Friday, February 22, 2013

Why We Homeschool

The first few months of this school-year, I really was struggling with my ability to homeschool.  I have all seven children "doing" school this year and it's a challenge.  Truth be told, my five year old is still not having school everyday.  As we don't have to report our students here in NY until they are six, I seem to be putting that on the back-burner for now.

As I mentioned in my last post, my two oldest children's science was really a stress factor for me this year.  Trying to figure out this subject took me right back to my high-school days when every day was a struggle for me in math and science.  I was faced, again, with the fact that my brain does not fire when it comes to these two subjects.  I was feeling unintelligent & inferior.  Compound that with trying to juggle all the other children and their subjects along with household chores, and a few outside commitments, I really had to take a good hard look at why we were even homeschooling to begin with.

In our case, it's NOT because we think our kids are getting a superior education.  Ok, I don't think they are.  My husband thinks they're doing just fine.  I know my limitations and those get passed down to my children.  Many people can tell me that my kids are doing much better than their counterparts in public school.  I know for a fact, due to weekly exposure to our city schools, that this is true.  However, comparing my kids to the Rochester City Schools and a few peripheral districts is not a good and true comparison.  I know that there are, indeed, good schools out there where the students seem to be doing work far more difficult than what mine are doing.  I tend to compare myself to these schools and my children to above-average students.  So, my conclusion:  we are not homeschooling for the "superior" education.

We are NOT homeschooling to keep our kids safe.  I think this is a fairly weak reason to homeschool.  Yes, my kids are safer here at home and, as the years pass by, it is evident to many that the schools are a less safe place to be.  However, crime and accidents can occur anywhere.  We do not homeschool to keep our kids in a safety net against physical harm.

We do NOT homeschool because it's fun.  Quite frankly, it's not.  For me, anyway.  Granted, we have made some good memories and we have had fun along the way.  But, it is often grueling.  I often feel like a drill-sargeant getting my kids to stay focused.  There are tears, complaints, and weariness...mine and the kids'.  "What a WONDERFUL way to raise your kids!" is a comment often heard.  Most often made by people who have their kids in school for 8 hours a day.  No matter what styles I have used, I don't believe my children will ever admit to having a love for learning.  I do see that they love to learn new things, but formal school is a bit of a drudgery.  They don't dive into new chapters of their history with excitement and zeal.  They (& I) look at the work as something they need to get done before really having fun.  Homeschooling, in and of itself, is NOT fun.

So, why are we homeschooling?  My firm conclusion is this:  we homeschool for the spiritual growth and protection of our children.

Sending my kids into a public or Christian school will expose them to a world they are not yet ready for.  Some of my kids would do better than others as some of mine will do right no matter what while others are followers.  But, do I seriously want my kids to have their spiritual hearts that are still growing and planting roots to be bombarded by the wickedness of this world for 40 hours a week?

[I include Christian school because I went to one.  While the teachers did their best, things still happen when 10-20 foolish, immature, "Christian" young people get together.  I saw, heard, and learned things before I probably should have.  "But you turned out ok."  I want better than OK for my kids.  And, you don't really know me.]

"But," you say, "they will be exposed to it sooner or later.  Better to get them prepared now before they really fall on their faces."  Really?  I see the other kids.  I see their hairstyles and clothing reflect the world's values and not Christ's.  I hear the disrespect they have for their parents and siblings.  I see the desire to be accepted by their peers at school (and understandably so) rather than by a God they cannot see.

My kids are, indeed, exposed to the world and it's ways.  We go to a city school every week and teach their counterparts about God and play with them.  My kids hear and see some things, but realize that this is the way the world is and they see it as evidence that these kids need God.  They are not immersed in it where it becomes "normal" and a part of their own lives.

I do not make my kids look away when they see an immodestly dressed person or cover their ears when they hear rock music.  They have come to realize what is right and wrong - because they are immersed in the teachings of God at home - and they've learned how to deal with these things the right way.  We don't run away from situations, though we are cautious what we expose ourselves to - my husband and myself included.  Our kids DO have many opportunities to minister to and reach the lost.

We homeschool to get our kids ready for this world as soldiers of Christ.  We prepare their minds and work-ethic to be able to hold a job and support a family.  Dumb homeschoolers are not a good testimony.  However, we are not sacrificing 40-hours a week to allow them to learn the world's ways.  That's like trying to teach someone to swim while holding them down under the water.  They may fight and struggle and eventually succeed, but they will become a better swimmer when the obstacles are made clear and slowly introduced once they master the basics.  It takes hours of practice to be an Olympian.   I will not sacrifice those hours of Godly training to an institution that will just hold my kids under.

Will homeschooling our children ensure that they'll never turn their back on God or get themselves in situations that go against His word?  I would be a fool to think so.  We are just trying to give them the best training.  Just as the swimmer trains, in the end, it is up to him to go for the gold or to leave it all for another hobby or occupation.  However, the coach prepares him for what the swimmer needs in the hopes that they will be a champion.  That is what my husband and I are doing.

The ONLY reason we homeschool is to give our kids the best possible opportunity to succeed as godly men and women who please the Lord in this world.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Getting Help in our Homeschool

The weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders and the reason for that is, at this very moment, sitting at my kitchen table.  My biggest stress factor of the year is gone and my family is happier.  I highly recommend this cure for stress.

What is it?

A science tutor.

My two oldest are doing Physical Science this year.  This is the second year for one of them and this year wasn't proving to be much easier despite the change of curriculum.  My brain backfires when it comes to the higher sciences and maths.  By higher I mean sixth grade and beyond.  As soon as you begin mixing letters and numbers, my brain freezes.  When I see the Periodic Table of Elements, I go into a coma.

In addition to planning, preparing for, and teaching lessons for five other children, I was trying to find time to teach myself 9th grade science just so I could make a bit of sense while helping my kids.  I even employed the internet to help clarify our lessons, all to no avail.

Enter, our dear friend Katie.  She loves to teach.  She got through 9th grade science (more recently than I, I might add).  She's single.  She and my kids have known and loved each other for years.  She is creative and loves to do experiments.

Every week, for two hours, Katie sits at the kitchen table and reviews the previous week's assignments. The kids have to read a certain amount of pages, write down the main ideas, and answer the questions.  She explains and reviews for about an hour.  This is done conversationally and via games.  There's a lot of laughing along with a lot of learning going on.  She rewards the kids with candy or fun activities.  For another hour or so, they do experiments.  Today, in talking about calories, they will be making ice cream.  Trust me...I've never been THAT fun.

The kids have had at least 2 quizzes in the last 5 weeks.  My son received his first 100% of the year.  In the first session, Katie figured out exactly how each of my kids learn and has put that knowledge to use to benefit them.

My kids don't complain about science any more.  I don't have heart palpitations nor do I have such an overwhelming feeling of failure.  My responsibility now consists only of asking the kids if they've done their assignments and paying Katie every few weeks.  *sigh of great relief*

Are you struggling in a certain subject?  Seek out someone who has time and knowledge and a willingness to share both with you and your students.  It may cost a few dollars, but the success of your children and your relief will be invaluable.

Let me know what areas you get help in or if you're struggling to find help.  I would love to pray for you and your family!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Homeschool Helper App

I know I promised to let you know what I've been using for planning our homeschool this year as the Well-Planned Day software was a complete flop.

Maybe I should put that in all caps & bold....COMPLETE FLOP.

I'm not bitter.  Really, I'm not.  I'm over it.  Way over it. that you've been holding your breath for 4 months, I will tell you.  (If you've been holding your breath for 4 months, you have bigger problems than finding the perfect planner)

The answer is.... HOMESCHOOL HELPER for iPad.

First, I must say that my iPad has revolutionized my life.  Homeschooling, chore lists, weight-loss, Bible-reading, etc. - so much is on my iPad and I love it!

I had read a review of Homeschool Helper from SamsNoggin and I knew it would be one of the very first apps I would put on my iPad.  I am able to plan a month's worth of school in less time that I've ever been able to do it.  As I have a few children combined in their classes, the "copy lesson" feature is absolutely invaluable.  I type in all the lessons & dates for one student, then copy it to another's calendar.  Bam!  It's that easy.  

While I am able to grade and figure averages on this app, I have not yet taken the time to do so.

Every day, my kids click on their name, the "notebook" icon and up pops their calendar.  They click on the date and they see their assignments for the day.  They can check off each assignment as they finish. They have come to depend on Homeschool Helper to tell them what to do every day.  This is a huge blessing for me.

You can also enter field trips and extra projects.  I think I may utilize that more this year.  While we don't make use of more than half of what it can do, I feel it was one of the best app-purchases I have ever made - iPhone & iPad combined.

Which makes me only "complaint" is that it does not yet sync with my iPhone.  That would be a nice feature.

If you go to the Homeschool Helper site (which has been linked to several times in this post), you can watch video tutorials teaching you how to use this app.  As I believe it's pretty easy to figure out, I've never watched them.  However, there are some moms who are visual learners who may find these videos quite helpful!  In fact, the whole site does a great job in describing this app - much better than I.  In fact, maybe you should just head over there and ignore the rest of this post.

Still here?  I'll finish up...

How much for the planner that has changed my life?  A whopping $4.99!!!!  Seriously, you don't have $5.00 to spend on a planner?  It's not a subscription - it's a one-time payment.  You can't get a paper planner for that price!!!!

SO...if you have an iPad, throw the pen away, save your money on software that doesn't work or is overly-complicated.  Splurge a bit, spend five-bucks and get the Homeschool Helper.

There.  I told you.  You may resume breathing.