Monday, May 30, 2011

Why we have and are still homeschooling

You know, I've never blogged about homeschooling least not that I can remember.  Oh - I've mentioned that we homeschool and some things that we've done in our schooling, but never the why and wherefores...and I was just "interviewed", kind of, by a sweet young lady for a paper she is writing about homeschooling (I am assuming she's writing it for a class as she's taking at the community college)...and I thought, why not share this on my blog - I love using something I've already written for my blog!~  So here are the questions she asked me and my responses:

Why did you decide to homeschool?

I went to a small Christian school growing up, but the peer pressure and clicks were so terrible - I didn't want to put my kids through any of that. Even if they would be "popular" I think it really damaged kid's mental outlook no matter where you are in the popularity contests.
And, as a Christian, I felt that it was not appropriate to place our children under the authority of our godless public school system and be taught things (like evolution) that are contrary to our beliefs.

What are the advantages?

I maintain a solid relationship with my children, I remain their authority 24/7, I don't have to retrain them when they come home from school with mis-information, bad attitudes or bad influences. I control what they learn and how they learn it. I can control who influences them, and who doesn't. The biggest things are what they don't learn - swearing, disrespect, to honor their peers above adults, drugs, premarital sex, promiscuous dating, taste for indecent fashions, to name a few...
What does it take to homeschool? (patience, time, etc)

It takes a determination to do what we, as parents are called to do by God, are held responsible to do...teach and train our children - to "train them up in the way they should go, and they will not depart from it" and the Bible also says "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. .... Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
I believe God wants us to saturate our children with the Word of God, and a scholastic education comes secondary - it's very important, but I would rather have a child who is a janitor that loves the Lord and serves Him all his days, than a rocket scientist who has not love for God...
So, in short, homeschooling takes a willing heart, an attitude of dependence on God for grace and the determination to do what is right for your child, regardless of the difficulties (homeschooling is not easy and many parents give up after a year of two, but the rewards for diligence are beyond measure)

(I forgot to mention to her that patience is not a pre-requisite, but that is comes as a by-product!)

How did you get started? (money, special degree, were there starter "kits" of some sort?)

 I just did not ever send my kids to school - started with a reading program and some math textbooks, pencils, paper and as we needed something, I'd research it and try to figure out what would fit my teaching style and the child's learning style and try it out. Somethings worked great, others we tossed...even now, after 18 years of homeschooling, I trying new things and no longer used some things that I thought were gold 10 years ago!
I did acquire an AA in general studies with an emphasis in music (took one course in teaching and decided right there that I was never going to be a teacher! Ha!). The only way that has helped me is that by Washington State law, if you have an AA you can test your children yourself, without supervision...that is a plus - but I wouldn't recommend going through the hassle of getting an AA just so you can test your kids - it wouldn't be worth it (I consider my college education as a phenomenal waste of time and money...I remember almost nothing and the environment, even at a Christian college, was not uplifting or encouraging to good morals!)

**I'd like to add that at times I have used full curriculum from Alpha Omega Publishing, both their life pacts work books and their fully computerized Switched On Schoolhouse, but these have not always worked well for my usually we are doing a little of this and a little of each child learns differently!

What differences do you see between homeschooling and public schooling?

The differences are vast, and noticeable with most kids almost immediately.
Children that attend traditional schools of any kids relate best to children their age, have difficulty engaging adults in conversation, have little or no work ethic, and usually show disrespect to their parents in public (in private even more, I suspect). They are controlled/entertained all day long and lose their creativity and imagination, to say nothing of losing the joy of learning. They come to believe the the world revolves around them and their needs and lose the ability to see other's needs and desire to help others. They also disdain to be seen with their parents, and doing things as a family once they reach junior high is considered of the lowest importance...they would rather spend time with their school friends than with their parents and siblings. Sibling rivalry is the norm, and teasing/tormenting younger siblings is a rite of passage. Granted, these are generalizations and there are a few wonderful kids out there who turn out to be wonderful young adults, but they are few and far between! 

Homeschool children in general, on the other hand, have a strong family bond, and spend most of their time with their siblings. They learn to interact with those younger than themselves, and those older than themselves. Most homeschool children that I know have close friends that are as much as 4 - 5 years older or younger than they are and see nothing wrong with this. Homeschool children, for the most part, are adapt at conversing with adults, have time to develop their unique talents and use them to bless their families. When a family home-schools, the children are usually involved with the day to day workings of a home, so they learn to WORK - washing dishes, sweeping, mopping, changing diapers...serving others. 

They learn the skills of keeping a home running, caring for little ones, serving older ones...and just plain having fun together! 

For many children, homeschooling allows them to learn at their own pace - and this means more thorough learning, and in most cases, faster learning....homeschooled children consistently out-score public and private school kids in tests across the nation and around the world (and it is consistently regardless of the parents education too).
Homeschooled children can also accomplish so much more than children in school - they can learn what an average student learns in 6 hours of typical school, in just a couple of hours and have the rest of the day to be creative or learn more faster! (Have you ever had to do your schoolwork from home due to illness and found that you could to the work of several days in just a few hours???) They can also devote that extra time to developing their talents or volunteering in the community or playing

***I'd like to add, that I realize that while I was making generalizations that might offend some, I am  speaking from my personal experience with home schooled children, and those who have been sent to public or private schools...there are exceptions of course...

She had said I could keep my answers short, 2 - 3 sentence answers...but I just can't do it...there's so much to much to share!  

I've been homeschooling for 18 years, and I have never been so sure that it is THE BEST education for EVERY child...I know that for many families this is not possible, and so many families are hurting or broken, but that doesn't change the fact that homeschooling a child is still the best possible education that child could ever get.  I know of single moms who homeschool their children, I know of families in the middle of separation who are homeschooling, I know of blended families who are homeschooling, I know of parents who never finished junior high who did/are doing a great job of homeschooling!  I even know of many families where an aunt or grandmother does the homeschooling!  I my hats off to the many foster parents I know who are homeschooling children that have been rightfully removed from their homes and placed into the foster home, and they are being homeschooled even then!  

If you don't homeschool your children, this might make you feel guilty, and I might be stepping on your toes...good.  I think every parent should at least consider making the SACRIFICE to teach keep their children home.  

Romans 12:1 - 2 : Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Yes, it is a takes time, it takes determination, it takes diligence, and it takes also takes keeping your children home - playing with their toys, making messes, doing their cleaning jobs like kids...but I'd rather work with my kids to keep our home running smoothly, than clean my house perfectly every day and have to clean up the messy attitudes and influences when they come home from school.

So, you put your kids in a Christian School....does that exempt you from the guilt of not homeschooling your children?  Well, think about this...are all the children in that school Christians?  Do your children pick up bad attitudes/disrespect from their peers?  Is there no peer pressure to date/do drugs/go drinking/swear/dress immodestly?  If you said that your child does not encounter those problems while going to a Christian school, you are in a dream world and you had better wake up.  I went to a Christian school, I know friends of mine who sent their kids to local Christian schools...and I've seen the change...I've heard the reports...drug abuse and social stress are more rampant there than in public school...sure their teachers are "Christians" and their curriculum is (or at least should be) based on Biblical truths...but children in school become peer dependent and children are not little Christians just because they go to a Christian school.

Ok, so you are about to send me "hate mail"  I know it's coming...I know I know I know...but it's what I believe, and I just want to shake you out or your comfort zone and consider that choices you have made and are making in regards to your children's education.  Is it really the best choice for your child, or is it the best choice for you?

Is it too late?  I don't think so, as long as your child is still school-aged, and you feel that God is calling you to homeschool your child, it's never too late to invest in the life of your child.  Will it be easy?  NO - taking your child out of school does not take the school out of your will take time and lots of patience...but it will be worth it all if you can redeem the years and restore a relationship with your child and know that you are doing what God is calling you to do.

On another note, I know personally some families who have homeschooled diligently for years and have run into the proverbial "wall" with a particular child and have chosen to send them to a tutor (we did this) or to a local school in order to get that child into an environment where they can get the help they need, or to preserve the parent/child relationship...but in both cases these were children who were adopted and they are dealing with things from their past that are beyond their control, and I tip my hat to those parents for making the hard decision to do what is best for that child, even when it tears their hearts 
out to send that child to school.

An lastly, home schooling does not guarantee success or compliant children.  Our children are blessings from the Lord and we are to do the best we can with what God has given us.  We all make mistakes too, and need to seek the Lord's forgiveness for bad choices, and ask our children for forgiveness when we have wronged them.  But God is the "owner" of our children - we are only loaned our children for a time, but we are responsible for  how we care for them.  Putting a band-aid of homeschooling on your family when you are not serving the Lord with your whole heart, not supporting your husband and living a life that centers around yourself, homeschooling will not "fix" the problems in your life and home.  Look inside, make sure you have your priorities right - God first, husband second (if you have one), children sure that church/work/friends are not in the top three!  Then when you are relying on God for wisdom, daily beseeching Him for guidance, and at the same time realizing that these children are His, you can do each day what He is calling you to do and leave results up to God...

Phil 1:6 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

OK, so I am done ranting...but you have to understand that this is my life...God first, supporting my husband second, and raising my children for the Lord is third...a very big third.   I would willing sacrifice everything to continue to homeschool my children.  I have been at it for over 18 years, and probably have 18 years to go...I have failed lots of times, but I have also been joyfully rewarded through the years.  At this time, all my children love the Lord, and have chosen to follow in our footsteps when the Lord blesses them with families.  I have good relationships with all my children, and praise the Lord for His blessings on our family.  I am still learning and growing and homeschooling my children has been a major way for God to grow and stretch me in ways I could not have imagined.  I often stop and praise the Lord for calling us to home school our children right from the start, as we were and are so unworthy of this calling.

May you be blessed by what I have shared today~

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Our New Learning Curve

Looking out over the years we have been a family, I can see how, at times, God has taken us by the hand and led us into times of great learning, and then times of living out what we have learned, and then due to our human/sinful nature we slide into "the easy life" and go with the flow, usually backwards/downwards.

Our biggest time of learning and growing in the past was just before and the first years after we moved onto this property.  We learned that our home was intended to be the center of our life, cultivating a love for God and His word, and learning to be frugal, depending less and less on materialism and worldly living.  We homeschooled in earnest, we learned to bake bread and can nearly everything, raise animals, care for chickens all year long (not as easy as it sounds) and enjoy the goodness of fresh eggs, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and read books and magazines almost constantly as we learned how to function as a family in a way that was pleasing to our Lord.

We began to see that our world has lost the vision for families - dating is recreational intimacy until you finally decide that is is time to get married, "shacking up" is the best way to find out if you are compatible for marriage, marriages are not meant to last a lifetime (dating has trained us that when the going get tough, you get out), children are an accessory while they are babies, and then an inconvenience once they are toddlers and not so cute anymore, and the sooner you can get them in preschool/daycare the better, men are useless so women need to take command of their homes (and if they are useless, why keep them around once they have served their purpose and given us our children), religion is something that is there when you need it - holidays and funerals, and our sole purpose here on earth is to live for ourselves ("you deserve a break today") and so much more.

We began to see that being a Christian was a relationship with God Almighty, and that out of  our love for Him we were to seek how best to live our lives in a manner that would please Him, bring glory to His name, and allow us to enjoy Him forever.  When we began to question everything the world had taught us, and went to the Bible and wise counselors/writers we found that, as most of Jesus' teaching, the way we had been taught to view our world was backwards!  It is not about us, it is about God and others. That the years God gives us before marriage are to be purposeful - serving God, learning the skills necessary to be godly husbands/wives and godly fathers/mothers!  That God is very involved in marriage, and that He will lead and guide us to the one He has designed as our perfect counterpart, and that we should never enter into a relationship without guidance and commitment to find out if the other person is that one that God has for us! Marriage is sacred - so sacred that God says it is a view of the relationship of the body of Christ to Christ Himself!  So sacred, that we are to remain pure, both physically and emotionally, so that when we enter the covenant of marriage we come with no baggage! That children are a blessing,that God never makes mistakes and that we should rest in His sovereignty as to the children He wants to place in our family, and that they are to be taught at home by their parents every day and in all activities - God holds parents accountable for their upbringing and if we delegate that to the schools, that does not remove our accountability.  That men have the God given responsibility to lead their family, to desciple their wives and children in the way of the Lord, to protect their sons and daughters from the evil in our world, and to train their sons to be great men of God, ready to make a difference in their world for Christ.  That women have been given the responsibility to raise their daughters (and other younger women) to be godly women who understand that their roles as a wife and mother are sacred and a high calling, to be taken very seriously, not as a part time job, but as a lifetime of service for their Lord.

Over the last 16 years, we have tried to follow what the Lord has taught us, but at times the busy-ness of a growing family can wear you down, especially if you are not in a network of other believers who have made similar commitments in their lives.  I went through a severe time of loneliness and discouragement for a couple of years, and then, seven years ago, we were led by the Lord to change churches, and we have been so blessed there.  We have sat under solid, Bible based, teaching, found in others examples of what we were hoping to have in our homes, new books to read that encouraged us in our walk with the Lord and so much more.  But, then our home business started, and it seemed to take over my life and that of our family.  We were being taught at church, but our family and personal growth was stagnating and we began to lose our focus and zeal.

Then the Lord blessed us with Esther, and our lives were pushed out of our comfort zone.  We, once again, had to remind ourselves what we believed about God, our family, our mission in life and find out what God wanted us to do.  I committed myself to daily time in God's word, and praying faithfully for my husband, my children and others.   It's taken a couple of years, but the Lord is once again holding our hands and leading us in paths of learning and growing, and it feels so good and inspiring!  It's exciting!

The past two years I have read so many books that have helped me to solidify my purpose in this life - to bring glory to God, to serve and support my husband (especially in prayer), to raise my children to glorify God and prepare them for lives that are transformed by grace, and to minister to younger women, encouraging them to serve the Lord in their homes.

Last weekend was like getting an energy drink and new glasses at the same time!  We went to the Christian Heritage Homeschool Conference for the first time, and oh, how I wish we had attended past ones, but God knew what we needed and when we needed it, and oh, how we needed this!  Here are some of the things I have taken home and am working to put into action in our home now:

Deuteronomy 6: 4 - 7 is the pattern for homes - teaching God's word at all times, in all circumstances, and it is done by the parents.  This is discipleship!  No where in the Bible does it talk about "education".  While being "educated" is important to be a functional part of our society, it is second to a working knowledge of God's word and a relationship with God the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ.  If we pack our children's heads with "knowledge" yet fail to bring them to the throne of grace, we have failed indeed.  All "education" should be saturated with the Word of God, in the context of a God who created this world for us, who loved us enough to make our world amazing and beautiful, that He created us with great minds that can be used to bring Him glory, or to serve the god of this world.  Knowledge without wisdom is folly.

Romans 12:2 teaches us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed with the renewing of our minds - we are also told to take very thought captive, to think on things that are true, pure, lovely and the like.  It is so easy to let our thoughts be filled with what we have been taught in our childhood.  But we must think on what is true - compare every thought to God's word.  How has the world's philosophy, attitudes and beliefs crept into our thoughts.  Are we passing on false teachings?  Are we using the worlds methods of child rearing - behavior modification verses Godly instruction and rebuke.

Do we model a life of gratitude to God, do we handle the Word of God with reverence?  Going to God's Word in times of confusion and trials, or do we "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps"?

It was also shared at the conference that it does not matter what we bring to the table - God is more than able to use us as we are!  He just wants us to do what He has called us to do and He will equip us and His grace will "fill in the gaps"!  He has given us all that we have and we are just presenting it back to Him as an offering.  And in James God promises that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask and He will give to us abundantly!  Without reproach (with God there are no "stupid questions!" - don't you love that!)!

So, what changes are we trying to make in our home, now that we have become aware of how much more we could be doing in our homes to bring glory to God?

We are putting the reading and memorizing of scripture first and foremost in our day.  We are going to be studying the lives of great Christians in history.  We are going to try to apply scripture to our lives day in and day out.  We are going to equip our children to think through the filter of God's word, not worldly knowledge.  We are placing our family worship as the most important thing that we do each day - studying proverbs and the shorter catechism.  We are reading Pilgrims Progress together as a family in the evenings instead of watching movies.  And every morning the first activity for everyone is reading God's word and taking time in prayer, individually and together after breakfast.

I am excited to see what God will be doing in our family in the years to come.  I am excited to see what God will be doing in my heart and through our home as well.  I pray that we will not lose our fervor, that we will continue to strive towards further growth in grace, and that we will continue to become Christ-like in our lives and that through us and other families like ours, many more will see God's great design for families.

For further information:
Kevin Swanson was the keynote speaker and has a weekly radio broadcast, he also has created curriculum based on great autobiographies of Christians throughout history, and study guides/devotionals on Proverbs, psalms and some new testament books! -
Christian Heritage was the sponsor of the conference, and you can purchase CD of past classes and soon you'll be able to purchase ones from this one, they also host regional picnics in the fall:

And I'd like to leave you with the hymn we sang at the end (well, others sang while I cried)

A Christian Home
O give us homes built firm upon the Saviour,
Where Christ is Head, and Counsellor and Guide;
Where ev'ry child is taught His love and favor
And gives his heart to Christ, the crucified:
How sweet to know that tho' his footsteps waver
His faithful Lord is walking by his side!

O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers,
Who always place their hope and trust in Him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others,
And love still shines, tho' days be dark and grim.

O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master,
The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where prayer comes first in peace or in disaster,
And praise is natural speech to ev'ry tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that's vaster,
And Christ sufficient is for old and young.

O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever!
We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever
If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor:
Be Thou our Guest, our hearts and homes to share