Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Home's Cool!

When summer ends my three kids and I prepare for our school year. While most kids are out buying new school clothes and supplies, we’re scouring our bookshelves, installing programs on the computer, and looking forward to another year of learning together.

Our homeschooling journey began twelve years ago when my oldest son, Cory was of kindergarten age. My husband and I had close friends who homeschooled their children, and we liked what we saw. Their kids seemed to enjoy being with their parents and each other. They were smart, intelligent, and fun to be around. We decided we wanted kids like that and began looking into homeschooling in earnest.

My biggest reservation was, “Can I do it?” In addition to my son who I would homeschool, I had two younger kids, a budding writing career, and I volunteered in local organizations. Yet as I began looking at curriculum, I grew excited about spending quality time with my kids and building a lifetime of learning together. (“Together” being the key word!) Growing up, the only times my brother and I were together was after school—when we didn’t have anyone else to play with. We rarely interacted, and when we did it wasn’t a pretty sight.

I wanted something better for my own children, and I know other homeschoolers feel the same.

“One of the main reasons my husband Tim and I decided to homeschool was because of our daughters’ relationships,” says Jeanette Nostrum, mother of four girls, ages 5-12, who has been homeschooling for three years. “We noticed when they were at school all day, they spent little time together. They also put more emphasis on their relationship with their peers rather than with each other. Bringing them home for schooling has provided the time and opportunity for them to become best friends.”

Faith Walk
Another main reason my husband and I decided to homeschool was because of our faith. John and I felt that learning to love God was even more important than academic success. So this became a one of our main focuses—spending time reading faith stories together, memorizing verses, and including a faith-based Curriculum as a core subject.

Of course, this is only one reason to homeschool. According to the National Home Education Research institute, teaching specific philosophical or religious values, controlling social interactions, developing close families, and high level academics are the most common reasons for home schooling.

Where to Start
When I first started homeschooling, one thing that helped the most was talking to veteran homeschoolers. I asked dozens of questions, including what they’ve tried, what’s worked, what hasn’t, and why. It also helped to know that normal people were schooling at home and finding success.
“I have a great support system and find I can always turn to my sister and friends for advice,” says Jeanette. “I’ve frequently gone to the local bookstore, and they always have good information. They point me to curriculums that meet my needs and even provide resources for field trips.”

Unique Learning for Unique Kids
Another aspect I enjoy about homeschooling is the ability to tailor my children’s education to their unique needs. There have been times in our educational journey that it was necessary to take learning slow with one of my kids. Other times, I had trouble keeping up with them as they raced through the books as fast as I can find them.

Now that they are older, two of my children enjoy doing their homework on the computer, having interactive lessons and getting immediate feedback. Then there’s my other child who would rather read out-loud to me from a good book.

I’ve purchased numerous curriculums over the years, trying everything from classical literature, traditional workbooks, and unit studies (instructor-designed thematic studies). There’s always something new to try, which keeps our routine fresh and fun. I also utilize our local library system, checking out both fiction and non-fiction books to keep up with inquisitive minds.

One of best places to learn about curriculum choices is by attending a curriculum fair or visiting local bookstores that carry curriculum. Some areas also have resources through the local Superintendent of Schools.

A Lifestyle of Learning
Of course, parents can attempt to plan the perfect schedule and pick the best curriculum, but what it all comes down to is how the children learn.
In our homeschool we’ve adopted a natural style of learning, which involves learning with and without books. Our “official” school day begins around 9:00 a.m. and ends around 2:00 p.m., but throughout the day we also enjoy cooking together, playing board games, reading in the evenings, and attending each others sporting events.

One wonderful thing about the growth of homeschooling is that there are numerous activities for my kids to get involved in. They’ve been a part of homeschool choir, swimming lessons, and basketball. They’ve also taken private classes such as dance, voice lessons, piano, and guitar. In addition, there are numerous classes offered through local schools, including art, acting, writing, science labs, and much more.

“My two oldest daughters have been part of homeschool basketball, and my husband and I had the opportunity to coach,” says Jeanette. “Through homeschool sports my kids learn teamwork and sportsmanship. Plus they get exercise. Not only that, we’ve gotten to know some great families through the program as we spend time together traveling for games.”
And let’s not forget field trips and volunteering. My family has enjoyed nature hikes, chocolate making, and tours of local historical sites. My kids have also gotten involved in volunteering through local non-profit organizations.

After Graduation
One of the most common questions asked to homeschoolers is, “What about graduation?” As my oldest son nears graduation age, I’ve begun looking into this more. Amazingly, I’ve found that most colleges accept transcripts designed by parents, as long as a “student portfolio” is provide which includes a student’s work.

Personally, my husband and I choose to have our children take standardized testing every year to insure we haven’t missed any vital subjects. This is not only a helpful reference, but it’s also a boost when our kids see how well they’re doing.

“Homeschool graduates closely parallel their public school counterparts—about two-thirds go on to post-secondary education, and one-third directly into the job market,” says Brian Ray, in Strengths of Their Own—Home Schoolers Across America, NHERI, 1997.

Obviously the end of formal homeschooling is not the end of the educational road. Also according to Ray, over 74% of home-educated adults ages 18–24 have taken college-level courses, compared to 46% of the general United States population. Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. Seventy-one percent participate in an ongoing community service activity (e.g., coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association), compared to 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages. Eighty-eight percent of the homeschool graduates surveyed were members of an organization (e.g., such as a community group, church or synagogue, union, homeschool group, or professional organization), compared to 50% of U.S. adults.

The Heart
It’s hard to believe, but with my oldest has graduated and my youngest son is in 8th grade this year, my homeschool journey is more than half over.

Yet when I look at my kids, I see young men and women who have strong character and the family connectedness I longed for. They love their family, have a strong faith, and seem to be excelling in their education.

Of course, I can’t say that the years have been without frustration and tears. There were days when I seriously questioned if I was crazy for taking on this task. I lost my temper (more than once!) and questioned if I was doing enough to insure my children would lead productive lives.

Yet in the end, I look back with joy and appreciation of our time spent learning together. I have fond memories of teaching three children to read, of attempting science projects on the kitchen counter, and discovering each child’s unique personalities and God-give talents.

Now that my son will soon be graduating and moving on to higher education, I’m especially thankful for the chance to truly know him and the chance for him to get to know me—spending 24/7 with anyone will insure that!

And as looking back, I can say without a doubt I’d do it all again. Through the years, we’ve learning home’s a cool place to be. To laugh, to love, and to learn.

Resources to Check Out:
Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling
By Mary Pride, Harvest House

The Way They Learn
By Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, Tyndale House

100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing The Right Curriculum And Approach For Your Child's Learning Style
by Cathy Duffy

Unit Studies Made Easy
by Valerie Bendt

Homeschool Stats
Provided by The US Department of Education, released 2001

• Homeschool profile—Median amount spent on home schooling per child in the US - $450
• Household incomes—18% of home school families earn less than $25,000, 44% of households between $25,000 and $49,000.
• Religion—Over 75% attend religious services
• Testing—The average SAT score for homeschoolers in 2000 was 1100, compared with 1019 for the general population. And a large study by University of Maryland education researcher Lawrence Rudner showed that the average homeschooler scored in the 75th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills; the 50th percentile marked the national average.

In the 1980s only about 15,000 families homeschooled. Now, the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) puts the number at between 1.5 million and 1.9 million students - close to 3 percent of the school-age population. Yet the reasons parents choose to homeschool are as diverse as the methods they use. Some parents homeschool after seeing their children struggle in school. Others feel it gives their children more time to pursue other interests, such as champion surfer Bethany Hamilton. Another reason for growth may include a rise in credibility—from colleges and the media, as well as family and friends.
(photo courtesy of flickr)


At Thursday, 04 December, 2008, Anonymous Amanda Bennett said...

Thanks for sharing your homeschool experience, words of encouragement, and the collection of resources! Two of our homeschooled kids have now graduated from college, and we are in the midst of homeschooling a basketball/baseball future star. :-) Miles and miles to games all over the country, but like homeschooling, so worth the journey.

At Thursday, 04 December, 2008, Anonymous Jen said...

Thank you for sharing your story, I've been contemplating homeschool for my 4 children, wondering if I could do it.. Your article definitly gave me some insight!
Thank you!

At Sunday, 07 December, 2008, Blogger Hip Mom's Guide said...

Tricia, I'm currently working on a book about homeschooling & this was a terrific reinforcement. Thank you for sharing.

At Tuesday, 09 December, 2008, Anonymous Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. My husband and I are contemplating whether to home school our kids in the future.

At Monday, 15 December, 2008, Anonymous homeschool forms said...

Nice site its very interesting site! your site is fantastic.


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