one time with him first thing fills up his love tank and is the exact opposite of telling him to “be quiet,” “sit still,” or “take that (loud toy) somewhere else.”

After he and I reach the end of our time together, I call the girls to the table so we can do our Bible lesson and critical thinking puzzle together. We’re able to reconnect, and Benjamin is in and out those few minutes, as involved as he wants to be.

Next follows an hour and a half where the girls cycle through a half hour each of time doing individual work with me. This includes math, spelling, and reading aloud. The other two hang out with their brother, free to play games, read books to him, build puzzles, ride bikes- whatever they want to do together. The girls each end up with a break from thinking about schoolwork, and Benjamin has playmates focused on spending time with him.

By the time the last child has had alone time with me, little man has been pretty well satisfied and is content to play by himself, often right there in the school room with us. The girls and I cover copywork, discuss grammar, and practice cursive, then enjoy one of our weekly enrichment studies (artist, composer, or poet) before lunch.

We’re all together at lunch and alternate science and history, ending the meal with either an experiment or an addition to our timeline. Benjamin is very involved and loves being a part of this time!!

After lunch, we end our day with another of our weekly studies: either Spanish (two days a week), ASL, or nature study. Benjamin does these with us as well.

img_3673We’re left with a short while to tidy up and play before it’s time to tuck little brother into bed for his nap. And while he’s asleep, the girls enjoy an hour of sewing or reading or playing quietly. If it’s a pretty day, they play outside. And I get an hour to breathe deeply, hear myself think, and recharge for the rest of the day.

There are several things I love about this new routine. First, I noticed that neither I nor any of my children was getting burned out by the end of our school day. Everyone was still eager and attentive, and there was plenty of energy to make it through all we had planned to do. I also noticed that because Benjamin was getting plenty of time with me and his sisters, during the short periods of time when we needed him to be quiet, he had no trouble complying. It’s good for him to learn to be respectful of others’ needs and to practice some quiet play on his own, but I think it’s important that his free time far exceeds the amount of time he’s required to be more contained. An unexpected bonus to this new routine is how much of my own daily work I am able to accomplish during the day. I have an hour and a half when I’m right there available to one child at a time, but the girls don’t need me hovering over their shoulders at every moment. For example, during their math practice, except for explaining new concepts or helping with an occasional tough spot, they can complete their fifteen minutes of problems on their own. And with the utility room opening off the school room, I can keep laundry going, sweep the floors, tidy bookshelves, confirm appointments on my calendar, and correct the previous day’s work while the girls work nearby, always available to them but able to keep the household running at the same time.

We’re still early in the final semester of this school year, but I feel pretty confident that this new routine will remain a good fit for us until the wild freedom of summer arrives. After that, who knows?

Do you have a daily routine? How do you handle juggling homeschooling and homemaking?

– Katie

Sweet Summer Days – All Year Long

IMG_1765My family moved at the beginning of the summer. We didn’t go far, but we traded a tiny house on a postage stamp lot for a larger one on an acre and a half outside of the city. We love it here. But the house and land had been sadly neglected for quite some time, so my husband and I spent a large part of the summer sweating in the sunshine, cutting down and burning what was dead and overgrown to allow the beauty to shine through. And right there beside us every step of the way were our four little children, hauling branches to the burn pile, pulling weeds, raking leaves, and more. We worked hard together, all of us fully invested in uncovering the loveliness of nature that surrounds us. Through it all, my children were learning a myriad of fascinating facts like how to identify a bob white by its call, how to tell the difference between poisonous vines and harmless Virginia creeper, how to tend a fire outside, and how to tell which way a creek flows even when its bed is dry as a bone.

One day near the end of July, I paused in my efforts to wipe my brow and watch my husband and little ones for a moment. I couldn’t help seeing the similarities between our summer break and the summer breaks of long ago, when children worked hard with their farmer parents to keep the family’s livelihood afloat. Laboring side by side with us, our daughters and son were also learning to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and the perseverance needed to see a tough task through to its end. I was proud of their eagerness to help and hoped it would continue.

Homeschooling allows this side-by-side learning to continue unhindered once school days begin again. Families aren’t suddenly separated from one another, with parents and children each going their own way only to meet back up when they’re all mentally tired and worn out from a long day. They can continue working together, focusing on academics as well as the life skills that are so important for children to learn from their youth. They’re in the thick of daily life with their parents, working right there next to them and learning about hard work, perseverance, and respect from their most valuable teachers: Mom and Dad. In our family, Dad goes to work each day, but we can call him on occasion if we need to, send him pictures of what we’re doing, and even meet him for lunch sometimes. We aren’t cut off from him, and certainly the children aren’t cut off from me or from each other!

Recently, I was part of a conversation with several other homeschooling mamas discussing how to determine our priorities for our children’s educations. What do we want to emphasize during different stages of our families’ lives and how does that affect the way we teach them? Do we feel defeated when things like nursing the baby or reading picture books to the toddler “get in the way” of our academic goals, or do we appreciate the blessing in being able to teach our children how to prefer others above themselves, how to choose to be unselfish and thoughtful and helpful? Homeschooling allows us the wonderful freedom to pursue both academics and family life. We don’t have to put our family on hold in order to enjoy learning.

There is beauty and great value in family togetherness that is more than worth the effort and sacrifices necessary to make it happen. That’s just one of the reasons why we homeschool, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.

– Katie

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

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.