An argument can be made for wackiness not being the best environment for homeschooling. I understand that, but for us it seems to work. As you read through this I hope that you enjoy all the silly pictures we have taken over the years. It always seems that as soon as somebody has a break from school work they head straight for the costumes and props.
When Donald and I were newlyweds, we knew only one person who homeschooled and she seemed a bit of a fanatic to us. We loved her and were willing to let her explain herself. The next thing I knew, I was defending her choice. I was a career woman and had no intension of homeschooling, but I could understand her choice. I had little patience and less desire to read, let alone teach someone else to read.
By the time our oldest, Zachary was almost ready for school, I was pregnant with our third child. We lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia and if Zack was five years old by the end of September, they required him to be registered for school. My daughter was born on August 7th and Zack started school a few weeks later, at the age of four. I found every excuse I could to volunteer and visit his class. Everything was so cute. The teachers were so nice. I was so tired from having a baby and a two year old to keep up with. I thought this was great, after all. By the end of the school year I had a very different opinion. My gentle, sweet little boy was not anymore. To make matters worse he was expected to read so many books over the summer before first grade, and they hadn't even taught him to read. Apparently, he was so well behaved, they didn't notice he wasn't learning anything.
The good news was that I spent a lot of time praying for patience and guidance from the Lord and I GOT SOME!!! The dear friend who was the only homeschooler I had ever met had introduced me to her friends and fellow homeschoolers. I was able to sign up with an umbrella school which offered curriculum counseling and support meetings and paperwork assistance. What more could I have asked for? That year I was introduced to Sing, Spell, Read, and Write and Math-U-See. Zack was only five at the beginning of first grade so I thought, "This should work out OK." We hadn't lost too much time. I thought that Zack could at least learn to read and add simple numbers by the end of the year. We focused on all the things he should have accomplished in kindergarten. The dining room started serving double duty as a meal space and a school space. The alphabet pages became my crown molding and the American flag was hanging proudly next to the table. I was so surprised at the end of the year to find that we were able to catch up to where he should have been by the end of first grade, not just kindergarten.
At this point, I could go on about working hard and putting in double time to make up the difference, but the truth is we didn't. We had our own business and I was the appointment secretary, communications hub, supply delivery person, and accounting department. To make matters even more complicated, I was pregnant again and this time there were serious complications which had me bedridden for five months in the middle of the school year. There was no working extra to make up for lost time. There was just two hours a day available for school. Miraculously, that is all we needed.
I found that in that first year, Zack not only learned all the academics that he missed out on the year before, he also got his good character back.
When Cody, the next son, was ready for school according to the Virginia State laws, we were ready to begin again. We were experimenting with some other curriculums with Zack for third grade, but most things were staying pretty much the same. My husband had decided that owning his own business was not working well for our family so he sold it and got a job. I no longer was fielding business calls or picking up supplies, so I was very hopeful that homeschooling two, with two babies, would not be too much more difficult than what I had been doing. BOY WAS I WRONG!!! By Christmas I was completely overwhelmed and convinced that my children were learning nothing from me and were being neglected by my homeschool plan. My husband encouraged me to put them in the local school, so I did. After Christmas break, Zack entered third grade at the same elementary school he had attended before and Cody entered the kindergarten class. They were both very sweet and easy to like. Immediately, they had friends and seemed very content with the change.
More change was a comin'!!! That summer Donald decided, and I agreed, that he could no longer stay with the same company and took a job in Florida. He moved on July 4th. The plan was for him to start his new job and find a home for us. It was all very sudden, so I stayed behind with the kids to pack the house. One month later we were all in Florida and the children were enrolled in a new school for fourth and first grade. Problems became evident almost immediately. The bus ride was one hour each way. Cody's teacher was brand new and apparently yelled a lot. Cody came home upset about the class most days. Less than one month into the school year, Zachary's teacher took a different job and the new teacher didn't seem to be as interested in helping a bright and quiet boy keep busy. At least once a week, I was called to pick the boys up because one of them was in the clinic, "sick to his stomach." I talked to teacher and to counselors about the problem. I was promised measures to resolve the problem. The school was never able to implement any of them. I wasn't angry with anybody. They have so many children to deal with. I only gave them six weeks to act on the situation. At the Christmas break I pulled them back out and registered them with the county as a homeschooler.
I still had all my books, so I just pulled them out of their boxes and started reviewing, or so I thought. It turned out that not only did they learn nothing in the twelve months of public school, but they had lost any ground that we had made the first half of the previous year. To add to my frustration, I observed that Cody wasn't having trouble understanding how to read, he was having trouble seeing the letters. He needed glasses. His teacher never looked into his ability to see, she just complained to me that after she had him for eight hours and the bus driver had him for two hours, I was unwilling to make him spend hours reading at night. The child needed food and sleep by the time I got him.
Fortunately, when we had moved to Florida, we got plugged into a local church and became friends with the Pastor and his family. They homeschooled all of their children and were so wonderful. Their last name is Curtis. Yes, Meredith Curtis and I became friends at this point. We had known each other in Virginia but were never close friends. Now we spent time discussing our views about homeschooling, our commitment to homeschooling all of our children and our commitment to serving the Lord. We both have a strong desire to disciple our children so that they will have a powerful commitment to serving the Lord as well. This was the most important objective of our homeschooling.
We spent the first half of 2000 building Cody's confidence up about reading and relearning fractions with Zack. The lesson I took away from all that was that no matter how badly I'm doing at teacher, having my children read everyday and do a little math would be better than a public school classroom. My children didn't make trouble. They didn't speak up when they were bored. They just daydreamed. At home I see when they do that and I have them write about it or read out loud to me to keep focused or something.
In 2001, Meredith and I realized that we had enough families in the church who shared our desire to disciple our homeschooled children that we could build a co-op for ourselves. The Lighthouse Family Co-op was born. We meet weekly, or bi-monthly depending on the demands of the school year. We change our activities each year to match what Meredith and I are studying. The younger families in the church seem to really enjoy being around our older children who love the Lord. We talk in class about academics and the Lord and all of the students learn wonderful things. I've noticed the mothers have even learned a thing or two thanks to the experience.
It was in this time that I started thinking about my own education. I went to a very highly rated public school. My education was designed for college preparation. Sadly, despite this fact, I realized that there were things missing in what I thought I should have covered over those years. At this point I decided to start reading classic literature. I was surprised at the number of books considered classic that I had never read. Homeschooling my own children has taught me that classrooms aren't the only place people become educated. I have since made it my personal goal to continue learning for the rest of my life.
I have signed up with a support group each year. I have signed my teenagers and preteens up for enrichment classes most years. They spend time with other kids. Most of their time is spent with families that I know share our values. Families that will help me train my children, not just educate them. I have asked other moms to help me. When I had a son with attention problems, one friend who has worked in special needs situations came to my home to work with the child. When I became too overwhelmed or distracted by my own issues somebody has come along to take my kids for a field trip, or just a day. I love my children. I even like spending time with my children. They are all so amazing. They are smart, creative, clever, easily distracted, like their mom, and just plain fun.
I had a friend recently tell me that her kids say that she is, ADOLS, which means Attention Deficit-Oh Look Shiny! That's me too. I live near an airport and airplanes are one of my favorite things in the world. It has made for some very humorous moments in my family. They usually play out something like this,
"OK, now what you did wrong here is oooooo that's a big plane!! Look how it just launches itself. That's sooooo amazing!!!! I love airplanes."
"MOM!!!! What about my math?!!"
I think I know why my sons are capable of contemplating a pencil eraser for two hours.
I enjoy music, math, science, computers, and airplanes. I am not good at schedules and checking homework. I choose curriculum that work with that. I MUST schedule everything over the summer for the next school year or we will never do it. It is sooooo easy to pick up a folder with a filled in calendar and say, "OK, today you need to do page 57 in this book and page 62 in that book." It's my only hope of getting things done by the end of the year.
One by one, each of my children have taken up my love of music. Because of this it has become necessary for us to schedule rehearsal hours in almost every day. My house is a most disturbing cacophony at about three o-clock in the afternoon! Everybody usually has had enough time to finish their regular school work so it's time to pull out the instruments. Zack plays the drums, I play the electric bass and Cody plays the electric guitar. Phoebe loves the recorder and the piano and Josh is picking them all up. We rarely rehearse together so instead we have stereos blaring in each room with amps turned loud enough to drown out Zack's drums. Did I mention that I live in a 1300 square foot one story house with terrazzo floors throughout? Don't call my house at that point because NOBODY will hear the phone ring!
Once a week I get together with Meredith and her children and we have a "history day." We study whatever type of history is on the schedule for the year, like World History, or American History, or World Geography, or Government. We also work on music. We do voice lessons. We do piano lessons. We rehearse the youth worship band (which is mostly our children). We always begin the day with praise and prayer. While the kids watch a movie, which is often very loosely based on the topic of the day, Meredith and I can spend some time in the Word together. It was in these "history days" that I was able to study the historic method of putting minor criminal in the stocks. It was also because of these days that I dismissed the idea of using them on my own little schoolhouse criminals. What I mean to say is that my human, non-perfect children do tend to push my patience level sometimes and the support I get from working with another godly mother who shares my objectives for my children keeps me from becoming overwhelmed by the challenges.
Zachary graduated this past spring. He was awarded a Bright Futures Scholarship by the state of Florida and the highest academic award that Stetson University offers. He starts class at the university in August 2008. My other three children are continuing on with me. I'm very sad about Zack going away. He's only commuting, but he'll be away most of every day. I'll truly miss him. Honestly, he's such a social guy that I haven't seen much of him the last year, but somehow this seems like so much more of a separation. I bring this all up because I'm not scared about him going out into the big world. He has really worked hard for me and he has acquired strength of character. Because of all the time that we have spent working with the Curtises and studying The Word, Zack is very capable of defending his faith to any student or professor who will discuss the matter with him. It is even more important than the academics. If he hadn't been home with me these past years pursuing his education while pursuing the Lord, I would be scared to send him off to the university. I know what he knows. I know that he can take care of himself. I know that he'll get an even better education from the university than his classmates, because of the groundwork that I have laid.
I do not know where the Lord will lead my other children. We will continue homeschooling. We will continue serving the Lord. We will all continue learning, together! There has been talk of computer programming, culinary school, and professional athletics. I will make every opportunity available to them that I can so that they can learn whatever interests them. First and last, I will always bring the Lord and His Word to them so that their love of Christ will continue to grow and shape everything else.