March 25, 2014

Encouragement for Homeschooling

This post was written by my mom, Lynda Brandly. She home-schooled my brothers and me for many years and is an amazing mom and woman. You can read her Bible teachings here.

Note:  if you're NOT home schooling, this article is not to make anyone feel guilty.  We all need to obey God in whatever He's leading us to do.  If God is not leading you to home school, then be at peace and do what He tells you. 

 But if you are feeling led to home school and are feeling overwhelmed by the idea...this article is for you!

I think the greatest thing that I did for my children was home school.  I was not raised a Christian and committed my life to Christ while I was pregnant with our first child, Laura.  God did a wonderful work in me during the first year of my walk with Him, and I was so in love with Jesus, so committed to God's Word and so determined to raise my sweet baby to know Him.

I got good grades in high school but never went to college.  My parents had divorced twice by my sophomore year in high school, and I didn't have big expectations for life.  I also didn't feel my mom could handle the expense.  So I am not a college graduate.

When my husband, who now has a Ph.D. agreed that we (~I~) would home school, I was a little overwhelmed.  We had just had our second child when it was time to start Laura in first grade.

I had imagined a class room setting: Her sitting in a desk, me spending the day standing in front of a chalk board in a room dedicated to learning with the alphabet on the wall, etc.

This was not how it was.  I ended up home schooling for 17 years. I home schooled each of them at least through 6th grade.  Each one started public or Christian school between 7th and 9th grade. Our daughter, Laura, graduated from a Christian high school a year early.  She was second in her class.  Our son, Matthew, also graduated a year early, fourth in his class.  Our son, Mark, will graduate this year, on his 17th birthday.

We always laughed when we took their 'first day of school' picture!  They were tweens!

The biggest challenge for me with home schooling was to discipline myself.  I like to think of myself as 'creative' and when the mood hits, I've got to create (said mockingly!). The hardest thing for me about home schooling was staying home! But over the years I  found what worked for my family.

We would start every morning with breakfast and learning the Bible.  We would pick a chapter and learn a new verse every morning at our kitchen table.  When Laura and Matt learned the 91st Psalm, Matt was 4 years old!!  And he could say the whole thing!  Did you know that studies have proven that learning the Word improves your learning abilities?
My husband and youngest - breakfast and the Bible
We kept our school books in a book shelf close to the kitchen table.  (We made a few moves over the years and so our situation varied.)  The kids sat at the table together doing school and art.  Matthew decided he wanted to start school when he was four.  I ordered the kindergarten books figuring if he changed his mind I would just keep them for next year.  He didn't.  That's how he ended up a year ahead.
Matthew reading to Mark
I would get them started and answer their questions.  I would then do laundry and house work all within a close vicinity.  If there were more questions, I would sit down with them and work on things.  We usually had all our work done by lunch time.  This varied occasionally.  After our youngest was born, we would sit down a lot after lunch and read together.

There was no such thing as 'grades.'  Grades are to report to the parents how the child is doing in school.  If one of my children missed a question on a test I would go back over the information with them and make sure they knew the material.  On the next test I would verbally test them on the missed information.

Laura skipped 5th grade.  I realized as we went that the work was not a challenge for her.  So we went quickly through the Math and English, being sure she knew everything and skipped from fourth to sixth.

There are great curriculums out there.  We always used A Beka.  It's Christian based and the math is very advanced.  Everything is set up with lessons already laid out with questions in work books for your child to answer.  We just did our best to finish the books every year.

Now, in the state of Michigan, you can do 1st grade through 12th grade online!  We were always concerned with the threat that we couldn't home school if you didn't have a teaching certificate.  Instead, it's gone the other direction!  What a blessing!

Here are some things to keep mind:

1.  Take one year at a time.  You're not necessarily making a commitment to get them through the next 12 years but you can do 1st grade.  Do one year and then make a decision for the next year.
2.  If you have two children who are close to the same age, keep them in the same grade.  You'll find things don't progress so quickly from year to year that this will be a problem.
3.  Make learning a way of life.  Take opportunities to learn everywhere you go.  Visit museums when you need a break and make it a learning experience. 
4.  Don't worry about people's opinions.  Home schooling is really growing now.  When we started it was really unpopular and I received a lot of criticism.  I credit home schooling with my children turning out so well.
5.  Every child is different.  My first two children would work independently.     Our understanding was that if your school work was done, you could play. They would finish their work, get it checked and get on with their day. 

Our youngest would sit forever and had a harder time focusing.  I think he's actually the smartest of the three but was not as motivated.  He had to do math one year all summer long. lol
Me,  Laura, Matt and Mark at the zoo
When each of my children started public school I realized they were afraid they couldn't 'do real school.' They were pleasantly surprised that they were ahead of the other students.  It's amazing how much a mom can teach her child when it's one-on-one at the kitchen table!

We have seen tremendous benefits from home schooling our children.  The first is their knowledge of the Word of God.  It's obviously an advantage to have them home all day.  If they're gone all day everyone's too tired to care by dinner time.

They became 'self-learners.'  As my kids got older, they did their school work independently.  But more than that, they began to explore their own interests. They became their own people not influenced by others' opinions.

When our son, Matt, was in high school we attended a parent-teacher conference one night.  His teacher told me that Matt was "amazing!"  He was so impressed that Matt could debate issues with him - political, Christian, economic - and knew his facts.  The thing that I loved is that our son wasn't afraid to disagree with his teachers' opinions.  He did it respectfully and he had knowledge to back his ideas.

I believe that education needs to be more than regurgitating what someone else has told you.  We need to equip our children with enough knowledge to make wise decisions on what they believe.  I've seen this come to fruition in our children.

I really enjoy having conversations with my kids now.  They have studied things that I don't know much about.  

Our daughter, Laura, graduated from college and got married very shortly afterwards to her high school sweetheart.  They now have two children, 3 and 21 mos.  Our little three year old grandson will be reading soon.  I'm sure he has the vocabulary of a six year old.  Because she was raised this way, it's natural to her.
Laura, holding Levi - Ryan, holding Rhynn
Our son, Matt, 22 years old, is a co-owner of his own software company. He did two years of college here in town where his dad teaches and then went to University of Michigan for a year.  He talked to us a lot about his decision not to get a degree and to take the risk of owning his own company. He's now living in Boston, working and loving what he's doing.
Matt at Fetchnotes
Because they were not separated from me at the age of 4 or 5, our bond is very strong.  We're a very close family and love being together.  On the other hand, because they have such a strong foundation, I have been impressed with each one of them at how brave they've been when it was time to 'fly.'

My encouragement to you is that if God is putting this on your heart, He will equip you to do it.  It's not always easy.  It's a commitment and takes self-discipline.  But the children that I've known who are home schooled by Christian, loving parents are some of the nicest, brightest people I know.

I read a secular magazine article many years ago that I've always wished I kept.  It said what I've always known.  Children emulate who they're around. If they spend their time with loving parents with solid values they grow up to be loving adults with solid values.

I hope this article has been an encouragement to you!  My daughter, Laura, is going to post tomorrow sharing her experience as a child that was home schooled.  

Love and blessings!

"Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6

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