What Is Education?

Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy and methods motivate me to think about the definition and purpose of education. Her words have helped shape my personal philosophy of education, which gives focus, directs goals and provides reason to what we do in our homeschooling and why.

I believe education is a continuous process of developing character and cultivating knowledge to be used in life. It focuses on serving the individual child as is-mind, body, soul. It respects the child’s able, eager mind and places importance on his/her unique needs and capabilities. It employs teaching methods which encourage learning at different speeds, using appropriate leveled materials. Subjects are introduced though living ideas and relationships.  

I believe education should foster interests, develop lovers of literature and arts, encourage curiosity and creativity, and allow for play and outdoor time. It’s learning that lingers in nature, applauds observations and problem solving, and uses discussion as a showcase to express ideas. Most importantly (for me), it’s education in which Biblical Christianity is the truth and the foundation of all other knowledge.  

This may sound idealistic, too good to be true, but it is possible. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. It’s the way our family strives to live out education in our home. Homeschooling provides us the time, flexibility and freedom to learn in these ways.

It’s always a process. I never feel we do “education” perfectly (perfect is boring, right?) I try to embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn and place high value on educating myself so I can educate others. I am constantly reevaluating and considering the options and the methods; considering each child’s needs as we go. As much as Charlotte Mason inspires me, I would not consider myself to be a “purist.” I use many of Miss Mason’s wonderful methods and ideas, but I use other methods as well. Methods that I’ve found to be effective and valuable through years of teaching experience.

As with many other parents and teachers, I feel a great weight of responsibility to ensure my children are prepared for life, for them to know the enjoyment of living. I cannot do this on my own. Our days are covered with prayer and we rely on a huge portion of grace and God-given strength. Each day, is a new adventure to look forward to. Homeschooling my children is a wonderful opportunity, a time to wonder and grow together as we explore and open the gift of education that is life.

You can learn more about Charlotte Mason and her methods from these books:

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How We Came To Homeschool and Why We Do- Part 2

How we Came to Homeschool and Why We Do- Part 2

According to homeschool research, there are about 2.2 million home-educated students in the United States. An estimated 1.73 to 2.35 million children (grades K-12)  were home educated during the spring of 2010. The research indicates the homeschool population continues to grow at an estimated rate of 2% to 8% per year (over the last few years.) (Ray, 2011) 1

Homeschool families are a demographically wide variety of people. People of different religions, nationalities, and with various degrees of education fall into this diverse group of people. Just as each family is different, each has their own story as to how they came to homeschool For some, it was an easy and clear cut decision. For others, it was a challenging and complicated choice. Most families have their specific reasons as why they chose homeschooling as the best choice of education for their children. The following are our family’s reasons:

1.) SCHEDULE– Flexibility! A pastor’s schedule can be crazy and unpredictable. When other families are enjoying weekend time off, our family is at work in the church.  If my children went to public school, our family time would be extremely limited. My husband and I were not willing to cut-away time spent together. Homeschooling has provided the flexibility  needed to schedule family time and vacations when it works best for us. We also appreciate that our homeschool schedule allows time for other ministry opportunities (like serving as a MOPS Coach and Coordinator for me) and serving in the church as a whole family unit.

2.) TIME– Time is precious and valuable. Our children are growing up faster than we care to admit. Homeschooling allows us the maximum amount of daily time spent with our children. There are plenty of opportunities during the day to strengthen and build family relationships and practice social interactions with peers and adults. I recognize that homeschooling is a calling of selflessness and servitude but for our family it is a sacrifice worth making.

3.) CURRICULUM– I am a curriculum fanatic! I love the freedom to choose my own curriculum as I see best fit for the individual needs and differences in each of our children.The ability to teach my children about life, social issues, history and science with a Biblical worldview is very important to us. I love that Bible time, study, and prayer are included in our school day.  I also appreciate that my children do not have to take part in state testing. I believe very strongly that progress and growth should be evaluated but I like that there are options in the way it can be done. Last year, we chose to do a portfolio evaluation which was much less stressful experience than a standardized test would have been. Along with curriculum and testing choices, I have been overwhelmed with the educational opportunities that are available for homeschoolers. Museums, nature reserves, art and drama classes, music lessons are available to accommodate homeschoolers’s needs and interests.

4.) MORE TIME FOR LEARNING- When I taught in the public schools, I was constantly spending time redirecting behavior or transitioning students from one place to another. As much as I tried to keep “time on task” to a maximum,  the distractions and general “noise” in the classroom made for a less than optimal environment to learn. At home, distractions can be kept to a minimum. The ability to teach in a small group instruction fosters quicker mastery of academic skills. And lessons can be based on individual needs and learning styles. On top of that, challenges and problems can be identified and remediation can occur quickly. And all of that equals to more time on task and the ability to accomplish more learning than in another school setting.

5.) SOCIALIZATION- The very reason why some people think they should not homeschool is one of the very reasons why my husband and I think we should. According to the The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, SOCIALIZATION is defined as “the learning of customs, attitudes, and values of a social group, community, or culture. Socialization is essential for the development of individuals who can participate and function within their societies, as well as for ensuring that a society’s cultural features will be carried on through new generations. Socialization is most strongly enforced by family, school, and peer groups and continues throughout an individual’s lifetime.” 

My husband and I both believe that the public school is not the best place for our children’s socialization. We do not want our children to learn and develop the customs and attitudes of the world and culture rather develop attitudes and values based on a life of faith.We do not want to send our children into a place of unknowns before they are developmentally ready to deal with difficult people and situations on their own. We are not trying to shelter them or keep them in a bubble. We believe that there are other avenues of POSITIVE socialization and our job as parents is to equip our children with the skills they will need to be a part of those environment. We believe that homeschool is the best place to build our children’s self-esteem and confidence and practice social skills as necessary that they might need to deal with bullies and peer pressure. My children still have plenty of opportunities to socialize with adults and peers their age at church, dance class, Audubon Society classes, and Museum art classes. Research on homeschool socialization says the following: 2

According to Home Schooling and the Question of Socialization by Richard G. Medlin, “Home-schooled children are taking part in the daily routines of their communities. They are certainly not isolated; in fact, they associate with–and feel close to–all sorts of people.”

He continues, “Home schooling parents can take much of the credit for this. For, with their children’s long-term social development in mind, they actively encourage their children to take advantage of social opportunities outside the family. Home-schooled children are acquiring the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes they need. They have good self-esteem and are likely to display fewer behavior problems than do other children. They may be more socially mature and have better leadership skills than other children as well. And they appear to be functioning effectively as members of adult society.” 

Museum of Fine Arts

As I mentioned earlier, each family is unique in their decisions and reasoning. Homeschooling might not be for you and your family and that is okay. This is not a post trying to persuade you that homeschooling is the best way and only way to educate your children. It is only a post about my family’s reasoning of why we do. This year, what ever way you decide to school, I hope that your children will grow and flourish in their education, self-esteem, and in their self confidence.

I would love to hear from you. If you do homeschool, what are the reasons you do?

How We Came To Homeschool and Why We Do- Part 1

how we came to homeschool and why we do

If you asked me a ten years ago about homeschooling, my opinion would have been quite negative. To put it bluntly, I was ignorant to the whole thing. With limited knowledge of homeschooling, my perceptions came from common misconceptions of homeschoolers and the lack of exposure I had with homeschooling families. My training as a public school teacher and my teaching experience only compounded my strong opinions. I thought that the public schools had the best access to curriculum, services, and educational experiences. I thought “socialization” at school had to happen in order to form a well-rounded, well-adjusted child.  I was way off.

Then we had kids. A funny thing happens when you have them. The moment you look into the eyes of your newborn, the familiar world you once knew seems to change. Holding life in your arms, you are left to navigate a “new” and unfamiliar, selfless world. Constant time and attention is directed to the needs and growth of another human being . You find yourself questioning why you believe what you believe and you start prioritizing your values and obligations. Things that you once held high in importance are let go and you realize that certain things (like faith, family, friends) matter so much more than you ever thought. And oh the decisions, you spend constant hours thinking about, dwelling over, and making decisions. In momentous decisions and small choices you want to do what is best for your child and set them on a path of faith and a good life.

When my first born was about to start preschool, I knew my husband and I had decisions to make about school. By this time, I had been out of the public schools for about three years.  With increased state testing (which I had always disliked), changes in education policy and procedures, news stories of bullying, faith and social issues under fire, my opinion of public school was not as high as it once was. I knew public school WAS NOT the best choice for my family. So what was?

Also, by this time, I had become great friends with a homeschooling mom. She was awesome and her kids were normal, well-adjusted, and socialized! The more I asked her about homeschooling and the more she told me, the more my opinions on homeschooling started to change. My friend choose her curriculum (which I loved), went on a ton of “field trips”, and made her own school schedule. Her children had plenty of opportunities to “socialize” through church activities, baseball, cub scouts, and other unique opportunities.  Was this the best choice for our family?

The thought of homeschooling started to weigh on my mind more and more. Even when I declared that I would NEVER homeschool, part of me knew that was untrue. I had seen the positive impact of homeschooling on my friend’s family. I wanted a family like hers. The teaching did not worry me. It was the “other” stuff which I think boiled down to what other people would think. Who? I am not sure. I constantly prayed for help to decide what to do. I did my research too- reading books, articles, blog posts. One day, I do not remember the exact day or moment, I felt that I had been given a answer to my prayers. I strongly felt that “yes” we were suppose to homeschool and that we needed to have enough faith that it would work out. A sense of peace washed over me and the weight was lifted. I became really excited about all the possibilities homeschooling would do for our family.

At that time, we did not have everything figured out. We actually had two options for schooling.  We had been offered a full scholarship at a Christian School. But at that time, we had spent so much time researching and praying and I felt so strongly that this was God’s plan, we turned down the scholarship. I was so blessed to have my husband’s support.  My youngest daughter went to the Christian preschool while my oldest daughter and I started our first year of homeschooling together. It was a blessed year full of learning experiences for both of us. When my second daughter was about to enter Kindergarten, it was an easy decision what to do-HOMESCHOOL.

100s Days Smarter

September 1st, will start of our third year of homeschooling. It amazes me how the journey began and where we are now. We still do not have everything figured out and are learning as we go. I think homeschooling is definitely a calling and not for everyone. I feel blessed that we live in a country where we are given the freedom to choose which type of education is right for our children. I certainly do not look down or differently on anyone for making a choice of public or private school. I like to believe that we, as parents, are all trying to make the best choices for their children so that together we will raise up an generation that will kind, good leaders, and good stewards of this world.  But as for my family, homeschooling is where we will be educating and bringing up our little world changers. 

Stay tuned for the next post- Part 2: What We Homeschool