Our Home-educating Journey OR Homeschooling Journey …
I have often been asked why we homeschool and then asked about how to start homeschooling? Little questions with a BIG answer.
Many parents homeschool and teach their children through the working week. Then there are some parents who teach after regular school has finished in the weekends and in school holidays. There is no right or wrong way to love and teach your kids.
In regular school there is often lots of homework to do especially as the children get older. Sometimes teachers have a lot on their plates and not enough time in the day. A lot of time is taken up with behavioral issues they often don’t get to check up on what each child is doing daily and learning that should have been done in the classroom during the day becomes homework for children and their parents after school. Some children fall through the cracks.
Then you have those wonderful parents who must work during school hours. Whether single Mum’s or two parent families who need to work and send their children to school. Often working parents time is stretched and teachable moments are enjoyed and relished after school and in weekends.
For us and our family we were able to elect to have a parent home to home-educate. It wasn’t easy we had to down size and only have one car and live simply as finances were tight at times. We found our children picked up undesirable unchristian morals and behavior from their peers at school. There was an apathy about learning from the children that saddened us. When the kids got home we would often need to do a bit of undoing of behavior and morals learnt from school.
Each family knows what they are able or are called to do or not do. There isn’t a “one shoe fits all” everyone is different.
We started home-educating years ago. Both my husband I prayed about it and had a deep conviction at the time that God was wanting us to teach our children and to home-educate so we looked into the scriptures and then decided to home-educate.
Here are some scriptures that we hold dear to our hearts:
Proverbs 22:6 (NASB) “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NASB) “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.”
At the time our daughter was falling through the cracks at school couldn’t read or write and she was getting lost in a classroom. She was about 7 years old and had been at school for a few years. We didn’t know what to do. It broke our hearts to see how nothing was clicking and she was falling behind. She was rather tall so she was often seated at the back of the class so the smaller kids could see. Which was fair enough but then she was distracted and couldn’t concentrate. She was teased and often bullied by the other kids because she was different.
We sort help for her. She was diagnosed with Broad Spectrum Autism at age seven by a Doctor at the hospital who was a specialist in autism. She had Occupational Therapy for co ordination and sensory issues and that really helped. Then the Doctor recommended putting her on Ritalin so she could concentrate in class and not be distracted by the other children. The teachers thought it might help her focus. There are of course are some kids where Ritalin would be a perfect match and are helped by medication. I knew my daughter and I knew for her there wasn’t anything “wrong” with her that had to be “fixed” with Ritalin or ANY type of medication. For her our decision was simple and for her medication wasn’t the answer.
Our family had already changed the way we spoke to her since she was tiny. Not because anyone told us to but because she needed to be spoken to in a direct way. She was different from her older brother. We would give her short instructions and ask her to look at our faces and repeat the instruction back to us. We would never say go grab your jacket, hat, socks and shoes. We would only give one instruction at a time. We had been doing this since she was small because that worked for her.
There were numerous issues for her. When she was small she would scream if she couldn’t see an exit or door in the shopping center. The noise and smell upset set her and she would get over loaded or completely zone out. Once I worked out why she was so scared I told her if you can see Mummy you are safe because I know where the doors are. She would watch me like are hawk and would ask me if I knew where the door was every few minutes. Eventually she stopped asking me where the doors were and trusted it would be ok and didn’t need that reassurance anymore.
She would scream if we went to the beach because she hated sand on her feet. We lived 2 minutes walk from the beach and I had always loved the beach. When I worked out the problem I would put a blanket or towel down for her to stand on. Eventually she ventured off the towel onto the sand to join the fun. She learnt to love swimming and the beach.
She barked instead of talked, yes even at school. She constantly rocked and would shake and flick her hands. At night she would bang her back on the wall and shake her head to get to sleep.
Early on I decided if she had these issues we would and she would have to learn to work with them or around or through them. I couldn’t imagine never taking her shopping, never going to the beach and never riding an elevator. She would miss out on so much of life because of her sensory and other issues. Occupational therapy helped a great deal. I’m so grateful to our Occupational Therapist. It was a wonderful day when my daughter was able to understand two instructions rather than one. We worked out that putting classical music on in her bedroom helped her sleep and her rocking and banging diminished. My daughter called it her “ballet” music. As parents we had gotten her help and worked things out to make her more comfortable and make sense of the world. We did this for her as a baby and toddler. I knew eventually we would work out this whole school and learning thing.
She was an extremely intelligent child. She learnt to read faces, mimic emotions and she would watch her class mates at school and follow what they were doing. Quite remarkable considering how terrified of change, school and large crowds she was. I knew there was an answer to kick start her love of learning. It was just a matter of working out what the answer was for her and our family. It wasn’t medication or school for her it was learning at home with quite routine and a simple safe one on one environment.
Our eldest boy was very bright and school was easy for him. At 3 years old he knew his alphabet. He could read by 4 years old. Learning came easy to him in fact he was bored in school, and he wanted to be challenged. He would come home with straight A’s BUT his younger sister found learning in school difficult, her report card was very different. Even though she tried harder than her brother she didn’t get A’s when she was a primer.
The kids did go to a lovely country school only 1 minute walk down the hill from our home. Their classes had a wood fire burner in each room. The school had some beautiful views of the bay where we lived. The netball court over looked the sea. Lovely learning environment for children. Their teachers were wonderful caring people. Totally committed to teaching. Their class sizes were relatively small for a public state school but it just wasn’t working for our daughter.
We then thought that maybe a different approach or a new school might help. Perhaps a private Christian school in the hope that the bullying and teasing would be less and they also had even smaller classrooms. We hoped that our son would be given extension work and our daughter would start to learn in school. So we tried that for a year. And that didn’t work in fact it was far worse for both of them.
Some friends had been home-educating so I talked to them. I did some research and got completely overwhelmed by lots of different options. We prayed about it and over time both my husband I knew it was what God wanted us to do. And so we began the adventure of home-education.
Often a parent will say to me that they are not bright enough. They aren’t a qualified teacher so they can’t teach their children. Or that they couldn’t cope with having kids home all day. They don’t have enough patience. Those were the same questions I had. I decided if I could read I could learn how to teach. Thank goodness I could read and I had a library card and the Internet. I also had worked full time in a school as a Teachers Aide before the children were born so I had some idea what was involved.
We often forget how parents have been teaching their precious ones since the moment they were born. Teaching them to drink, eat, to get dress, to tie shoe laces, to write their name, catch a ball, to sing, to be kind, to dance, to clap, to cuddle, to stand up for themselves and for others, to walk and to talk. There really isn’t any reason why magically a parent has to stop teaching their child in order for the government to teach through schools.
Once upon a time it was common practice for mothers in particular to teach their children in the home around the family table. Then all of a sudden schools appeared and so government and state education began. If state public schooling is what the parent wants and chooses for their children then sure, you can make that decision and it can work and work well.
Some parents choose to send their kids to school and some don’t and both decisions are completely okay. Some schools are great and some are not. Some families bake their own bread and other families buy it at the grocery store. Both types of bread fills a Child’s tummy.
Our children have gone to regular state schools, or public schools and also private Christian schools in New Zealand. We also home-educated our children in New Zealand. When we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in the USA we thought a new culture and school would be a great adventure for the children. They agreed to try out American schooling. It worked out well for them. The kids were little New Zealand home-educated kids who got top of their class in American History on their first history tests. Now those big kids are grown and working. One is working in the IT industry and my daughter has been accepted to University to do a Science Degree to then go on to be a Doctor. And yes she is the very same one who struggled to learn and had many hurdles to overcome. We are currently home-educating our last child here in Australia he is wanting to become a pilot.
What works for one child or family may not work for the other. Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
When we started looking at home-education many years ago with our older kids. We started at the beginning with our first question. Could we do it?!?!? We decided we could. “The Lord is the strength of my life.” – Psalms 27:1.
Then we looked at each child’s needs, strengths and where each of them were at in their learning process. My son was bright and needed to be extended and challenged. He had been bored at school. My daughter struggled with learning so we had to ignite her passion and find out what she wanted to learn about.
We also needed to take a few months to de-school, relax and get into a new rhythm of learning and simple home life. I spent many months researching and organizing our home-eduction way of life.
We used lots of different methods of learning. From Charlotte Mason, natural learning approach, Apologia Science, Math U See, ABeka, Saxon Math, Singapore Math, and other Text books. A thematic approach worked well too where the children would tell us what they wanted to learn about and off we would go on that theme.
We carried our Nature Journals to our local parks and beaches. The children would have cat or a rabbit on their knee’s while they were learning. For our daughter stroking our pet rabbit learning helped her retain information. Science experiments were carried out on the kitchen counter. AND for dangerous experiments we used a virtual Bunsen Burner on the computer for many happy explosions. Our family went on long walks among penguins, seals and other creatures around our environment in New Zealand. We had a van that could turn seats around to become a lounge. When we travelled the kids would have an instant mobile office and use plug in laptops. We had our own chickens and grew our own vegetables. We would order books online. Our bay had a local mobile bus library service. The bus parked by our local school for the school children to use as well. Occasionally we would have morning tea with our old school teachers from the bay and the children would play with their old class mates.
Our daughter discovered her love of horses. So we did everything horse related. We read about horses. We learnt horse anatomy for science. We sang about horses. We did art projects on horses. We joined the local pony club and went horse riding and to horse riding camp. Horse riding camps were held in a local farm where there was also a penguin hospital. The local farmers would let the pony club ride all along their farms which often rolled onto the beach. The farmers gave us keys so we could open the gates and deliver lunches morning and afternoon tea to them.
My husband wrote a computer program for times tables. Of course it was all about horses! Within short order my daughter started to learn but more importantly she loved learning. Her eyes sparkled with the joy of learning and achieving. My oldest son fell in love with reading and blossomed and was no longer board but was enjoying being challenged. The children simply flourished. We also joined a local home schooling group and would go on outings to the art gallery.
We had been homeschooling for a number of years and God called us into Christian Ministry and we sold our house and moved to Cincinnati in the USA so my husband could complete his Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministries.
We went to our local school in Colerain Township, Cincinnati in Ohio and checked it out. It was quite different to what we were use to in New Zealand but we thought why not try it out. If it was terrible or if the kids couldn’t cope or didn’t like it we would home-educate. The schools where we were had many Christian teachers. The classroom was well disciplined, swearing was not tolerated and classes were actually quite and focused. In contrast to New Zealand and Australian schools. After years of home-educating our children were confident, bright eyed and bushy tailed and they seem to rise to the challenge of trying school in another culture and country. All went well after some minor adjusting. Their biggest complaint was that there was no morning or afternoon tea time and no hour long lunch break to play outside. The school asked if I would talk to a few of their classes about life in New Zealand which I did with Power Point presentation.
My husband was asked to Pastor a church in Australia so we moved from Cincinnati to Australia back down under. The kids went to an Australian state public school. For some reason we hadn’t even thought to home-educate. Although they all did ok academically in state school. I do regret that we didn’t home-educate in Australia. Our local school was extremely secular and very undisciplined, swearing is tolerated by teachers and there is an extreme amount of bullying and violence. The school Principal changed every year in the kids High School. Primary school was safer but our son did little to no learning. At the end of the year most of his books were empty. When we asked the teacher where his school work was he told us it was on A4 sheets. We asked to see those sheets and less than 10 pages turned up and often only a few questions were answered and the rest were blank. Pretty disappointing. There were lots of behavior and attitude problems which the children merrily learnt from school friends. Stuff we never had when we home-educating or when they went to school in the USA. Hind site would have been great. We couldn’t afford for the kids to go to a private Christian school in Australia. Our Pastors wage didn’t stretch to private schooling. We were so busy in ministry, church and community work I hadn’t really cottoned on to the whole school problems looming.
After three years or so we moved. We then thought about home-educating again. We needed to travel for ministry so we made the decision to home-educate our youngest. We didn’t want him in and out of different schools as we traveled. He didn’t want that either. Our experience with Australian school system put us off putting him into another Aussie school. Don’t get me wrong I am sure there are good Australian Schools. I think that we were perhaps just in the wrong area. Our friends in fact all our friends and almost all the church kids went to private Christian Schools and loved their school. At over $6,000 per child we couldn’t afford it. I do wish we had home-educated all the kids when we moved to Australia but we can’t go back in time, sadly. But we can home-educate our last child.
So what are we doing now? Well we are enrolled with Australian Christian College. We are using distant education curriculum at the moment. Our son is flourishing and we are filling in all those gaps he had from public state school. He was very distracted in a large school classroom and very rarely completed any task in class or for homework. With home-educating he is a happy go lucky child and simply thriving and completing tasks. He is quite proud of his achievements. He is coming on in leaps and bounds. He is enjoying learning he has decided to work quickly to be able to finish his school work early. Which means more fishing, skate boarding and walking along the beaches and canals with us here where we live. Oh and play games like X-Plane on his computer. When he was at school he thought he wasn’t bright and never thought he could get a good job BUT now he is thinking about a career in the airforce and loves everything airplane related.
So that is our education journey so far…