Friday, April 10, 2020

5 Thoughts on Homeschooling Possibility

It has been over 12 years since we first began homeschooling (not counting our homeschool preschool experiences). It was something I had always been curious about but truly lacked the courage for. I had attended college for a few years but I did not have my degree and I was no specialist in childhood education.

I was, however, an avid volunteer at my kids' school from the moment my oldest crossed their threshold. He, by this point, had entered the 8th grade, my middle two were in 2nd and 4th grade respectively and my youngest was just beginning preschool.

My dedicated volunteering had earned respect among the more seasoned teachers who welcomed me frequently and even gave me tips for working with my kiddos on extra activities at home. They began to encourage me to apply as a sub. I prayed and contemplated the prospect. In an effort of what I believe was to convince me to join the call list, one of the teachers encouraged me to browse their teacher manuals while helping prepare classroom lessons one day.

I couldn't believe my eyes: E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. was drawn out within the extensive book's pages. Not just what to teach but how to teach it. Alongside miniaturized snapshot versions of the student's text were pop-out columns which included dialogue and project ideas along with in-text answers and detailed teaching information. The shroud was suddenly torn as I realized how scripted teaching had become... and that, in fact, I was capable of doing it too!

This is not to discredit those teachers who like to color outside the lines... go off-script, develop different projects and are gifted with an ability to really see each student's needs and address them appropriately. Teachers juggle a lot and I do respect those who work hard at their job.

However, for me, as mom, I began to see sign after sign of how God was calling me to home educate my kids. I didn't need a degree or special permission.  I need not know developmental psychology (though I had taken it in college).  Being my children's mother was all the qualification required.

A series of unfortunate events brought the decision to a head and as Christmastime approached that year, I prepared our departure letter for the school and superintendent as was required in our area at that time. New year's dawned and we were officially a homeschool family (though my oldest remained in public school against my better judgement).

I've seen both sides of the fence. I chose to homeschool because I felt Called to. Many families right now are homeschooling out of necessity, using materials provided by the schools themselves. Even over the years as I have taught my children and am about to graduate my last, I have had so many parents comment to me: "I could never do what you do"... "I'm not qualified to teach my children"... "I don't think I could be around my kids all day like that"... and so on. And every time, it breaks my heart.

You CAN do it, if you choose to.
You ARE qualified, as mentioned above.
Your kids may be difficult, but it may also be because of public school...

My older daughter, who was in 4th grade when we pulled them out, has ADHD. She tested rather high on the spectrum.  Our first few months at home were grueling. Having been 'caged' all day at school had caused behavior issues to manifest. It took time but within that first year of school, everyone around us noticed a major change in her. She could actually sit still longer, she was more engaged in learning, she even became a better conversationalist. Yes, some days I lost my temper.... but so did her teacher at school, so did her friends. The difference: she had the safety and security of knowing she was still loved by me, unlike the feelings of rejection growing in her at school. Before we began homeschooling, I struggled to understand her and was often frustrated with her.... but after homeschooling for a bit, I got her like no one else did. We grew closer and I grew more patient and understanding.

But I digress.

I have a question for all the mothers of public schoolers out there today:

Is it possible this current situation is something God is using to whisper to your heart on the point of homeschooling? 

It may seem daunting, you may feel you are unqualified... but did you know God has already qualified you and provided a way? You just need a willingness.

I know some of the questions and concerns which will be swimming around your mind right now and so I thought I would try to address a few today, in case it can help...

5 Thoughts on Homeschooling Possibility

1. You are not alone (and your kids won't be weird and unsocialized!!)
The resources for homeschooling families are endless. Clubs in most communities for socialization and networking are countless. My kids were always involved in AWANA growing up and then youth group as they hit middle school and high school.  I know families who also get involved in what are known as Coops (I'll talk more on those in a minute), they are a great opportunity for your children to interact with their peers. Youngers often have playground dates and many areas have Homeschool Organizations which provide a support system for parents and various activities for the youth including organizing field trips at discounted group rates.

Truth is, most homeschool kids are better adjusted in any setting because their social interactions are not limited to same-aged group, rather, they learn how to communicate confidently across the age spectrums and that confidence is often carried over into better aptitude in employment as well as adjusting to life on college campuses.

On a field trip with the homeschool group to spend the morning in an 1880s classroom at the local history museum, kids were invited to dress the part!
2. You have a tremendous amount of freedom in educational choice
Do you ever take issue with what or how your children are being taught?  Are you one of the many families who despise helping your kids with Common Core math? I've got great news: Curriculum is as varied as types of learners are!

As a homeschool family you get the awesome privilege of picking whatever curriculum you want to use from a plethora of sellers. Online (and in person after Covid ends) Homeschool and Curriculum fairs give you an opportunity to be encouraged by key note speakers and explore the variety of options in learning materials out there.

Money an issue? No problem.  Some families will spend hundreds of dollars a year on supplies while others spend very little. Studies have shown that more money does not equal better educated, which is good, because we never could afford high investment. Often times you can either find used materials through Ebay or garage sales and some homeschool groups offer local curriculum stores and book exchanges. There are also websites with loads of printable and online information for cheap or free.  Two favorite resources of ours (link in text title):

Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool
The resources here are broken down by grade and subject. If you really wanted to, you could let Easy Peasy do ALL the work for you!  We have mostly used them supplementally and have also used the high school Music Appreciation program. A friend of mine, who recommended it, had to work part time while also homeschooling and found this resource to be a life-saver with their schedule. My favorite part? It's FREEEEEEE!

Old Schoolhouse Teachers
Both a magazine you can subscribe to AND a website with amazing unlimited teacher resources for all grades which you can print or access online. (use "COW" as a coupon code and pay only $10 a month!) We love the plethora of options!
A tip: if you are anti-common core, be sure the math curriculum you use does not say "common core aligned". It is usually indicated in the product description or on the cover of the materials. Abeka and Teaching Textbooks do NOT use common core methods. I'm not certain on others though.

Other freedoms:
  • Time of day to begin and end teaching... entire up to you! By the way, I know your kiddos attend school for at least 6 hours a day, however, actual teaching takes much less than that.  Elementary school kids can often have all their work done in 2-3 hours tops and upper level students in 3-4 hours, depending on the subjects you choose and their drive to get the lessons done.
  • What days you do school work are up to you. You can have a 4 day school week or a 5 day school week.  You can choose to do 4 weeks on and one week off. You can teach year round or stick with the typical September through May. It is entirely up to you.  Which brings up another great freedom:
  • You pick when vacations take place. Want to take 3 weeks off at Christmas time or plan a family vacation for March? No problem.  Your time off is up to you and it isn't stuck on a one-week-at-a-time schedule!
Schoolwork in our RV as we spent a year traveling in missions work.
3. If you think you can't, options say you can!
A popular trend in homeschooling right now is Coops. These are groups which get together to exchange knowledge and resources.  For example, you may not feel capable of teaching your kids science but your local homeschool coop is offering a science "class". It typically costs no money and works more on a barter system such as; you may teach Art or English or you might offer to look after the younger kids while olders learn in exchange for your kids' participation in other classes. Classes usually meet once a week and students are sent home with 'homework' to have completed by next class. Each coop is a bit different so you would want to see what the local options entail. This opportunity not only offers socialization but also peace of mind if you are concerned you need the help teaching a particular subject.

Another popular option for high schoolers is dual enrollment. Most colleges will accept students as early as Junior year of high school.  Rates are reduced for dual enrollment and Student grants and/or loans are typically granted by FAFSA for these classes. I've known many students who graduate high school AND college with an Associates at the same time! However, most families simply have their kids take a few classes to get a jump start on college and to cover subjects like Science, Foreign Language or English which many parents feel they are not confident to teach on a high school level.

Sports can be a sticking point for some families as well.  Again, many towns have not only developed homeschool support groups but also teams which compete with area schools. Some smaller Christian schools will also allow homeschoolers to participate on their teams. If those are not options, you may also check into local leagues your kids can participate in through Parks and Rec, YMCA and a myriad of other outlets.

Music is another big point with many families. Our homeschool association where the kids grew up had a full band and choir! Other options include private lessons, church groups and peer groups.
Attended Handle's Messiah with friends. It was performed by our local professional orchestra and choir (the orchestra does semi-annual meet-and-greets with their instruments for local youth!)
We all spent a few years singing with our church choir and Brenden and Brooke also spent some time with the homeschool choir
After singing and then learning to play guitar, Ashley served in multiple capacities in the church and was eventually mentored by her youth pastor/music minister in Worship leadership.
Brooke took piano lessons from a graduated and now married homeschooler! Even got to attend music parties with the other students and plan for recitals.

4. You don't have to know everything to teach
It is OK to read the textbooks with your kids and learn as you go!  I wasn't raised in the church and I went to regular public school (I also was not the best student in any class that wasn't history or writing or art!!!).  I love our Christian based curriculum and how it opens up a whole new field of information I was never exposed to. I've also absorbed information I either never picked up in school or perhaps I simply flushed!
Game show style review for history with questions adjusted to each grade level
5. Homeschooling is NOT School at home (unless you want it to be)
You do not need to line up little school desks or have absolute structure from one class to the next. Homeschooling doesn't just offer the beautify of learning while still in your p.j.s, it also means you can do lessons on the back porch, at the park, at grandma's house and even in the coffee shop or library!
Homeschooling also offers greater opportunities to not just learn from books... but to also learn from LIFE.
     Home Ec: in the kitchen helping out.
     Science: gardening, exploring in the back yard or at the local pond
     History: museums, the History Chanel, YouTube, a family member or friend who was 'there'
     Math: through games or transactions at the store or measuring for a project...
     Language Arts: writing letters to friends and family, simply reading good books also, check out notebooking/lapbooks!

Our favorite style of homeschooling has been the Charlotte Mason method. While I would classify us as "Eclectic" homeschoolers, there is definite Mason influence in our approaches to learning. We were often found at parks or in the backyard nature journaling and observing. We also did a lot of unit studies, combining multiple subjects into one in order to saturate our lives each week with the information we were learning.
Wrapping up a unit on Ancient Rome: kids made armor and had a friendly gladiator fight in the front yard!
Nature study at a local park


I have thrown a lot of information out there and you may still have questions.  Please feel free to comment below. If you know anyone who homeschools, pick their brain on what is (and isn't) working for them. Check out homeschooling chat groups on Facebook or Instagram. Be assured: there is no ONE AND ONLY way to homeschool (even if someone says there is!) opinions and practices are very diverse.

Each state does have different requirements for homeschooling. You can reference the HSLDA website (link in text) for a mountain of resources, articles and even a breakdown of homeschooling laws by state.

Finally, I will admit this to you: like mothering, homeschooling isn't always easy. Some days you AND your kids are in tears... and others, you are laughing till your sides split. It takes dedication and, even on the days you want to dump them back in school, perseverance with an eye on the prize can keep you motivated.  What is the prize? Time, family and a firm foundation.
Sibling school set up...
...years passed but the partnership never changed except to grow stronger
When I first pulled my middle two out, they had been starting to drift away from the closeness and commitment to family, particularly to their siblings. My oldest was already a stranger in our household, loosing necessary connection to the family in lieu of all things school. As I mentioned, I left him in public school against my better judgement. In the end, though, all my homeschooled kids are very intelligent, had the options for college everyone else did and, most of all, they came to respect each other and my husband and I in a way public school never would have taught them.

Yes, it will be a roller coaster.  But it will be a glorious ride and, I promise, it goes faster than you can imagine.
She was 4th grade, unfocused and almost out of control. She hated to read and couldn't sit still to write. She graduated 2016, level headed, very studious with multiple classical novels under her belt and 2 manuscripts she was hoping to publish! Oh, and most of her friends had no idea she was once a poster child for ADHD!
Whatever you decide.... you've got this. Pray, trust and, regardless, always be available... first to God and then to your kids ♥️

Blessings to you!

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each month with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Peace in Uncertainty

Life right now is much like this path above; the end seems far off and uncertain. Some have lost income, others drift from day-to-day hoping and praying their jobs are not next in the long line of shut doors and down-sized staff.

I know, we are in the latter group.  Each day my husband works from home on projects we pray will continue and keep him employed while many of his coworkers collect walking orders. At times the stress can mount. I know to look to God, I remember the countless times he has carried us through even deeper divides. Yet, I believe it is human nature to adopt worry and carry it along. Perhaps this is why the Bible speaks so extensively about not worrying!

Skimming through Instagram this weekend I felt as though the general pulse was beating on one word: uncertainty.

It isn't that we may be laid off... it is IF.
It isn't that the kids are home in otherwise public schooled families... it is IF they are heading back.
It isn't that life is shut down just now... it is IF it will get back to normal anytime soon (and what "normal" will actually be).

It is hard to set schedules and find rhythms when each day feels as though it is a breath caught in your chest which you are afraid to release. At times it immobilizes us, paralyzes us with fear or concern. How do we breathe normal in these times? How do we have peace in the midst of so much uncertainty?

5 Tips for Finding and Maintaining Peace of Mind 
in Uncertain Times

1. Be OK With the Unknown
Yes, not knowing is the biggest part of the battle for many. However, no matter how much we worry or plead, much of life right now is just stuck in that gray area beyond: be OK with that. It seems like an over-simplification, but it truly boils down to just.that. There are things you DO know: walk forward with those.

For us, we have a job today and, likely, for at least the rest of this week. I will opperate with that simple fact. Any small (or big) thing you can find to walk forward in... walk. The rest will work out in it's time and we can't focus on what we can't see, we'll just end up wandering in circles or off a cliff!!

2. Find Routine at the Core
On that note, routine can help in the process.  NOT to worship a routine, however, I know, for myself, without routine or plans inside of even the most basic days, I am more likely to sit and wallow. NO WALLOWING! Like worry, it won't solve anything. No, get up and DO.

Make a list of daily chores, projects or other to-dos and challenge yourself to tackle them. Have a plan for each day and walk it out as best you can, giving yourself grace if you can't get to it all. Plan for an entire week or just a day at a time. Find a routine, whatever the case, and let God guide you in and around it.

3. Menu Plan
This may seem like an odd thing to add into our top 5, however, one thing is always constant: we need to eat! Planning meals not only gives you a point to plan around through the course of each day, it also helps you to be better prepared as meal time approaches. You can just plan dinners out or you may detail Breakfast and Lunch and even snacks as well. This type of planning will also help you to ration your food well and keep you mindful of needed ingredients before they are due.

4. Laugh!
Sometimes I feel as though there is an undercurrent of people right now who feel we must be somber because these are somber times. I say: respect those who are feeling down. The Bible calls us to empathy for those who are struggling. However, tasteful joking, laughing through the tension and pursuing a more light-hearted approach can be the difference between hope and heartache.

To help me walk with a lighter frame of mind I have cut back and rarely watch or read the news anymore. I've done all the research I can do. I know what I know and, honestly, it doesn't matter in changing the course of life right now. So, moving forward, I refocus that energy.  I try to share at least one funny or light-hearted meme each day on Instagram. I let myself laugh when something seems too crazy. I remember how, someday, this will all be a memory and I pray it is one in which I can remember perseverance and hope rather than giving up and brokenness.

(P.S. They say 'laughter is the best medicine'!)

5. In His Presence
This may be last on the list but it is the first and overarching point in the whole of this tally. Get-with-God. A daily Bible study is always one of the best ways to grow and experience the presence of God... and never more-so than now. Study and memorize scripture, pray without ceasing and surround your heart and home with worship music such as can be found on KLove, Air1 or your local Christian station.

Contemplating throughout the day: What does God's Word say about this? What is His Character and how can I draw strength from that? How can I find His mercies or blessings today? can be deeply transformative. Bathing each point in this list (and any additional you may think of) in His Presence will open up His Power to guide you forward in peace... even if you can't see the end of the path right now.


We can't change the way of the world... but we can change the way we let the world impact us.  Jump to task, push forward and, most of all, keep our eyes squrely on Christ as our one sure hope ♥️

I pray you are able to find peace in uncertainty this week and each week ahead.

Blessings to you!

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each month with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.