So Many Questions. So much doubt.
“Homeschooling seems daunting, I just don’t know where to begin.” “How do I choose the right curriculum?” “How do I know what to teach, or even how to teach?” “Do I have what it takes to educate my children?” These are phrases and questions I hear often from new homeschooling moms. Today, I’m addressing these concerns and giving you a peek into my own heart, in hopes of showing you the very beginning of how I managed these thoughts and emotions as we made the decision to homeschool.
I must begin my story with an epiphany. Something I experienced as a public school kindergarten teacher. After a long day of worksheets, and graphic organizers, I summoned the courage to ask my principal if he would allow me to teach art in my class on a regular basis. I thought it could be a great way to break up the academic pressure a bit and allow the children (Kindergartners) to express learning in a creative way. His answer was this. “You can teach an art lesson once a week, on Fridays. Only if it connects to a Language Arts standard and only if it is later in the afternoon after core subjects have been completed”. I walked away feeling true oppression. Feeling like I was in a prison of sorts. There was no escaping the confines of this structure.
The school where I taught was a Title One School. They had a small window of time left to get their API scores up to par before there would be serious measures taken by the state. I understood the level of concern for academic focus, but at the expense of the children’s emotional and creative development seemed criminal.
I had a daughter of my own at the time and was pregnant with my second. Suddenly, my life long dream of teaching at the same school my children attended came to a screeching halt. I imagined my beautiful, spirited daughters, sitting inside four walls for 6 hours, bustling about, rushing from one DII process chart lesson to the next. (DII-Direct Interactive Instruction: A new teaching method our district was implementing which ordered teachers to hang poster sized process charts on their classroom walls informing students of the correct steps and vocabulary they had to learn in order to master an objective). I felt an immense sadness in the core of my being. Not only for my own children, but for the children in this system. I knew that day I would do everything in my power to homeschool. My husband and I took a huge leap of faith and I resigned from my freshly tenured teaching position. It was scary, but felt right. I had an insurmountable peace come over me and I knew for certain, God would provide, no matter what.
Taking a Leap of Faith
We made the decision to homeschool and my road to recovery began. I was on a mission to deprogram my brain from years of being educated and educating in the public sector. I began practicing the art of “letting go.” I began mining my own heart and reassessing my personal beliefs pertaining to academics and my educational philosophy. You see, in my teaching program, I was only schooled from one perspective of thought- “the public school system of education.” In a nutshell, I learned how to teach different types of learners and how to differentiate lessons according to children’s specific needs. I learned how to administer standardized tests and analyze data. I was taught how to take specific data and hone in on problem areas of certain children or ways to enrich students’ who needed a challenge. We learned how to make flexible groups of students and re-teach or supplement their education in ways which met their various learning needs, and reassess until I saw mastery of the standard. Sounds super fun right!?
Needless to say, my past education has been a bit of a hurdle for me to cross as I made my transition to home education. I’ve had to wipe my standardized teaching slate clean and pray I would have eyes to see as well as fully trust a new way. I needed a fresh beginning, but where could I find it? I felt like I was standing on the edge of a well-structured cliff looking over into a dark abyss. Now and then I would see a flicker of light giving me hope, there was, in fact, goodness and life at the end.
I began my research in home education. I was searching for solid direction on “how to start homeschooling.” I first learned it was beneficial to define my personal, educational philosophy, and write a clear home school mission statement. These tasks seemed difficult but not impossible, so I prayed. I prayed for God to reveal HIS way of education to me. How did our Creator desire children to be educated? He reminded me of my childhood and the unique experiences I had, which shaped and molded the core of my being. I was homeschooled the majority of my elementary years through junior high. I grew up in San Diego county in the small mountain town of Ramona, CA. My parents build our home on 14 rural acres at the end of a long dirt road. It was truly a freedom filled childhood. There were many days spent climbing boulders and trees, digging in the mud, and hiking much too far from the safety of our home. As my mom likes to say, we always had our trusty dog Duke by our side who paved the trails and warded of all the rattlers and mountain lions. All these experiences threaded themselves into the fabric of my being. Thoughts of my childhood spurred truths and hi-lighted big-picture ideas. I realized by all my considerations, what I truly wanted for my children was something close to the life my parents gave me. An existence embedded in God’s Truth, a love for people and places near and far, a sense of peace, hope, freedom, and trust.
There it was, my homeschool mission statement! This statement helped me navigate through the plethora of different teaching philosophies and find one which strongly supported my homeschool mission statement.
Our Mission Statement:
I want my children’s educational life experience to embed them in God’s Truth. I want them to harbor a deep love for humanity and to care for people and places near and far. My hope is for my children to experience the Peace, which surpasses ALL understanding as they navigate life’s inevitable tribulations. I want them to feel hope even in the darkest of days and experience the freedom of our precious gospel. I pray they trust their Creator even when it feels humanly impossible and lean not unto their understanding but in all ways knowledge their God. I want them to feel valued and recognize their existence on this green earth is far more miraculous, beautiful, and awesome than they will ever know this side of the kingdom…I want them to feel loved.
After writing our mission statement, I realized there wasn’t one line that stated I want my children to be great in math, excel in Language arts or go to an Ivy League university . There was something beyond conventional education that began to emerge in my mind. If I could sum up the feeling in one word it would be LIFE. I wanted my children to have a LIFE filled life! I began researching and sifting through homeschool philosophies. Surprisingly, I learned there were several homeschool educational philosophies. Montessori, Reggio, unschooling, classical, and eclectic (mixture of a few) and many more. I loved different elements about every philosophy and I quickly learned I was uniquely inspired by all of them. Then it happened, I came across a quote by a woman named Charlotte Mason it said this:
This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God-we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.
A Pathway Discovered
Charlotte Mason’s quote change the trajectory of my life and my family’s life forever. It hit my soul deeply and resonated with every fiber of my being. I knew I found the homeschool philosophy I had been searching for. From this point, I began my research. I bought Mason’s volumes and started digesting her words. It was life changing! I connected myself to like minded mothers who shared the same passion for this path of home education. I was lead to a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum called A Humble Place which gave me tools and resources to complete our first year of gentle kindergarten. This curriculum was life giving and materialized everything our mission statement proclaimed. We went at our own pace and organically learned together through reading beautiful living books full of intriguing vocabulary, creating art, working on different handicrafts, and studying nature as we quietly rested in God’s creation. It was a beautiful year; imperfect and beautiful. I was finally on the path I had been searching for. It felt right. It felt like home.
A Message to You
If you have found yourself in the same situation I did- hoping for something more but not quite able to see a clear pathway to start your journey, I encourage you to take the steps I mentioned and fully trust your intuition and that voice inside telling you to have faith. Courageously move into the unknown, towards those few sparks of light calling your family to leap off the edge of that high cliff of comfort. Trust that on the other side of what looks like a dark abyss, there is a lush garden filled with the brightest light waiting for you and your family to be planted and nourished. Above all, know you have been uniquely crafted and designed to be the mother of your children. You innately have everything inside you already to teach them, to guide them, to champion them and to most importantly love them. Remember God equips who He calls. There is power in that revelation.
Simple Steps to Starting the Homeschool Journey:
- Carve out time to consider: I urge you to step out of the realm of “busy” and give yourself time and head space to pray and ponder your thoughts on homeschool. Read an encouraging book to activate your considerations to faithfully step into the homeschool world. I highly recommend the books For the Children’s Sake and A Call of the Wild and Free. Journal your thoughts and start making notes about what sparks your interest: blogs, quotes, articles, anything that connects deeply to your heart.
- Write out your mission statement: It doesn’t have to be long and It can always change throughout your homeschooling journey. Re-read it every so often and keep it in your heart as you search for a your homeschool path.
- Find a homeschool philosophy that aligns with your mission statement: You might find that you desire a single philosophy or you might find that you feel more comfortable with a mixture of a few.
- Find a curriculum that aligns with your preferred educational philosophy and supports your family mission statement. This may seem impossible, but it really isn’t too difficult to find. We are so fortunate to live in an age where we have access to a deep well of homeschool resources and information. A simple Google search usually points you in the direction of dozens of blogs explaining and reviewing different curriculums.
- Above all- give yourself a huge portion of grace! A homeschool journey is not perfect and its defiantly not always pretty. Know when you take a step back and give yourself and your family time to adjust to this way of life you will quickly see that it’s an ever changing, ever evolving journey. A journey that isn’t measured by test scores or rubrics or schedules and systems. A homeschool journey becomes a life journey. Subjects become simply discovering the world around us and “school time” becomes just a natural part of living. You will see your days meander through mealtimes and naps, tantrums and joy. You will witness the power and fruit of intentionally guiding and fostering your children’s education. And finally, you will experience the miraculous moments of learning in the hearts of your children, giving you confidence and strength to press on to yet another hour, another day, week and year.
Thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts! I hope they are encouraging and helpful to you and your family. If you have any questions please feel free to send me a DM on my Instagram page @wovenchildhood I look forward to connecting with you!