Becoming a Homeschool Family & Finding a Philosophy

The Early Decision to Homeschool

When DH and I first decided to homeschool our kids, we really didn’t know what we were doing. We were acquaintances with a handful of homeschoolers in our area, but we knew one homeschooling family fairly well because they attended the same church as us. Some of the daughters from that family babysat A8 for us a few times when he was a baby.

I distinctly remember driving one of the girls home after a babysitting gig; she was probably 14 years old. As we drove by a public middle school with kids playing at recess, I asked her if she ever wished she had “gone to school.” Her response was so immediate, so decisive. I think it was something like, “No. Why would I want to do that?” It caught me off guard, I guess, because I expected her to mull it over and weigh the differences. Maybe I thought I was the first person to ask her that question. (Now I know that homeschooled kids are asked this question ALL OF THE TIME.)

She went on to list all the benefits of home education, emphasizing its efficiency. I believe her exact words were, “I’m done with school by noon while those kids are stuck at school all day.” The conversation obviously impacted me (because I remember it all these years later). I talked it over with DH, and then we didn’t really bring it up for a while.

The Lure of Preschool

A8 was a kid that went to preschool. No regrets there. He is extremely extroverted, and as a toddler he absolutely wore me out. Back then I worked 20 hours a week, so I used the time he was in school to contribute to family finances. I did most of my work from home after he went to bed at night, but I used the time he was at school to meet with my employer and get my next assignment (I wrote Ebay listings for a comic book store).

The thing about putting our only child in preschool was that it lured me into thinking I needed to work more when our second child was born and becoming dependent on preschool for childcare instead of its original purpose of getting this extrovert out of the house. It seemed like the only option. So, while I was expecting L5, A8 went from a once weekly “mothers day out” program to a three morning a week preschool, and I worked more hours. Even though DH and I felt drawn to homeschool, we were on a completely different track, and our sleep-deprived minds were on autopilot.

Making the Change

We kept up this game for a few years. A8 went to two years of Mon/Wed/Fri preschool mornings while I kept baby L5 at home. We found out we were expecting J3 just after L5 had his first birthday, so that sent me into work overdrive.

We ended up enrolling A8 in a five-day-a-week pre-k program at a private school just so I could keep all of the plates spinning — those plates being working, raising a toddler that had food allergies and sensitivities (more on that in another post), and gestating (which DH would say makes me narcoleptic). Because A8 was an early reader, he was bumped up to kindergarten. Suddenly, I was working to pay for private school tuition and trying desperately to save money for the new baby (you don’t get maternity leave from a part time job with a comic book store). And, most unsettling of all, A8 was going to school full-time.

We had to consciously make a change; otherwise, we were going to keep going on this same track. After J3 was born and was out of the “fourth trimester” (aka first three months after birth), we pulled A8 from kindergarten mid-year and finished the year as homeschoolers. Thankfully, his private school was completely supportive — the administrators didn’t charge us for the full year AND his teacher sent home all of his worksheet books and explained to me where he left off.

Starting from Ground Zero

I literally had no idea what I was doing. Unlike many homeschool parents, I had read hardly any books on home education philosophy. My one saving grace was a friend (Kim) from our former church (we had switched churches by this point) who had asked me to help her edit an ebook she had written on home education. The information in her book had not sunk very far into my brain until I suddenly needed it very badly.

I reconnected with Kim, and she advised me — both in person and through her book — to find my philosophy of education. I spent the remainder of A8’s school year going through the motions of his workbooks while reading several home education books and blogs. When I came up for air, I realized that — like Kim, coincidentally, since she was careful not to push her philosophy onto me — I strong identified with Charlotte Mason’s style of education.

A Lifetime of Learning

I think it was at this point that I fell in love with the idea of being a homeschooling family — not just the anticipated results (smart kids with good manners, close family relationships, etc.) but the actual process. Perhaps a bit too excitedly, I realized that I had a lot to learn about this whole Charlotte Mason thing (including the later realization that CM is encompassed by the much larger classical style of education) and that I was in for a lifetime of learning.

When I announced to Kim that I wanted to have a CM homeschool, she oh-so-wisely pointed me towards two excellent resources: the CiRCE Institute and Ambleside Online. Both of these absolutely set the course for our family. More on that next week!

Until we meet again next Friday, be well.

I’m still reading:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  • How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Joan of Arc by Mark Twain (made some progress on this last night)
  • Mind to Mind by Karen Glass
  • Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
  • For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
  • Henry V by William Shakespeare

Diana

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