9 things we learned in our first year of homeschooling

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Well, we did it: we completed our first year of homeschooling. When we started down this road, we didn’t really know what to expect: would the kids take to it? Would they turn into potatoes? Would we face the silent (or not so silent) judging of public schooling friends, family, and strangers?

These questions weighed pretty heavily as we started the year. But thankfully, it went better than I anticipated, even if there were a few hiccups along the way. Here are nine things I learned during our first year of homeschooling:

1. Kids’ books help me learn, too! Children’s books are more likely to give you the “big beats” of a subject that you maybe should have learned the first time around. Take history, for example: I want our kids to see that history is important. But in trying to teach this, I realized I didn’t pick up a particularly robust understanding of Canadian history in public school. So during our library and bookstore trips, I’d often grab a few books for myself. Among the things I learned? For one month, William Lyon Mackenzie was President of the Republic of Canada.

2. I loved seeing so many milestones firsthand. It was really cool to see Abigail learning to carry numbers, start to understand fractions, and begin memorizing her multiplication tables. Hannah was able to repeat back what she’d learned from our study on the ear. Hudson knows most of his letters and numbers, and points them out whenever he sees them. I would hate having missed all of this.

3. I realized my expectations were unrealistic (sometimes). Sometimes I picked work that I thought was going to be easy, but was not appropriate for the kids’ age levels. I had to apologize to Abigail for giving her a spelling list that was way too advanced for her. I also had to scale back my expectations of Hannah, who currently can really only do about an hour (tops) of concentrated schoolwork. I also had to deal with the disappointment of Hannah not liking the McGuffey Primer we purchased. (Sorry, she didn’t not like it—she hated it.)

4. Bible time was not a given. We know it’s important to teach our kids the Bible, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that Bible time was something that should be a part of our regular school routine. (Maybe we can blame that on my public school upbringing.) It was really helpful when Aaron brought home a copy of XTB, a daily Bible reading and activity book for kids ages 7-11 from The Good Book Company. Abigail’s really enjoying it so far, and we’re going to stick with it into the new school year.

5. Finding the right curriculum is challenging—but not for a lack of options. When I started researching homeschooling, one mom told me, “Don’t go to a homeschool convention. You will cry. I did.”

I’m glad I listened to her advice. There are literally millions of options out there—some good, some not so much. For example, I was super-excited about a zoology curriculum that was story-based. It had great reviews and the samples looked promising. But as we started working through it, I saw the story was poorly written, they had some major geography fails (seriously, they put Quebec in Manitoba on a map!), and the data sheets were a chore. My kids learned more from watching Wild Kratts on Netflix (don’t judge).

We ended up going with a hodge-podge of different resources, and it worked out pretty well for us. We had the Complete Canadian Curriculum as our foundation and supplemented with a bunch of other resources, including SpellingCity.com and Khan Academy. We even started doing Latin together, using Visual Latin as our curriculum (it’s super fun!).

6. Belonging to a co-op is helpful, but it is also a job. As first time homeschoolers, it was helpful for my children to be able to meet other home-educated kids and for me to get to know other parents. What I didn’t expect was how much work would be involved in teaching courses (parents are expected to teach three per year in our group)! By the end, I was pretty stressed as I taught our yearbook course which wound up having a lot of coordinating, following up and generally chasing people to get their work done. So there’s that.

7. No one is judging me. Really. No one cares when we get on the bus and go to the library on a weekday (with a stop at Starbucks on the way). No one freaks out about me setting up a beach cabana at the park on a Wednesday morning so the kids can eat raisins in the shade. I’ve had people come and ask questions before, but no one has ever accosted me. So, hurray!

8. I could take more breaks. There were days when the best thing to do when the kids were being super-whiny (“My hands are too tired to do school!”) or passive aggressive that we should have closed the books and went for a nature walk. Sometimes we did. But I probably could have done it more often.

9. When you’re done, it’s okay to be done. We ended up finishing our work before public school officially ended, and I was fretting because I didn’t know what to do. Aaron said, “Emily, you’re done. You can stop now.”

“Really? But there’s a week left before the public schools let out.”

“Who cares? You taught the material you wanted to cover, and then some. You can seriously stop now.” So I did and we transitioned into a more relaxed daily routine for the summer, with reading and Bible time, and educational computer games. After all, we don’t want to be rusty for the fall, right?

So that was our first year of homeschooling. I was really nervous going in—I worried that I would turn our kids into potatoes; that they wouldn’t learn anything and that they’d hate it. Thankfully I was wrong. Abigail loved her first year in our new set up. Hannah liked it more than she lets on (I hope). And Hudson’s just happy to be here.

Onward to year two!


Photo credit: arranging graph via photopin (license)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has put a number of volumes from the Perspectives series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Also on sale are:

Westminster Bookstore and Crossway are also offering an amazing discount when you buy one or more cases of Russell Moore’s book Adoption (as low as $1.75, though if you want just buy one, it’ll cost you $3) or Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life (about $5). Pastors, if you’ve got a bit of money in your budget, grab a few cases of these and give them to everyone attending your church.

What to do after you preach

Dave Harvey:

The conclusion of a sermon is a dangerous moment for the preacher. He has just spent 30-45 minutes in an expository deluge, dumping his study and zeal upon his congregation. The 10-20 hours of sermon preparation are now ancient history and he’s climbed in his car for the drive home. Most likely, he is exhausted – emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

If you’re called to preach, you leave it all in the pulpit.

I’ve been there.  And over the last 30 years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what I should do and what I shouldn’t do following a sermon. Here are three key lessons.

3 Reasons Not to Homeschool

Christina Fox:

This time of year, as we begin to transition out of vacation mindset back into school mode, you may be considering homeschooling for the first time. And there are many good reasons to consider it. You get to choose the curriculum for your children. You’re able to teach every subject through a biblical worldview. You can take time to study things your children enjoy learning about, at their own pace and on their own level. Homeschool allows for greater flexibility in your schedule. Since it doesn’t take as long as a typical school day to complete lessons, there’s plenty of time for extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, additional classes, and hobbies. Homeschooling also provides more time for families to spend together. I could go on.

But there are also reasons not to homeschool. If the idea of homeschooling has been on your mind, here are three reasons you should not homeschool your children.

Matt Chandler on abortion

Watch the full message here.

The Joy of Meaty Christian Biographies

Don Sweeting on why biographies are great.

Beware the Pride of Easy Education

Michael Kelley:

We live in this age of easy education. Never before has more information been more available to us. You can count on the fact that virtually anything you’ve been curious about, someone else has already been curious about, and has recorded the answer somewhere in cyberspace. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. And yet the breadth and depth of these facts and figures of all shapes and kinds brings with it a question:

To what end?

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Confessions Of A Hardcore Homeschooler

Stephen Altrogge:

I used to think homeschooling was the way to do school. You know, the divinely designed method of schooling. And although I wouldn’t quite come out and say it, I kinda looked down on parents who didn’t homeschool. Why? Because I was a self-righteous idiot who drank a lot of his own awesome sauce.

Then I made a few discoveries that changed my mind regarding the issue of schooling.

Who Was St. Nicholas?

Kevin DeYoung:

Why was Nicholas so famous?  Well, it’s impossible to tell fact from fiction, but this is some of the legend of St. Nicholas:

He was reputed to be a wonder-worker who brought children back to life, destroyed pagan temples, saved sailors from death at sea, and as an infant nursed only two days a week and fasted the other five days.

Moving from probable legend to possible history, Nicholas was honored for enduring persecution. It is said that he was imprisoned during the Empire wide persecution under Diocletian and Maximian. Upon his release and return, the people flocked around him “Nicholas! Confessor! Saint Nicholas has come home!”

10 Historical Myths About World Christianity

Brian Stanley:

As followers of Christ and adherents of the Bible, Christians are called to be a people of the truth. Thus, it is crucial that we seek to understand our tradition as accurately as possible. So consider these top ten historical myths about world Christianity.

The high cost of jargon in fundraising

As someone who works in fundraising, this is helpful.

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

Yep.

Why the Church Should Overthrow Nostalgia’s Reign

Aaron Earls:

Whatever it is you enjoyed as a child, be it book or board game, television show or toy, someone is looking to tap into those memories and entice you to enjoy it again.

While Revelation records Jesus as saying He makes all things new, Hollywood is saying it makes old things new. In the world of entertainment, nostalgia is king. That’s especially true this time of the year.

Church As the True Local

Jonathan Parnell:

The mission of God is a mission through his people, the church, who communicate his wonders by advancing his gospel. This community of “little Christs” who advance his gospel, as we’ve seen, do so as the on-the-ground expression of Jesus’s supremacy. And the scope of this advance, with all its historical freight, happens in both distance and depth.

 

 

Why I’m teaching teens about worldviews

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Today is a fitting day to begin a course about worldviews with the teens in our homeschool co-op. This is the 497th anniversary of Luther’s nailing his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany—the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation is an example of one of the most important theological debates in the history of the Christian church: the debate over justification. How are we saved—by faith and our works, or by faith alone? But this wasn’t simply a renewal of vibrant Christian faith and a rediscovery of the gospel: it represented a massive worldview shift, completely changing how people understand how the world works. 

As Christians, we have to understand this. We want to have a strong grasp of our own worldview, certainly. But just as importantly, we need to understand how the others see the world if we are going to reach them with the good news of Jesus. Having a foundational understanding of worldview allows us to enter into their world, to see affirm what is good and true and point those things back to the source of truth, while probing those aspects that stand in stark contrast to the Christian worldview.

That, in the end, represents the why of this course. So here’s what we’ll be doing over the next few weeks:

  • We’ll be engaging in some good old-fashioned Bible study;
  • We’ll be interacting with news stories and pop culture to see what story they’re telling about how the world works;
  • We’ll be asking friends and neighbours about their worldviews;
  • And we’ll be making the most of opportunities to put what we know into practice.

I don’t want these teens to engage this in a merely intellectual fashion. I want them to gain confidence in their faith, and I want to help equip them to confidently and humbly examine the competing ideas that exist so they can share their faith with others.

What the fruit will be, only the Lord knows. But I’m excited to see what happens.

Raising kids to be readers

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When I read that Aaron and Emily are going to be homeschooling their children, I was excited for them, and little envious. I was excited because I think homeschooling is a great educational choice, and envious because they are going to have the fun of teaching kids to read. Teaching reading was one of my favourite parts of homeschooling. Teaching a child to read is like giving him them the keys to the kingdom.

This post does not presume to suggest that only children who are homeschooled can become good readers. My oldest daughter was taught to read—and read well—in public school. That being said, the flexibility of the homeschool environment is a great way to raise children who are readers. And we want them to read, don’t we?

The flexibility offered by homeschooling helps meet the individual needs of children while they learn. The student who learns quickly can move ahead at his own pace, and a child who needs more time can have it. It is frustrating to be the child always waiting, or the child for whom everyone must wait. Or worse, to be the child who is totally lost. I spoke to a homeschool mom whose children had reading challenges, and she said the freedom of the homeschool environment prevented her children from hating school. In those first few years of reading, a child who has success has incentive to read. If it’s frustrating or difficult, it might be something he hates.

There is also flexibility with regard to content. In addition to being able to use books that will challenge and develop a reader, there is a lot of room for a child pursuing her own particular interests. If she wants to read ten books about spiders, she can do that. If she wants to read about the Amazon rain forest for an entire month, she can. Homeschool days are generally shorter than public school, and there is more time to pursue independent interests after the required work is done. It’s an opportunity for a child to pursue the things he is really excited about, and that makes reading fun. Our daughter went through a phase where she read historical fiction extensively, and today, she has a very solid grasp of English history she may have not had otherwise.

The flexibility of homeschooling feeds into family time, through reading aloud. I cannot endorse reading aloud enough. Not only does it show the kids that mom and dad like reading, but it promotes discussion. Being able to talk about a book is a good way to make sure children understand what they’re hearing. Reading out loud provides a safe environment to read that book everyone’s talking about, but that you’re not really sure about. Parents can also introduce classic literature through reading aloud, and acquaint them with books they may meet again in the future. When we studied ancient history, we read a lot of Greek mythology. My son, in a first year university course in Classical Studies, knew those stories intimately already.

Often, the most closely held habits in life begin in the home. Make reading one of those habits you foster, regardless of your schooling choice. We don’t have to homeschool to read aloud with our family. Building kids who are readers actually starts right from the time they are old enough to sit in your lap with a chubby board book for a few minutes.

Of course, homeschooling is not a guarantee that every child will grow to be a voracious reader. Of our three children, one is not as much of a reader as the other two. However, he is a good reader, and reads with discernment. Ultimately, that is the goal: to read well, and with discernment. There are many benefits to homeschooling. If you’re going to do it, use the time to encourage good reading habits. You will be encouraging something that will benefit them their entire lives.


Kim Shay lives in southern Ontario, Canada. She has been married to Neil for 27 years, and has three adult children and is a former homeschool mom. Now an empty nester, she fills her time teaching ladies the Bible, reading, blogging, and taking pictures. She blogs regularly at The Upward Call and Out of the Ordinary.

Photo credit: horrigans via photopin cc

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of new deals at Amazon:

If the apostle Paul was a blogger…

Derek Rishmawy gives us a look at Romans 8 written in the style of a modern blogger.

Are We Expecting Too much or Too Little From the Church?

Erik Raymond:

Many people think of friendships as those relationships where we have a lot in common with the other person. This is true, but what is the basis for this commonality? Some people will leave a church saying, “I can’t find people that I have a lot in common with.” This is a staggering and revealing statement. It could mean, “There are no Christians here.” It could also mean, “I am not a Christian.” And it could mean, “I don’t chiefly value my identity as a Christian as the basis for relationships.”

Behold: the two absolutely worst arguments against homeschooling

Matt Walsh:

Why do I even need to debunk the socialization claim? You’ve seen our society, haven’t you? You’ve interacted with people, right? Homeschooling might be increasingly popular, but the vast majority of the people you meet have been public schooled. And you’re telling me that the vast majority of the people you meet are ‘socially well adjusted’?

Really?

Was the Ascension Bad Evangelism Strategy?

Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow:

The ascension seems like bad evangelism strategy. It removes the key piece of evidence that substantiates the claims of Christianity. It’s like our best player got subbed out as the game was just beginning.

But in Scripture and for the Christian, the ascension is startlingly good news. In fact, there could be no salvation or mission without the ascension.