Because of this heritage the late 1980’s found my husband and I with 2 young children. We believed that it was important for me to stay home and care for them and we were willing to make the choices and sacrifices necessary. Those days were so sweet. We played at home, we walked to the park, we walked to the library, we got groceries. We just lived life together.
One day I heard Raymond Moore talk about home school on the radio. I had never heard of home schooling and was intrigued. I bought his books and started learning all I could. My heart was drawn to this new idea. I instinctively knew that no one else would understand and love my children the way that I did. I wanted my husband and I to be the major influence in their lives. We wanted to shape their character and lead them in the God centered foundations that we had been blessed to have. I wanted to be the one to see their faces light up withn the had an “ah-ha!” moment. Also, I simply enjoyed their company and did not want them away from me and each other for large portions of the day.
When we began home schooling there were 2 other home school families in our town. As for curriculum, there were 2 major publishers that would sell to home school families. These books and teachers manuals were written for a classroom teacher so adjustments had to be made for a mom teaching at home. with the help of the other 2 families we started. As I looked at these huge manuals I questioned my ability to tackle this. My friend opened the book to lesson One. “Can you do this? Just lesson 1?“ Well, yes I believe I can. “Ok. Then start there. Lesson 1 Tomorrow do lesson 2.“ It is so overwhelming to look at the whole. But, when the goal is broken down into bite size pieces it is achievable. Another piece of advice we received was to take time to write out our reasons for home schooling. It was helpful to think it through and by writing it down we had a commitment we could refer back to on the hard days (or years).
We began with a full 1st grade curriculum and 2 kindergarteners. We were all learning together. Every night after the kids were in bed I would prepare the lesson for the next day. I made sure I had read every scripted interaction between teacher and students and had every flashcard cut out. The kids truly were my guinea pigs. Because I had gone to school I expected our days to look like “school”. Our days would be structured from 8 to 3. It didn’t take long for me to learn that with just two students the work for the day could be completed much more quickly. It they understood a concept we moved ahead. If something was hard to grasp, we slowed down and worked at it until they understood. There was so much freedom for us once I learned that mastery was our goal, not just moving through the books at the pace the curriculum set. When we finally settled in to this new way of learning we were able to finish our bookwork in a couple hours in the morning. I remember a grocery checker asking the kids what they did at school, “Oh, we just play and read books.” That made me laugh then and it makes me laugh now. It just doesn’t get any better for 2 sweet kindergarten guinea pigs.
Several years past and we added more children to the mix. Five in all with a 12 year gap between the oldest and the youngest. Every year was different. I learned to relax with our curriculum but yet felt we needed some structure to keep everyone moving ahead. All of life is learning, not just the time we sat at the table working on our bookwork. It was amazing to me how much the “Littles” (yes, we had the “Bigs” and the “Littles”) learned simply by living life in a home with teenagers. When the big kids were doing science experiments, like separating out a strand of DNA from an onion, the Littles were sitting on the counter watching every move. When we talked about history or social events they were listening and learning. Always learning. I had also learned to let go of the formal curriculum for the elementary grades and just focus on reading and math. Lots and lots of reading! The library has always been our best friend.
The summer before the Bigs were to start high school we moved to a different state. We left all that was comfortable and stable and started on a new journey. I now had to make new connections, learn the home school laws in this new state and move into teaching high school. I was anxious to say the least. Could I even do this? High school is important! College and careers depend on a job well done. It was all very overwhelming. As I was talking to my dear friend , the one who encouraged me to start with lesson 1, she gave me some more wise words. She reminded me that up until now we had taken each year as it came. We had moved twice and added 3 kiddos to the mix. We had completed 8 years of school so far. This was JUST THE NEXT YEAR. No need to be overwhelmed. Just do the next thing.
Now, 25 plus years later, we have 5 children that have moved into adulthood and are Godly, loving, smart, compassionate and successful in their chosen careers. We have 3 children in law and 7 wonderful grandbabies. We are blessed beyond what we ever would have dreamed. Through it all I have learned several lessons I want to share with younger moms.
~ Relax and enjoy the journey. There are 2 sides to this. On one hand, I know the days seem long and the messes, meals and laundry are never ending, but, trust me, these days are so sweet. They fly past and before you know it your kiddos are launching out on their own. Enjoy them! On the other hand, 18 years is a long time! You don’t need to learn everything at once. You have a long time to learn how to read well, how to multiply and divide, how to figure algebraic equations. A long time! Relax. Slow and steady movement ahead is the goal. Remember the tortoise and the hare!
~ Building character and family relationships are top priority. Respect for authority, diligence, patience, and looking out for the other guy are things that won’t be taught in most curriculums. This is the learning that comes from just living everyday together.
And, I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true. I wouldn’t trade a minute of our years home together! My best friends were grown there