Many who know us locally know we are “one of those families.” We homeschool. *Gasp!* Many politely nod their heads when when I tell them we are a homeschool family. But, you simply get the impression that they think we have far too easy of a life. Apparently, “real” school life includes no creative play while you work.
My sons are engaging, and both carry fairly intelligent conversations with adults. They love little kids and babies. Plus, they know how to be boys. There are trees to climb, as well as lizards and snakes to catch. We have three dogs and a goat, with plenty of room to run. We are waiting for our new forever chickens, because the last ones we had died for some mysterious reason.
My boys play in the dirt, forge through stickers and bull nettle to carry out their personal adventures. They do not always like to do their schoolwork, but what kid does?
You might ask what all that has to do with homeschooling? Well, I’ll tell you.
How we came to be a homeschool family
Our homeschooling journey started out several years before I took the leap. I had a really close girlfriend who homeschooled. Our kids played together and my son constantly asked me if we could homeschool. Being the professional, working mom, I laughed. Yeah, right. My life was a far journey from quitting my job, and I grew up in a family of teachers, so the idea was a bit foreign to me. I admit, I didn’t even know people homeschooled! Lol
But, slowly, God worked in me. I dreamed of the idea, but I still could not manage it.
I liked my friend’s lifestyle and I loved how her kids were! They were so different from kids who spent their days away from their parents. They had fewer behavior problems and they had a good relationship with their parents and their siblings. Things weren’t perfect, but all the trendy school stuff we face as parents just wasn’t there.
Then, my special needs son was born and our life turned upside down. Fortunately, I had quit my job during my pregnancy, as my then-husband had a job that would support us. When my second son was born with a genetic syndrome, it rocked my oldest son’s foundations a bit. As you can imagine, he was not acting the best and struggling to understand all of the concern over his brother. But, funny, he began to ask me to stay home and homeschool again.
So, I thought about it and poured over curriculum. I had watched my friend homeschool, so I generally knew the laws about homeschooling in Texas. I was concerned about taking the leap for a number of reasons.
My biggest fears were:
I have to care for my special needs son full time.
I am already up half the night with feeding machines and medications. How am I going to add that too?
What if I fail to provide my son with the education he needs? (My second was still an infant, so I wasn’t really concerned about that yet.)
How can I come up with lessons on a regular basis for my son? (Ok, I admit, I had taught school for 14 years, so I had to re-train;-))
How am I going to know if I did a good enough job? Will I fail?
Was I going to be able to meet my oldest son’s emotional needs with his baby brother’s physical needs so consuming?
I was not sure how I was going to get his baby brother to his doctor’s appointments and homeschool.
Who would my son play with?
What about this socialization thing?
Would I scar him for life? Yeah, I had to throw that one in. I seriously feared this.
What really pushed me to homeschool.
I admit, my oldest was plain miserable in public school.
*I hate the test. I hate the test. I hate the test.* Is that clear?;-)
All the teachers teach (God bless them, it is their job) how to take the test.
Because of the test, there is little to no creativity in public school.
The kids get I swear 10 minutes of P.E. and recess.
My son began to tantrum at home because he had to fill out worksheets for guess what? The test.
My oldest needed to be a part of his baby brother’s life. (and ours!)
Everyone has challenges around homeschooling (particularly as life happens) and that doesn’t mean they won’t get an education.
Homeschooling is a way of life, not just a few hours in the day.
I would get to actually spend time with my son, rather than a few quick hours after he is exhausted from school all day.
I felt like some days during public school days, I really did not know my son. This made me really sad!
All of that really summed up my reasons to homeschool.
I personally knew (and used to work with) my son’s public school teachers. They were excellent at their job, and it was truly nothing personal. But, homeschooling fit our new life of living in the country and caring for a special needs baby.
I could work around my baby’s medical and therapeutic needs, and then homeschool my other son when I wasn’t doing that. At other times, we homeschooled on the go because my special needs child’s needs were a priority. Plus, particularly in the early days, we went on outings with other homeschoolers in the community.
Some days we were laid back, exploring butterfiles, playing with the dogs and chatting on the porch swing. My oldest made bows and arrows out of tree limbs and string. Other days, we cozied up on the bed or couch together to learn or read. I spent many hours having political discussions with my high schooler and then amazing conversations with my youngest about trash trucks! My oldest even helped me plan and build our chicken coop, while my youngest helped me raise the chickens. (Note the location of the butterfly in the photo!)
And, I am not through yet. 🙂
I knew I made the right decision when…
I love to tell this story, because it is a classic case in point about homeschooling.
When I first brought my oldest home for homeschool, I quickly found out that he loved to voraciously read. He was reading nonfiction chapter books for middle-schoolers in the third grade and so I let him read.
He loved the Revolutionary and Civil War books, and memorized facts that would make your head spin. But, I was super shocked when he not only read about these topics, but acted them out in his play.
It was a quiet day when after about 3 weeks of homeschooling it happened.
My son had finished his school work and went out to play. My special needs infant son was taking a little nap in his carrier next to me, while I tried to catch up on the computer.
After a few minutes (well, ok, I thought it was a few), I thought to myself, “Where is my son?”
I called out for him and there was no answer. So, I looked outside for him through the window. Then I saw his little head bobbing up and down in the sand…
I threw open the window, and yelled, in my best “you’re in trouble mister” Mommy voice, “What are you doing?!”
He poked his head up from a HOLE to his chest, and said quite seriously, “I’m digging a Civil War trench, Mom!”
Oh. I thought a minute about that. I mean, how do you discipline your son for LEARNING?! After the initial shock and “What?!” I told him to fill the hole up when he was done, and I shut the window. Carry on was the operative word. At least he had learned something, you know?
It took my son a couple of days to fill the hole back in, but he learned about the Civil War and then acted it out. The funny thing is, he learned more at home in about 3 weeks than he could learn in 3 months in public school. Honestly, I was elated.
I never regretted my decision to homeschool.
So, what should you do if you want to homeschool?
Check with your local state laws.
Some states have requirements you must adhere to. There are states that require specific documentation and compliance with their laws. Other states like Texas, are lax in their accountability of homeschooling.
Google your state’s homeschool requirements or go here to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association for a list of state requirements. Do your research. While we enjoy our freedoms in this country to homeschool, following the laws as much as we can, will give all of us peace of mind.
Choose curriculum that fits your budget.
I see so many moms choosing curriculum that is pricey. I never could afford expensive boxed curriculums like that. Instead, I chose to create my own at first and then picked up inexpensive curriculums along the way. If your state wants you to document your curriculum, check some of the websites below and sketch out your ideas for the year on a calendar or planning book.
I will write more about some possible options later, as I found some really inexpensive ways to homeschool. But, websites like EduCents, CurrClick and Teachers Pay Teachers are all nice places to purchase downloadable curriculum. Don’t give in to the major, expensive curriculums if you cannot afford them. You can do this cheaply and not get too many gray hairs over it!
Look for local homeschool groups.
All this talk about lack of socialization is a bunch of hooey. Look on Facebook and even on Yahoo groups for local homeschooling groups your family can participate in. Sign up and get to know others locally who homeschool and find out where they meet.
We have participated in several informal and formal groups. Here is a list of the things we have done with homeschooling groups to give you an idea: Chess Club, Reader’s Theater, attended children’s symphony concerts, basketball team, attended ballet performances, nature hikes, barbeques, attended plays, went to museums and even Sea World. We did all this at discounted group prices (or for free). You can also participate in church functions for free, or even have your family volunteer at the church, or in the local community. We have even had our homeschool friends over to our house for a group get-together!
What if you have a special needs child?
I admit, this one challenged me a bit at first, but in time, I relaxed, because he is a special needs child after all. I realized that if my son was in a public school, he would be taught at his level, and his disability would be taken into consideration (I know this as a former special education teacher). That being said, my teaching style at this time is somewhere between relaxed homeschooling, and fun structured homeschooling. In other words, I meet him at his ability to function first, and then his academic needs.
What do I mean specifically? Well, if you have a child who is on the autism spectrum, who is struggling and tantruming, you need to change your tactics. If all you do is fight your child to get one math problem done so you can keep them on grade level, or perform at your level, then you are either using the wrong curriculum, or you need to change your expectations. Or both. No child is going to learn and retain information if all you do is fight him or her over school work. Give it up.
So, if you homeschool your child as much as you can one or two days a week and make great progress, you are succeeding. The remaining days you can allow them to discover, and unschool them. If your state requires records, then record their activities using the Common Core or state objectives, and lay out strategic games, books and activities to achieve your learning goals. I have even just picked up targeted discussions using a teachable moment, and my sons learn tons. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish like this.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone.
Some of you may still say, no way! I cannot homeschool. Some of you may think you cannot take on the challenge, or be home with your children all day. That is okay too. I do not believe that we are all meant to homeschool. So, there is no guilt here. Even if your kids want to homeschool, but you don’t think you can handle it, I think it is wiser to not homeschool. You won’t last and everyone will be miserable. Again, a happy kid will learn.
If you are going to homeschool, you have to do it because you think it is the best choice for your family. For us, it is! It has been the perfect fit for our special lifestyle.