When we first began our homeschooling journey in 1999, my oldest child (and only student at the time) was in 4th grade. (I also had a preschooler and a toddler.) I had no ideas of my own as to what home education would look like for my family, only that this was what God was telling us to do. Several homeschooling families that I knew were educating their children using Abeka curriculum, and since Abeka publishes curriculum for the traditional classroom, I chose to utilize their materials in our homeschool. I thought that was what I would be most comfortable with, given my traditional public school background.
It seemed to be working for us and so that is how we did school for several years. I remember our old house we were living in at the time... I didn't have a dining room or an extra room to use for school. So we just sat at the kitchen table to do our written work, and on the couch for our reading subjects. Some of my friends had a separate room that was set up for use as a schoolroom. How I longed for a separate room that I, too, could use as a schoolroom! (Silly me)
I remember when we were building our new house. Now we would have a schoolroom! How excited I was to make that our little one room schoolhouse. Complete with real desks for my children, you know the kind, the cute school desks with the little cubby underneath to hold all their textbooks, a cute little "schoolish looking" calendar on the wall, alphabet strip around the top of the walls, a nice dry erase board (that would be almost as nice as a chalkboard), a teacher's desk for me, just like a real classroom.
I think I know I was far more excited than my children were about this classroom!
Every day, we would march into that schoolroom and begin our school day with the pledge of allegiance, followed by a patriotic song or two, then a prayer to our heavenly Father. Then we'd sit in our desks and begin the tedious job of "learning" using our worksheets and textbooks and tests. I remember Will being in kindergarten, and how he'd sit in his desk for a little while, but then before I knew it, he would be on the floor, or trying to lie under his desk. I used to get so upset with him! Why couldn't he just stay in his seat and do his work like he was supposed to, for heaven's sake?
And why was I getting so upset? Why did I expect him to stay in his seat the whole time anyway? Really, what was the big deal? As long as he was learning, what did it matter if he lay on the floor to sing the ABC song, or turned flips across the room while counting? Wasn't learning the most important thing, and as long as that was being accomplished, then should the means really matter? Well, you would think that would have occurred to me. You would think. However, and I might have mentioned this a time or two before, I am a slow learner. Indeed, sometimes God has to bash me over the head a couple times before it begins to sink in :).
Me being the "slow learner" that I am, I just kept plowing ahead, doing the same thing day in and day out, insisting that we stay in our "cute little desks" and stay focused on our workbooks. After all, that's how school is done. Everybody knows that. It doesn't matter if any of us are miserable, if any of us are not exactly learning.
I've shared before how much I have learned throughout our homeschooling journey. And one of the main things I've learned is that all children do not learn in the same way, or on the same time frame as other children of the same age. I've also learned that homeschooling is NOT bringing the classroom into your home. Just because I turned our "schoolroom" into a traditional "classroom" filled with desks and textbooks and all the other little things that make a classroom a classroom, did not necessarily ensure that that would be the best way to teach my children, or that it would even be an environment conducive to learning for them.
Slowly, God began to change me. He opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of not so ordinary ways to teach my children. He showed me that teaching them about Him is far more important than teaching them how to sit in a desk for any length of time. That knowing Him is far more important than 2x2=4 or on April 19, 1775, the shot heard round the world began the war for American independence. Matthew 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Somewhere along the way, I learned of a woman named Charlotte Mason, a 19th century educator in England, who had definite ideas of what education is and is not. According to Ms. Mason, education is not reading books of dry, dull facts and memorizing those facts just long enough to pass a test. It is not sitting in a classroom for hours completing workbooks and busywork. Ms. Mason's educational methods focus on well-written literature as a means for acquiring learning. She also believed in short lessons (for the younger child), nature study, copywork, dictation, the pursuit of excellence, good habits, notebooking, unstructured time outdoors and free time to pursue one's interests.
A transformation began taking place within our little one room schoolhouse. Sometimes a nice spring day would find us outside on a blanket with our books. Now there's a novel idea. Slowly the textbooks were being replaced with biographies, and well-written fiction stories. The school desks were moved out to make room for bookshelves and tables filled with various nature items, like bird field guides and binoculars, and bowls of tadpoles, and leaf and rock collections. Math and language lessons would find us seated around the kitchen table, or sometimes lying across a bed (or as now, in the case of Algebra, seated in front of the computer), while history and literature and science readings would find us curled up on the couch, or stretched out on the floor. I have learned that each child doesn't have to study every subject all on his own, at his particular grade level. Math and language, yes, but bible, science, history and some others could be combined and studied together as a family.
And that's the beauty of homeschooling - finding what works for my family, learning to utilize different homeschooling methods, tweaking the programs here and there, knowing that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all education. Knowing that these are my children, and that God has given them into my care, is an encouragement to me. Even when I doubt my ability to teach them, and when I wonder if I'm going to ruin their education and scar them for life, He is there to whisper in my ear: "With man it is impossible, but not with God. With God all things are possible." So, why do I doubt Him? Either I believe Him or I don't. If He has called me to homeschool my children, He is not going to leave me unprepared or unable to teach them. He is faithful and I can depend on Him. (How many times must I learn that lesson?)
I have learned that life is our classroom, and learning doesn't end after 12 years of school; that learning doesn't happen between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm only, and it doesn't stop just because school is out for the summer; that although I am my child's teacher, I'm really only his facilitator. My job is not to "spoon-feed" him what he needs to know, but to teach him how to learn, so that he can continue to learn after he leaves my school here at home.
Does this mean that I'm no longer nervous about homeschooling Will in high school? No, I'm still nervous about it, but I know that with God it is possible. He will show us the way - the curriculum we need to use - a tutor, if that's what we need - whatever our needs, He will meet them. He is faithful, this I know.