Train Up A Child

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6

I must admit that I'm the sort of person who likes to have all her ducks in a row - sometimes well in advance of actually needing them in a row.  Such was the case in deciding to home school our children.

My husband and I married in 1984.  Since my husband was on active duty in the U.S. Navy, we would spend months at a time apart from each other.  (Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of biology knows that this is not conducive to starting a family.)  But when my husband was finally back on shore-duty nothing seemed to be happening either.  The years that followed were filled with frustration and tears, but through it all a flicker of hope always remained.  I couldn't begin to count the number of conversations we had about the children we longed for so desperately.  And one thing became obvious fairly quickly - when we were finally blessed with children they would be home schooled.

No, I wasn't a bored housewife looking for a way to fill my days - far from it.  I had been working full-time for years.  (In fact, I had no idea how we'd ever be able to afford to live without my salary if I became a stay-at-home mom, but we'd leave that in God's hands - along with our future children.)  Our main impetus for wanting to home school was the moral and academic decline we saw in schools all across the country.  I don't think I could ever justify praying and trusting God for a child for more than ten years only to relinquish that child to an education system that would teach him things contrary to our beliefs - in some cases teaching that our beliefs are inherently wrong and divisive.

After fourteen years of marriage, lots of soul searching and even more praying, I was ready to accept what seemed to be the obvious - God was not going to give us children.  Little did I know that as I sat on our bed, tears running down my face, telling God that if that was His will then I would live with it, I was already carrying our child.  I didn't find out until about two weeks later, and when I did shock set in rather quickly.

In the months that followed we were plunged into the reality at hand - we were soon going to be the parents of a little boy.  The months seemed to fly by and stand still at the same time.  Doctor's visits were blessedly uneventful.  Both the baby and I were healthy and normal.  Then the day finally came.  I was admitted to the hospital, labor was induced, and 15 hours later I was holding our son.  All the heartache of the previous 14 years of trying to conceive melted as I looked into his baby blue eyes.

The next few weeks are still a blur brought on by sleep deprivation.  But as the fog lifted and we began finding our new roles as a family rather than a couple, I started thinking about home schooling again.  By this time I had been out of the work force for about two years, so our lifestyle had been adjusted to fit one income.  I was going to be a stay-at-home mom just like I'd always dreamed of being, so I had to start lining up those ducks again for the day when we would start our son's education.

It wasn't until after our son's second birthday that I realized that I was going to have to start looking into our home schooling options in earnest.  That's when it started becoming obvious that this kid's brain was on the fast track and we were going to have to scramble to keep up with him.  My first foray into home school curriculum was a visit to eBay and the purchase of a CD-Rom which contained a complete pre-school curriculum.  After the first day he wouldn't let me stop teaching him after we had gone over the day's work.  A weeks work went by in a day and I was soon back on eBay looking for kindergarten curriculum.  We went through a full kindergarten curriculum in about six weeks - before his third birthday.  I often laughed at the thought of him joining a kindergarten class filled with 6 year olds.  There was no way he could be accommodated by the public school.

Around this time I had learned of a program out of one of the school districts in another part of the state that was offering “home school” help.  They touted the program as being tailor made for parents with exceptional children.  They would provide a computer, full curriculum, and the help of a certified teacher.  I downloaded the forms, filled them out and mailed them in.  Several weeks later I received a call from a very incredulous individual asking me if I had made a mistake when filling in our son's birth date.  I assured him I had not and that our son was indeed going to be on a first grade level.  He summarily dismissed me, saying that our son was too young to be eligible for the program.  So much for wanting to help out parents with exceptional children.

The search then began for elementary curriculum and that's when the confusion and headaches set in.  The results of an internet search was overwhelming.  How on earth could I figure out what would be best for our son, not to mention our budget.  Full curriculum packages could run into the hundreds, not including any support material you might need for experiments and other hands-on activities.  Not only was the price of these rather steep, I couldn't justify spending so much money on something that our son - judging by past experience - would just zip right through.  So it was back to the internet to check out other options.

I soon learned that there were a number of home schooling styles; everything from a structured schooling environment that mirrors a public school to un-schooling which is completely child led and has no structure at all.  Surely somewhere between the two there had to be a solution for us.  During this time I was not only learning about home schooling methods and curriculum but I was learning about our son's learning style as well.

Initially, for “first grade,” I opted for a smorgasbord of materials for our son.  “How To Tutor” by Sam Blumfeld covered phonics, math, and how to guide a young mind through just about any other subject as well.  I also picked up some used books for science and American Heritage studies.  There were also a number of internet sites offering a variety of materials for Biblical studies as well.

During the months that followed our son and I both learned a lot, but I think I learned the most - about what our home school is and is not.  I also began to realize more clearly that our son's personality type would make him a prime candidate for being labeled with ADD/ADHD if he were in fact put in a public school setting.  (see Exactly Who God Made You)

After about three months we had exhausted the science and American Heritage texts and I wasn't about to shell out more money for more textbooks.  A little more digging into home schooling methods was in order.  I came across the Charlotte Mason method of schooling.  She was a pioneer in the home schooling movement in England and her methods are still alive and well and being practiced in our home - with some modifications for our son's learning style, his acceleration, and our family's values.  While this method is excellent and very budget friendly since much of your texts can be found either in the library or online for free, because of my memory problems (see Healing Update) I found that I needed more structure and guidance than I was finding with this method.

After about 3 weeks of schooling the Charlotte Mason way, I realized that it just wasn't working for us.  My son is a very hands-on, active sort of kid, so sitting still and listening to me read to him for a couple hours a day just wasn't cutting it.  We were both getting very frustrated.  I found myself back on the internet looking for something that could give me structure and give our son the hands-on learning he needs.  Bleary eyed and oh, so tired, I finally came across something that wouldn't break our bank account, wouldn't limit our son to one grade level at a time, and would give him the interaction he needs.  We're going to be trying the Weaver curriculum, published by Alpha Omega.

As you may have noticed, home schooling is not a cut and dry issue.  Each home schooling family has to find what works best for their situation.  No two children are alike.  Each one must be nurtured and educated according to his, or her, own personality and learning style.  Each parent must invest the time and energy to find the best solution for their precious children so they can "train up a child in the way he should go."

It hasn't been easy, and I'm sure we'll have more seasons of change and adjustment, but one thing will stay exciting - seeing the thrill of discovery in our son's eyes every time he grasps a new concept.  That makes it all worth while!

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