Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reflections on Homeschooling after 14 years

Having been envisioned for another long haul of homeschooling last night, I woke up this morning at 4:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. No problem, though; the house was really quiet and deliciously conducive to mental reflection. What was on my mind? Homeschooling. Namely how, after nearly 14 consecutive years of doing this, I am filled with far more positive emotions than negative. There were times along the way I wondered if I'd be able to say that.

I began to make a list of categories we've studied together, or been involved in under someone else's expertise. What I decided to do was write what went well and what I would've changed. In each category, I limited myself to three points.

In no particular order, the "results" of my self-poll (can you have a poll of one?) are as follows:


1. We insisted that each child take piano lessons for at least one full year in order to learn to read music, appreciate this art form, develop another area of self-discipline, and discover gifting or lack thereof.
2. I would have had them join a choir or band.
3. I would encourage skill in a second instrument.

1. Very good teacher named Diana G. She taught them to ID painters and their styles, how to emulate their style, how to spot a budding artist (if they can draw a good circle by kindergarten they're probably talented), why to avoid coloring books, and to always view themselves as artists for God's glory.
2. I'd do more projects with them to illustrate history, lit, science, etc.
3. We used art mostly to edify others (cards, menus, Christmas decorations)but have recently discovered it's okay to enjoy art for art's sake. (I used to view it as fluff, honestly.)

1. I would have had them participate in one major performance about every 2-3 years in some way.
2. I would have taken them to see more live,professional performances but there was/is so much "homo" stuff in theatre we can't stomach. I'm not beating myself up about this. Jusst wish there more more real men in dramatic arts.
3. I loved having them act out parables.


1. Loved birdwatching, aquarium, trips to the vet, Sonlight 5 Human Body, doctor visits, zoos, museums.
2. Would do more labs, be less lazy about setting things up and getting messy or being frustrated when I didn't know something well enough to teach it creatively.
3. I don't have the regrets I thought I would. We aren't the family with cow brains on the china hutch. That's okay.

1. Did about as well as could be expected: ).
2. Would've taught more math tips and tricks to speed up calculations.
3. Would've encouraged math competition for the boys because they were (are) good at it.

1. They learned to love the Bible and revere it.
2. They view it as the final authority in making decisions . I wished I'd insisted on more memorization in the later years not just the early ones.
3. They "are not ashamed of the gospel." They know "it's the power of God for salvation. "

1. All are good writers. Their writing has voice and it's clear, logical, creative, funny, sound ,persuasive.
2. Would encourage more poetry and skit writing. As handwriting goes, I'd insist on more cursive practice.
3. Their writing blesses readers.

1. We read a ton of books in history and literature. No regrets about volume or choices.
2. They don't all read for pleasure as much as I'd like (except Sarah) but when they do, they choose good nonfiction or fiction.
3. I'd teach the book How to Read a Book so that they'd learn to glean what they need from each book they're required to read throughout life.

Phys Ed:

1. Beachmont (a local Christian camp that caters to homeschoolers during the school year) was a really positive experience, especially when they had teachers who really pushed them beyond what they thought were their personal limits.
2 I'd set a better example. (I could echo this line in every category!)
3. All have great awareness of fitness and nutrition, though not all have good habits.

1. They are all patriotic and politically concerned.
2. They picked up good map skills and knowledge of the world,but given the chance to do it over again, I'd have them be more involved with politics and do some geography every single year. They appreciate other cultures and a couple even love foreign studies.
3. I would take more field trips! We have so much early American history right here in Maryland, DC, and VA. New England is relatively close. Why did it seem like such a logistical pain at the time?


1. Sports--overall a really good experience. Good solid friendships were borne on the fields and sidelines. Lots of car time to and from games and practice. Glad we stuck mostly with Christian teams , but with few exceptions, had very positive involvement in the rec council, too. Paul got to coach Little League baseball and I loved watching him in his element. Precious memories at Loch Raven.
2. We permitted our kids to be involved in one sport per year, not one per season. Thankfully they chose spring sports, until last year when Stephen switched to basketball in winter. Our spring schedules were crazy full, but we didn't let ourselves become addicted to activity. That's one piece of advice I pass regularly to moms of young athletes when they ask.
3. What would I change? Nothing except I'd trust my instincts more. (When you think a bone is broken, it probably is. When you observe a certain coach whose overtures make you uncomfortable as a mom, tell someone.)

Field Trips:

1. Ours were mostly science and history-related.
2. I'd do more art, gov't, and practical field trips (like visiting factories, talking to various hobbyists)
3. I'd sock away more money and time for road trips and airfare! Like Sarah told me today, "There's nothing like seeing a Sphinx to really appreciate Egypt." (Side note: we never went to Egypt. Matter of fact, never saw another country except Mexico.)


1. Did a lot of this and enjoyed it, from birthday parties, Zub Kid Cafe brunches,
sleepovers, ladies' accountability, graduation, out-of-town guests, scrapbook crops, Ebenzer brunch , Chinese students, Christmas Eve parties, Memorial Day grill-outs, Operation Gummi Worms...
2. What I'd change: we'd have singles over more often as well as whole families.
3. What I love: all our kids love having people in our home and want to do it more. They want it be a regular part of their homes when they have their own.

Spiritual Gifts:
1. This is the one BIG area where I'm so grateful for the 24/7 bird's-eye view of my children's growth in Christ. I don't think I'd see it half as much if they had been in school in all day.
Ben's gifts: hospitality, giving, administration, teaching (not so much "classroom" style as coaching, helps. He perseveres.
Sarah: serving, hospitality, giving, mercy,faith, admin, wisdom, teaching,evangelism
Stephen: hospitality, serving, mercy,leadership, discernment, wisdom, teaching,evangelism
2. I regret not pointing out their gifts and "catching" them more often using their gifts. I am doing this more purposefully now.
3. They notice other people's gifts and appreciate them, I think, rather than covet them.

And, for the fun of it, I thought of a TV channel for each child to describe him or her.

Ben -- Toss-up between ESPN and Fox News (He's all about sports, but also likes political fairness in the media and "just the facts, ma'am")

Sarah: HGTV--loves creativity and organization of home and veg garden. She's planted and tilled her own garden since she was a little girl and always beams when she presents us with her first ripe tomato of the summer!

Stephen--Comedy Channel (the clean comics) He is quick-witted AND remembers jokes. He's always made us laugh. He has memorized his favorite comics' routines.

Joel: Cartoon Network. Superheroes rule .Dora is cool, too, and so is Handy Manny and Little Einsteins.

I know I am uniquely graced to have had 14 years of homeschool "lab" with my guinea pig older kids. Joel, we hope, will glean the best of our experience and the wisdom of hindsight. I only hope we have the stamina to keep up with him!


Christina said...

This is a great post! Since we are relatively new at homeschooling (4 years) I appreciate all your advice. How funny that you mention field trips to D.C. My husband, son and dad are planning on visiting in May (as a homeschool field trip).

Renee said...

My fondest wish for your children is that they can express and develop all what they already learned during all their future for God's glory and with His help.
Homeschooling is almost inexistent in France, but fortunately French children grow up to be mature women and men too, able to face the joys and sorrows of life. Also the compulsive French curriculum for children is much wider than in others countries, with many more subjects. It may be hard for some pupils to remember everything, but the average pupil is used to that. We have focus on foreign languages too, at least 2 foreign languages (beside French).
It was VERY interesting to read your thoughts on the subjects.
Blessing on all your family today.
(I wrote a little about an Amish custom on my blog today!)

Anonymous said...

Zoanna, this was so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to assess these areas so honestly. I love hearing from the veterans! It is so encouraging.

Anonymous said...

It was neat to read about all you guys have done and learned as a family over the past 14 years! Congrads to you for sticking it out and for having such great memories. And now more years to put all that wisdom into practice with Joel! ;) I'm sure your children are already grateful for all the work you've put into their education, and will only grow moreso as they become older.

Joe said...

We homeschooled after the public school system told us that our Cerebral palsied son, Jason, would never learn. He finished HS doing math and reading on at least a 7th grade level, which had been deemed impossible, and having a good grasp of current events, the world and the Lord.

With God, all things are possible.

I am grateful, though, that there was only one of him.

Bethany said...

What a great post!!! This was so helpful for me to read. Great ideas and tips. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I am going to print it out.

Just Jonna said...

this post has been such a blessing! It was both encouraging and inspiring, and has helped me to focus on the more positive aspects of our homeschooling. Thank you so much for sharing it!