reasons to homeschool

I Homeschool to Kindle Their Fire

To me, teaching is more than delivering content. It is more than facilitating learning. It is about connecting with the soul of the child and inspiring them. The true value in homeschooling is in the opportunity not to direct their learning, but to kindle their fires and breathe live into their passions.

reasons to homeschool

This year has been about rebuilding for our homeschool journey. After six years of treading water in the wake of my son’s death, I finally feel able to set goals, plan and carry things through. That isn’t to say nothing happened all these years, but we were on a kind of autopilot while I focused as much on getting through the day as I did on reaching my children’s hearts. This alphabet challenge has been good for me as I go through the reasons we homeschool and try to catch some of that vision I once had.

But it’s been hard as well. It’s been hard to see where I’ve gone astray. Where I’ve replaced relationships with worksheets. Where I’ve emphasized routine over creativity. Sometimes, giving grace to myself is the hardest of all.

Still, we’ve always maintained a commitment to supporting our children in their passions. In a world that seems dominated by apathy, I have always wanted to inspire my children to reach a little higher, push themselves a little further and strive for a little more. As a Christian, I ultimately want to see that passion and energy and fire applied to Christ and His work. But their own interests can be a path to capturing their hearts as much they can be used as tools to capture the hearts of others.

We are starting to see the fruits of that in our eldest. After my son died, she was, for a time, lost. She was angry over losing him, angry (I think) over losing us and angry at being alone when she needed someone most. But she had always had a passtion for horses. She wanted to become a veterinarian so she could work with them. She devoured books on horses. All she thought about was horses.

And I think one of the hardest things I have ever done was buy her a horse. After losing a child in a household accident, putting another child on the back of a 1500 pound animal was no easy task. But I swallowed my anxiety and found a horse.

Somewhere in the middle of her algebra book, she realized she would never make it through veterinary school. Horses, she loved. Math, she did not. She started to focus her career goals on education until the farrier came out to trim the horses’ hooves and mentioned by the wayside that she was about ready for farrier school. Something clicked in her mind. It was as if this were what she had been waiting for. And now she is down in the Ozarks, spending all her days shoeing horses and learning the art of farriery. And so far, doing quite well.

How was I to know that the death of her brother and the gift of that horse would eventually weave themselves into her testimony? That those would be the reasons she ultimately would pursue a career working full time to reach children for Christ? And that she might use her love of horses to make some side income to make her missionary work possible?

To light a fire only takes a tiny spark. And I pray that we are able to help each of our children find their sparks to kindle their own fires.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework
I is for Impromptu field trips
J is for Just enough

reasons to homeschool

A Field Guide to Homeschoolers

Unexpected encounters with homeschoolers outside their enclosures can be disconcerting. They typically start with generalized anxiety induced by seeing children outside during school hours and quickly progress to a host of questions the startled observer feels need to be answered. What about socialization? Is that even legal? What about the prom? This pushes the wary homeschooler into a defensive posture and her answers may signal aggravation. Don’t be concerned. They’re rarely dangerous. But I’ve spent 13 years studying the elusive homeschooler and wrote this guide to help cautious observers like you interact more comfortably with these fascinating specimens.

what is homeschooling

What is a homeschooler?

A homeschoolers is peculiar species who has opted to take over the primary role of educating her children herself. I refer to them as “she” for ease of reading and because the primary teaching role does tend to fall on the female of the species. This is not to downplay the role of the male in the education of his young, nor to discount the number of stay at home fathers who have taken on the responsibility.

How can I recognize a homeschooler?

Homeschoolers once had a kind of unofficial uniform. A denim jumper and a line of similarly dressed and perfectly behaved children were tell tale signs of a homeschool family. Recent protection efforts, however, have allowed the population to grow. It is therefore becoming more and more difficult to recognize a homeschooler on the street. They tend to move casually through their environment with a gait designed to not arouse suspicion or unnecessary attention. When they run into each other, they generally greet one another with a warm smile and possibly even a hug. Shouts to their “homegirls” across the aisles are unlikely.  Seeing a parent with minor children out and about during school hours remains the most reliable marker. Turning everyday things like nutrition labels at the grocery store into lessons can also be a strong indicator. Exercise caution before labeling. A mother discussing the label with her child may simply be a good parent. If she then launches into a history of where the 2,000 calorie diet originated, she is very likely a homeschooler.

Is homeschooling even legal?

Homeschoolers were once hunted nearly to extinction in many parts of the United States. They lived largely in the shadows, forming underground networks for support and as an alert system against those who would do them harm. They proved tenacious fighters, however. They successfully expanded their range and have since received protected status in all 50 states. They maintain strong local, regional and national networks to maintain these protections.

What is the homeschooler’s natural habitat?

It is a common misconception that homeschoolers reside predominantly at home. They have been known to participate in almost any activity that parents have been known to engage in, though they are somewhat less likely to attend PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences tend to be somewhat one-sided. They frequently congregate at libraries and office supply stores. When planning excursions into the wild, some homeschoolers deliberately choose to be most active during school hours when lines are shorter and exhibits less crowded. Others prefer to camouflage their activity by venturing out when most other humans are active.

What about socialization?

Many casual observers are highly concerned with the socialization of homeschooled children. Before approaching a suspected homeschooler with this question, however, it is important to be sure you understand what you mean. If you mean “social skills,” it is important to note that social conventions frown upon confronting strangers with their differences. Staring, drawing attention to them and interrogating them are generally considered rude and will lead the homeschooler to muse later on her blog about your social skills. Whether or not the homeschooled family you are observing has adequate social skills to be productive members of society can generally be noted without confrontation. Any behavior you see, however, is most assuredly also present in the public schooled population. I have noticed an increased likelihood that children will look you in the eye while talking to you and that they will answer your questions without that apathetic “Why are you still here?” look about them. This, however, is purely anecdotal.

If you mean socialization as it is most often understood by sociologists, i.e., the process whereby the social order is involuntarily (and at times coercively) imposed on us, you might be stumbling into one of the primary reasons the homeschooler you have discovered has chosen this path. This might also make more sense of the varied, sometimes sarcastic and often annoyed responses homeschoolers give to this ubiquitous question.

What about prom?

Homeschoolers have a number of social venues open to them. This may seem counter-intuitive to the outsider, but many homeschooled children actually meet each other through homeschooling. How does this happen when they don’t all go to school in the same building? Homeschoolers tend to be more intentional about their socializing and networking. They organize park days, co-ops, field trips and even dances. Many communities now have homeschool formals that act very much like a prom, though with less of the “twerking” plaguing public schools. Being homeschoolers, these, too, are subject to becoming learning opportunities. At the event I observed, the homeschooled youth were taught dance moves prior to being expected to actually dance. This resulted in near universal participation.

How should I approach a homeschooler if I see one?

Homeschoolers are passionate, but not generally dangerous. If you meet one in person, simply passing by while looking at your phone is acceptable. If you happen to make eye contact, don’t panic. A smile and a nod before returning on your way will likely be accepted in kind. If you say “hi,” they very likely will return the greeting. Curiosity is generally warmly received. The children are frequently asked math facts and state capitals by observers. Try mixing it up a bit by asking them what their favorite subject is. They’ve likely been asked if they like their teacher before, but when asked in a gently teasing tone and with a warm smile, it is also as well-received as most other small talk. Think of the length and depth of other conversations you have had with complete strangers in an elevator or in the check-out line. Use this as a model for the length and intensity of your questions. Most homeschoolers are happy to discuss their educational choices, even with strangers. That’s why so many of them blog. Still, try to keep it to one question and always maintain a polite, curious air rather than an obnoxious, judmental one.

Keep these observations in mind and your interactions with the homeschoolers you meet will likely remain pleasant. If you have further questions, feel free to drop me a note in the comments below and I will be happy to assist you.

reasons to homeschool

I homeschool to give them just enough

Parenting is a tough job and homeschooling is like parenting on steroids. You have these llittle beings in your care that you love more than life itself. You strive to guide them, to teach them, to encourage them, to inspire them. You want to help them build strong foundations that will carry them through the storms of life. And sometimes you just need them to stop fighting over who is touching whom fifteen minutes into a four hour drive.

why I homeschool

 

I don’t have this parenting thing figured out. Not by a long shot. It seems like it should be about time. After all, my eldest ist 18, left for farrier school and is transitioning to adulthood. All I know is that it takes a lot of prayer and a whole lot of faith. Mostly, I feel like I’m parenting in the dark. When there is conflict, I still don’t always know exactly what constitutes “normal” and what is cause for concern. It’s complicated by having lost a child. Some things I see in my children I trace back to that night. And the accuser entering my thoughts is always ready to blame my own grief and years of struggling to be present at all.

But I know what I want my parenting to look like. I want it to be “just enough.” Not in a lazy, get out of the hard parts of parenting way. To me, “just enough” is harder.

I want to give them just enough freedom to fail, but enough support that getting back up is easy.

I want to push them just hard enough that they surprise themselves at what they can do, but not so much that their victories are no longer theirs.

I want to work them hard enough that they learn discipline, but provide enough unstructured free time for them to get bored and begin to daydream.

I want to answer enough of their questions for them to learn how the world works, but leave enough unanswered questions to allow them to ponder and to wonder.

I want to give them just enough direction that they don’t feel lost, but not so much that they never learn to find their own way.

I want to give them just enough responsibility to develop their character, but enough grace that they can just be kids.

I want to give them enough instruction in our faith for them to build a firm foundation and just enough liberty to meet Christ on their own so that their faith is theirs and not just an expression of how they were raised.

And as I strive each day to be enough so that I can give them enough, I fail. Daily. So I cling to a simple prayer . . . that love really does cover a multitude of sins. Both mine and theirs. Then each day can start new with just enough strength to get through.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework
I is for Impromptu field trips
J is for Just enough

reasons to homeschool

On letting them grow and letting them go

You birth these precious cherubs. Bring them into the world and for awhile, they are your world. And you are theirs.

You teach them to read,

homeschool learning to read

to create

homeschool art

and to explore.

exploring the creek

You’re with them in their valleys

homeschool field trip stream

and on their mountain tops.

homeschool field trip Pike's Peak

You nurse them when they are sick, serving them Sprite and bouillion and toast. You try to let them rest . . . as much as anyone can rest while having their temperature taken and their blankets adjusted hourly through the night.

homeschool sick day

You laugh with them in their silliness

silly face

and help them through their messes and mistakes.

homeschool messes

You watch them fall in love

kitten love

and know that one day, another will replace you.

wade and dakota-min-1

You hope you’ve taught them enough. That you haven’t made too many mistakes. That their faith and their character will make up the difference. They’re ready to embark on this adventure. You? Not so much.

loading the car for farrier school

But you take them as far as you can. Excited for the next step.

dropping off at school

Excited for the hopes and dreams of the future. Praying that they’re ready. Praying that their faith is strong enough to see them through.

forge

And then they don’t answer your calls. They don’t answer your texts. You know they are busy. You know they are being asked to work harder than you’ve ever asked them to. You know they are tired. But you want to know how they are. You want to hear it from them. But you go on, making plans for a field trip that won’t include them. Knowing their plans don’t include you.

sandhill crane

You know they are OK. There WOULD have been a call if they weren’t. And somehow, you know that this, too, is right. Because it’s their life now and you are no longer the center. Still, you don’t feel quite right until that first text comes in. “Sorry, mom. I was at the forge all day but I finally got my hoof pick made. It’s hard!” And then you finally find a bit of peace that they are where they belong and that they know where you are if they need you.

homeschool freedom

Because they’re growing up and you’re letting go.

reasons to homeschool

I Homeschool For The Impromptu Field Trips

Like the homeschool field trip we’re on right now to see the sandhill cranes.

homeschool field trip sandhill crane

This is an almost annual tradition in our family. One day in March, usually at the last minute, I look to see if there are any hotel rooms available and we head out to Kearney to watch the sandhill crane migration. We drive around the outskirts of town looking for cranes. We watch them dance. We watch them eat. We watch them in their family groups and in their larger flocks.

And at sunset, we watch them descend upon the Platte River, filling the skies with their calls.

It is the familiarity of the annual event that makes it special. The children look forward to different parts. There is always excitement when we spot the first flock just outside of Grand Island, And even more when we get to the river and they can finally just run. Their favorite is walking under the highway bridge to get down close to the river.

Why is it so fun to just poke sticks in the water?

And I always enjoy looking at the pictures they took when we get home. Like 15 different views of this sheet of ice on the shore.

homeschool field trip Platte River

Impromptu field trips are the best because I have no specific plans or objectives in mind. We are just here to explore and take part in the annual migration of the sandhill crane. They’ve never had an assignment about the birds. We have no lapbooks on the subject. All we have is a love for being out in nature, listening to their calls and sharing just a moment in their life journey.

And yet they know why the birds sleep standing in the river. They know how important this stop over is to birds that need to be able to start nesting and raising young as soon as they land in the far north. They know about their family structure, diet and migration pattern. They know about the Platte River, how significant it is to Nebraska and how significant it is to this migration.

And of course they know about the dance of the sandhill crane. We drive around the countryside outside Kearney, looking for flocks close to the road just so we can watch them dance.

I enjoy this freedom homeschooling gives us to just notice what is going on in the state and go out to take a look. Sometimes, our field trips have something to do with what we are studying. More often, we just take a break from our lessons to be travelers for a day.

They give us the opporunity to just explore.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework