home education

Should I Homeschool My Kids?

Ah, what a question! If you’ve landed here, you’ve considered homeschooling to some extent and I’m so glad you’ve popped by. Today I’m sharing with you the story of my dear friend, Tiffany. By God’s kindness I ran into her at a Chick Fil A during our first winter living in the Midwest. I could pick her southern accent out from across the restaurant - I felt a sense of kindred spirits almost immediately. Today she is a dear and treasured friend, who feels more like family. Her daily pursuit of Christ is a constant encouragement to me. She shares how, as a former teacher, she learned to embrace the idea of homeschooling as the Lord led - and let go of the pressures a lot of us often ask ourselves. I think you will be encouraged!


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Hi, I’m Tiffany..

and I have a hybrid home! Seriously, when Lily first messaged me with the name and inspiration behind this lovely space I thought, ‘Nailed it!’ It’s me. It’s most of the mamas I know trying to live this life well.

My husband and I have been married for almost 14 years and we have three kids. Once upon a time, I was a teacher. I taught 1st and 3rd grades in a public school stateside and on a military base overseas. My husband and I both attended public schools growing up and believed we could educate and disciple our children by allowing them to do the same. If I’m being totally honest, we felt like parochial schools and homeschooling sheltered children too much and we’d have to be in a really bad school system to entertain either idea. Oh boy! “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

Fast forward a few years and we started the journey of public school with our children. My son attended a preschool, then our public half-day kindergarten, and then first grade. I loved it, he loved it—we were feeling great in our schooling decision. Second grade was…different. There were red flags with his attitude, behavior, spiritual growth, peers, teacher, and academic performance. He would come home almost every afternoon and have a complete meltdown. He was a hot mess and it made me sad and miserable. Looking back now I can say that I was losing his heart! There just wasn’t enough time after school and activities to nurture and train him. We were all struggling—it was definitely affecting our entire family. 

The worst part was I felt stuck. How could I carve out more time with him when we had made the decision to send him to public school? It was all or nothing right? I was NOT like my wonderful, creative, super-smart friend with endless patience who homeschooled her boys while going for hikes in the sun and snow!

Of course, the Lord was orchestrating His perfect plan. A couple of years earlier I met Lily at Chick-Fil-A. We were both Southern girls living in the Midwest and we both had three small kids. Oh, and we look a little bit like sisters. She homeschooled and I didn’t. We exchanged numbers that day and now she is a dear friend. 

Half way through my son’s second grade year when my concerns were really coming to the surface, we had a playdate with Lily and her crew. I shared my heart and she challenged me to continue to pray and listen to that still small voice. She said if you don’t have peace about registering your kids for full-time public school next year, don’t do it yet. We talked about the option of homeschooling and she made me realize that there was not one specific way to do it. I didn’t have to be all in or all out. 

I mean, folks, that’s pretty basic advice, right? However, I was completely blinded to other possibilities; partly because of my fears, but also because I just didn’t think it was possible to overcome all of the hurdles. How would I know where to start without the school curriculum I’d been given when I taught? How would my extroverted son be able to interact with peers on a regular basis if he wasn’t in school? Would our school dissuade me? What would we do if it was a total flop and he needed go back to school? Even if we made it a full year homeschooling, how would be able to ease back in without any trouble? Would this be too disruptive for him and for our family?

For every thought and fear, I was sure that God was affirming the decision to homeschool my son, but not my daughter. I felt a peace about sending her for the half-day kindergarten program in our district. My youngest was just turning three and not in school yet. My husband, who had not previously wanted to entertain the idea of homeschooling, was completely on board. Our principal encouraged me to do it and said the school would support us if my son still wanted to come for some classes. We also joined a co-op with friends, when we were initially told it was full and we needed to look elsewhere. 

So how did it go? What was it like for the former school teacher and mama who was used to sending her kids to school to be thrust into the world of homeschooling? Well, it was overwhelming and also the absolute best thing. I chose to obey the Lord’s calling and He showed up daily in big and small ways. More of Jesus! That is what we needed—that is what we received! I read 2 Corinthians 12:9 with an all new appreciation, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 

At times we butted heads and struggled because I had to be mom and teacher. Once or twice, I may have said, “I have a master’s degree in education.” The hard façade that built up over the previous year melted away. Multiple friends and his even Sunday School teacher commented that they noticed him softening. My son, who had commented the previous year that he wasn’t sure God was real, said that he wished his school friends could go to his co-op so they could learn that God was in everything. 

We spent a year really slowing down and focusing on the things that interested him. Plenty of lazy mornings at home in our pajamas. We read a lot. We snuggled on the couch and got lost in Farmer Boy and Om-Kas-Toe. He mastered the US map and presidents, as well his multiplication tables. His little sister was still around and demanding requiring attention—but he got way more one-on-one time than he’d received since his younger siblings were born. His love tank was full.

I love the promise in Deuteronomy 7:9, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Perhaps one of the most beautiful things to come out of last year is the peace in my heart that God is indeed a promise keeper. His love for my children is far greater and more perfect than my own. We pray with and for them, teach them about God’s amazing love in sending Jesus, and teach them about the reality and pain of sin. We stand in the gap and pray with hope that they will have hearts for Jesus. Spending more time with my son gave me more time to see the work God was doing. I do not have to fear every act of disobedience! I’m parenting their hearts, not their actions. Proverbs 4:23, “Guard you heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Oh, and my son still sinned plenty even in a homeschool “bubble.” 

He is now back at school in 4th grade and doing great. He no longer has meltdowns after school! His teacher emailed me recently and said that he is making excellent choices at school, both academically and socially. We have little heart-to-hearts several nights a week while he is snuggled in bed. Sometimes it’s just a chat about video games, but other times we have talked about things kids have said and done at school that he didn’t agree with or understand. By God’s grace, I am able to listen and talk and pray with him without a paralyzing fear of our culture or his future. 

Another beautiful thing to come from last year is the opportunity to encourage other moms within our public school community and empower them to do what is best for their kids as well. I have had several phone conversations and coffee chats. For one friend that has meant pulling her son out as well to homeschool him in 3rd grade. For another friend that has meant speaking up and being a stronger advocate for her daughter within the school system.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” I do not know what the future holds for our kids’ education, but I am more confident than ever before that as my husband and I lean into Him, God will lead us and give us the means to get through each year. We will pray each year leading up to registration time and follow God’s call for the next year.

I struggle with that first step of faith. I’d rather not even try than fail! Oh, but friends, I choke on tears as I think about God’s goodness to my family in the last year. My prayer for you is peace in the decisions you’re making for your children’s education and courage to step out on faith if God is calling you to something new.

Pre-K, 1st & 3rd Grade Homeschool Roundup

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The only way I’ve managed to get this far in homeschooling is by picking the brains of other homeschool mamas. Linking arms - and blogs - with other homeschooling women offers perspective, tools, and so much grace. It helps us to think outside of our own box, or maybe offers us freedom to create something new altogether. My prayer in offering this to you is just to show another way of doing things. It’s not better than, but it is a best fit for our family right now!

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Preschool:

This Reading Mama, “Reading the Alphabet”

One plus One plus One Alphabet printables

Matching workbook

puzzles

Read alouds

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1st Grade:

Sonlight 2nd Grade Readers

Saxon 2

First Language Lessons 1/2

Explode the Code 2

A Reason for Handwriting

*Classical Conversations Geography

*Story of the World

*Apologia: Botany

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3rd Grade:

Sonlight Grade 4 Readers (we did half last year, half this year and do not read aloud every day)

Saxon 5/4 + Life of Fred

First Language Lessons 3

Fix it Grammar

Explode the Code

Handwriting with Ease, cursive

Lifepac Geography Grade 3

*Classical Conversations Geography

*Story of the World

*Apologia: Botany

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*these subjects are combined with all ages, even the pre-ker ever now and then.

For tips on scheduling, check out how we used Block Scheduling this year!

Block Scheduling

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The beauty of block scheduling lies in that chunks of time are carved out for chunks of school, so if keeping to a strict "to-the-minute” schedule isn’t your thing, you’ve still got a working plan in motion that sets expectations for everyone on when school subjects will happen. This block schedule is for your ideal day - the ones that will run as a “normal” school day at home without the interruptions of extracurriculars. For us, this is three times a week. Our other two days are modified for co-op day and Bible Study mornings. Remember, you’re homeschooling, so you get the joy of setting parameters and working around what you choose.

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Here are some ways you can begin to categorize and break things down before working on timing:

-individual subjects vs. mommy-led subjects

-grouping table/together subjects in one block (such as morning time, devotional, character study, any subject that is done as a family)

-identify subjects that require your student at their sharpest point in the day, such as math

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Now you can begin looking at your day, your family’s typical flow (or maybe the flow you hope to instill!), and use your categories above as to how you can group subjects + time of day together. For us we grouped school into two main chunks of time in which all our attention is focused on completing our work:

10am-12pm Morning Subjects

1:00-4:00pm Afternoon Subjects

(Call me crazy, but these are also hours I try to keep my phone usage to a minimum, if at all. Turning it on silent, do not disturb or leaving it in another room helps me stay just as focused as I expect the kids to be).

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Now that this is established, let’s begin to break things down into a little more detail:

Which subjects take the longest?

When do you, the teacher, have time for each child’s mommy-led subjects?

Is there a point in your day where everyone is a little cranky or needs more movement?

Is math especially hard in the early morning, or does it take four times as long at the end of the day?

What needs to happen before morning and afternoon school start?

What are things I’d like to include in our day for enrichment but not grouped into our morning and afternoon school blocks?

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With answers to the above questions in hand, here is how we plugged things in and around our Morning and Afternoon Subjects:

Block one - (8:30-9:00) morning time, including character, Bible, poetry, read aloud

Block two - this is about 30-45 minutes long for us and it’s when I get to do preschool & books with the 4 year old, while the older two can work on subjects like handwriting and explode the code which does not often require my help.

Block three - (10:00 am- 12:00 pm) Morning Subjects! By this point everyone is hungry which is a great segway into doing a few things that we try to do together, such as history, science, etiquette, music. Then we split up and work through the rest of our Morning Subjects which also include a few mommy-led. Everyone knows that their list of morning subjects must be complete by the end of our block, and whatever is not complete turns into…homework! The motivation? If they’re finished before noon, *F R E E T I M E *

LUNCH & RECESS

Block four - (1:00pm-4:00 pm) Afternoon Subjects! Nappers nap, others that need quiet time get quiet time or the option to work on stuff on their own that didn’t get finished earlier in the day. And we work through the last few subjects of the day before - free time!

For more information on planning your day and year, visit Pam Barnhill’s homeschool solutions - she has a wealth of resources!!

And if you’d like to see a more detailed schedule, check out last year’s round up for Pre-Pre-K, Kindergarten and 2nd grade here, or this years’ round up for Pre-K, 1st & 3rd here.