Again: opinions ahead. Again: they’re mine, and they don’t have to be yours. I’m only raising my family.
“Why do you homeschool?” Well, since before we were married I have thought homeschooling would be kind of fun, but we never thought seriously about it until we started researching and planning to go to the mission field. There, since Clay wanted to work with tribes away from cities, our only options would have been to send our children to boarding school or homeschool them. Boarding school was, for us, out of the question. So we began dreaming about homeschooling, and exploring different philosophies and curriculum providers. What most people who are unfamiliar with homeschooling don’t realize is how many philosophies there are out there. Some families just do kind of like traditional school, ordering textbooks and tests and answer keys that mirror the public school setting at home. Some do “unschooling,” which I know only enough about to know that this philosophy is definitely out of the question for us, as well. We researched and quickly settled on providing our kids a classical, Christian education. I know that most of you will read that and move on and not care, but just in case, Douglas Wilson is one of our favorite authors on classical Christian education, and he explains it much better than I could. This education will have our kids reading books in middle school and high school that I didn’t even read in college. They will start Latin in second grade. They will be memorizing tons of facts about each subject in their elementary years, which is exactly what elementary minds are equipped to do. They will begin learning formal logic in their middle school years, asking why? about everything they study, which is exactly what middle school minds are equipped to do. They will study rhetoric and debate and other communication skills in high school, along with some extensive reading on a wide range of subjects, which is what high school minds would be equipped to do if they have been educated to do so. You will not hear me bash public schools–I went to public school and lots of my family works in public schools and I think Christians absolutely need to be working in public schools. The adults working there are to be the salt and light, though, not the children, as so many Christian parents give as the reason they send their kids to public schools. But I will say this: I know the education I received, and I know the education that, if God is good enough to allow us to continue to do this throughout their school years, my kids will receive, and one is far superior to the other. I’d be happy to engage in further discussion with anyone who wants to, but as this is kind of a sensitive issue for lots of people, we usually just let our decision to homeschool stand for itself without doing a lot of preaching or trying to “convert” others, as some homeschoolers are notorious for doing. I know there are lots of families who can’t for whatever reason homeschool, and more who just don’t choose to, and that’s fine. But people ask me why I do, and so I answered it.
“Do you use a curriculum?” Personally, I think it’s sad that people would even think to ask this. Of course I use a curriculum. But the sad (in my opinion) truth is that lots of homeschoolers don’t. They just move from topic to topic based on the child’s interests at the moment, pulling worksheets off of websites or visiting museums on that topic or reading books or doing other activities on that topic and move on when Johnny decides he doesn’t like trains anymore but likes frogs instead. People have asked me how I’ll make sure my kids learn everything that they need to know for each grade level, and I’m sure that they’re basing that question on families they know or have heard of who homeschool on a whim. But I digress. To answer the question simply, yes I use a curriculum. We use Veritas Press (linked in the right column). Veritas Academy is a classical Christian school in Pennsylvania that makes all of their curriculum available through catalog and website. We basically order everything that they recommend for each grade level, although we’re doing phonics, reading, and spelling a year ahead of their recommendations. Some of their stuff is published by other companies (they use Saxon math, for example) and some they have developed themselves (they have an award winning program for phonics as well as Bible and history). It all comes with teacher’s guides with day by day instructions and answer keys.
“What about social skills?” or “I couldn’t keep them home all the time.” Well, we are not home all the time. We go to playgroup. We go to church, where they are in classes with kids their ages. We go to gymnastics. I’m sure we’ll eventually get into soccer and baseball. Even when they’re home, they’re learning social skills simply by playing with each other and learning to share and respect others. But also, throughout the week they are exposed to people of all ages as they go about with Mom and Dad, learning to interact with grown-ups as well as children, learning to respect the elderly as we interact with them in the grocery store. They are learning social skills with all kinds of people, instead of being in a classroom with 25 other kids exactly the same age as them all day every day. As far as extra-curricular activities go, I feel like we’ll have even more freedom than public school kids, because my kids won’t have homework at night. They’ll finish their work during the day (homeschool doesn’t take all that long) and be free at night to pursue other activities without having to worry about finishing 2 extra hours of homework every night. Also, regarding social skills, and not to toot my own horn but just to answer the issue, we have had so many comments just since we moved to Salem about how our kids greet people. Different people of all ages have told us how much they appreciated being approached and greeted by name by our children, and how they’ve noticed how our girls make a point to greet the other kids by name when they get there, and say goodbye to them by name when they leave. Abigail has an entire class of elderly ladies wrapped around her little finger simply because she likes to go in and greet them while I’m dropping the other kids off in the nursery. These are social skills. Manners are social skills. That’s what we’re trying to cover.
“Is it expensive to homeschool?” Not as much as you’d think, but then again, we’re only just getting started. We’ve been using a chunk of our tax refund, so it hasn’t really put us out at all. It will all depend on how much you order. Veritas Press color-codes their stuff by order of the priority they place on it. The red stuff is what they say you really should get, and we get pretty much all the red stuff. The purple stuff is secondary and the green stuff is third. We get a few purple things and haven’t really gotten any green things, but that may change as we get up into the “real” stuff as Abigail moves into the elementary grades. The wonderful thing about most of it is that we will only have to shell out the bigger bucks once, since most of it is reusable. We’ve gotten several reproducible books so far. I tear each page out and put them in page protectors in a binder, and all I’ll have to do for each kid is copy a few pages a week, buying the book once. For the phonics and the math, and several other subjects we’ll be moving into, you buy the kit with the teacher’s manual, workbooks, and whatever else it comes with, for the first kid, and then for each additional kid you just have to buy the workbook. So while we spent about $300 for Abigail’s first year, we’ll just spend $16 for Catherine’s, plus the cost of 7-10 copies a week. But even in public schools, you shell out quite a bit of money each year, if you stop to think about it.
“How long does it take each day?” Right now, it takes us about an hour and a half. Last year took 30-45 minutes. Next year will take longer as Abigail will really jump in with several new subjects and Catherine will do kindergarten phonics and Bible. Each year will take longer until all our kids are in full swing, and we’ll just have to figure out a new routine each year.
“How do you do it with your smaller kids?” Right now, the only way I can do it is to do it at naptime. I really wanted to get a new routine this year of getting ready every morning and doing school in the morning, but it just was too hard to focus on Abigail with three other ones demanding my attention. Elisabeth especially is just too small to be expected to entertain herself for that long. So we switched back to the afternoons and it goes much smoother now. Naptimes are a must, I would think, for homeschooling with little ones around.
“How will you homeschool as the subjects become difficult, like chemisty and calculus and advanced Latin and Greek?” Well, I want to try to do as much as I can with just Clay and I teaching them. I was good enough in science and math that I’m hoping a good teacher’s manual will be enough to help me help them. Clay can teach the languages. But, in case it’s not working out, Veritas offers online classes with other homeschoolers from around the country in some of the upper subjects, and that will definitely be an option for us to look into if we can’t handle the subject matter ourselves.
“Are you going to homeschool them all the way through?” That’s the plan, Stan. Who knows what’s around the corner? But that’s definitely our desire.
That’s us on homeschool. Let me have your feedback if you wish.