The first time we homeschooled was with our two older children, who are now full grown adults functioning well in the world! After all, as parents our goal is to raise mature adults with the ability to succeed and to live productive lives. Our first adventure in homeschooling started well over twenty years ago. It was during the time of dial-up internet and limited resources for homeschoolers. We were among those considered to be a bit weird for even entertaining the idea of homeschool. Our children were in late elementary school and could not read or spell. That’s right! I went to the principal with my concerns and was told that the kids did not need to “know how to spell because computers have spell check on them.” I almost fainted. No joke.
The problem was two-fold. My children weren’t learning and I was too worn out from volunteering at the school to do hours of homework every night. Something had to give.
We Jumped In And Didn’t Look Back
At first the kids were a little apprehensive about leaving their friends and school, but it soon changed when they saw all the advantages of being homeschooled. Sleeping later than 6:00 AM was a big perk! We were able to customize our curriculum based on their strengths and weaknesses, which they appreciated. Our son loved music and technology. While our daughter loved crafting and home economics. They found that friendships in the youth group at our church were deeper than those they had with kids in their classes at school. In the public school, they were not allowed to talk most of the day. It is hard to build relationships when you can’t talk, right?
- Just an example of what I mean, the cafeteria was a quiet zone and the children ate in the dark many days as punishment for being too loud the day before. I mean, really that is a little extreme. During the same week, my daughter’s teacher sent home a note asking me to reprimand her for talking during class. I “calmly” replied, “When she is allowed to talk in lunch again, I will ask her to limit her conversation during class.” Of course, her teacher did not like my reply, but so sorry. 🙂 I would not have known about silent days if I had not been volunteering in the school. Just saying…..it pays to check out what is happening.
How We Used Strengths To Form Our Class-work
- Technology and music lend themselves well to teaching science. Our son and daughter played and sang in a couple of bands. He liked the study of recording music and purchased a large storage building to convert to a recording studio. He used money from his lawn business and weddings, where he ran sound, to buy the building and equipment. His dad spent many days and nights helping him outfit the building for sound recording. He recorded his bands, indy groups, commercials and local church ministers for radio programs. He volunteered at the Public Television studio at the University of Alabama to gain commercial experience. He ran PowerPoint and sound for church on Sundays and Wednesdays. We focused on music catalogs for his reading material. By the time he attended The Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, OH, he was able to name almost every microphone, speaker, recorder, cable, etc. His instructors loved him. Today he is an executive in a large company using his technology background to grow the business with websites, apps and online advertising.
- Crafting and home economics can be taught in many ways. Our daughter loved to sew, in particular. She made quilts, beach bags, purses, clothes and other crafts. She loved getting in the kitchen especially baking cakes and cooking for Daddy’s birthday. Interior design just goes naturally with this interest. She also liked to keep her room tidy, just the opposite of her brother! Doing hair and makeup were also a couple of her interests, along with loving on pets. The gift of mercy was bestowed on her, as well. Caring for the sick just comes naturally to her. Remember, she also likes to talk. Imagine how stunted she would have become if left in public school where she could not talk. Today she is a well know Hair Stylist, who excels in color. Her experience in baking serves her well in mixing color. It’s funny she learned math doing home economics, baking and sewing. She did not even know she was “doing school” most days! She’s been working in the medical field over fifteen years as a scrub tech for a cataract surgery office too. Where she finds the time I do not know, but she also house-sits occasionally and cares for the owner’s pets.
Resources Were Limited Back Then
We used our limited internet resources to order books – real paper books. I still have lots of the books we used back then and cherish the content. We went to the library often and checked out books, cassette tapes and VHS videos. I know, I know, some of you guys are asking what is VHS. That’s OK, I don’t think they make them anymore! 🙂
We took our books on tape in the car when we went out and listened to a lot of books that way. We’d read the book and watched movies based on the book to compare all media differences. Algebra was taught by a dear old man on video. I don’t recall his name or the series because I later sold the set on eBay, but video was the way to go with my kids.
They both were diagnosed with ADD at early ages. The videos kept their attention longer than book work did. In homeschool, you do whatever works. Since music was an interest of both kids, we got our son into guitar lessons and our daughter into singing with him.
How We Used Weaknesses To Form Our Class-work
- Since neither child loved to read and Dyslexia made it especially difficult for our son, I read aloud sometimes and our daughter read aloud other times. Our son did his reading silently most of the time. He read his Bible at night and we would discuss it together. While our daughter read aloud, he would often grab his music catalog. Once, I was annoyed by the fact he was “not paying attention” while she read from the American History textbook. I stopped her and asked him to tell me what she said. He repeated it verbatim. I never worried about that again.
- Since sitting still was a big issue for the kids, we often did our work outside or travelling. We did lots of field trips. When we would travel by car, I’d give one child the job of navigator going and the other coming back. This was before cells phones, GPS, Google Maps, etc. They’d use a folded paper map. Where ever they told me to turn is where I’d turn. These would be trips consisting of 200 miles or so. We were never lost, just on adventures! While driving, we’d listen to books on tape and all kinds of music.
Our Homeschool Group
We belonged to an awesome school, but it was about a ninety-minute drive and we did not go there except for required meetings. There were a few required meetings each year. I dreaded them because that meant I had to have my journal ready for examination. The worst part of homeschooling back then was this meeting. It was not the group’s fault I hated the journal review, it was my procrastination.
Homeschool Allows For Specialized Teaching
Our kids graduated a couple years apart, which was a good thing. Mama was not ready to stop teaching and I got to spend a little more time with my daughter once our son graduated. She designed our new home we built her final year. We drew up plans and had a contractor friend vouch for us to be able to sub the work out that we could not do ourselves. We did a lot of the work like acid staining our concrete floors, custom bathroom cabinets, and faux painting. We spent a lot of time at the paint store, home improvement stores and fabric stores.
To Recap The Old Days Of Homeschool
- Internet was slow dial-up
- Curriculum ordered in paper form, VHS or cassette tapes – or checked out at library
- The dreaded homeschool meetings with journal review
- Studies were customized to fit the child
- Relationships made stronger through communication and time spent together
How Is This Time Different?
Our youngest son is Gifted. That is not to say he is smarter than others in every way, it is to say he learns differently. Some things he learns quickly and others not so much. Technology, science, reading at higher levels and some math are things in which he excels. While ordinary, common things seem to give him pause like drawing, coloring, sitting still to study anything that is not interesting to him, steps in cleaning house, etc. He is learning the common things with repetition, which is a hard thing for him. Repetition is difficult for him in general. He requires lots of reminding to do the common things. Classroom teachers did not take well to reminding him to do things so his work just was not done. Consequently, he made a lot of bad grades last semester in public middle school. This is one reason we finally chose to start homeschooling with him.
We did not just yank him out of school for a few bad grades. No, grades don’t mean that much to us. In reality, grades mean more to schools. The problem we had was when we tried to talk with the teachers about his Gifted status, they basically said that he was in all advanced classes and that was their “Gifted Program.” The thing is, Gifted does not mean Advanced. Although some Gifted kids are advanced in many ways, they are not advanced in everything. Being Gifted can be a learning deficient in many areas, if not treated in a Gifted manner.
- Repetitious math problems that require one to “show your work” when the student looks at the problem and knows the answer kills enthusiasm for learning. Writing it out over and over just frustrates them. Dreading math class repetition can cause a Gifted child to shut down as the day progresses toward math hour.
- Writing by hand on paper and turning in the homework, rather than by typing it and emailing back to teacher, is a difficult common task. The writing itself was tedious, but remembering to turn in the work two days later at the next class time, was especially difficult.
- Any class work without a given purpose is a struggle.
Some Things Have Changed This Go Around
With our sixth grader, we are using a lot of internet resources. Thank God for high speed WiFi. There are so many websites and online resources that are free or inexpensive. The homeschool group we are members of this time does not have regular meetings, instead our records are emailed monthly. We keep a journal each day of the work completed, which my son writes. We keep a log of his attendance hours daily, as well. We save his work in the cloud so it is accessible from anywhere. He uses a Chromebook with an account that I can access and view daily. I list his assignments on a document with website links, as needed. He can work independently and save his work in folder on Google Drive. He uses All In One Homeschool which is a terrific free resource by a homeschool mom for homeschoolers. All the resources she lists are free online, including daily assignments on grade levels and for group teaching. We are building this website as a resource for homeschoolers, as well. Be sure to check out the Homeschool Membership section with book tests and vocabulary. My son is a contributor on the tests. I have found that one learns more when teaching a subject. The books cover all ages and grade levels, as well as, a large variety of subjects.
When we boil it all down, the best thing about this whole adventure is the relationship we are building with our son. Instead of him spending every hour of his free time away from public school, in his bedroom online with friends, he is spending all day with me and his evenings of well deserved free time is spent with his friends online. Kind of sounds the same, but there is a difference. I actually get to mold my child, I get to spend time with him teaching him our values and the skills he needs to move forward in his education. He can move around as he needs to by walking outside occasionally or playing with Oliver. We spend less time fussing and more time hugging and laughing. Well worth it all.