I have been home schooling since 2001, and there are times when I think to myself: Why am I doing this? Is it worth it?
While searching for a school for my five-year old, public school was not an option because I was afraid that he would be bored, and any love of learning he had would be extinguished.
I knew a charter school where parents waited for days to enroll their children. I gave them a call. The administrator told me, "We are a storefront for home schoolers. You, the parent, will be totally and completely responsible for your child`s education." I got this lump in my throat and thought, I can`t do that. "Thanks," and I hung up.
But later we visited the school and met the assistant principle; and before we left, our son was enrolled. On the appointed day, we picked up curriculum; and the next thing I knew, I was "home schooling."
Of course, some people, having learned that I home schooled and that my husband approved, had questions. They were concerned about socialization and asked why we thought we had the right to teach our own kids? Yikes! I had no idea how to answer these concerns, at least not yet. I wanted to do everything right, but all that I knew was what I was familiar with: the way that I was taught.
However, at the end of our second year, I decided that I could do this on my own. A year before, this was a scary thought, but I knew moms who did it. Besides, since our school had become full-time, the restrictions on the homeschoolers had increased.
By now I had developed solid opinions about home education. I knew what I wanted my child to study. A lot of what was taught in school was a waste of time, based on political correctness, unimportant, and inaccurate. Since I had completed twelve years of private/public school education plus six years of college, I was confident that I could teach my own child how to read, write, do arithmetic, and how to become a productive and good citizen.
I read The Underground History of American Education online that explained how socialization is used to train impressionable minds to think and react and behave the same way. Socialization is exactly what schools are designed to do; and I was not interested in socializing my child. I wanted to educate.
The first two years on my own, I was winging it. Then I read The Well-Trained Mind (TWTM) by Susan Wise Bauer, and immediately I liked the classical model of education. While the program in TWTM is ambitious, we followed it as best as we could for the next five years. I learned what worked for us, and I improvised.
By the time we started TWTM, my son, who was in fourth grade, began teaching himself math, grammar, Latin, and, later, logic. I recognized that homeschooling allowed a child to self teach, and this is very good. Self-education lasts our entire lives, and it does not begin or end in an educational institution.
During this time I also read The Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. Basically, the philosophy of TJE is that you learn from reading and discussing and writing about the classics. I really liked this idea, too.
Unfortunately, sometimes things at home are not always smooth, as sometimes happens in home schooling. It was time to regroup. I now had five children, two of whom I was officially teaching, while the other three were under five; two were in diapers. Ugh. I was feeling overwhelmed, and I lost my joy in home schooling and in being a mom. I could not even convince my children that being home was so much better than being in school. We were all unhappy.
I had to do something: and I prayed about it for several months. "God, how can I have joy back in my heart? What do you want me to do?" I heard about a home school mom who was giving a webcast about three things parents should not do in their home school. I had visited her website, Courageous Beings, and saw how she home schooled.
I listened to the webcast. The three things she talked about not to do, I was already not doing; but it was Karen's joy in being a mom that that really got my attention.
Karen noted on her website that she was going to be speaking at the upcoming Thomas Jefferson Education Seminar, and I decided to go.
Karen gave a presentation about igniting a love of learning in children through Epic Adventures. Epic Adventures is a style of teaching based on a brain study of how children learn.
The four functions of the brain are:
1. to gather information through exposure of examples and experiences.
2. to sort that information into patterns.
3. to problem solve through production and creation.
4. to act on the ideas through contribution.
Because Karen is so creative, she used the armor of a knight to demonstrate this philosophy:
1. The helmet protects the brain in the first function;
2. The breast plate protects the heart in the second function because that is when you attract a child`s heart;
3. The sword represents strength in the third function as the child is inspired to do something he loves;
4. The shield is the identity of the child as he discovers who he is and what his standard is.
I was really inspired by Karen`s ideas, but I did not know how to implement them. I had no training, and could not afford the course. But I ran into a friend at the TJE seminar, and she was speaking to another mom from our area. They were doing Epic Adventures together, and now they were inviting me to join them to put together the theme for the upcoming year. I was about to learn how to do an Epic Adventure, and that summer I helped write curriculum for the year. I was inspired!
Now our first Epic Adventure year (2010-11) has almost commenced, and I am actually a little sad that it is almost over. My children and I have covered so much, and as we look through their journals, all those memories come back.
In all honesty, Epic Adventures did not completely cure the I-don`t-like-to-work-hard-and-think infection in the household. But God has re-ignited the joy in my heart. We are all inspired. This is why I homeschool; and it is worth it!