March 26, 1990, was our first day of homeschooling. It was a day of very mixed emotions for this mommy.
In the early years of parenthood, our home had been a place of playing, working, learning, and discovering—together. Our kids were the best of friends. They were happy, healthy, extremely bright, and interested in life and learning. Then our oldest son reached school age, and things changed.
Before putting Matthew in public school, we had considered homeschooling. Sadly, we ended up swallowing the ideas that teaching was best done by the “experts” and that children needed to be with other children to get prepared for life. So our boys started their formal education in public school.
But things didn’t go very well. Our kids had been curious, active, happy boys, who loved learning. After a couple years of public school, they were burned out, bored, regressing in some areas, stagnating in others, and headed for trouble.
We were very concerned about many things. Math papers that were marked in the teacher’s handwriting as being 100% A+ had several wrong answers. During a parent-teacher conference, we were told that one of our sons was not doing well in some of his classes because he read books instead of paying attention to the teacher. We were aghast and asked why he was not made to put the book away and participate in the class. His teacher’s only reply was that she hated to make a child stop reading. Never mind that we were not thrilled that our son was not getting an education!
But what was most unsettling to us was the teaching of evolution in the first-grade classroom. When we discussed the matter with the teacher, she told us that they were not studying evolution in science class. When I asked about particular papers that our son brought home, she let us know that those papers were from reading comprehension class. She assured us that kids so young couldn’t understand evolution, so they were just reading about how things change over time. I guess she didn’t know the definition of evolution—or hoped we didn’t know it!
We found ourselves spending evenings and weekends trying to undo the effects of peer pressure and all-out faulty teaching. And we prayed and prayed about what to do about the situation. Finally the Lord got through to our hearts, and we decided that we would begin homeschooling the next year.
The sense of peace we immediately felt in our spirits when we made the decision to homeschool lasted all of a few minutes. Then the realization hit home that if public school was wrong for our children next year—it was wrong for them now. It became an easy decision to pull our boys out of school and begin homeschooling that very year.
Our next step was to talk with our boys to let them know of our decision and to make sure they understood why we were going to homeschool. Thankfully, in our ongoing efforts to address the bad influences and undo ungodly teaching that had been taking place, our kids had developed a good degree of discernment and were totally on board and looking forward to homeschooling!
We were all excited, but we were a bit unsure about what homeschooling was actually going to be like. Even though I was enthusiastic and believed that God had called us to homeschool, I was also afraid. I was afraid of the time commitment. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to homeschool well. I was afraid of teaching the more difficult subjects as the boys got older. And I was afraid that the kids would end up missing their friends, or that they wouldn’t like homeschooling as much as they thought they would. But given the importance of the commitment to homeschool, I was determined to do whatever I could to make sure that didn’t happen!
I decided that we’d do special things beginning with our very first day to try to help us all enjoy the transition to homeschooling and to capitalize on the freedom we could enjoy. So on March 26, as the boys’ friends were boarding the school bus, we were busily working together in the kitchen, preparing an absolutely scrumptious special breakfast to celebrate our new beginning! After breakfast, we settled in to discuss plans for the upcoming weeks, which included doing some practical living projects like making a bulletin board, learning to iron, cooking, making salt-dough decorations, and other things not normally included in a typical school day.
I was thankful for the opportunity to homeschool and be together, learning as a family, and I wanted our kids to be thankful too. So especially when our children were younger, I was quick to point out school buses on the road early in the morning or late into the afternoon and expressed gratefulness that our boys didn’t have to spend so many hours a week packed into a bumpy, noisy bus. When we would pass a school during school hours, I would remind our kids of the blessing of flexibility in our scheduling and schooling. If kids were out on the playground for recess or gym class, we would talk about how nice it was that during our homeschool recess there were enough balls or other play equipment to go around so they didn’t miss out on doing something fun, like so often happened at public school.
Through the years we did a lot of traditional textbook learning, but as we went through our homeschool journey, I was always on the lookout for ways we could focus on the blessings of homeschooling, including the freedom and special perks we could enjoy.
Whether you have or have not started your new school year, and whether you did or did not celebrate the very first day of the school year, it’s not too late to celebrate YOUR homeschool—now and all year long!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Have a game afternoon—play educational games (kids almost always like them better than regular desk work).
- Have a read-a-thon—read aloud or silent reading.
- Plan to study your own town or a neighboring town—get some books at the library or historical society and take a field trip to see a historical section, town, or some other points of interest.
- Have a party—plan and make themed snacks and party games to reinforce something you’re learning about or just to have some fun.
- Have a park day—spend a bit of time at several area parks and have a picnic.
- Enjoy a pioneer day—do old-fashioned activities, games, stories, and hikes, and cook simple foods over an open fire
- Have a baking or cooking day—plan and shop together, then prepare the food and share it with grandparents, other homeschooling friends, or the police or fire department.
- Take a nature walk and collect interesting things.
- Go on field trips or day trips—there are lots of places that can be looked at through a scientific or historical lens.
- Make foods or decorations for special holidays.
- Have a research day—look up more information about a topic of interest to your children.
The possibilities are basically limitless. Use your imagination, watch for opportunities, and do whatever seems to fit well with your family!
What started out as a way to help our family settle in to homeschooling became a way of celebrating the special blessings of freedom and togetherness that come with the whole Christian homeschool way of life!
Kari Lewis is the "mom" here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married since 1977 and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002. More recently, she's been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.