In 1984, my world changed in ways I could never have imagined; my husband and I had our first child! Like most parents, we were thrilled and overwhelmed at the same time, and sought the best ways of bringing up our little girl. As the time approached for making a decision about the school she would attend, a little brother was on the scene. I guess most mothers fall in love with their kids, and I was no exception. The thought of sending my little ones to the local public school held no appeal at all for me–I remembered too well what it had been like when I was there, and wanted to protect my kids from that experience if at all possible.
There were some terrific private school options, but we were not wealthy and couldn’t afford them. After attending a kind of orientation/introductory session for parents interested in the very small elementary school at our church, I came home convinced that I could do as good a job as they would, if I had the right materials. My husband and I wanted to see that our kids had the opportunity to learn things we felt had been neglected in our education–a solid understanding of history, careful instruction in grammar and composition, exposure to great literature, and a high standard of excellence. We also were attracted to the thought that there might be less wasted time and more time for training the children in manners and how to perform various household tasks.
We spoke with friends we knew who were in the process of homeschooling their two children, and they seemed to really love it; not only that, but homeschooling was becoming mainstream at the time, and there was a wealth of information available about how to do it, where to get the materials, how to comply with state laws, and so on. After talking and praying about it, we decided to go for it!
From the beginning, I loved homeschooling. I could select the books we read, take the children on field trips to reinforce what they’d learned, and have more control over our schedule. There was no rush to get the lunches made in the morning, although we did have a set start time for school, and when we completed our work there was no requirement to continue sitting in a classroom.
Our clothing budget was very modest, because we weren’t required to purchase any particular kind of clothing, and if they wore the same thing twice in the same week, nobody cared. I could deal with issues of disobedience or disrespect when they occurred, help the children work through sibling issues, and allow them time to rest and play. I could customize lessons to address weaker areas while also allowing the kids more freedom to pursue things they were especially interested in.
We were not bound to the traditional school-year schedule; we could take off for our vacation in our camper in mid-October, just when the weather was crisp and cool, or visit friends in early Spring. By the same token, we could hold classes further into the Summer if we liked, or on snow days, or we could take a month off for Christmas and work through Spring Break.
We were free to teach Christianity without political correctness, and could pray together at any time of the day. The children had “quiet time” every afternoon, a period of 1-2 hours during which they had to stay in their rooms and play quietly or read. They had time every day for imaginative play outdoors, and spent hours playing with legos, playmobils, blocks, sidewalk chalk, and the swing-set, organizing ball games, pretending to be historical characters or army guys, and generally having a great time.
As a family we journeyed through many wonderful books–the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and many others. The children had their own imaginative scenarios that became standard play themes: “Lost Kids”, “Army Guys”, “Library”, “School”, “Store Lady”, and “Museum.”
As wonderful as all this was, by far the greatest benefit of homeschooling was the lasting friendships my children established with each other, and the strong bond that developed between all of us. My children to this day still call each other seeking advice and input, and look forward to spending holidays and summer vacations together. This probably won’t last forever–after all, as they each have their own families, it will be more difficult to get together, especially since they’re spread out all over the country. Nevertheless, the memories and the relationships we’ve been able to establish within our family are rooted in the time we were allowed to spend together learning, playing, and reading; our ten years of homeschooling started it all, and I would not trade them for anything!
Stay tuned for my next post: My Homeschool Odyssey, Part II: Why I Quit Homeschooling