- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000

I can't believe we are nearly finished with another year of school. For the past 14 years we have ended the year by attending our state's home-school convention.

Throughout the year my husband and I, along with the rest of the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania Board of Directors, plan and prepare for the annual event. Then on convention weekend we watch as thousands of home-schoolers come together to purchase curricula and attend workshops to prepare for a new school year.

This year I noticed how many young couples were in attendance. I knew they must just be starting out, or are teaching elementary-age students. I suddenly realized that when our family begins a new school year in a few months, it will be the first time in 17 years that I will not have a child in elementary school.

I am both happy and sad. I am sad because I love teaching younger children. Seeing the expressions of wonder and excitement on their faces as they learn to read and discover the world around them will never cease to excite me about learning and teaching new things. I'm happy because I have watched my children grow and mature into fine young men and women.

Seeing those young families put me into a contemplative mood. I mused about what it would be like to start over. What would we do differently? What would we keep the same? I came up with a personal list, but then I wondered how my children would answer the question, "If we could go back in time, what one thing would you change about our home-school experience?"

Some of the responses I expected, and some of them I did not.

Christopher, our 21-year-old son, said, "I wish you would not have left me to study on my own as much." As a new home-schooling mom, with four young children, it seemed easiest to just give him an assignment and send him to his room to finish it. The trouble was he often would daydream or work on another activity rather than his schoolwork.

Chris was a good student, but I believe he would have done better if I had seen the importance of "just being there" not necessarily helping him with every assignment, but just physically being present.

Our daughter, Erin, now 19, said, "I wish we would have had more structure." Erin loved school and would have been considered a teacher's dream. She was eager to learn, loved to do workbook pages and completed assignments on time.

She thrived when she had lesson plans she could work through independently but became frustrated when she had to slow down and wait for Mom to catch up. We did, and still do have a daily schedule, but guarding our school time from being snatched by household duties, running errands, and out-of-home commitments has never been an easy task.

Of all the answers, the one from Joseph, our nearly 17-year-old son, surprised me the most. Joseph has always been the "carefree tree climber" and "boundary tester." He would prefer to do nearly anything else in life except book work, and he has worked hard at testing the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

Joseph's initial response was, "I wish I would not have had to take Latin," but then in a more serious tone he said, "I wish I had more discipline." He knows I cannot make him a more disciplined person, but his response told me boundaries and self-discipline do matter to him. My job is to provide the guidance and environment to help him develop a more disciplined life.

And finally, our 11-year-old son, Zachary, said, "Do more projects and not have to have math anymore." Zachary is still a child, and sometimes the routine of book work can become downright boring. He enjoys a hands-on element to his studies. I already incorporate projects into his lessons, but his answer told me, that for him, learning would be less arduous if he could put his knowledge to use.

I found it a bit ironic that, other than Joseph's comment about not having to take Latin and Zachary's about math, my children's answers had nothing to do with the type of curricula they used, or the outside activities they could have been involved in. Many home-school parents would consider curricula choices and extracurricular activities top home-schooling concerns, but are there more important issues?

This has not been an easy article for me to write I had to face the fact that even after 16 years of home-schooling our family has important areas we need to work on. That's a good thing since I believe we would be in a worse position if we thought we had everything figured out and had no room to improve.

As you complete your school year and begin planning a new one, take time to evaluate your own home-school program. Ask your children what they enjoyed or what they think may need to be changed. You won't be able to change the past, but you will be better prepared to face the future.

Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 16 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail at (CHAPKimH@aol.com).

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