In this section I share about my own home schooling journey, both successes and failures, as well as tidbits, tips, resources and encouragement for anyone homeschooling or thinking about homeschooling.
I have had the joy of home schooling my six children for the last seventeen years. For a while there, the classroom seemed to just keep on getting bigger and bigger, but before I knew it, the older children started moving on to university! It has been a hugely rewarding journey for me. Challenging and demanding at times, but full of so much richness and joy – more than I would ever have dreamed. Not for the faint hearted though! Nor for those who want to hold onto their own agendas and plans. But for those of us who are willing and eager to embrace the lifestyle whole heartedly and give ourselves unreservedly to it, home schooling can prove to be the most fulfilling journey.
One of the greatest gifts home schooling has given me is TIME.
All those extra, wonderful hours with my children, which I can use to teach them, get to know them and let them know me, and simply enjoy them! Teach them not just how to read and write, but how to know God and hear His voice, how to walk in His ways, how to live a pure and godly life, how to discover the will of God for their lives.
Those extra eight hours each day are so precious to me. Our children are with us for such a short time…the opportunity to speak into their lives will never be greater than in those childhood years, and homeschooling gives us the ability to make the very most of that time. Yippee!
How Did I Begin?
When I first began home schooling Josiah in 1994, I had no idea what joys lay ahead of me. Now, seventeen years on, I could write a book about them.
Josiah was an active boy and still had an afternoon nap when he was four. As ‘D day’ loomed nearer, I began to look seriously at the local school, and other schooling options. For me, the clincher was that I didn’t want to hand Josiah over to a teacher for the biggest part of his day, only to have him for a few tired hours at the end. I also realized his teacher wouldn’t necessarily share the same values and beliefs that Chris and I want to share with our children. Deuteronomy 6: 5-7 was the mandate I had from the Lord to begin home schooling.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
So I began. It was an exciting time. Kate was four years old and very keen to home school as well. The three of us spent many happy hours reading together, doing art and all sorts of projects. Learning became a natural part of our days. We sat outside at night and learned about the stars. We made puppets and wrote songs together. It was wonderful. I had been given the gift of time. Time to enjoy my children. Time to nurture and teach them. And most importantly, time to disciple them in the ways of the Lord. It wasn’t something I had to try and squeeze in at the end of the day. It was all day, every day, as natural as can be. And over the years, I’ve watched my children grow in their love for Jesus. They are free from daily negative peer pressure, and my teenage daughter is thirteen, going on thirteen. They enjoy each other’s company. Even as I write this, Josiah is playing Settlers of Catan with his little brothers, and they’re laughing loudly. I love the closeness we have as a family, and I know we owe much of it to our years of home schooling.
I now home school four children (Josiah is extramurally studying property valuation at Massey university and Kate is in her last year of a music degree in Hamilton), ranging in ages from 17 to 11. (2015 update at the bottom of this post!)
Each one of my six children are different -some were fluent readers at four, while two of them struggled until they were eight and ten. But because I’m able to take them at their own pace, and encourage them in their different areas of gifting, they haven’t struggled with low self-esteem. One of my sons has recently been diagnosed as dyslexic. When the tests were finished, the woman who did them took me aside, and said, “Do you know what the best thing you ever did for your son is?” I had a pretty good idea, but wanted to hear her say it. “The best thing you ever did for Sam was homeschool him!” Yay! Don’t I know it!
The older children have developed self discipline and self motivation and are high achievers. But I have had more joy watching them develop godly character than from excellent exam results.
Our days begin with chores, and family devotions. Then we sit down to book work until lunchtime. After that, the younger ones enjoy the afternoon – soccer, LEGO, music practice, computer time, baking, reading, fun with friends, making tree huts and forts…
We can also do extra things I would never have found time for otherwise. We’ve spent many afternoons making rubber latex puppets, doing pottery, and writing and illustrating a children’s book. The older girls help me teach the younger ones how to bake and cook dinner. The days are full and busy.
Home schooling is a huge commitment, and you can easily get tired. I need to keep Deuteronomy 6 v 5-7 ever before me so I don’t become burdened down by other expectations that really don’t matter much at the end of the day.
When I look at Jacob, my eleven-year-old, I realize I’ll be home schooling for a few years yet. But when we all curl up on the sofa in the morning to read a good book together, I don’t ever want it to end.
Catherine Booth – my inspiration!
At the time of decision I re-read a wonderful book, Catherine Booth by Catherine Bramwell Booth (her grand daughter), and at this reading I took great interest in her thoughts on education. (Catherine Booth was married to William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, and was a tremendous woman; a great preacher herself, but primarily a wife and a mother.)
Let me share a bit of it with you:
“Her homeschooling began when Bramwell (her first born) came home from school looking very pale and spitting blood. A doctor finally got it out of him that the boys had caught him hands and feet and bashed him against a tree to ‘bang the salvation out of him.’
Pleurisy and rheumatic fever followed and the lively boy became a complete invalid for two years. This happening hardened Catherine’s aversion to schools. The fact is she was out of tune with the educational trends of her day..
“All the mischief comes from upsetting God’s order – cultivating the intellect at the expense of the heart; being at pains to make our youth clever than to make them good! All education that falls short of this seems to me one-sided, unphilosophical, and irreligious. And that is my quarrel with modern education.”
Catherine’s idea was to safeguard her children until they were mature enough to distinguish between good and evil for themselves. They should not, if their mother could help it, be caught in the meshes of wrong thinking and desire until they were familiar with the beauty of truth and goodness, and able to recognise the shabby meanness and ugliness of evil.
Speaking to parents from her own experience she once said, “Labour to wake up your children’s souls to the realisation of the fact that they belong to God.”
In a letter to her daughter Kate she wrote…
“I think we do put a right value on education in making God and righteousness first, and it second. If I had life over again I should be even more particular…Ballington went to school one term and came home and ridiculed the name of Jesus! Suppose I had let him go on in such associations?
You talk my darling about Herbert becoming a mighty man in God’s Israel…where did he get the principles you yourself have such faith in? Under his mother’s thumb and eye, not at a preparatory school for little boys getting ready for college, where deception and lying and infidelity are the order of the day; where the lazy or over taxed mistress has no time to ferret out sin, and expose and correct it, and weep over and pray with her poor little motherless charges as you remember I used to do with you!….oh! I do so want you and all my children to live for God!”
And they did! All eight of them! They had 45 grandchildren and every one of them also served God.
I wonder what Catherine would have thought about school as we know it? I’ll bet she would have had plenty to say!
Four Things I need in my home schooling – there are plenty more but these will do for now!
- Follow your flight plan. During its flight a plane is off course 90% of the time, but always gets back on course because the destination is in its flight plan all the time. The other morning as we drove down the road Milly said,” Look Mum! You can’t even see our beautiful mountains!” They were covered completely in a thick mist. Sometimes life (and home-schooling!) can be like that…we lose sight of the beauty that is there…maybe it’s the mist of self-pity, tiredness, busyness.
- Reassess your flight plan all the time. Why am I doing this?
- Call back to mind your goals and the real reason why you home-school….to disciple your children…to develop their characters (and yours!) …to enjoy your children etc.
- Don’t stress too much if you seem to be off course for a while…e.g. when you have a new baby, sickness etc
2. JOY. This I must not lose!! Or all else fails.
- Focus on the joy of mothering…the blessing of children. “Children are a blessing from the Lord!” Psalm 127:3
- Give yourself fully. The real joys of motherhood are for those who embrace it fully… If you don’t embrace it fully you will come to resent the intrusion it makes on your plans, your life. So too with home schooling! To succeed, it must become a way of life.
- Don’t compare.
A. Your life with others! So what if you can’t play tennis or go out for coffee with your friends?
B. Don’t compare your home-schooling with others e.g: If I had only one child instead of six to teach… if my children were as bright as her’s…if I could afford all those wonderful books, that amazing curriculum…
C. Don’t compare your children either among themselves, or with other children.
D. Don’t measure them by the world’s standards…find the Lord’s.
- Examine your expectations. The wide gap between our expectations and the actual reality of our experience and life becomes the hole through which we lose the ‘joie de vivre’ – the joy of life. Perhaps you need to adjust your expectations. It’s vital we learn to set realistic goals. Are you expecting too much of your five-year-old? Or your child with learning difficulties? Are your expectations for the tidiness of your home realistic?? And so the list goes on!!
- Develop a plan. Things work far more smoothly in our home if we work to a plan. It takes time to work out a plan, to prepare the next study you’re going to do, but in the long run it really pays off.
- Find a structure that works for your family…reward them as they work to it. I think it’s important to teach our children about working to a time frame, disciplining themselves, so they learn to make the best use of what time they’ve got.
- Don’t forget to creatively take breaks from your timetable…e.g. bundling up in jackets and gumboots and taking a walk on a winter’s morning after devotions. It’s good to have surprises too. Surprise your children with an outing, a visit, an adventure of some sort. One day I told the children after devotions, “Today we’re not going to do any book work. I’m going to read to you all day!” We had a fantastic day.
- Pace yourself. When I have a new baby, I delay our starting time by 1/2 hour…those extra 30 minutes makes the morning relatively stress free. Be flexible.
- Ask God for this! Some are naturally more creative than others are, but never mind. Ask God to help you develop it.
- Capitalize on whatever the children are interested in at the time…spiders, explorers, stars!
- Every day ask the Lord for ideas and then watch out for them.
- Train yourself to be alert. Van Dyke said, ”Opportunities are swarming around us, thicker than gnats at sundown…every day we walk through a cloud of them.”
- Remember, creativity can be developed!!!!
- Borrow other people’s ideas and creativity. It is shareable!
- Always be watching for things that will help you with your goals. i.e.; making disciples of your children.
- Often the books we ourselves are reading and the things we are learning can be presented in an altered form to our children. Hence the need for us to be a student for life ourselves! (And there’s no better way to make sure you keep learning than by home-schooling!!)
Some wonderful Quotes:
All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. Blessings on her memory! I remember my mother’s prayers, and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. The greatest lessons I ever learnt were at my mother’s knees. Abraham Lincoln
My mother was the source from which I derived the guiding principles of my life. John Wesley
Stories first heard at a mother’s knee are never wholly forgotten – a little spring that never quite dries up in our journey through the scorching years. Giovanni Ruffini
God, the Almighty Creator, lays the next generation in the laps of the mothers. Rev. Edward Taylor Sullivan
As of this year I am now only home schooling my youngest child, Jacob. Is it possible? Where have the years gone?
Josiah completed his degree in Property Valuation and is currently working two days a week as a property valuer and the rest at the Homewood Stoves factory; Kate has completed a music degree, been a music teacher for a number of years and is now beginning her masters in music therapy at Victoria University; Eliza has just completed her music degree and is doing honours at Waikato University in Performance; Emily has just begun her first year of a Bachelor of Nursing and Samuel has just started a building apprenticeship!
When I look at Jacob, my fifteen-year-old, I realize I only have a few years of home schooling left. And when we curl up on the sofa in the morning to read a good book together, I don’t ever want it to end. But who knows? Maybe I’ll be moving on to the next stage of helping teach my grandchildren??! I hope so!