Homeschooling: One Mom's First-Year Story

The Stir Bloggers
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homeschoolHomeschooling. How many times has the thought crossed your mind? For some moms, never. For many other mothers it's an idea that sounds better and better. But for a quickly expanding group of moms, when it comes to their children's education, homeschooling is already the only way to go.

ReneeK3 is one of those mothers. She is in her first year of homeschooling her pre-k (age 4) and kindergarten (age 5) children--something she felt she had to do once she realized that living in her school district meant her kids would have to go to one of the worst schools in the city. It was a decision that took a lot of thought, but so far, has been totally worth it. Of course, every mother that homeschools has a different story. Here is Renee's...

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What made you decide to homeschool?

Once I started looking further into homeschooling, I started seeing more and more advantages to it. I homeschool to keep my kids safe and to give them the best education possible by allowing them to move as far ahead on the spectrum as they can.

How did you get started?  What's the actual way to get going doing something like this?

I live in Illinois and unless your child is already enrolled in a school, there's nothing you have to do.  If your child is enrolled in a school you simply need to file a letter of intent with the school district. You only have to file once, not yearly. 

Every state varies with it's homeschool laws. Be sure to Google your own state's homeschool laws for information or contact the Board of Education. 

What about a curriculum?

You can use whatever curriculum you'd like. You can spend a great deal on it or spend almost nothing at all. Right now I create my own curriculum using reading books, workbooks, and resources from the Internet--and I only spent $75.  In the future, I might look into a prepackaged deal which can cost a few hundred dollars brand new. Buying an expensive curriculum does not equal a better education.

Is there a particular method you use?

I consider myself to be an eclectic homeschooler. There are ideas I like from all of the methods and it's hard for me to stick to just one. I enjoy mixing things up and I'm sure my boys do too! I like to use the Montessori method for teaching my children to participate in everyday life. They get to help around the house with whatever they are eager to do (within reason of course). I like to use unit studies depending on what we're learning. It's fun coming up with new ways to teach math using dinosaurs. I also like using some unschooling approaches, letting my children tell me what they're interested and focusing in that area for a week or two. 

One thing my children LOVE is to create their own stories and books. They love art and music and it's easier to teach some skills using those things.  This is known as the Waldorf method

Sometimes I like to keep things similar to traditional school. It really just depends on the day, the mood, and the skills required or lesson. 

Could you tell if there were immediate benefits to homeschooling?

My [oldest son] had previously been enrolled in a public preschool. [He] did well there but was very bored.  Now I can speed things up or slow them down according to how well he learns it, eliminating the boredom problem.  Another plus; we've seen less illness!!!

What don't you like about the public school system?

The public school systems train children to pass tests. I feel like they are teaching them how to memorize rather than how to actually come up with solutions to everyday problems. 

In most cases, there is one teacher for every 25 students which greatly limits how much one-on-one time the students have with their teacher. Giving children the attention they need when they're learning a new skill is important but I also believe it's important for them to do independent work.  Homeschooling allows for a good balance of the two. 

Everyone in public school is required to learn at the same rate. You can't be far behind or you'll fail. You can't go too far ahead or you'll get bored. Teachers don't have the time or resources to prepare lessons plans to fit the needs of each individual child. 

How do you answer the critics who say homeschooled children are missing out on the social component of education?

Homeschooled children have many advantages over traditionally schooled children.  One of the advantages is having MORE time to enjoy extra-curricular activities.  They typically don't sit at home from 8am to 3pm everyday doing schoolwork like their peers. Most homesclooed families are done with work in half the time!  This allows them to get out into the real world and socialize with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. They often participate in scouting, sports, and volunteering in the community. 

Do you have other friends/family who homeschool? Are you part of a larger homeschooling network?

I'm blessed to have some friends that homeschool that are there to support me in my journey!  I've met many great homeschool moms right here on CafeMom. I'm currently not a part of a larger homeschool network or co-op because of the age of my children. I'm looking into joining one this next school year though since we have several in our area. 

How do you rate your own success as a teacher?

My 5 year old is reading on his own, you tell me!  We all go through times of feeling inadequate but it's a great success when you can see your children absorbing and using the skills you've taught them. I feel like I'm doing a great job with my kids!

What are the challenges to homeschooling? For example, is it hard to be home all day, or to make a room in your home have dual purposes?

I'm a neat freak so it's frustrating for me sometimes that my dining room also serves as a classroom.  We do everything at the table or on the couch.  We don't have a need for each child to have their own desk or to have a giant chalkboard hanging on the wall.  When it warms up again, we'll do some schooling outdoors as well! 

I think the most challenging part is feeling cooped up in the winter. Where I live, the temperatures are often so cold you can't go outside for long, so outdoor play is not always an option. Sometimes we take a trip to the store to get some fresh air.  We are fortunate enough to have a large indoor playground for the kids to get some exercise.

What would you tell any mom thinking about homeschooling to carefully consider?

Make sure you have some support for those rough patches you may go through.  You can find support online or in your community.  Be sure both you and your spouse are on the same page with it so there's no friction between you.  Remember that it's not permanent!  If you try homeschooling and decide it's not for your family, you can always stick your children back into public school.  Don't forget to include your children when making this decision!

Do you homesechool? If so, what's your story? If not, would you consider it?

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