I’ve been asked to share more about how we decided to homeschool our children, and I am happy to share more about our personal experience. I want to start by saying that I think every family should decide for themselves how to educate their children. There are many factors to consider, and I don’t think the same situation is the best fit for every family or even every child within a family.
Back to our story. Homeschooling was not something we always planned to do. We enrolled our daughter in preschool, and sometime during that first year of preschool, when she was three, we started talking about our own experiences with school.
Both my husband and I were good students, earning good grades. Looking back, we each realized we spent a lot of our time in school feeling bored or frustrated. I also remember certain classes that were more difficult for me. (My husband has no such recollection for himself.) At any rate, we can both remember being frustrated because the class was moving through the material too slowly or too quickly. Obviously, when there is one teacher working with 20 to 30 students, there is no way he or she can teach to the level of every single student. Frankly, I don’t know how they do as well as they do to meet the various needs of the students they have. What a huge challenge!
We had heard of homeschooling, and I knew a few families who homeschooled. In our conversations about school, my husband and I considered the likelihood that a homeschooling family would be better able to tailor lessons to the pace of the students. They would be able to move quickly through materials that the child mastered quickly. Likewise, they could take as much time as needed in any areas of struggle.
The more we thought about it, we realized that not only could we tailor the pace of lessons to our children, but we could also base some lessons on areas of particular interest to our children. For example, I asked M. before she started kindgergarten if there was anything special that she would like to learn about, and she said horses. At the end of her kindergarten year, we spent a month learning about horses. We waited until she was a little older, but finally last summer, we signed her up for a session of riding lessons. She was so excited to learn about something that interests her so much, and I think it was fun for her to have some say about her school work as well.
This is a possibility for just about any area of interest. Lessons in math, science, vocabulary, spelling, etc. can be based on that topic of interest. Have you ever known someone who isn’t that interested in math homework, yet he or she can tell you all kinds of statistics about a favorite sport? That person might be a great candidate for a unit study based on that favorite sport. Connecting the lessons to an area of interest makes it meaningful.
There are also different learning styles to consider: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (also referred to as tactile). Think about how you best learn and retain information – it might be by hearing the information, by reading it yourself, or maybe only by actually doing that thing you are learning about or by taking notes on it. If I am helping my own children learn at home, I can tailor lessons to their individual learning styles. One fun example from our experience is practicing spelling in the kinesthetic learning style. We’ve spelled words by jumping from letter to letter written in chalk on the driveway. We’ve traced the letters into a pan of shaving cream, rice or beans. We’ve done one jumping jack along with each letter spoken aloud. Just some fun stuff to include in our day and approach the lesson in a different way.
The more we talked about it, the more we saw certain advantages to homeschooling. We decided to try it out, and we are now in our third year. We consider this a year by year decision, and we will continue to homeschool as long as it seems to be the best fit for us in the coming school year.
Both my husband and I feel strongly that learning is not confined to the walls of a school building, and certainly not limited to childhood, and we hope to promote lifetime learning for our children. In addition to teaching certain lessons to our children, we want to instill a love for learning and help them discover how to learn, how to find out about any area of interest. We also want to include character within our school work.
Because there are only two children, we move through our daily lessons fairly quickly most days. This allows time for M. & G. to play outside, help with household chores, visit the library and museums, etc. They both have participated in a variety of youth sports as well.
Living here in the Minneapolis area, there are more opportunities for homeschooling families than we would ever have time to explore. Zoos, museums, park and recreation, and a wide variety of co-ops offer opportunities for classes and field trips. We are part of a co-op and have gotten to know other homeschooling families in our area. My children have also seen quite a few plays and participated in workshops at the Como Zoo, the Minnesota Zoo, and The Works Museum. Just this week, we saw an amazing physics presentation.
If you may be wondering, they are not limited to other homeschoolers when it comes to activities and relationships. They meet kids from a variety of schooling choices – homeschool, public schools, and various private schools – in our neighborhood and through participation in sports, church, and involvement in the community.
I consider these years a learning adventure. I have so enjoyed having this time with my children. I will always treasure the memories of the great books we’ve read together, the fun science experiments we’ve done in our kitchen, and the projects we’ve done to bring a lesson to life. It has been such a blessing and a privelege!