A while back, a friend asked me a bunch of questions about Homeschooling. I have put my answers here on this page so more people can see why and how we homeschool here at Brazos Wood Academy! We are thrilled that God has given us the ability, the drive, and the freedom to teach our children in this manner! After 21 years, we are still loving it!! (the two of us left!! teehee!!) Be forewarned…this is a long post!!
(Our family back in 2010)
(Our family Christmas 2016)
We decided to homeschool when our oldest was a baby, a little over 23 years ago. We knew we wanted to investigate it a little further, and then my husband took a job teaching orchestra in the Baytown area. When he came home and told me about a vice principal taking an oozie off of a kid, we talked seriously about making this a full commitment.
So when Cora was 2 years old, I just started “playing school” with her. We did a letter a week and learned the alphabet. We did stuff like use Bible characters to learn the letters, lots of arts and crafts with the letters, and so on and so forth. Really just play. And we read book after book. At three she started really loving the idea of school, so I found an awesome reader from A Beka (A Handbook for Reading) and worked on her phonics with that. She broke the reading code at 3 years and hasn’t stopped reading since.
When Donnie and I got married, we were on a track to be full time musicians and we realized we would probably be poor! LOL!! So in our minds, i think, private school was out. And after our public school experience, there was no way I was going to subject my kids to that, for several different reasons – guns aside!! LOL!
1. Texas, although it is a relatively conservative state, still has taken God out of all of its education. Evolution is the standard in the history of the world. Math, English, and especially science are completely devoid of God in public education. When I started really researching homeschooling, most people did it so that they could teach their children all about the world from God’s perspective. That really appealed to me.
2. When Donnie taught in that Baytown high school, he found that the actual quality of education was soooo low!! He would speak to his kids with his normal vocabulary, and they literally could not understand him. He had to show them where the dictionary was!! LOL!! Our standard for education is high. We want our kids to learn how to learn first and foremost, so they can succeed at anything they put their mind to. And we want to do anything we can to create an atmosphere where they succeed. Homeschooling affords that luxury in our house.
3. We also want to socialize our children ourselves. That means that they are not learning their core values from a classroom of peers their same age with parents of differing core values than us. We don’t want to remove them from “the world”; we just want to train them in the way that they should go first. I want to have all of that time daily to really be able to get in there and work out the issues before the situations come about out in the real world.
Those are our three main reasons for homeschooling.
My kids have never been to public school. I think they would like to try it for a day, but honestly, I don’t think they could get up that early!! teeheee!! that’s really reason #4…so I don’t have to get up early!! I don’t know how I made it through the baby-getting-up-early years…I’m always a late sleeper in the morning!!
Now, to continue my story about Cora:
When she was three, I started her with this really fantastic curriculum that I always highly recommend for preschoolers, including kindergarten. It’s called Five in a Row, and their web site is http://www.fiveinarow.com/. It is a literature-based curriculum and uses the absolute best children’s books out there!! I adore it! It really helped me transition from just playing to actually homeschooling. Amazing!!
Honestly, though, my son really didn’t get into it. When Cora was 3.5, Quentin was born. And he’s a real boy…not really into school, academics, but he is into sports BIG time!! And with him being a boy, I stressed about him learning for about half a year and then thought, he’ll pick it up eventually. I don’t want him to hate school. Let’s just ease him into it!! He could read well when he was 7 and his math skills have always been pretty good. But he is still all boy!! and he has to be moving all the time!! LOL!!
My next darling is Emma, who is almost exactly 2 years younger than Quentin, and then my youngest, Lillian, is 2 years younger than Emma. So each time I had a baby, school slowed down a bit, but I tried to keep giving Cora a lot of books, and I tried to keep Quentin focused on something!! They’ve done great so far. Even through our most traumatic time of Lillian’s birth, we had wonderful family and friends who kept the other three kiddos going, even though I was completely out of commission for a month. (see the whole story here: LillianClar) So we had some hiccups in school, but I tried to continue through the summers to make up for stuff.
For the bulk of the kids’ education, we used an approach to hsing that is called the Classical Approach. You can read all about that (cause i don’t really explain it all that well…and i’ve already written you a book! LOL!) here at http://welltrainedmind.com/. Susan Wise Bauer wrote that book, the Well Trained Mind, and I tended to follow her plan loosely. It’s a bit overwhelming at first…well, homeschooling in general is a LOT overwhelming at first.
I also found a great curriculum to complement this approach called Tapestry of Grace. http://tapestryofgrace.com/
It covers History, Literature, Writing, and Geography (philosophy and government for high school students, too). It is broken up into four different levels that you can choose for your child. But all of the levels are learning the same information. It is fabulous, fabulous! And all of my kids learned the same thing in these subjects (mainly history…that is the core of our learning) at their own levels. AND I could pick and choose whatever I want to do…because I’m the mom!!
Honestly, after 21 years of doing this, here’s what I’ve really learned:
*Homeschooling is the best option for my family because it offers me the opportunity to teach my children what they need to know to succeed in the real world in a Godly perspective.
*I am the mom and I, with Mr Gorgeous, can choose what we learn and how we learn it. Now, I followed the Texas State Board of Ed’s requirements for high school graduation for my three that have graduated. But my goal is for them to learn how to learn, so when they are in college and out in real life, they will do what God wants them to!!
*All four of my kids learn differently, so I have learned to stay flexible and try to figure out (kinda like a puzzle) what will draw the best out of them!!
For example, we were learning about the American Revolution for the last three weeks of school several years ago, and I could tell they were losing it. They didn’t want to do school at all…they would read their stuff, but I hadn’t really given them tests or anything, so I wasn’t sure they were retaining any of the information. So I had Cora, my writer, write a play. I had Quentin, my drama king!!, play five different historical figures. I had Lillian and Emma, (all four are very dramatic!!) memorize parts of Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. It was a hit!! I’ll tell you what. They will all remember those historical figures and the stories and the big picture context, too!
This right here is what I LOVE about homeschooling…no one told me what to do or what to say to the kids. I just used their strengths to strengthen their knowledge! It’s awesome when it works!! for sure!
This year (2017-18), my youngest and I have maneuvered a wild ride trying out a bunch of different ideas. She has severe ADHD, and she has compensated for as long as she could without failing too much. But last year we had so many struggles due to this diagnosis that this year, I needed something new that didn’t contribute to her anxiety. We’ve found an online curriculum from Alpha Omega called Monarch that we use. It’s extremely structured and is great for her expectations. I can change around assignments when I need to. And it holds to our Christian worldview.
Again, as I’ve said through this whole article, we want our kiddos to be able to learn on their own and take care of themselves when they are out of the house so they can do the will of the Lord. Let’s figure out how we manage ourselves. We still have core studies. There are basic math facts and the Bible for History. Lil is not really a reader, but she has to read chapters of a novel every day. She has made it through two books already this year. For a non-reader, this is a huge win!! She writes everyday, and she is playing the piano every day. She has to cook for us once a week, and we’re working up to her planning the menu and grocery shopping.
I’m thrilled with the ability to hone the basic skills so that if she does want to go to college, she will have the study skills and self-management that is so hard for kids who have ADHD. It’s a whole new world out there!!
Now, for the pitfalls of homeschooling…
There are days that you want to run away from home! lots of days like that! But I found that, because I made a commitment in my heart before I really got started to see this thing through all of my kids graduating from high school, it makes it a bit easier to take it all!! Three more years!!!
I found that when I was the most irritated, it was because I just wanted to have my ME time!! So if you take care of yourself and give yourself space…I know that’s easy for me to say since I don’t have babies right now, but it is a must do for ALL moms!!! I kinda cringe at the words “self-care”, but, my friends, it’s a thing! Do it.
Another thing is that not everyone is going to support you. Especially teachers…they are not excited about homeschooling. It threatens their life’s work and purpose. I get that. I’m just not going to sacrifice my kids for someone else’s calling. Of course, not all teachers feel that way…especially when you walk up with perfect children!! LOL!!
And another pitfall is the whole sitting still thing. I’m still not sure if I am pro-boys sitting still…LOL!! But my son is a calm one, so I don’t really have to worry about that right now. They do have to sit through church and focus.
As far as other activites, my kids all did gymnastics. Quentin and Emma did it competitively. Quentin also played football on a team for 5 years. Emma did soccer. Cora and Lillian did theater. And everyone has participated in our worship team at church. There is an active youth group at church that all of my kids participated in. My younger two are still a strong part of that growing group.
We also have a strong church community in which most of us homeschool, so we got together quite often when the kids were younger. As my youngest is still at home, we are so thankful for that group of families that have grown up with us their whole lives.
Overall, we are busy and crazy, but because we have God at the center, we try to focus on what’s important. I have a hard time living miserably, so I’m going to find the most fun way to do something!! LOL!! Even if the kids don’t think it’s fun…if I do, we’re doing it!! ahahahahahah!! I think if I just use the words, “Field Trip!!” and promise them lunch out, they’ll be just fine, right???