SummaryPass the pumpkin pie and count those blessings, it’s Thanksgiving time and Jennifer Elia shows why her family is so thankful to be a homeschooling family.
November is a time when we pause as a nation to count our blessings and give thanks.
On Veteran’s Day, we give thanks for those who have fought to keep us safe and free. On Thanksgiving, we thank God for His bounty. One thing that our family is very thankful for is homeschooling—and it isn’t just because I so greatly dislike having to pack lunches for my children!
Homeschooling is a challenge and a lot of work, but we thank God that we are able to do this for our family.
1. Everyone learns how they learn best.
We can adapt our teaching style, materials, and pace so that every child learns without getting frustrated and without falling behind. Even when teaching in a multisensory way, adaptations can and should be made for each individual learner. All children are unique, so their school experience should be also. No one knows a child’s strengths and weaknesses as well as his own parent.
By homeschooling, we are able to give our children exactly what they need so they can learn what they must.
Learning challenges are not disabling when they can be addressed head on in a personalized way. We have dealt with our share of challenges. Every child has a weakness that can seem insurmountable at times. Like I tell my children, we all need to work hard to achieve our goals, and strive to make improvements.
Some of my children’s challenges have been harder to overcome than others. A couple of their challenges would be considered disabilities in the public school arena. However, with patience, personal attention, and perseverance they have not become roadblocks.
There have been times that it took us two school years to complete a textbook, but there have also been times that we finished two grade levels in one year. In our “school,” grade levels are relative. I only assign them for things we do outside of our homeschool.
At the end of the year, I have peace knowing that my children didn’t just get through the material, they actually learned it.
They haven’t just survived another year of academic rigors, they have thrived.
2. If it isn’t working, fix it!
Some families, sadly, might go through an entire year or even an entire school career doing something that doesn’t work for their child. There is no need for this! If your math curriculum isn’t working, find a new one, take a month off to supplement and review, add resources to make it work—the sky is the limit to the possibilities.
Before I was a homeschool educator, I was a public school teacher and college professor. One of my favorite side jobs was writing creative curriculum for school districts and my own students. It is still something I enjoy as a homeschool mom.
However, every child is different. None of my children have completed exactly the same lesson plans at exactly the same point in their education. One year, I changed math programs for my son three times.
There was a time when I used every phonics supplement I could get my hands on, and sometimes have thrown the book out the window to create my own when the prepackaged ones didn’t work. We have taken months off of math instruction to review the basic facts and repeated lessons of spelling until we got it right.
I often think of the curriculum I once wrote for three school districts. I invested a whole lot of love, sweat, and tears into it to get it just right. I wanted it to be flexible and creative; I wanted it to reach as many children as possible.
However, with so many children, there is no way that it met everyone’s needs.
So, I am thankful that my own children’s lesson plans are a structured, yet fluid, expression of what they need. It is one of the ways I show my love to them and nurture their growth.
3. We have time together as a family.
Even with homeschooling, it can be hard to get time with everyone together because of different schedules. However, if Dad is working until 8 p.m., at least the children can get to see him because they don’t have to be up for the bus by 6:45 a.m.
Adapt your school schedule to give you the most opportunity for time together—early breakfast, late dinner, long lunch, school on Saturday instead of Wednesday, all are possible with homeschooling. Family is the building block of society.
Moreover, family is at the heart of our Faith, and children learn the Faith from their families. We need to invest in family time more than fancy electronics and new football uniforms. Homeschooling allows siblings to spend quality time together, parents to read to their children no matter their work schedule, and memories to be made every day, not just during winter break and summer vacation.
We are thankful that despite all the changes and challenges our family has faced over the years, we have the flexibility to create schedules that work best for us without compromising our children’s education.
4. More sleep, nutrition, and time for play
As schools across the country are cutting recess, shortening lunch, and stretching school days into the very early morning hours, my children are getting more of what their growing bodies need. I can remember as a teenager leaving home and returning from school in the dark for months on end.
Our school day started much too early for most of us, and activities, practices, and meetings stretched into the night—often ending well after 10 p.m.
There were many times that I opened my notebooks praying that my homework was done because I was so tired, I couldn’t remember if I had completed it. While my involvement in so many worthwhile activities was a true source of joy for me, my health paid the price.
Still living in the same town, our high school now begins even earlier, with students being picked up by the bus as early as 6 a.m. Longer school days have also pushed after-school activities and sports further into the evening and night.
A recent decision to increase the focus on academics has moved both science labs and music lessons into the already shortened lunch periods. I wonder how these children are functioning for so many hours on such little sleep, without recreational breaks, and now without lunch a number of days each week (seems impossible to take a tuba lesson and eat a sandwich at the same time!).
I am thankful that my children, while on a general schedule, can sleep until a reasonable hour, and catch up on sleep when life becomes too hectic. Our meals may not always be five-star dining, but they eat three square meals a day and can snack in between if needed.
Also, they will never miss eating because they have to use the restroom during their 15 minutes of lunch as too many kindergarteners, including my niece, have in our schools.
More studies are showing the need for increased sleep, physical activity, and unstructured recess throughout the day. Homeschooling allows children to be children.
Yes, we spend several hours a day on academics, but my children also get time to play, explore outdoors, and just take a mental break from their school work.
5. Homeschooling knowledge is power.
We all want what is best for our children. For us, a strong grounding in the Faith and a solid education are at the top of our list of what is best. All of us feel that we could be doing better.
However, by homeschooling our children, we know exactly what they know and what they need to really work at.
There is no guessing about how much they have mastered. No waiting with bated breath for report cards to tell us if Susie is doing well or not. Once the skills are mastered, we move on. If Billy has finished two grade levels of math and is itching for a greater challenge, we can provide it.
In the end, we have peace of mind knowing we are giving our kids the best academic experience instead of hoping someone else will.
Sometimes, I have been asked if I am concerned about gaps in their education, since we don’t have “proper oversight” to ensure that everything is getting done and they are exactly on grade level. When it comes down to it, every education will have gaps, some large, some slight, because none of us are perfect.
There is always more to learn, and some subjects that teachers might be better able to teach or more excited to share. The difference is that when I sit down and look at what my children have studied over the year, how they have grown in every subject, and what they still need to know—I am the one that can see the gaps and, LORD willing, I can find a way to close them in the coming year.
Homeschooling allows for improved observation, adaptation, and education. There are no bells that mark the end of a subject, no hard, fast calendar we must adhere to.
We are blessed to have the freedom to give all we have to help our children succeed not just in the world, but hopefully in Heaven—the ultimate “career goal.”
How has homeschooling blessed your family?