Latest posts by Elaine Mingus (see all)
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For every student graduation means freedom, accomplishment, and the chance to do something with their life. It is the culmination of 12 years of hard work and they have every right to be proud!
As we get ready for my sister’s homeschool graduation, I have been thinking back on my own homeschooling journey.
School was an adventure to me.
My mom really knew the secret to teaching: You can only get a child to learn something they’re already interested in.
It is absolutely no use to drill something they’re bored to death with.
Yes, sometimes a student will simply have to do something they don’t like (take me and geometry for example), but if there are plenty of other things that they are interested in, the boring stuff won’t seem as bad.
Mom & Dad: A Child’s First Teacher
Both my parents are teachers: Mom taught first grade at a church school until I was born and Dad still teaches seventh grade science in the public school system.
Some people find it ironic that a public school teacher would choose to homeschool his children; but it was a conscious choice to keep me and my sisters away from the sometimes horrible world of the public school. My parents wanted to educate us with a Christian worldview that would give us a strong foundation for our lives, and the best way they found to do this was through homeschool.
Since Mom was experienced in teaching the elementary grades, she just started teaching me things from the day I was born. Mom and Dad sang me songs, read to me, and let me explore the backyard. They encouraged my curiosity and didn’t freak out when I would get dirty in the course of my exploits. (Sometimes a grand adventure necessitates a little dirt for authenticity! ????
I started figuring out how to read when I was four, mostly because of the good example Mom and Dad had set by reading to me and letting me see them read. I knew that books were a good thing, and I wanted to figure them out for myself. Mom wasn’t going to start me in kindergarten until 5, and even then, reading was a first grade skill; but when I started reading on my own, she decided to let me set my own pace.
Mom’s philosophy was “If she’s interested in it now, we’ll learn it now.” The best thing that Mom did as my teacher was to encourage me to learn for curiosity’s sake. When I wanted to read, she helped me.
In sixth grade, when I was absolutely infatuated with horses, she got me a horse encyclopedia for Christmas (I’m serious–we even have a picture of me hugging it, I was so excited), and arranged for a field trip to a stable.
Field trips and unit studies were Mom’s way of encouraging us in our interests.
My sister and I are history buffs, and it all started in seventh grade when Mom let us do everything around the Revolutionary War. We read Johnny Tremain, watched Liberty’s Kids, got books from the library about colonial times, and calculated how many minutes the Minute Men took to get ready.
This wasn’t all Mom’s doing, of course.
Growing up, my sisters and I were always Dad’s scientific focus group. We watched the nature documentaries he was preparing for his students and dissected bugs and flowers before we even knew what dissection was. When we were out and about he would point out the flowers and birds in the area and tell us their Latin names and something about them. It started to be a challenge for me to spot something before Dad could. That’s how I learned to be observant.
The best thing for learning was that we simply wanted to know how things worked. One of the things I really remember was when we got a new toaster for Christmas. Most people would have thrown the old one away, but Mom saw an opportunity to encourage curiosity by letting me take it apart. I still like to take mechanical things apart and carefully put them back together again–a skill that came in handy when our VHS videos would get stuck in the player.
The most integral part of my education was definitely books. Dad used to call me the Book Piranha. I just really liked to read, and I immediately discovered that you can learn anything from a book. I read biographies of famous Americans such as Martha Washington, Jim Thorpe, Susan B Anthony, and Thomas Edison. I read the Book of Virtues several times through. I read the literature books from ABeka that introduce sections of famous authors and short stories. I read stacks of fiction…every week I would come home from the library with a pile of books that I would balance with my chin as we walked out to the car. Fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, horse stories, factual accounts of historical events.
At the beginning Mom tried to proofread everything before I did, but I could outread her any day. After a while, she just gave my stack a cursory going over, but for the most part she trusted my judgement. I only liked the good books anyway. I’m talking the very best of the classics: Jane Austen, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, EB Norton, Edith Nesbit, RD Blackmore, Shakespeare.
Books expanded my horizons the way nothing else could.
I did do actual schoolwork, of course. Mom started me on math books in elementary school with Miquon, and gradually introduced textbooks as I got into the higher grades.
I didn’t have a science or history textbook until seventh grade because I was already learning so much through reading on my own time, but all my coursework through high school was textbook-based.
We didn’t do videos or online virtual classes. I read the textbook, went through the comprehension checks, and took the tests. (For those who are curious, we used the A Beka curriculum exclusively through high school, and I recommend it for English, Science, and History. The math books are hard to understand sometimes, and I now recommend an online site, KahnAcademy.com, for math.)
A Biblical Education
Of course my religious education was not neglected either.
Mom and Dad took Deuteronomy 6:7 very seriously:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
I still have the notebooks they made for me when I was 5 or 6. They would take turns working with me on Bible reading and comprehension. They would assign me a chapter or two from the Gospels, and then write simple questions in the notebook for me to answer:
- “What did Jesus say in verse 5?”
- “Why do you think he healed on the Sabbath?”
I don’t even remember doing it, but I can certainly see the fruits of their labor now. Mom and Dad encouraged me to read my Bible and made sure I had the time to in the morning. They gave me my first Bible the Christmas after I learned to read: I was four and a half. I used that Bible for 16 years.
We were also faithful in going to church and learning about God and His Word, and I had Bible textbooks in high school (New Testament survey, that sort of thing.)
Since I was (and still am, if truth be told) such a bookworm, I wasn’t too interested in extra curricular activities, but I did play volleyball with the county’s homeschool league for one season.
I also participated in a speech and debate club for two years. I absolutely loved doing that. I learned how to speak in front of people and how to organize my thoughts. We had an apologetic class in that club that taught me how to define what I believed about God and explain that belief to someone else; a skill I have used many times in regular life. The interpretations of literature were the most fun, but we also learned how to construct a persuasive speech and defend our arguments in debate. (A skill I have also used many times in regular life. Debate was important because it taught me to think about my argument logically. It forced me to think about what I was saying from every point of view, because if I didn’t catch the problem before I said it, my opponent would instantly blow holes in my argument.
Benefits of Homeschooling
Being homeschooled was not my decision, but it was definitely the best decision. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t been raised with this Christian worldview that was encouraged and built upon through my homeschool education.
Homeschooling is such a versatile system: there are as many different ways to homeschool as there are families doing it.
Homeschooling allowed Mom to let me read as much as I wanted to, because she knew that my books were teaching me more than school was. It allowed us to schedule our school with the public system so we would be off when Dad was, but when they started school earlier in August, we could wait until Labor Day to start. (Hooray for summer! Every kid should get three months of summer.)
It allowed us to take entire days off for field trips to places regular school kids never get to go; like private stables, colonial reenactments, and medieval fairs.
My personal favorite benefit of homeschooling: it allowed me to work at my own pace. So when I was done reading my chapter and had finished the comprehension check, I was done with that subject for the day. No homework after supper, no shuffling between classes, and no waiting for annoying kids to quit goofing off in class.
Maybe it was just because I am this personality type, but I was able to be much more efficient and effective in my schooling because I was homeschooled.
And no, I did not do school in my pajamas. ????
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