Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Journey to Homeschooling

I wrote about what led me to my decision to homeschool here but I'll recap it for any new readers. (And for all of my friends who forgot since, if you're like me, you don't remember half of what you read or hear in the first place. I blame the children for that, because, duh.)
I always thought homeschool might come into play at some point with at least one of my kids but I always thought it would be way down the road if any of them really started struggling in middle school or something. And only if I was really desperate. I wasn't exactly against homeschooling young kids but I definitely didn't think it was the best choice. I thought of all the things they'd miss out on if they didn't go to school with other kids and that always seemed more important. Plus, I loved elementary school. Well, at least through first grade. And fourth. The other years were questionable. I still don't think of it as the best choice. Just like every other area of parenting, I've learned through the years the best choice is whatever feels right for you and your kids after you've learned their individual personalities (and your own) and educated yourself on both sides of the issue. I have a difficult time with people who fall on one side or the other, thinking their side is the only option and everyone else is making a mistake. Same goes for every other hot topic, stay-at-home mom vs. working, vaccinating, breast feeding, co-sleeping, the list goes on. Let's just keep cheering each other on because we all have the same goal: raising great kids who love others and love the Lord. The rest, as they say, is just details.
I actually made the decision to homeschool Dawson for at least Kindergarten and 1st grade about two years ago, back when I read Bringing Up Boys by Dobson (good arguments, but still not convinced I wanted to give up eight hours of free childcare five days a week) and Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon. (Done. Decision made.) And since half my friends don't read books ever and just want me to recap them, I'll give you the gist. The all day classroom is not designed for a typical boy. Most girls thrive. Most boys don't. Boys at that age just can't possibly be expected to sit and focus for such long hours. They're constantly reprimanded and feel like they don't measure up. The very active ones will start to hate school and will be turned off from learning for the rest of their lives. (Sounds dramatic, but ask my husband. His response when I brought it up? "I hate learning." And its true. He never reads and has zero interest in learning something new unless it will benefit him directly.) Both books strongly urge parents to homeschool until their boys are 7 or 8. At the time, I had a baby and a very very difficult toddler so I knew homeschooling wasn't an option for Bennett starting in Kindergarten. He was also incredibly smart and I felt like he could focus for long periods of time. (Ha! Yeah....on a screen.) Well, Kindergarten went relatively well for him. I hated that he had to go all day and he definitely didn't LOVE school but it was mostly good. Well, then things started falling apart in first grade. He had trouble socially, physically (sitting still and concentrating for all the desk work) and academically. (He was ahead academically and wasn't nearly being challenged enough, despite the teacher doing everything she could.) He started crying most mornings before school and would beg me to stay home. There were many emails exchanged and meetings with his teacher and the guidance counselor last winter.
I went to a meeting for moms who were considering homeschooling back in early spring, thinking I was going with Dawson in mind. I left that meeting knowing without a doubt I needed to homeschool Bennett for second grade. The longer I sat with the decision, the more certain I was that it was the right one. We talked about it a lot and he was really excited about the idea.
Now that most kids are starting school again here in Des Moines, I've been feeling nothing but relief that I'm not sending him to public school again. Here me loud and clear on this one though. I do NOT think sending your kid to public school is the wrong decision. Quite the opposite. I think its a great decision for a lot of kids, particularly girls. I just know without a doubt its not the right decision for Bennett this year.
Am I overwhelmed? Not yet. But I probably will be as soon as all the curriculum books start arriving in the mail. I'm excited to get into a routine and get it all figured out. If I have clear direction on what needs to be done when, I can make it happen. I was a hard core BabyWise mom and my babies and I thrived on that consistent schedule. But if there's no clear direction for me, our days fall apart very quickly. The weeks we had things on the calendar this summer, like VBS or swimming lessons, went great. The weeks that were open ended were....not so great. So I think having structure, yet freedom, will be great for our family.
Since everyone seems to ask me, I'll share about curriculum I've chosen. I actually contacted the Christian school that we plan to send them to in the future (and I know that decision will become clear when the time is right) and asked what they use. I'm using most of the same stuff for Bennett so that way, if he goes there the following year, he'll already be on the same page. Literally. Its Bob Jones for English/Grammar and enVision Math. I'm going to use Handwriting Without Tears since I've heard so many great things about it. I'll pick my own books for reading and will add some history and geography in there somewhere. And social studies. I don't even know what social studies is but I'll google it or something. Do we need PE? I think we need PE. Mommy/son yoga sounds good. I've been wanting to start. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I signed him up for an after school hours Spanish class that will go for six weeks and then a Science class for four weeks after that through our community schools. I'm really excited about those. I think they'll be great supplements and also something to get him out of the house. And he told me, "I've always wanted to learn Spanish!" :) I'm not joining an official co-op since I want our schedule to be flexible and since Dawson will be in afternoon preschool. But I do have a group of moms I'll meet with at least once a month for different activities and lessons. I also had the option of reporting to a teacher throughout the year (she would do a home visit monthly) or just doing it all on my own. I opted to have a teacher come. I figured as a first timer, any extra help and direction will be beneficial. Its nice to know that I don't have to do that every year though, if I don't want to.
So here's where I ask you for any piece of advice you have for me as a first timer. I think I need to make up a bunch of busy bags for Channing, or else I'll start to rely on the tv too much. I'm not too terribly worried about him since he's my calmest boy, physically speaking. I think he'll be easily entertained with some toddler activities. Let me know if you have a perfect, not-too-sticky homemade play-doh recipe.
Cheers to a new school year. Fresh starts always feel good. But I'm not cheering for fall. Don't even say that word around here. Its still summertime. We just happen to have some schoolwork to do.


  1. For our youngest (he's three, and his big brothers are six) we downloaded ABC Mouse and The Reading Rainbow app on our ipad. I also created a quiet activity shelf where he can choose activities that are self directed and not distracting for his brothers while we're doing school. There are still days where he watches some shows, but being prepared has been helpful! Good luck!

  2. like I said on IG, I was homeschooled for quite a few years. like until 10th grade. so while I don't have experiencing homeschooling a child, I have lots of experience being homeschooled. and as a young kid I really really loved it (as an older kid, nottttt so much.) I loved being finished by noon, I loved that I could spend the whole afternoon exploring and playing make believe and eating snacks. we never did PE, but we were so active and didn't really watch tv during the day when we were that young. so it wasn't a problem then, but I will tell you that I do not know how to play a single organized sport. kickball is about as advanced as I get. so if you don't plan on doing PE I'd get him involved in some little league no stress sports so he doesn't have to sit out of the annual mud volleyball tournament in high school cause he never had PE. (not that happened to me. ;))

    I really am so excited for you. I think you are going to do a great job! and as far as Channing, I remember wanting to do school when my sisters were doing it so maybe he'll be interested in it even if he's just coloring or doing sticker books that you save just for school time. and Teach our Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a really great book for reading. my mom taught all of us to read when we were little. I was only 3. annnnd the lady I nanny for has a super playdoh recipe. I'll try and get it for you.

  3. oh my gosh sorry that was so long!

  4. Raising Cain is SO GOOD! Truly eye opening!

  5. I'm excited for you and the boys! I think we are heading in the direction of homeschooling (oldest is 3). It's been so wonderful learning about other families journeys here on blogs and instagram :-)

  6. i'm excited for you and proud of you. it sounds like you have good intentions and attitude and have put effort into learning tools. of course you will experience challenges and quit days ahead, and it's a part of the transition and new journey! i've read Raising Cain and Bringing up Boys - they are the books i highly recommend for parents (as a therapist). i have two boys (K and 5th) and every year i see that the school environment is sooo geared for girls (and my son's class is 17 boys, 6 girls!!!). a bit less because they go rurally, but it's still there. it makes me sad and frustrated, but i don't know if i'm ready (capable, willing) to homeschool. i appreciate your posts and for the last two months i've wanted to respond to your relationship posts .... it's a novel in my head, just trying to put it into words : ) i'm thinking of you. can't wait to see homeschooling photos/IG ... #shirtlessstudents

  7. OOOH! Bob Jones!! I think you'll like it! I've never heard of Envision math but it sounds great for a visual learner. Handwriting Without Tears is definitely one I've heard lots about. (All good things, all good things.)
    I'm excited for you and your new homeschooling journey. May the Lord grant you patience and the ability to flex when needed. :-)

  8. I found you on instagram and am now so glad to also connect with your blog - SO MUCH of this post felt like it came straight from my own heart!! We also have three boys, although they are slightly older than yours. We ALSO also have spririted boys, and that played a big part of our decision to try homeschooling. That same book is one of the first I read when my oldest was younger. Our "Spirited Child" path got a lot more complicated since then, but I'm telling you that I "get it"! This is our first full year homeschooling. I think it was one of the best never-saw-it-coming decisions we have made for our boys.

    My advice would be this: Be gracious with yourself. I'm a schedule/routine-oriented soul as well, but I have learned quick that it's best for all of us to be able to recognize those times where we just need to take a step back for a minute, or a day. Flexibility is one of the beauties of homeschool, and I have to remind myself often that IT'S OK to not stick to the plan if it's causing emotional mayhem. It's why we're doing this in the first place!

    I just switched my blog this week to a new url to focus more on our homeschooling journey. You can find me at Havenwood School for Boys if you like:

  9. Hav -- thank you for the comment. My IG is above.the.horizon : )

  10. Please keep us updated on the homeschooling!! We debated and debated it since Micah started kindergarten this year! We decided to give school a try first! Baseball is just such a terrible sport for school! You start where you are playing, go home for 3 months right in the middle, and finish wherever you are playing (and hopefully thats the same place you started!!)! Plus, we debated it for every.single.reason you stated!! Plus, he is all boy and really, really has a hard time when Matt is traveling! Its like he's a different child! And for the most part, he's a great child at home, and then we go in public, around other people, and he loses his mind! Its like he's so overwhelmed he doesn't know how to act, so he acts out! :0 I am so worried about him starting school! I cried, prayed, cried some more, and prayed some more the night before he started! They did 2 half days on Thursday and Friday to start the year and tomorrow (Monday) they start full days! We are still trying to figure out where to put him when we go home too! I hate to throw him in a public school of a class size of about 25 and him be the new kid and leave after 3 months! And most private or christian schools want us to pay a full tuition! I know the Lord will lead, but gosh I can't help but stress about it! Anyways, please keep us all posted on the homeschool journey and how it goes! The good, bad,and ugly! We don't judge! ;)


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