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I have five children whom I have homeschooled from the beginning. My kids' ages are 19, 17, 14, 12, 10. I have loved being with my kids and having the opportunity to influence their life for longer than just a few hours during the day when they aren't at school or at sports. I just wanted to share a little bit about how I got started with homeschooling. As a kid I always loved playing school. I never thought I would be a teacher but, interestingly enough, it was so much more fun to play school than actually go to school. It never crossed my mind that I would be a teacher of my own children - homeschoolers always seemed a little odd. When it was time for my first to go to kindergarten I didn't want to send her. How could I let her go for so long and with people I didn't even know? I decided to homeschool but it was such a new idea to me. The well-meaning ladies in my neighborhood convinced me that I should at least send her to kindergarten because you can't repeat that grade. So I did. It was a good learning experience to help me realize I don't need a degree in order to be a "teacher." My daughter was already reading and was so bored in class. In fact, during our first year of official homeschool I had to undo some of the things she picked up from public school.
Starting was so overwhelming. There were so many ideas of how to do it and all I knew was the public school model. I thought I needed a "school room." I thought I needed a chalkboard or whiteboard. I thought it needed to look like a classroom and be structured like a school day: You do a little bit of every subject every day, and if you don't you are going to get behind. Oh, and getting behind as a homeschooler is a dreadful thought because who knows when the next time your family or neighbor or some random stranger is going to start quizzing your child! I started out reading and following the model of The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, which I think is fantastic if you are a structured and organized person. I love Charlotte Mason but there are a few things that I just couldn't convince my kids to do. I tried several curriculums only to get burned out halfway through. Needless to say, my style is very eclectic. There are so many beautiful ways to learn and I couldn't stick to just one way. The other thing I found is that what would work for one child would not for another. That is the beauty of homeschooling! You get to find out how your child learns: You get to dive deep into their interests and take it at their pace. It has taken years and years of patience and much reassurance from my husband that I am not ruining my kids because I'm not doing it a certain way.
It has involved many trial and error experiences, many tears, many days of swearing off homeschool, but also many many beautiful experiences that have confirmed to me that this is such a sacred responsibility and that as ill qualified as I feel sometimes, I am the only one who knows my children and what they need.
My oldest is now in college and she is a beautiful, healthy adult that survived my unorganized sometimes chaotic homeschool style. I didn't do it alone, though. I have used co-ops throughout the years, and not all have been the same but they have all been wonderful. As my kids have grown up, I have noticed that there is not as much offered for teenagers. There was such a great need where I live, so I got together with a friend and put together a co-op for older kids. Our goal was to give kids a place to socialize with other homeschool kids and have activities together. We wanted to raise our kids to be leaders, so we call our group Youth Leaders for America or YLA, and our focus is leadership and raising children who have a thorough understanding of the U.S. Constitution and how we can keep our freedoms. We hold monthly activities, have dances, put on plays, game nights, swim parties, field trips, and pretty much anything just to be together and build strong friendships. We aren't quite sure what to call ourselves because we are not a school, but we are really more than just a simple co-op. We invite mentors from the community to teach what they are passionate about. The kids can stay for one class or the whole day depending on what they want to learn. There is a big difference between a teacher and a mentor, and it has been so wonderful to bring in mentors from the community and have them share their knowledge with the kids. This group started out with 2 families and has grown to about 40 families. The need for community for teenage youth is huge! It has been so fun growing this community of like-minded people and finding friends that I never would have met otherwise.
I am grateful that I was able to see that the homeschool journey is not a one size fits all. The greatest blessing in homeschooling is that I have instilled a love of learning for my children that will continue for the rest of their life!