21 March 2011

Education at Home, Part 1

Dear Lissy,
The ability to educate you three at home has been one of the great joys of my life.  However, that has been a decision made with your father under the guidance of our Heavenly Father each year.  You and your husband will also have to make the decision of how your children will be educated.  Because I don't know what your options will be, or what your husband's heart will be, I am not going to share our reasons for home education in these letters.  I will, however, share our philosophy and experience.  Today's letter is primarily philosophy.

Education ideally trains the heart of the child to godliness, provides excellent and thorough academics, and fits the abilities and energy level of the mom.

1.  I run a six week on, one week off schedule for 36 weeks (End of August through end of May), and then a three-day-a-week math and grammar review over the summer.  
My energy level doesn't allow me to go for months on end with both schooling and the regular demands of the home.  After six weeks I need a chance to catch up on seasonal projects and give my heart and mind a rest from academics.

I choose to keep a review going throughout the summer so we don't lose ground in skill subjects and spend the first six weeks of the school year reviewing the previous year's work.  I typically skip the first 4 weeks of our scripted elementary curriculum at the beginning of the year.

I have a couple of friends who go four days a week year 'round with only 2 weeks off in July and December so that they have a day free for music lessons.

2.  I use scripted curricula for K-5, and then transitioned to independent study curricula for 6-12th grade.
Scripted Curricula give the teacher specific directions for teaching each lesson of each subject.
They are typically divided into lessons (days) and have bulleted lists of materials needed for each lesson.  They also contain a written word-for-word script for the teacher to either use or consider as they teach each lesson.  Had money been available, I would have chosen a video option for K-5th.  I don't have the energy, time, or desire to spend every waking moment moshing together the ultimate school experience.  Home education is one part of my responsibility before the Lord.

Independent Study Curricula are written for the student to teach themselves without daily one-on-one instruction time.
These are typically divided into modules or weeks which prepared you for semester long college work. The parent and student can choose the time spent on each module based on ability and interest.  Books are usually written as if the author is teaching the child directly; DVD or internet modules have video instruction followed by workbook time.
The parent is responsible to ensure that the child has completed the day's work and to administer tests and quizzes.  Tutoring, when necessary, is done either by the parent, an older sibling, or an outside source the parent has hired.
In order to be able to transition to independent study, the child must have good work habits developed during elementary school.   From 7th grade up I rarely spent more than half an hour a day assisting or instructing you, and simply checked to make sure work was completed thoroughly and accurately.  Our weekly discussion on Friday grew from around an hour in 7th grade to nearly three by your upper high school years.  These were the times we spent orally reviewing the work and study you had done in light of previous work and God's Word.  The curriculum I used, Tapestry of Grace, scripted these discussions and provided guidance for me as we synthesized the material.

3.  We wanted Bible to be a part of every subject, not necessarily its own subject.  
Once I saw Tapestry of Grace, I was hooked!  It beautifully weaves Bible and Biblical principles throughout the humanities while still maintaining a distinct Bible module.  Church history and missions are also included as you move through the centuries.  A special module appears from time to time entitled "Worldview" and helps the parent instill a philosophy of Godliness.  Our concern for you children has always been that God would be in every aspect of your life, not a compartment reserved for Sundays or times of need.

4.  We considered discipline one of the most important things we taught.

  • We had a starting time (8:30 a.m.), a set break time (10:00 a.m.) and lunch time (12 pm)
  • and required collared shirts, clean dress skirts or pants, socks and shoes.  
  • You were expected to work at your desk, or perhaps the kitchen table when you were in early elementary, and keep your space neat.  
  • You weren't allowed to talk out or leave your seat without permission during the elementary years.
  • Work was inspected for both completion and neatness according to your age.
  • You took tests and quizzes as scheduled and were required to turn in reports on time.

The difference between a child and an adult is that a child does what they want to do, an adult does what they know is right.
Even tiny children have to begin the long journey to adulthood by learning to choose the right path even when it conflicts with their desires. The school years are when we began to transition you to beginning to make the choice to do right on your own with minimal input from us.  We expected you to be consistently making right choices based on biblical principles with very little positive or negative reinforcement by the age of 11 or 12.  Training a child to consistently make the right choice during the elementary years when the choices are simple allows the parent to coach the child through the complex decisions of the teen years rather than becoming the "house police".

Daddy put it this way as we talked about this letter:  Decisions during the early years are based on obedience to authority, choices during the school years should be based on learning and following biblical principles , and the choices made during high school years and beyond are based on faithfulness to personal convictions based on biblical principles.

5.  We expected excellence.
We didn't allow you to push three grades ahead in subjects you loved and neglect those you didn't.  If you struggled in any area, and all of you did, we worked with you one-on-one until you were able to pursue that subject confidently on your own.  At no time did we allow you to drop below grade level or do substandard work in an area that was difficult for you.

If we had an expert resource, we utilized it.  One of your aunts is a trained elementary school teacher, and she guided me through those years.  Another of your aunts is a newspaper editor and helped me a great deal with our writing program.  We used the public school system when we needed a particular evaluation, or community programs for activities like swimming and art.

6.  We carefully cultivated a love of learning.
Family nights from the time you were itty-bitty were nature films, or history documentaries.  We often read together.  We listened to radio programs that offered entertainment based on the week's news or word play.  When we traveled, we chose entertainment that had historical, natural, or scientific themes.  The games we played often involved strategy and logic.  Computer games often focused on geography, math, or spelling drills.  Because of this, school work strengthened or reinforced your family and entertainment time.  While we would occasionally have grumbling over a long day, I can't remember any of you complaining about school in general.
We tailored the work to the ways you learned best.  Matt was very physical and needed hands-on manipulatives.  You were incredibly social and needed a lot of personal instruction and praise as well as the ability to "show off" your work.  Nate preferred solitude and straight reading or writing and grew frustrated with "extras".

7. We ignored the "socialization" gun constantly held to our head.
Never again in your life are you going to be placed into a group of people all your same age.  Learning to function in a group with all different ages and abilities is far better training for life than what you'd get in a classroom.  Study after study proves that home educated children get along better with others, have better leadership skills, and are far more compassionate than their peers.  They also consistently score higher academically than their traditionally schooled peers.  Those aren't reasons to home educate, but they are facts that helped us overlook the nosy neighbors who were concerned you didn't have enough friends your own age.

Most experts now believe that concern over socialization is the second part of a three part strategy by the overtly socialist NEA to require all students to attend state schools for indoctrination in humanism.  The first, inferior academics was quickly debunked.  Socialization is proving to be an empty concern as well.  The third, the state's concern over parents influencing children with their religion, is the most dangerous because it is true, and will be the battle you are called to fight if you choose to home educate.

I don't know if you'll ever educate at home, but if you do, I hope these 7 ideas will help you as you develop your own philosophy regarding education.

Still learning,


  1. I love the idea of 6weeks on 1 week off! I would love for you to link this up at my Homemaking Party :)!
    Don't Waste your Homemaking

  2. Thanks for the invite :-) If you know some way to get the linky button to line up better, feel free to tell me...I'm still new at html code.

  3. Hey Rebecca!
    Thanks for visiting my blog over at One Faithful Mom. I am anxious to come back here and read more of your posts...looks good!!

  4. WOW! I love how you wrote this out. You gave me a few ideas. Thank you!