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Continuing in my guest blog series, I am excited to welcome Kristin here to share my blog today. I know Kristin for her kind spirit and deep commitment in life; I am honored that she has agreed to talk to us a little bit about her journey of schooling her boys. We would also love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments on schooling!

Hello everyone! Marissa gave me the great honor of doing a guest blog for her and asked me to answer some questions on home schooling. So to start you off I’ll start with the basics of my family! My name is Kristin. I’ve been married for 8+ lovely years to my husband Matt. Together we have three energetic boys and we live in the Pacific Northwest. Joshua, our oldest son, is 7 years old, and has a high functioning form of Autism. Our second son, Daniel, is 5 years old and has a diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of Speech (explained here…http://www.apraxia-kids.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=chKMI0PIIsE&b=839037&ct=837215) and our youngest son, Elijah is 3 and he is as neurotypical (normally developing) as can be!

We are a home schooling family that loves adventures and the outdoors! I love having boys, and I am honored that God chose us to raise them up. I do not claim to be an expert in the area of home school, as my children are still young, but I do have a good amount of experience and I am happy to share what I can. So here we go!

How long have you schooled your boys at home?

My first instinct is to say that I have been schooling my boys at home since the day they were born! Each moment of each day a child grows and learns so much! I think that sometimes we as parents forget that the early years have SO much learning packed in! Just imagine if you were dropped into a foreign country, not knowing the language and paralyzed, totally reliant on someone else to take care of your every need and teach you. That in essence is what it is like to be an infant and toddler.

But, according to the traditional idea of schooling I have been schooling my boys at home now for the past 2 years.

Do you school all three boys at home?

Yes and no. I school them at home, in the park, at the library, on hiking trips, in the grocery store, and anywhere the opportunity arises. (Are you getting a sense of my schooling style yet? *smile*)
But to answer the question as to public, private, or home… Our oldest son, Joshua, is full time home schooled. Our second son, Daniel, goes to a public school as well as being home schooled. He is in a program that is specifically geared towards developmentally delayed children. Through the school, he receives speech and occupational therapy. I work very closely with them and there is daily communication, and what they do at school corresponds on what we do here for school and therapy. Daniel spends an average of 10 hours a week with the specialist there. These are his last few months to be part of the program and I am going to miss the teachers. I am sure I will stay in touch with them… but we are ready to move on.
And Elijah our third born is still considered too young for school (3 years old) BUT he is home schooled.

Could you talk about some of the factors in your decision to home school?

Growing up I experienced all types of school, Public from preschool-4th, home school from 5-9th, private for 10th, and then 11th and 12th I decided private and public school wasn’t for me, took a college entrance exams, and started my post secondary education as well as working the last two years of high school. My husband Matt was public schooled his entire pre-college career. Personally, I had a very difficult time in public school. I would get easily frustrated and distracted. When I did not understand a concept I would fall behind fast. I was greatly influenced by my peer group in school, and looking back I am SO thankful that my mom took the road of homeschooling me during the tender pre and early teen years.

I want to share an example with you of how I was influenced while in public school: When I was in forth grade I had a friend who was Catholic. As you may know, in the Catholic religion there is a large emphasis on the Virgin Mary. So one day, the Catholic friend came up to me and asked me if I knew what the word “virgin” meant. I said no, and she told me the meaning. She thought it would be really funny to ask people ” are you a virgin?” and they, not knowing what a virgin is, would in turn say “no” and it would be funny. So we went around to these poor innocent children asking them if they were virgins, and they would tell us “NO” rather defensively, and we would laugh. To this day I feel terrible about that…. but it is a good reminder to me.

I did not have the greatest experiences in public school, but I had wonderful experiences with home school. My mother was tender and kind; she got to know my strengths and weaknesses and built on those. I was presented with a quality group of friends who were able to actually do things with me not just on the weekends after their homework was done! I was able to learn life skills hands on… cooking, budgeting, and the like. Not to mention I spent so much quality time with my mom. I was in heaven getting to spend so much time with her. I’m sure she was ready for a break from me though. I can tell you that I wasn’t an easy child to home school. I was quite emotional at times, but I honestly would not be the person I am today without those years of homeschooling.

So personal experience was a big factor for me… as well as hearing about Matt’s public school experiences. I was most certainly learning towards home school, but there was one specific episode that spurred my conviction to home school. Our oldest had just been diagnosed with Autism and was attending a preschool for special need children. I was in a parents meeting and we were discussing our children’s likes and what they were doing new. One mom, very proudly, spoke up about her 4-year-old son and how he has been repeating words often from his favorite movie…she then proceeded to say that his favorite movie was HELLBOY. I have never seen the movie; I know that it is some sort of rated R horror type movie. You can imagine my shock and horror that my 4-year-old son was spending time with other little boys whose favorite movie to quote was Hellboy!!!! SERIOUSLY… I am not kidding you here. With how hard it is for autistic children to connect and filter social attitudes, it was not a good situation for our son to be in. We also noticed that he was getting very aggressive and uncontrollable. We decided to pull him out against much opposition and he has been home schooled since.

The teachers that were not too fond of our choice to home school now work with Daniel. They have had the opportunity to spend time with Joshua and after seeing how much he has grown and learned; they just can’t believe it because they didn’t expect it out of him. They call his case “uncommon”. Interesting how he has done so much better being home schooled, even though they were not encouraging of that choice and thought he would be worse off being home schooled.

The main factor in our homeschooling is that for Matt and I our biggest concern for our boys is to develop their character, to instill in them determination and hard work, and above all for them to be men of character. In discussing all of the options, we decided that homeschooling enabled us to really help shape our children into the men we know that God is calling them to be.

Do you have any particular style or method that you follow in your schooling?

I would say that I am very much a believer in the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. The book A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning, by Keren Andreola is a must read for anyone who is interested in that style of learning. For quick explanation on the Charlotte Mason method, one home school mom sums it up: Charlotte Mason was a British educator who was born in 1842. She was a prolific writer on the subject of education. However she did far more than write about this field she lived an entire lifetime teaching children and observing how they learn.

In the charlotte mason method, there is a huge emphasis on reading the worthwhile books and never spending any time with boring books. There is another key element that is crucial and makes it different: The parent is to set a goal of helping the child to develop a love for learning, to become a lifelong learner. As parents we try to not kill that love with methods and materials. We believe strongly in knowledge for knowledge’s sake rather than cramming information into the short-term portion of the human mind. -Catherine Levison

I guess one would say it is a more natural style of learning especially in the first years of education. I recommend any parent thinking about homeschooling to look into this approach.

A good website on homeschooling that I enjoy is this one.

http://www.besthomeschooling.org/

And I HIGHLY recommend this article on homeschooling preschoolers …

http://www.besthomeschooling.org/articles/bev_krueger.html

Could you describe some of the positive/favorite aspects of your schooling choices?

My favorites are:

  • Knowing and spending time with my boys.
  • No homework after hours at school.
  • Being able to have family vacations and days off without worrying about their education being interrupted, but enhanced!
  • Discovering and addressing their strengths and weaknesses in learning styles and building on them.
  • Encouraging them in the things they are really interested in and using those things to teach.
  • Teaching things that are applicable to life situations.
  • Knowing where they are at and what they are doing. This may seem controlling or paranoid, but with the way society is going, it’s a scary place out there for young children.

What have been some of the challenges?

  •  Self-discipline is a challenge for me. I am disciplined to teach the boys but some days, when I’m not feeling well or there is a lot going on, it is difficult to push through.
  • In the beginning of wanting to home school, Matt was very leery of it. Just because he had a view of what home schooled children were like so he worried about our kids being “weird”. With love and patience we discussed the issue and I shared my heart. Over time he softened to the idea of homeschooling and now he is on board.
  • A big challenge for me is people doubting that I have the ability to train my children well. It is very difficult when you are always getting questions or doubts, ESPECIALLY in our case where 2 boys are special needs.
  • Along with others questioning our choice, comes the self-doubt and questioning of myself. I know that I can do it, but when it feels like I have more opposition then encouragement and support it most certainly feels more challenging.
  • With time I am sure new challenges will come up, but there is no point to worry about what potentially could come up now!

A couple of your boys have special needs, how does that affect how you go about schooling?

It has a large effect on how we go about schooling. Our focus is a little different then say a typical homeschoolers focus and at a much slower pace. We also school all year round. With our boys, we focus a lot on social situations and guidance in those areas.  For instance with social situations, our oldest son does not understand boundaries very well. So we work on how to talk to people, when you can and cannot touch people, you look people in the eyes when they talk to you, etc.… Of course every child needs to learn these things, but it is to a more extreme compared to a child who is functioning on a normal level. Also repetition is needed much more then in a typical setting with them, so learning concepts over and over again in ways that they can relate to (sometimes very unconventional ways).

We also have school at different times of the day when functioning is higher then at other times of the day. Our formal sit down schooling usually happens in the evening time after dinner. The kids have all had the day to run and play and explore and enjoy, and we discovered that they are eager to learn and listen after dinner. So when it comes to working on penmanship and reading, evening works well for our boys to practice and learn.

There is also lot of therapy that is involved with our schooling, such as speech and occupational therapy. A large part of Daniel’s schooling is just getting him to vocalize! With his diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of speech, school for him is focused on language development. And so to some, what we are doing may not seem like school, but it is.

A great book to read on homeschooling autistic children is Homeschooling the Child with Autism: Answers to the Top Questions Parents and Professionals Ask (Jossey-Bass Teacher).
This is a great book for any parent with an autistic child, or even a special needs child, to read and maybe help answer some questions many may have.

 How do you see your boys responding to learning?

They are responding very well. They all very much are excited and eager to learn because we present it in a way that they are interested in and get them interested in learning. I do give them times of pushing through when they don’t want to, but for the most part, they are excited to do school. I think in the early years it is important to make learning fun and give them a good foundation.

Are there ever days that you wish you could through in the towel or days that you question your decision?

Most certainly there are days when I feel like that. Especially when one of the boys is being difficult and not wanting to work on a lesson or a concept with me, even if it is something I know he loves and would be interested in. It gets a little disheartening sometimes, and sometimes it gets overwhelming to think that this child’s education is in your hands. But in the wise words of my mother I always remember to … take it a day at a time. Some days I think about the friends who send their kids off to school and have the day to themselves… that sounds nice, but I CAN NOT sacrifice my child’s character for wanting to have a break because this time will pass and I will have time to myself someday! Don’t get me wrong, I do not wear myself out with the kids and spend every waking minute with them. It’s important for me to get breaks from them so that I don’t burn out. But I don’t need breaks 5 days a week for 8 hours at a time.

On a side note, I just want to send a special note out to the parent who has their child in public or private school. I am in no way insinuating that if you are a stay at home mom, or a full time working parents, and you send your child to school, you are doing something wrong by not homeschooling them. Every family is different and there is no right or wrong for everybody. I have friends whose children are public schooled, private schooled and home schooled, and in each situation it is good for them. So I am in no way meaning to offend you, this is my personal conviction for my family and myself and I do not want to make anyone feel guilty for their choice in schooling.

Is Matt also able to be involved in the boys schooling?

He is able to be involved! He is always trying to teach them something or get Joshua to read. And it’s funny because sometimes he tries too hard to the point that it is exhausting himself and the boys. I have to tell him to step back, remind him that they are still so little and to give lots and lots of encouragement. He teaches them a lot of lessons on life skills, especially wilderness skills. We have also agreed that when the boys get older he will take over the math and science and I will work with the boys on everything else!

Do you ever have others question your choice to schooling? What would your response be?

ALL THE TIME! Again, especially because of the special needs issues. I have many therapists and teachers disapprove of my homeschooling the boys and doubt my abilities to home school. The main concern is the socialization issue. Everyone, even complete strangers, seems to have an opinion on socialization. Once I was at a produce stand and a woman made a comment about my son not being in school. I said that we home schooled. She asked if we went to church and I told her we did. She sighed with relief and said that was good that my children were socialized at least in some way. OH BROTHER is all I have to say! I’m so tired of the whole socialization issue…I could write forever on the topic, but that is another topic for another day!!!!!

When others comment about our schooling choice in a negative way, I am polite and thank them for their concern but my sons have plenty of friends that they see often and they are involved in “extra curricular” activities. I try not to take it personally because they don’t know me and they don’t know my situation.

To some one considering schooling their children at home, what you say are key “ingredients”?

  • Determination.
  • A willingness to give up your time and desires in order to teach and nurture your children.
  • Support, be it from family or friends, but some sort of support.

Here is a list from a homeschooling dad of 4 that I wanted to share. I feel like he shares it best on the key aspects of homeschooling:

When you wake up each day, before you get out of bed, forgive your children, in advance, for anything that they might do during the day. Don’t be discouraged if in the course of your day you fail to keep your original intent. Tomorrow is a new day in which a fresh start can be made.

Love unconditionally.
Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. You were a child once.
Listen to your children.
Trust your children.
Don’t underrate your children.
Don’t control. Set an example instead.
Don’t be afraid to tell your children you were wrong.
It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’
Reinvent the wheel. You may get a new wheel.
Look forward to experiencing new things.
Every invention is the result of someone going where no one has gone before. -Ron Rennik

If you would like to talk or ask questions please feel free to contact me! I love talking to new people, especially about homeschooling! You can find me through my blog www.mylittlewarriors.blogspot.com or you can e-mail me at kristincrume@hotmail.com.

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