Why we chose to homeschool (The Mayans made us do it!)

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For some, the decision to homeschool is made before their children are even born. Others decide to homeschool because of a negative experience with public schools. The list of reasons why families choose homeschooling is nearly endless.

Why we chose to homeschool

My son, Jaden, attended first and second grade in a small public school in Texas where we now live. He's an August baby, so being one of the youngest in his class meant that he tended to fall more in the middle of the class when it came to reading and most other subject areas. He really didn't excel in any one area, but at the same time he wasn't doing poorly in any area either. He was…well, he was average.

But this didn't necessarily bother us at the time. Jaden wasn't much of an eager learner, but since he was bringing home A's and B's on his papers we thought, "Well, at least he's learning."

Enter the Maya Indians

That is until one day, near the end of second grade, when Jaden brought home a thick packet of worksheets that his class had been working on; they had been studying the Maya Indians for a few weeks, and they'd just completed the unit. I looked over the packet of papers and asked Jaden one simple question: "So, who were the Maya Indians?"

He shrugged, "I dunno."

"What do you mean you don't know?" I replied (calmly). "You've been studying them for weeks?"

Still he claimed ignorance.

And you know what's so sad? I shortly realized he was really telling the truth. He truly had no idea who the Maya Indians were.

The stark realization hit me instantly—my son was suffering from the same "malady" which I had suffered from throughout my schooling years—something I call the worksheet mentality.

So what's the worksheet mentality?

I'll give you an example of what it meant for me.

When I was in school, my teachers would assign a worksheet for me to work on; it didn't matter what subject it was in—it could be science, math, reading, history…anything. I would complete the worksheet precisely according to the directions, take the test over the material covered on the worksheet, score an A or A+ on the test, and then once the test was over, I would promptly forget everything related to what I had "studied." I made it through high school with a 4.0 GPA; but ask me what I learned, and I couldn't tell you.

That's a worksheet mentality: Do the work, take the test, and then forget it ever happened.

And that's what I recognized in my son. He was completing his work at school, but with such a mindset that he was basically working on short-term memory the entire time. For him, worksheets were just something to get done, not something to learn from. That wasn't how his mind worked—he didn't learn that way.

My husband and I talked about it and came to the conclusion that if we really wanted Jaden to learn—to truly learn—we'd need to make some changes.

So I began to research homeschooling.

But I did so with much trepidation, however, because we had previously homeschooled Jaden—and it had been a hellish experience, and not one we ever wanted to repeat.

Our first homeschooling disaster

We had attempted homeschooling Jaden in kindergarten with the intention of getting him into a good first grade class at the private Christian school at which my husband worked.

Why was homeschooling such a terrible experience that time? Not only was Jaden not ready to take on formal schooling at the age of five (at least not as the curriculum prescribed it), but I was not prepared to teach him; I had "romanticized" the idea of homeschooling and was not prepared for the frustration that I felt when Jaden was not progressing at the same rate as the curriculum prescribed. At the time I also didn't have any support from other homeschoolers, and I didn't realize that I could be a little flexible with the curriculum—that it was okay if my son needed more time to learn a certain subject.

To make matters even worse, I had just given birth to my third child, so my focus was severely divided between my husband, homeschooling Jaden, caring for my three-year-old and my newborn, and teaching piano lessons five days a week.

It was a recipe for disaster—and that's what we had. A disaster.

Trying homeschooling again…with fear and trembling

So here we were, more than two years later, trying to decide if we really wanted to choose to homeschool again.

We prayed about it, and my husband and I discussed it. And even though he had some reservations about homeschooling (and no wonder, remembering what I was like during our four-month stint of homeschooling before), we decided that we'd "try it" for a year.

So, armed with what I had learned from my previous experience, the support of a few homeschoolers I knew, and lots of prayer, I withdrew Jaden at the end of second grade, and Jerah at the end of kindergarten and began to homeschool.

So began our current homeschool journey. I won't say the last two and a half years of homeschooling haven't had their difficult days, because they definitely have, but I was better prepared for the difficulties this time. And my husband was quickly won over, too, and has become an incredible support in our schooling. We believe we're doing exactly what God would have us to do with our children, and Lord willing, we'll continue choose to homeschool through our last child's graduation—in 2020!

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Comments

  1. cindy says

    I too had a "hellish" experience the first go round homeschooling my grandson. But nothing is "clicking" this year at the public school, so we are pulling him out over the christmas break and having another go at it.

    I am glad things have worked out for you & your family. I trust with the Lord's help, I will be able to have favorable results too.

    I really enjoyed the well written blog.

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  2. says

    So great to hear your story! I have also been through a similar experience and recognized my son didn't know how to sound out words in 3rd grade. I very much agree with your worksheet mentality! It also took me almost 2 years to break out of my own curriculum mindset and to recognize learning should be fun, that isn't the exception. That when we do hands on things they learn it and remember it. I have learned with them which I think has been the best part!!! : )

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  3. Tabatha says

    I love this article! What you call the worksheet mentality, we call "flushing". Like flushing a toilet, its there for a little while and then it gets flushed out of the system. Thank you for this article, I needed to read this!

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    Joy Reply:

    @Tabatha, "Flushing!" I love it! I'm so gonna steal…er…borrow that terminology. :)

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  4. Heather Bessent says

    Hi,
    You know these kind of reasons were the very same ones that I HAD planned to homeschool even before my kids were born. Then once they got here, I decided to get my teaching degree. As a military wife, this served a couple of purposes. The first being that I felt I need to have A degree, teaching seems practical ( and I love it), and that if, heaven forbid, anything ever happened to my husband, I could get a job that would give me similar hours to my children. The other reason was that I felt that it would help me with homeschooling and that it would give me a measure of protection in our often homeschooler unfriendly society ; as in, if I am a certified teacher, then who can tell me I'm not qualified to teach my own kids.
    Anyhow, since beggining my degree program (I'm finishing up in the fall), I've added a heap of reasons to my homeschooling agenda. In all honesty, for the most part I do my practicum work with EXCELLENT teachers; teachers who only ever use worksheets because they actually make sense as part of a bigger project (often teacher-created worksheets) or because STATE STANDARDS…and the ridiculous tests. Standards are not a bad thing, but the push towards standards to the detriment of actual learning is horrible, and I know so many teachers that would just quit if they weren't so worried about their students. These teachers hate that education is being directed this way.
    Lately, my biggest reason to homeschool…I feel like it is my CIVIC DUTY. I see how the bad ideas I had about public school are generally not the teachers faults, but the fault of a system that has this huge number of children to serve, and only so much money, time, and teacher-power to do it. Public school is a social service….it was put in place, much like food stamps, WIC, head start, etc to ensure that children who would not otherwise have access to a needed resource, like education, would have access, regardless of thei income or social status….
    Yet, it has become the norm. All except the very rich, very religious, very whatever, send their children to public school….think of it as nearly everyone in the country going on food stamps; in this financial climate, we could all use help paying for groceries. Does that mean that we should all take government assistance? If we did, that would mean that there would be less of the resource to go around, so the families that really really need it, the ones that would have no food, not just a hard time paying for it, otherwise would have even less.
    That's what I see going on with education. Everyone takes advantage of the social service of public education, but relatively few give back to it. Parental involvement is HUGELY important to the success of public school education, yet it is something that is so much of a struggle, that finding ways to encourage it, work around it, etc. occupies a significant portion of teacher education.
    I've had first hand experience with how useless half day kindergarten programs are in our standards driven education climate. However, few districts offer full day kindergarten, because it would require school districts hiring more teachers, which they cannot afford to do. Instead, some of these districts have an optionl TUITION-based full day program. This means that families with more resources have the option for full day kindergarten, while borderline-income families who do not qualify for further govt. assistance fall in the cracks. In other words, the kids that are likely to need that extra time the most, are less likely to get it.
    However, if everyone who COULD home school, private school etc. were to take their kids out of public school, there would be more resources left over for the children whose parents are either truly unable or unwilling to provide them with quality education. If we did this, we would not only know that the most needy kids in this country would have the benefit of more school resources, lower student teacher ratios etc., but we would know that our own childrens' education are not going to suffer because of the amount of energy and resources that are pushed into those other children during the school day.
    As I said, the majority of the teachers I have worked with are wonderful teachers. While there have been exceptions, for the most part, the poor teaching/learning practices I have seen have been either a result of standardized testing driven curriculum or the lack of time/money resources. Even in the case of the standardized testing push, with less students, teachers would be able to counter those negative effects, because they would have more class time to devote to the individual needs of each student.
    My mother in law thinks I am saying this to justify my own decision. Yet my decision was already made, this just adds conviction that it is not a self-centered choice. Because I am able to teach my own children (we can make due on one income, I have my health, etc.) I feel that it is my DUTY to my children and the other children in this country, so that they can all get quality educations.
    Of course I have many, many personal reasons for wanting to be the one to teach my own children, but I feel like those ar emore specific to my situation, faith, and child-rearing ideals. In my opinion, this other reason applies to all of us, regardless of our ideals.

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  5. Mary says

    I took my son out because he was in a class for troubled kids(He is high yield autistic)and it has been a constant struggle and fight to get him to learn anything. We are 3 years into this and he is still working on middle school math & science at 16yrs old. I've about decided to simply make sure he can pass the GED and stop worrying about it. Oh by the way, no one want's to have him in their homeschool group because he must be monitored 24/7 unlike typical kid's his age. The first time he did something socially unacceptable at the church we did attend's youth group they banned him, we tried another church and the same thing happened. We fully explained his disability to them and they said he would be monitored but he was not. It is really, really lonely when you have special needs children.(our 2nd child is also autistic)

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  6. Becky Randles says

    I have just completed my 23rd year of homeschooling and I have to tell you that I made that decision one year at a time. I have 4 children ages 28 to 11. None of them were sit in your seat learners and they would have had a rough time in a public school setting. We had some very rough years and we prayed together a lot. But, I want to encourage you to keep on. My children are now, my son 28 is a survival specialist in the USAF, my daughter 26 is a nurse anethetist, my daughter 22 just graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Accounting, and my youngest daughter is 11 and we are still homeschooling. I would not give anything for the time I had with my children even though sometimes it was very hard on all of us. The best advice I have after 23 years is be flexible and just let them learn.

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