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A Homeschool Family's Experience

Karen Arnesen

I was introduced to home schooling before I was married and while I was an eighth grade English teacher. A friend of mine was expecting her first child and planned on teaching her at home. I was immediately impressed with the idea. As a teacher I could see benefits in the small "class size" and was intrigued by the idea of having my children stay home with me. It seemed a good way to emphasize the importance of the family and to create a close-knit family. It also seemed an ideal way to focus on the spiritual aspects of education and life so lacking in public education.

A few years later, when I married and began to have my own children, my husband and I decided to try teaching them at home. We now have 5 children ages 1 to 10 with another on the way. All of them, except the oldest who attended public school in a gifted and talented program for the first time this year, are home schooled. The oldest will return home after two years in school.

We have enjoyed our home schooling experience and feel richly blessed by being able to have our children at home with us. Our children love and serve each other (not, however, without some contention); they have different values from their public schooled friends; they are interested and involved learners (although not necessarily brilliant ones); they read worthwhile books and begin reading the scriptures as soon as they are able to read; they are able to develop interests that take more time at home than public school allows such as music and scouts; they are not bored and can fill their time with worthwhile activities with little or no outside direction; they are able to focus on activities for extended periods of time. My husband and I feel all these benefits are a result of our children's being taught at home.

We have a rather structured approach to our school day. We begin with a devotional consisting of hymn singing, scripture and poetry memorization and recitation, and scripture study. (Family scripture study, family prayer, the pledge, and more singing take place before Daddy leaves for work.) Children who are ready for school work do assignments in math, language, and reading (usually from A Beka curriculum workbooks) every day. While I practice the piano or violin with one child, the others do their school work in the same room, asking for help if they need it. If the children are diligent, they can finish this work in around an hour. They are then free to play, create, read, etc. while I finish helping everyone practice.

My educational philosophy is closely aligned with Charlotte Mason's (read about her in For the Children's Sake by Susan Shaeffer Macauley), so we do narrations, nature notebooks, great literature, etc. We have story time every day, reading books that either I or the children choose. We also do group activities in science and social studies. We cook together and clean together. We enjoy all kinds of games and puzzles. And we try to build on our children's interests and the leanings of their personalities. For example, my oldest girl (7) loves being around little children. So this year she organized and conducts a weekly playgroup for three-year-olds, charging $2.00 a class and loving the experience. My five-year-old loves to draw. Keeping her supplied with art materials and books of fine art, which she loves to study, is quite a challenge. Also helping her overcome her perfectionistic frustration keeps me busy. My oldest enjoys classical everything, from music to art and literature. One of his favorite activities was reading Shakespeare plays together with another family.

Home schooling is not for everyone, but for me and my husband it has been a joy. Having our children around us and seeing their development in all areas of their lives has given us great satisfaction. It has been and continues to be an experience that could not be replicated in any other way.

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