Someone suggested that I talk about some of the ways that we have homeschooled over the years. It's taken me some time to think about how our philosopy has changed. Our reasons for homeschooling have also had some changes. When we began our homeschool journey, I was a reasonably young mom to three children. Our oldest daughter, Amy was 7 and had been attending the Lutheran Elementary School at a church in Otsego, MI. We lived in Battle Creek which was about 35-45 minutes away. Katie was 2 years old; Steve was 6 months old.
The younger children would spend 3 hours each day in the car, while I drove to school twice a day. Steve was young enough to sleep during most of the trips, but Katie hated to spend time in her car seat. She would scream and cry almost all of the afternoon run to school. It was nerve-wracking to drive with a screaming child, but I persevered. On Amy's last day of 2nd grade, my car broke down on the morning run to school. This was before cell-phones were "must have" items and I was stranded by the corn fields. I unloaded the three children from the car and prepared to walk 2 miles back to a gas station with a phone.
After a short walk, someone stopped to let me use his cell phone. I called Mike and asked him to come and pick us up. Mike was the only person at work and couldn't leave until someone else arrived. The kids and I returned to the car and waited. Mike eventually arrived and I drove him back to work, then traveled to Amy's school. It was almost lunch time when we arrived and I still needed to deal with the abandoned car, so I decided that Amy would just pick up her things and be absent for the last day.
On the journey back to Battle Creek, Mike's car broke down. Katie was screaming in the back seat, Steve needed to nurse, and Amy was disappointed to miss the last day of school. Eventually, Mike left work for the day and we dealt with the cars issues.
After that experience, we decided that the journey back and forth was too much for us at this time. I didn't want to face another year of screaming kids for hours each day. It also wasn't fair for the younger children to be stuck in the car for so much time. They deserved to play and run around. We would have to find a school closer to home.
I spoke with some of my friends who were teaching in the Battle Creek schools and we quickly realized that Amy was far ahead of her public school counterparts. She was going to be bored in public school. There were no local private schools, so we couldn't figure out a solution.
While shopping for a replacement car, the salesman mentioned that his wife homeschooled their children. Hmmm. I had never thought about homeschooling as a possibility. Mike and I talked and prayed about the situation for several weeks and finally decided to try home schooling the next school year. How much damage could I do in one year? Even if our experience was a flop, Amy wouldn't be behind academically after one year.
At that time, homeschooling was done quietly. There had been some nasty legal battles in Michigan and many people were afraid of attracting the notice of the local ISDs. Finding information about purchasing homeschool materials was difficult. Eventually, I called the car salesman and asked if there were any homeschool organizations I could join. He provided me with the numbers to a couple of support groups and I made some phone calls. One of the groups sent me an information packet and I discovered some homeschool suppliers.
I ordered too many materials and set up a classroom in the basement. Before getting married, I had completed the classes for an elementary education teaching certificate, so my instinct was to do school at home. Most of the materials I purchased were traditional textbooks, some project idea books, and lots of literature books.
At the end of August, one of the support groups hosted a homeschool workshop. During the workshop, one of the presenters asked what we planned to do during the upcoming school year. She used me as the example of what NOT to do. It was embarrassing to be singled out as the bad homeschool teacher, especially since we hadn't even started school yet!
I learned about other methods of homeschooling and was intrigued by the unit study approach. Several of the history topics we were covering that year could be done as unit studies! One homeschool presenter talked about unschooling. She used real life to teach her children. She suggested that I consider joining 4-H as a way to add more educational opportunities for Amy AND as a way to add more socialization.
I couldn't understand why various speakers were so harsh about other homeschool methods. Wasn't there room for different opinions? Was one method more valid than another? Why were the different speakers so defensive? I left the workshop excited about the upcoming year, but a little nervous about the various camps that seemed to exist. Homeschoolers seemed to be a fractured group instead of a homogenous groups of people.