Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Homeschooling High School- part 1 - updated edition

 I originally posted this when my kids were in middle school and beginning high school - it's been a few years and an update is in order!

After the years of cuteness, fieldtrips, and educational material where I know all the answers to all the questions, came something else....

In much of the curriculum we have used there has been a definite shift in about the 6th or 7th grade.  Reading workbooks are now entitled ‘Literature’  Math went from long multiplication to fractions to integers to algebra.  The science book still has colorful pictures, but it also has experiments and science fair projects and is as thick as a few of my old college textbooks.  Days that were spent on fieldtrips to Dawes feeding the ducks, became hours that we could not afford to take off.  Time with my girlfriends while the kids played in the park became time with the kids one on one while we studied some long forgotten (to me) concept.  My patience melted under the added pressure of the tough topic.  In short, homeschooling became much harder.   

Up to this point homeschooling had been relatively easy.   Don’t get me wrong, my children didn’t leap joyfully from their beds asking to work on long multiplication while reading historical literature and eating whole organic homemade bread.   BUT, they were able to complete their lessons in a few hours each day, play for hours uninterrupted, pursue any topic which caught their interest,  help with a myriad of chores, and participate in many a field trip or activity.   

About two years ago, in April-ish – I began to purchase curriculum for my oldest and as I began to plan the coming year I realized that he was going to have a much larger scope of work.  So I called and asked a good friend some hard questions.

Is all middle school and high school curriculum this hard?

‘Yes, middle school is preparing your child for high school.  High school is preparing your child for college.  You certainly can take easier classes in middle school, but those lead to easier high school classes and perhaps not being able to go to college.  It could also lead to taking a year or two of remedial classes at the local community college.’  That was not what I wanted to hear.  I really wanted to hear that there were some super easy fun curriculum for Calculus that could miraculously teach advanced math is 20 minutes a day.  Sort of unrealistic, I know.

**Update- my miracle curriculum was not actually a curriculum, it was a tutor.  It seemed counter intuitive to hire a tutor (wouldn't that just take more time?) but in reality, it helped that they had someone who was a professional math teacher who could explain math in many different ways.  This sped up the time they spent on any one lesson and helped us best use our time.  I also believe this led to a more thorough understanding of the concepts covered than a "teacher in a box"  DVD's or online lessons would have provided for us.  We also utilized our co-op classes to the fullest.  Because the high school teachers were so very good at our co-op, it reduced the overall stress on me, and let me be mom!**

What if I don’t feel comfortable teaching it or don’t understand it?

‘You may not understand it, that’s ok. There are a lot of ways around that.  You can use an online school, a correspondence course, courses on DVD’s.  You can hire a tutor, enroll in a co-op class… there are a number of things that you can do to achieve a high quality education for your student, you just have to be willing to put in the leg work to find it and finance it.’

**Update - again I can't say enough good things about our co-op teachers.  Yes, classes cost money, but they were well worth the time.  We also used the local community college to achieve some of our high school requirements.  Because my children were about to test into these classes at about 15 years old, they were able to complete much of their "high school" work online via the community college and receive both high school and college credits!  Because the classes were online, they allowed for parental supervision and support and discussion of controversial ideas with parents before they ever had to discuss them with a professor.  

Will we have time to do fun things? 

‘Definitely, but they will have to be things that really matter to your teen.  You won’t have time to do every fun thing, but they will have time to pursue the things that matter to them.’  I have also found this is also true.  As my oldest got older he stopped wanting to participate in certain activities, but thrived in other areas.  We dropped band, and he committed to apply himself diligently to his lessons so that he could play football.   My second oldest dropped sports and excelled in band, piano and is now in a local theater production.   He also committed to complete his school work before participating in these extra activities.

**Update - Watch out for dropping too much too soon.  One child dropped everything in pursuit of a job, but really he still needed to be participating here and there with friends.  Later, he regretted his decision, even though he was successful at work.  It is important to edit, but don't edit out all the activities where you see your friends.  Find a way to give credits for those activities so that you can fee that you are having fun and accomplishing something at the same time.  Some kids are anxious to grow up - weren't we all??  But keep in mind you only get to be a kids once, so encourage them to slow down a little bit and worry about work when they are a bit older. **

Will we have time for chores?

‘Maybe.  It depends on how you structure your day.  You need to prioritize.  What is more important, having well educated kids, or, having a manicured lawn?  Think about the things that they are involved in, are they more, less or equally important to their education?  At this stage of life they are basically working a full time job to complete their school work. Whatever is added on top of that needs to make sense for their lives.’

**Update - In our home this practically looked like house cleaning about one day per week, so the cleanliness of the home depended on the day you visited.  Teens are still growing and need time to rest, keep that in mind when planning around school work, friend time and perhaps their part time job.  I found that I sometimes felt like the maid!**

What about friends?

‘Teens need a good bit of hang out time.  They have their own friendships and they want to hang out with their friends just like you want to hang out with yours.  As far as friends for you,  make time to be away from your kids to have time with your friends.  Your students should have a schedule so that they can be left alone, away from you, and still complete their work.’

**Update - Friends are an interesting creature in high school.  Some kids have dramatic shifts in priorities and personalities, don't be surprised if your 7th and 8th grade friends, or even freshman and sophomore friends, look very different with your junior and senior high friends.  By this time, you have probably already found a "good" group of friends, just be watchful.  Sometimes even "good" kids make very bad decisions, become rebellious, and abandon their faith in high school. 
For us it was also a good idea to associate with groups that shared our beliefs (more than just in the name) and we avoided groups that were in controversy or had unstable leadership.   We later realized just how much these choices had protected our kids from some very bad influences.**

What if my kids don’t really want to be home educated, complete their work, or drop extraneous activities?

‘Listen to your teen.  They know their lives, they know their likes, they know their dislikes and sometimes they have a unique perspective on a situation that you have not seen.  That being said, you are still the parent, not the friend, and sometimes you may spend an hour explaining your reasoning and suggesting a path, and they still won’t agree with you.  There are some things that are a non starter – like not completing school work, or not being home educated, but there are other things that could go either way – let your student make as many of these decisions as you can.’

If I could do one thing differently to prepare for homeschooling through high school, I would…..

The oldest kid is always the test kid.  When I realized how difficult some of the work would be we withdrew from many activities so that he could be at home studying.  As a result my younger two were also at home more.  This at home time became a more structured routine and gave them some very good study habits.  If I could do one thing differently, I would have participated in fewer extra activities and field trips (unless they fit into the preordained afternoon and evening free time) when my oldest was in the 4th and 5th grades and would have more carefully guarded the hours each day when school work needed to be completed.  The transition from elementary work to middle school work was much smoother for my middle and youngest sons because they had this structure in place already.

**Update  - no season is forever, as my kids got older and better at completing school, we were able to re-engage in LOTS of field trips and other activities, but not so many recurring activities.  We stuck with our co-op, but we dropped weekly music and karate lessons (we were blessed to be able to incorporate these into our co-op) This eliminated time out and travel time three days a week.**

The other reason I think I was so game to blow off a school day and make it up later was because my friends would be at the events.  I showed my children that I valued my fun social time more that I valued their school work.  This was not intentional, but in all honestly there were times when I should have said no, but instead I said yes.

**Update - I regret no field trips, no snow days, and no fun outside play!  I do regret sleeping in  some days, but other than that, those fun days made for the best memories.  You really can't mess them up until they are in middle school.  I encourage parents to focus on FUN in history and science, and on FUNdamentals in Language Arts and Math until their child is in the 4th or 5th grade.  Once you hit middle school there will be plenty of time for staying home and studying! Remember - they are only young once!**

Finally, I would suggest that parents who are dedicated to homeschooling surround themselves with like minded people.  So many homeschooling families stop homeschooling when their kids get to be a certain age.  My calling to home educate my children is something that isn’t a passing phase, it is a commitment.  When parents view their dedication to home education as a calling and not a choice, the option of not homeschooling is taken off the table and instead of focusing on issues you tend to focus on finding solutions.   

Support is out there for parents who want to home school through high school, but it can be difficult to find since so many families have planned from the start to home school only through the 5th or 6th grade.  Looking at an old roster I note that 11 out of 31 families, fully 1/3, have placed their children into the public schools.  I am not citing this to criticize families for their choice and I understand that God’s calling in my life is not necessarily the calling for their lives.  This post isn't an attack on any person who decides to place their children in public schools.  I point this out only to illustrate how important it is to surround yourself with families who share and support your homeschooling goals, otherwise you may not reach them. 

I have been blessed to have many ladies in my life who have home educated a child through high school, and I hope that I can be an encouragement to others who also want to complete this journey.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Pit

"Why not?!?!"

She was a little bit angry with me.  As if her raised voice and scowl weren't enough of a reminder, she punctuated her syllables with her hand on the table top in frustration.  Frustration that I had not caused, but also had refused to make my issue.  Rather than engage her, I instructed her to speak with the person who offended her and told her I could not defend myself against the second hand statements she presented.  "Why not?!?!" was her question and quite a question she posed.  Why, would I not defend myself against false, second hand, gossip given statements?  Why would I not meet with someone to "set the record straight"? Why could I not even engage in this non-discussion?  Because many years ago I made a promise to my Savior that if he would drag my sorry carcass out of the stinking pit I had gotten into, I would NEVER crawl back into it again. 

Sin hurts.  It is designed to maim, kill, and destroy us.  Even faithful Christians can fall into sin, and not just a little sin, but great big ugly stinking sin.  Take Galatians for example.
Galatians 6:1
Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Another version says if someone is "overcome" by sin. I think "caught" is a more vivid verb here.  I once heard a teacher describe this an an animal caught in a snare.  No animal likes to be caught and will thrash around trying to break free.  More often than not all that thrashing just makes a bigger mess, and a worse wound.  Don't miss the warning here - those who are spiritual - those who are above reproach, they are the ones to restore him, but there is the chance that even they could fall into sin.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it
Here again this speaks to the believer, sin is a real thing, even when you think you stand firm, you could be falling down. 

My sin was awful, I thought I was standing - really I was falling.  I thought I could get out of the pit, in truth I made it much worse.  Was I the only sinner that day, was I single-handedly responsible for the outcome of the actions of a group?  No, I was not.  But, I was solely responsible for my own actions and that was what Jesus wanted to talk to me about.  In the midst of the trouble, I wanted to talk about everyone else's issue "But she did this, Lord"  and "That one said this, they lied!"  and so on, but the more I pointed at others, the more the Lord pointed back at me.

I felt wretched, miserable, diseased, ill used and forgotten.  It took that low pit for me to look up.  Jesus was waiting, and as soon as I repented and began to be obedient to him, He pulled me out of the pit and put my feet back on solid ground.  If you've ever had a hard fall, and I pray that you do not, you will know the freedom that I experienced.  Even though there were things I had to take care of, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  I was not only able to walk forward, but completely willing and happy to walk forward in faith.  This was about 7 years ago, and while I can't say I have been perfect since that time, I can say that I was fully delivered out of this particular area of sin in my life.

A few years ago I got a text from a very dear friend who wrote:
"Can I just encourage you that your obedience to not gossip ever is such a blessing to me.  I have conversations in which people tell me things about themselves that make me think "huh, Amanda never mentioned this when we talked about this." and I'm encouraged.  Good work, sister."  
What a blessing, what a beautiful good word to be spoken over my life.  What a wonder that someone could be pulled out of a pit, washed off, covered in grace, so much so that these words would be spoken of them.  I am truly blessed.

The downside of being pulled out of a pit is that in realizing that you were in the pit, and realizing that if you never want to go back, you have to then become obedient to what the Lord wants from your life, which is sometimes a difficult path to walk.  To top it all off,  it seems our Savior wants to use our pit experiences to encourage help others.  He pulls us out of a pit so that we can tell others that there is a Savior who is familiar with pulling people out of pits!

So, when someone came to me with a complaint about another, I asked them to stop, and go to the one who had offended them.  When another loudly and repeatedly, shamefully, treated me and others around me - we tried to explain the Savior, and then we taught Matthew 18, and when they were still brash and unrepentant, threatening, and rude - we followed Matthew 18 to it's conclusion, with as much love, patience and with an open door should they ever want to return.

Recently someone sent me an email stating they had been "made aware" (aka been party to gossip) of some things and believed them and as such I would be excluded from their fellowship. They further stated I was welcome to sit down and "discuss" this with them.  (I'm not sure how someone could possibly discuss gossip without being a gossip... but I digress)

When I refused, they spread their rumors to others, saying I had unreasonably refused them, making intimation that there was "more to the story" and that I had somehow personally wronged them.

To sum up - First, I lived in a pit, then -once out of the pit I repeatedly had those around me who wanted to live in a pit of their own, and my Savior, having pulled me out of a pit, bids me to go and encourage them that He can also pull them out of a pit.  Which sometimes resulted in their general scorn and dislike, which was then gossiped about (cause they never got out of their pit)  bringing even more to slander against me, even to my friends.

What does my Savior say about all this?
Luke 6:22-23
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
I am blessed.  Free from the pit, washed clean, placed in a place of honor, given a new name, a new mind, a new spirit.  I get to live from victory to victory.  I no longer stink of the pit, I no longer thrash about like a trapped animal.  I stand, because He is able to make me stand.  I am one with Christ, set free, no longer a slave but an heir to the kingdom.


PS - having excluded every name and circumstance from this post, if you know EXACTLY what I am talking about... someone in a pit has reached out to you! RUN away from the pit.  It is terrible, take my word for it, don't get into the pit.