A Tribute to Homeschool Fathers

Father’s Day is a special occasion for honoring fathers. All fathers are worthy of respect and appreciation for the things they do for their family, but I wanted to narrow my focus to the homeschool father. Homeschooling isn’t a popular choice to make or an easy road to navigate, and although it’s a blessing, it can put additional strain on a marriage. The role of homeschool father presents some unique challenges and responsibilities. I’d like to list some of them, as well as pass on a little advice from veteran homeschool fathers to those who are just beginning the journey. It takes a special man to be a homeschool father.

With permission, I’ve quoted some men who were influential in our household.  Also, I asked some veteran fathers for their input and it’s given anonymously.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission if you use one to make a purchase. It doesn’t affect the price you pay. 

Spiritual Head

The most important role within a Christian family is that of the spiritual head of the household. In this capacity, the father concerns himself with his family members’ relationship with God, and models in human form the Heavenly Father who can’t be seen. In order to do this he must have a good connection with God and an unwavering commitment to his wife and children.

About this responsibility, Christopher Klicka wrote,

“I could simply delegate all the tasks of training my children to my wife. Some homeschool fathers do. But such an arrangement is a recipe for failure. We fathers need to be seriously committed and involved in our homeschooling to truly fulfill our responsibility before God, adequately demonstrate love to our children, and unconditionally love our wife.

In Ephesians 6:4, God makes it clear. “Fathers provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The command is to us fathers – not to mothers. The responsibility is on us “to bring them up.” This requires action on our part. We can delegate the authority to train and bring up our children to someone else but never the responsibility.

One day when we stand before God, we fathers will have to answer for how our children were trained. Homeschooling happens to be the best way to fulfill this responsibility and the commands that God has given us. But we must realize that homeschooling is not the end in itself – it is a means to the end. The end we are aiming for is that our children will be “arrows” carrying God’s truth to this world and one day living with us in heaven.” (“Top Ten Tips for Homeschool Dads,” Christopher Klicka, originally published in Practical Homeschooling #48, July/Aug 2002, ©Home Life Inc., all rights reserved by Home Life Inc., used by permission)

Dr. James Dobson wrote this hard-hitting fact:

“A Child identifies his parents with God in the early days, whether the adults want the role or not. Specifically, most children see God the way they perceive their earthly fathers.” (Dr. James Dobson, The New Strong-Willed Child, p. 66, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1978, used by permission)

Devoted Husband

The foundation of the family (and homeschool) is the marriage, so nurturing that relationship is very important. The way the father treats his wife affects the way the children see their mother, which in turn, affects the success of the homeschool. About this role, J. Michael Smith of HSLDA said,

“The role of a homeschool dad should be the best husband to his wife, and father to his children as he can be. That will go farther than anything he can do to help his wife in homeschooling. Make the marriage a priority and love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. That’s the goal. Part of loving a homeschool wife is helping and homeschooling by at least being the Principal of the whole school.”

Dr. James Dobson emphasized the importance of how Dad treats Mom, and how it influences the way the children see her:

“The best public-relations agent for Mom—is Dad. Fathers can wield tremendous influence over what children think of their mothers, or of women in general…

In a world that often discounts the contribution of women, especially homemakers, it’s up to us as husbands to say in a dozen ways, ‘Your mother is a wonderful woman! She works hard and she deserves tremendous credit for what she gives to us all. As far as I’m concerned, she’s number one!’

Kids will quickly recognize the respect shown by a father and reflect it in their attitudes and behavior. It is a public-relations assignment that only they can perform.”  (“Dads–Kids Will Treat Mom Based On Your Actions,” Dr. James Dobson, originally published in The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, used by permission.)

Protector

In my post, “Homeschooling as a Ministry,” I wrote about the need for a homeschool mom to protect her time and energy. When it’s known that she’s a stay-at-home mother, she may be asked to help with other projects and ministries. It can be really hard to say “no,” especially for people-pleasers. The homeschool father can help his wife determine which, if any, of them she should commit to, and be willing to be the bad guy when she must refrain. One father said, “My wife has permission to blame me when needing to decline uncomfortable requests and invitations. ‘My husband won’t allow that.’ This answer removes the need to justify, explain, or give reasons for the decision. Further discussion can simply be referred to me. Even most persistent folks who will badger my wife won’t usually badger me, and I don’t often give more than a ‘because I said so’ to pushy people.”

At times, it may be necessary to protect your family from well-meaning family, friends and neighbors. They may ask questions about the homeschool, they may make a report to the authorities, they may even threaten to fight for custody of the children. As the head of the family, the homeschool father needs to set firm boundaries for the protection of his family. He should be the one to determine what information he wants to give to those parties.

I regret to say it, but time and time again, in Facebook groups, I read posts about in-laws making inquiries and negative comments to the homeschool mother. Especially in these cases, the homeschool father should tell his parents to direct their concerns to him. When the children’s mother is left to handle it, it puts her in the awkward position of potentially offending her in-laws and causing problems in her marriage. If the husband sets that boundary then he will protect the relationship with his wife. It can be hard to set boundaries for one’s parents, but Ephesians 5:31 says, ““For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” For the protection of the marriage, a boundary should be set.

Supporter

Unfortunately, not all homeschooling parents have good support systems. When there are naysayers it can add yet more stress. Even if you’re part of homeschool support groups, there can still be times of feeling alone. It’s hard to be counter-culture and it can really be draining. The homeschooling father can be strong when mom can’t. Lending a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on will go a long way in helping to recharge her batteries.

In addition to emotional support, Dad provides shelter, transportation, and resources for the homeschool. It would be hard to do without those things.

Principal

The role of Principal may include working with mom to set goals and choose curriculum. He may also help with the teaching. But discipline is the biggest responsibility because if mom doesn’t have respect and obedience from her students, she is not going to be able to teach. She’ll get burned out and want to quit.

In my early homeschooling years I read something that stuck with me. I don’t remember where I read it, or I would give them credit, but in talking about the father, he said that the father should support the mother (in disciplining) in such a way, that when the kids look at their mother, they see the shadow of their father behind her. I loved that illustration, and have never forgotten it.

When our son entered the teens, I started to have a hard time teaching him. We spent a lot of time arguing, and now I couldn’t even tell you what about. My husband was self-employed so he was home a lot, but his office was in our storm shelter/basement. One day my son and I started arguing and my husband could hear us down in the basement. All of a sudden, my husband appeared and took over handling the problem. I was always so grateful to know that I had his support and that if I had problems with the kids that he would step in and take over. Without that help, I wouldn’t have been able to finish homeschooling.

I realize that not all families have that luxury. Some fathers work or travel a lot, and can’t always be there. In those situations, he’ll need to come up with a plan for when he is home. It’s up to each couple to determine how they will discipline their children, but the buck needs to stop with Dad. Whatever consequences are set out, the children need to know without a doubt, that they will be followed through on. For Christian parenting advice, my favorite source is Dr. James Dobson.

Our Homeschool

We homeschooled for fourteen years, so I asked my husband, Scott, for his perspective. He said, “I saw my role mainly as support and encouragement, and occasionally as the Principal. I facilitated homeschooling by providing the home and resources. I didn’t feel like I needed to be involved in planning because I felt that you were doing a good job, that the kids were ahead of the curve. I acted as an encourager by helping you to look at the big picture when you got discouraged. The verse, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” kept coming to my mind as the core reason of why we homeschooled. I wasn’t worried about whether they went to college – I felt that if they were grounded spiritually that it would all be okay. Conversely, if they had a stellar secular education but were ungrounded spiritually, what value would that be?

Scott and I did a lot of talking and praying together over the years to chart the course for our homeschool. Keeping our focus on God provided the direction. Knowing how Scott felt about things helped me to make the day-to-day decisions.  God, through Scott, provided everything I needed to educate our kids. Both of them graduated from our homeschool, and now, together, we watch our kids enter adulthood and thank God for giving them to us, and for the blessing of homeschooling.

Advice From Veteran Homeschool Fathers

I asked a few veteran homeschool fathers, including my husband, what advice they would give to men who are new in that role.

One father who responded had the roles reversed in his family in that both he and his wife worked outside the home, but since his job offered more flexibility, he took on the responsibility of homeschooling their daughter. He said, “BE INVOLVED. I can’t stress this enough. My wife regrets not being more involved, because she sees how much homeschooling affected my daughter’s relationship with me. She sees that we have a deeper relationship because I spent most of the time homeschooling her. My wife says that if she could go back and do it over again, she would find ways to be a part of the day-to-day homeschooling.”

A Homeschool Principal of 25 years advises, “Pray, take an active interest in your children’s education, join a home school support group, respect your wife and her efforts, and make sure the children do, too.”

My husband, Scott, says, “Be a strong encourager. Don’t let all the weight be on your wife’s shoulders. Cherish the freedom and embrace it, rather than the workload. People don’t understand the freedom of homeschooling. There is work, but also great freedom. God gave your children to you, not to the city, state, or federal government.”

Thank You!

As you can see, a lot of responsibility has been put on the shoulders of homeschool fathers, and they are so important! To homeschool fathers everywhere, happy Father’s Day and thank you for everything you do!

Helpful Links

Homeschooling as a Ministry

Homeschool Heroes ~ An Interview with J. Michael Smith of HSLDA

Top Ten Tips for Homeschool Dads by Christopher Klicka

Spiritual Leadership in the Home by Dr. James Dobson

“9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling” – My ebook that helps you get started homeschooling without the stress. See link in sidebar.

A Tribute to Homeschool Fathers

The “S” Word ~ What about Socialization?

What about socialization?

I, too, asked that question while investigating homeschooling. Reading what homeschool veterans had to say about it really helped me to see socialization from a different viewpoint. I’ve helped many people get started in homeschooling and I can tell you that almost every one of them has asked me that question.

Just so that we’re all on the same page, let’s start with a formal definition:

Socialization: : the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status

“Socialization.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 27 June 2016.

Early Observations

At the first homeschool park day that I attended, I watched intently while the children played. There were a range of ages from about four, to a big-boned thirteen-year-old boy. The kids started choosing teams to play “Red Rover” and in my mind I revisited my school days when that was one of the games I dreaded most of all. The kids would form two teams and line up opposite each other holding hands. Then they would chant, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send _____ over, ” inserting the name of one of the kids from the other team. Then that child would run as fast as he or she could and attempt to break the clasped hands of the team on the other side. I was very small and scrawny at that age so it was common that they chose one of my “links” to break through. Remembering that, I grimaced, wondering how a range of ages and sizes could play that game together. I was so surprised by what I saw! The team with the thirteen-year-old boy called one of the small children from the other team. That small child ran as hard as he could towards the clasped hands of the big boy and a kid next to him, and the big boy let him break through. Then he scooped him up and playfully swung him up in the air. All the kids laughed and joined back up to continue their game. I continued to watch as the kids cooperated, and compensated for the differences in age so that everyone had fun. That was one of my first impressions of homeschooling, and it was a big one!

I witnessed other interactions, such as big kids pushing smaller kids on swings, or helping them climb ladders. Once, when a little one tripped and began crying, two older girls rushed over to help her up and brush her off.

During my first visit to a homeschool convention, I attended a workshop. The small room quickly filled with families, including their children. They were going to record the guest speakers so that they could sell CDs. I wondered how, with so many children in the room, they could make a recording without too much noise. Again, I was amazed at how quiet the room remained. Parents had brought books or quiet activities and the kids either sat quietly beside their parent, or in the aisle nearby. Once when a baby started to cry, the father immediately got up and left the room to take care of it. That was another example of homeschooled socialization.

Homeschool Culture

Before I started homeschooling, I had the “kids will be kids” mentality. I didn’t know that it was possible to train children to sit quietly and have good manners. Again and again I witnessed such situations.  After awhile I began to be able to detect homeschooled children by the way they conducted themselves, and the way the family interacted. There really is a difference in the culture of homeschooled children, and it’s a good one!

A Good Kind of “Weird”

On one occasion, while grocery shopping with my kids, I asked my 8-year-old son to get something for me. He walked over to some older ladies and said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Would you hand me some butter?” Both of the women turned and looked at me with one of those looks we homeschoolers become accustomed to. They had odd expressions, like they had seen a ghost, or an alien. Then one of them exclaimed, “He’s so polite!”

Not too long ago I had to take my teen daughter to the doctor. While checking out, the office staff started asking me questions about her. Then they commented that they would have guessed that she was older because she looked them in the eye, had self-confidence, and spoke maturely. There was just something about her.

Research

In his report, Research Facts on Homeschoolers, Dr. Brian Ray, of the National Home Education Research Institute, has published the following findings related to socialization1

  • The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
  • Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.

The research based on adults who were home educated is growing; thus far it indicates that they:

  • participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population,
  • vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population.
Sticks and Stones

We’ve all heard the taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and we all know that it isn’t true. The ugly things that were said to me as a child are still alive and well in the back of my mind. Even as an adult that knows better, they still affect my self-esteem. I wanted to limit those ugly voices in my children’s heads as much as possible. I’m not going to assert that ugliness never occurs within homeschool circles, but it pales in comparison to what kids experience in schools. My experience was, that any time we gathered with other homeschoolers, most, if not all, of the other kids were accompanied by at least one parent. In the event that ugliness erupted, it immediately became a teaching opportunity for the whole group.

The Socialization Myth

If you’re reading this, chances are that you are in the research stage of homeschooling, or perhaps a new homeschooler with young children. The socialization myth is just another one of our enemy’s lies to discourage you from homeschooling. He’d love to help you socialize your children. It’s up to us to consider what we want for our kids, and then make decisions accordingly.

Although it’s tempting to laugh when asked the socialization question, we need to realize that the asker has been misled by the enemy just as we once were. Maybe that will help us to patiently give an explanation and point out the misconceptions behind it. Socialization occurs from any type of interaction, whether it’s between family members or strangers in public. Kids are socialized when visiting with grandparents, running errands, or participating in sports and clubs. The truth is that you’d have to try pretty hard to prevent your kids from being socialized.

Related Reading

Homeschool Graduates in College ~ From the Professors’ Perspective

How to Have Happy Homeschool Holidays

December is such a busy month with so much to do. When our kids were younger we took a break from our usual curriculum and did things related to the holidays.

Making a snow angel
Making a snow angel

Kids are always so excited and restless during that time, anyway. Just not fighting that battle reduced a lot of stress. Letting the kids be excited and help take part in getting ready helped us to have happy homeschool holidays.

Shake it Off

Some might gasp in horror, thinking my kids got behind or that we set some horrible precedent, but I can assure you that it was okay. Not only did it lighten my load during a busy and (potentially) stressful season, but learning was still taking place. When the new year arrived, we were quite ready to resume our school schedule. I want you to see the learning in the special opportunities that you have during the holiday season so that you can shake off the guilt, embrace your homeschooling freedom, and enjoy it.

Decorating cookies with Great Grandma
Decorating cookies with Great Grandma
For Example

The things we did varied from year to year, but here are some examples of what December looked like in our homeschool, and some of the learning that I see in them.

  • Attending The Nutcracker, or other special holiday performances. (Performing arts, manners, socialization)
  • Performing in dance or music recitals. (Performing arts)
  • Operation Christmas Child or Angel Tree – I involved the kids in shopping for others through programs such as these. In fact, one year we received a letter from the little boy who received our shoebox. That was a wonderful surprise! (Serving others, budgeting, comparison shopping)
  • Making cards, decorations, gifts, and gift wrap. (Arts & crafts)
  • Entering holiday art contests. (Arts & crafts)
  • Making our Christmas gift list, and shopping for them. (Thinking of others, budgeting)
  • Baking and cooking. (reading, listening, measuring, math, nutrition)
  • Christmas books that were only out during the holiday season. (Reading, listening)
  • During get-togethers and parties the kids were able to spend more time with family and friends. (Socialization, manners)
  • Caroling with our homeschool group at nursing homes. (Music, socialization, serving others)
  • Playing educational games. (Reading, math, good sportsmanship) Betty Daley lists games and the skills they teach in her article, “Learning Can be Fun and Educational.”
  • Decorating gingerbread houses or sugar cookies. (Baking, art, architecture)
  • Playing in the snow, park days, nature walks. (PE, socialization, natural science)
  • Pursuing their own interests. (The sky’s the limit)
Playing in the snow with cousins
Playing in the snow with cousins

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I just wanted to encourage you to enjoy the holiday season, and for you to feel able to switch gears and take a break. Especially if you’ve recently started homeschooling, you may be feeling a little burned out or anxious by now and a break like this will do you and your students a world of good. If you’re a veteran homeschool mom, I invite you to share your experiences in the comments.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

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Related Reading

Learning How to Learn…And Loving it!

This post was shared in the Home for Christmas Blog Party Link-up.

How to Have Happy Homeschool Holidays

7 Lessons I Learned from The Animal School and How They Shaped Our Homeschool

During our early stages of homeschooling I did a lot of reading to learn about approaches, learning styles, and such, to create a vision for what I wanted our homeschool to be like. Somewhere along the way I came across “The Animal School.” It’s a fable that was originally written in 1940 by George Reavis, the Superintendent of Public Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. I still remember how I felt when I read it – inspired, energized, and empowered. I want to share it here for a new generation of homeschoolers and give you some insight as to how it affected me as a teacher. There are many versions out there now, but the one I believe to be the original follows:

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THE ANIMAL SCHOOL

Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to a badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

Why Animals?

It’s easier to think in terms of animals because their inherent differences are more apparent to us. Some have wings while others don’t. Some have webbed feet or humongous ears. Some have specialized beaks or tails. What if our children’s differences were as stark? It might be easier to understand why they aren’t able to excel in a particular skill. Further, we aren’t encumbered by comparing their race, class, or education level of their parents.

Lessons Learned

As we progressed through grade levels and learning stages these lessons were always in the back of my mind as I assessed my children’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are seven lessons I learned from “The Animal School:”

  1. It reminded me not to compare my kids to others, or even to each other, that they would learn at their own pace and in their own way.  It helped me to relax and enjoy the differences I saw. Some of my most cherished memories are from watching my kids develop.
  2. It reminded me that no matter how much time is spent, or how much of an expert teaches a subject, there are going to be areas that just aren’t my kids’ strengths. And that’s okay. God has a plan for our children and He equips them accordingly.
  3. When my kids started “soaring” with something, it was easier to sit back and enjoy watching them, letting them take the lead and take off. I didn’t try to bring them back down to earth to work harder on an area they were struggling in. When a child finds something they are good at and is allowed to pursue it as far as they can, they rise above the crowd. It builds their self-esteem and sense of purpose. That, in turn, can give them the confidence and perseverence to tackle harder areas.
  4. Too much pressure is also crippling, whether from the teacher, or the student themselves. The rabbit started off great but dropped out because of a nervous breakdown. Homeschooling allows us to alleviate pressure from outside sources, or help the student learn to cope with their own self-induced pressure. Read “The Anxiety Epidemic” article that I’ve linked to below.
  5. The squirrel taught me that teaching methods and curriculum have the power to exasperate and cripple our students. Reassess often and make changes as necessary.
  6. As homeschooling parents we’re a bit like the prairie dogs who took matters into their own hands. We do what we can, but at times we need to seek out specialized help for unique needs. Also, they apprenticed their youth. College is not the best goal for all young people. Consider alternatives such as apprenticeships, technical schools, or their own business.
  7. Like the eel, many kids adapt well to school, tests, and expectations, and flourish. If our child is not an eel, they are no less important, nor are they failures. (Or their teacher!) They have unique strengths and gifts that aren’t always showcased by mainstream subjects and environments. While we can be happy for the eel, it’s important to help the non-eels to find their place in the sun.
Endangered Species

“The Animal School” uses a handful of animals to make its points, but remember how many animals there are. What if your child is more of an endangered species, or one that defies categorization? One that is underserved by curriculum and extra-curricular activities? That can be more challenging to accommodate, but just remember that you’re going to do a better job of it than a school that has limited classes and resources.

Often, a child given the time and freedom to pursue their own interests will find a way to their own end. It may involve building their own bridge or blazing their own trail. In trying to reach their own goal, they may see the need for better writing or math skills, for example, and be motivated to persevere in an area that is more difficult for them. Just help them find the resources, and most of all, give them time and encouragement. See how far they go, and how high they fly. For an example of this, read “A Passion for Seeds,” about Jere Gettle, a homeschooler who built his own company.

Finland’s New Approach

As I was working on writing this, an article appeared in my Facebook feed that suits it perfectly. It was about how Finland is beginning a radical change to its education system by removing all subjects. Instead it will begin to teach by a method that resembles the homeschooling approach of “unit studies.” The article claims that Finland’s educational system is ranked among the top in the world. Who knows how long, if ever, it will be until our country considers reforming its education system, but homeschoolers have been benefitting from that approach for many years. There is a link to the article below.

Final Thoughts

Read or watch “The School for Animals” periodically. Let it help put things back in perspective for you. At some point in your children’s growth you will need to start viewing yourself more as a facilitator than a teacher. If they are allowed to pursue their interest, it may not be long before they turn the tables and become the teacher!

9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling

If you are new to homeschooling, I wrote “9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling” to help you get started. I’ve passed on my best advice, gleaned from my homeschooling years to give you a jump-start towards confidence. It’s inexpensive, and a great investment in the success of your homeschool.

Related Reading

Learning How to Learn…And Loving It!

A Passion for Seeds ~ Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Helpful Links

The Animal School: A Fable – (Video, slightly different version)

The Anxiety Epidemic: Why Kids Need Less School and More Freedom

Finland will Become the First Country in World to Get Rid of All School Subjects

Thomas Edison’s story


7 Lessons I Learned from The Animal School

Learning How to Learn…And Loving It!

Learning How to Learn...And Loving It!
Learning How to Learn…And Loving It!

When I retired as Homeschool Teacher, I started blogging because I enjoyed writing and wanted to learn more about using the internet. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising, but that was right before the internet came to be, so my education didn’t include anything about it. I haven’t always enjoyed writing, either. I went to school before the days of word processing when writing anything, either by hand or typewriter, meant writing and re-writing, and using a bottle of Liquid Paper, to produce a paper worth turning in. All of that time, not to mention the tedious assignments, made me dislike it. In a seemingly short time, the world had changed a lot because of personal computers and the internet.

Inspired by My Students

I was inspired by my kids because they had learned how to learn. During their childhood, they had the benefit of the internet to look up anything they wanted, at pretty much any time. They didn’t wait to take a class, they figured it out theirselves. I’d been a little envious of that. When I was growing up, the only resource I had at home was a set of encyclopedias, and it wasn’t exactly up to date.

Learning How to Learn

Nurturing the Love of Learning

One of our homeschool goals was for our children to learn how to learn. More specifically, we wanted to nurture the love of learning that they’re naturally born with. It’s the same principle as the common proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Every education is going to have gaps. We can’t know what the future holds for our children, or what they’ll need to know. Additionally, technology changes at such a rapid pace that by the time it’s in a textbook it’s out of date. But if our children learn how to learn, then they can learn anything. Knowing how to learn is more than a skill, it’s having confidence in one’s self to learn independently.

Fostering Independence

So how do we foster this independence? I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have some suggestions based on my personal experience.

There are a variety of approaches to homeschooling, and one of them, Unschooling, is child-led, and follows their interests. While many families follow that style of homeschooling, all families can implement its principles to some degree.

  1. In kids’ free time, during holidays, and school breaks, encourage them to pursue their interests.
  2. Make sure your children have free time. Don’t over-schedule them.
  3. Design a purposeful environment by providing your children with materials that are educational, wholesome, and are in keeping with your beliefs. Consider culling anything that doesn’t meet that criteria.
  4. As they mature, give them more responsibility in planning their classes and activities.
  5. If you see an aptitude, look for opportunities to nourish it through extra-curricular activities, online classes, clubs, or camps where they can learn more and meet others with the same interest. Look for a mentor or apprenticeship. Don’t be shy about asking fellow homeschoolers for ideas. You never know, another homeschool parent or grandparent may have just the expertise you’re looking for, or know where you can find it.
  6. Don’t get so caught up in following curriculum that it doesn’t allow kids to investigate other things. Learning is learning, and they learn better when it’s their idea. Like another famous proverb – “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” – you can force kids to do homework, but you can’t force true learning. Learning is more than memorizing facts, it’s an internalizing or synthesizing of the information, being able to dissect it and recombine it in new ways, and explain it.
  7. Don’t underestimate your child’s desire or ability to learn. They will all have their own pace and capability, but God created us to learn. They’re like little sponges. If they seem unable or unwilling to learn, it may be that the natural love of learning has been driven out of them because current subjects or methods aren’t meeting their needs. Re-examine your method and materials to see if some changes are needed.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. BowditchYears ago we read a book called Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham. We’ve read a lot of good books through school, but this one was particularly inspiring. It’s a biography about Nathaniel Bowditch, who, despite adverse circumstances, found ways to learn the information he craved, such as borrowing books or finding apprenticeships. Primarily self-educated, he was a mathematical genius, and considered the Founder of Modern Maritime Navigation. Nathaniel Bowditch knew how to learn.

Learning Curves

A steep learning curve can be exciting, yet stressful. I’m more empathetic about that now. I already knew how to write, but all of the technology related to blogging was totally new. Since the beginning of my blog, I’ve learned a slew of new terms and skills, and there were a few times that I needed to learn so much so fast that I felt like my head was going to explode.

Learning How to LearnHomeschooling my kids helped to revive my own love of learning, and watching the variety of interests they’ve pursued has inspired me to pursue my own.

Learning should be a life-long pursuit. At least I hope it will be for me. It keeps life interesting and my mind stimulated. What new things are you learning?

This post has been shared on some of my My Favorite Blog Hops.

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Raising World-Changers…second-generation unschooling

10 Pieces of Advice for New Homeschoolers

Our family spent fourteen years homeschooling and during that time I helped a lot of other families get started. If you are in the beginning stages of homeschooling, then here are ten pieces of advice that I would offer you.

1. Why are you homeschooling?

Write down all the reasons why you’ve chosen to homeschool. Believe me, there will be days when you will need to reread this. Days when everything goes wrong. Days when people question your sanity and/or your children’s well-being. And days when you’re tired, confused, or burned out. There will be days!

2. Set goals

Set goals for each of your children, and your family as a whole. Not only educational ones, but quality of life ones. Write them down for future reference. These will come in handy in making decisions about allocating time and budget among curriculum and activities. These aren’t etched in stone. They can be revised as needed.

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3. Define success

Success is going to look different for different families. One family may have the goal of their children attending an Ivy League school, or their own alma mater. Another family may want their children to take over the family business. Still other families may have definitions that don’t have anything to do with education, but rather the quality of their children’s lives. Again, write this down. There will be times when you will be tempted to compare your students with others, and being able to review your definition of success will remind you that all homeschools are unique. It will also help you to determine when you have achieved it.

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4. Don’t try to recreate school

Embrace freedom. Let yourself enjoy the time spent with your kids, watching them blossom. It may be hard to believe now, but one day you’ll look back and wonder where all that time went. You won’t remember the days you were locking horns as much as you’ll remember the days when you witnessed a light flickering on, the discovery of a new talent, and the precious time spent with little ones that grow too fast.

Homeschooling has so much freedom that it can actually be a little scary. Some families Unschool, while others prefer the reassurance and structure of curriculum. I’ve known families whose school schedule followed a parent’s work schedule. One family whose father traveled a lot did school when he was away and took off when he was home to spend time with him, for example. I’ve also known families who homeschooled while traveling in an RV or boat. School doesn’t always have to take place at a desk. Also, see “Thinking Outside the Desk While Homeschooling.”

Dignify your homeschool by giving it a name and a motto. When your students graduate you can order a custom, high-quality diploma with these details on it.

5. Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

Homeschooling isn’t just an educational choice, it’s a lifestyle. It affects your family relationships because you’ll be spending so much more time together. If you view it more as a lifestyle than just school, you’ll have a broader view and see that learning and socialization take place all the time. It’s like putting on a different pair of glasses. Also, be sure to read “Warnings from a Retired Homeschool Mom”.

6. Allow A Detox Period

If you are taking your kids out of school to start at home, give yourselves time to adjust. Don’t feel the need to leap right into bookwork and a strict schedule. There are lots of changes taking place with schedules, expectations, and family dynamics. Do educational, yet fun, things to mark the change from school to homeschool. For science go on nature walks and take some guidebooks along to identify trees or birds. For math do some baking or order a pizza to practice fractions. Visit museums and zoos. Take a family vacation and visit historical spots. Once you start your curriculum, you still may want to ease into it, adding a few subjects at a time as you figure out where your children are, what their needs are, and how they learn best.

Hands-on Learning at an Aquarium
Hands-on Learning at an Aquarium
7. You aren’t married to your curriculum

I feel safe in saying that you WILL make changes. As you find out what works or doesn’t work, and as your kids mature, your needs will change. Read about homeschooling approaches, learning styles, and curriculum reviews. Make the best choice you can and start.

8. Keep a personal journal

Write down funny things, “aha” moments, lessons learned, answered prayers, etc. You will enjoy having it, and someday might want to blog or write a book. This would be a good place to keep a copy of your reasons (#1), goals (#2), and definition of success (#3). Read “Save Your Memories with an Easy Email Journal.”

9. Keep a SCHOOL log

I kept a running list for each child. At the beginning of each school year I listed what grade they were in, what curriculum and outside classes we were using. Below that I listed any field trips or extra-curricular activities the kids participated in throughout the school year. This may come in handy if you ever have legal trouble, when applying to a school or college, or even for your own memories later on. Keep copies of certificates, awards, and photos. This will be especially handy during the high school years when making transcripts. If it’s on the computer, be sure to print it out occasionally in case something happens to your computer.

10. Go with the Flow

This may be hard to do, especially at first, but homeschooling is full of change. Every year, every semester, is different. Each child is different. You will never have it all figured out so try to relax and enjoy the ride. Know that your children are being taught by their parents (or other family members) who love them and want what is best for them. As long as you are diligent in homeschooling, it will be okay.

Go with the flow
Go with the flow
9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling

Even though it’s been awhile since we began homeschooling, I remember my emotions very well. Drawing on my experience, I wrote an ebook to help others get their new homeschool started. It includes the advice I’ve given above and guides you step-by-step through a process that can be overwhelming. Follow this link to get your copy of “9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling.”

Related Reading

You can read about how we started homeschooling in “The Birth of Curren Christian Academy.”

My Recommended Reading List.

This post has been shared at my favorite blog hops.

Homeschooling and Entrepreneurship

Our son, Hayden, lacks one class for his Associates degree, but about a year and a half ago he decided to buy a computer repair business, putting his college education on hold. Not too long after he bought it, a local tv station invited him to appear for a short interview. It was a great opportunity that he didn’t want to pass up, but he began to worry that they would ask him about his education, or more pointedly whether he had a degree in computer science. When he first mentioned that to me, I, too, began to fret, but then it dawned on me that Hayden had been studying computer science his whole life.

This post contains affiliate links. If you use one of my links to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. It doesn’t affect the price you pay, but helps to support my blog.

 

Starting Out

When he was just nine months old I began sitting at the computer with him several times a week. While using a product called JumpStart Baby, he could touch any of the keys on the keyboard to see what would happen on the screen. As he grew, we graduated to JumpStart Toddler, then JumpStart Preschool, and so on, with each level gradually teaching more. By the time Hayden’s sister came along, he was almost four years old and while I was busy with the baby, he was able to start the computer, boot up his software, type in his name and do everything on his own.

Self-Schooling

As Hayden grew up I felt like I saw an aptitude for technology, so I looked for opportunities to nurture it. Homeschooling and Entrepreneurship Hayden had a passion for Legos and played with them throughout his childhood. Somewhere along the way I learned of Lego Robotics groups, and wished there was one in our area that he could join. When he was about ten, I decided to splurge and buy him his own kit, thinking of it as an “educational expense.” That turned out to be a good investment. Hayden spent about an hour and a half just about every day for a year and a half, or so, designing robots and programming them on the computer. He followed his own interests and was totally self-taught.

Lego Robotics

When Hayden was about eleven, I learned that the high school computer science teacher sometimes held Lego Robotics camps. I contacted him and asked if he would consider having one the upcoming summer, and he did. The teacher’s own son, who was an incoming high school senior, assisted for the first few days. When the kids had designed their robot, he helped them program it on the computer. But when he was no longer able to be there Hayden took his place at the computer and helped the other kids. Each day when I returned to pick Hayden up, the teacher would ask me questions such as “How long have you homeschooled?” “Do you always plan to homeschool?” and “How old is he?!” At the end of the camp, Mr. O invited eleven-year-old Hayden to take his high school computer science class. He went so far as to walk me to the Principal’s office to talk to her about it. She wasn’t there, and talking with her confused secretary was amusing, but the result was that the district’s rules wouldn’t allow it since Hayden wasn’t an enrolled student. Alternatively, Mr. O gave Hayden private lessons, teaching him different computer languages and beginning animation. Not too long after that we moved to the Ozarks.

Hands-On Learning

During his teens, Hayden started tinkering with his own computers, taking them apart, fixing and upgrading them. When the opportunity arose to buy a computer-repair business, Hayden had been working there long enough to learn the ropes from the owner who was wanting to relocate. He was only twenty at the time, so it would be a big risk and responsibility for such a young man. My husband’s background was in finance. Having worked for Morgan Stanley (previously Dean Witter) for over twenty years, he was talking to an old friend about the opportunity. His response was that Hayden would learn more from the business than he would with a college degree. We agreed, and with Scott’s expertise in finance, and my experience in advertising and customer service, we felt like we still had things we could teach him and that the business would provide that avenue.

Facing Challenges

Hayden continues to learn through his business. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud of him. Last year he was contacted about installing a new technology. I was amazed at how confidently he committed to learning it, and negotiated his rates. We asked him if he had any previous experience with the technology, and he said no, but that he could read the manual and figure it out. And he did.

Walmart Locker on Mid-Life Blogger
Walmart Lockers, Austin, Tx. Photo credit: Teresa Bressi

It was for Walmart and they hired him to do work for them in five states, installing lockers for their Pickup service. He also maintains a contract to service all of the McDonald’s restaurants within a 50-mile radius, and is called when any of them have problems with their point-of-sale system.

Entrepreneurial Traits

Once, on a radio program, I listened to a speaker talking about homeschoolers. He said that, in general, they have high self-esteem and are independent learners, and that those traits are beneficial to entrepreneurship. That has certainly held true for Hayden. I don’t know what the future holds for Hayden and his business, but I know that the scope of things he is learning will be beneficial wherever life takes him.

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The Homeschool Entrepreneur Interview Feature With…a Homeschool Graduate Business Owner