Friday, February 27, 2009

Why we Started Homeschooling in 1990...

The following is something I wrote some time ago, but it gives you an insight into why we started homeschooling. I am printing it here because I think sometimes people worry about their kids and don't know what to do. In our case, homeschooling ended up being the answer that made such a huge difference in how our older son blossomed physically, emotionally and intellectually.

The Whistle
by Jill © 2003

My son was looking poorly. He had stopped whistling and his shoulders were hunched as I picked him up from school that fall day. It was hot--it was hot most of the time in our Florida community. He looked so small coming out of that big school, so slender and vulnerable.

He was trapped. We were all trapped. Since school started a few weeks before, Cris had been sick with asthma one day out of every three. Threatened and pushed around by the bigger boys because he wouldn’t fight back, his health was deteriorating. There were gangs and he was an easy target. Even though he was 12 years old, my husband and I couldn’t let him walk the 1/2 mile to and from school every day. It wasn’t safe. The neighbor boy had been badly beaten doing that very thing only a year or two before. It was one of the hardest times in our lives.

We tried getting him transferred which required a special permit. Dead ends. All dead ends. We had four younger children at home and my husband was the sole bread winner. We couldn’t afford a private school, and we were losing Cris to discouragement. The asthma was draining the very breath out of him.

A friend of mine mentioned homeschooling. This was in 1990 and I had never heard of it before. Was it legal? Would it work? Did I have the time? Were we crazy to even consider it? In no time my friend had put me in touch with a friend of hers, and before I knew it I was sitting in a park with my two preschoolers and several moms, perusing math books and scope and sequence charts. I had graduated from college years earlier with a teaching degree, but to teach all subjects with two little children under foot seemed daunting.

Still, it was worth a try. My husband and I felt God leading us in this direction, and Cris was willing, so I ordered 7th grade text books and waited for the mailman. In no time the books arrived. With warnings from the superintendent that he could probably never go to college or get back into public school again, we withdrew Cris from school, and began homeschooling.

My parents, and especially my dad, were really against the whole thing. A retired public school teacher and college professor with a Ph.D., Dad worried that Cris would never get into a college, and he wouldn’t learn what he needed to know.

Meanwhile, Cris began to flourish. Within two weeks I heard the sound I had prayed to hear for a long time ... Cris was whistling! He wasn’t so pale, he was standing taller and his asthma was practically non-existent. As we finished that year we looked forward to the next.

Our second son Dusty was supposed to go to the same school the following fall. I knew what we had to do, but I felt unequal to the task. “Lord,” I prayed, "I don’t want to homeschool them all. I am not qualified. How will I find the time?"

But God was faithful and I remembered His promise to be with me always. So the next fall I had an 8th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader, Kindergartner and a two year old in my homeschool. Could I do it? My husband Bob, my biggest cheerleader, was behind me all the way. The curriculum came and school started.

My parents were still against it, but Dad volunteered to teach the boys drafting and woodworking. He was such a good sport, even though he disagreed with us. We never really talked about homeschooling ... it was the elephant in the room. We all knew it was there, but we avoided talking about it. We agreed to disagree.

Years passed and after seven years my dad was visiting us (we now lived in Kentucky). I was busy correcting papers when he came in and sat at the table with me. “You know I never approved of your homeschooling.” Then there was a big pause. “You have done a good thing. When I see your kids, their character and what they know, I realize that the sacrifice you made was worth it. You have done a good thing.”

My dad died three years later, but that moment stays with me in my heart and mind. The sacrifice God had called me to WAS worth it. My homeschooled kids have been a joy and a blessing to my husband and I, to each other, and to the community.

Sometimes the hardest times in our lives lead us to the best decisions in our lives. Sometimes it takes years to see our sacrifices pay off. Sometimes we never see them pay off. But always God is with us; leading, guiding, helping us do what He has called us to do. Helping a little boy to whistle again.

Take care,

As a note: [updated 2012]
  • Cris graduated from Asbury College in 2000 with a degree in Physical Science, and the College of Engineering at University of Kentucky in 2001 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He is married and lives with his wife Jen and toddling daughter Elinor in Lexington, KY.
  • Dusty is married, and he and his wife Sharon also live in Lexington, KY. Dusty is an accountant at a Geo-Spacial Engineering firm and Sharon is a Registered Nurse.
  • Chad graduated from the University of Kentucky majoring in computer science and math. He is married to Molly and dad to toddling daughter Allison and works as a computer programmer in Lexington.
  • Kari graduated from our homeschool in May 2004 after spending her 10th and 11th grade years in public school and graduated from University of Kentucky in 2008. She spent a year in Americorps NCCC and currently is the Safety Coordinator at a company that does portable combustion services to dry out refractories.
  • Scott graduated from our homeschool, having been homeschooled his whole life. He graduated from Eastern KY University in Dec 2012 and currently works in Lexington.
Photo: From left to right: Jen and Cris, Sharon and Dusty, Bob and I, Chad and Molly, Kari and Scott.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

127 Years of Parenting...

I have been parenting for over 127 years and I can prove it!

Parenting is a joy, but a lot of hard work and for a very long time. I would never really want to compare it with a prison sentence--but for the sake of the analogy, here I go...

A person commits, let us say, robbery. He may get a 10 year jail sentence from the judge. But what if he committed the robbery using a gun and a innocent bystander gets in the way of his escape so he takes that bystander as a hostage.

He goes to trial and he is convicted for three offenses:

10 year for robbery
10 years for using a deadly weapon in a crime
10 years for kidnapping

Now he is thinking, I will be in jail for 30 years, I will be an old man when I get out. And then, just before the gavel drops, the judge says two words that change everything..." served concurrently." Now he only spends 10 years in jail because he gets to serve his time concurrently.

And that proves that I have parented for 127 years [kids are aged 31, 28, 26, 23, 19]- I have just been serving my time [so to speak] concurrently. And I should get credit for each and every one of those 127 years because each child is so different. So many different scenarios come up with each child, that it only seems fair that some days, if we have 5 children, we should get credit for 5 days of parenting.

So, for any moms and dads who feel really worn out or feel like sometimes each day can seem many days long [like when everyone has the flu], give yourself credit for more than one day, count one day for each child you have--you are just serving those days concurrently!

Take care,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Does your child need preschool? [continued]

Does your child need preschool?

Yesterday I talked about Play is Work, and I truly believe that is all a preschooler needs, play. Many will want more-they will want to sound out words and write their name and count money; and they should. But, for preschoolers the timing of these things should be child led.

This is not just my opinion. I saw this article in the paper last year that said, “A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says free and unstructured play is healthy and –in fact—essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”

I also believe very strongly in reading to young children every day. There have been an incredible amount of studies saying that the single most important thing you can do to help your youngster is to read to them. Children love to be read to. They love to cuddle and snuggle while being read to and/or they love to play while you read to them. And kids learn so much from this experience.

Not only do they learn to appreciate well written words and ideas, they learn the importance of reading. Also, when we discuss what we read with our children it gives us an opportunity to pass on our core beliefs. We can discuss live and death issues while reading about dragon slayers and fairy princesses. Reading opens up a whole world to our children and enriches our relationship with them.

Now I know there are some children who do not have anyone to read to them, who do not have the advantages that other children have and they can certainly benefit from early preschool. But I am not talking about at-risk kids when I talk about play and reading being enough.

I have had many conversations that go like this:

Mom: “I have two children, four and two, and I am looking for a preschool program for my four year old.”

Me: “What are you looking for.”

Mom: “I don’t know. Really, I don’t want to send him to preschool, but all the other kids at church are going and my mother is asking where he is going to go. I feel pressure to send him, but I don’t really think I want to send him. Do you have any suggestions?”

Me: “What are you doing? “

Mom: “Oh we read every day. We take walks and collect rocks and leaves and sing songs. He helps me bake and can write his name and sound out a few letters. He can count pennies up to 10 and sets the table correctly. He plays well with his brother most of the time.”

Me: “It sounds like your son is very well adjusted.”

Mom: “Yes, but I think he needs socialization.”

Me: “Does he play well with other kids at church or at the park?”

Mom: “Oh yes. He loves to play and he pretend reads to his brother. He also wants to do everything my husband does—wears his shoes, wants to cut the grass, use the hammer and so on.

Me: “Does he mostly mind you?”

Mom: “Mostly [laugh], but he is very active.

Me: “It sounds like you are doing a great job. He sounds like his social skills are good, he is imitating his Daddy, loves to be read to and tries to be helpful and kind. I don’t think you need preschool. I would just do what you are doing.”

Mom: “Really.”

Me: “Really. What can he learn at preschool that he doesn’t already know or will learn when he is ready?”

Mom: “I don’t know. But everyone else…

Me: “That doesn’t make it mandatory. It doesn’t make it right.”

And then we finish up the conversation.

And this is why I am writing. If you want your child to experience preschool, by all means go ahead. But, if you don’t—feel confident that if you are modeling good life skills to your child, if you are reading to him, if he is using his imagination to play, you are doing a great job and laying a wonderful foundation for future learning. That is enough.

Take care,

[As a note, I helped to develop a great "read to your child" preschool program called Sonlight P3/4. It has books, tips for teaching, a parent guide, some games and some easy activities to do with your 3-4 year old. It involves lots of snuggling and reading-perfect for a gentle homeschool preschool!]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Play is Work...

Play is work.

For kids, I mean.

I get so frustrated with all the preschool programs that teach academic things that I could scream! {My sister-in-law as a pre-schooler-- she has been a legal assistant for over 30 years]
For kids, play is work! I think if adults would realize that, we would not try to rush and ruin the built in educational system that God has designed for little children. They are inquisitive, they ask questions, when they are ready to know something they try to do it, or ask about it, they learn quickly. And they play.

I love watching kids play. They are so creative. I mean, when I watched my boys play with match box cars they would drive them around, make engine noises, create road systems [small motor coordination], toss them up and let them drop [gravity training], see how many they could put in a bucket [spacial training], sort them in a million different ways and so forth. Look at all that math learned through play.

When Kari played with the same toys, she did a lot of the same things, minus the engine noises. She would drive the cars around and say things like, "OK, lets get out and buy some milk," or "Here we are at the library." Same cars, different play. She was much more verbal, much more directed- and her play was work too.

And the sandbox. I LOVE the sandbox-talk about play being work. Kids use small muscles, large muscles, engineering, city planning, molding, sculpting, getting along with sandbox mates and so forth. And if you add water to the sandbox, things just get better!

OK, I will admit it. I come from a long line of sandbox lovers. We always had a LARGE sandbox-not those little plastic turtle things they have now-a-days, but a huge sandbox that was so big that we had to have a dump-truck come and dump a load of sand at our house. I had one as a child and so did our kids. We thought of it as standard child rearing equipment. My mom loved the sandbox. As a grandma she would sit with the kids and play if she had a chance, and at the beach she was always playing with sand in some shape or form. My mom told me once about the sandbox she has as a kid and how she played in it till she was really too old for it.

I said, "How old were you mom?"

Mom, "Well, till I started dating your father." [And she wasn't kidding! She was 15 when she started dating Dad!]

See what I mean about having a history with sandbox play.

But, in addition to that-bikes and rope swings and balls and wagons and puzzles and blocks and dolls are all part of work for kids. They need play. They learn more from play than from some contrived activity at a pre-school.

Now I am not saying that preschools are all bad, nor am I saying that if a 3 year old wants to learn their letters you should withhold information; all I am saying is preschool is not necessary to have a well rounded child. They will not have their academic future ruined if they do not go to preschool or have preschool at home. Seriously!

I mean, my generation never went to preschool-we never heard of it. Yet, there are rocket scientists, brain surgeons, Nobel Peace Prize winners and so forth that are my age. How did we manage to actually learn to do anything without preschool? Playing. Good old fashion play.

For kids, play is work. I believe that with my whole heart.

Play. is. work.

More about preschool tomorrow...
Take care,

For more of my Pre-School thoughts and suggestions:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Helping You Homeschool

When we began homeschooling in 1990 it was a pretty scary thing to do. It was THE Great Experiment.

I will admit that homeschooling can be pretty intense and intimidating--but so can parenting! But, if you are reading this my guess is you are a parent or would like to be one some day and you are willing to undertake the task, no matter how hard. And rest assured, parenting and homeschooling are worth it--they are hard but oh so rewarding. Does anything worthwhile come easy? I don't think so.

I want to encourage you that the GREAT Experiment works! Your children can excel academically and socially, but more than this, you can transfer your core beliefs to them and build strong family ties.
 I LOVE that our kids get together all the time for movies, picnics, concerts, weekly lunches and so on. They really encourage and support each other. 

One of my daughter Kari's friends commented that since Kari had so many brothers, couldn't she spare one for her. She needed a brother too.  Kari said, "No. I need all of my brothers. I need each one differently. I couldn't spare one--I need them all."

And that is why the Great Experiment Works!

When you make the sacrifices it takes to homeschool your children, you are investing not only in the next generation, but investing in generations to come. It is easier to have the kind of family you always dreamed of when you homeschool--mostly because you have more time to spend with your children.

So, my science lesson for you today is that our hypothesis was proven correct--Homeschooling works to prepare kids academically, socially, spiritually and it promotes strong happy families to boot! What could be better?

Evely Family 2013

Back: Sons Cris Dusty and Scotty, Grandpa Paul on his 90th birthday, Me, my husband Bob holding Chad's daughter                     Allison, Chad's wife Molly holding Abby. 
Front: Cris' wife Jen with daughter Ellie, Dusty's wife Sharon, son Chad and daughter Kari. (Cris and Jen added a new daughter, Lilli, not yet born when this photo was taken.)