Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Homeschooling and a Whole Lot More

I posted this on my own blog, and am cross-posting here.

Homeschooling is still very rare here in Scotland, and so when I tell someone who's just asked me about my kids' schooling that I homeschool, a variety of reactions come my way.

We have the:

'What! You have your kids around you all day' 

... kind of reaction. When I smile and say with genuine enthusiasm, 'Yep, I have them with me all day. It's great!', the reaction normally translates into some version of, 
'You need your head seen to'.

Then we have the 

'Homeschooling? What's that?' 

...ones. They have truly never heard of such a thing, and can't quite get their heads around it.

Then we have the

'Er, are you really allowed to do that?' 

...ones. When I point out that these kids are my kids, and that legally, the responsibility for a child's education actually rests on the parents (though most parents choose to deligate the day-to-day education to a schoolteacher), they normally react with an, 
'Ahh... I suppose you're right. I never thought of it like that'.

And then there are some who react with:

'What? You teach them at home? Aww man, that's fantastic. Oh, I'd love to do that', 

'Oh I wish I'd known about that when my kids were school age'.

When we first began homeschooling, I had no idea the whole concept would grip me like it has done. I had no idea I would grow to love it like I have done. I had no idea that I would genuinely come to the place I'm at where I can imagine no other life but that of homeschooling my kids.

Is it hard work? Yes.

Are there days I would love to put my feet up and have silence in which to read a good book? You betcha.

Would I swap it for any other way of life in the world? No, I wouldn't. Not for anything in the world.

To anyone who has ever considered homeschooling but has real doubts as to whether they could do it, I say: Try it.

Try it. If it genuinely doesn't work for your family, then it's not the end of the world - the kids can go back to school.

But, if it does work, you will never be more glad of anything you've done as a family than this. 

Homeschooling is so much more than simply 'doing school at home'. It's a whole way of life which does, of course, include formal education. That part can be fun at times, or tedious at times, or mundane, or exciting. Some days, the kids will be enthused with what they're learning, and other days, they reckon pulling teeth would be preferable to the work they're having to do. Hey, that's life, and a lesson worth learning in itself. Whether a duty is fun, or horrendously boring.... there are times when it's just gotta be done. 

But it's all the rest of what homeschooling means that makes this life, for me, more than I could ever have hoped for. Here are just some of the aspects of my day to day life which I love:

I love that we can linger around the breakfast table and noone is rushing for a bus;

I love that when we sit for our morning devotions, we have as much time as we want. I love that any questions can be discussed, and that the Bible has something to say about pretty much anything and everything that life has to offer.

I love that our kids are part of each others' lives every day. I love that the Wee Guy knows his brother, who is ten years older than him, as well as he does. This level of intimacy would be difficult with this age gap if they were at school or college.

I love that in the middle of a Maths lesson, I can be told that I'm loved, or that Genghis Khan was amazing, or that Big Brother's sheep are going to be moved that afternoon and so schoolwork has to be done quickly, because - as you all know - Big Brother can't do anything with his sheep without a certain Wee Fella helping. 

I love knowing that at any given time, I can have any of my kids wander into the room and say Hi. 

I am constantly amazed that God brought this homeschooling life to me. I am one of the least likely candidates you can imagine. I am what is not suited to being a homeschooling Mum in a thousand different ways, and yet God saw fit to gift me in this way. I am humbled. I am grateful. I am blessed beyond words.

Everyday home education

Today we got back  - or at least are trying to get back - into the swing of normal routine after yet another public holiday. (Believe me, I love days off as much as anyone, but when home educating a few children, every break in routine makes for more work later.)

Our current routine runs something like this.

Julian and Alex get up and leave for work before 6am.  The children have to be up for Family Worship/ Devotions by 7.30am at the latest. If they want breakfast, it has to be before 7.30am.  (Quite a few of the older dc don't bother with breakfast until 10am!)

Then we have a quick tidy up/run round various chores, and settle down for lessons by 8am.  

And after that, well, we're not back in routine yet; and every few months that routine changes. Because several of the older dc have had / are having exams, I've tried to let them work out their own routines and study as and when they feel it works best for them. This has led to a fair amount of nocturnality (is that a word? grin), since at least one child works best between the hours of 10pm and 3am; and sleeps quite a bit of the rest of the time.

I have the youngest five with me in the classroom all the time, and the others pop in and out as need be. (Or they email me with qs, or chat on MSN/Facebook - we use technology a lot.)

I like to get individual reading done (with two or three children, 20 mins each) early on in the day if at all possible.  I probably find teaching reading one of the hardest parts of home education. It wasn't so bad when I had  - say - eight children under nine, but now with three under nine and another eight older than that, who need various types of educational input, I find reading quite intensive, and  - grin - to be honest, a bit trying.

It doesn't help that my youngest has recently been patched (because of a squint) and his eyesight via his "lazy eye" is really quite dire. (The Opthalmologist did warn me that this would happen, short term.)

So reading is no one's favourite lesson right now.

We move on to various other lessons, and I find that after maybe 90 minutes of written work the children are ready for a break of sorts, so we often watch a video.  This term we're studying Ancient Egypt (I do tend to follow the UK National Curriculum quite closely) (though I vary when we study the different History topics, we do go through them all eventually), and I have a good DVD (from the BBC) on that.

Although I am in the classroom with the five youngest, I am continually "interrupted" by other dc needing help with Maths, French verbs or Shakespeare. The older children are very good at looking up problems online, and often if I can't help (e.g. I have never studied Chemistry in my life) them myself, I can show them how to find the answer. Google is an amazing tool.

(There are so many educational resources available freely online now, it is a huge help)

 . . . . out of time, but wanted to post a little insight into our lives right now. More later as time permits. And if anyone actually *enjoys* teaching reading, do let me know how you do it!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Memorization Project: Christ in the Old Testament

An old pastor of mine came up with an interesting memorization project for the Bible class that he teaches (for older homeschooled students).  His students memorize one verse from each book of the Old Testament that "either explicitly or typically reflects the revelation of Christ in the Law and the Prophets."  I think this is a neat idea.  You can read more--and see a chart of the verses to memorize--in this blog post:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

EPGY Math, a Review

I'm planning on starting more structured homeschooling with my boys this fall.  For the time being, the only subjects we are doing in a routine way are Bible and math.

Elijah uses an online math program called EPGY math.  EPGY stands for "Educational Program for Gifted Youth" and it is run by Stanford University.  As the name suggests, it is mostly geared towards gifted students, particularly high school students who are ready to move beyond the limited math and science offerings at their local high school.  However, EPGY also offers a comprehensive K-7 math curriculum (which is relatively affordable, compared to their other courses, which are quite expensive).

When we started EPGY, I wasn't really sure where Elijah stood in math, since we hadn't done any formal lessons together; so I started him at the very beginning, i.e. kindergarten level.  At first I heard the dreaded words "This is boring!" accompanied by lots of dramatic flopping around in his chair, but as he moved into more challenging material, he got more enthusiastic about it.

All in all, I would highly recommend it, especially for a child who is looking for more challenge in math.  What I like: the course is completely self-contained, no parental instruction needed (usually), and Elijah can move at his own pace through the material--faster when he already knows the material, and slower when he is having trouble grasping something.  They introduce some more advanced concepts (like variables and basic linear equations) at a very early level.  And they provide lots of nifty reports and charts so that you can watch your child's progress.

Elijah has really learned by leaps and bounds with EPGY math, and we plan to continue using it for a while, though we may take a break over the summer to do a little speed drilling.

The catch (you knew there would be a catch, right?) is two-fold:

First of all, it isn't free.  I'm homeschooling on a tight budget, so I'm trying to make use of as many free resources as possible (thankfully, I have access to my parents' bookshelves, which are well stocked with homeschooling materials from years past).  But I wasn't sure of my ability to teach math--as with grammar, I can do it, but I can't explain it--so I decided that for now, I would be willing to pay to have someone else do the teaching. 

Secondly, EPGY math is not available outside of the US.  Sorry. :(

Time Management cross posted

I posted this on my own blog, but thought it might be relevant here too.

Listened to an interesting "sermon" (Family Living Talk) on sermon audio yesterday, about training your children to be ready to leave home (none of ours are at that stage yet!). One of the points Dr Beeke made was that it is sometimes worth taking time out of your (busy) life just to work out what you need to do and when, and make some sort of schedule/timetable for the next week, month or whatever.

It takes time to work out a schedule (well, it does take *me* time), and sometimes I'm loath to spend that time, since it is "good thinking time" (ie when my mind is fresh and the house is quiet - there's not a lot of that round here) rather than "get a bit done here and there time" - like just now when I can write a sentence or two, go and do something else; talk to a teen for ten mins; write a bit more etc.

I guess you either get what a I mean or don't! Some (very little) of my time is high quality thinking time; and I've been unwilling to use it to write new schedules. But Dr Beeke made the valid point that it is an investment; using an hour today might save me several hours over the next few weeks.

So I'm going to try to work on a short term schedule. It will be short, because seven of the children plus Julian go off to the US in seven weeks. And it will be a bit of a chaotic schedule since many children are sitting many exams between now and then.

But I think Dr Beeke is correct - using time to organise time saves time. (I hope!)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Imperfect mom

I could do a long post on this (honestly I could), but since I am a very imperfect mom I don't have time. But today, I can't believe it, it is so embarrassing; I managed to miss an optician's appointment for Henry.

I find it hard when writing here to differentiate between the "difficulties" of home ed from those associated with a larger family.

Either way, it's a tough life sometimes.  . . . and the times when I come across as incompetent and disorganised really get to me.  I know if I had two children who went to school I'd probably laugh off missing an appointment; but since I have 12 and they don't, I can't.

Pride I guess :-(

All's well that ends well, the opticians (who know us well, seven of us have glasses, and another needs but refuses them) agreed to see us just before closing time.

Henry with his old glasses in front of the bookcase in his bedroom

Perfect children

I guess we all know that home education produces perfect children. . . . .


This hasn't much to do with home education, but is just a snippet of our day. The children have about an hour in the garden/yard every lunchtime to run around,  burn off energy, play football (and on occasions break windows etc).

Today we reached a new low. Using water guns/pistols (which I don't mind, we have rules for their use - e.g. do not aim at the Cat, or any other animal (like birds or a squirrel); don't aim at anyone who doesn't have a gun (i.e. who is not playing the game) and do NOT aim at windows.

Well, today a child decided to aim a full water gun at a window. Trouble was, it wasn't our window, it was the neighbour's . . .and since the window was not far away, the water splashed loudly all over it.

(Cringe cringe cringe - I bet they are wishing our children were in school "like normal kids")

After some thought I decided to take him across to personally apologise; hoping that this will sober him enough to never do it again. The neighbour was very kind. I hope he's got the message.

So, for the avoidance of doubt, home edded children are every bit as naturally depraved, naughty and unpredictable as any others :-)