Some of the most entertaining responses I have received when I said I homeschooled were:
- “And you still have your hair?! That is amazing!” (Thanks, Melinda!)
- “If I homeschooled, all that my kids would know how to do is shop at Target!” (Thanks for not homeschooling, my friend .)
- “I could never spend that much time with my kids; [and even worse,] they would never want to spend that much time with me!” (Thanks, lady at the park.)
Many feel compelled to tell me why they don’t homeschool – which really isn’t necessary – I know it is not for everyone. I am not a homeschool Nazi who thinks there is only one way to do well for your children. I have no vendetta against public school; I love all of my friends who send their kids to school; and I pretty much adore most of the teachers I have met.
More and more often, I hear, “How do you do that?” or “I wish I had done that.” And my favorite response: “Can you tell me why you would do that?” (Thank you, drug store employee!)
Chris explained to me one day, “I don’t look at our children as clay that we should mold, but as seeds God entrusted to us, and we should provide the best garden for their growth.”
The educational methods we have chosen are purposeful to allow our four children to grow to be adults who would:
- Glorify the Lord
- Reach their fullest potential
- Are Hardworking (Prov 13:4)
- Have a good attitude, showing the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22)
- Are leaders in their homes, their churches, communities, and country
In summary, the principles we would like to instill would raise happy, healthy, productive Christian Americans.
The Princess Bride Story (sort of)
Have you heard this story about a princess? She was of marrying age, so her father began his search for the right man to whom he would promise his daughter’s hand in marriage. Man after man lined up, trying to impress the king to win his favor and take his daughter’s hand. A chariot race was arranged on the dirt path at the edge of the mountain and the husband wannabes prepared their horses and carriages for the show. One man stepped forward to gain the king’s attention and said, “I would like your daughter to ride with me; I will get her within one foot of the cliff’s edge and bring her safely to the end of the race.”
The next man could not be outdone, so he had a different promise: “Sir, I would love to win your favor so much that I will get your daughter within one INCH of the cliff’s edge and bring her safely to the race’s end.”
The third man walked slowly toward the king. He meekly began, “Sir, your daughter is of such value; I would not risk getting her anywhere near the edge of the cliff. I will deliver her safely, in the right time, as far from the cliff’s edge as I can.”
The king cancelled the race and promised the daughter’s hand to the third suitor who promised her safety.
I suppose I feel as if a King has entrusted four children to me, and I want to deliver them
back to Him as safely as I am able. That is not to say that someone who does not homeschool is sending children over the edge of some cliff! Hear me out: I have met MANY public school educated people who are far from the edge of any cliffs themselves (including my perfect husband and perfect me! LOL).
“I can say that we have tried all kinds of schooling for our four kids: public school, private school and homeschool, and none of them works!” – Stephen Davey, tongue in cheek
“Methods are many.
Principles are few.
Methods always change.
Principles never do.”
Homeschooling is not a principle in the Brady house; it is a method. This may be obvious since we currently have two in school and two schooling at home. This school year of 50-50 has shed light on both sides of the schooling methods, and spurred me to write you.
I have heard that data shows that the factor that is most influential over a child’s education is the parents’ active involvement in the education – whichever method is chosen.
“The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next,” Abraham Lincoln said. If that statement is true, then we parents had better know, and heartily agree with the philosophy of whatever schoolroom in which our children spend their weeks. (An article and a two minute video below tell a little bit about “Common Core,” a new classroom curriculum which has already started in 45 states. There is a core philosophy being mandated by the government, so I guess in those states, Lincoln’s quote could be restated: “The philosophy of the government in THIS generation will be the philosophy of the schoolroom, too.” But I digress…)
Normally, I would put a list of “recommended reading” at the end of a Letter, but the recommended reading here is practically more important than this Letter! So I want to include it here. Whether you homeschool, public school or private school, these books should be required reading for any parent:
Thomas Jefferson Education (and its sequels by Oliver DeMille). I cannot quote DeMille enough in this Letter regarding school choice. I just want to print the whole book, which ironically I didn’t find until I had been homeschooling for 7 years! But even if you do not have children of school age, this book is an inspiration for any of us to never stop learning! (It is a great precursor to another of his books, Leadershift (by Woodward and DeMille).)
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling (Debra Bell, $2.99 at the link). A must-read for parents of school-age kids. Read the first few chapters and her great school debate. If you are not choosing to homeschool, skip the rest of the book. The first few chapters provide good insight and conviction, as well as a balanced look at school choices. The back of the book has many, many options of “how-to’s” which show the vast range of types of homeschooling.
Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World (Freed and Parsons). ADHD is a growing diagnosis among school-aged children. This book (by someone who is not pro-homeschool) not only helped free some thoughts regarding that diagnosis (and some other options besides medication) but also shed light on some of my own weaknesses. I was amazed at how my kids fell in line with his test. He helped me find strengths in them I didn’t know they had. It changed everything for one of my children, because I deal with him in all areas in a different way, and for us, it works!
The Reasons We Homeschool:
In her book, Debra Bell recommends writing down WHY you homeschool. (And I would recommend writing down WHAT YOU WANT AT THE OTHER END OF SCHOOL whichever method of schooling you choose – to keep yourself accountable to your principles.) This list has kept me “in” many times when the “bad wolf” was whispering contrary thoughts in my head; but it has also guided many decisions of ours, “Should we hire a teacher?” “Should we participate in a homeschool group?” “Should I offer to teach other like-minded families in a group or start our own school?” to name a few. We just look at how those decisions affect (or don’t affect) this list of benefits and then decide.
This list will be different for all families. Just because some of these are available to homeschoolers does NOT mean that these benefits are not available to public school or private school.
Brady Family: goals and benefits of homeschooling
- Biblical values being taught and “caught” – consistent without wavering based on denominations, legalism, or tolerance. This includes consistent discipline – not 6 hours of one way, and then a totally different magnitude at home.
- Closely knit family relationships. No age-group segregation to foster segregation within a family. Friends of all ages.
- Flexible schedule for travel, neighbors in need, and visitors.
- Speed of learning catered to individual and/or individual subject. Teach at a 1st grade level in reading, but 3rd grade in math, for example.
- Style of learning catered to the individual Spoon-feeding methods and memorization versus self-teaching and reading classics; audio learning versus visual versus kinesthetic learning methods, etc.
- Avoid negative comparison or labeling by people who don’t necessarily have my kids’ best interest in mind or don’t love them the way I do.
- Avoid unnecessary negative influence of peers, teachers, or bullies.
- Subjects of MY choice, based on my priorities: Bible, Employment, Self-employment, Business ownership and Investment quadrants of Cashflow (by Kiyosaki), outdoor play, music lessons, languages, people skills, etc.
- Once they have learned to read, they should be able to read to learn in any subject so they can take that skill to be life-long learners.
- Emphasize learning and mastery, not grades, standardized tests or brownie points.
- Focus on learning to think, not learning what to think (DeMille)
10. Be influenced by other admirable homeschoolers.
11. Learn through experience. Learn history through traveling with Chris, etc. I will know what they have learned, so when we travel (even to grocery store!), I will be able to point out what applies to them at their level.
FAQ’s of Homeschooling:
- Is it legal?
- YES! Unless the government says our children are not our own…which unfortunately seems to be too common of a trend in what I see. Go to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association website to see legal requirements for your state: www.hslda.org
- What about socialization?
- Yep. Schools are better at teaching socialism. Haha! J
- I asked this question about socialization originally of a homeschool mother and she said, “Do you want your 5-yr-old to learn social skills from another 5-yr-old? Or an adult?” Good point.
- When I began, I coerced 3 or 4 good friends to do it with me. (OK – they say I dragged them into it – but over a decade later, and they have helped guide me as much or more than any opposite force.) There was no “trend” of friends to follow, but homeschoolers had laid a path that we found with ease. We got our kids together once/week for gym, music and art. The group grew to be 40+ families of 100+ kids by the time I left Michigan two years ago. Now here in Raleigh, NC, there are thousands in the homeschool groups, and several from which to choose. Socialization is with the right people during socialization time; learning takes place one on one in a quiet (well, relatively quiet) home.
- Am I able do it?
- Did you teach your child to use the bathroom? Tie his shoes? Make his bed? You have been homeschooling all along.
- If you don’t know where to begin, there are many resources available for telling you word-for-word what to do and say daily.
- In my experience, 5 and 6-yr-olds practically teach themselves when we offer them the right educational options of reading and play.
- What about special needs? ADHD?
- Special needs do not disqualify the ability to homeschool. Part of the confidence I had when I began homeschooling was due to working one-on-one with an autistic child, to whom his mother and I (among others) taught lessons each day, recording progress in a notebook. Thanks to God and the behavioral therapy, the non-speaking three-yr-old became an active kindergartener in public school just two years later, with no diagnosis of autism present. (Read “Let Me Hear Your Voice” by Katherine Maurice for additional information.)
- ADHD children might fair well when treated individually, at their own pace and designed environment.
- What does it cost?
- A part of me wants to answer this one, “everything!” since every part of me becomes part of homeschooling. But in dollar terms, the cost varies based on the method chosen, which means it varies A LOT! Robinsoncurriculum.com offers a K-12 classics curriculum for under $400 for 13 years’ worth (less on eBay). Amblesideonline.org offers completely free downloads and reading lists by grade-level that provide most of the needs for FREE. A local homeschool group offers classes for most high school courses for about $500 each subject/year. Classical conversations costs about $1500/year for middle school. EBay changes all the numbers. As you can see, the cost varies greatly.
- How much time does it take every day?
- Oliver DeMille, in Thomas Jefferson Education, suggests spending five hours/day doing something academic. Some kids will drive themselves more from there. Younger kids, less.
- In the early years (K-3rd grade), I rarely spend more than 2 hours working with the student. Often 20min reading lesson and a little math and they are off on their own- reading, exploring the outdoors, etc. Last I checked, Kindergarten is still optional in many states, as well as the Brady home. The “incidental learning” through influence of reading aloud and playing games made Kindergarten “requirements” satisfied by age three or four for all four of our children – so I was never too worried about officially “starting school.”
- It is impossible to measure length of time in homeschooling. Maybe we work 8am-11am specifically teaching, but then I see Christine (9) off in the woods in the backyard, carrying a journal and the Nature Handbook with her. And I see JR (7) trying to get his remote control car to balance, holding the magazine that he hand-made for a friend down the street. Then we snuggle with popcorn and books (See the letter: “Raising Readers”) or get out the map at night, to see where Pagoo went on his journey during bedtime reading. How much time did it take to “do school”?
- What curriculum do you use?
- I highly recommend anyone trying to choose a curriculum to read the DeMille and Bell books (above), before choosing. I don’t use the same curriculum for all of my children (see “reason why Bradys homeschool” #5 above). Look for a future Letter to Lindsey regarding getting started.
- When I first began homeschooling, I simply brought school home; I even boasted, “I use the same curriculum as some schools.” However, experience has told me that I was not satisfying #4, 5, 8 or 10 of my reasons by just selecting a box curriculum (like A Beka or Bob Jones) and staying with it. So I branched. I got rid of the “chalkboard mentality paradigm” I had from growing up in school. Now, we do Bible, math and grammar/penmanship together and then focus on reading classics. Incidentally, if anyone asks, I highly recommend to anyone starting homeschool – especially with a child who has been in school – that they begin with a box curriculum like A Beka or Bob Jones, because it gets the daily routine right before you start picking and choosing creatively.)
- Is there an age when you shouldn’t homeschool anymore?
- My first “age” goal to reach for each child was 10-yrs-old. The goal was that after age 10, we could reevaluate whether homeschool was right for us. Dr. James Dobson says that if a child is given one standard consistently until the age of 8-10 years old, he is much less likely to veer from it. This goes along with the fact that most discipline for obedience within a home is heavily required until around age 6-10. If, however, the foundation has many “blows to its base” when a 1st grade teacher teaches evolution, for example, or promotes divorce, or doesn’t punish for a child’s lie, the child is more likely to not only question his beliefs, but his parents’ as well. So it was my first goal to get to age 10. Of course, we loved it and went beyond.
- My friend, Donna Ascol, who has graduated 4 homeschoolers with high school and associates degrees at the same time, and still homeschools two more says, “If I could only homeschool two years of their whole lives, it would be 6th and 7th grade.” I agree that those two years can be painfully unforgettable and unrealistic on the social skills of peers; I have not been put inside of a locker since 7th grade. LOL.
- We put our eldest in school at 9th grade, but I do NOT say that high school is the age where all should go to school…if they go to school at all! It was right for him, but it may not be right for all. My second son will be coming back home for 8th grade next year: his request; our choice.
- It goes back to praying through the pros and cons of your personal situation for each child. Reevaluating every year takes the pressure off. No for now doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind next year. Chris and I have often come to lean in a direction, just because it has less chance of regret. I will never regret the extra time I have spent with my kids, never.
- What obstacles are there to overcome? (The way to overcome any obstacle is to make sure the dream is bigger than the obstacle. Stay focused on your “reasons for homeschooling” any time one of these obstacles arises in your mind. Believe me, those school buses never look so appealing to me as every February; I get my list of “why” back out and read it!)
- Family and Friends: With any good decision comes resistance. Well-meaning family and friends can weigh a homeschooler down. I had to understand that even though it was TRULY not in my heart, my homeschooling implied that their schooling choice was not as good as my own. Not true, but I am guessing they felt it regardless. Time allowed us all to encourage each other in our choices, knowing God has a plan for each.
- Parenting: The fluency of homeschooling is limited by our own discipline within the home. Many have told me they want to homeschool, but their kids won’t listen to them. Sad. Excuse. If we can’t train them to listen to us, the parents, to what authority will they listen? Look at statistics of peer pressure and you get the answer. It is ok to make demands of your children – even in schooling. I am ashamed that I used to think that was “someone else’s job.”
- Toddlers: I don’t like calling children “obstacles,” but toddlers bring a challenge to homeschooling – not an impossibility – a challenge. You can do it anyway! Yes, it is easier now that I don’t have to try to dance with Cheerios in my hair to distract the 1-yr-old while, cleaning up the Play-Doh of the 3-yr-old, all while teaching the 6-yr-old addition, and the 9-yr-old science, but it was worth it. Much has been written about homeschooling with toddlers in the room, so I won’t bore with details, but I encourage you to look into it. (Help for the Harried Homeschooler is a good place to start.) It makes me oh so sad when I hear of a mom that gives up homeschooling her 6-yr-old because she is afraid her 3 and 1-yr-olds were too much of a distraction! (See answer to #6 above for how much time it takes. See Obstacles #9d (perfectionism) below and overcome it. Then re-read your reasons to homeschool before you consider putting a six-year-old in school due to younger siblings.)
- Perfectionism: My desire for perfectionism was such an obstacle, that it was the most common whisper/shout in my ear, trying to persuade me to put my kids in school. Sometimes the house fell apart. (THAT is funny that I just used past-tense, since it STILL falls apart!) The school day almost NEVER looks perfect. (“Almost” is optional in that sentence.) I too often imagined that some teacher, any teacher would do a better job than I was doing. SHE would be more organized. HE would get all of the checkmarks in the box for the day. But raising a child is not about collecting checkmarks! Raising the next generation of leaders will not always look organized! Now that I have some years of experience in homeschooling, I can confidently tell you that years of imperfect homeschooling are leading to mature children who are progressing in the direction of happy, healthy, productive Christian Americans.
Who should NOT homeschool?
- If the only reason you want to take your kids out of school is so they don’t wake you up in the morning, please don’t.
- If you are only half-interested in it, please don’t.
- If you are only mad at a teacher, please don’t. Rectify things with the teacher, and then make a decision through prayer.
- If you call your husband a “*&^#&*$^@bleep who won’t clean the toilets!” your kids could use a better influence. (HAHA – Remember from my last letter, “It Began as a Walk in the Park”?)
- If you don’t feel called to homeschool, nothing is wrong with you. There are other options and God may be using your life and your children’s in those situations for His glory! Press on!
Two minute video on Common Core: http://youtu.be/9gyZDtzgta8
Article on two moms who who got involved and made a difference for their state when they noticed something had changed because their school started using Common Core: Two Moms Versus Common Core