In the fall of 1998 we began homeschooling. We had 4 children at the time: a 6-month-old, kindergartener, 2nd grader and 4th grader. The oldest 2 had been in a private school up to that point. We didn’t start homeschooling because we were unhappy with the school. We had decided when they were all preschoolers that we wanted them to have a Christian education, but when Keith suggested we could homeschool and eliminate the cost of a private school, I laughed! I told him that I just wanted them to go away for a little while now and then.
One year later Keith was out of the Navy, in a low-paying job and we were living with my mother. I started working part-time – first at McDonald’s, then at WalMart. A year after that we moved into our own house, and 5 months after that I started to work full-time at our church’s child care center. This eliminated a major problem we had with transportation issues between our two jobs and getting the boys to school, but I suddenly had NO time with my children and it was tearing me up, but we saw no way out. I was starting to seriously consider and research homeschooling. But I had to work. My position as a permanent staff member gained us a 40% tuition discount for the boys at the school and my daughter attended the child care center for free. The children and I traveled to and from the same place each day, which allowed Keith to take over-time whenever it came up. We got into a routine that wasn’t too bad, but not what we really wanted. In 1997 through a series of events that would be called chance by some, but we credit to the hand of God, Keith got the job he had wanted 3 years earlier. Because of that, I was able to quit my job at the end of the year and be a stay-at-home mom once again! Two months later baby 4 was born and when that school year ended we didn’t re-enroll the kids in the school. Our other dream was to live in the country, and the new job’s location was going to allow that, too. Near the end of summer we found this house, sold the other, and moved in on Halloween of 1998.
The first books I read learning about homeschooling were from Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. They were one of the first advocates of homeschooling over 50 years ago. The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook and Home Style Teaching helped me to get a vision for homeschooling and helped me to realize that this was something I could actually do. I got their catalog and used their basic philosophy in teaching my children for the first several years. That first year we used The Little House on the Prairie books and The Prairie Primer unit study, and added math with Math-It. We had a great time and I was SO glad we had chosen to do this. With the move to the farm just after we started, we all had a lot of new things to learn in a hands-on fashion. We started a garden, ordered ducks and geese through mail order, raised them, put up pens for them, etc., etc.
Over the years we’ve made changes in homeschooling. Our original, eclectic schooling eventually became somewhat stressful for me to plan and schedule, especially as we were adding more babies to our family and more animals to the farm. I wanted something that was already planned for me, but I didn’t want a traditional school-at-home curriculum. Finally, I was able to start purchasing the curriculum from Sonlight. I had looked at it years earlier, and wanted to buy it because I liked the literature-based program and the fact that everything was already scheduled. But at first I felt I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t realize that I could have used one core for all my children and just customized their math and English. If I’d realized that before, I probably would have saved us a bunch of money over the years. Now we have all the cores and all I need to buy is new consumables for math, penmanship and occasionally one for another subject. And since I have another 15 years of homeschooling that is a great relief to me! We still customize what we do with it. We don’t necessarily do everything in their plan, but even they tell you that they put more in their plan than they expect any one person to do – to give many options, and each family can do what they want with it. We also add supplemental materials and events now and then.
Keith works rotating shifts. This works wonderfully with homeschooling! Our field trips are done when he’s not working some weekday and we are able to avoid the weekend crowds at zoos, museums, etc. We take our family vacations on off-peak time – usually early spring or mid-fall. We do school on Columbus Day, Presidents Day, etc., and learn about those people or events. But our birthdays are official school holidays!
The first 3 children we started homeschooling with are now graduated. The oldest is working full-time as a manager of an Auto Zone store. The next 2 are both in college away from home. We currently have 4 that are school age and one preschooler. And the adventure continues!