Imagine that you are going to a place where you have never been before. Try Africa. Let’s pretend you are going on a long trip there. The length of the trip is undetermined-it may be a couple of months or it may be for the rest of your life?!
You begin your African adventure when you step off of the airplane. Instantly, you are struck by how different this place is from back home in Texas. Although it is difficult to believe, it is actually hotter here than back home. The sounds here are unfamiliar, and even the smell of the air is different from the air in the States. You soon begin to taste the strange foods and decide that you like some of them, but some of them you decide you can do without! As you go into the wild places to see animals different from any you have ever seen before except in books or on television, you truly realize that this is a unique and blessed place. When you go into the animal’s habitat, you realize that this can be a dangerous place; but if you follow the rules and guidelines given by those who have been here before, you will be protected and guided. You adapt and learn, and eventually you begin to feel that perhaps you can adjust to living here. You even begin to like it! You begin to welcome others to this great adventure! One day, you realize that you are no longer new to this life; although you don’t have all the answers, you have come to love your new home.
Welcome to home schooling!!
It is a jungle adventure for most of us! There are not very many second-generation home educators – yet!! We have all walked the trail-blazing path of “something new here,” and we have, generally speaking, come to love it. Most of us remember the strong emotions, the fears, the questions, and the tears. If we are honest, those of us with some years of experience will probably confess that there continue to be days when we endure similar things. But all of us were new at it once-exactly as at some point we were new, first-time parents! God can give you the grace to tackle this job and to come out at the other end with the satisfaction of a job well done!
Welcome to your great new adventure! Welcome to home education!
As you begin this adventure, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Keep in mind that there is no “right” answer, but when you know the answer to the why question, even if it is not a perfect answer or as complete as you want it to be, you can begin to determine how to pursue this task. If your desire is to do this forever, your plans will be long range. If your desire is to bring a child up to a school district’s qualifications for grade level, your plans will be shorter in term. If your desire is to build stronger character in your child, your goals will be different from someone whose main concern is strong academics. None of these choices necessarily have imputed values. They are just different; however, they do have a major impact on how you make your choices as you begin to educate your children at home. Once you have at least a general idea about why you have made this choice, your next step is determined by how much time you have before you are going to begin your schooling. If you have a few weeks or months, we recommend that you spend some time educating yourself. If you have to begin schooling tomorrow, your immediate emphasis needs to be on obtaining curriculum. You will have to educate yourself on the practice and principles of home education as you go along.
To educate yourself, peruse the listing of recommended books in THSC Association Resources. (See p. 6-5.) This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is a good place to start. Many of these books are available in local libraries; all of them can be requested through interlibrary loan. They can also be ordered at your local bookstore, through various mail order sources, as well as through the THSC Association.
It is impossible to emphasize strongly enough how very important it is for you to read much of this material. Not only will it help you to have an understanding of the movement and how to educate at home, but it will also help you when you encounter the various questions from family, friends, and strangers whom you will encounter.
As you begin to make decisions about curriculum, realize that Texas law requires a written curriculum pursued in a bona fide manner. The curriculum must include reading, spelling, grammar, math, and a study of good citizenship. If you are withdrawing your child today from an institutional program, whether public or private, you need to get something quickly. (For information on withdrawing from a public school, see question 1 on page
2-3.) If you have some time, you can research curriculum at your leisure and take longer to make your decision.
Whatever your situation, there are some common variables that you must consider.
What type of learner are you? Do you like workbooks, textbooks, schedules, and organization? Do you like free-form learning which allows your interests to take you to depths of knowledge and understanding in a more unstructured environment? Are you somewhere in between? You must come to understand at the beginning that home schooling is absolutely a learning time for the parent as well as the child. If you cannot get enthusiastic about what you are doing, you will never be able to convey a love of learning to your child. What type of learner is your child? Does he sit quietly in a chair while you read? Does he squirm every time you try to sit together and read? Does she like neat things all in a row, or does she prefer frogs and snails and puppy dog tails? You must understand your child and have at least a glimpse of his learning style, so that this experience can be rewarding for both of you. Learn and accept that each child is different and unique and that each child is different from you. Many children cannot sit still if they must sit in a chair but can spend hours reading if they are upside down on the stairs. Conversely, other children must have structure or they become as stressed and frazzled as any overworked mom or dad. While there has admittedly been too much emphasis placed on the learning style of the child in today’s educational modes, there is some validity to accepting the differences and working with them instead of fighting them.
How many children are going to be involved in school at home? A mom who must make lesson plans for only one or two children will face different challenges from the mom dealing with five or six grade levels. If you have children who are on roughly the same grade level, can you combine their lessons? If you have different age groups, can the older children help the younger children? If you have a younger child, can he help his older sister as she memorizes multiplication tables or a poem? You will be amazed at the creative ways your children can help you solve these sticky problems. Remember that all of the family can read books aloud together; you then simply adjust the assignments to the abilities of each child.
How much money do you have available for the purchase of curriculum? A complete program for one child can cost several hundreds of dollars per year, or you can design a program that mainly uses your local library and items which you already have around the home. No matter how much money is available, it is helpful if you realize early in your adventure that you will not be able to use every great idea or every great book that is calling out to you to buy it. Be thoughtful when you make the purchasing decisions and commit to doing some researching, meditating, and praying as you seek those things which will make this a valuable experience for the entire family.
As you ask yourself these questions, remember to stay as relaxed as possible. You do not make a lifelong commitment when you purchase a curriculum or a book, and you will make some mistakes. If you decide you have made a mistake in a purchase or see that it is time for a change in your approach, your local support group will probably sponsor a used book sale at which you can sell and buy used curriculum. Just take it easy and do one step at a time. Remember the old military saying, “A poor plan well executed is better than a great plan poorly followed.” Be excited about new challenges. Desire to try difficult things. Break out of your fear and try something new. You will discover as you go along what works for you and your children. You can rest in the assurance that you will make mistakes, but you and your children will all survive them and adjust.
A few suggestions to help you on the way
If you are a first-time home educator with no teaching experience or need to bring a child to grade level to return him to public school, we suggest that you choose a comprehensive curriculum which covers all of the requirements of the state law. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not have to be expensive; although, it can be extremely expensive. If you want to try a less structured approach which also covers all of the requirements, look for a unit study that is grade level appropriate for your family.
Everything that is good or bad about education can be said about both kinds of curriculum. Course studies (a book for every subject) versus unit studies (studying a specific time period or concept while incorporating all subject
areas) is really a matter of choice. This choice is like the foods in Africa. Some of the choices you will love; some you will dislike. You may be amazed that your friends like different ones than you like, but each of you has the freedom to do what is best for your family. One of the wonderful things about home education is that you can try both methods or use only one. The final choice is yours! We praise God for this freedom!
It may be helpful to have these incidental items for your great adventure. We recommend a chalk or dry erase board, maps as you need them, bookshelves or bins for child and teacher, markers, pencils, pens, glue, and paper of all sorts. A refrigerator or a blank wall can be the bulletin board. A table and chair or desk that is just the right size for your child or a special room for school is wonderful if your house has one, but many families do not have that luxury. A kitchen table works great!
Remember that trip to Africa?
As you continue on your adventure, you will recall that you would not have considered going into the strange areas of the country without guides. Likewise, you do not want to homeschool without the support and guidance of others who have come before you in home education.
On the local level, most areas have support groups which provide a variety of events and services for a nominal yearly fee. Large metropolitan areas usually have a variety of support groups to meet many different needs. There are regional groups in some areas of Texas which work to network the local support groups. On the state level, the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) not only provides support to families as they begin and continue to homeschool but also provides ongoing public policy information and training, THSC Association provides lobbying support to ensure that Texas remains one of the best places in the world to homeschool. They also have a program which provides legal services to its members if contacted by the school or government officials concerning home-school issues.
These organizations exist to provide support and guidance to individual families as the parents independently school their children. These are not regulatory agencies, and they are not designed or intended to govern the home school community. They do consist of moms and dads who have years of home-schooling experience and whose desire is to make home education a very positive and effective mode of education while maintaining and ensuring the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to each American.
Finally, remember that school starts every day-and ends every day-and tomorrow is another day! We hope you will find a point in the day when mom becomes mom again and school lets out. Enjoy the Great Adventure!