Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Creating Serious Learners and the Whims of Homeschool Philosophy

My homeschool planning for  the 2015-16 school year is almost complete!!!  This year is set to be quite a different year with one graduating and one needing to step-up the studies since his graduation is only 3 years away.  Brooke is starting 7th grade and acts as my more serious student.  She wants to be a teacher (and, one day, a homeschooling mama).  How do you create serious learners?

That is the question I kept asking myself as I chose curriculum, wrote out lesson plans and prayed over their year (and their futures).  It is probably one of the most serious questions we can ask ourselves as homeschooling parents.

The problem.
For too long I road the waves of homeschooling philosophies.  There are many out there.... most of them are good.  But all of them can't work at the same time (you kinda need to pick just one!).  As I ran the spectrum of public school animosity after how my kids were treated .... to public school acceptance as a pillar in community, I still run hot-and-cold in my feelings about what is socially 'acceptable' in HOW to school and what-to-teach-when.  I truly don't care about 'acceptance' but I do care about ability.  I want my children to be able to compete among their peers for jobs, scholarships and even college... should they choose to go.  But this was the other problem.

To college or not to college and how to make ready.

The spectrum runs crazy on this topic as well.  If the public school spectrum is any indicator of secular college education, the future of our students is bleak.  Then there is Christian college, which often costs an arm and a leg.... but without college, what kind of future do my kids have in today's job market? 

So there I sat, praying and facing these two big challenges:  What homeschool approach is appropriate and not dictated by the system but rather by our call.... and what path for/or against college prep is best?

The realization.
It isn't about them.  The 'thems' out there telling us what is crazy or acceptable or unacceptable when it comes to educating our kids.  It isn't about the standards set by homeschoolers (yes, homeschoolers set standards) or school districts.  It isn't about the 'thems' of public or private college preaching job opportunity propaganda and the order of operation in obtaining a college degree. 

There is NO box I am meant to find and shove my kids into.

It IS about my kids.  They are the only 'thems' everything boils down to.  It is about what call God has on their lives and the path He has called them to take.  Homeschooling advocates may say don't teach kids as school at home... don't test because then you are only teaching to a test.... do only use classical literature because modern works are junk... do let your child lead the learning because it is all about them.  Don't teach sentence diagramming... Do teach sentence diagramming....  Learn from life... learn from books... keep a schedule.... go with the flow... read from text books... use 'living' books because texts are too dry..........

Then college advocates say prep for SAT.... just take the compass.... try out dual enrollment.... do community/Jr. College first.... go away to university.... sty for university.... online college is best.... get done early... take your time............


As I sat with papers sprawled out before me and books piled to my side I thought of my oldest daughter getting ready to graduate and begging me to test her this past year.  She told me she felt like she took the subjects more seriously and understood them better if she knew she had to prepare for a test.  4 years ago she begged me to give her grades... real, honest, GRADES.... because SHE wanted to know how she was measuring up and where she stood. 

I thought of my oldest son, now entering his 4th year of college, and how he started unconventionally.  Though attending public school through graduation, he took a semester off, did tech school, took another semester off and now is at university.  The competitiveness of structured school work and potential of college scholarships drove him on.  And while I debate, at times, his Christian university education as being too liberal for my taste.... he will graduate with better opportunities for his field of work whether he uses his degree in the mission field or in the secular work force.  The world and all good opportunities to share Christ will be at his door step.

Whether my kids go to college/tech school/university makes no difference.  Whether they take it one class at a time over 10 years or all their classes at a traditional pace doesn't matter.  Whether they go AT ALL is truly up to them and what God leads them to do.  My job, is to prepare them for whatever they do end up choosing.  Once they cross the threshold at graduation, preparation time is over and decisions will need to be made.... why not make those decisions with every possible opportunity for their ability in hand?   We can't get back the past, but we CAN be prepared for the future.

The choice.

Keep in mind, I am managing middle through high school students.  If yours are younger than your considerations won't be so serious yet... some points will be applicable now, the rest can serve as something for down the road....

I can't care anymore what others think  and how others do homeschool.  Whether I give my kids too much or too little of any given subject, grade, activity or tests is not open for debate.  I have to do what I know works for them and places them where God is calling them to be.  What does that look like?

- We need a schedule.  Ashley = ADHD, Brenden = Dyslexic, Brooke = Over-achiever/planner.... when we don't have a CLEAR SCHEDULE for every single subject and set times of work, we don't get anything done.  Every single one of us loose the drive to strive and complete tasks.  Other families may be able to roll with it.... we can't.  It may seem rigid and anti-homeschooling theology but that is just it: homeschooling isn't ONE WAY... it is meant to be the way that works best for each family.

- We will test and grade.  I banned both for so many years because I didn't want my children feeling like failures.  That is how Brenden and Ashley felt years ago as public schooled kids in 2nd and 4th grade.  But what I forgot is how they can also feel like victors through tests and grades.  Will I cater to their strengths in this aspect?  Yes.  Where a public school teacher may see "wrong" when 3x5 does not equal 8 I will see my dyslexic son reading the 'x' sign as a '+' sign and mark it half off for being only half wrong, then talk with him about taking his time to look closely at signs.... or ask for help in having his homework and tests read to him for greater accuracy.

Quick Fact:  we make mistakes and mis-read in 'real' life and most of the time we get a chance to fix it and set it right or ask for help.  Why should school work be any different?  Even college offers helps for learning 'giftedness' such as Brenden and Ashley experience.

- We will use text books.  We actually use various types of materials, being eclectic homeschoolers, but as Brenden and Ashly have hit high school I have noticed gaps as the result of our lack of consistency in  materials and use of textbooks.  Gaps which make them seem like I don't teach them on some subjects!!!  Gaps which could lead to awkward situations as adults with peers in various conversations.  We laugh about this being 'UN-important' in homeschooling circles but the fact is: it is very important.  If your child has no clue where Guam is or that Russia was once (and debatably may still be) the way, what is communism?... then they are going to seem UN-educated and, in our culture, will loose respect and ability to witness about greater things like their faith in Christ. 

Quick Fact:  It boils down to this: if they seem like half-wits on basic matters, how will anyone believe or accept their faith as anything more than something only naive people believe? 

We will use text books for their gap filling ability, their broad coverage of a topic and as an outline for all the basics we need to cover.  We will supplement texts with 'real' books and self-guided research for deeper understanding on topics related to their studies.

- They will keep a student planner and have due dates.  All of western culture revolves around your ability to be organized.  It is a fact.  If you want to be successful you have to be able to plan your day well, set goals, and meet deadlines.  While we may be able to fix mistakes... we can't go back and re-arrange deadlines and due dates.  Those simply ARE.  If we don't foster this sense of responsibility and ability when they are young... it will be a hard habit to create and keep when they are older.

The conclusion.

The above is what will work for us.  We filtered in some of these standards this past school year and I saw great improvement in various areas of study and comprehension.  Our mantra will be Paul's words for ministry since I believe all of life has ministry potential:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 
- Philippians 3:12-14

Jammies are still an option for school day apparel... as is completing assignments on the cozy couch.  The materials and expectations may change a little but our heart to equip and be the best for His service will not change!  Neither will our desire to grow as learners for life and not just pails to be filled.  All the materials and plans I propose are not just items for the bucket.... they are tools for the task, resources as part of a process meant for the end product.... fuel for a fire set to blaze a lifetime through.

I pray you will search the Lord for your Homeschool focus and potential.... not the whims of the masses, rather, the clear directive of God.... whatever that looks like for YOUR homeschool!


Unless the move takes me away from an update, I will share what we are using this year and HOW we are using it in an article this month.


  1. My kids are younger-- 7, 9, & 11 and I find I still struggle with finding that balance between challenging them and overwhelming them; planning not enough or over planning... I definitely think ahead and wonder where the future will lead them; college, teach- school, career... and hope that I've prepared them adequately enough.

    1. At that age you still have plenty of time so don't let the worry overwhelm you. I look at my 12 year old and miss my older ones being that young when soooo much time was ahead of us. But then you blink and you are preparing to write graduation certificates... it is crazy! Balancing challenge vs. overwhelm isn't easy. You will have good days and bad. I think homeschooling is like all of parenting: the fact that you strive, pray and are concerned over them reflects that they will be OK because you care! Mom's who don't care don't take the time to invest the concern. They will be adequately prepared and you will be blessed by God's guidance through it all!