The Leap of Faith
If you’re a homeschooling parent, you understand there are many difficulties in this process. Often it is a question, we, as parents, struggle with for years before deciding. When we finally do make the leap, we quickly realize this is far more complex than just removing your child from a school that began promoting gender neutral bathrooms. This is a way of life that never stops and has many twists and turns.
To homeschool is more than just teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic from the comfort of one’s own home or downloading the latest educational app on your tablet and letting your kids have at it. This is real life preparation for the next generation. There are so many questions to be answered and choices to be made that you can be easily become overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel.
With homeschool becoming more popular among millennials the question of resources is one of the major concerns at the top of the list when making this decision. Luckily for our generation we have so many resources to help us through this process, we no longer have to sift through ancient materials provided by the “O.G.’s” (or trail blazers of this practice). Because of these “O.G.’s”, as I call them, we can know what works and what doesn’t, are able to learn from their mistakes and, hopefully, better the process for future prospective homeschoolers. Below are a few of the most common questions and concerns parents and peers have when making the decision to homeschool:
- Teacher: certification/qualification
- Time management/organization
- Extra-curricular activities
Before addressing any concerns on this list there is an overlying question on this subject which is this, what are your reasons for wanting to homeschool? This is an important first step to identify before proceeding with this life changing journey. Many parents have different reason most ranging from social, to academic, to religious. My own personal reasons are a mixture of the three. Whatever the case may be, understanding why you want to homeschool is a key first step in figuring out how you will approach future concerns.
Are we doing it right?
The most annoying question I frequently get from people who don’t homeschool, never homeschooled before, or never plan on homeschooling in the future is, “Are you doing it right?” This is a question that roots itself in a lack of research and experience. I will admit I had this same concern when I began this trepidatious journey. The truth is, there is no definitive “right way”. Plain and simple.
Each experience is different just like each child is different. Sometimes you find yourself navigating calm waters and everything is going smoothly. Other times visions of Davy Jones’ Locker become more vivid as you find yourself in perilous chaos; drowning in a sea of scattered papers and half-finished projects strung throughout the house.
In any case, it is a juggling act where balance becomes the focus most of the time. Activities, homework, projects, chores and social gatherings all chip away at the hours in a day leaving one to feel there aren’t possibly enough hours to get everything done in one single day. Prayer, exercise, and quality alone time are key to be a successful homeschool parent, in my experience. To the “noob” homeschooler I say, “Welcome to your new life, just take it in strides.”
A major concern I hear when being asked about homeschooling from other parents, who are either thinking about it or complaining about it is, are homeschool kids being properly socialized? The approach to this question is often misguided and misunderstood among those who do not homeschool but a simple no brainer for those who do.
Socialization is subjective since each parent has their own view of what is acceptable behavior in society. It deals with how one is to behave properly among peers and community. For this concern I would simply suggest talking with your kids (something that often goes over-looked in a normal public education system). Getting to know who your kids are and what their expectations are will help you guide them through this little thing we call life. Along with their expectations, a clear understanding of who you want your children to be and what your own expectations of social behavior are, is critical in socializing your own children. You cannot be wishy washy on this topic, especially when it comes to the molding of young minds.
Often, we as parents can become so worried with this institutionalized version of fitting in that we overlook key components in the rearing of our children’s minds and behaviors. When analyzed, the average parent sends their child off to school or daycare early in the morning, typically for a 7 to 8 hour stretch. Most of their day is not spent learning what their parents agree with as correct rather than learning what society deems as normal, and that is dangerous.
During this time is where we accept that they have been properly socialized. This, however, is a grave mistake that most parents make and an all too common norm among society that is simply overlooked. I simply do not trust teachers and students, all with varying beliefs and upbringings, to dictate and/or insinuate to my child what is appropriate and what is not. The youth are far too easily misled often by their own naivety.
When I am asked whether my children will be properly socialized I consider the facts that most parents, who do not homeschool, overlook. The public-school environment is not the healthiest place to assume proper socialization is taking place, and yet that is, in fact, what most parents tend to believe. Public-school is convenient and has parents mistakenly believing a uniform academic requirement is practical in any society. This is just not a functional view of how people, let alone, children can learn academically or behaviorally. As a society we have shifted to the norm of seeing children as burdens and getting relief from sending them off for hours on end, without fully vetting the true nature of the consequences.
Many times, these concerns arise from a preconceived judgment that homeschool kids are sheltered, weird, strange, or awkward. That again, is subjective, because I think a 6-year-old cross dressing little boy is weird or strange, and that is just my opinion that others would vehemently disagree with. I also believe it is strange to allow my children to twerk provocatively to the newest song by Cardi B. Most often in nature, the untouched and/or secluded landscapes are the most beautiful and thriving places on earth, children that have good biblical morals instilled into them before being released into society often share this experience among their peers.
With homeschooling, socialization takes place with little ones learning how to engage and interact with adults and their peers. It is a better method because you have complete control of how their beliefs and behaviors are formed. You can teach them right from wrong, conversation skills, problem solving, the opportunities are limitless. You can form the best methods for each child, and since you are their parent and know them best, you can decide which method works best with their personalities and alter them (methods) accordingly.
Friends are an important part of growing up and homeschool does not deprive children from experiencing friendship, it enhances the friendships they come to have. When you must find a friend at the local skatepark or introduce yourself and engage in conversation with another person to become friends, it is a much more socially beneficial experience than being thrust into a classroom of peers and playing the name game. You learn about yourself as an individual and you learn about others. In my experience, when my children do build friendships, they come to cherish that bond more and are more willing to explore ways how to please another person rather than extract personal gain from them. True friendship.
You get to choose when to expose your children to controversial material, from what perspective you approach it and what can be benefitted from learning it. Knowing your children becomes a part of your life and teaching becomes a way to connect and build your relationship with them and the society around them. More opportunities are presented that allow them to make good choices and organically learn what is truly appropriate behavior and how to effectively communicate with others. Socialization should not be a concern with moving forward in homeschooling your children, rather your perception of what proper socialization entails.
2. Are We Qualified as Parents?
The worry of feeling underqualified is real. Are my kids falling behind public-school kids? Am I a good enough teacher? Is what I’m teaching sticking?
All these questions are valid and if you aren’t asking them you probably aren’t doing it right. Self-doubt is normal especially when undertaking such a huge task. There are many different solutions and each parent will have to find what works for them.
The simple answer is this, if you can read, you can homeschool your kids. Although patience and certain teaching methods do serve you well as practical skills to have and maintain sanity, the basics are simple to teach. Repetition is key not only in learning but in teaching as well. The more you do it the better you get at it, and the fine tuning of your approaches and methods becomes easier.
There are many resources out there and communities of homeschoolers who can help you along the way. The trick is finding what works for you. Figure out what it is you want from yourself as a teacher and pursue that course. If you’d like to be more proficient in math to better teach your kids, take a math course online or otherwise. If you want to teach your children multiple languages because you appreciate other cultures, then start by taking language courses or studying up on that subject yourself and furthering your own knowledge. If you wish to raise little musicians, learn how to read music.
Having a goal and understanding what your expectations are for homeschooling are the key. Do you simply want them to have a high school diploma? Do you want them to continue schooling into college? Knowing your goals for homeschooling will be the deciding factor whether you are feeling qualified or not.
The question of qualifications becomes more of an issue as the student gets older and is deciding whether to pursue higher education or not. Tutors are always an option if you still feel inadequate as a teacher after getting them to the high school level. Outsourcing certain subjects to online classes and tutors in a great method. There are also many online resources where student can enroll (for a small fee) and do online learning courses with trained professors. This is an excellent approach for those questioning their teaching skills.
Any parent can get any of their children to the college level, or at least a high school diploma. Highschool learning is not as complicated as most may think and there are so many curriculums now for homeschoolers that are often more sought out by ivy league schools than your average SAT and standardized test scores, one needing only to seek them out.
As parents are we underqualified? I believe, no matter your educational experience, we are the most qualified to teach our own children. We hold the most stock in them, care the most about them, and have the most hope for their future success than any other person could ever have. This is the ultimate redeeming quality one can have as a teacher regardless of your education.
The most important part about teaching your children, is learning. Be open minded to learn new things as you go. Understand there will be hiccups and things you will not know and roll with those punches. The ability to find answers and solutions is the best way to teach any child especially if you involve the student in the process of finding the answer or solution, creating good teamwork skills.
This is my least favorite subject when discussing homeschooling because it can turn a lot of people off when they don’t find the right “method”. The truth is that there is no one right method or one correct way to homeschool. Often the right method hasn’t been invented yet and it is on you to discover new ways to learn and teach that fit best for your family. People can get stuck on this idea of the right way to do it, or the proper method that they ditch the idea of homeschooling all together and continue down the wide road most traveled.
I lightly tread on this topic in the following section but there are certain approaches some people find to be effective in their homeschooling. There are many different methods or styles of homeschooling ranging in popularity. The main point is to understand your own skills and objectives for homeschooling and fine tuning it to something that is cohesive for your family.
I will be sharing a brief overview of the method I use that has proven to be excellent for our family but there are plenty of other great methods that might work great for you and yours. There is more than one way to skin a cat, I believe is how the saying goes.
The approach I personally use is typically rendered the Classical Method. This basically means you teach your kids according to where they’re at mentally. Younger kids you teach based on the memorization of concrete ideas and facts. Adolescent kids will start plugging those ideas into practical uses. Teens and young adults will begin to ponder deeply on the idea or formulate ideas of their own.
This is my favorite approach as it provides varying levels of difficulty based on three stages of brain activity in children. (It is far simpler than it is going to sound trust me Lol.)
Stage one: Grammar. In this stage they focus on how to learn and what tools are required in their learning. There is a lot of repetition and cementing of basic ideas and concepts.
Stage two: Logic. This is the stage where they step into the application of elementary ideas they’ve learned and can begin building off them. Debating and new writing techniques are among a few skills developed in this stage along with a deeper knowledge of historical events.
Stage three: Rhetoric. This is when a student becomes more independent and can begin exploring their own ideas and opinions along with challenging other ideas previously presented. As the child grows they gain a deeper understanding of how life works and their wishes for expressing themselves grow. This is the stage where guidance comes into play more than teaching. By this stage the student knows how to learn facts and research, now it is the parents’ responsibility to guide them on how to develop correct attitudes and ways to express their own formulated opinions.
This is the approach my family and I use to teach our children. Our personal curriculum we use is called “Classical Conversations”. They provide the core educational material while we are only left to outsource our math and reading material. For my family this hasn’t proven to be an issue since I fancy myself above average in these areas.
I am not familiar with every method, but these are among the most popular approaches to homeschooling I have heard of. I encourage you to investigate each one and potentially other methods for the best fit for you and your family. I use a bit of each of these methods and mix them together to form my own working approach. (I am not an expert in the following methods and if I mis-represent something please feel free to correct me.)
This basically says let your child decide when they want to learn, and they’ll be more prone to doing so. (If I did this approach I’m sure my kids would be video game experts, maybe eventually get into coding)
For example, I use the unschooling approach when I take my kids shopping, I allow them a break from regular math to see how we, as a society, use mathematics pragmatically. Adding or subtracting values and decimals all in one shopping trip can be a fun way to un-school your kids. Using estimation, we decide approximately how much we will spend rounding up the items in the cart instead of using exact values. I create random situational examples to the kids and allow them to try and solve the problems of customers to parking space ratios. Any opportunity to bring up learning at non-conventional sites is a form of un-schooling. Minecraft is good for geometry and explaining area of rectangles and squares as well as volume. We love Minecraft lol.
The Montessori Method
A very “hands on” and creative approach to learning, particularly great for younger ones who aren’t ready to learn so formally quite yet.
When I enroll my kids in music lessons, painting, and jiu-jitsu because they have shown a certain interest or exceptional skill at that practice, I am using a Montessori method in my approach. Always encouraging them to be the best they can be in their field of interest and trying to incorporate their interests into their learning. I might use examples of varying jiu-jitsu submissions to overall competitors to discuss probability in mathematics. I use colors and paint to engage the kids’ minds on a subject they might otherwise be unwilling to try to understand. Singing songs to learn is my favorite. We often sing our multiplication tables and historical facts into parodies of nursery rhymes that prove to be a great way to memorize facts in any subject.
The Charlotte Mason Method
Basically the same as classical method but with a greater emphasis on short lessons, nature walks, field trips and more exposure to real life situations.
When I discuss photosynthesis of plants while walking our dog or stopping and discussing fungi along a trail the park I am using the Mason method. Encouraging the children to go out and discover the world as it is. Dropping knowledge in short amounts of time as little micro lessons here and there.
Taking the kids to museums of science and engaging in physical activities to learn about industry and science is another way to expose them to real life situations. Always asking relevant questions and offering answers and solutions during said experiences that can best help them learn.
The school at home
Exactly what it sounds like, mimicking school, but at home. Sit at desks, do homework, listen to teachers teach, structured time and setting.
The good old school at home method, in my opinion there is nothing more boring for the kids yet somewhat disturbingly satisfying as a parent than making your kids sit down and listen to you lecture about certain topics. Its not always boring though, sometimes it serves them well in competing against one another to see who can finish their multiplication tables first or who can write neater cursive.
I use the traditional sit down at the table and listen and take notes when I really want them to repeat a certain skill like cursive and multiplication facts (mainly for my older children, toddlers prove to be immune to consistently doing as they’re told and sitting still).
Story telling is one of my favorite things to do with my kids and I mimic my elementary librarians’ methods of sitting in a circle while I read or tell a story, the kids usually enjoy this as they can relax sprawled out on the floor with a pillow, on a bean bag or cuddled up with our Australian Shepherd as they let their imaginations engulf them into the story.
The main thing to remember is to always be engaging your child in positive conversation and present everything as a learning opportunity. Try to avoid letting their minds wander into pointless thinking, unless of course it is extremely humorous, laughing is always good, I don’t care who you are. Keeping their minds engaged and directing their thoughts to becoming purpose driven in any situation is key no matter what approaches you use.
This is a matter of preference and once you find the right method that fits your family this decision is easy. Your curriculum is basically your learning material from which you teach. We use math, reading and writing along with history and science curriculums. Science, History and Writing are all inclusive with our Classical Conversation method of homeschool we as a family have decided to use.
As for math, and reading we outsource those curriculums to a few great programs we have found to work for our kids. Our kids like to learn new things every day and kind of touchback on old concepts routinely to not forget them, so we went with the Saxon program. They provide incremental learning that is easy to teach especially if you’re like me and you know how to do math but just need a schedule to teach from. I like to teach math like a robot, nothing new really just repetition until it sticks, occasionally mixing it up with hands on activities when a concept is too hard to grasp. This is a great program, but again, it might not work for you. Find what does and stick with it.
For a reading curriculum I do not use any formal system. I read aloud to my toddlers and ask questions as I read along. My older ones I require to read chapter books. I present them various questions and require them to narrate the plot back to me. If they are reading a book I have never read, I quickly read that book (instead of watching the new Game of Thrones episodes) and formulate questions about the story line and characters. I present them verbally and discuss the book with them nonchalantly over breakfast, lunch or dinner as if we had our own little book club. You would be surprised how much you can learn form your own children simply by talking about choices characters make. It is a wonderful bonding experience to get to know them and understand how their little minds work, especially if you love books and stories like I do.
5. Time Management and Organization
This is an area where I am horrible at. I won’t even lie. I would agree that consistency is the key, in a perfect world, but when it comes to homeschool consistency gets thrown out the window in my house. With a full house of four boys and one girl, ages ranging from 1 to 11, and a 7-month-old Australian Shepherd puppy, it is a miracle my head is still on my shoulders. I’m expecting to be approached by a tv station any day now with potential offers for a reality series. That’s how it feels sometimes. Crazy.
Juggling toddler sessions and pubescent emotional attitudes while front packing my sleeping infant attempting to shush our Australian Shepherd’s ear-piercing barking, so she doesn’t wake up the baby, is the norm in the Ramirez household. Sometimes it feels like a Twilight Zone episode, in which Eddie Murphy’s Daddy Day Care meets Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, in a repeating, never ending chaotic cycle of screaming and Lego mess everywhere. When I wake up I find myself having to endure it once again, only this time I already know I have to give my five-year-old, Noah, the red bowl instead of the green one, a mistake I so ignorantly made the day prior, so he doesn’t complain for an hour straight because he is the red ninja and the red ninja eats from the red bowl. I should have known, it was so obvious. Tomorrow I’ll get it right.
As any homeschool family you find what works for you. I like to print out weekly schedules for the pubescent kids and have them work off those daily throughout the week, basically in auto pilot mode, unless I’m presenting new material which we go over together in detail (school at home method). I find the older ones a delight to teach as I can relate closer to them as actual little people. As for the little ones they need to play, a lot. After morning reading, which usually suffices their quality time, they run off and string their toys all around the house in an imaginative stupor that prevents them from realizing they’re only making a disaster. Hooray for me…
As for timed schedules, charts and calendars, I don’t do any of that, and I was never too good at keeping up with my daily agenda in advisory class either. Maybe that’s where I get it from. Like I mentioned previously, I just try and try again until I find things that work, and I implement those practices into a daily routine that works for us. Trial and error. Trial and error. Trial and error. Oh, and did I mention trial and error?
6. Extra-Curricular Activities
This is a common concern among parents considering homeschool, but it is also the simplest solution. Finding activities the kids can do is easy and the only question is whether or not you can afford it, but even in those cases there are opportunities. For my kids we will be doing soccer at the local soccer club this spring, which will be no easy task. This means including three days a week and every Saturday for three months into our already full schedule. The struggle is real, but where there’s a will there’s a way. It is a real commitment but ever since getting married to my beautiful wife many years ago, I’ve got this commitment thing in the bag. Whether my hair will be grey or brown after the fact is the true test.
There are many more other options, among some of them are; the Boys and Girls Club, local community centers that offer youth activities and organized sports, and your local YMCA. There is Karate and MMA, basketball, jiu-jitsu, music lessons and art classes, anything you can think of is available now. It is not too far out of reach.
If you can’t afford it there are options in the form of charter schools. We have found that some charter schools are willing to offer a stipend for extra-curricular activities and curriculums for your homeschool journey. So long as you cooperate with their requirements. In our case this consists of taking standardized tests once or twice a month, they will give you money to fulfill your needs. It’s a sweet deal! To get all our schooling requirements paid for would typically cost more than we could ever afford. We have truly been blessed with Silvies River Charter School.
The opportunities are out there if you look for them! Sure, sometimes we schedule a dentist appointment on the day of the big game and forget about it, what’s it to you?! It happens, get over it. Life isn’t perfect, and neither is homeschooling. Things get messy, schedules get adjusted and sometimes your socks don’t match but to suggest there are no extra-curricular activities for home-schoolers or that this is an issue, is to not have tried hard enough.
A major concern and I would argue the most relevant, about homeschooling, is whether it translates to a college accredited transition. This one can be tricky, and because I have not yet experienced this myself, as my oldest is still only in 6th grade, it is something that I have been pondering for a couple of years.
After researching I have come to understand that there are some institutions that will accept a variety of curriculums. It is up to the parent, if you want your child to continue into college, to select these curriculums and teach from them if possible.
If that isn’t an option, you can familiarize yourself with the enrollment processes and requirements of whatever school you (or child) is interested in and begin early. Racking up volunteer hours and letters of recommendation are big among enrollment boards.
If you fail at getting accepted into you preferred school based on homeschool credentials, you can always go the community college route. There is no shame in completing pre-requisite courses at community colleges prior to applying to universities. From what I have researched it is often the cheaper and the more preferred method among millennials today.
In any case, getting a head start into college is the best method, start early and know what is expected from your child as a student. I would suggest that parents talk to their children about college and assess the prospective colleges earlier rather than later in your homeschool journey. This can help financially by preparing and allocating funds as well as educationally by knowing what to study if you know what major you might be interested in.
The concern of college acceptance should not be a reason to avoid homeschool. The answers are there, and the opportunities exist so long as you search them out and don’t give up. When I am more experienced on this matter, in a few more years, I will be glad to share that information with everyone!
If you’re on the fence about homeschooling just know that you don’t have to do it alone. There are so many other families out there willing to share their experiences, stories, and resources with you, you only need to seek them out. It is a difficult undertaking, to put it lightly, but it is gratifying beyond measure.
Understanding your reasons for wanting to homeschool is the most important step of all. This is what will guide your way to sorting out each concern I have listed above. No matter what your reasons are, homeschool is not just a hobby to take lightly like spin class, yoga, or pottery. Homeschool is a big responsibility with the minds of young children, and future members of society on the line.
Future generations will look back and what will they remember? It is my hope that my children remember me as a shepherd leading his herd to safe grazing grounds. I want them to remember me and understand what it is I expect of them as children of God and what it is God expects of them. I know my reasons, and my decisions regarding homeschooling reflect those reasons, and those reasons reflect the will of God. In the end I want to leave a legacy for them, not only in the form of currency and estate, but of knowledge, understanding and wisdom rooted in the Hebrew scriptures of Yehovah.
-The NorthWest Hebrew