“Would you consider homeschooling our children?” my public school teacher husband asked with raised eyebrows and a curious smile. He had just finished his second year of teaching middle school. My jaw dropped. Thoughts began to swirl in my mind.
Wait! We have one child; he’s only a year old. And, I LOVE my job.
I was taken back by my husband Mike’s request. Thoughts continued to rattle in my head.
I don’t have what it takes to homeschool? And, what about socialization? There’s no way.
As an early childhood educator, I couldn’t fathom teaching anything above second grade. In addition, I surely didn’t want to ruin our son’s or any future children’s lives. Yet, there was a speck of inquisitiveness in my heart. Mike’s question spurred me to begin a quest — several years of research, in fact. I borrowed books from the library, visited local homeschool support groups, and read statistics. If the Bastian family took on home education, the decision would be made based on evidence and facts. Mike and I were educators. We had educational philosophies.
When a Public School Teacher Chooses to Homeschool
It’s been twenty-eight years since Mike made his initial request. With twenty-four years of memories and three (so far) graduates, deciding to homeschool our children—now eight of them—has been one of the best decisions we’ve made. Our knowledge and understanding of education has been transformed, turned upside down. I’m grateful.
Education doesn’t happen on a bell schedule. Learning happens 24-7. When we build clay sculptures or work challenging math problems, we don’t have to worry about our progress being interrupted by ringing bells. My children are free to work until they feel their creations are finished, each crease smoothed and kiln ready. And, if one of our learners wants to complete six math lessons in one morning or read a book all afternoon, there’s no fear that he or she will be ridiculed or that momentum and personal motivation will be deflated for lack of time.
Mike has worked as a public school teacher, teaching American history, at the same school, for thirty years. Generally, he arrives home at 4:30 each day. One particular day, as soon as he walked through the front door, I unloaded my woes for the day (I know, not exactly the welcome home band he deserved).
“He hasn’t moved from the couch all afternoon!” I clamored.
“What’s he been doing?” Mike questioned.
“He’s been reading Treasure Island. He didn’t finish his math.” I added.
Mike looked at me and smiled, “Well, I would say that’s a productive afternoon.”
Learning happens; it may not look like the traditional schedule segmented by the bells and crowded hallways most people associate with education. Learning at home is real and relational, pouring from life experiences and personal interests. We’re a family. We live and learn together on our timeframe. I’m grateful.
Education doesn’t happen on set developmental schedules. Contrary to the scope and sequence lectures I listened to in college, our children didn’t always master skills when a timetable said they would. I valued knowing when children might balance on a beam, draw a stick figure, or differentiate rhyming words, but I also appreciated each child’s individual developmental schedule. Again, the scope and sequence guided me; even alerted me to where I might need to be concerned, but it didn’t undermine the unique, personal growth of each of our children.
I remember when our oldest turned six. Chronologically he was a first grader but his math abilities were astounding. He loved numbers. Thankfully, we chose to homeschool. He could progress at his pace. Often we would sit at the kitchen table, side-by-side, and work on math. He’d beg me to give him oral word problems with regrouping and he’d solve them in his head. One day he looked over at me, eyes pleading, “Mom, teach me to add fractions.” The early childhood educator in me thought: you’re not supposed to learn that until next year. Five seconds later, reality hit. We were homeschooling; he could learn to add fractions. And, he did! In fact, within fifteen minutes of sitting together, using measuring cups and fraction circles, he mastered adding like denominators and we moved on to addition with unlike denominators. We’re a family. We live and learn together on our timeframe. I’m grateful!
Education is not a one-size-fits-all process. Learning at home, individuality can be celebrated and encouraged. Our children all have unique interests and have been gifted with different strengths. Some learn better with audio resources, others need experiences and real-life learning opportunities. We’ve discovered that interests fuel motivation.
One of our learners wanted to learn about nurses. I started with what I knew: Florence Nightingale. Thankfully, I located a book about Florence on our home library shelves and handed it to my daughter. She immediately engaged with the content. I knew this would not be a passing interest and I began to search online for more books. Found! I promptly placed an order. The books arrived and with each book my daughter read, she gained more knowledge about how individuals who changed nursing history. One biography launched an independent study.
Another daughter wrestled with written math. However, her entrepreneurial mind fueled her motivation and math became applicable through the profit-loss experiences with her bank account. Our daughter continued her gainful small business for several years, honing her communication skills and working to develop emotional intelligence. In the homeschool setting, our daughter achieved concept mastery through meaningful opportunities and avoided the comparison and anxiety which often accompanies learning differences. Today, she is intentional about helping people be the best they can be as they work from their strengths. She is working toward a degree in human resources.
When Mike and I said yes to home education decades ago, neither of us understood the breadth or depth of the possibilities available to us or to our children. We couldn’t. What we did know, however, was that we didn’t want our children’s learning to be dependent on bell schedules, developmental timetables, or academic tracks. We wanted to give our children the freedom to exceed grade level and retain a love of learning. In addition, we wanted our children to have time to serve, care and learn for other people—learning all the while—how to solve problems and pursue personal development. This has indeed happened and twenty-four years later, we continue to expand our understanding of what education is and how it best takes place.
We’re a family. We live and learn together. I’m grateful!
Cheryl Bastian began her teaching career by making worksheets for her brothers. Those days evolved into tutoring students while in high school, majoring in early childhood education, and most importantly homeschooling eight children—ages twenty-eight to three—for the last twenty-four years. As a magazine columnist, author, and speaker, Cheryl enthusiastically encourages parents to be intentional, real, and relational as they aspire to raise lifelong learners. Her resources are available at Celebrate Simple.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.