Summertime. Stock-taking Time.

The Hillbilly Homeschool for Jesus finds itself at the end of another “school year”.

It’s not the end, really, just a transition to the summer portion of the school year, with a little less math and a lot more sunshine. Also, I don’t have to document attendance for a while. I may have time to blog! The coming year will be my firstborn’s last year of secondary education.  We’re about to launch one, y’all! And it makes me all kinds of nervous.

Is this arrow straight and properly fletched? Did we aim well? Will it hit its target? 

And what was its target? I’ve been doing this day in and day out for so long I can scarcely remember the beginning. I went looking through the archives of GAH 1.0 to try and recover what exactly I was thinking when I started this homeschooling thing. One thing that won’t surprise old-time readers of my blog is that I am not nearly as cocksure of everything as I was when I started out. I have a lot more wisdom now, but also a much better awareness of my limitations.

Did my reasons for homeschooling change? Nope. Thank God, we started out with a firm purpose. If anything, our motivations have become more fervent than ever. We’re at the end of one child’s upbringing, but there are seven more behind that one, and some have barely learned to hold a pencil yet. I have twelve more years of this to do. I’d better be sure of why I’m doing it.

I had all the usual educational and God-honoring reasons for homeschooling, but I also had the lifestyle reason:

All the pointless bustling about from place to place kept me from ever really knowing my family. And it kept them from knowing me. Most importantly, it kept me from knowing God. Church was just another place we had to hurry to get to. My parents were just the people who made me go there. God was just something you do when you aren’t doing something else.
I don’t want to live that way, and I really, really don’t want my kids to live that way. So that’s why we homeschool, in a nutshell: so we can take our time and get it right.

I see a lot of newer homeschoolers (and man, there are a lot of new homeschoolers now) making the mistake of trying to make homeschooling something they do anywhere but home. Lessons here, sports there, competitions everywhere. I’m not saying they’ll get a poor education this way, especially if they’re of the more extroverted kind. In fact, they may get a superior “education”. But there are non-academic needs that can go unfulfilled when we allow ourselves be driven by sports schedules and co-op obligations. But if I have any regrets at all–and I’m not sure I do–they are related to our lack of collaboration with other homeschoolers. The community is important.

If other families are motivated by the outside stuff, then they should do it with all gusto, and I don’t want anyone to take me to be saying otherwise. But I fear that in the mainstreaming of homeschooling, the “home” part is falling by the wayside. For many, the co-op way might be more fun. The sports may be an integral part of what your children need. Having eyes on your family by other, likeminded people, will certainly be more reassuring than doing it on your own. Do these things!

But don’t neglect the quiet of the home, parents. The fact that my children are able to feel safe, peaceful, unhurried, productive, and purposeful in our home, rather than only rushing around outside of it, looking to the outside world for approval and direction, will make them far more capable as adults of ordering their lives without too much regard for worldly expectations.

Too much time spent away from home, even when the whole family is together, will make your house a lifeless place you only go when there’s nothing important to do.

Don’t spend so much time running around that your children have no time to think, no time to wander aimlessly, no time to ask you those small, easy-to-skip-over questions, the answers to which build up to a whole world view. It is, after all, their hearts that you’re after. It takes time to nurture hearts, and that time needs to be quiet and private if you want them to grow well.

Another purpose that we had in homeschooling was, of course, to train our children in discerning the times and choosing the Godly path.

In, Naive, Unworldly Homeschoolers, I scoffed at the idea that my children wouldn’t know how to deal with the world:

The basis of the “real world” complaint seems to be that if a child doesn’t go to a public school, he won’t learn how to be pure in the face of the sin of others. Exposure to bullies, peer pressure, drugs, anti-Christian authority figures and curriculum, and any number of other spiritually unhealthy things that children must face every day in public schools are, in this argument, held up as necessary way stations on the road to maturity.  And I admit, that line of reasoning sounds really compelling at first. After all, practice makes perfect! It’s right there in the Bible where it says…um…no.

 

I can’t find anything that points to the soundness of having your children exposed to wrongdoing from early on so that they can resist worldliness. While there is nothing there about the benefits of exposing children to “diverse” worldviews, there is much about the perils of casting stumbling blocks before the weak and malleable souls of children.

I still believe this, whole-heartedly. I’m watching my friends’ children, both homeschooled and public schooled, begin to grapple with the world as it has been presented to them. My heart aches when I compare one set of young adults to the other.

They all, whether public- or home-schooled, peer anxiously into the doorway of the adult world that they’re expected to enter and have no idea where they fit into it. They’re all going off to college and work, vulnerable and clueless, eager, the perfect mark for those who would take advantage of their naiveté. They all experience the same hopes and fears.

But I’ve noticed that only one set is able to smile at me with a whole-hearted smile. There’s a shadow behind the smiles of the other set. 

One set has a clear idea of what will give them peace in life. The other set is burdened with knowledge of things that shouldn’t even be talked about by decent people. The homeschooled set isn’t ignorant of sin, or of the zeitgeist. I talk about what we see out there with my kids often, and they view it all through a Biblical lens. They know, at age-appropriate levels, about abortion, sexual sins, drugs, and anything else you care to throw at them. They have a very good understanding of the world, and they know who their Enemy is.

They’ll make mistakes when interacting with the world, absolutely, but I have no fear that they’ll come to view dysfunction as a perfectly unobjectionable “lifestyle”. If they turn from Christ to follow the world, it will not be because they were raised in ignorance of these things, but because they are actively rejecting the Truth. (Oh, pray for the children!)

One set of kids has been assaulted daily with the message that they should not only not reject sinful urges, but that they should embrace it as a vital part of their very identity. While their Christian parents have sincerely done as much as they could on nights and weekends to teach them correctly, their fragile souls have been torn in two by the Enemy, who has had every useful hour of every day to indoctrinate them in his twisted ways for the last 12 years. It has taken a toll, and I grieve for their loss of innocence.

I’m not speaking only of the massive push for sexual sin to be embraced. Gay pride is certainly the most brazen manifestation of Satanic pressure those kids are feeling, but it started much more subtly, long ago, with the idea that parents are just biological units meant to keep a child materially alive while the government (and the church, frankly) is in the best position to teach children everything they need to know. We have been taught for generations to “honor thy authorities”, instead of thy father and mother. When I was in school, there were some aspects of our lives that we just knew (because the schools deliberately planted this seed in our hearts) that mom and dad couldn’t be trusted to understand. It has only gotten worse in the last 20 years.

As much as I am talking about the sexual license and confusion, I’m even more talking about the “milder” sins of disobedience to and contempt for parents, alienation from family as a lesser social group. Without that cultural violation of the fifth commandment, none of these more demonic manifestations could have been allowed to grow.

Now these young adults enter a very dangerous world, and only one set of them realizes that their parents are their best allies. The other set enters it thinking that they are alone.

In another post, Homeschooled Kid Grows Up, I wrote this:

(G)ood parents don’t raise their children in fear of how those children will judge them in the future, but in the loving hope that they’re making the right decisions

And, I will admit that this is the one that keeps me up at night.

What if my children don’t appreciate what I’ve done here? I do not raise my children with an eye toward pleasing Man, even when that Man is my grown-up son. As I told my friend the other day, there are holes in my parenting, and in their formal education, that you could drive a truck through. I know that what I’ve done isn’t enough. It can never be enough. I hate to break this to you, if you’ve even had the stamina to keep reading a post this long, but you aren’t going to be able to do enough for your children, either.

We can all only make an honest effort, taking into account our limitations. God has to fill in the gaps.

I don’t really know how to end this thing. I just wanted to reminisce a little bit and consider what the next twelve years of homeschooling will look like for our family, and whether I want to change anything based on what I’m observing in my (gulp) young adult offspring. As we graduate this one, we’ll be beginning phonics with our youngest. We have a lot of years left to see how these things turn out, and I hope the younger set can benefit from whatever we’ve learned with the older ones. I begin this last year of education for this child with only one panicky thought:

What did I screw up, and is one year enough time to fix it?

Homeschooled Kid Grows Up, Disagrees With Parents

This is a repost from Get Along Home, written October 24, 2011

Obviously, the brainwashing wasn’t effective

A while back, Arby, at The Homeschool Apologist, addressed an article by a homeschooled anti-homeschooler. It’s a good post, and defends homeschooling pretty well, but I think that he concedes too much in even addressing whether or not the now-grown Libby Anne’s parents were correct in their method of raising her. Frankly, the issue is less about whether her “quiverfull”  parents were damaging their children by homeschooling than it is about whether or not they even have a right to believe as they do.

Though Libby Anne’s parents don’t actually identify with the “quiverfull” movement, she gives them the moniker in order to streamline the stereotyping process. She then proceeds to explain, with an apparently straight face, that even though they raised her quite well, they shouldn’t have been allowed to do so because the rest of the “normal” people do it differently. But whether they should have raised their children according to such rigidly “traditional” roles, is neither here nor there, in my opinion. We can have that conversation some other time.

The real question isn’t, Should people with weird lifestyles be allowed to homeschool?, but the more basic Do parents have a right to get it wrong? And I think the answer is yes. I’ve gotten all kinds of flack for saying that in the past, but it’s true. Parents have a right to screw up without interference. If they don’t, then we’d better all hand our kids over to the “experts” right now—the ones who teach your sixth graders these kinds of things–because not one of us is going to raise our children to adulthood without making some bad calls in good faith. Might as well make sure they’re all screwed up in the same, state-sanctioned ways, I guess! I know several adults whose parents did horrible things to them—divorce, exposure to pornography and violence on television, emotional neglect—but they were culturally “normal”, so no one questioned their right to do these things.

But when a family has the nerve to set out on a culturally unusual path and one of their children ends up disagreeing with them, even though that child was never abandoned or abused—was in fact loved and educated and treated quite well—well, that is a bridge too far!

Libby Anne admits that her childhood was happy, just not “normal”. Her main problem seems to be that she was taught to do menial chores like housework and taking care of siblings (you know, stuff that feminism tells us is beneath any sentient human being). She went to college, apparently with her parents’ blessing and financial support, but complains that her parents didn’t really want her to be educated because she was a woman suited only for being inside the home! They gave her responsibility instead of treating her like an overgrown child like the “normal” teenagers! They had the nerve to think that dating is a dysfunctional way to find a mate and hope for better things for their daughter!

Libby Anne’s parents committed the astounding crime of actually believing the things they said they believed. So much so that they taught it to their own children. I know! String ‘em up!

It sounds to me like Libby Anne’s parents did a smashing job. She’s a well-educated, articulate young woman who expresses herself quite adequately. The worst thing she can find to say about her parents is that they weren’t hypocrites. In keeping with their Biblical beliefs, they raised their children against the grain of the culture—never an easy thing to do. Her real problem isn’t with homeschooling, but that she wishes her parents had intentionally raised her to disagree with them. What kind of parent does that?

Perhaps someday Libby Anne will have a child of her own and know that good parents don’t raise their children in fear of how those children will judge them in the future, but in the loving hope that they’re making the right decisions. (Apparently I misread. She does have a child, and still doesn’t see what’s wrong with her attitude toward her own parents.) Libby Anne’s entire argument seems to be that her parents really believed all that Jesus stuff, and they shouldn’t have been allowed to teach their children what they believed without interference from the state.  I wonder how Libby Anne would feel if she lived in an actual Christian nation where the schools reflected Christian beliefs? She might possibly wish to take advantage of the right to homeschool her children so she could teach them differently, then, mightn’t she?

Reading the article, I kept wondering how I’d feel if it were my child turning against me in such a public way. What if one (or more) of my children grows up to not only disagree with my decision to homeschool him, but to actively oppose the rights of parents to oversee the education of their own children in this way? Is there anything I can do to keep this from happening? Unfortunately, I don’t think there is.

I can’t raise my children according what someone else believes, and neither could Libby Anne’s parents. She faults them for homeschooling her because she wishes that she’d been raised by people who agree with her adult self. But how could any loving parent send his child to be taught things that he believes are wrong, out of nothing more than fear of that child judging him later on?

Congratulations, Libby Anne. You finally fit in with the rest of the secular culture you’ve longed to join. You no longer even understand the most basic human liberty—freedom of religion.

Naïve, Unworldly Homeschoolers

This is a repost from Get Along Home, written December 19, 2012

In any discussion with critics of home education, the objection will eventually crop up that “homeschoolers won’t know how to deal with the real world when they’re grown.”

It seems safe to assume that those who raise this objection aren’t worried that homeschooled children won’t be able to figure out how to buy groceries, drive a car, or effectively conduct personal business, given the fact that they are raised by people who do these things right in front of them every day.

Instead, the questioner seems most of the time to be referring to the cultural and moral differences between Christian homes and the non-Christian public schools. The objection could be accurately restated as “Homeschoolers will see so little of the brazen sinfulness of mainstream American culture that they will be shocked into helpless paralysis at the sight of {insert popular but blatantly sinful and unbiblical behavior or attitude here}. As if Good were such a weak little thing that the first whiff it gets of Evil will cause it to clutch its girly skirts and faint!

The basis of the “real world” complaint seems to be that if a child doesn’t go to a public school, he won’t learn how to be pure in the face of the sin of others. Exposure to bullies, peer pressure, drugs, anti-Christian authority figures and curriculum, and any number of other spiritually unhealthy things that children must face every day in public schools are, in this argument, held up as necessary way stations on the road to maturity.  And I admit, that line of reasoning sounds really compelling at first. After all, practice makes perfect! It’s right there in the Bible where it says…um…no.

I can’t find anything that points to the soundness of having your children exposed to wrongdoing from early on so that they can resist worldliness. While there is nothing there about the benefits of exposing children to “diverse” worldviews, there is much about the perils of casting stumbling blocks before the weak and malleable souls of children.

In fact, it is wise for a child to have time learn how to deal with in-his-heart sin before we force him to come to terms with the in-his-face kind.

“Train up a child in the way he should go.” “Bad company corrupts good morals.” “Yada, yada, yawn.” says the American Christian parent. “My kid is different.

They somehow believe that children can learn to fight the good fight by being forced into the fray before being sufficiently trained in spiritual warfare–most of the time before the child has even come to a place of true repentance! Given the spiritual condition of this so-called Christian nation after many decades of that kind of thinking, I’d say we’ve got pretty good evidence that this approach hasn’t worked very well.

If this need to be exposed to wickedness and destructive behavior from an early age is really such a good reason for sending children to public schools, then could somebody please explain to me the purpose of all these anti-bullying, anti-drug, and anti-violence programs? Because if those programs were to work (which they won’t), Christian children in public schools would suddenly be in grave danger of becoming just as naïve as their homeschooling counterparts! Wouldn’t that be awful?

Stop trying to shelter your kids, public schoolers! They need this!

We all know quite well it that would be a good thing if every child were unbullied, unaware of even the existence of drugs, and able to trust that the people who are in authority over them are looking out for their best interests instead of, oh, trying to sleep with them, for instance. So why, if homeschooling parents are able to provide such a healthy environment for their children, is that a bad thing?

Homeschooling, contrary to this “real world” line of argument, is not done in order to keep children from finding out about sin. We can’t do that, because no one is innocent—not the children we’re raising, nor their parents. All have sinned, and keeping my children from public schools has not kept them from the “real world” of sin. Learning how to turn away from the World is a lesson that must be learned no matter the physical location of the child. It is not the existence of sin that must be taught on a daily basis, but what to do with sin in our own hearts.

I am constantly amazed (though I probably shouldn’t be by now) by the number of people who think that raising children in an environment that rejects the very idea of sin is the same thing as teaching them to confront evil. It’s not. It is teaching them to look on sin passively by removing even the language by which a child might articulate an objection to it. What immersion in secular schools does is train children first to tolerate sinful behavior, then to applaud it, and finally to join it.

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”–1 Corinthians 15:33

Cultural norms are inculcated primarily through education, not (contrary to mainstream–dare I call it naïve?–Christian belief) through occasional dinner-table conversations and AWANA. Those things may be influential in varying degrees for different children, but it is what is learned during the useful hours of the day–the work hours–that becomes a child’s baseline for thinking about the world. For public schools, the baseline is one of amoral “preferences” and outcome-based decision making (i.e.: Say no to drugs because they’ll make you ugly and poor. Don’t have sex…unless you can make sure you’re “protected” from the physical consequences of it.) For Christians the baseline is (or should be) God’s word.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
–Proverbs 22:6

Every Christian parent’s job is to make sure that when our children meet the “real world”, they’ll know how to please God in their interactions with it. Which method of child-rearing seems more likely to accomplish that goal?

Public schooled children and home educated children are all going to be tempted to commit sexual sin. Homeschooling won’t change that. But which child is more likely to view sexual sin as normal and tolerable, even admirable, rather than unacceptable, yet forgivable?

Both sets of children are going to have to learn to turn away from behaviors like excessive drinking and drug abuse, or self-harm and violent anger. But which child will believe that these things are wrong primarily because they hamper material or social success? Which child is more likely to internalize the truth that these behaviors are wrong because they are, at their core, sinful abuses of God’s most treasured creation: the one who hears it only in his “spare time”, or the one who gets it daily with his writing lesson?

Both sets of children will have to learn to choose the right kinds of friends. Which is more likely to do so: the child who has learned to “make no friendship with an angry man” and then has been guided in that by a parent’s heart in choosing his friends, or the child who has been told that everyone of his own age (and this is now even further segregated out by academic ability) is his “peer”?

A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. –Proverbs 12:26

Which child is more likely to turn away—whether in disgust or confusion makes no difference, so long as he turns away—from the invitation of these “peers” to join them in immorality: the child who has as his default attitude an anything goes, “tolerant” worldview, or the child who has as his baseline a Christ-centered and constructive family-based culture?

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother–Proverbs 1:8

It seems to me that homeschooled children are more than equipped to “deal with” sin, if by “deal with” you mean “repent of it”. That is something they are certainly never going to find out about in public school. If spiritual strength is the goal, then public schooling doesn’t seem to have very much going for it. However, if your argument is that homeschooled kids might grow up to find themselves embarrassed not to know the meaning of certain slang or where to buy a bag of some illicit substance, then I say that’s the kind of naiveté that we could all use a little bit more of.

Virtue is harder to be got than a knowledge of the world; and if lost in a young man, is seldom recover’d. Sheepishness and ignorance of the world, the faults imputed to a private education, are neither the necessary consequences of being bred at home, nor if they were, are they incurable evils. Vice is the more stubborn, as well as the more dangerous evil of the two;… –John Locke

Public Schools and Naive Kids

I’ve been fishing some of my better posts from GAH v1.0 out of storage for reposting. I’m not sure how relevant they are today, but they’re mine, and I like them. This one was written December 2, 2013. 

Public Schools and Naive Kids

One of the constantly recurring, and frankly silliest, objections to homeschooling is the embarrassing  naiveté of homeschooled kids. The implication is that a child’s growth and maturity will somehow be stunted by not witnessing the full smorgasbord of sinful behaviors and moral pitfalls that popular culture has to offer. If he hasn’t had a joint offered to him in the school bathroom by the time he’s a senior, there is simply no hope that he’ll be able to say no to it when he’s twenty!

When I put it that way, of course, the hollowness of the whole objection becomes evident, even to those who will most likely still think it’s better for a child to be “educated” in the ways of the world by his peers and (God help us) D.A.R.E instructors.
Fine, you’re right: I fully intend to turn my kids out into the world with little more than a theoretical understanding of the kinds of criminality and perversion that will most likely be going on right under their noses any time they walk down a busy street. By the time they leave my nest, they’ll most likely be in the same social position I am right now; people who engage in those activities don’t even want to talk to me much, let alone invite me to their parties. So I’ve just raised my children to be the kind of bland, boring, morally upright people that the unwise, unstable, and criminal amongst us shun out of instinct.

Oh, how could I be so stupid?

Like I said before, there is no way that I can keep my kids from finding out about sin, being sinners as they are. I don’t expect to. But there’s a flip side to this whole naiveté thing, and that is the fact that, when I send my naïve children off to be educated by government-employed strangers, their naiveté is a serious weakness, making them prey to unscrupulous teachers, wayward peers, and even crooked police. If I keep them either at home with me or under the tutelage of Christian teachers I know to be working toward the same goals that I am, these little ones of mine will still be naïve children, absolutely! But what else do you want children to be? Jaded? Worldly? Street smart? I thought we wanted to keep them off the streets, not familiar with them.

Where does this perverse desire to destroy childish innocence come from? Certainly not from God, who says that we must become like little children, and not the other way around, if we wish to see the kingdom of Heaven.

Several years ago, I witnessed the whole adult congregation of a church gathering around a group of teens to pray for them because of the sexual pressures and violence that they were forced to deal with every day. Now, I’m all for prayer, and I’m glad they were at least doing that much for the poor kids. But what caught me was the pastor’s words before they prayed. He said “Our children have to deal with pressures every day that we as adults would never have to face. They need God’s hand of protection on their lives in a special way.”

So we’re sending kids into these spiritual and emotional pressure cookers, even though in the “real world,” for which we are supposed to be preparing them, this stuff (bullying, sexual pressure, drug use, etc.), doesn’t happen among decent people? In the real world where grown-ups live, if these things happen there are both practical and legal steps that a grownup can take to defend himself. He can simply choose not to go there; he can prosecute wrongdoing; he can find a new job; he can find new peers. But these kids, who don’t have the benefit of years of wisdom? Meh. Just cover them in prayer and send them to learn from these people how to walk in Truth.

This little episode at church was what did it for me. It was about 8 years ago, and it was what convinced me to homeschool.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
–Proverbs 13:20

Not long ago, I witnessed a similar thing with a group of parents lamenting the sexual pressure that middle-school girls must face at such a young and inappropriate age. “Lord, help them!” they said. And they sent them back into the cesspool the very next day.

My dad is kind of a funny guy. When I was a teenager, he’d often see me doing some household task and ask “Do you need some help with that, honey?” I’d accept his offer, only to hear, “Help her, Lord!”

The difference between my dad doing that and these parents doing this is that my dad knew he was joking, and would then get up and help me. The Bible says some things about praying and doing:

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
–James 2:15-16

Now, if we’re called not just to pray, but to do for the physical needs of our brothers and sisters, how much more does this apply to caring for the souls of our own children?

My children’s naiveté will vanish, despite the foolish concerns of naysayers, but it will recede through years of Bible training, not through the hardening effects of early exposure. My son will learn how to keep to the narrow path through the learning of Proverbs and being made aware of his own sin by God’s word, not through being slammed against locker doors because he’s the only kid that won’t get high with the rest of his social group between classes. My daughter will learn to honor her body by being around those who also honor her body, not from those who belittle and objectify her.

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
–Luke 17:1-2

I went to a public school, so I know how that naiveté we’re so scared to see in our children gets worn away, and it is not through the maturing of a child’s spirit, but through the breaking of it. No thank you. We don’t want any of that kind of jaded “maturity” in our family.

 

A Weekly Homeschool Schedule

It’s January. Let’s get organized.

I’ve got a couple of new homeschooling mom friends who have wondered–with much more awe in their voices than I’m actually entitled to–how I keep eight students of different ages straight in my head. Honestly, I have in the past lost track of one or more students while thinking I had everything under control. I have one child who is so quiet and clever that he can make me forget to do his lessons, like a Jedi. It would be creepy, if he weren’t so cute.

One of the tools I’ve been using for a couple of years to make sure I know where we’re all supposed to be at any given moment, is this free printable week planner. This one gives me a plan for how our time will be used, but doesn’t get into the details of what we’re doing. Details are written out elsewhere. I’ve made a sample plan for you that doesn’t resemble our own very much for the sake of our privacy:

Sample Weekly Schedule

Each person in the family is assigned a color, with my color, purple in this sample, being the base color. The “everybody” color is blue, Child #1 is green, Child #2 is red, etc. If a child is with me directly for a chunk of time, his stripe is right up against mine, so I can see quickly who is entitled to my attention at that time. If he doesn’t have a stripe on a particular block, that means he has flexible time to play or finish whatever chores or schoolwork he has. I put chores on here, too. On Monday, Child #2 will be my dinner helper. Everybody cleans the chicken coop on Tuesday. You get the idea.

Our morning meetings are the times when we do whatever we can together, like Bible study, prayers, reading aloud from Shakespeare or Plutarch, PE, art and music study. The length of that meeting varies, so I do the week schedule after the lesson plans are finished. I give each student an individual meeting time for one-on-one teaching. If you have only three students, like the sample planner pictured above, you’ll have quite a bit more free time and flexibility than I do. I try to get to everybody one-on-one at least three times a week.

Maybe you don’t even need a plan at this moment. Don’t feel pressured to be organized if you’ve got everything well in hand without the extra work! When I was a new homeschooler with only a few kids, I didn’t often feel like I needed a plan, but after a while I did start to notice things slipping through the cracks, even with just a few students. Now that I’m teaching all stages, from three-year-old preschool to almost-grown ups (oh, my!), I definitely do need a little more structure to my day.

I use this planner for lesson plans, and the older kids have their own ways of organizing (or not) their independent work.

Since the only people who even know about this blog are my old readers who kept their subscriptions active when I stopped blogging a few years ago, I’m sure you are already doing things your own way, and many aren’t even homeschooling anymore. But if anybody is interested, or knows some new homeschoolers who would benefit, I’d be happy to show more about how we follow, roughly and haphazardly, and not at all in a way that Charlotte Mason would approve, a Charlotte Mason-style education using Ambleside Online.

 

 

Homeschooling in the Christmas Season

How did Christmas get to be a month-long thing, anyway? 

Christmas has become quite the to-do in our home, even though I never really got into the spirit of things for the first several years of our marriage. If I could put the tree up on the 23rd, then take it down on the 26th, that would have been quite enough for me, thank you very much. I guess motherhood is the Grinch-buster, because the longer I have little ones in the house, the more excited I get about all the baubles and lights. Christmas has become a treasured season in our lives, and not just a day. And that’s the way it should be!

Growing up in Appalachian mountain evangelical churches, I don’t think I ever even heard the word “advent” until I was in my twenties. Most people will find that amusing, I’m sure. Dumb hillbillies. Regardless, once I heard about it, I adopted the Advent calendar as a tradition in our home. When we only had a couple of kids in the house, I just put small candies or toys into a paper bag calendar I’d made. I’m not crafty, so you won’t see this one on Pinterest. I can’t believe this was 10 years ago.

As the family grew I couldn’t fit individual things into the bags anymore. Besides, doing things is way more fun.

Now, sometime in November I sit down and think of 24 Christmassy things to do (or eat!) leading up to the Day. I write the ideas on strips of paper and put them in the little drawers of our Advent Calendar.

Advent Calendar

 

Each year is a little bit different, depending on my mood and how much of a mess I think I’ll be up for. There is a lazy side of me that wishes I hadn’t taught the children to expect so much every year, but the quality time is always worth the effort. There are a few things that we do every year without fail. Of course, there is always the Reason for the Season, reading the Christmas story and singing hymns. There are some less pious things, as well, like gingerbread houses made with graham crackers and royal icing. I’ll post a how-to later on for those interested. Yesterday we put together a Christmas puzzle. We’ll use some peel-and-stick sheets to stick it together and frame it. Other things we do are making and taking gifts to neighbors, singing Christmas carols, and drinking hot chocolate.

So how do we keep on schooling when it’s just one big party? Well, to tell the truth, I called the puzzle geometry and art (it’s shapes and colors!) yesterday, and when the time comes for gingerbread houses, I’m going to call that “handicrafts”. We do our morning meeting with prayer and Bible reading, a few together things like Shakespeare or Plutarch, then a little bit of copywork and math. After that we’re as flexible as we need to be, depending on how time-consuming the day’s activity is. Sometimes it’s just an extra story or song. Sometimes it’s an all-morning event.

The kids can still fit their lessons in around the edges while we center our lives around the Truth that Christ was born for us. If we skip some academic things, I can still rest easy knowing that January is coming. We can grind it out then. We have so much going on in December that I’ve learned to look forward to January as a time to accomplish much. Perhaps I’ll even accomplish a few more blog posts! Sorry it’s been sparse so far, but as long as I’m raising these kids, it’s going to be like that. You know how it is.

What are your Christmas traditions? Do you have an advent calendar? Let me know in the comments what you do so I can fill out my calendar with new ideas next year! 

Permission to Be Ordinary

This is a repost from May 21, 2014. With the growth of homeschooling, and virtual schooling, and whatever else families have had to do to adapt during this ridiculous upheaval, I thought it might be a good time to remind ourselves that homeschooling isn’t really all that special. 

Homeschooling is going mainstream, and we’re about to lose one of our favorite arguments for it. 

Homeschooling is kind of an extraordinary thing to do, isn’t it? Even with the rapidly rising numbers of homeschooling families each year, we’re still in the minority (for now). Nearly every weekday outing I take with my kids requires me to explain to someone why my older children aren’t in school. People still don’t think of children staying with their mothers all day as a very normal thing. Parents just aren’t qualified to raise kids, you know.

When we think of homeschooling, we still think of violin-playing spelling bee champions with 140 IQ’s who were just too smart for normal school. And you know what? There really are a lot of home educated kids like that! It isn’t at all surprising that homeschoolers like to promote as much good press as we can for ourselves.

Stories in the news like this family with seven kids in college, all by the time they were twelve years old, and blog posts asserting that homeschooled kids are 120% more smarter than public schooled kids are constantly circulating the web, not because those are our best reasons for homeschooling, but because associating ourselves with such an outstanding group of people easily, if fallaciously, counters the arguments of which we grow so weary.

“You’re not qualified.”
“They’ll never get into college.”
“Homeschoolers are bad at math.”

Just a few weeks ago I had to listen to my neighbor explain to me that I can’t possibly teach my children math in the higher grades, so I’d better be ready to send them to school by eighth grade. (I’ve learned to just nod my head and pretend that I’m going to take that brand-new, brilliant idea into consideration. I really don’t care what the neighbors think.)

We homeschoolers love this kind of evidence that homeschooling “works” because pointing to other people’s results is a lot easier than explaining our core reasons for keeping our children at home. Our motives are good and wholesome and altogether defensible, but because we live in a society that scarcely even understands what education is for, those points also take longer to explain and upset people more often than the academic argument.

I have to wonder, though, if we’re not accidentally making the task of defending our choice harder by using these kinds of things to bolster our case. You see, our stellar statistics and outliers like the “Brainy Bunch” family set some unrealistic expectations for normal kids. The first generation of homeschoolers was almost certainly an unusual group of people. It seems to me that they required a unique set of characteristics–qualities that usually go hand-in-hand with high intelligence and academic achievement–to be able to boost the homeschooling movement from the gravitational pull  of traditional education. That first generation had, at the very least, enough imagination to dream it up, confidence to follow through, ingenuity to figure out how, resourcefulness to keep it going under pressure, and courage to fight the courts and social stigma.

As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, though, we are going to see some regression to the mean (though I doubt that we could ever regress to the abysmal performance of public schools). Because homeschooling really is a viable and superior alternative, and for reasons that have little to do with math, more and more parents who would never have considered such a thing before are going to jump on the bandwagon.

Those stellar statistics are going to level out, homeschoolers.  At some point, our neighbors are probably going to notice that some of us are pretty awful at math and science, and most of our children are going to trade schools or straight to the workforce instead of to Harvard. For that reason, it would be good if we kept our debating skills sharp, so that we can explain why homeschooling is well within our rights, regardless of our outcomes. If our best defense of home education is that other homeschoolers are really smart, we are sunk, because most of us are going to be graduating children who become ordinary people.

And that’s OK. Cashiers and plumbers, homemakers and factory workers are every bit as necessary to the functioning of society as engineers and political leaders. Homeschoolers, as much as we cheer for greatness and excellence, and hope to see our children attain the absolute pinnacle of their personal capabilities, we need to give ourselves permission to be  ordinary. The rightness of our choice to raise our own children isn’t predicated on our academic results or our children’s future earnings. It is based solely in our right and responsibility to raise our own children for the Glory of God. (Yes, I am aware that many people homeschool without any religious purpose, but they still have that right and responsibility, whether they know it or not.)

If we don’t keep our focus on that first principle, we’re going to make life mighty hard for our kids who are better at bricklaying than calculus. Not only that, but we might find our right to raise our own children, so hard won by the first generation of homeschoolers, diminished by our own focus on the wrong point. We need to speak the language of liberty when we defend our choices, rather than flashing the gaudy plumage of worldly success.

Test scores may temporarily dazzle our opponents into silence, but they will not stand the test of time like the simple truths of God-given rights and individual responsibility.