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Think You Could Never Homeschool?

Confessions of a reluctant homeschool mom.

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

June 17, 2013 - 9:00 am

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Did you happen to read Jen Hatmaker’s hilarous viral blog post titled “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever”? Hatmaker wrote:

We are limping, limping across the finish line, folks. I tapped out somewhere in April and at this point, it is a miracle my kids are still even going to school. I haven’t checked homework folders in three weeks, because, well, I just can’t. Cannot. Can. Not. I can’t look at the homework in the folder. Is there homework in the folder? I don’t even know. Are other moms still looking in the homework folder? I don’t even care.

She went on to list part of her to-do list for the end of the school year:

The emails coming in for All Of The Things – class gift, end of year letters, luncheon signup, party supplies, awards ceremonies, pictures for the slide shows, final projects – are like a tsunami of doom. They are endless. I mean, they will never ever end. There is no end of it. I will never finish and turn it all in and get it to the (correct) Room Mom and get it all emailed and I am pretty sure the final week of school will never be over and this is the end for me.

Oh my word! If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to homeschool, reading Hatmaker’s blog post ought to at least convince you that sending your kids to school is no walk in the park, either. Or maybe you are on that hamster wheel and as you look toward another exhausting school year next fall, you wonder if your family will survive.

Looking back on our years of homeschooling, fourteen consecutive years in all, the most common thing I heard from people who found out we were homeschooling was “I could never do that; I’m not _______ enough.” The blank was usually something like consistent or disciplined or patient. I understand completely because before we began our homeschooling journey, I was the mom who made comments like that to other parents.

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When we started homeschooling Ryan, it was only because we found out at the kindergarten screening that the public school didn’t teach reading in kindergarten and our precocious Pre-K Kangaroo, who had excelled in all things in preschool, was ready to read. Private school tuition wasn’t a realistic option for our family budget and we didn’t like the idea of stalling his education for a year. So our battle cry became, “How badly can we mess up kindergarten?” That was the extent of our personal homeschooling conviction at that point. Worst-case scenario, he wouldn’t be any further behind than his public school peers, who would be learning their letter sounds and basic numbers that year.

As it turned out, our little sponge soaked up everything we put in front of him. Though I had no training in teaching or pedagogy (I had never even heard the word pedagogy), I taught Ryan to read using a boxed reading program with phonics songs on cassette tapes (a-a apple, b-b-ball, c-c-cat, and d-d-doll…). By Christmas, Ryan was up and reading and we realized that we were not going to completely mess up kindergarten.

But we also realized that he was digging us into a terrible, wonderful hole. Ryan was getting so far ahead and we were beginning to enjoy homeschooling so much that felt like we were reaching the point of no return. A standardized achievement test placed our son in the 97th percentile compared to other kids his age. Armed with a shiny, stellar, state-approved test score (something we later learned was not a complete measure of intelligence or achievement) and new-found confidence, my husband and I asked each other, “How much harm can we do for first grade?” After all, we reasoned, we had both completed first grade in school, so we surely possessed at least a rudimentary grasp of the course work, right?

The first two years we used the curriculum recommended by a friend because we didn’t know any better. While the phonics program worked out well, other parts of the curriculum were too structured for our more laid-back family style. As our confidence grew, we tiptoed out into the nearly limitless world of curriculum choices available for homeschoolers. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can find a curriculum that fits your individual family and your kids’ learning styles. I began to look forward to the day the massive Rainbow Resource catalog showed up in the mailbox.

My confidence grew as I realized I knew my kids better than anyone else in the world and understood their strengths and weaknesses. I knew where they were academically at any given moment and could tailor the curriculum to suit their needs. What school could offer that?

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And so it went, year after year, homeschooling Ryan and his brother, and we all learned as we went. There were a lot of years — more than I should admit publicly — when I think I learned as much as the kids did. There is nothing like homeschooling to teach you about the deficits in your own education! Eventually, homeschooling became a conviction for our family. We came to believe that this was the best possible educational choice for our children. They were not only growing academically, but socially and spiritually we saw signs of the budding maturity we desired in them. This had become a lifestyle choice for our family, and we couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

That’s not to say we were the perfect homeschooling family with matching, hand-sewn outfits and freshly baked bread every day. I assure you, we were not that family! I struggled with discipline and consistency in my personal life; and of course, that spilled into our homeschooling world. There were many, many days I found myself on my knees in prayer asking God if this was really what he wanted me to do. Surely I was not cut out for this! I struggled with frequent migraine headaches, so we planned a 4-day school schedule in order to allow an extra day for my health issues. We worked through learning disabilities and speech therapy and the year we all now laugh about and refer to as “Algebra with Anger.” It wasn’t pretty and we’re not proud of it, but I remind myself that lots of kids in public schools went through much worse things in 9th grade than a grumpy dad with a whiteboard who worked an 8-hour day and, after an hour commute, tried to teach algebra to an uncooperative student. (I don’t recommend it.)

If I let my mind linger on those days and experiences I’m tempted to think that perhaps we failed our children and maybe homeschooling is something better left to the “experts.”

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But then I have a picture in my mind of my precious boys snuggled up with me on the couch as I’m reading Johnny Tremain to them. The snow is piling up outside the window as a fire crackles in the fireplace. The American Revolution is jumping off the pages and coming to life for them as Johnny helps Paul Revere warn that the British are coming! We have already read a couple chapters from the Bible that day, a chapter from a missionary biography, and have worked on memorizing Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If.” Later in the afternoon the boys are scheduled to do some independent reading, work on a science lab (growing radishes), and complete their math lessons. But for now, they beg me to keep reading Johnny Tremain  — and because we are homeschoolers, we have the freedom to keep reading all afternoon if we want to. And we do, because I want to know what happens to Johnny and Paul Revere.

Those are the days that define homeschooling for our family. The warm, cozy days with learning and nurturing and imparting of wisdom with dogs at our feet and dinner in the crockpot. Those days far outnumbered the stressful, unproductive days. On balance, our entire family — parents included — received a fine educated and we didn’t mess it up.

My husband and I, like most homeschooling parents, started out unsure of ourselves and wondering if we were capable and qualified to take on the awesome responsibility of educating our children. We made it through kindergarten and then first grade, and eventually realized that this wasn’t rocket science — not until at least high school, anyway. Homeschoolers are not some exceptional breed of humans who were born with extra measures of patience, discipline, or intelligence. We prayed a lot, learned along with our children, made mistakes, made corrections, and carried on.

Homeschooling can be a wonderful, rewarding experience for a family and, I believe, the best educational choice for many — if not most — families. Parents, who love and understand their children better than anyone else in the world, are well-qualified to educate their children at home and should seriously consider taking on the challenge.

In addition to writing for PJ Tatler and PJ Lifestyle, Paula also writes for Ohio Conservative Review, and RedState. She is co-author of a new Ebook called, Homeschooling: Fighting for My Children’s Future. She is a member of the Wayne County Executive Committee. Paula describes herself as a Christian first, conservative second, and Republican third.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Hey, I went to 13 different schools b4 I got out of high school, I home schooled myself. Of course back in the early 70's you could still pick up the next level of Latin [4yrs for me] at any decent public school. today "Latin" is a race category. Did I have homework, you bet: did my parents care as long as the G.P.A. was maintained, not so much. In fact as long as my grades were good, my friends and I were free to hunt each other with BB guns until the streetlamps came on. About the Latin thing; I was an altar boy in the Episcopal church way back when being an Anglican wasn't short hand for latest liberal trendy thingy. God Bless all who home-school and remember you're never obliged to socialize stupid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not to mention the prison-like atmosphere in many schools these days -- metal detectors, drug-sniffing dogs, security guards, lock-downs. What kind of future are they training these kids for?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"You (We) need to lobby for a tax deduction for home schooling parents."

NO! Please, as a homeschooling parent struggling financially, I BEG you to DROP THIS IDEA! THIS IS POISON!

A tax deduction or a tax credit are legally government subsidies. So saith the Supreme Court.

Where government subsidies go, government controls are established. Legally.

We do NOT want deductions or credits!

We just want to be left alone!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (36)
All Comments   (36)
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My wife has homeschool our five kids since 2000. She will finish around 2020. Our decision to homeschool was emphatically confirmed when our youngest had to go to public school for a year. That fall we were instructed to send about $100 of school supplies with my daughter for her use and for the use of the other kids. If we did not, we were informed that the teacher would have to pay for paper, pencils, kleenex, etc. out of her own pocket. Are you freaking kidding me? After decades of obscene funding increases? Let. It. Burn.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is very much our story, an early reader and a desire to provide her with continuing challenge with no budget for private school. Turns out she had a passion for art and is now in college, on scholarship, pursuing a BFA and working p/t. Child #2 was ready to read early, but not to SIT - all boy. He's in community college now, pursuing his passion for public speaking and working in the great outdoors. I have two still in homeschool, and it is not yet apparent what they will become. I want to say that it's been a great thing for our family, but every choice has tradeoffs. We just know the pros are greater for us with homeschooling--and we have met and worked with some of the greatest people in community organizations as well as homeschool groups. It's been a great ride!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Montessori works too. Our kids could read by age three. By five, they could read well. By third grade, they were reading "Lord of the Rings."

You can send them to public schools if you choose, but you will put in just as much work as you would have homeschooling them if you don't want them ruined.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On the opposite end of the scale, homeschooling works great, too. We've had some of our kids be stellar early readers, but we have one daughter who is profoundly dyslexic. Reading was a tremendous chore for her. If she'd been in a traditional school her entire education would have been compromised. But we were able to work around it until all of a sudden, at 13(!) her interest in reading and writing bloomed. Now she's devouring novels like mad and wants to be a writer herself. She still struggles with her dyslexia, but she's had time to develop coping mechanisms without having to bear the "special ed" stigma.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's not just about getting a good education.

It's about avoiding a bad education.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hey, I went to 13 different schools b4 I got out of high school, I home schooled myself. Of course back in the early 70's you could still pick up the next level of Latin [4yrs for me] at any decent public school. today "Latin" is a race category. Did I have homework, you bet: did my parents care as long as the G.P.A. was maintained, not so much. In fact as long as my grades were good, my friends and I were free to hunt each other with BB guns until the streetlamps came on. About the Latin thing; I was an altar boy in the Episcopal church way back when being an Anglican wasn't short hand for latest liberal trendy thingy. God Bless all who home-school and remember you're never obliged to socialize stupid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"remember you're never obliged to socialize stupid. "

Love that line! :D
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think all parents should keep their kids home for awhile, teach them to read and write and early math.....If you can read this blog, then you can teach your kids THAT much....My first child went off to school as usual, but I homeschooled the 2 younger ones for 3 years....then sent them off...already readers and ready to run with their education. I pulled their older sister out of 5th and 6th gr at the same time...it was a little harder for her to adjust to homeschool and I sent her back to public school for 7th gr on. I think I could have taught the little ones all through if I hadn't decided to go back to work full time. Yeah, I'm a public school teacher, but not sure that made it any easier to teach my kids at home. I love having homeschooled kids in my classes...they are different...maybe even peculiar....but in good ways!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ah, teaching your kids to read. This is probabaly the most important thing other than teach them God's Word that you did. In fact, these go together, but you know that. I am apalled at the number of 20-somethings in my chucrh that do not read at all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your essay evokes vivid images of Norman Rockwell.
I believe your kids are achieving maturity and understanding that leads to exceptionally capable and articulate individuals. And are receiving a more rounded education than standard public inculcation.
You are also fostering the traditional nuclear family which is the basis of our humanity.
Thanks to responsible parents and students like you, your neighbors and relatives can expect to live in a highly advanced and developed community.

You (We) need to lobby for a tax deduction for home schooling parents.
And I, (blessed with several grandchildren and step grandchildren), should lobby for a tax deduction for grandparents that provide a camp for their teenage grandchildren. (Fishing, boating, travel, and field trip expenses pile up in addition to how much food & drink they can consume; Wow! They go to public school, and many days the teenagers get two breakfasts because of free breakfast at school).
Even the senior citizen discounts don't have much of an impact after a while.

If I were a homeschooling parent, I would plan field trips to science museums, marine aquariums, local businesses and factories that conduct tours of their facilities.
I have a question though;
Can you apply for "Meals on Wheels" to deliver the "free school lunch"?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Cybergeezer,

You are right about the benefits to the traditional nuclear family. The vast majority of homeschoolers are part of such families.

Many homeschoolers are cautious about accepting tax credits or subsidies of any kind. More often than not, such credits come with strings attached, whether it's a state-mandated curriculum or required state tests. Most homeschoolers just want to be left alone to educate their children without government interference. Of course, homeschoolers are a diverse bunch and you'll hear a variety of opinions on the topic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mrs. Bolyard;
I have to admire you and Mark v for your home schooling discipline, and the fact that you guys do your homework by keeping abreast, and active, in current events.
Godspeed.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"If I were a homeschooling parent, I would plan field trips to science museums, marine aquariums, local businesses and factories that conduct tours of their facilities."

We do! This is kind of de riguer for homeschoolers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"You (We) need to lobby for a tax deduction for home schooling parents."

NO! Please, as a homeschooling parent struggling financially, I BEG you to DROP THIS IDEA! THIS IS POISON!

A tax deduction or a tax credit are legally government subsidies. So saith the Supreme Court.

Where government subsidies go, government controls are established. Legally.

We do NOT want deductions or credits!

We just want to be left alone!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The most I would say is that if we ever get to where we have a voucher system, we be allowed to do something constructive with the voucher, but again, you are looking at all the strings that come with it because government will argue it's there where I would argue it's mine, money I would have saved to spend on my son's education had they not taken it from me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'd never take the voucher. You take the devil's coin, you dance to his tune.

I want nothing more than to keep government busy-bodies far away from my children.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You can argue what you like, but the SCOTUS has already ruled on tax exemptions and tax credits. They ARE a subsidy, and they DO come with government controls on how they can be "spent". That's so solidly established in law that it's unlikely anything short of an Amendment will change it.

Vouchers may be a different beast altogether. Proponents have claimed they are free of such strings, as they have been deemed a "grant in aid" to the minor, NOT to his parents, and, for reasons fathomable only to a lawyer, some say these do NOT come with strings attached.

However, the SCOTUS has not weighed in on that yet. I am VERY skeptical of them coming with no strings attached.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Right, you guys; I can see where the government, and it's Unions, would want to insert it's authority into this program, and dictate some authority to the home schoolers.
But, if homeschooling becomes a large enough community, you can bet animosity will set in, and be agitated by the media, which will drag in state governments to exert some control. States would be losing federal revenue with a significant number of kids being home schooled. And of course, the Feds and Unions would have to exert their power.
It's a damned shame We can't trust our politicians or government any more.
I can see where home schoolers have to keep a low profile, and an active suspicion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"if homeschooling becomes a large enough community, you can bet animosity will set in, and be agitated by the media, which will drag in state governments to exert some control."

The homeschooling community has been fighting exactly those battles for a few decades now. God has protected us.

One of the ways He has done that is through the excellent work of the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association. I've had the privilege of getting to know Michael Farris, one of the founders. American needs many more like him!

You should check them out:


www.hslda.org


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
P.S.
And thank you very much, Mrs. Bolyard, for such a nice diversion on a news site that has all the latest up to date, sensational, tragic, parasitic, news that is commanding all the headlines recently.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Public school's greatest illusion (and there are many) is that the academic rigour they bring is great and hard to duplicate. They instil this illusion by holding your kid for 6 hours a day and working really hard. Parents then think that they will have to duplicate that effort in order to educate their kid.

Its inspiring to hear your story, but its also kind of sad that you were apprehensive about taking on the task. There really isn't that much to it. Probably the key to the puzzle is the notion of retention. Public school kids probably retain 1/10 of what they are taught. If you can get your kid to retain 50% of it, that means you only have to teach 1/5 as much stuff and get the same result. The actual ratios are probably less severe than that, but you get the idea.

How do you get the greater retention? Probably through the notion of curiosity. Kids retain what they wanted to know in the first place. How do get curiosity? That's easy. The public schools remove it from the children as a matter of course, so just don't do that (which you won't) and you win.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Having been a public school teacher for a few years and then working with kids educationally one-on-one, I can also say that a huge amount of time and effort is wasted in a group setting. You don't have to spend 6 + hours with your kid to get the same amount of learning as he or she would get in the standard school day. The intensive time of one-on-one will be much more efficient in terms of learning and retention. And when you are effectively "in-class" all year, you can afford to spend less of your day intensively learning and drilling, too, to cover the same amount of material.

Right now, my tentative plan is to spend our mornings with the sit-down learning because that's when my son has the most patience and attention, stop at noon for lunch, and spend our afternoons with an active class of some sort of other like an art class or athletic class.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is excellent Paula; inspiring! I believe this serves as a window into homeschooling that people considering it need to see. They need to know that people just like them - regular folks - can do it. We raise our children... we feed them, we cloth them, we provide their every need but then we turn the most important thing - their education - over to a public system that quite frankly has become more about the institution than the child. And as to your final lament (or perhaps sarcasm?): Who more "expert" than the people who care the most? You and your husband made the right choice and from what I hear - did just fine!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a retired homeschooling parent of two daughters, our experience is much like yours, with the exception that our oldest was in public school for several years and we saw how they were letting her down. The next frontier of homeschooling is coming. It will be those who go from cradle to professional credentials and career without ever setting foot on campus.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The next frontier of homeschooling is coming indeed! The increase in homeschooling will inevitably create an increase in homeschooled professionals.

But also, as the school systems worsen, the system "dropouts" will continue to increase. At the same time, the more visible and organized homeschoolers get, the more we will attract additional numbers.

I want to see a nationwide trend towards homeschooling facilities--brick-and-mortar school space for homeschoolers. The best current examples are The Homeschool Building in Wyoming MI and FEAST homeschool in San Antonio.

I believe that their models can be repeated nationwide. In my current hometown of Tampa FL, the Tampa Bay HEAT has had great success in building sports programs for homeschoolers, but their lack of needed practice and game space holds them back.

That's why they've decided to work towards a school building of their own. Please come on by to learn more:

http://nooneofanyimport.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/homeschooling-in-and-out-of-our-league/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I hope you're right. I am afraid to think about what will happen when it comes time for our son to start thinking about college. I have no doubt he will be bright enough, but does he deserve the current life-long debt slavery the government will put him in to get a degree? I don't think so.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's not the next frontier. That's NOW.

It's already happening, regularly.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I hope your right Melston and moreover, I hope this signals a coming trend of people realizing they are not as dependent on government (i.e. the establishment) as they've been led to believe.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Won't that be fun? While there are already some who bypass public school and professional credentialing now, I think we are on the verge of seeing the education bubble bursting and that will mean big changes for the professional credentialing class. Many more will be able to succeed outside of traditional "4-year degree" channels. It's exciting to think about the possibilities.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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