As I mentioned in 8 Reasons Why I Started Homeschooling, my choice to homeschool began as a temporary thing. I planned to do it for 2-3 years. But here I am, going into year 8. THIS was not the plan; how did I end up here???
I LOVE how often I hear that from other homeschooling parents: “I am not the type of person who ever saw themselves doing THIS!”
So why did I never send my kid to school for second or third grade as I’d originally planned?
Yes, I am a licensed teacher. But not early childhood. So I can’t say I kept them home because teaching that level of content is my favorite thing. Homechooling my kids for K-1 or K-2 was for THEM, because, quite frankly, those first few years are not my favorite to teach; they do not feature what really gets me jazzed about educating. Now that I’m teaching my third child to read, I can still tell you, it’s not my favorite thing to do. It is tedious and requires perseverance. But it IS what my kids needed me to do.
How did I get to the end of second grade for my oldest and decide to continue? I think that came down to four factors:
1. Going into third grade, reading was still a struggle in some ways for my son, though he’d been a quick study on any new information all along in school. Putting it all together was still challenging for this very bright boy. But he did not hate reading. I didn’t want to send him to school where he couldn’t continue to go at his own pace, then start to hate reading or school. (This is a foundation of his education and has ripple effects. It’s not a competition; the earliest to read doesn’t win in life. Except that sometimes, a school system can inadvertently make struggling or later readers give up or narrow their possibilities.)
2. I had just finished kindergarten with my second son, so even if I sent my oldest to a school, I’d still be home schooling the second one. Why not continue with both?
3. What we were doing was working. I recall my husband saying this as an affirmation to keep going another year.
a. Richness. There was such a richness to my elder son’s education. We could go deep, guided by his interests.
He was thriving in this education where I could integrate many of his subjects’ work with medieval knights, a love-affair he’d been in for years. Subjects that did not interest him, or that he struggled with, became much less painful if, say, that math word problem was about knights storming a castle rather than the number of frogs Jimmy traded for cookies.
And we could go deep–something kids with gifted tendencies need. They don’t need MORE worksheets or MORE ways to prove or record what they’ve learned–they need to learn more, and more in-depth. We got deeply into medieval history and explored the parts that interested him. No, this was not required material for a seven year old; it’s all bonus–but it is what he loved, what helped him thrive, and what motivated him to grow in his learning.
In the years when he couldn’t read extremely well or quickly, I could read aloud to him–adding up to combined hours each week, and he drew and drew as I read. He developed a vocabulary far beyond his years and grew in his understanding and perception of the world.
Now, in a classroom setting, I get the practicality: teach all kids to read early so they can need the teacher less, so they have the tool to learn on their own, independently, and get new information in a way that is not dependent on the teacher.
But in homeschooling, we have the luxury not to have to rely on the child’s reading ability and independence. I was available to do so many things, and those ways of feeding him knowledge were at a level that was deeper because it wasn’t constrained to the reading level typical of his peers in school nor his own reading level; what he absorbed was a higher level. I wasn’t thinking about this at a time, but I realize in retrospect that that’s what happened.
b. Also, speaking of his habit of drawing while I read to him, I could identify that as his main talent at the time. Since the age of three, that boy took to drawing in the most studious way. Books, for him, were not for reading; they were for studying the techniques of the illustrator.
Every trip to the library was his chance to pick medieval-themed books by the quality of illustration or its style. he literally spent 2-3 hours every afternoon. By the age of eight, he was drawing on a level his peers were not. Now, his ability has arrived at the level demonstrated below. This doesn’t happen overnight; this doesn’t happen because he was born with a gift. THIS happens because a boy can devote 2-3 hours a day to drawing, for 7 years.
If he had been in school all day those years, we’d not have had the freedom to invest the time we did in the things he absorbed so deeply these years.
My son’s progress came from hours and hours of time to devote to his craft, so at the age of 11/12, he could draw these from live models.
4. Classical methods became important. Along the way, I came to understand and value the Classical model of education. I began to see the fruit of a classical education and the three stages of learning (the trivium, as it is called): the grammar stage, dialectic stage and rhetoric stage. And then I realized, my kids could not reap its benefits if I sent them to any institution with modern education philosophies–public or private.
Yes, yes, I did say in my post, 8 Reasons Why I Started Homeschooling, that I didn’t even know what classical education was when I joined a homeschooling group centered around it (Classical Conversations). My only concern was that the group met my goals for socialization and support, and from what I could see, the Classical model was not detracting from my homechool goals.
But I did not remain so easily blase about the under-girding philosophy. When my child was 8, the next year featured a writing and grammar class for him, and I suddenly became hawk-eyed about what the philosophy would translate into–I was, after-all, a writing teacher! I had very strong opinions about methods and philosophies of writing instruction. I was VERY reserved about advancing my son along the CC program.
I went to visit the class and find out more about the curriculum. (Things I never did before.)
As I did my research, I not only found I could tolerate using this curriculum for my child, but also, that it was the answer to what I’d been searching for when I wrote my graduate thesis on writing instruction! The program featured elements I’d already identified as elements needed in modern writing instruction plus other things I hadn’t even discovered yet as answers to problems I’d found in trying to teach students in schools.
There was nowhere I could send him to get the kind of writing education I wanted him to have at home and supported by Classical Conversations.
So, we kept going with our homeschool classical education. The next year, he fell in love with Shakespeare and took the writing and grammar classes, unearthing a surprising facility in all aspects of writing. We reached a point suddenly where no longer was my concern that putting him in public school would be tough because “the later-reader” might not be on par or might begin disliking learning–but rather, that he’d now be bored in most subjects because he’d advanced so quickly. He was advanced in language arts, history, art, and on par with everything else.
My oldest in his furry Oberon, King of the Faeries, costume, in his second Shakespeare play.
As with his arrival at the age to beginning the writing instruction class, I was not blindly planning to send my son to the secondary level of the program. For years, I looked ahead to it vaguely, with holding my allegiance until I investigated it.
I got the opportunity to investigate it earlier than expected–when I was asked to lead the class years before my son was old enough for it.
Due to intensive investigating from the perspective of potentially taking on the responsibility to direct that level of classes, I really came out of that period of consideration with strong opinions. In short, I knew it was something I wanted for my son. And again, I knew he could not get those specific benefits of the classical method in any other way than by homeschooling.
And now, we’re entering our 8th year of homeschooling.
For all I’ve listed above (and possibly more factors I’m not aware of!), confirmed by prayer, we continued homeschooling my oldest past the 2-3 year mark I’d started with as my goal and purpose. Now, I’ve got three children of school age whom I’m schooling.
But the decision to homeschool or not isn’t about just academics . . . What about things like socialization, values, friends, etc? And here is where I realize I need another post. Stay tuned for “Why I Continue to Homeschool, part 2.”