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02 January 2013

A Place to Start

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Connecticut, I have fielded a couple questions about homeschooling from people who are questioning the safety of the nation's schools. It's a daunting thing to look at how to organize an entire education, but many people do it, and once you begin work on it you break the task down into more manageable sections it's not so bad. Here are some thoughts and resources that I've found helpful in homeschooling our kids.

Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

My day does not look the same as my friends' days. In the process of researching how to homeschool for myself, I'd read this, and it made sense that it would be true, but I didn't really appreciate how true it is until my son's friends went to school, and he didn't. I wouldn't change a thing; I love doing school with my son. I love being there for the "Ahah!" and the sparkle as he figures out how to read. I love exploring ancient China with him, and then going to see the Terra Cotta Warriors when we find them in a museum. I love the learning, and sharing new discoveries. That being said, there are definitely sacrifices. Being a homeschool mom takes a lot of time. I had more hobbies before kids and before homeschool. Some of them fell by the wayside, some (like this blog) have been adapted to homeschooling. I am not a gifted housekeeper; my house would probably be cleaner if my kids were gone the bulk of the day.

I think the work and the sacrifice are worth it. I teach my children.  Because I teach my children I can fold our faith into the education naturally and seamlessly. They used to call Theology the "queen of sciences" and I think that fits. We can start history with Creation, place the Old and New Testament stories on the timeline where they belong, discuss the impact of our beliefs on science, and it's OK. That's important to me. If a concept in math is hard, I can remind my children (even right in the middle of the lesson) that they can pray for assistance in learning it.

Just as important as our faith, I can make sure that school doesn't interfere with our family life. I hear my friends, whose kids are gone to public school all day, talk about how they spend their evenings doing homework with their kids, and it sounds to me like even after school is "over" it's still dictating how the evening goes. I don't want that for my family. I want my kids to have time to play. Play is important! Additionally, with my husband's work schedule, if my kids were in public school they would basically only see their Daddy on weekends. That's not OK for our family.

Maybe those things don't seem important in a "how to homeschool" conversation, but I think that it's likely that the significant sacrifices necessary to make this thing happen, were they a surprise, could derail the process.

Homeschooling Philosophies

When I was first thinking about homeschooling, I read everything I could get my hands on. I discovered that there are some broad categories of philosophies that govern people's homeschools. I looked at unschooling (not impressed), learned that you can actually bring public school home with you through virtual schools, and ultimately settled on a Classical Education for our kids, based on the ideas of Susan Wise Bauer's book The Well-Trained Mind, and Charlotte Mason's ideas of education, particularly the Ambleside Online curriculum, which is amazing -- and free. The advantage to looking at philosophies of homeschooling is that if you can find one that (mostly) matches what you think is important then there are likely going to be guides, message boards, and other resources to help you.

My Favorite Books About Homeschooling

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook by Sonia Shafer

My Favorite Online Resources and Blogs

The Well-Trained Mind Forums
Ambleside Online - a free online curriculum. Take your time. Use tutorials. It's amazing.
Simply Charlotte Mason - I've used a number of their resources.
Project Guttenberg - online reprints of out of print, public domain materials.
The 1000 Good Books List - just what it sounds like. Great for finding read-alouds at all levels.

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers - I am particularly fond of her "Weekly Wrap-up" meme. There's usually 50+ posts about what real families did that week, and it generally includes all ages and stages.
Handbook of Nature Study - lovely ideas and link-ups for doing Nature Study.
The Accidental Homeschooler - a very pleasant mix of humor and thoughtful commentary.
La Scoula d'Argento - Lots of pictures of fun projects, and her younger boys are about the same age as Hero, and we use some of the same curriculum, so there's often ideas I can swipe.

There's lots more really good resources out there, but these are some of my top picks. Have a look around and good luck on your journey!

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