Home schooling is about parents being advocates

Teaching your child

Teaching your child



That's my reply to the question I've been asked frequently in the last few weeks: "So how was your first year of home schooling?"

I was surprised at the amount of work involved - researching curriculum; making lesson plans; teaching reading, writing and arithmetic; setting up science experiments and art projects; planning fun physical education times and introducing composers and various musical styles to my children's tender ears.

Experienced home schoolers say I probably did too much with my kids this year, pushed them a little too hard and that my expectations were too high.


Yeah, probably.

But my kids are doing really well. Not just academically, but socially.

I've noticed that they smile a lot more than they did at this time last year. They seem calmer. Their favorite question is "So, what are we doing next?"

Their circle of friends has grown to include kids of various ages from all over the Tri-State area. There is a tremendous network of home-schooling families here and numerous groups and co-operatives provide countless learning opportunities.

And the best part is that as a home-schooling mom, I get to experience it all with my kids. We've had a blast learning together.

People have asked many questions, but these are the most frequent ones:

Why home school?

It's not my goal to produce a spelling bee or geography bee champion.

I want to shape my children's character. I not only want them to be productive adults; I want them to be respectful and kind. This is the instruction I weave into the fabric of each subject I teach. Plus, I truly enjoy being with them.

How do you know what to teach when?

Some home schoolers design their own programs, but I chose not to go that route. I bought textbooks and curriculum guides with lesson plans.

How did you know which curriculum to select?

I did a lot of reading and asked lots of questions. I talked to administrators, teachers and other home schoolers. I also attended some educational conferences where publishers were among the vendors. It helps to review the materials and not just buy them sight unseen over the Internet.

Did you follow the curriculum?

Mostly. Although there often were times that I chose to supplement.

What does it mean to supplement a curriculum?

You find something your child is really interested in - or something that you think is important - and you get more books and plan more projects on that topic.

How do you know if your child is where he's supposed to be academically?

Standardized tests are available. I bought the tests that were designed for the curriculum I selected.

How do you teach physical education to just one or two students?

We concentrated on skills and game rules. We talked about a different muscle each week and learned an exercise using that muscle. We also participated in a co-operative where physical education was taught once a week. Several of those kids earned Presidential Fitness awards.

What about art?

We did a lot of art this year - painting, working with clay, building structures. We talked about and experimented with the basic elements of shape - dots, circles, lines. We read about and looked at the work of famous artists. And I'm hosting a drawing class at my home this summer, taught by one of my very artistic friends. (She just happens to have a degree in elementary education.)

And music?

Each day as I'm preparing lunch, I pop in a different CD or cassette. We're partial to patriotic, classical, inspirational, Western and Broadway tunes. After lunch I usually read a story to my kids that can be tied to the music in some way - historically, geographically, etc. They've also both taken classes through Hagerstown Community College's Symphony Music Center, which I highly recommend.

Are they ever with kids their own age?

Just about every day. Between co-ops, music classes, field trips, soccer, church activities and play groups, sometimes I wonder if they're not over-socialized. Home schooling is not about isolation. It is about parents being advocates for their kids, seeking the best educational opportunities that are available.

What was the most frustrating part of home schooling?

My son tells me he hates to write.

Go figure.

But he loves math and science. So, we did what was required for writing and did extra math and science because that's what he enjoys.

What was the best part of home schooling?

I can tailor my children's education to their specific needs. I know how they learn, what they get and what they don't get ... and what bores them to tears. I know what I can skip over and what I need to review. It's about recognizing their strengths, providing them with the tools they need to succeed and then getting out of their way.

We became extremely close this year. I really know my kids.

And that kind of exhaustion is quite satisfying.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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