Home Is Where Our School Is

You are here

Home Is Where Our School Is

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


As I sipped my morning cup of coffee, I noticed the neighborhood children waiting at the bus stop. Several had been at my house yesterday playing, and I knew them well. My attention was diverted by the sound of footsteps pattering down the hall. Megan, my 6-year-old daughter, appeared, still in a pink nightgown and holding her favorite teddy bear. She smiled a sleepy grin. "Hi, Mommy! What are we going to do today?" she asked. Through the window we could see the bus pull up, and we watched the kids climbing the steps.

"Well, today we are going to do some subtraction, study about the Statue of Liberty and learn to make cursive Bs," I said. "Then we will go to the pioneer village and look at that water wheel you were interested in, for starters."

"Yeah!" Megan squealed. She loves to see how things work and draw pictures of her interests.

"Also you have Scouts this afternoon, so we need to make sure all your papers are filled out for your new badge."

"Alicia and I both get our badges today," she said. The bus pulled away with a dull roar as 3-year-old Mariah entered, blonde hair tousled from sleep. "Good morning, Mariah!" said Megan, bending to kiss her sister's cheek. They always hug each other tightly in the morning.

"Good morning, Megan!" she replied sleepily, as they both climbed up to the dining room table for eggs, toast and juice.

I sat down, looking at my two little girls, so cheerful, talking excitedly about the day's events. A sense of deep fulfillment settled over me as I sipped my coffee. My eyes looked to the refrigerator where two pictures hung with homemade magnets. One was by Mariah, a picture of colorful circles in rainbow colors. She had done it yesterday during art time. The other was a picture of a smiling lady. Below it read, "To the best teacher in the hole world--my Mommy." Spelling error aside, it melted my heart.

A Difficult Decision

Yes, I am the teacher in our home. The decision didn't come easily. I first began looking into home education when I noticed Megan seemed to excel in reading. At 3, she was sounding out letters and reading small words. Her attention span was incredibly long, and she enjoyed listening to adult conversations. I would take her to the YMCA and put her in the age appropriate nursery when I would exercise, only to find her with the 6- and 7-year-old children, building complex Lego sculptures and conversing on their level. I noticed she was bored with children her own age. Although she would play with them, it was only for short periods of time before she would do something on her own. This remained a constant in her life.

Visiting Schools

The summer before she was scheduled to start school, I visited 11 schools. We walked around and observed the classrooms. It was soon apparent that she would be bored in her age-appropriate classes. She was interested in third-grade reading, although in a few areas, including math, she was about average. I feared her exceptional talents would be suppressed in a normal classroom, while she would never get the extra attention she needed in mathematics. In an average classroom of 30, a teacher has to divide her time to all fairly. I knew Megan's strengths and weaknesses better than anyone, and I thought I could focus on them better without holding her back in language arts and spatial abilities.

Are you thinking of home education? An ever-increasing number of families are choosing to home school their children each year. What are the benefits? Are there pitfalls? Faced with these same questions last year, I began to search for the answers.

Finding Facts

First, the facts I uncovered were overwhelmingly positive. I had always thought that home education was something new, developed in these modern days out of fear and peer pressure concerns on the part of parents. However, I found that home education has been going on a long time, and in fact, has provided society with famous names such as Thomas Edison, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Daniel Webster and Albert Einstein, just to name a few.

History shows that home schooling, when done correctly, has tremendous advantages. The Middle Tennessee Home Education Association (MTHEA) revealed that home-educated children perform at a 75 to 95 percent average on nationally recognized achievement tests. They attribute this to the one-on-one attention the child receives. The child can learn at his or her own pace until a subject is mastered, rather than working at the rate of the slowest or most proficient child in a classroom. Just as I envisioned, strengths and weaknesses can be assessed and addressed at a personal level. The association further reinforced my decision by pointing out that the teaching parent can control distractions in the environment and create an efficient learning forum.

I considered that because parental values and ideas are the primary daily influence, these would become the standard of excellence Megan would strive for, rather than the group values of her peers. A secure and stable home allows for a stability and maturity to develop in her that could become lost in a large group setting. I thought that when expectations are based on a group, rather than an individual, something could easily be overlooked. According to the MTHEA, the result will typically produce self-confident young people with strong family ties. In addition, due to exceptionally high SAT scores of recent years, prestigious universities and colleges are beginning to recognize home schoolers as desirable candidates. With all these statistics in mind, there were still many questions to ask myself before I began.

Tough Questions

Do I have the patience to teach my child at home? Most states have mandates on the time required to teach at home. I had to be willing to sit down and take time with my child. I reminded myself that this is her education. I had to take it seriously, to work with her, not just try to get it over and get on with the day. I had to consider it my job to teach her. Experts will tell you that home schooling should never be thought of as the easy way out.

In fact, one should strongly assess one's reasons for wanting to home school. It should never be done out of fear or anger at a system, but rather because you want the best education for your child and feel you can provide it.

If you feel you lack the ability, patience, discipline and character to teach your own children, don't home school. I've seen many parents make the mistake of expecting too much or too little from their children. Those who expect too much can set up their children for failure by criticism, setting the tone for years of frustration and anger in the child. Those who expect too little make excuses for less than the best effort from the child, teaching them to be lazy and sloppy. A balance is difficult to strike and takes careful, loving patience and deep thought. Pray about it, and ask God to recognize your strengths and limitations. Each person must honestly assess whether he or she is up for the job.

Setting the Schedule

Opinions will vary on this, but I personally chose strict schedules for my daughter's schooling. We begin promptly at 8 a.m. and go until she is finished for the day. Of course, like any school, we break for physical education and lunch. The reason I chose strict scheduling rather than open hours was I thought she needed to learn now that schedules are part of living. Going to work, getting to activities, meeting deadlines, all require life schedules.

This doesn't work for everyone. Some choose two hours in the morning, a field trip midday, two more hours of class. This may work better for families with small children who take naps, leaving the optimum school sessions for those times. Another benefit of a flexible schedule is allowing both parents to get involved. Still, as your children become older, I recommend getting them into consistent scheduling. It will make transition into college and the workplace much smoother.

Socialization Concerns

One of the chief concerns typically is socialization. This worried me originally, but I found it needn't be a problem. There are many opportunities for social interaction, and more are becoming available all the time. With home education on the rise, you can probably find out about home school activities in your area through your umbrella school, which is the school you register under, or home school support network. Some areas even offer co-ops with other home school parents. Sports leagues, camps, field trips, proms, graduation ceremonies, teen banquets and retreats are becoming available. The only difference is you, the parent, know with whom your kids are socializing.

Check into clubs and civic organizations. Don't forget your church, library, community theater, Scouts and 4-H programs. We were involved this year in all the above, as well as weekly nursing home visits. This diversity teaches children to appreciate all ages and facets of life.

If you have tried to locate these possibilities with no success, then it is up to you to initiate it. Don't be afraid to lead a Scout troop, organize your own field trips, start a church play group or visit other home schoolers. Once a week, we take a field trip. Get a phone book and start making calls from A to Z. Does your area have an advertising agency, fire department, post office, deli? Call them, and explain you have a home schooled child who would like to learn all about their job. I found that 100 percent of businesses we asked were willing to show us around their workplace.

Remember that balance is the key. Know your kids' playmates and make sure their values are similar to yours. But do not put them in a plastic bubble. Your children will need to learn to deal with many kinds of people as they take their place in society.

Where to Begin

OK, now you know some pitfalls and positives. If you still want to proceed, where do you begin? Look up the Home School Legal Defense Association at www.hslda.org. This group provides home schooling requirements for different states. I am reciting the requirements for the state of Tennessee below, but your state may be different.

Next, request an information packet of your state's rules from the state education department. This should include names of schools that you can register with that will then be legally responsible for keeping your child's transcripts and attendance records. I chose a private, church-related school. If you choose that option, be sure the religious school's beliefs won't interfere with your own.

The private school route allows me to tailor my child's curriculum, rather than forcing me to go along with the public school that requires education in homosexual lifestyles and evolution. I also wanted Bible to be an important part of the curriculum. And my daughter is just 6, but reads on a fourth-grade level. The private church umbrella school allows me to choose her needs at her level.

Once you register under your choice of school, you will be told what records, attendance reports and standardized testing are required. Be sure to submit your curriculum.

Worried about leaving something out? So was I. Gather a list of resources and study them. I recommend Robin Scarlata's book "What Your Child Needs to Know When." You can find this at www.familychristianacademy.com. Also, listed below are several home school curriculum suppliers. You can order a pre-designed curriculum from them, or tailor your own program from several. Experience is the great teacher, and you probably will find yourself overbuying teaching materials the first year. As time goes on, you will learn what works for you. I can recommend only what I have used and has worked well for me. Those include: Horizons Math from Alpha Omega; language arts and the Geography Songs from Sing, Spell, Read and Write; and art selections, history and health from A Beka.

That is it. Take a deep breath, prepare your weekly schedule and begin. It has been worth it for me. The time I have teaching my children has been a rare and precious gift. As I watch their minds open to new skills, understanding and knowledge, the rewards come back to me through the love and excitement in their eyes.

Home-schooling Resources

There are a lot of valuable resources on the Internet. Put your search engine on home school and see what you find. Here are a few I have used:

You might also be interested in...

Our children need perseverance whether they are tending a garden, learning to...