This morning my oldest son turns 17.
We knew when he was three that we would choose to keep him home instead of send him to preschool like the other families.
We considered private school for kindergarten, and again, choose to keep him at home instead.
We considered First Grade at the elementary school that I attended as a child, again – we decided to keep him home.
Each stage of his life, each day of his life, has started with the same routine.
What are our goals for his day? What are his goals for his day? What resources best meet those goals? What should we make a priority? How to we get there? How do we encourage him to be an independent self led learner?
We started the first year as a ‘school at home’ family. Lil desk. Cupboard that any elementary teacher would envy. Charts on the walls. A daily time schedule. The works. I helped teach at a private Christian school back in the day – and I used all of my knowledge to direct this little 4 year old.
And then I let the words of my favorite mentors sink in. I give those words to you – again – today.
Take the money that you would have spent on curriculum for Kindergarten and go to the nearby used book stores. Find all of the field guides and books that you can on the local area. Birds, tide pools, trees, plants, animals, weather, mushrooms, oceans, stars, history, etc. Make it a habit of always checking those shelves to see what interesting book might be there. Now – Spend your days exploring. Parks, woods, beach, outside – museums, businesses, homes, churches – life. Every time the boy asks you a question – your answer is – Let’s Look It Up.
Go home – pull out the field guides, pour over the pictures, find the answers. Direct – to the level he is asking. Walk down bunny trails if they happen. Have a notebook on hand with markers, crayons, colored pencils, tape and glue. Draw photos of the item at question. Write at least one sentence from the books. Mark the date.
Learn every name of every object within site. No longer, “What a beautiful tree”, but rather, “What an interesting Red Alder.” “Mom look at the duck” starts with “Mom look at the Mallard” and moves to Coot, Teal, Pintail, etc. Everything has a name, learn it.
Everyone has a name too. Be cheerful and inquisitive in town. Ask questions. Meet people. Help people. Get involved. Follow your passions. Invite yourself. Invite others. Be a part of your community. Learn from those who have gone before you.
Their largest part of advice? Take it back to the word. Hold every thought captive. Answer every character and discipline question with the words of Christ. I don’t have to be the authority of anything. Living Books – Living Word. They are the ones that directed us to Doorposts. We’ve used their simple Bible based tools to help form our habits in our home.
And so it went – we looked a lot like unschoolers from then on. A bit of Charlotte Mason inpsired. At the end of each project asking him, asking the Lord, “What’s next?” And I’d gather a few resources to have on hand, I’d learn ahead to be able to ask questions that would “spark his fire” (Terri Camp), and we’d incorporate his interests into our daily lives.
And so it went until he was in the 8th Grade. I started a job with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine as a Blogger on their Review Team. It’s changed names and such over the years – now it is the Schoolhouse Review Crew. We were able to use the best of the best curriculum. It was now our job to dive in and really get to know the product and what it could do. We were also given the freedom to use it with our learning style and bent. Could an unschooler/relaxed learner/independent use this product as a resource?
We learned that we still enjoyed Living Books style best. When the author of a spine is talking from their knowledge and sharing the knowledge of others. It was hard to get through a review of a ‘read these boring facts – spit out these tidbits – books. And so it went.
A four year cycle for history, an intentional direction of Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Nature Studies, Latin, Sign Language, Speech, Writing, Reading, Literature, Algebra, Geometry, etc – on through his Sophomore year.
And then his Junior year came. To do the classes as intense as he was asking for – it boring to do them at home alone. He reached out to the local high school and they set him up with classes there. Just two to start.
We had direction from a couple of colleges that he was interested in that he needed to take a College Level Biology class to prove his academic standard. So we started with that, and Speech. He’s a part of the Ford Family Foundation Community Leadership Program this year – Speech would be good.
This term for College, and this Semester for the local High School – He’ll be a full time student. It was his crazy desire to graduate as a Homeschooler – as a Public High School Student – and with an Associates from the college all on the same day. Going full time there – means he needs to unenroll as a homeschool student starting this semester – tomorrow.
I just made the phone call. Tears are streaming down my face. It stabbed my heart when the kind worker said – he’d be ‘erased from homeschooling today’. Erased? Nothing will erase the last 17 years of amazing learning, discovery, and growth.
He got into his car with the surf board on top this morning to attend his Writing 121 class. He’ll pick up a car full of friends and go out to dinner tonight.
He is a leader at school, a leader at Wyldlife/Younglife, active in 2 youth groups in town, he holds two jobs now, and volunteers in his spare time in the community.
Does homeschooling work? I’ve never doubted it.
It’s good to be a homeschooler. What does the end look like? More like a smooth transition. My advice now –Keep letting your kids be independent self led learners – and support their crazy paths. To the fullest. The same trust I had from the Lord when he was 3 and I knew we could do preschool together? I have for 17.