Our Homeschooling Journey

In the fall of 1998 we began homeschooling. We had 4 children at the time: a 6-month-old, kindergartener, 2nd grader and 4th grader. The oldest 2 had been in a private school up to that point. We didn’t start homeschooling because we were unhappy with the school. We had decided when they were all preschoolers that we wanted them to have a Christian education, but when Keith suggested we could homeschool and eliminate the cost of a private school, I laughed! I told him that I just wanted them to go away for a little while now and then.

One year later Keith was out of the Navy, in a low-paying job and we were living with my mother. I started working part-time – first at McDonald’s, then at Wal-Mart. A year after that we moved into our own house, and 5 months after that I started to work full-time at our church’s child care center. This eliminated a major problem we had with transportation issues between our two jobs and getting the boys to school, but I suddenly had NO time with my children and it was tearing me up, but we saw no way out. I was starting to seriously consider and research homeschooling. But I had to work. My position as a permanent staff member gained us a 40% tuition discount for the boys at the school and my daughter attended the child care center for free. The children and I traveled to and from the same place each day, which allowed Keith to take over-time whenever it came up. We got into a routine that wasn’t too bad, but not what we really wanted. In 1997 through a series of events that would be called chance by some, but we credit to the hand of God, Keith got the job he had wanted 3 years earlier. Because of that, I was able to quit my job at the end of the year and be a stay-at-home mom once again! Two months later baby 4 was born and when that school year ended we didn’t re-enroll the kids in the school. Our other dream was to live in the country, and the new job’s location was going to allow that, too. Near the end of summer we found this house, sold the other, and moved in on Halloween of 1998.

The first books I read learning about homeschooling were from Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. They were one of the first advocates of homeschooling over 50 years ago. The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook and Home Style Teaching helped me to get a vision for homeschooling and helped me to realize that this was something I could actually do. I got their catalog and used their basic philosophy in teaching my children for the first several years. That first year we used The Little House on the Prairie books and The Prairie Primer unit study, and added math with Math-It. We had a great time and I was SO glad we had chosen to do this. With the move to the farm just after we started, we all had a lot of new things to learn in a hands-on fashion. We started a garden, ordered ducks and geese through mail order, raised them, put up pens for them, etc., etc.

Over the years we’ve made changes in homeschooling. Our original, eclectic schooling eventually became somewhat stressful for me to plan and schedule, especially as we were adding more babies to our family and more animals to the farm. I wanted something that was already planned for me, but I didn’t want a traditional school-at-home curriculum. Finally, I was able to start purchasing the curriculum from Sonlight. I had looked at it years earlier, and wanted to buy it because I liked the literature-based program and the fact that everything was already scheduled. But at first I felt I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t realize that I could have used one core for all my children and just customized their math and English. If I’d realized that before, I probably would have saved us a bunch of money over the years. Now we have all the cores and all I need to buy is new consumables for math, penmanship and occasionally one for another subject. And since I have another 15 years of homeschooling that is a great relief to me! We still customize what we do with it. We don’t necessarily do everything in their plan, but even they tell you that they put more in their plan than they expect any one person to do – to give many options, and each family can do what they want with it. We also add supplemental materials and events now and then.

Keith works rotating shifts. This works wonderfully with homeschooling! Our field trips are done when he’s not working some weekday and we are able to avoid the weekend crowds at zoos, museums, etc. We take our family vacations on off-peak time – usually early spring or mid-fall. We do school on Columbus Day, Presidents Day, etc., and learn about those people or events. But our birthdays are official school holidays!

The first 3 children we started homeschooling with are now graduated. The oldest is working full-time as a manager of an Auto Zone store. The next 2 are both in college away from home. We currently have 4 that are school age and one preschooler. And the adventure continues!

Plan B Homeschooling

Is homeschooling a “Plan B” for you? Every homeschool family should have a Plan B, but it may not always be one that you resort to. More aptly, it should be one that you start with, and if you already homeschool, it’s always a good time to reassess your plan. Your Plan B should look something like this: Plan B-efore you B-egin to B-e a homeschool family.

There are several personal things to consider before you begin homeschooling, and things to keep in mind as you move through the years in homeschooling. Each child will be different and your family’s needs may change, but have a goal in mind. Start with a family or homeschool vision statement. What is the purpose of your homeschooling, and what do you hope to gain from choosing this method of education? Who do you want your kids to become academically and emotionally? Be sure that you know, so that you can help them develop into the person of character that you desire for them to be.

Next, remember that you will need to be flexible in many ways. If flexibility is hard for you, be cautious about your choice to homeschool. For instance, you will need to be flexible and creative about the ways in which you gain access to extra-curricular or social activities. There are plenty of options out there for homeschooling families, and often more options than families have time to participate in, so be sure to match the extra-curricular events to your goals for your children and your schedules. Not all of the options will ultimately fit your goals. A friend of mine shared a saying with me years ago, and I have never forgotten it. It went, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.” Plan for being flexible, but know the degree to which you can bend schedules and needs before the breaking point gets too close!

Also, know that you may have resistance from others, sadly. However, it is very important to have a supportive team of friends and hopefully family, so surround yourself with those who support your choice to homeschool, and allow time to be your advocate for those who don’t. If you are doing your job well, your children will be learning and growing, thriving in their new learning environment, and they will be the best spokesmen for homeschooling over time. You do not need to win everyone over in the decision stage, but you have an opportunity, and some would say an obligation, to win them over as time goes on. Be sure that you are being diligent in your job, though, or this won’t happen.

Homeschooling should not be taken lightly or without much thought. The job of homeschooling is too encompassing, too robust, and too important to embark on without a serious investment of your time and consideration from a personal level. For many families, it is the answer to their needs, or goals, or concerns but it is not for everyone, so plan well, and start with Plan B!

ADD + Homeschool Math Curriculum = A Success Story?

In a recent article (9/22/10) in Time Magazine’s Healthland, entitled ADHD: Global Epidemic or Just a Bunch of Fidgety Kids? John Cloud asks if dosing children with stimulants like Ritalin may be an overreaction to simple fidgeting. Nearly 3% of U.S. schoolchildren now take stimulant drugs like Ritalin, most of them boys between the ages of 6 and 14. Removing your children from the classroom (and hence the need to sit still) to homeschool them may be a viable solution. And of all subjects, math may benefit most from a homeschool curriculum.

Cloud says, “The rise in ADHD diagnoses among kids indicates one of two things: either children are more fidgety and less able to focus these days, or parents and doctors have become less patient with the squirms and jiggles of childhood. Probably both things are true: there’s more to distract kids today… and parents have a solution to fidgety children not open to their grandparents: diagnose them with ADHD and treat them with Ritalin.”

Perhaps several different but related issues have come together to create this crisis. 1) The proliferation of distracting toys, electronic and otherwise, severely hampers students’ innate ability to pay attention and stay on task. 2) The standardization and rigidity of curriculum in the mainstream school system curtails teacher flexibility and creativity, and results in increasingly dry and boring lessons. 3) The cutbacks in non-academic subjects contribute to the widespread lack of interest and creativity. 4) Less and less parent involvement in all phases of child rearing.

Homeschooling puts you, the parent, back in the driver’s seat. All of the issues listed above are addressed by schooling at home. Parents can provide interesting, imaginative, creative, and engaging homeschool curriculum, while augmenting their academic programs with enrichment like art, music, sports… the possibilities are endless. A homeschooling parent’s involvement is a needed and welcome factor that strengthens every child’s general wellbeing and confidence.

Cloud cites ADHD research from the University of Central Florida that suggests that “acting hyperkinetic… is not always a sign that a child is distracted and not learning. According to psychologist Mark Rapport of UCF, squirming and fidgeting can be a way children maintain their cortical arousal – especially their working memory – when faced with a dull task. Rapport has found that kids with ADHD who are told to sit still perform worse on tests than those who are allowed to move around naturally.” Again, crucial reasons to consider homeschooling.

Math is perhaps the most challenging subject to teach children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. There is so much less room to be creative and interesting, so much temptation to teach math in a no-frills, all-drill format. This can be a recipe for failure with a child predisposed to inattention and boredom. A well-constructed homeschool math curriculum can be just the solution.

Your homeschool math curriculum allows you, the parent-teacher, the flexibility to adjust the curriculum to suit your children’s needs. Here are some simple, common sense suggestions that can enhance and enable any student’s (but especially ADD/ADHD students) success with math:

1) Use color to differentiate the 4 processes (i.e., green=addition, blue=subtraction, red=division, and yellow=multiplication).
2) Allow the use of charts to help with calculation, especially multiplication.
3) Provide manipulative’s for both teaching and math practice.
4) Have students use graph paper (or use lined paper vertically) to help with place value and number alignment.
5) Provide models of sample problems.
6) Teach all steps needed to solve problems and list the steps clearly.
7) Use art as a tool to help with visualization and to enhance creativity and interest.
8) Provide handy, concise card sets that delineate essential rules and concepts.
9) Use games for drills and practice.
10) Teach finger tricks for the more difficult multiplication tables.
11) Have students work in groups or teams.
12) Advocate active math. Add movement to all drills and practice.

Math By Hand features all of the above and more. Hands-on, experiential learning is the panacea for many of the ills facing our beleaguered students, classrooms, teachers, and schools. Consider homeschooling, and consider applying all of the above suggestions to your homeschool math curriculum. You and your healthier, happier, successful student(s) will see first hand that indeed, ADD + Homeschool Math = Success!