Encouragement Along the Way

This article (originally published in WHO’s News, Convention Edition, 2014) set the stage for Peggy Blanchard’s Convention Workshop – Keeping Learning a Choice, Not a Chore

We began our homeschooling journey in 1988 before there were co-ops, classes, or even curriculums designed for homeschoolers.  Many families kept their children indoors during the day and the comment, “Why aren’t you in school?” occurred every time we went shopping during school hours.  Homeschooling was my husband’s idea, not mine.  He talked me into trying it one year at a time – which we did for 16 years!  As a former teacher in a traditional classroom, the concept of a homeschooling lifestyle was incomprehensible.  I expected we would do “school at home,” so we lined up a curriculum and school area in our home and failed miserably.  I attended an “Intro to Homeschooling” workshop taught by Homeschool Advocate Janice Hedin, and remember her exhorting folks to “get to know your child(ren)”  before beginning homeschooling.  But, I didn’t feel that applied to me because my background was teaching so I knew what I was doing – theoretically.  However, less than 2 months into our homeschooling foray, our purchased curriculum was tossed into the trash and all schooling was done “on mom’s lap” wherever we happened to be.  I was given an old phonics book and some old readers and we discovered the public library and Dr. Ruth Beechick – an early supporter of homeschooling.  

At the library, I found Marilyn Burn’s, The  I Hate Mathematics Book and Gladys Hunt’s, Honey for a Child’s Heart as well as a myriad of early learning number books and easy readers.  I suddenly remembered everything about the traditional way I used to teach reading and math and how boring that approach was for my students (Read your selection 3 times, once silently, once aloud to yourself and once aloud to your parents – then, the next day you come to school and it gets read again!).  When planning to send our children to a traditional school, I hesitated to teach them anything of an academic nature because I didn’t want to do it the “wrong way”, or have my child bored in the classroom when the teacher was sharing all the beginning academics.  Also, I felt so much pressure to prepare my children morally for the influence of other children and adults they would encounter in school, the time just flew by and there was still so much to be shared before starting kindergarten!  When I realized that compulsory education in Washington State began at age 8 – not age 5 or 6 – all of a sudden, I had time to enjoy my children being “little kids” and we could actually have fun with learning! Then, I heard that there was to be a homeschooling convention sponsored by the Washington Homeschool Organization in the spring of 1989 and no one in our family has ever been the same since!

The hardest part of homeschooling for me was getting out of the box of traditional schooling approaches – flash cards, text books, workbooks, set schooling times, pencil and paper – only one way to learn something.  Discovering Cynthia Ulrich Tobias’s consumer friendly approach to learning styles changed our entire family dynamicsThe Way They Learn book and video (DVD nowadays) opened my eyes to the personality and learning style of each family member.  However, I have to admit, each of my children seemed to do a complete learning style flip at grade 6, so I learned not to get too comfortable with the status quo.  I also discovered the myth of “buy one publisher’s curriculum and use it for all your children”.  Plus, those curriculums that did work for both children ended up being used in a totally different manor for each child.  Discovering the secret of tailoring each child’s learning to their individual needs and still existing as a family with family activities was challenging!

But, the most important thing I learned to respect about each of my own children, the children I tutored, and the children in my homeschooling classes, was that each child comes “pre-wired” with unique strengths and weaknesses.  In a traditional classroom, the focus is on a child’s weaknesses and how best to deal with those weaknesses.  In homeschooling, the focus is on the child’s strengths and all weaknesses are built up through the venue of the child’s strengths.  I have heard it said that the things you get in trouble for as a child are what you get hired for as an adult – that a person’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness.  Every report card I received in school had something about being too social and talking too much – my adult jobs were teaching, working as an educational consultant, volunteering on community service boards, assisting at educational conventions, teaching adult workshops, secretary/receptionist, etc.

Homeschool Convention 2014 is now past history but the articles and other resources used as the foundation for my workshop are included in this blog.  The numbered list of resources appears at the right on the home page of this blog and all resources are listed in the same order as the list distributed at the workshop.  This blog includes every resource I offered to email each workshop participant who requested resources. 

Special thanks is extended to the leadership of the Homeschooler’s Support Association who gave me both verbal and written permission to copy helpful articles – supportive of homeschooling education – from past HSA Newsletters into this blog. (Thank you, Bruce, Gwen and Brenda!)

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