“Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20, NIV)
Homeschooling: Our Family’s Choice
I’d known only a few kids that were homeschooled as I grew up, and the truth is that I thought they were weird. Passing notes and struggling to obtain social status were my modus operandi. I spent hours obsessing about where I fit among the pecking order of children on the playground at recess. Meanwhile, I imagined the homeschooled kids, bored stiff at home. I imagined them stuck at a little desk studying for eight hours straight with no access to other children.
Once our children were born, I began to look at homeschooling differently. For one thing, more and more people were doing it, so it wasn´t such a foreign idea. I personally saw and read about the many success stories of these children.
Alex was only two at the time. I was getting immense enjoyment out of teaching him and watching him learn. Unexpectedly, I became jealous of the kindergarten teacher who would get to experience that joy in my place.
I observed children in preschool and kindergarten classes. There were excellent teachers and the children were often enjoying the class. However, I was confident that I could meet and possibly even supersede the educational goals. There would also be plenty of opportunities for my child to socialize with children of my choice.
Children Learn From Those Around Them
It´s a well-known fact that children pick up behaviors and influences of the other children around them. This starts as early as the toddler age and typically continues through high school and college. Structured playdates allowed me to expose my kids to other children whose families have the same basic values as ours.
These families believed along with us that God is real, hitting and biting are wrong, using bad language is inappropriate, playing certain video games causes immunity to violence, watching inappropriate TV programs or movies causes damage to our children´s minds and souls, etc. These children became some of our kids’ earliest close friends, and we still keep in contact with many of them.
We Loved Homeschooling
My only real problem with homeschooling was that once I started, I didn´t want to stop. It was too much fun! In the United States the wealth of homeschool materials can leave one reeling, and at first, the curriculum options left me quite overwhelmed. I recall stumbling through my first homeschool conference, wandering from table to table. Each option seemed better than the last, and I could have spent hundreds of dollars without even blinking an eye, and still leave feeling like I missed something!
I ended up selecting the curricula that I thought were best for our family. Over the years we have continued with some while changing others. Each year we reevaluate how we are doing in each subject, and that is the beauty of homeschooling. If you don´t like one book or program, no problem….you don´t have to look far to find a multitude of options to replace it.
My mother had raised us to be very disciplined, so I had no problem disciplining myself to homeschool our children. Some mothers may have a harder time at this, but be encouraged that if you work at setting a schedule and following it, your children and your efforts will be blessed.
When we moved to Colombia, we enrolled our three kids (aged 4, 5 and 7 at the time) in the only private Christian school in the city. Our goal was for them to learn to speak Spanish, which they accomplished within just three short months.
So Much Wasted Time in School
We still laugh recalling the first words they learned. They were ¨Sit down!¨ and ¨Be quiet!¨ but at least they were learning. The kids had a great attitude but were extremely frustrated by the amount of wasted time in school. I struggled through those three months, often holding back tears as I drove my kids to school. Part of me was afraid they would want to continue going to a traditional school, and the other part was suffering a loss, as I missed them greatly.
I needn´t have worried, however. The only one who expressed even the slightest desire to continue was Gabriel, and with a bit of probing we discovered it was because he liked that we bought him a cookie outside the school on Friday mornings. That was remedied by offering a daily ‘Science treat’ at home, which has become a tradition that we have continued to date.
An Example of our Daily Schedule
I don´t write this to say that our way is the best way or the only way. However, I do want to offer an example of what can be accomplished in a family that homeschools.
The children wake up at about 6:30 a.m., and for the next half hour they do their morning chores (sweep, take out the garbage, set the table and walk the dog) while I exercise. Then we all snuggle in our beds and read the Bible until about 7:30 a.m.
They love to cook, so they alternate making breakfast while the others begin their Language Arts homework. At breakfast, each one ´teaches´ the others the main ideas (s)he learned during Bible time, and then I read the Bible out loud and discuss any questions the children have. Our goal is to read chronologically through the Bible in one year at breakfast.
The children clean up the breakfast table and wash the dishes while I prepare for science and math. The next two hours are the main ´focus´ hours when the kids are freshest, so we do these classes during this time. We finish at about 10:30 a.m. Then we´re all ready for some exercise, so we do ´gym class´. Alternating between running, weight training, swimming, ball sports, etc. we make sure we all do something physically active for at least half an hour each day.
At about 11:15 a.m. they begin to practice their various instruments (drums, piano, guitar, bass, Irish flute, and Irish bodhran). When they finish their instruments, they snuggle up in their beds or on the couch and continue their language arts work until about 1 p.m., which is lunchtime.
What Happens Around Lunchtime
During lunch we often study world history, watching strategic vidoes and studying maps to help us learn. At this point, our ´formal schooling´ is over for the day. Afternoons contain French classes, sports, theater, music lessons and lots of free time to play with friends or do whatever they want.
Their current favorite afternoon activity is making Lego Stop-Motion movies, many of which leave us holding our sides in laughter!
Our homeschool schedule allowed us the flexibility recently to take part in a photography class led by the Institute of Henry Agudelo, an award-winning photo-journalist living in Medellin who has won several international prizes for his work.
Everything Has a Purpose
As a homeschool mom, I require whatever we do to have a creative, practical purpose. This photography project is a perfect example. The children learned basic camera use, the composition of pictures, light, etc. The purpose was to have their pictures shown at an exposition around Medellin and also in the newspaper.
For language arts, the children are currently working on writing books which we intend to have published. The boys are working on a boys´ devotional book, while Abby is writing a girls’ devotional cookbook.
Their hours spent practicing instruments pay off when they play out for weddings, parties, church events and at restaurants, often earning a bit of money in the meantime. After tithing 10% of their money, they put a portion in savings. When enough money accumulates, they get to choose the stock they would like to invest in, and watch their money grow as they ´play the stock exchange´.
Our Kids Ran a Business
Business and math classes get their practical use in ¨Sweet Treats¨, the ice cream and candy business they share. This helps them put into a practical application such concepts as reinvestment, cost-benefit ratio, savings, tithing, etc. They are now much more discerning in buying products at stores. They understand that the store owner bought that item at a lower price and is now making a profit by selling it to them.
Do they really want to spend their hard-earned money on one or another item? The decision is up to them, and a few times they have made purchases that seemed like a good idea at the time, but that they later regretted. I´d much rather have them learn this principle on a t-shirt or inexpensive toy early in life than on a car or house later.
Practical Application of Bible Study
We practically apply Bible study time in the kids´ Bible study group they lead twice monthly. They also helped run the children’s ministry at church where all three served as leaders of children younger than themselves. They teach the memory verses, run the offering, act out dramas, play music with the worship team or teach the dances to the children.
It´s also applied at the children´s center where we serve as missionaries. They may help lead worship or give a short devotional followed by ministry time to staff or teams. All of this helps them grow into the leaders that God has designed them to be.
Managing Other Kids
My favorite benefit of having them teach others (such as the younger children in the children’s center, at our home small group or at church) is that they understand the difficulties of managing disobedient children. My children now think twice before behaving badly in their classes. They´ve been on the other side and know how frustrating it can be for the teacher!
One day when I picked the kids up from French class, Abby had a sheepish look on her face. The boys told me that she had been ´rambunctious´ and that the teacher had become frustrated with her. Abby admitted this was the truth. We discussed how she felt when the kids at church or at the children´s center didn´t pay attention when she was trying to teach them.
This got her attention more than any scolding would have. Combined with a natural consequence of having her pay for that class out of her hard-earned candy business money, she has been well-behaved in class ever since.
Language Learning Before Age 12
When our children dream about their future, missionary work to children in Africa is usually at the top of the list. Since many people throughout Africa speak French, we enrolled them in some affordable local French classes. This allowed them to become relatively fluent within two years. After that, we´re planning to learn Portuguese, at which point they will be fluent in four languages by the middle of high school.
Do I know exactly what they´re going to do with those skills? Of course not…nobody but God does. However, I do know that they are growing in confidence from gaining new life skills and from the fact that their parents believe in them enough to invest in their dreams.
This is not to say that we fully invest in every single dream they have. If we did that, we´d have an entire zoo of animals living in our home, be full-time world travelers, etc. But the dreams that make the most Kingdom sense to us are the ones we invest in, and we are confident that they will somehow help our children to be more qualified in whatever they do throughout their lives.
Dream With Your Child
Maybe you don´t have a lot of money to pay for classes. We don’t either, but I found that I can teach English classes in exchange for music lessons. Maybe you can find some free online classes that help your child develop his or her potential.
I recently counseled a friend whose son was thirteen years old and starting to hang out with the ‘wrong’ crowd. When I asked her about his talents, and she answered that he loves art. I suggested that she go with him to purchase some inexpensive art materials and have him start making art projects to give to family members as Christmas gifts.
Within a week she reported that she´d bought the supplies and he was already working on the gifts. I saw a picture of his first work of art, and it was beautiful! Best of all, he no longer wanted to hang out with the ‘wrong’ group of friends anymore!