Many people ask me similar questions when they find out that I home school or when they find out what I do to home school. So I thought this would be a good place to put down a few thoughts about what I am wanting to do.
I decided (tentatively) to home school almost a year and a half ago when I read A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. I continued to read a few other books that are the basis of the Thomas Jefferson model of education. I felt excited and terrified as I read them, full of anxious thoughts wondering if I'd be able to do it, mixed with a vision of the benefits that could come to my family if we had this kind of education. I spent the next year thinking A LOT about it. Things started falling into place in my mind. My anxieties pretty much went away. And I got excited. I planned one piece at a time the idea of how our kindergarten would look. Matt and I sought inspiration and felt that this was a great choice for our family.
So that is how we got there.
As to the future... I do not know what it will hold. I am hoping that I can have a similar experience as the last year of my life where ideas fall into place about my family's needs in the upcoming year. I hope to home school beyond this year, but I plan to take it one year at a time. My opinion is that I do not even know the questions to ask God about my family for five years from now right now. So I will take it a year at a time and be prayerful. One idea of Thomas Jefferson Education is that the parents are the experts for their own family and get to choose what is best for them. I love this. I intend to do that with God's help.
TJed - as it is commonly referred to - is a philosophy of education rather than a specific curriculum or method. I like it quite a bit. I know there are tons of other philosophies, curricula, and methods out there, and I have only become familiar with a few. I imagine I will learn and adopt other things as time goes on. For now, I am following some principles taught in TJed applied to my family situation. Also, we do things the way we do because what we are doing is good for my mental health - an important consideration. I can think of how I would have been likely to try to implement home education principles a few years ago, and it would have been stressful. This does not feel stressful to me at this point. I want it to stay that way, and that is another reason for me to try to plan one year at a time. I have a few thoughts for next year, but really they are very few at this point.
Another thing that I have learned and developed opinions about is proper timing for academics. This is my opinion, and if you do not agree with it, I respect that. I am trying to come to a place of not judging others, so please do not be offended that I might think differently than you do. Every parent is the expert in their home, so if you do something different than this, that's fine. OK, there's my disclaimer.
I have read things and heard others speak about the potential harm of too much structure and too much academic emphasis on young children in their education. I believe that sitting at desks doing worksheets and pushing children to learn to read can be harmful for children. I think many children are not ready physically, emotionally, socially, on many levels for the rigors of school.
I also think that there is a plague (if I use that word, do I sound extreme? I can just say problem if you like) of children hating school and therefore hating learning. As a student myself, I was motivated and somewhat interested, but I wouldn't say I looked forward to going class and doing my homework, even when I got to pick my classes in college. And I know many children hate school and schoolwork far more than I ever did. This is something I am hoping to avoid by home schooling if possible.
For those two reasons, our home school this year focuses on fun, on Amy choosing, about having just enough structure to know we will have school time and to follow a pattern. (I love routines and not schedules.) Amy and I are getting into the habit of school which will serve us well in the future when we get more structured. I do want Amy to learn things this year, and I think that she learns a lot through playing, through choosing, through pretending. I also think one of the most important things for young children is to get love and attention from their mother. We all know how difficult it can be to make time to focus on our children - not just their physical needs but just being with them. I now have scheduled time to be really present with Amy, playing with her and teaching her. And the other kids join us in that environment when they are awake.
In the future, there will be more structure. I don't know what that looks like, and much of that will be up to Amy (and other children as they get older.) I have no specific time frame when I hope Amy learns to read, write, add, etc. I DO know that I do not want to push any of that on her. If she is uninterested in reading until she's 8 or 9, that doesn't concern me, at least not at this point. I may do things to introduce her more and see her interest; I may not. We will see. If she takes an interest in learning to read and wants to work hard at it starting today, we will start today.
I hereby reserve the right to change opinions and ideas in the future. :) That will likely happen. For now, this is where I stand. I am very happy with things as they are in our family now. I feel we are on a good path and are doing what God wants us to do. That is a huge comfort for me.
I am very excited in my own studies right now. One tenet of TJed is You, not them meaning parents requires rigorous education of themselves and set an example that older children will follow. They require things of themselves while seeking to inspire children. I am taking part two of a class I took in the spring that is AMAZING, teaching me to study looking for truth, finding principles and pondering how to apply them in my life. I learn study skills that help me mark books in a way that I can return to them and remember the great things I learned and can discuss them well with others. I am also attending seminars and other classes. (Just finished a four week course called Building a Mind of Steel - it was great.) I still go to therapy and sometimes to my support group to help me continue to improve my mental health. Matt is also studying and doing some awesome things to work towards his dream and fulfill his unique mission in life. These things are important and exciting to us. We have learned a whole lot, and it has blessed our family.
I am so happy to share resources and principles I have learned with others. If anyone who reads this blog is interested in learning about any of the things I have shared, please ask me. If we are friends or family, let's get together and talk. If you aren't at all interested or think I'm completely nuts and that you would never do the stuff I'm doing, I can respect and appreciate that too.
I will give a few references here as there are a few things that have impacted me a whole lot. I think they are very valuable.
The website for Thomas Jefferson Education is www.tjed.org.
The website for my class I take (and others that she offers) is www.tenboominstitute.com. (Even the website is exciting to me.)
You can learn about Building a Mind of Steel and many other things that this company has to offer at www.3keyelements.com. I think they have some wonderful things to offer.
My support group has been the single most helpful thing to improve my mental health and help me cope with my tendency toward anxiety. It is WONDERFUL. I am convinced it could help every person on the planet if they would apply the teachings. They have many meetings all around. If I know you and you live close by, I would be happy to take you along on Wednesday nights. I don't always go, but I am happy to go to introduce someone and help them get comfortable. Even though I don't go often, I apply the principles almost daily, and they help so much. Their website is www.lowselfhelpsystems.org.
Of course, let me not forget my favorite and most life-changing source of truth. Many who read this share this view. I seek to determine with everything I learn, if it is in harmony with principles of the gospel for me to decide whether to bring it into my life.
Please comment here or talk to me personally if you want to learn more about any of these things. I am so happy to share what I have learned - I really want to in fact. If you have questions or even criticisms, I am open if you are respectful.