It never occurred to me that possibly some day I’d be married with three children. I didn’t have the best upbringing and had to raise my sisters and brother so focusing on my future was not high on the priority list.
Suddenly there was my future, now my present, staring me in the face: two children, a baby on the way, and a recent layoff. We had just moved to a small town from Nashville and my husband’s income was less than half of what we had been living on. To make matters worse, we still had a house to sell in Nashville and two car payments that took up most of his monthly income. An understatement would be to stay that we were merely surviving. The craziest thing was that in the midst of it all, God said the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, “I want you to homeschool.”
“Okay you want me to homeschool,” I laughed at God. “First, I must have enough strength to even make it through the day with being eight months pregnant and caring for two young children. Then we must have a lot more income than this barely-getting-by amount.” I continued telling Him all the things that needed to happen in order for me to begin homeschool, as if He already didn’t know.
He listened patiently and after I gave Him my sob story as I did every single day, He repeated, “I want you to homeschool.” I laughed to myself, feeling like Sarah in the Bible when at the ripe old age of ninety, God said that she would have a baby.
A billion questions flew through my head as I pondered the possibility of teaching my children. How and where do I begin? What do I teach them? What curriculum do I use, if any at all? What if I don’t have the money to purchase books? What if the kids don’t obey me? What if I can’t control them? How do I keep their attention?
The questions put me in a panic as I reasoned with God. Lord, you really must not know my child and if you do then you know how easily he gets bored. You know how easily bored and distracted I get, jumping from one project to the next. Oh, and my daughter has her own ideas. She won’t do an assigned project, she’ll do her own thing. It just won’t work. I have too much on my plate already. I’m not qualified. I don’t even have a clue about the legal aspects of homeschooling. I don’t know how to take them out of school. I don’t have the time. I DON’T WANT TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR MY KIDS’ STUPIDITY!!
Three years later and still God’s voice could be heard more clearly than ever, “I want you to homeschool.” When something is so strong and won’t go away, you can almost guarantee that it’s from God. Things had improved financially but the only way this was a possibility was because my husband accepted a job in a larger town and I was working part time and enrolled in college again. The money I received from scholarships and grants brought in more than if I were to work and pay for childcare.
“But, Lord, I’m in college again after ten years, I’m working also, and raising three kids,” I argued again.
“That’s okay. I’ll help you,” He replied softly and patiently. “I’ve provided you with more income and an extremely flexible schedule with college hours that you were able to select. Your job allows you to bring the children and work your own hours also.”
I must admit, this He did. Even so, I didn’t have enough money to buy a packaged curriculum. I didn’t even have enough to buy used books. There, that was my excuse! “You already have the desire,” He told me.
“But it takes more than desire. I need books and supplies. I have to know how to teach.”
“You’ve taught them everything they know since birth. You taught them happiness and security by meeting their needs. You’ve taught them how to walk, eat, talk, and pray.”
“Okay, okay. I’m getting the point here but I don’t have materials. You know, the stuff called books to teach with.”
“You have what you have,” He answered. Why does God always have to talk like that, I thought to myself. It’s that same “I am who I am. My name is I am” answer. That can get annoying sometimes. He knew what I was thinking as He said, “The Bible, library books, items around the house, the garden, museums, nature. Everything you need is already provided.”
I begin to realize that I never had any training or education on how to raise my siblings and to be a little adult, God helped me along the way and I used what I had and did what I had to do. I didn’t know anything about marriage and dealing with a lifelong partner but learned as the years went by. Not to say that the learning was always easy! I definitely didn’t know much about being a mother and yet I was doing a good job so far. “Okay,” I told Him, “I’ll try it for ONE month. If the whole idea is a failure, then I gave it my best shot.” He smiled at me.
Between all other commitments, I started researching. There were many books at the library on the subject of teaching your own children, an entire section even. There were programs with events such as art shows, reading programs, science fairs, and field trips. There were math and spelling bees, computer classes, fitness classes, and support groups. I could even get free lessons and even an entire year’s lessons online. Wow!
I’m a very organized person so setting my own lesson plans was no problem but if some of you aren’t, there are many resources through the library, websites, and various programs that offer plans already written out. However, after five years of homeschooling, I don’t even have a lesson plan. Be sure to check with your state laws first and can find those anywhere. My state is very flexible in homeschooling guidelines.
I chose to use the Bible along with library books.. We read stories that allowed them to get in a Bible lesson and picked out words to learn for spelling and comprehension. History, as you know, is a huge part of the Bible. Math was incorporated by counting the number of descendants, figuring out the measurements of Noah’s ark and the Ark of the Covenant, the number of years between each event were calculated, etc. Lifeskills was taught by applying scripture to daily life and doing projects that stemmed from the day’s scripture. For instance, we’d make the food that the verse talked about or worked on making a slingshot after reading the story of David and the Giant. Art was incorporated by drawing scenes and characters. Drama and music was taught by putting on skits and plays from favorite stories and characters. My children would often choose addition books, videos, and games based on what they learned.
You don’t have to use the Bible. This is just an example of how I started homeschooling with what I already had. Keep in mind that if you aren’t as creative or flexible, there are many wonderful books and websites that have lesson plans in which you can follow.
Although I went to public school and my children were in both public and private school, I believe sitting in class for hours every day with a recess squeezed in here and there is not the most effective way of learning. Yes, there are times that we must be structured and do desk work and such for in real life, this does apply. Mostly in the real world, however, people live and learn by doing. Hands-on practical learning, I believe, is the best learning of all. Plus there is a lot more interaction between teacher and child and homeschooling allows you to work with each child’s pace and style. For instance, my son is not a sitter! He is not highly motivated in the area of desk work. Although I have him do desk work or “traditional schooling”, we also school his way. His way may mean shooting baskets while practicing spelling. If he spells a word correctly, he gets to aim for a shot. If he misses, I get a turn. My daughter, however, is a self motivator and she loves sitting and working with her books and papers all day. Adding some exercise keeps her from being physically inactive each day.
Another benefit of homeschooling is that in the real world, we are not segregated by age. Where else in the world do all seven year olds do everything together while thirty year olds can only work with each other? The biggest myth about homeschooling is that students miss out on socialization. Whose to say that getting quality time means being with the same age group? If you are able to watch kids throughout the day especially on the playground. You will see that there are a few “Top Dog” kids; the popular kids who rule over everyone else. The “Bottom Rung” kids; the ones who the kids pick on. Then the few kids who are in between and ride the fence. There is a terrible level of hierarchy and politics which have ruined lives for a long time.
Not unlike homeschooling, a few rare school programs are able to encourage children are able to interact with all ages. Therefore, they learn to help the younger and respect their elders. This also helps to alleviate peer pressure. We definitely need more of this in our society! However, after a teacher has more than so many children, she cannot put this type of time and quality into each child.
Practical, or hands-on learning, also seems to be the best teacher for most people. Adults included! How many times have you tried to read an instruction booklet only to become frustrated due to lack of understanding? However, when you tinkered around with the project/project or when someone else demonstrated, the learning came easier to you. Hands-on teaching not only is easier for a child to learn but they are able to have fun and it’s great quality time with your children.
In my early days of homeschooling, we’d check out books at the library and study up on whatever subject we desired. If Mexico was the topic, we’d head into the kitchen to whip up a Mexican dish or make pottery from clay purchased at a nearby arts and crafts store. Planting cilantro, a popular herb used in Mexico, in small pots on our porch is now a springtime tradition in our family. For science, we’d read about worms and bugs and then head out into the backyard in search of little critters.
As we were doing all of this, I discovered the answers to my questions such as “How do I know what to teach? What if I’m not smart enough?” and the answer was I LEARNED WHILE THEY WERE LEARNING.
Not only did they learn how fun Mom and learning can be, they also gathered that it was okay for parents not to always know the answer. They learned that it’s okay to say “sorry” and “I don’t know. Let’s go look it up”. They were taught that they didn’t have to strive for perfectionism but to be genuine. I learned all these things too as I slowly released the unrealistic expectations as mother, wife, and teacher that I held for myself.