By Laurie Pruim.

Examine our philosophy of education – check
Evaluate our schedule – check
Cruise curriculum sales – check
Seek advice from veteran home educators – check

All of the above are steps I’ve often recommended to families considering home education. Now my husband and I are working through the checklist…again.

Our formal homeschool journey began in January 1995 when I sat down with our oldest child to see if she could recite the alphabet and numbers 1-10. That took about 2 minutes. I was surprised to discover that she had already mastered that information. Time to move on to the next week’s lesson plan!

Read alouds, letter and number recognition, and letter sounds led to basic math operations, simple sentence structure, and manuscript writing. The next eighteen years were filled with the joys and struggles of diagramming sentences, essay writing, algebra, gym days with our local support group, field trips, co-ops with several local organizations and businesses, and many hours of reading together. As a family we learned to pray, serve, travel, cook, clean, garden, farm (hobby), and renovate houses together.

Our official homeschool journey ended in June 2012 as our youngest child graduated from high school at home. These children (aged 26, 23, 22 years) are pursuing careers in sewing, carpentry, and pastoring. They are all still based at our house so the revolving door is still in motion. We were glad to have walked the path of home education and felt that was a good choice for our family.

Early in 2012 we were asked to consider helping a family member in distress. That request led to providing kinship care to one of our great-nieces from July 2012 to May 2013. In September 2013 another great-niece, Peyton, was born and placed in our home upon release from the hospital. In September 2014 another great-niece, Aidyen, was born and placed in our home upon release from the hospital. In January 2016, we were awarded custody of Peyton and Aidyen.

Now, the above paragraph looks neat, tidy, and concise but it represents four years of — how shall we say — chaos. That paragraph represents hundreds of hours of interviews, paperwork, courses, appointments, and court appearances.

Just to make things really interesting, I was also a college student from 2011-2014 (almost exclusively online). Since I had already started before any of the new girls arrived in our home, we decided we would somehow make it work so I could graduate. Apparently, it is possible to do exams with a baby in one hand and a computer mouse in the other.

Now before you think we have some sort of super-human homeschooling abilities to manage all of this, let me assure you that our adult children helped a lot, and that we said no to most outside activities during that time. We are just now starting to dig out from under four years of “survival mode”. As I’m writing, I just noticed that one of the clothing items I’m wearing is inside out.

I expect our next homeschool journey, round two, to formally begin some time in 2018 with a soft-start in September 2017.

So yes, if we had to do it all over again we would — because we are — but this time with different children and from a more experienced perspective. We hope to avoid some of the mistakes from the first go-round (I’ll be more relaxed starting out) but I’m sure we’ll make some new mistakes (we’re still human, after all).

Our philosophy of education remains largely unchanged. We focus on building character while providing a wide range of activities and experiences. Life-long learning is encouraged to help each person (adult and child) develop their own gifts while contributing to the lives of those around them.

Our schedule has been drastically reorganized (imagine that). We can’t quite return to “the way things used to be” when we first started the adventure of parenthood. I am utilizing some of my previous criteria for evaluating involvement in outside activities. Activities that appeal are those “that involve and benefit my children and husband and do not require me to be separated from my children or husband”[1]. Most of the time it is my husband or myself at home “holding the fort”.

I was able to attend the new and used curriculum sale hosted by a local homeschool support group in June. What a delight to see what other families have used and what new products are offered. Visiting with friends was a huge bonus!

One of my homeschooling friends has been a great support during this whole adventure (thanks Mary!). Some great food for thought was offered at our last provincial convention. Louise House presented a session “If I Had to do it All Again” – how timely, encouraging, and inspiring!

Our family is by no means unique. Many families are blended and have homeschooled at some point. Every person and family unit has their own strengths and challenges. Be encouraged that you can survive through the chaos of today. The path you are walking will work out for the good of each family member. You can do it! Go, team, go!

[1] Quote from “What’s a Smart Woman Like You Doing In a Place Like This?”, Dr. MaryAnn Froehlich, 1989, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., pg 38

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