It's our schedule, no one else's! No one demands when or what days we start school, finish school, or skip school. Time is our most valuable commodity, and homeschooling has allowed us that time. Even when we're not officially in school, we're still looking for things to learn about. There's no crowd control . . . well, I take that back; there is here!
2. The Curriculum
We were already determined to provide a Christian education, but now with homeschooling, we can go so much deeper! There have been years when we have seen some heart issues that have needed addressing, so we have implemented the solutions in school. Instead of writing out mundane sentences such as "Jack walked the dog around the block," we would have our children write Scripture, such as "A soft answer turns away wrath." If there is an interest in piano, we can study history about it: when was it invented, what was going on in the world at that time, etc. We get to be the ones to choose and approve what books are and will be best for our children. We get to add books when there is a need to supplement. We get to skip the redundant, repeated, rerun, re-showing, recapitulation, reiteration, replayed worksheets that so many kids have to do over and over until the slowest kids in the class grasp the concept. And if our kid happens to be the slowest one to get it, there is nobody around to pick on him/her or make fun of his/her speed. So it's fitting for each child and is never boring.
3. The Child
There has been little to no peer pressure to conform to the world, so when those delicate roots are forming in the foundation of a child, there are no harsh elements to destroy them. And when those precious plants are growing tall and sturdy, there are no storms to tear them down. My daughter, Megan, loved the independence of following her interests. "Mom, what's a star made of?" meant that the next several days were spent on studying the galaxy. "Dad, how does a plane fly?" meant that the next trip to the library involved books on planes. It encouraged them and even rewarded them to learn, which fed a desire to learn more, and the cycle becomes a way of life, not just something to do during "school" hours. Learning is never shut off! We can discover our child's talents and interests and how to utilize them most efficiently in the learning process.
4. The Education
Impeccable! For the most part, homeschoolers are self-motivating; they don't think twice about trying to figure something out, and they don't wait around for someone to tell them what to think. They really get excited about learning! This independent desire to learn is a way of life. We haven't done a lot of testing, but what we have done, we've been very pleased with. It simply works. Now colleges have caught that message as well and are seeking homeschoolers with vim.
5. The Family
Homeschooling is definitely pro-family! The bond that grows and strengthens just from sheer time spent together is amazing! We learn as a family, we study as a family, and we share what we've gleaned with the family. Siblings become best friends. Jeff has played a vital role doing family devotions, as well as assigning and correcting schoolwork. He has been a help especially with the older kids, because I am not smarter than a fifth-grader! He has taught not only the basics but also the necessities, such as honesty, respect, obedience, serving, edification—things that our children can and will use their entire life. The family unit forms a solid foundation that can withstand the fiercest storms.
6. The Mom
I think this is the heart of the issue, and one of the most common responses I hear is "I could never do that!" or "My kids would drive me nuts . . . !" To be called to this position is a call to selflessness and servitude. Have I arrived? No way! Have I grown and learned along the way? By leaps and bounds! I had to learn to walk my talk. The Bible says let your yes be yes, and your no be no. My children are watching me all the time. If I want them to talk kindly to each other, I needed to talk kindly to them. If I want them to have joy in serving, I needed to exemplify joy in serving. If I wanted them to submit to their authority, which was Mom for a large part of the time, I needed to show submission to my authority—Christ. Cheerful attitude, patience, a willingness to go the extra mile, denial of selfish desires? Yes. I had to learn them and still have so much to learn! I had to train myself to not see the moment but rather to look for the character, the life of a child, the eternal value.
I would be embarrassed for anyone to have a glimpse of how I have struggled with these things. But God has done an amazing thing! He has taken my small intent, covered it with grace, and blessed abundantly! In fact, that is the main source of fuel to keep me going with the younger ones, to see the fruit in our older children. He not only blesses obedience, but He also blesses the desire, the heart to serve and deny self and press on. You can look all over creation and see evidence of God. But if you look in my life and see that He alone has given me the ability to serve and teach eight amazing children, of all different grades and levels, you would see evidence of Christ! And the fact that He has given me such overflowing love and joy to be by their side 24/7 (literally!) is evidence of Him, His power, and His grace. Because I'm a wretched, selfish, coveting sinner, and like Paul, I feel I can say, "Of this I am chief!" I have wept, sobbed, and cried, as well as rejoiced, clapped, and cheered over every one of my students! In the end, to God be the glory! It's hard for sure, but the rewards are greater than I ever imagined!
7. The Church
The church has even benefited because we have time to do things that have eternal value. We have time to make a meal when there's a need . . . .We have time to serve and do special projects. As a family we have served meals to seniors, sung at nursing homes, cleaned and made meals for new mothers, raked, mowed, and shoveled. And while I certainly don't say this to boast, we are ever so thankful for that extra time that homeschooling allows.
8. The Cost
Though it is certainly cheaper than a private school, we spend a total of $800-$1,500 a year on books for our children. This would include buying a full curriculum for each child's grade and any added materials/books that we see fit to add throughout the year. Every so often a book or project comes along and it's just too interesting to pass up! Now we are at the point where we can reuse books from older kids. The younger students would still need new workbooks, but the correction books and teacher manuals are on hand.
9. The Dress Code
Pajamas. A pretty dress. Football jersey. Muddy boots. As big a variety as you can imagine, since the school of learning is in session all the time.
10. The Desk
It is usually the dining room table, but it can also include a comfy chair, the couch, a desk, a bed, or the floor. Sometimes it's the van, the swing set, a lawn chair, picnic table, or a tree. Yes, they have even done school in a tree!
"Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children." (Deuteronomy 4:10)
Karen Kunkel lives in Michigan, where she and her husband, Jeff, homeschool their eight children: Megan (19), Robbie (17), Daniel (14), Emily (12), Matthew (9), Joseph (7), Benjamin (5), and Lydia (3).
Copyright 2010. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Fall 2010. Used with permission. Visit them at http://www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.
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