Saturday, August 20, 2011

Our Homeschooling Journey, Part One

Like every journey there are some things you know before you even take your first step, some things you may never understand, and lots of things you can only learn as make your own way. Likewise it's important not to be afraid to stop and ask for directions from those more familiar with the territory. It's also important not to be afraid to get off the beaten path every now and again and explore uncharted realms. This is the story of the first leg of our homeschooling journey.

Homeschooling is something that is relatively new to us. I'm not sure I'd even heard of homeschooling when I first had Keeleigh and I only ever knew two or three people who were homeschooled before we moved to New Orleans. Our family was blessed in that Keeleigh was able to stay at home with my mom who taught her a lot during their days together then she started kindergarten at a small private Christian school in our hometown. It wasn't until she was in 2nd grade, I believe, and I'd just had Jathan that I felt God was leading me toward something different. I had a new little baby at home and could not bear to leave him. Fortunately I worked in a position that I was able to take him to work with me for several months. It was during this time that I began to pray that God would allow me to be a stay-at-home mother.

Keeleigh was doing very well at school as she always has and I guess that--and, you know, an infant and my job--made me lax about becoming involved in her school work. One day I checked her take-home folder and found that she'd missed a spelling word or two on her test that week. It wasn't a bad grade by any means but she could have made a perfect score with some help and encouragement from me, I knew. It bothered me most of all because I had not even looked at her spelling list that week. This is a second grade spelling list, I thought, what else am I going to miss?

Soon after that God impressed Deuteronomy 6:4-8 on my heart. It says, "4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. [2] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

I knew that it was MY responsibility to see to it that my children were taught certain things first and foremost being God's Word. I felt like God was letting me know that however my children were schooled they were still MY responsibility and I would answer to Him for what they learned, good or bad. I know that public school or private school is the very best thing for some children/families and I certainly don't think it's impossible for your children to learn all the good things they need to if they're not homeschooled. But I knew that I could not trust myself to be diligent in making sure Keeleigh and my future children were doing their very best and learning all that they should if I was away from them for 8+ hours a day. It made a lot of sense to me that God had said I should teach my children at all different times in all different places from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep. Then, I thought, I would feel the full weight of my responsibility and take it more seriously.

I prayed even more earnestly that God would provide a way for me to stay at home and then He let us know that He wanted us to move to New Orleans for Jackie to complete his master's degree. That was not exactly what I had in mind but you know what? It has been an absolutely amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Through this I have been able to stay at home and begin homeschooling which was my heart's desire. Don't get me wrong, it has not been easy and I certainly do feel the full weight of my responsibility now. But I'm glad because now weak areas are more obvious to me. Not only do I know what words Keeleigh can and can't spell, I know the daily goings-on of her life. I know what character traits she needs to work on and I know how to pray for her spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental growth. I'm learning slowly but surely how every moment is a teaching moment--something that is true whether you consider yourself an "official" homeschooler or not...if you have children then you "homeschool" them to some extent! We learn our reading, writing, and arithmetic, and we learn how God wants us to behave and how He would have us manage our lives. I say "we" because I definitely think I'm still learning as well--that perhaps that's why God wanted me to homeschool because He knew it would mature me in ways that nothing else would.

I don't expect my children will turn out perfectly because I do this. I know that they are just people, sinners like the rest of us, and that they will make mistakes and have to figure some things out by themselves. But I do want to give them their best chance at success and, for us, that meant homeschooling.

It's my hope that someone will read this who might be considering being a stay at home mother or homeschooling but doesn't know how to begin or even someone who has never even considered it because they didn't know it was a possibility. To that person I want to say, it is possible! The place to begin is in prayer. Let God know what your thinking or how you're feeling and trust Him 100%. God answered my prayer with a "yes" and made the way for us in a very unusual way (so typically Him, don't you think?)--He moved us 450 miles away from the only home we'd ever known and He cut our finances in half (or more). Life became simpler in some ways and more complicated in others and we became distinctly aware of our true dependence on Him. We've made sacrifices and we've cried tears and we've been frustrated and said words we wish we could take back. But I know that it has been completely worth it and that we're getting better at this everyday and through this we're strengthening our Christian walk as well.

The NOBTS campus has been an absolutely wonderful place to begin our homeschooling journey because there is such a support group here. Our children definitely don't suffer from lack of socialization! There is a PE class and other classes where they can take advantage of other parents and friends' teaching talents. There is a resource room where we can borrow books. And there are moms who are always willing to help you or at least say, "I understand." I'm so glad this is where I've been able to get my feet wet.

School will be starting Monday here at the Combs Christian Academy and this year we are doing something a little different. This is the first year I've felt confident enough to branch out, to choose an incredibly different curriculum (KONOS) than we've ever used before. We'll be forgoing text books in some subjects and reading "real" books. We'll be doing an incredible amount of hands-on learning including experiments and field trips. I honestly cannot wait because I know this fits my personality and Keeleigh's personality so well! And that's possibly one of my favorite things about homeschooling, that you can tailor it to meet your needs and your child's needs and learning style so that true learning takes place and a love of learning is fostered. So stay tuned for lots of picture posts about our adventures this year!

1 comment:

  1. love what you said about it being a learning experience for you as well- knowing that God is using this to teach and grow not only your children but you as well. I also like how you say we all "homeschool" to some extent. From the day our children are born, we begin teaching. (how to act, how to pray, how to behave, how to love, how to forgive, etc) Ben always encourages me to seize those "teachable" moments and like you say- they abound everyday! love your posts and ideas!