Monday, July 11, 2011

Back to School or Homeschool?

Where did this painter get educated?
As we near the end of summer, the thoughts of sending our girls back to public school is on the forefront of our minds. We've discussed homeschooling for a few years now.  To be completely honest, we just aren't sure we're confident enough in ourselves to do it.  We've read numerous blog post replies of encouragement from folks who are homeschooling their own children. Kudos to you folks. I am truly amazed at the responsibility you have undertaken.  Educating our children is such an important task, I just don't want to screw it up.

Possible results of my inadequate teaching?
I don't know of a much more noble cause than to take on the responsibility of making sure your children are educated in literature, mathematics, science...well, you know...knowledge.  Wifey and I have talked about several things that get under our skin, so to speak, regarding our local public school system.  For starters, we're peeved at how much time is wasted in the public school system.  Just the time lost to changing classrooms between subjects is staggering. Ten minutes between classes multiplied by eight class subjects is an hour and twenty minutes LOST every day just walking around. Don't forget the 30-40 minutes for lunch.  Oh, and the commute time is a big loss. I insist on taking my girls to school. Not that I have anything against riding a bus but this is good communication time I get to spend with my girls. An hour before school every day is priceless, whether we're talking, listening to music, or studying up on some last minute test questions. Wifey usually picks them up. But it is this nonproductive waste of time that makes us wonder just how much time is actually spent teaching and learning?

Which leads me to one of my gray areas in regards to homeschooling: I can't tell how much time would need to be allotted for teaching. The easy answer is "how ever long it takes" but I am the type of person who needs a schedule. Is it possible to teach a junior high or high school student all the proper subjects in say...five hours? Could we have an 8:00a-1:00p schedule with the remainder of the day available for free study? Now that I have a more manageable work schedule (working three 12 hour shifts per week gives me four days off) I could actually teach my girls two to three days during the week. 

Math is my strong point...
Having the ability to teach half the week means Wifey would have the other days.  This presents problem number two: what does she do with the little ones while she teaches the older ones? How do you keep toddlers occupied for several hours a day in order to focus on teaching your older kids?  I'm sure I'm not the only parent who has a toddler which possesses the potential to destroy planet Earth if left unsupervised. My three year old Chloe is such a toddler. She gets into so much trouble, I've considered writing a weekly post called Chloe's Calamities whereby I document all the things she's done the past week. Unbelievable this kid. But that's for another day.  How to juggle the little kids during home school hours is the question.
My last concern about home schooling is the end result. My research has shown me that there are numerous ways to home school. From full-on lecturing to 100% self study from manuals and guides. I would prefer to have a mixture of the two. I don't want to spoon feed or ramble Bueller Bueller Bueller all day. Just provide the meat of the subject, make sure the topic is understood, then allow for individual self study to expand on the topic and further investigate. So back to my question on the end result.  How is the quality of what I have taught going to be evaluated and who is going to do the evaluation?

Upon successfully completing whatever final exam comes with the study package I choose to teach from, does my child then go take a public GED exam from the state? Once the GED is successfully completed are we then free to apply to college? Do I have to show evidence to anyone that my child completed a home schooling course? I'm just wondering if all you home schoolers out there keep homework like bank records. You know, in case some authority figure from the state comes along and demands a paper trail that your child actually was being educated and not just goofing off?

One thing I am NOT concerned about is extracurricular activities. My girls have plenty going on outside of school that there is no need to worry about socialization skills nor staying busy. I've read the lame perspectives that home schooled children are maladjusted socially and I don't put an ounce of credence into such claims.  Heck, the last set of statistics I read showed home schoolers were more likely to score higher on college entrance exams than traditionally schooled kids.

Any thoughts? Were you homeschooled or are you homeschooling your children? What was/is your schedule like? What curriculum worked best for you? Did an organization help you along that you can recommend?

Disclaimer: I was raised an only child. I now have six daughters. I can use any help I can get :-)



  1. My Hubby and I have been having the same conversations. I know I want to, but I don't have the confidence in myself as a parent that i will successfully teach them. I was a mediocre at best student myself and feel I lack the intelligence to teach.
    I do agree about the bussing. My kids school bus lets off in front of our house, yet I refuse to let them ride it. I enjoy the bonding in the mornings and afternoons on the way home. By me taking them I know they have gotten there safely and I will be able to tell them I love them as they step out the car door.


  2. I don't believe all the time switching class rooms is "lost". There are studies that show you need a five minute break every ~ hour ( sorry, I don't remember the exact times, but it is roughly correct). Definitely, there is wasted time, but it isn't always as it seems.

    I also struggled with homeschooling vs. public school vs. private school.


  3. The comment thing doesn't require me to give my website etc, so I don't know if you know who I am or not- sorry. I'm not the same Laura as above. My husband and I write


  4. Hi OJD,

    We homeschool our children and it is one of the most rewarding things we've ever done, but I don't want to downplay how challenging it can be. You are going into your decision with your eyes wide open and that's good.

    I recently did a piece called Training Children (part 3, I think) where I outlined some of the reasons we choose to homeschool. We have a number of children too, and the 2 yr old is Chloe's counterpart.

    First off, let me say that every family probably eventually finds their own unique style and schedule that meets their particular needs and if something doesn't work, you can always adjust or toss it out completely.

    One thing that has really helped us with time management having a large family is a book called Managers of their Homes by Maxwell. It may seem overwhelming to schedule to such a degree, especially with your work schedule and trading off with Wifey, but just reading it may give you some great ideas.

    To manage the little people while the older ones need quiet or need me, I try to keep sets of toys or learning materials in small totes. They can only play with those things during the those times in a rotation so they don't have opportunity to get bored with them very quickly. Here are some of the labels on my totes: Play-doh, Potato Heads, Train Set, Art, LeapPads, Matchbox cars, Puzzles, Lincoln Logs, and so on.

    That is something to think about anyway. It doesn't address all of your questions, but I'd be glad to talk more in the future.


  5. Try not to stress about it. Maybe think of the possibility of homeschooling as a one year long endeavor to start with. If it just doesn't work out for you, go back to public school the following year. I'm personally convinced that many children (and their families) would be much better off being homeschooled, but it's obvious that you and your wife love your children. You're not going to let them grow up ignorant- whatever the two of you decide about school. I dearest when people get militant about what other families should do. It's a very individual/family specific issue. And you know, if you end up using public schools for this year, if you want to you can still research homeschooling options for later on. As another commenter touched on, some public schools have a teach at home option while still being under the oversight of that system.
    Please don't misunderstand, I do have VERY strong opinions about the whole issue, lol, I just can see that each household needs to figure things out for themselves. We should all be working together to strengthen our sense of community, and not be against each other b/c someone doesn't act exactly like someone else. That's the reason we are not involved in any of our local homeschool groups. Unfortunately, there was a heavy atmosphere of "use the one RIGHT curriculum" "follow the one RIGHT schedule" "teach the RIGHT subjects in the one RIGHT way", and if you don't toe the homeschooling line, you are a heretic and traitor to the cause. We are so not into the guilt trips and pressure and conformity.

    So, short story- lol!- don't stress. It's ok to take some time to assimilate the info and look around some more. Whatever you all choose is for your family, nobody else's. :-)

    Btw, I will be adding some links to our homeschooling page soon of sites that we use/have used. You don't have to be homeschooling to get some great learning out of them. :-)


  6. We home schooled our kids. We were both certified teachers in our state at the time. Working in the pubilc schools, we knew we didn't want our kids in them. We bought the curriculum from Texas Tech outreach. The books, lessons, exams, etc all came in packages, we did the instructing, the kids took the tests, sent them back to Texas Tech for grading. It was an excellent system and the course content was head and shoulders above the garbage my wife and I were forced to teach in school. We had to file monthly reports with the county detailing exactly what hours were worked, on what subjects, etc. My kids did have to take the GED and provide proof of their homeschooling when they applied to schools in the U.S. I got fed up and sent them to Canada for their advanced education, which is much more enlightened when it comes to homeschooling and doesn't try to throw up roadblocks to discourage others as so often happens in the states.
    My recent post What is it with so many "preppers"?


  7. Home schooling is no longer a choice for responsible parents, it is a must do! Education in the basics, or even advanced courses, is only one aspect. Obviously we know that a public education leaves a lot to be desired in this area. It is the socialization of our children that we must be concerned with! It is rampant, and is a means to a desired ends for the powers that be!

    My wife and I have home schooled our four boys since day one. The oldest has just finished high school. Our basic philosophy is to get them excited about learning early, give them the tools to learn from everything and everyone around them, and teach them to filter all knowledge against the benchmark of biblical truth.
    They have also been imbued with the love of reading. I have to admit that we created four book monsters . . . we cannot keep them in enough books!

    We didn't need to occupy the little guys for long, because they have all been taught from the get-go that they are in training to be men. They then naturally looked to me as their father (gulp, heavy responsibility feelings) and to their older brother(s). As the first one began schooling the others imitated them. When they started school they were already familiar as to what was expected of them. The boys are largely self-taught . . . they learned early to read instructions carefully. Their mother stepped in whenever needed . . . how does the song go? . . . Momma did the teaching and Papa did the preaching!
    Being Texans we have it quite a bit easier than you folks in most other states, but we have also home school in New York, Florida and Missouri.

    Supporting the HSLDA is a good decision.

    If your children learn maturity at an early age. If they seek wisdom. If they do not avoid responsibility. They will be hungry for knowledge and wisdom and will seek it everywhere.
    I still get goosebumps listening to my boys in deep discussions about Plato, George Washington, political strategies of the Hapsburgs . . . if only I had this when I was a kid! Take the plunge and home school. Your kids are the greatest thing you will ever do in this life!

    P.S. Sorry for the sloppiness, I'm writing this with one foot out the door . . . taking the boys for a well deserved swim!
    My recent post FOOD: DIVERSIFY, DIE OR SUBMIT!


  8. We are in the same boat. We have always felt our 2 kids belonged in the public school system to be a shining light to others. And you wouldn't believe how many kids have been influenced by our kids, for instance, our daughter was in 2nd grade and decided that the kids in her class needed to hear the Bible stories from Sunday School. She sat about 15 kids down at recess and told Bible stories, taught them songs (with motions) and the weekly memory verse.
    Our daughter just graduated high school a few weeks ago and is heading off to Bible college. Her younger brother (starting 10th grade in the fall) is not as academically inclined as she is and the school they attend is based all on turning in notebooks for grades. It doesn't matter if the kids does well on tests or verbal participation or anything else, if the notebook doesn't have the correct teacher mark at the correct time of the correct day, no points are given for the semester. Our son in very intelligent and loves to learn but this is not helping him achieve in a point driven atmosphere. Also, our only school is more than 45 miles away, over a 5k ft mountain pass and I don't like the idea of him being in a town by himself.
    So we are homeschooling for the first time. And like you, not sure where to start. Our son wants to go back to high school for his Senior year, so I also have to make sure that he can get enough credits to transfer. Lots of details that I am sort of putting off, while trying to enjoy the last few weeks of our family time.
    Our son is very responsible, in fact, he has so many people calling to offer him work, that he has to juggle and sometimes put stuff off until a future date. And people are willing to wait for him to work for them. To me, that kind of a reputation is more important than good grades. We live in a small village but he is not the only teenage boy available to work.
    Oh by the way, Chloe sounds like our nephew, Aaron. He is 2 years old and my sister calls him "Ocean". When I asked her why, she said "you never turn your back on the ocean". And boy, does it fit him!!!


  9. Yes, HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) is great to be a part of even though you will not be likely to need representation in court. They can give you all the state laws re homeschooling, and will explain anything you need over the phone. The membership is $110 or $115 per year now, and can be paid with a monthly bank draft of about $15.

    My husband and I have 9 children, the only one who ever went to public school was our oldest. He had one year of preschool at age 3. We began seriously considering homeschooling before we became Christians. Since that point our determination only got stronger. :-)

    We have tried so many approaches to scheduling and content over the years. Now we are really relaxed in our approach. Our oldest two were able to pass the GED at ages 17 and 16. That's not to tell you we did an extraordinary job, just that if children are allowed to learn what they are interested in, the rest will take care of itself. You would actually have to try incredibly hard in order to mess them up. ;-)

    You CAN'T teach them everything they want/need to know. You CAN teach them how to find information for themselves. This not meant to brag, but to encourage: our oldest son, 17 years old, is working full time with a member of our church who owns his own tree trimming/fence building business. He is a medieval history and swordfighting buff and has a very strong grasp of current economics and politics. He also has a very strong biblical worldview. Our 16 year old son's strongest interests lie in the field of Viking history. He works part time with his brother. Also has a strong personality and is quite opinionated. Our 12 year old boy plays guitar by ear, having largely taught himself through YouTube videos. He has a lot of knowledge about US Civil War history and is currently learning how to make and edit stop motion animation videos.

    I'm just trying to illustrate that children have so many different natural interests, that it would be impossible to cater to each of their strengths with a cookie cutter program. That being said, if your state laws or your own personal requirements dictate having a program laid out, there is still plenty of opportunity to let them follow their own interests. I think the key here is giving them a lot of time to learn whatever, even if it doesn't seem to have much lasting value. I am constantly surprised by the things my children have learned that I didn't even know about. :-)

    In short, there are lots of different ways to homeschool. You do what works for your family. Don't be afraid to change it up, even frequently. What works spectacularly during one year (or one month!) may not be the best fit later on. Don't be afraid to change things. Don't be afraid to take breaks. There are LOTS of great educational sites online that are free. Use those while you decide about whether or not to use paid options. (We have done our homeschooling for 14 years so far largely for FREE.)

    Well, it seems I have written a little book, lol! Actually, I think I will make this into a blog post of my own. :-)

    If you would like any more info, do feel free to have your wife or yourself contact me. We enjoy being able to give practical advice and encouragement. Our contact info is on my blog.

    And by the way, good for you and your wife for thinking this issue through and seeking advice. :-)


  10. Interesting topic, wonderful responses. I didn't homeschool my kids but added schooling in the areas where my local school was deficient, which was most subjects, except phys ed. I used materials found at the library for specifics, no internet when they were young, and just plain common sense.

    I really feel that learning any subject should be taught in the concept of useful learning - math should be tied into money, measuring, cooking, building. Reading should be not just books/literature but also newspapers which then blends nicely into politics, history, current events, etc. I wanted my boys to be able to be contributing citizens of the world and worked the knowledge I felt they would need into their daily lives.

    Now that they are adults, I can see that I what 'taught' them at home really paid off - they will come to me and say 'I can't believe the new guy at work doesn't know how to read a map', or 'my neighbor has no idea how to open the drain under the sink to get his wife's ring that she dropped' or 'can you believe people don't know why we have so many American Indian named places here?' There are lots of homeschooling curriculums to choose from - pick and choose what works best for you.


  11. This is one of my favorite subjects! My sister and I were homeschooled for five years and loved it. There are some many groups out there and classes they can take. In NH homeschooled children are still counted as school age by the public school so they receive funding for the child even if they never go to a class. That means that if you were not confident in… math? You could send your kids to the school just for math class. You could also use their supplies. Awesome idea that is so daunting but so worth it. We could take pictures of our field trips and samples of our essays. At the end of the years the school principle would come to the house and check it out. He was always shocked at the amount of education we’d been able to cram in. Good luck and if you have questions, give me a shout!


  12. I began homeschooling when my son was in 9th grade and my daughter was in 5th grade. I worked fulltime but my grandmother and my dad (retired) lived in our home so there were adults home all day. I also worked only five minutes from home and had a split shift (6am to 10am, then 2pm to 6pm) so I had about 3-1/2 hours midday for quality instruction time. I wrote a syllabus for each week and used that as our guide to keep us on target, on track. I found with my daughter, a simple outline would do ...she always went over and above what I asked. With my son, if I just said 'answer the questions at the end of the chapter' ...that's what he did ...some of his answers were one or two words. My daughter would write complete sentences, pay careful attention to grammar and punctuation and occasional had a short paragraph answer. Every kid is different.

    Most states have their own guidelines for homeschooling. Colorado required a specific curriculum of core subjects, Texas did not. Most colleges require a homeschooled student to take the GED prior to the entrance exam. The homeschooling support group where we were in Texas offered annual SAT testing (accredited) which I did every year to make sure the kids were up to par in all areas and identify any particular strengths they each had. Yes, I said STRENGTHS. Most public schools test looking for weaknesses. I believe kids should meet a minimum level of competency in all areas but strengths are their God-given talents and should be nurtured and encouraged.

    My grandmother was born in 1904 and taught school in the horse and buggy days ...a one room school house where the younger ones were given tasks while the older ones received more advanced instruction out loud and vice versa. I believe that all the kids benefited from being exposed to all the levels of material all day ...some of it beyond their level, some of it elementary to their level was an atmosphere of learning. Ever notices how much young kids pick up from older kids, both what the older kids say and what they do? A homeschool setting is that way too. Your younger kids will emulate their older siblings attitudes and demeanor but they will also HEAR everything your older children say. And when your older siblings are reciting lesson material, that is just one more dose of learning for the younger ones.

    Homeschool Legal Defense. Google it. Some states and some school systems within different states are more or less actively opposed to families homeschooling their children. When I was doing it (early to mid-90's), it cost $100/year no matter how many children you had. If you are challenged in court by anyone, community, state level ...they will represent you. They are all attorneys. I was never challenged but it was cheap insurance in my opinion.

    I hope that helps. I think your schedule sounds ideal.

    Disclaimer: It's 5:10am and I've been awake exactly 25 minutes. One eye is OPEN, the other is still squinting at the light and I'm in rush to get out of here for the morning commute no time to proofread. Please forgive any misspellings or grammar oops's.

    : )
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  13. I have 4 girls ages 6, 4 and a set of 3 year old twins. This year just my oldest was being home schooled. I did a couple things to keep the littles occupied. I have a basket that is full of gallon size zip lock bags. In each bag is a different activity (puzzle, coloring book and crayons, homemade playdough, flashcards, memory puzzles, etc). When we are doing school, I set them up at a little table and give them each ONE bag at a time. When I see them getting restless, I change activities. Also, I try to arrange the day so that school is being done during their naptime. This is especially good for one on one help, reading, etc because it is going to be quiet. If we are, for example, studying butterfly life cycles I will find things on the internet for them to color, cut, glue etc so they feel like part of the group. Also, everyday some of our schooltime is spent on reading book aloud and they have come to really enjoy this. The spread out a blanket and listen along.


    I know that didn't answer your other questions at all, but I wanted to chime in on that bit at least. Ok, now I'll stop my ramblings LOL
    My recent post Sauerkraut…..Soon.

  14. I lost ALL the comments when I got rid of CommentLuv and IntenseDebate so I reposted them under Anonymous and tried to include everyone's name at the end. I linked when possible. Here are all of my replies:

    @Charley - thanks for commenting. This is helpful. I wonder what homeschoolers schedules are like and how they handle the little ones during school time. Thanks for posting how you do it at your home! I appreciate the input!

    OMG, I'm still standing in the shower half asleep 25 minutes after I wake up! Thanks for your input and no worries on the prose. I have a mother that used to correct my spelling on EVERYTHING. It bugged the crap out of me but served its purpose.

    Great! Thanks Ash!

    Thanks Bellen. These comments are wonderful.

    Thanks Laura. Your comment, as well as others, are SO encouraging. I read these replies and think "What am I waiting for?" Then the next morning I wake up and my shoulders knot up just thinking about it again. ..

    LOL @ Ocean. We actually nicknamed ours "The Chloe Monster". "Here comes Chloe Monster" we say ;-)

    We have actually found an elementary school that we like. Our children have learned very well from K-6 grades. We drive about 20 miles or so to take them there. Its after 6th grade that we're having problems with the school. Its really ONE particular school and unfortunately our oldest daughter always has to be the guinea pig on finding out what works and what doesn't. She was awarded a school award her first month there for offering to sit next to a child with a learning disability and help him during class with his assignments and books. That was a bright shining moment for us as parents. But the school has teachers that just don't seem to care about the quality of education.

    One particular teacher gives assignments then has the students pass the papers around so that other students can grade them. Our daughter's grade was dropping until we looked at her homework and figured out that the kid that was grading her papers was an idiot and marked things wrong that weren't wrong. We were able to approach the teacher and get the points back but just the fact that she shirks her responsibilities off to students drove us nuts. Had we not caught the problem, the teacher would have never known.

    Thanks Jake. I honestly didn't expect this much response. In a way, I was sort of "writing out loud" to myself. I have already shown the first responses to Wifey. We'll be discussing this over dinner again this week. I've asked her to read through what everyone is saying. It is so inspiring!

    Really? Canada? I haven't even heard anything about their education system. I'll have to do more research on that. I know we have a good number of doctors, that I've worked with over the years, that received their education outside of the US. I'm not talking about foreign doctors, we have lots of those too, but I'm talking about people from American that went outside the US just to go to medical school. They still get to come back home to take the medical board exams and they are still credentialled in the same way as doctors schooled in the US. They just didn't have to go through all the BS to get into the medical school.

  15. General Education Development (GED) tests are given to individuals who were not able to complete high school but would like to get a diploma that is equivalent to a high school diploma. Passing GED will give them a better chance of employment, as well as give them the opportunity to continue their college education without having to take high school. Test-takers may take advantage of free GED practice tests to help them prepare for the actual examination.

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