The time has come to end your suspense. I know you were all sitting the edges of your seats, biting your nails in anticipation of this post. Well, agonize no longer, because as this post unfolds I will give you the answers that you seek.
So, how did I find my footing that crazy Thursday afternoon? Once I got into the right session and began to listen to Kevin Swanson, God immediately started confirming that my husband and I are making the right choice for our family. The speaker talked about the statistical differences, in terms of testing and grade level, between home educated kids and those who attend school in a typical classroom setting. Prior to the conference I had heard that homeschooled kids typically perform better on standardized tests than their peers, but I found out that this statement is supported by the research, even for kids whose parents have only a high school education. After revealing the statistical justification for homeschooling, Mr. Swanson began to cast vision for home education. I began to see homeschooling not only as a way to protect my children from the many negative influences in the public school setting, but as a way to emphasize and instill godly character in them. Prior to the conference I knew that educating my children at home could foster a close bond with them that would be more difficult to maintain if they were away from me six or more hours a day, but during that session I began to see homeschooling as relational in nature. I began to see it not as a clandestine dispersal of academic information, but as a way of teaching children about life through the everyday struggles and experiences of life. Mr. Swanson also reminded us that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
Now, are my kids going to learn the fear of God in a typical classroom setting? Definitely not in public school! Because of “separation of Church and State” (which is not even in the Constitution) it's not allowed. Perhaps in a private school they may be directed to the fear of God, but there are no guarantees. Even in Christian private schools academics has often become the emphasis above all else. What about church? While not a typical classroom setting, it is a place where kids learn about God. And it is very true that my kids will learn about God at church. The problem is they are at church, at most, six out of 168 hours per week. Fearing God happens moment to moment in the daily activities of life. It's not a practice that's isolated to a small segment of life. So the best setting for them to learn the fear of God is in the day to day activities at home, seeing it modeled by me and their father. Wow! What a responsibility! But it is a challenge I want to take on.
What I learned and the vision I received during that session was the foundation for the rest of the conference. What a foundation to build on! I certainly felt informed, confirmed, encouraged, and enlightened after I left that first session. Each session that followed continued to clarify what home education is and what it is not. For example, it is a chance to give children a rich education through real-life experiences as opposed to simply relying on what one is told in a book that may or may not contain truthful information. Of course, books are greatly utilized in home education, but a book cannot give you the same type of tangible information that a life experience can. Through homeschooling we have the opportunity to go as often as we can where history was made, where science is practiced, where art is seen, heard, and touched, and where occupations are exercised. Real life experiences are very limited in a typical classroom setting because of financial restrictions. My daughter's class was only allowed four field trips this year, and they only went to places within the county because of cost. Where better to learn about the Battle of Gettysburg, than at Gettysburg?
Through the course of the weekend, my excitement continued to build as I continued to learn. Not only was the information philosophical. There was also lots of great practical information. And the camaraderie I felt with other members of the body of Christ was amazing. I've never had an experience quite like that before, even in church. I think the reason was that even though we were from various parts of the state and country, and hold to various types of Christian ideology, we had a unified goal: to raise children in the nourishment and admonition of the Lord. And for me, that is what homeschooling is all about.
So where did the confusion come in? That was in the curriculum arena. In the book fair there were so many curriculum vendors. In fact, the vast majority of vendors sold curriculum. The sheer number of choices was very overwhelming. So, I pretty much avoided those booths. I was pretty sure that I already knew that I would be using the online-based curriculum from k12.com. However, in talking to people before the conference, I learned about Charlotte Mason methods (this is only one of several websites about her methods), so I went to a session about it. I must say that I was really intrigued. I even talked with the speaker after the session. That meant that now I had a decision to make. Was I going to stick with the original plan, or would I try something different? For the fall, at least, we have decided to stick with the original plan, at least to help me get started. I am certainly not opposed to incorporating additional books or methods when I feel it is appropriate, however. This type of flexibility is part of the beauty of homeschooling.
Last year I was so scared to homeschool. But, God has brought me from fear to faith. I am so excited, I can't wait to get started! We're going to do a language sampler this summer and I, Miss Unorganized herself, have even laid out a basic schedule already! I am usually the person that can't think clearly about an event until it is right on top of me, and I was able to sit down and hash out a schedule a full month ahead of time! God has taken my fear, confusion, and feelings of being overwhelmed and has endowed me with faith, confidence, excitement, grace, ability, peace and strength. Of course, I am fully aware that everything will not go perfectly – that there will be good and bad days. But a course has been laid out before us, and, as a family with God's help, we will follow it through to the end!