In 1985, the Wood family began their homeschool journey, as our son entered 3rd grade and our daughter began kindergarten. We homeschooled for eight years, and then they attended a Christian school for the last few years of their education. We learned a lot along the way, and don’t regret for one moment the years we spent with our children during that time.
Fast forward to 2017. Our children now have children, one of whom was struggling terribly in the public-school setting. After prayer and complete confidence that God was leading us to do so, my husband and I offered to homeschool this grandchild.
The state still had our information on file, so we just officially re-opened our school and set up our classes. This child had been in public school through the 5th grade. He couldn’t tell time, count money, tell me how many days were in a year, or name the months of the year. He knew very little addition and subtraction and hadn’t a clue about multiplication or division. I was heartbroken for this precious grandson who had no knowledge about much of anything.
We had our work cut out for us, for sure. But we were not about to give up on this kid, even with a fairly bad start to the process. There was much to be learned about communication, responsiveness, and just plain caring about the learning process. Since we knew the traditional classroom setting would not work for him (hadn’t worked for our own children, either), we set about making learning as interesting and pleasant as possible.
The first thing we did was have an assessment done on him, to see exactly where he was emotionally and developmentally. Then, based on the information received, we developed a plan for teaching that did not involve sitting at a table for all his classes.
We took walks and talked about nature. We took a few field trips of “ghost” towns–an interest of his—and learned what we could about the people who had lived there, the industry, and other interesting facts. His grandad taught him how to check the fluids and change the oil in a car. They played football outside on breezy days. One thing our grandson had not been previously encouraged to do was read. As I am an avid reader and believe that all children should read something every day, I bought plenty of abridged classics. We read these together, with “A” reading much of it out loud. Not surprisingly, when you find the right subject matter, a kid learns to enjoy reading. Over the span of the two years that we taught him, “A” read a total of 12 books. That may not sound like much to others, but for him, that was a BIG milestone.
Our second year with “A” was spent developing his life skills, along with a continuation of basic learning. We also went to the YMCA three days a week so that he could swim or play basketball.
By the end of our second year with this precious young man, his CAT scores came back with an 8th
-grade-level achievement. Considering that he began with us at a less than 3rd-grade education, we were incredibly pleased with his progress.
I’m not an expert, but if I had any words of advice for first-time homeschoolers, it would be these things:
Relax. If you plan to homeschool on a long-term basis, take your time and watch your child. Check his or her interests and incorporate that into your instructions.
If your child doesn’t grasp a concept right away, stop until they are ready. Our daughter just didn’t get math (she gets that honestly from her mom). When she was in the 4th grade, whenever I brought out the math book, she would cry. So I put the math book away. We learned some math by cooking; otherwise, I left it alone. As Jenn entered the 5th grade, I got the math book out again. In two months, she completed her fourth-grade math book and went right into her fifth-grade math. Never missed a beat. Today, Jenn is an accountant. I know, right?
Sitting at a table all day is pretty much not the way to do homeschool, to my way of thinking. There is a great big world full of learning out there. Learning happens best where the child is most relaxed and interested. Get them outside: let them watch that butterfly emerge from its cocoon; let them observe a cow giving birth; take them to a buffalo farm; as much as possible financially, allow them to pursue what appeals to them—make learning as interesting as possible.
Libraries are wonderful places (remember, avid book reader here). Take them to the library and challenge them to take an adventure and travel the world with the characters they discover.
The plan for teaching your child might not look like what other homeschoolers do. That’s perfectly fine. Children aren’t molded from cookie cutters; they have their own special character, which you get to help them develop.
You may become discouraged occasionally, but don’t stay discouraged. Some days won’t fit your vision. That’s
okay. We all have bad days. They will pass.
Best wishes to all you homeschooling moms and dads (and grandparents). What a great privilege we have been given to be a part of molding these young lives. Have a great year!