What were your reasons for homeschooling?
I arrived in Canada at age 24 and back then I didn’t plan on homeschooling my future children. English as my second foreign language and young in my Christian faith, you might say the odds were against me to choose homeschooling. But God had other plans. We knew two godly families who were teaching their children at home and this made a deep impression on me. It was probably the leading cause for my husband and I to consider homeschooling down the road. We observed that homeschooled children connected well with children of different ages as well as adults. When the time came, it felt natural to us to pursue home education. I realized that I was unwilling to spend most of the day away from them, missing their big and little successes which would take place in school.
If you asked me today what my reasons for homeschooling our kids are, I would add: worldview. Choosing our own curriculum has given us the freedom to consider faith-based materials. I value the opportunity to instil a firm foundation in their lives, both academically and spiritually.
How long have you homeschooled?
I started right from when our firstborn daughter was entering Kindergarten, eight years ago, though some of her teaching started much before then (counting, reading books to her, talking about what we were experiencing and learning as we went through our days together). With my son, who is two years younger than our daughter, I found he picked up so much alongside his eager sister. When he was about 5 years old and doing fairly well with reading, I asked one day in mock surprise who it was that had taught him how to read (I didn’t!). He grinned and said “My brain.”
Could you highlight some of your experiences during your home-school years?
For me, the best part about homeschooling the kids, is having them home. This means that we can eat our meals together at the table, where many good discussions take place. It’s a great time to connect with one another as a family.
A favorite time for me is when we read a book together out loud. Generally, that happens at breakfast and lunch, while the kids finish their meal. These books usually fit in well with our social studies topic. This fall, I have already read a couple of historical fiction books on early civilizations. We love these fascinating accounts that transport us to a far away time. Though the kids are both ferocious readers themselves, they enjoy these times of lingering at the table, hearing the next chapter of our current adventure. When they were younger, reading books out loud to them meant they could listen to stories which they were too young to read on their own. This is how the kids were first introduced to Little House on the Prairie, the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Pilgrim’s Progress, the Boxcar children, and a host of others. Later, they would read these books on their own; some over and over again.
It’s great to see the kids grasp concepts, make connections or get excited about topics. However, not only the kids are growing and learning, but I am, too. This fall for example, we have started Diana Waring’s Ancient Civilizations & the Bible history curriculum. This program is unlike any other I have personally taught before. Though it was a bit overwhelming for me at first, I now really appreciate all it has to offer. The kids are becoming more independent learners and take ownership of their own education, a flame I will continue to fan as the years go by.
Was there a certain method and/or curriculum that worked for you?
One curriculum that stands out for me is the Saxon Math program. We have used it year after year since Grade 1 for both kids and we plan to continue to do so. I never enjoyed Math when I went to school but Saxon – with its incremental approach to introducing new concepts – has made Math easy to understand for the kids. To be clear, I need to mention that it’s a rigorous program which apart from daily new concepts includes much repetition and daily timed drills. It’s definitely worth the time commitment, though. After disliking the subject for years, though consistently getting high grades in it, my now twelve year old daughter considers it her favorite subject.
Apart from sticking to our trusty Saxon, we have taken an eclectic approach to our curriculum choices. Some programs fall into the Classical category, such as the “Story of the World” history curriculum which we went through for four years. The same goes for the Institute for Excellent Writing (IEW) themed writing program the kids worked through last year. Again, though the kids often moaned when it was time to do their IEW lessons, I noticed a huge improvement in their writing skills because of it. This curriculum has proven to be effective and has yielded almost instant results to vary sentence structure, add quality adjectives, strong verbs, etc. During our read-alouds, they would often point out certain skills they had learned in that program. Now, they recognized these techniques while reading published authors.
Will you homeschool in high school?
At this point, I am just on the threshold of junior high school with our older one who is in Grade 7. In order to give her some more freedom and the opportunity to work with a teacher other than me, we tried something new and enrolled her in an online English course through Heritage Christian Online School. Though the first week was a bit of a learning curve, she has settled in well. She values the freedom to work independently and enjoys the variety of topics of her course. This seems to be a good fit for her this year, for this subject. For future years and subjects, we will evaluate our options both for her and her brother as they enter the higher grades. At this point, it looks like some online courses may be a good option for us.
What piece of advice would you recommend to homeschooling families?
I’ll be frank; homeschooling takes a lot of time and energy. Taking into account correcting, lesson prep and reporting translates into some extra hours for me. A vision of why you homeschool will help you stick with it over time.
Since I am by nature an organizer, schedules have been my “friends” throughout the years. They help me put my expectations of what needs to be accomplished in a year down on paper, an invaluable help to make sure the work gets done.