This is the second in a series of posts answering your questions about homeschooling. The first post was answering the question about how to find friends. If you have a question, I’d love feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer it in a future post.
Today I’ll be answering Gabi’s question, “How did you start homeschooling? Was that a lot of change in your family’s life?”
It’s been almost exactly two years since I’ve answered the why question on my blog, so I bet there are a lot of people who haven’t heard my answer before. Homeschooling was something that I had always had in the back of my mind. I had a close friend and a step-sister who homeschooled, so the idea wasn’t foreign to me. When it got close to time for Brianna to start Kindergarten, however, she wanted to go to “big school.” My husband, who knew me to be a woman of grandiose plans, but with issues on the follow-through was concerned about the long-term commitment. While I would have been willing to try homeschooling, I wasn’t yet convicted about it, so we sent Brianna to school.
By the end of first grade, it was time to make a decision. Brianna was really struggling with reading (we didn’t know, at that time, that she had some dyslexia and tracking problems) and the school wasn’t sure what to do with her. “We’ll just pass her on to second grade,” they said. “She should catch up by the end of the year.”
“But what if she doesn’t,” I asked, wondering how continuing with what obviously wasn’t working was going to fix anything. “Isn’t that going to be a pretty miserable year?”
“Well, we’ll just hold her back,” they countered. “She’ll be a leader in first grade and can have another year to catch up her reading.”
“What about all the stuff that she’s not struggling with though? Math? Science? Social studies? Won’t it be boring for her to repeat all that stuff?”
Silence. We decided to go with Option C — homeschooling.
It was clear, midway through our first year homeschooling, that this was the path for us. We were able to focus on Brianna’s strengths while shoring up her weaknesses. We took a completely different approach to reading — phonics, with Sing, Spell, Read and Write, as opposed to the “whole word learning disguised as phonics” that she’d been taught in school — and in months, she was taking off, reading on grade level by the end of her second grade year.
That was in 2002 and we’ve been homeschooling ever since. Was it a big change in our family’s life? To some extent. It was an adjustment, more for Brianna and I than anyone else, to go from sending her off each morning for school to doing school at home. There wasn’t as much “that’s not how Mrs. So-and-so did it” as I expected. There were some rough moments as far as me trying to teach Brianna, as opposed to just being Mom, but I’ve often said that it really was never any worse than trying to do homework with her, as any parent who’s ever had to help a child with their homework can probably understand.
As far as our overall lifestyle, homeschooling was much easier than public school. Josh and Megan were 3 and 1 at the time. It was nice not having to drag everyone out every morning, no matter what the weather was like, to get Brianna to school. It was nice being able to live, eat, breathe, and school according to our schedule, rather than the public school schedule.
It took some time to find our groove — four years to be exact. During those first three years there was a lot of trial and error with curriculum and schedules. However, we found a good fit with math and reading early on, so I always felt that as long as those two subjects were solidly in place, everything else would fall into place and it did.
About January of our first year, Brianna announced that she wanted to go back to public school. We sat down and discussed that and worked our way through it. Now, Brianna will be the first to tell you how much she loves homeschooling and that she has no desire to return to public school.
So, yes, there were some aspects that were a big adjustment, such as redefining the parent/teacher/student/child roles, but other things, such as meshing the homeschooling part of our days with the living life together as a family part of our days seemed to happen pretty quickly. There are some things that I wish I could go back and change. I’ll admit that it took me a couple of years for me to loosen up and let go of that public school image of learning and realize that our homeschool doesn’t have to mimic a classroom to be effective. Just ask the people who knew me back then.
Was homeschooling a big change for our family? Without a doubt. When I try to imagine our lives without homeschooling, I can’t. We have a teenager who, for the most part, enjoys spending time with her family. We have a family that is together 90% of the time. Yes, there is bickering among the kids, but they love each other and they’re friends.
I pointed out to the kids recently that if they were in public school, all five of us would be somewhere different for the majority of the day — my youngest would be in elementary school, my son in middle school, my oldest in high school, mom at home, and dad at work. I can’t imagine how that would affect our family life and I don’t want to. We began homeschooling for academic reasons, but we have discovered that homeschooling is about so much more than just an education. It’s a lifestyle of living and learning together and I wouldn’t trade these few precious years of having our family together for anything.
What about you? What ultimately led your family to choose homeschooling? Was it a big adjustment for your family?
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.