Friday, March 18, 2011

So You Want to Homeschool?

Times, they are a’changing. Way back, in the latter half of the last century, when many of us parents were children, homeschooling was a strange word. “You home-WHAT? Is that legal?” “So, what do you do about socialization?” Nowadays, we mention that we homeschool and we frequently hear, “Oh, I did that for a while” or “My (cousin, sister, neighbor, fill-in-the-blank) does that” or “I could never homeschool my children….I’m too (fill-in-the-blank).”

Well, on the last comment, I beg to differ. If I can homeschool, anyone can homeschool. And I’m here to help. (“Help me, don’t help me!” I can hear some of my close friends saying. You know who you are.) Tell you what….I’ll dish out some suggestions and the taking of them is completely up to you.

First things first.: Why do you want to homeschool?

Figure out why homeschooling seems like an option you want to tackle. I mean, wouldn’t it be simpler to put your baby on the yellow school bus and send them on through the gates of….oh, that title is already taken. Take some time as a couple and jot down YOUR reasons for wanting to do this.

Some common reasons could be:
1. To avoid the dangers now common in a public school. (Bullying, drugs, shootings, etc.)
2. To offer your child a biblical foundation for everything they learn.
3. To save money over putting children in a private school.
4. To offer your child a better education than they would get in a classroom.
5. To teach your children based on their strengths.
6. To avoid lock-step, age segregated, educational procedures.
7. To spend time with your child and build up your family.
8. To have the freedom to educate outside of an institutionalized calendar.

Well, the list can go on and on, but our reasons for wanting to homeschool become our guiding values. This is an important step because establishing these values early on will keep you going when the going gets tough.

Secondly: To Teach, be Teachable. And be the example.

We know that things are better caught than taught. If we can only get that through our thick heads sometimes. Like it or not, even we enlightened parents (unlike our poor parents who sometimes get a bad rap) still have the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. Oh no? What about that awful canned baby food? “Here, honey, eat your strained peas,” when we wouldn’t let a strained pea pass through our gritted teeth. To take it one step further, education-wise, we need to do what we are planning on asking our children to do. If we want them to read, we need to read. If we want them to be diligent, we need to be diligent. Let’s begin by being an example and teaching ourselves. Your goal will be to teach your child to love learning, so begin by loving learning yourself. Surround yourself with books that will inspire you and encourage you in your homeschooling journey. We are so blessed to live in a time when great books like these abound by the hundreds.

Here are some very (very, very, very) important books that everyone who is interested in homeschooling ought to own. Basically, these answer "Why Should I do this? And What Will it Look Like?" Did I mention that you ought to seriously read all these books?

Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto
The Christian Home School by Gregg Harris
The Harsh Truth about Public Schools by Bruce Shortt
The Socialization Trap by Rick Boyer
The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore

Don't forget to add in some intriguing titles of your own choosing. A websearch of books about homeschooling ought to do the trick. One of my favorites (alluded to above) is Onto the Yellow School Bus and Through the Gates of Hell by Mary Hood. I mean, who can resist a title like that?

Getting Your Child Ready:

Please don't wait until your child is kindergarten age to begin his education journey. In all truth, you begin readying your child from the moment, well, a few hours at least, after delivery. You will be bringing your child into your home, with the routines, atmosphere, habits, and family culture that you have already established. The amount of (or lack of) structure and discipline in your home will have a tremendous impact on your child's temperament, self-control, habits, obedience, personality, likes and dislikes, whether we want to admit it or not. If the first few years went by in a blur, and you aren't sure about the atmosphere of your home, now is the time to take inventory and begin to establish some healthy routines in order to have a pleasant environment in which to teach that young 'un.

If a home happens to be one where the M.O. is "fly by the seat of your pants", with undisciplined parents who never know what a day will bring, there will be a clash of wills when all of a sudden your beloved little tyke is told that he will be expected to sit down and be quiet during your school time. "What?!" he hollers. "I've been roaming the house from morn til dark, taking naps helter skelter, eating Cheez-its and hot dogs at will and now I'm told that I'm going to do school? I don't think so." Well, the words may not come out quite like that, but if mommy has been a little carefree and whimsical herself, which allowed this precious child to be a little free-wheeling, they both will face some challenges. But hey, they will face these challenges if public school is the option as well. All of a sudden the young family faces a serious cramping of one's style. At least homeschooling is a little more forgiving.

One place to start is to establish some sort of regular routine regarding mealtimes, hopefully opting for healthy choices so they will be better fed and ultimately healthier and better behaved. It really helps a child's sense of security to make sure meals are served at the same time each day. Can you imagine not knowing when you will eat next? A young child can't express that insecurity so they typically become whiny or irritable. Irregular meals are not the only thing that causes insecurity.

When they are young, try to put their naps on a set routine, along with a set time for play, a set time for reading aloud to them, as well as a consistent bedtime routine. These routines may seem insignificant, but contribute to a child's overall sense of discipline and order, making the transition to a successful "homeschool" so much easier for both parents and children.

Establish set times each day with your baby/toddler/preschooler for some creative play. This is where you get "dirty" with them. Don't send them out to play in the sandbox while you clean house. Build sculptures with them. Let them discover such wonders as finger painting, stacking blocks, playing with magnetic alphabet letters, using play-doh, pretending to cook, stringing beads, or playing at the park. It is our duty as parents to help them discover things that we have long taken for granted like how to roll play-doh into a snake, or how to pack damp sand into a bucket to dump out as a sandcastle tower. Left on their own, the play-doh will probably end up being a "snack" and the sand bucket used to bean another child on the noggin. Hey, I've lived it. The best thing is that this "play time' sets the stage for "school-time" later on. Establish the routine early and you will be ahead of the game.

Dare to Discpline:

Since wonderful, insightful, life-changing books have been written on the subject of either child or parent training, I will attempt to list some of our favorites below. But, suffice it to say, a child without consistent, effective discipline will be tremendously difficult to teach at home. The most basic need for a homeschool is to have obedient children. Nothing can take the place of control in the home: all the brains, homeschool supplies, state-of-the-art equipment or simply tons of money, won't achieve squat if your child balks at what you tell him to do. And you can take that to the bank.

Here's my list of awesome, great, inspiring must-reads for effective parenting:

To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl
Child Training Tips: What I Wish I Knew When my Children Were Young by Reb Bradley
What the Bible Says About Child Training by J. Richard Fugate
How to Behave So Your Children Will Too! by Sal Severe
Boundaries with Kids by Cloud & Townsend

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