Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Homeschooled All the Way (Part 1)

As I prepare to head off to college, I know that my life as a homeschooled student as ended. In many ways, it's saddening, as home education has been one of the best foundations in my life. It's also the only thing I've ever known, and change can be tough. As I "close the books" on this chapter in my life, I feel the need to write down some of my experiences and thoughts as a homeschool graduate.

Please understand that I am in no way saying that homeschooling is the only or best way to go, or that I'm somehow a "better" person because I've always been homeschooled. Different forms of education work different ways for different people. Though I think homeschooling is great, I know that there are circumstances were public or private schooling work well. I am convinced, though, that home education was the best way for me, and am grateful for my experiences.

My memories of the start of my "formal" education are dim. As a little girl, I had the freedom to learn in many ways outside of the walls of a classroom. I played with siblings, learned to work, and took care of my dollies, having a wonderful time in a carefree childhood. I think I started lesson books when I was 6 years old, though there were probably some simple workbooks earlier then that. I do remember sitting with Mom as she taught Elijah, and I think I picked up on many things right along with him. When I was 6 years old, I could read and write pretty well, though my spelling was atrocious, as my journal showed!

The foundation of all that mom and dad taught us was Scripture. Above all else, they wanted us to learn and understand God's Word. Now, years later, I am so thankful for how they stressed it. My mother has the gift of putting Bible verses to music, using the tunes of songs she knows. Thus, we started memorizing Scripture from a young age quite easily. After all, "If you've something to remember, put it in a melody! Who could think of any way to learn more naturally?" as the record "Sir Oliver's Songs" sings it.

So from the time we started "book learning," as my mom called it, and even before, we were also constantly working on memorizing verse or passages of Scripture that were usually put to song. We started learning the ABC's by singing them: "A, B, C, D, E, F, G, Jesus died for you and me. H, I, J, K, L, M, N, Jesus died for sinful men. Amen! O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, I believe God's Word is true. V and W, God has promised you, X, Y, X, a home eternally!" Then we'd learn to sing them backwards, with new phrases. The song sure stuck, for I can hardly go through the alphabet now without singing it!

We then worked on the individual letters, with a different Bible verse song for each letter. We started with "All things are possible with God", then "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" and "Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and burdened" and on all the way through "Zion hears and rejoices, the people of Judah are glad because of your judgments, O Lord. For You, O Lord, are the Most High God over all the earth." These simply yet full-of-truth songs have also stuck with me. They sure work well when you're trying to put a baby to sleep, as there's quite a few songs to sing through! =)

We continued Scripture memorization all the way through, from Psalm 91 and the armor of God from Ephesians 6 as a family, to Psalm 119 at 13 years of age, to even longer passages or books of the Bible by the end. This practice is one I'm planning to continue through the years.

We certainly didn't neglect the "three R's", however! In the beginning, mom would assign me pages to do in various workbooks nearly every day. Reading quickly became my favorite subject, with spelling a close second. Math and Science were near the bottom of my favorites' list, though I began liking them more in high school.

We used a variety of curriculum, ABEKA and Bob Jones Press being the main ones in middle school, with books from other places for various subjects. From 5th grade on I used Saxon Math, and used Apologia Science from 7th grade on, enjoying those subjects more as a result.

As a youngster, I thrived in this way of learning. Though more structure would have perhaps been better, I enjoyed knowing that when I was done with my daily assignments (or often by 3 p.m. mom would just let us stop), I was free to play. Mom would spend some time assigning and explaining in the morning, then I would turn the books back in when I was done, for her to check. I continued to learn a lot outside of "book learning," voraciously reading many many books, spending long hours outside or inside playing with siblings, and doing the daily tasks and activities of a child.

As I got older, though, I began to somewhat abuse the "as soon as it's 3 p.m. you're done for the day" practice. It was to easy to dawdle and work slowly through things and get distracted easily, thereby not accomplishing very much each day. Mom was soon busy teaching Jubilee the basics, and I began to rarely even finish books by the end of the year. We'd stop in June, then I'd start the next grade in September. It didn't seem to hurt me (there is a lot of repetition in most subjects!) but it bothered me not to finish the books.

As I got older, I began to be more and more self taught. Nearing the end of the school year I was 11 or 12, I decided that I wanted to actually finish my books, so I wrote out a plan of how many pages I would have to do per day in order to accomplish that goal. I finished later then usual that summer, but it felt so good to actually be done! That year, Elijah helped me plan out all of my books at the beginning of the school year, figuring out what I'd need to do each day. We made a table with dates and blocks of what lesson or number of pages we aimed to do in each subject. This schedule helped me a lot, and I enjoyed being able to mark off each subject (in pretty colors, of course!) as I finished in each day.

My plans weren't foolproof; life threw unexpected things my way, and I wasn't always able to complete what I'd planned. There was then catch up to do or an editing of the schedule dates. It underwent a lot of changes over the years, but I continued to use the same type of school list all the way to the end of high school.

I sometimes joke how I was my own teacher. Mom was still in charge, and she'd help me decide on what books to do each year, sometimes assigning me things she specifically wanted done. But I checked my own work, scheduled it out, and kept track of my grades on tests. She was available if I had questions or needed something explained, as was the rest of my family. It was nice to have so many people available to help, especially my engineer-sister Miriam or my just-ahead-of-me-brother Elijah when I needed help with confusing math problems.

The self-taught approach worked quite well for me all-in-all, teaching me how to plan things, and allowing me to go at my own pace and learn things well. It also prepared me for real life, as I'm now not afraid to learn things on my own. It also taught me honesty, as I had the answer keys easily available, yet was honest in doing the work before checking them. The hardest thing was to be diligent and disciplined when I had very little check-up from others on progress, but this too helped me learn important lessons in diligence and develop self-motivation.

My dad also played a part in our education, which was really nice! Obviously, he funded it, working hard to provide for us. However, he also took out time to be involved specifically in various ways. He led family devotions nearly ever weekday, which taught us so much about God and the Bible. He also worked less at his job for a few years, spending an hour or two in the morning teaching Lydia, Elijah and me French and Physical Science. For my last year, he was home almost the whole day, as he'd saved enough to begin an early retirement. It has been wonderful to be able to learn so much from both parents!

In addition to academics, I learned so many other things through homeschooling and non-academic activities...

... to be continued.

(read Part 2)


Ella said...

I am going to be writing something of this sort later on the month too! I have learned so much via homeschooling! And I want to share just how thankful I am!

Anonymous said...

You sound a lot like me! I enjoy studying independantly and although my father corrects my math and my mother does English and History tests, I intend to grade Physics myself because I would only confuse them...

Quite fun to read about your homeschooling experiences! It is such a blessing and allows so much freedom.

Maria Pauline

Lana said...

I wasn't home schooled and actually didn't graduate high school but I have been considering it with my 2 girls 9 and 4. I have a question what are the three R's you are talking about in this post?


Anna Naomi said...

Ella: Yes, I meant to do this earlier, after I graduated, but time has run away from me. I look forward to reading your thoughts!

Maria Pauline: Yes, I've thought many times through your posts and comments that we sound a lot a like. Independent study is nice!

Lana: I suppose I should have elaborated more. =) I used "the 3 R's" as a general term to describe all schooling, as has been the traditional description of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. However, we certainly studied more than just that, doing English, Math, Reading, History, Writing, Spelling, Science, Bible, and more. I just used the term to describe the academic or book part of the schooling.

Tiffany said...

It is wonderful to read about this. I love homeschooling my two girls and we will begin our 4th year in September. My oldest spent some time in public school but my youngest never will and I am very happy for it. Good luck on your college adventure!

Laura Michelle said...

Your early years sound alot like mine did! But unfortunately for me, they never really inproved. My parents had alot of family issues going on when I was young, so my younger sisters and I didn't get much schooling. I'm 19 now, and haven't graduated high school. But after my nephew goes into daycare(whom I babysit everyday), I plan on getting my GED and hopefully doing a year or two of college.But I can see how structure and motivation are such a key thing in childrens schooling.My mother let us whine our way of out of school waaay too much when I was young.I will never let mine do that! I see how important education is now that I've matured, and though children can't see that when young,I know they will appreciate it once they too mature.

Sarah said...

Hey! I just found your blog by looking for Ballet Magnificat pictures. I'm homeschooled too! I plan to go to Ballet Mag's Summer Intensive this summer! I'm a senior and I'm looking into Belhaven! LOL, we have so much in common! Just wanted to say I admire you and to keep up the blogging, it's fun to read!