Monday, August 31, 2015

Don't Give Up Before High School

I have heard it so many times: "I am looking forward to homeschooling my young children, but when they get to high school, I don't think I can teach them all they need to know at that point. That is why I plan to put them in school as teenagers." This statement seems logical at first brush, but experience tells me these parents are cheating themselves (and their kids) out of the best homeschool years. Mark my words friends - you can teach your kids in high school.

In fact, my opinion (as an 18-plus-year homeschool parent and former school teacher) is that teaching the lower grades requires considerable more knowledge and professionalism than guiding kids through the high school years does. By the time your students enter the final four years, they will have learned how to learn! Your role will change from that of hands on instructor to that of a coach and cheerleader for their learning.

This has always been the case, but it is even more so now that so many great curriculums are available (i.e. - Sonlight, Teaching Textbooks, Apologia, ThinkWell). Investing in these quality materials and watching your kids dig into learning is a rich blessing. They will be teaching you things! And you can enjoy the fruit of your hard labor from those early years while realizing your children are learning more than you did in college.

Furthermore, teenagers are fun! I mean really. They have a grown-up (or almost) sense of humor. You can have genuine conversations with them about deeper things and enjoy getting to know them in a new way as young adults. Finally, teenagers are exceedingly useful and can really contribute to the family. Not only can they do a lot of work around the house, if you have younger kids, then they make great tutors.

So here is the main point: Don't give up before High School!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Discipline Will Win the Day

General Jackson's soldiers were eager to dive into the battle. Nevertheless he held them back until the right moment telling them, "It's easy to get your ire up, but discipline will win the day." I like that statement and think it applies to homeschooling in a helpful way.

It is remarkable to me that many parents who attempt to teach their kids at home say they cannot get their children to do any school work. This is a common complaint and often becomes one of the major reasons for giving up on homeschooling and putting children in day school, where it is assumed students will do what they are told. There is something sad and wrong about this.

Believe me, with seven homeschooled children, I know what it is like to have kids disobey, slack up on work, and even try their hand at cheating a bit. However, a situation where they just say, "No mom and dad, I will not do my work" has never really come up. Ever. Not in nearly two decades of homeschool teaching. Why is that? Discipline.

It is really pretty simple. If mom or dad tell a child in our house to do something, it is expected that it will get done. Disobedience is quickly and firmly responded to with age appropriate punishment (including corporal punishment).

I am aware this is not politically correct. However, the reality is that investing ourselves in this area early in our children's lives, has meant the necessity of punishing them for disobeying as they enter their school years comes only rarely. Aside from the steady stream of bathroom inspired jokes (which come from having five boys), non-stop loud conversation, and occasional break-dancing, our house is characterized by peaceful interaction where most of us do what we are suppose to be doing when we are suppose to do it!

This becomes foundational to effective homeschooling. If there is no discipline, there will be no learning. Despite the unpopularity of this truth today, it is undeniable. If you want to go the distance as a homeschool family, do not forget, "Discipline will win the day."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Do What Works for You

When we started homeschooling years ago we were really intimidated by what other people did. We had many friends whose children were in private or public school. These kids got up every morning, dressed, grabbed their backpacks, and headed off. When they arrived at their school building, they sat in rows of desks while a teacher led from up front.

So when we started homeschooling our oldest son, we bought two school desks. I mean real, bin under the seat, metal pole holding an easel like board with hold-a-pencil grove, desks. We also bought a bulletin board, marker board, pencil sharpener, and so forth. Soon we had recreated a fairly traditional looking school room in our home. We then produced (with the help of our friend Bob Jones) hard cover textbooks, workbooks, and an American flag. So there it was. School. At home. But it was not homeschooling.

We knew other people who took a different approach. They homeschooled their kids as if living on the prairie. As in, Little House on the Prairie. The girls made their own little dresses while the boys chopped firewood and then they all gathered around the wood stove with their Mcguffey's readers. Still other homeschool families would group together in tribe like settings where they would share projects, plan social events, and combine homeschool classes. That looked a lot like regular school to me, only less organized.

In the early years, we dutifully tried a variety of these methods. The result? We put our kids in private school. None of that really worked for us.

After getting our two oldest boys into school, we again began to think learning at home could be a better fit for our family. So we took them out, but this time we made some changes. We did it our way. By definition, therefore, what we do may not work well for your family. Nevertheless, to make a point, here is how it works for us.

First of all, we bought Sonlight Curriculum cores. We did not try to be creative and make our own material. We did not try to save money and buy all the books separate. We just followed instructions in the Sonlight catalog and bought everything they recommended. We were off and running.

Second, with Sonlight, the kids were doing great. However, mom and dad were a little overwhelmed. We could not keep up with the routine grading of papers and math sheets. So after a couple of years, we order Switched on School House (SOS) DVDs from Alpha Omega. These took over the "grammar" portion of Language Arts. We also discovered Teaching Textbooks (the best math curriculum ever) and that took over the math portion of their school.

The kids continued to use Sonlight (working through the "Big Blue Book" themselves) while hammering away on the SOS DVDs and learning math from the Teaching Textbook guy. This, by the way, was not a cheap method. Furthermore, I really do not think the SOS program is the greatest curriculum. But, guess what? It worked for us! And it has continued to work for over a decade now.

Here is the point. Do not feel like you must follow the crowd. Nor is it necessary to do everything perfect. Just do what works in your family. We are not in competition with other homeschoolers or day schools. We just want to see our kids learn in a way that is good for them and pleasing to God!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Not A Genius

This is not a blog written by a genius (far from it). However, it is about the genius of homeschooling!

My wife and I have taught our children at home for the past 18 years. It has been a rewarding experience (albeit challenging at times). We have two graduates (one in the US Navy and another studying engineering at the University of Minnesota). We still have five at home with two of those scheduled to move on over the next couple of years.

Our hope with this blog is to share what we have learned, both from our successes and errors. Homeschooling is easier than ever before and remains a great option for people who are not willing to settle for the status quo when it comes to their kids' futures.

We are Christians and believe knowing Jesus Christ as Savior is the most important thing in the world. That's going to be obvious here on Homeschool Genius. However, we hope anyone who is interested in homeschooling will benefit from these posts. We will share tips we picked up along the way, curriculum advice, ideas for motivating your kid, ways to stay on a good schedule, and much more. I hope it helps! And I hope you find satisfaction and joy in homeschooling like we have!

Find out more about me on my freelance writing site or my Christian ministry blog.