In just a few weeks, my homeschooling journey will end. This road I have travelled so comfortably for the past fourteen years will narrow, becoming another avenue to another calling on my life. The first narrowing of the road came when my first child graduated from homeschool. Now my second (and youngest) will graduate a year early and I find myself where I am today – looking back, thinking of all I could have done, thinking of what I should have done differently, but mainly, thanking God for teaching my children and using me as the vessel through which it was done.
Along the way throughout the years, I have encountered many types of school books. Some of them, I liked. Others, I did not. Some, I pushed through simply because I spent a lot of money on them and did not want to waste my resources. Others, I got for free and loved them so much that we sailed through them and wished there was more to them. Each year was a new adventure on the journey and most years ended well, even though there were often many bumps along the way.
I still remember the first box of A Beka books which arrived at my house one July afternoon. I barely made it to school day number one without starting lesson one. For the first few years of homeschooling, A Beka remained a constant in our classroom. I loved the ease of each lesson and the structure of the workbooks. This was exactly what a new homeschooling mom like me needed. I also used Saxon Math in those first few years and it worked well. Focusing on the three R’s plus the Bible filled every day to the fullest.
As I moved on into Middle School with my first, frustration followed us. It took a while, but I finally figured out that what we needed was some flexibility. We needed to change things up a bit. We had moved to a new house. I was working a part-time job. Dad was self-employed. I had a sixth grader and a third grader. My father was dying with cancer and lived with us when he wasn’t in the hospital. Need I say more? So I began using Sonlight Curriculum for History, Reading and Language Arts and combined the kids’ studies. I used A Beka for Math and kept things simple. We spent the majority of our time reading live books and spent time together focusing on what was truly important in life – love, family, sharing God with others.
As my children moved into the upper grades, I began to struggle with the calling of homeschooling and lost my gusto for teaching and for having the kids home all day. It was time to reevaluate things again. I used Internet-based curriculum for a while and programs on cd-rom but soon I felt disconnected from our school. My kids had their lists of subjects to complete and I did very little but check to make sure assignments had been done.
For the final two years of my daughter’s high school education, I took more of a hands-on approach and did less assigning of endless worksheets and reports. I combined as much between the two children as possible. I switched to Teaching Textbook for upper level Math and used library books and the Internet as much as possible to fill in the gaps. For History, I used A Beka and Sonlight and library books and we did a lot of reading out loud. We also watched a lot of movies based off classic novels, History Channel shows and Science documentaries, as well. I also began to customize our schooling to fit each child’s major interests. For the artist, I assigned projects that would expand those interests instead of assigning numerous written reports. For the musician, I tried to find as much in our History and Reading lessons about music as I could. He naturally began to see music in Science and Math and excelled in those subjects. I also learned that character development and life skills were equally as important for the kids to discover as book smarts. Volunteering at church and on mission trips taught my children many of life’s lessons that they could not learn here at home. In the last year, I have found some super treasures at the local thrift stores. I stumbled upon a few college textbooks and that is what I have used to teach my son Math and History. It is amazing what you can find for less than a dollar!
I knew from the beginning that I could not possibly teach the kids everything they must know but I could give them a love for learning. And by customizing their education to their natural giftedness, I gave them a foundation for continued learning and for growing into what God has in store for them.
So fast forward fourteen years and you see a mom who sometimes wishes she had more time to teach her children everything she set out in the beginning to teach them, who feels inadequate still to have been selected for the job, who recognizes the mistakes she has made. You will also see a woman who acknowledges that through God and only through Him can any of us ever accomplish even a fraction of what needs to be done — that twelve years for one student is only the beginning of the lessons of which we will be afforded the opportunity to guide and instruct them.
Update: May 26, 2011: I cannot believe that I left out two of my favorite publishers when I wrote this blog. See, my mind is already slipping. 🙂
During my homeschooling experience I used Mystery of History and Apologia. I love, love, love Mystery of History! I used the first and second volume early on and then when the third volume came out, I snatched it up and used it with my 11th grader. I supplemented it with a college textbook I bought at the thrift store because I needed to finish World History and the third volume did not go all the way through to current day. I also used a resource I found on the Internet which was helpful with completing US History.
Apologia worked well for us all the way through Biology and then we switched gears and used AOP Lifepacs for a customized Earth/Environmental Science instead of Chemistry.