I thought that I would complete this series by answering a few of the questions and comments from other moms and busting a few myths on the subject.
Do you plan on homeschooling all the way through high school?
Yes, I do. I will do this because I want to continue to be a good mother to them all the way through high school. They may not remember what the Courtney Beta version was like, but I do and I have no intention of allowing that person back into the home we have worked so hard to build.
Don’t you need to have a teaching degree?
The legalities vary, depending on the state, but LOGISTICALLY, no, I don’t need a teaching degree. In fact, I don’t have a degree at all. Due to an unfortunate set of events my college education was limited to one semester and I am proud to say I am a self-educated woman. Even if I had graduated, a university wouldn’t have been able to train me to be a homeschooling mother. Most people don’t know this, but those who earn degrees in education spend the majority of their time learning about classroom management: educational psychology, instructional design and assessment, inclusion practices, special education, child development, etc. There are also a few courses that give you strategies for teaching certain subjects (and many education majors are double majors so they can have a good background in their subject of choice), but for the most part an educational degree focuses on the running of a classroom.
I don’t need to know how to run a classroom, I just need to know what MY kids need and how MY kids learn. Children are individuals and can’t be put in a one size fits all box. Nobody knows a child’s learning style and address his difficulties better than the man and woman who has observed and cared for him since his birth. Any doctor will tell you that “patient history” is one of the most important things to know when treating a patient. It is only logical to assume that a child’s individual history is the single most important thing to know when educating him. If you know your child, than you will know how to educate him.
What about the subjects you don’t know?
This question always makes me laugh. I wonder what it is about leaving the formal educational establishment that makes people think that they are, from that point on, incapable of learning anything new. If that is the kind of people public schools are turning out, then WHY are we utilizing them? Yes, I will be able to teach them because I am still capable of learning. I never learned calculus but there is no reason why I can’t learn it now. In fact, I want to go on record and say that I am doing all that I can now while my children are still young so that I will have all the knowledge I need to help them receive a high quality education. I am under no illusions that I will be able to teach them everything that they may need or want, but that is what mentors are for. My girls wanted to learn to play piano, so we hired a piano teacher. People do it all the time and other subjects are no different than sports or music lessons.
I believe the very best thing that a mother can do for her children’s education is to educate herself. A mother cannot give that which she does not have. My dad thinks that someone isn’t qualified to teach a subject unless he has a PHD in it. Now, I love my dad, but he couldn’t be more wrong. That being said, he is right about one thing, if you do not have an excellent education, your children will not have an excellent education. The wonderful and inspiring thing is that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to get a superb education, and you certainly don’t need to know everything at once! All you need is a little bit of passion, discipline, and a library card. That is the magical formula. It really is that simple.
Do your kids take tests?
Nope… at least, not in the sense that you mean. Standardized tests are a poor indicator as to whether or not a child has learned a concept. I expect my children to learn to mastery. Lucy will take the tests that come with her math curriculum, but just because she “passed” doesn’t mean that she is ready to move on. She will work on the problems she missed again and again until she answers every question correctly. If she continually struggles with a concept then we go back and attack it from a different angle. With the other subjects our constant discussion and correction serve the same purpose that testing does. That is how I approach it and so I see standardized tests as a waste of my and my children’s valuable time. At this point in our schooling our kids get two grades. “A” and “DA”. “Acceptable” and “Do it again”.
I’m happy to say that we live in a state with little regulation and so I am not required to make my children take state tests. Studies have shown that regardless of how much or how little regulation a state has homeschoolers score, on average, 33% higher than their public school counterparts on standardized tests. Given that the regulation seems to have no effect on the performance of homeschoolers, I find state regulations to be nothing more than a burden on parents.
What curriculum do you use?
It depends on the subject, but in general I try and utilize the classics and other literature as much as possible. Great literature can easily teach history, current events, ethics, grammar, diction, writing, etc. For math we use Saxon and for science we use Apologia and supplement with literature in those subjects.
What about college? Don’t they need a diploma?
Yes they can get into college and yes they will need a diploma. My kids will have to take the ACT’s and SAT’s in order to get in to college. They can do that as a homeschooled child. They will also need a diploma in order to attend college. I, as the person who certifies that they have completed high school am responsible for and authorized to compile transcripts AND issuing a diploma. A diploma issued by a homeschool parent/guardian is just as valid as a diploma issued by a public high school.
A common misconception is that you need to have a diploma from an accredited school. But here’s the thing, public high schools are NOT necessarily accredited! Accreditation is expensive and time consuming, therefore a lot of high schools do not bother with accreditation.
As far as most colleges are concerned, a homeschool diploma is no different from a public school issued diploma. There are a few schools that make homeschoolers jump through a few more hoops. If my kids want to go to one of those schools then we will jump through those hoops whether I believe they are necessary or not.
Aren’t you worried about socialization?
No. Children should be socialized by their families not by their peers. Public school is an artificial environment and I fail to see how putting twenty or thirty kids in a room with one adult for eight hours a day will teach said children how to behave. And, to be perfectly honest, I’ve seen the kids that are coming out of public school these days… and as I have no desire to have my daughters or sons turn in to the likes of Miley Cyrus or Robin Thicke (or the vast majority of other children I run into at the mall), I’ll keep my kids safely tucked under my wing until they can behave properly.
My kids interact with people of all ages and are comfortable doing so.
Don’t your kids get lonely?
Sometimes. Sometimes I get lonely, too. Everyone gets lonely, even public schooled kids. Let’s be honest, in a family of seven no one is ever really ALONE, so if you feel lonely in this house then something is wrong. Loneliness is a symptom, not a disease. It is a symptom of boredom, lack of sleep, spiritual turmoil, or any other number of things.
That being said, I do realize the need for my children to interact with other kids their age. Our family is actively involved in our church, goes to the occasional playgroup/playdate and is friendly with those in our neighborhood… that’s enough for my boys. Children under the age of eight don’t need a lot of peer interaction outside of the family because they are still learning the basics of human interaction (though I admit this might not be the case for children without siblings). Things like honesty, sharing, friendliness, etc. are what their “socialization” should consist of. Adding friend drama isn’t helpful (and if you don’t think a group of five year olds can create drama out of thin air, than you just might be the one living in a bubble). Young children should be family driven, not peer driven. Once the core family values are firmly in place you can start being a little more liberal with peer interaction. That is why I don’t place a very high priority on “friends” for kids. If my young children are “lonely”, than it’s up to me and their siblings to give them the attention they need. Small children are naturally attracted to their families and any “need” for peer interaction is manufactured by the public school system. Lucy is the only child who has ever “missed” being with friends (she was also the only one to attend public school kindergarten). The others never cared while they were really young. We don’t live in a bubble, but when we get together with other families is mostly for my own personal benefit. I don’t do “playdates” where parents just drop off their kids. Period. Once they get a little bit older it is natural for them to want to interact more with their peers and when that happens, we parents absolutely should make sure that need is met. But young children don’t need it and certainly don’t crave it unless it is forced upon them by their parents.
Lucy and Emma are to the age that they DO need a little more social interaction than their siblings. In addition to church on Sundays and fun we have with other families, they get together with several other girls their age a few time a month to play games, learn new things, provide service, develop talents, and make new friends. Just the other day the three of us attended a Mother/Daughter spa night where we learned about massage, nutrition, and yoga with what had to have been no less than 60 girls and their mothers. When Lucy gets older she will get together with her peers much more often.
Aren’t you worried your kids will be weird?
No more so than you are. I have seen some seriously strange homeschoolers out there… I’ve also seen some seriously disturbed public school kids. Whether or not you are a “weird” is entirely dependent on your parents and the individual child. For some reason people think that because our lifestyle is not the norm there is something “wrong” with us. The truth is that homeschoolers are just as well adjusted and well educated (possibly more so) than their public school counterparts. That being said I inwardly cringe when I meet a homeschool family that is truly strange because I know that people will think they are weird because they homeschool when in reality homeschooling doesn’t CREATE weirdos.
It might take them a little bit longer to catch on to certain societal cues since they aren’t mocked mercilessly by their peers for social faux pas, but we’ll get there soon enough. To be perfectly candid with you, I go out of my way to make sure my kids are extra “normal” because we represent several demographic groups, and I don’t want to be pegged as being a bad example for homeschoolers, big families, Mormons, etc. I make sure my kids are fashionable (yet modest), polite, and well behaved whenever we leave the house, and I am very rarely disappointed. Poor behavior is ideally reserved for family only :)
You’re kids must be geniuses!
LOL! I wish! No, my kids aren’t geniuses. Emma couldn’t read until she was almost eight. Spencer is a poster child for Ritalin. Jack is three and a half and has the speech skills of someone half his age. About half of my kids have the learning or behavior quirks that, if they were in public school, would peg them as problem children. My kids aren’t problems they are KIDS! Lucy catches on pretty quickly and has a great intuition on how things work, but she’s no genius. She’s just curious and pays attention. She would be bored out of her mind in public school.
Since I homeschool I can cater my teaching methods to THEIR needs instead of the other way around. A public school cannot explore every possible reading method before they find one that works for a single child. I can! A public school can’t move ahead or allow my daughter to complete nine math lessons in one sitting because she is ready to move on. I can! A public school can’t send one child to run around for a half an hour because he has a little more energy this morning. I can! A public school can’t work every single hour of the day with ONE child who is struggling with speech. I CAN!
No, my kids aren’t geniuses, but they do have their education catered to their needs… which kind of makes it more likely they will be smarter than your average bear someday :)
You must have CRAZY amounts of patience!
Excuse me, I have to clean up the chocolate milk I just spit all over my computer screen. Um… no. I have regular amounts of patience, and just like you, my patience comes and goes in waves. I have FAR more patience than I used to, you can read about why in part 1, part 2, and part 3.
How do you find time for yourself?
You would be surprised how easy it is! This isn’t to say I’m not an extremely busy woman, but since I have changed my approach to motherhood and began homeschooling, the things I enjoy doing for my own fulfillment can be easily incorporated into our school day. I enjoy learning more than anything else. Reading history books to my kids, doing science experiments with them, and reading while they are quietly working (or playing) is how I fill my cup.
That being said, I do have other interests. I have a gym membership and go work out two or three times a week where I get to exercise or go to the salon and shower peacefully. I am trying to institute a “no children in the kitchen while I’m cooking” rule (having kids converge on me while I cook is probably my biggest familial pet peeve) so I can have some precious time when I am not constantly being touched (difficult when you have a crawling baby, though). I do a lot of multi-tasking (watching Downton Abby or The Blaze on my iPad while I make dinner or do the dishes, for example). I plan my weekend painting and building projects in advance. I read books in the bathroom and when I nurse Henry before his nap. I write for my blog in the afternoons and evenings when I don’t go to the gym. And, more often than not the girls spend the afternoon doing crafts and sewing while the boys watch TV on Netflix. Honestly, it’s easy to find a few minutes here and there when you aren’t a slave to the public school schedule.
Lastly, I waste very little time. Any “time wasting” I do is usually done in multi-task mode or on the weekends. For example I will check my emails and facebook when I’m waiting for Lucy to finish her math and Emma to finish piano. It only takes a second, and before long I am called back to the subject at hand. I can honestly say that since we started our school year I go to bed exhausted and satisfied that we have all worked hard and played hard throughout the day. I will occasionally take a day to decompress and reset my mindset. On those days I spend what could be considered “too much” time on the computer (like right now I’m spending a LOT of time writing this), but I honestly don’t consider that time wasted because it serves the purpose of keeping me from being overwhelmed.
But this is something I have to vigillantly guard against, it’s SO easy for me to get caught up in it. I am a recovering selfish time-waster and need to be careful with it.
You must have SO much time on your hands!
Oddly enough, this comes up a lot. It’s funny how some people think that homeschooling means I have no time, and others think I have all the time in the world. Just because our schedule is flexible, doesn’t mean that it’s empty. I can move things around for doctor’s appointments, swim and piano lessons, and the occasional service project, but our time is not up for grabs. I have five children home with me all. the. time. I have the hourly mess of five children to contain. I have five children to feed all three meals and snacks to every day. Add that to the fact that I am primarily responsible for preparing my children for college and the real world… well, I am just NOT able to drop everything at the drop of a hat all the time. Our days are structured and planned so we can be more effective and efficient as a family, and any deviation from that structure MUST BE PLANNED. A planned deviation can be easily absorbed and the next day we have zero problems picking up where we left off.
Sometimes something comes up that derails our day and sometimes that derailment means that EVERYTHING comes to a screeching halt. This is one of the reasons why we school year round. A few months ago Jack was really sick. He spent the day throwing up and sleeping. On that kind of day everything stopped: School, housework, blogging, exercise, cooking… it was all put on hold so that I could take care of my baby boy. The next day he was fine but it took two days to catch up on the housework and other things that had piled up. Therefore, any deviation needs to be planned and even then I can only push off that history lesson so many times.
That isn’t to say it’s catastrophic when the unexpected happens, since we DO homeschool year round (even with the occasional derailment) we still come out ahead education wise. That being said, I don’t invite the unexpected because it’s stressful for everyone.
This is why I don’t sign up for things at church. I know that sounds awful, but unless it is something that only I can do or something I feel prompted to help out with I have to let other people take care of it. Keeping structure and routine helps us be in a position to handle it when a true emergency happens. I try not to overwhelm our family life because I want to be in a position to help a friend when she needs me or drop everything for a sick child.
Don’t you get overwhelmed?
Yup. Sometimes I look at that yellow school bus with longing in my heart. Some days I’m just tired of being touched and talked to all. day. long. Sometimes I just wish they would be somewhere else for a few days. I think with desperation of ALL that I could accomplish if someone else were taking care of them during the day. Sometimes I just want to read something for FUN and eat something decadent without needing to share. I would love to be able to run errands without an army in tow or go to the gym without dealing with carseats and diaper bags.
Then I remember how much I enjoy their company. I remember the smile that Spencer gave me when I read him an article about robots. I remember how Henry smelled when I put him down for his nap. I remember Emma’s excited face when she made her sister’s bed without being asked and put a “you’ve been served” card on her pillow. I remember Jack saying “I’m hungry” for the first time instead of just crying and throwing a fit. I remember how I felt when I read a chapter from the book Lucy is writing and how I just knew that someday she would be a wonderful writer.
Yes, I do sometimes get overwhelmed and discouraged and want nothing more than a day or two to myself. But even when I’m in the depths of despair, that’s all I want… a day or two. If I were to put my kids in public school during one moment of weakness I would forever regret it.
The best thing for me to do is figure out what is causing my weariness. More often than not I am either overtired or trying to take on more than I can handle. A few early nights or letting go of a project or two are all it usually takes to set me right again. When I’m trying to reset my mind and heart I pull it back and go back to the basics with school. We stick to our routine, but I use a lot of educational TV instead of books, or I declare a “life skills” day (deep cleaning). I also stop counting calories, eat comfort food, take advantage of the childcare at the gym, and maybe get a haircut or massage. During that time the Lord usually enlightens me as to the cause of my fatigue and tells me how to fix it. If I do what He tells me to do, I am well again.
Look, being overwhelmed isn’t a trait exclusive to homeschoolers. If it were than far fewer of us would do it. I can’t think of one woman that ISN’T overwhelmed with life in one way or another. You public school moms know what I’m talking about. You have to rush to get your kids out the door, you are stressed during the day with your projects and errands, and you barely see your kids after school before they are off for sports and have to buckle down for homework. We are ALL overwhelmed… just in different ways.
Do you think everyone should homeschool?
This is a question that I have never actually been asked in so many words, but is often alluded to when people comment on my choice. Invariably it’s someone who is dealing with the same issues that I dealt with and is somehow daring me to suggest that she should bring her kids home.
I have had a few times in my life in which I have met a woman who perfectly mirrors the Courtney from days of old. I feel so bad for her. I want to give her a hug and a kick in the pants at the same time. They are almost always young married women with a few young ones at home like I had been. I remember once going out to lunch with an old roommate. After a long and painful conversation in which she did nothing but complain about her children, I went home to Matt and said, “I just saw who I would have become had we not started homeschooling”. He just hugged me and nodded. Enough said.
With all of this in mind, I will give you a very politically incorrect answer to the “do you think everyone should homeschool” question that is sure to make everyone mad.
Yes, I do.
Before you get angry and compose your hate mail I would just like to ask: Why wouldn’t I? I just gave you a very long detailed description of how it has changed my life for the better, why on earth WOULDN’T I want others to share in that? When you find a great deal on an awesome pair of boots don’t you tell your friends about it? When you find a new recipe that your whole family raves over don’t you post it all over Facebook and your blog? When you read a fabulous book don’t you shout it from the rooftops? My sister is starting to feel the positive effects of the Whole9 30 day cleanse. She is keeping my other sisters and me posted on her progress is and trying to get us to do it, too. What kind of person discovers something life changing and DOESN’T share?
Do I judge you for not homeschooling? Of course not! My husband and I make the decisions that are best for OUR family and I assume you are doing the same for YOURS. The only reason anyone would be upset with my thinking that homeschooling solves countless problems in families is if they are not confident in their choices. If you are confidant that you are doing what is best for your family, why do you care what I think?
I realize this last question has probably made a lot of people angry and I’m sorry if it has. I know there are a LOT of reasons not to homeschool. Some people can’t afford not to have both spouses working. Some people are single parents. Some don’t have supportive spouses. Some people just plain don’t WANT to. THAT’S OK! I honestly don’t care. It’s YOUR life, not mine. The only thing I care about is that you don’t try to take away my right to do what is best for us.
If you are on the fence about homeschooling I can tell you right now that I cannot foresee a time in which I would EVER suggest someone send their kids to public school. Ever. I will never tell a mom that she is incapable and I will never believe those women who say they “can’t”. Circumstances may prevent it, but don’t tell me YOU (as a person) aren’t capable of homeschooling. It has worked miracles in my life and I will go to my grave testifying to the benefits.
I don’t think everyone NEEDS to homeschool to be an awesome mom, and I certainly don’t think that homeschooling will automatically make you one. If you can be the mother you have always wanted to be without it then that is great! More power to you! I couldn’t. So when I see a mom who is hurting the way I did, it only makes sense for me to think that what healed me will also heal her.
If you have any questions that I may have missed, please feel free to comment or email me. I just hope I haven’t turned anyone off TOO much ;)