Oct 7, 2013

Homeschool Moms :: An Interview with Sharon

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope this Monday finds you excited about a new week ahead! I secretly love Mondays because they allow me to start fresh. After our out-of-the-ordinary week last week, I'm ready for a clean slate. I was so off kilter last week that I confused my Facebook friends by posting about our Monday when the day was actually THURSDAY! So after a long four-day wait, Monday is finally here! And the best part is, I have a new homeschool mom interview for you this week!

This week's interview is from Sharon, a sweet local friend that I've gained lots of homeschool wisdom from! In lieu of answering specific interview questions, Sharon has graciously given us a peek into her homeschooling journey via an article she wrote titled, "Why I Homeschool and the Methods I Chose." Her story is so inspiring. I hope you'll take the time to read through the article- you'll certainly be encouraged by it! Oh yeah, and as a bonus, Sharon also gives tons of great book recommendations. Enjoy!

homeschool, classical education,

Home education wasn't my original plan for my child. When the time came, I was going to send her to a private school. This is the story of how that plan was changed.

From the time Susan was born I read to her, everything from board books to classic literature that was way above her level and mine! I think it was a combination of genetics and our reading habits that produced a child who could read before she was two years old. By the time she was four, it was not uncommon for her to pull an encyclopedia from the shelf and begin to read. She couldn't pronounce all of the words, but the amount she could decipher was impressive. Even though she seemingly learned to read through 'osmosis', I decided to work through a phonics primer with her just in case we missed something. A friend told me I should stop because she would be bored in kindergarden. This is when the thought of homeschooling first entered my mind.

Why should I hold her back when it seems to come so easily for her?

It also occurred to me that I didn't want to put Susan in a situation where she might skip grades and find herself with classmates above her maturity and world experience level. I had a friend who'd regretted having made that decision for her child. I did send her to a nearby preschool for two days a week. After a few weeks there, she announced that she did not want to go back. Susan says that this is when she made the decision to be home schooled.

At that point, I began to read everything I could get my hands on about home schooling, and I began to question people who had done it successfully. A friend of mine gave a book to me by Chris and Evelyn Davis, I Saw the Angel in the Marble. This book went into detail about various methods and teaching philosophies. What resonated with me most was the Classical Method of education. It was literature based, and reading was already a part of our everyday life. As I read about it I became more and more convinced this was the right choice for us.

History would be studied chronologically, so instead of starting with the family, street, neighborhood, and town as most social studies do, we would start with the world, at the cradle of civilization where the earliest remains of man have been found in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates River, which is the very place where the Biblical record puts the Garden of Eden.  Over the course of a four year cycle we would cover Ancient History, Medieval times, the Renaissance, rounding out the cycle with American History in fourth grade. We would study the cultures, religions, literature, and art of the time periods in the order they had occurred.

Geography and Science studies would also stem from the place we were studying in history. For example, when we learned about Galileo, we would also learn some Astronomy, all on the Elementary level, at first. We would keep a big time line on the wall in the play room where we pasted home-made and pre-made figures of all of the prominent people and events we had studied. This method of study was so untraditional and unlike anything I had experienced before, and yet it seemed to make perfect sense. I'm still passionate about it six years later, although I realize it is not for everyone.

One of the other factors that led to my decision to home school was my desire to give my kids a moral foundation. Young children have a tendency to be very black and white in their thinking. I wanted to capitalize on this. I was very careful in the early years to choose stories that had some kind moral theme.  I wanted my kids to be able to experience vicariously, through the characters in the stories, the consequences of good and bad decisions, the reality of how our choices affect so many other people for better or for worse. I wanted to introduce them to exciting stories that would make them want to be a hero, and by hero I simply mean an unselfish person, a servant if you will, whether in a leadership position, a lay position, or at home. I wanted to use stories, both real and fictional, that would help develop their conscience and moral imagination as well as create in them a desire to want to be a good person.  I thought the use of stories was a better way to accomplish these goals than just having me say, “Don’t be selfish” or, "Do your best."A few books that speak to the idea of using literature to help provide a strong moral foundation in your child are Tending the Heart of Virtue and Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong.

Another reason I decided to home school was to guard my child from the parts of our culture that can adversely affect them.  You may call it sheltering; I, however, believe that young children should be sheltered a bit. Even as an adult, I shelter myself. I choose not to subject myself to semi-pornographic movies. I censor what I read. I deem some reading and music distasteful. I wanted to help my children develop an appetite for things that are beautiful in the area of the arts and literature. Most of what we read in the early years was well written and the illustrations were beautiful. I stayed away for the most part from ugly ‘Rugrat, Bevis and Butthead’ type art. This is the foundation I wanted for them. How they build on that foundation will be their choice.

We also wanted to keep the family together. At this time in our lives Walter was a member of the Gulf Council. He had to attend week long meetings every other month in a different state. Had Susan been in school we would not have been able to join him. During the day when Walter was in meetings, Susan and I would visit children’s museums, science museums, art museums, and anything else we could find that I deemed educational. I always ended up returning home with an abundance of books purchased at these places. We also brought our curriculum along and ‘did school’ in the hotel. Home Education gives us the freedom to travel at any time of the year we choose and stay close and connected as a family simply by being able to physically be together more.

Our day is structured, but we do not follow the parish school schedule. We school year round, taking time off at our leisure for out of town guest, funerals, weddings, etc. or just because we want a break.

I do not have a college degree, and at one time I saw this as a handicap.  Now I consider it an asset. I think that successful home education has more to do with discipline than ability. For us this means ignoring the phone, not receiving guest during school hours, (I have turned people away at the door on occasion). As the mother of my children, whom I am with 24 and 7 for the most part, I have the intelligence and an innate ability to recognize their strengths and their weaknesses. In our home school, I teach to their strengths. I find out what works for each child and I strive to capitalize on it. This does not mean we don’t work on weak areas. It simply means we have the time to take it slow in areas we need to. This could not happen in a class room full of kids. This last remark is not a slight on teachers. I have friends with degrees in education and when I need to, I call on them for help. One of them probably edited this note! It's simply a fact that any child has a greater chance of success with a one to one teacher/student ratio.

I write this note as an encouragement to those considering home education. If you need help in an area, there are those who are willing to help you, myself included.

In a nutshell:
  1. I wanted to study history in a cycle not offered in traditional or private schools.
  2. We wanted to provide our kids with a moral foundation ourselves.
  3. We wanted to be the primary influence in our kids lives. 
  4. I wanted to take advantage of each individual child’s learning style. 
  5. We wanted the freedom to travel whenever we liked. 
  6. We wanted the kids to be able to move at their own pace, in Susan’s case this was an accelerated pace in some areas. 
  7. I wanted my kids to have a hands on education on running a household. Chores are a part of academics, we call it Home Ec. 

Every now and then Susan is asked if she has home work. Her reply, “All my work is home work!” But to answer that question, she does not have home work. Her evenings are free because you can cover a lot more information in an hour with one or two children than you can cover with a room full. There is no need for home work.

I am frequently asked if I have her tested. This question always amuses me, but I’ve kept that to myself. As the person who is with her most of the time, I always know how she is going to do on a test. Her results never come as a surprise to me. But I do it because it eases the mind of the grand parents.

I have hit on the points which were most important to me in this adventure. Our experience has been pleasant. It has also been hard at times. There are some subjects that are just not fun, but you still have to cover them, and we do. There are some things I have to learn right alongside my kids. Susan is in fifth grade and Michael is just starting out. We now have pre-school! Susan and I take turns teaching Mike.

In the early days of my endeavor, the name I chose for our school was and still is The Southern School of Classical Studies. Doesn't that sound impressive? It is my only regret. Although our academics can be rigorous, a more appropriate name would be The Snuggle School in the South!  We take it one year at a time, or better yet, One Day at a Time Sweet Jesus!

This brings me to the very short answer of why I home school. God Almighty dropped it into my heart. The intellectual and heart felt reasons came later.

This is a list of books which have instructed and encouraged me along the way.
The Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason
I Saw the Angel in the Marble by Chris and Evelyn Davis
Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It by Jane M. Healy Ph. D.
Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong, The Case for Character Education by WIlliam   Kilpatrick
Tending the Heart of Virtue, How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination by Vigen Guroian
Honey for a Child’s Heart, The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life by Gladys Hunt
The Well Trained Mind, A Guide to  Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer
Mothers of Influence, The Inspiring Story of Mothers who made a Difference in their Children's Lives by David C. Cook.

Do I think everyone should home school? Yes I do.
Do I think people who home educate should use the same methods we do? No I do not.
Does this mean everyone should home school? No it does not!

But for those who can, what a great experience!

Susan is now in her first year of Jr. High homeschool. The hours I put in laying a foundation of knowledge, keeping our day structured, ignoring the phone, helping her become independent in her studies, have paid off. She loves learning, she knows how to do research, she is on cruise control. I no longer have to sit with her for every subject. I began weaning her off of being spoon fed around 5th grade. Now I simply check her work, although I do sit with her to discuss literature and history and to do fun art projects! When I had her tested last year she scored post high school in every subject. However one might feel about testing, it is a necessity for the college bound.

My son is in 1st grade. He is 7. Reading did not come as easily for him. On a personal note, teaching him to read has been more rewarding. He gets so excited when he masters a new concept. He is progressing at a different pace than his sister, but he is progressing. I started later with him because he was one distracted ball of energy. I am training him in habits of attention. (This can be done!)

Teaching at home has required a lot of discipline and self-sacrifice of me. I love it. I'm thankful the Lord called me to do it. Nehemiah's reply to those who were trying to distract him from building the walls has become my secret mantra. “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?” #redeemingthetime

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Sharon!!


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