Someone asked me today how long I’ve been attending homeschooling conventions such as the one that is going on here in our city this weekend. I believe it was 2002 when I attended my very first homeschooling convention. It was a bit shocking to me to realize I have been going to these for 7 years now! Is that possible???
Since I have apparently passed the homeschooling novice stage (so, tell me when do you stop questioning your curriculum every single year???!!!), I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned through the years.
First of all, all homeschoolers have a story. Each one of us came to homeschooling in a different way. Few of us have remained unchanged in our motives throughout the years. We are one family that has seen a great change in where we came from to where we are to where we are going.
I usually tell people about how my husband was deployed and I did not want to send my son away to school when he’d already had so much upheaval in his life. However, I often leave out the fact that homeschooling, for me, was also a knee-jerk reaction. When my son was young, I was excited to send him off to school, but as he grew closer to school age, I began to remember my experiences. My school years were defined by peer dependency and needs unmet. I wanted no part of that life for my children and I figured my college-educated self could do an equal, if not better, job of teaching academics. So, armed with all the knowledge I could glean from the two homeschooling families I knew (thanks Becky & Candi!), I set out to homeschool my oldest child.
Back then, I had no idea there was a huge market for homeschooling curriculum. I literally bought from the first catalog that showed up (Keepers of the Faith) and ran with it.
I did fairly well with what I had, but then I attended my first ever homeschooling convention. WOW! Talk about drinking from a fire hydrant! Praise the Lord I was poor! I would have bought everything in that vendor hall (and over the years I just about have!)
Thankfully, the board who puts on the convention started a First Time Homeschool Convention Goers meeting the day before the convention starts to try to prepare new homeschoolers as best they can for what they are about to encounter. I sure could have used something like that!
Those early years, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to find my niche. I flitted from one idea to the next and tried hard to piece things together on my own. As time went by I realized the Lord was pulling me away from my initial “reactionary” stage and placing me into a more “visionary” stage. To explain a bit more, here’s an excerpt from the first blog post I ever wrote.
December 12, 2005
For many years I had visions of the big yellow school bus sweeping my children off their feet and taking them to the quaint old red brick schoolhouse whilst I stayed behind baking cookies to delight them upon their arrival home. Now, 3 years later, I realize how faulty my vision was, and here I sit, forever grateful, that God saw fit to give our family a clearer “vision!”
Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are days when MY vision is still a little hazy. Thankfully, God’s isn’t! He takes my foggy, less than resourceful, downright unproductive days and turns them into lessons in patience, thankfulness, and faith.
So, for me the beginning was truly a beginning. It was a time when I let go of many of MY visions and let God have His way. I also had to release my fears and doubts as well. Was I really qualified enough to teach a rambunctious and highly intelligent 4 year old? Would my high-needs 1 year old sleep long enough to allow us to do school? What curriculum was the best? How would I ever afford all the curriculum I thought I needed? What if there are gaps? What subjects should I be teaching at what age? Would I put him into public school at a certain age? and on and on and on…
Not all of these questions have been answered definitively and more seem to crop up weekly, but I am no longer a basket-case each time I think of a new “what-if” scenario.
So, join me on my homeschooling journey. I’m not going to guarantee you profound epiphanies on a daily basis and I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I will guarantee you a candid look at my life as a Christian wife and mother.
I think the fact that it took 3 years to really catch this vision is very important to note. The aforementioned Becky had told me that for about 3 years I would flounder. I would buy and be dissatisfied, I would teach and question myself, I would spend copious amounts of time chasing my tail and eventually come out on the other side with a better understanding of homeschooling. I am so glad someone pre-warned me of this because indeed, it did take 3 years to finally come out of the fog of newbie homeschooling to a place where I could catch the vision God had for our family.
Hearing Doug Phillips of Vision Forum speak at a homeschool convention was instrumental in helping our family see that homeschooling must be about much more than academics and reactionary thinking. We cannot waste our time standing in the negative when there is so much positive to stand for. There is no need to be AGAINST public school when we can be FOR discipling and walking beside our children. We have to be heading in some direction rather than wandering aimlessly.
Once again, we were drinking from a fire hydrant, but this time we had purpose. I began to search out a curriculum that kept the Bible at the forefront. I began to be much more intent on teaching the Lord’s ways and not man’s ways. From time to time I still require a reminder (see Declutter Me and Do They See God?), but these days it is much easier to see when I am letting the world’s way of thinking slip in and there is much less backtracking to be done.
Homeschooling conventions have now become more about solidifying our convictions. A couple of weeks ago, Ty and I were talking about how we really needed to be diligent in making Bible first in our school day. We also wanted to make a concerted effort to bathe our children in Scripture all day long. This year’s homeschool conference has definitely reiterated this to us in session after session. Definitely a God thing!
I am always surprised when I hear of a family who has homeschooled for several years and never attended a conference. In many respects, this does keep them from the fire hydrant syndrome, but I also think about how much I have gleaned from these once a year informational/encouragement baths. It is well worth the soaking I get.