Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
The other day I realized, we’ve been home-schooling for 20 years! This is 2016, and in 1996, when our daughter was in first grade, we began to home school. There have been many ups and downs these 20 years, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. This story is how God called us to home school our children. Perhaps He is calling you, too, and you are wondering how to get started. I hope my home school story helps you…
We have four children on earth and three in heaven. When our oldest two kids were ages three years and four months, we moved to a new state. We were blessed to meet other families with young children who all had the same question for us, “Are you going to home school?”
I hadn’t even considered home school! But when the third person asked me, I thought perhaps God wanted me to look into it. Our daughter attended preschool at our church when she was four. That whole year we prayed about whether she should go to kindergarten the next fall, or not. When August rolled around, we still didn’t have an answer.
A friend was hoping to build a new house and told me the story of seeing a double rainbow right over their property; she took that as a “go” sign from God. I prayed for God to give us a sign about school for our daughter. The next Sunday at church, the pastor announced that the new principal at our daughter’s school was a church member. We took that as the sign, and sent our daughter off to kindergarten. It was very hard to put our sweet, curly-haired girl on the school bus, just two weeks after her fifth birthday.
Our daughter attended a large rural school, where students came from all walks of life. The teachers did their best to help the kids succeed, but they only had so much time for each one. It seemed we were doing more with our daughter on the afternoons and weekends than she was doing during her school hours. We would read stories, paint pictures, go for nature hikes, visit the zoo, write our own stories…I wasn’t sure why I needed to send her off on the bus each morning. So, at the end of her kindergarten year, we decided to home school.
I remember my dad asking how long we would be home schooling. I didn’t know at the time, but I thought a few years, at least. I often wondered why God wanted us to have that one year in public school, and perhaps it was to solidify our decision. Now, 20 years later, we’re still home schooling and about to start our four-year old on the journey, as well. What have I learned in these 20 years? Let me share a bit with you…
I’ve learned I’m not cut out for this! Seriously, that’s what so many moms tell me, “I could never do that. I don’t have the patience.” My family will tell you I run out of patience, too. But I keep on going because this is God’s calling. If you’re going to home school, you really have to jump in and do it and never quit. There will be good days and bad days, good years and bad years. But in the end, you will be so glad you stuck with it.
I’ve learned that kids grow up way to fast, and home school is the best way to spend time together. Yes, it’s true. Our daughter is now 25 years old, a college graduate, working on a masters degree and expecting her first baby. Our oldest son is now 22 and finishing a degree in mechanical engineering. We are so thankful to still have our 15-year old son and our four-year old son at home! The times I cherish the most are when we sit on the sofa together and read stories. There is nothing cozier and more special than that!
I’ve learned that Daddy is a great help with home school. Yes, moms, be sure to get dads involved. Many times I was sure the kids learned more from doing a wood-working project or science experiment with Daddy, than all the months of book work they did with me. It is so good to have Daddy on board and supporting the whole home school. We like having Daddy help us start each day with prayer and devotion at breakfast before he heads off to work. Often he’ll come home early to do a project, giving me a break, too.
I’ve learned to use the library. When we first started home school, we had a very small income with no room for extras. I took my two little ones to the library every week, where we checked out a huge stack of books. We would spend the week reading them together. Sometimes we would have a theme such as Africa or the circus, but other times it was just a random collection of stories. You don’t need “real” curriculum until the kids are in fourth grade.
I’ve learned there is math all around. Our most favorite thing to do for math is to bake cookies. We double the recipe or use the wrong size measuring cup, just to do a little more math in our heads. All my kids know how to make cookies! There is also math on the calendar, the clock, the thermometer, the speedometer, the ruler, the calculator, the grocery store, in counting objects, and the list goes on! I start my kids on Saxon Math in 4th grade, but before that we just work on facts, telling time, making up word problems, and an occasional work book from Walmart :-).
I’ve learned 4H has great lessons for kids. From animals to sewing to cooking to wood-working to mechanics to photography to robotics to electricity…you name it! If your kids join a local 4H club, they can sign up for any of these activities and receive detailed activity books. Youth in 4H also learn great life lessons such as record-keeping, organization, goal-setting, community service and leadership.
I’ve learned what works for one might not work for all. But I still might use it, because I like it! There are certain books I love that I use for all our kids. Pathway Readers and The Millers books have some of the best family stories and lessons. Other curriculum, such as Jensen Grammar for high school, I gave up on the third child. Sorry, Mr. Jensen, we just couldn’t do grammar any more!
I’ve learned to ask friends for ideas. Our town has a loose-knit home school group. There is probably a group in your area, too. In bigger towns, families get together to share lessons in a co-op fashion. Our group passes around used books and shares tips on Facebook. One friend and I used the same high school curriculum, and cried on each others’ shoulders every quarter when it was time to send in the school work. It’s good to have a home school friend!
I’ve learned to make Jesus first and last. Our days begin with prayer and an Our Daily Bread devotion at breakfast. Our days end with the kids being tucked into bed with a prayer, too. We know we aren’t perfect, but we ask Jesus to guide us in our lessons and activities throughout the day. Start and end your days with Jesus, and let Him fill your moments in between, too.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.