We were on our long stint in the U.S., in Tallahassee, Florida, where Chip was pursuing his PhD in adult education. We had already been there a year, where our boys were attending a Christian private school. We usually had very positive experiences with Christian schools. However, there is often one big hurdle with such private education…the cost! We were really struggling with making ends meet with 2 kids in the private school and now Amanda was ready for formal education in kindergarten. When we did the math, it became apparent we could not send all 3 kids to the expensive Christian school and there was no financial aid available. The public schools in the neighborhood we were living in had a very bad reputation for violence and poor education. We did not want to send our ‘innocent lambs’ to the slaughter there. What to do?
About that time, we became aware of something called home schooling. The concept intrigued me, but I had serious doubts and questions as to the ability of the average mother to be both teacher and parent. Would the children take her seriously and accept her authority as teacher? Does she have sufficient education herself to teach her kids? Does she have the patience, self-discipline, and diligence for such a task? Of course, the undercurrent to these questions was really “Do I have what it takes to do this? Am I up to such a task?”
We investigated this option for some time, searching online for good curriculum, asking questions of home-schooling parents, researching what the state of Florida’s requirements would be for such a venture. I did not want my children’s chances for further education later down the road compromised because we did not do due diligence early on. Of course, we prayed a lot about whether this was for us. Eventually, we became convinced that educating our children at home would be not only a more affordable option but would offer us the flexibility we often needed because of frequent travels, as well as more control over what was fed into our kids’ minds.
We found a homeschooling curriculum that offered faith-based, but flexible and open-minded material, which was not ethno-centric, was strongly reading-based, offering a good collection of children’s classics, and with a focus on the entire world, rather than majoring on one region alone. In addition, they offered a selection of curriculum for broad topics. For instance, in math, there were 3 choices of programs from the most traditional memory-based curriculum to the most recent ‘modern math’ which used a lot of manipulatives. The flexibility was great because there were materials for parents to help them organize themselves and to learn teaching methods. There was something for the most rank beginner who had no confidence at all to the ‘pro’ who had been educating children at home for years. That clinched it. We bought the materials (with as many aids for parents as we could afford) and settled down to have school at home.
Amazingly, the kids were excited about trying this too. No one expressed any misgivings. We started with Josh in 7th grade, Sam in 4th and Amanda in kindergarten. Wow…what a spread! I was beginning to feel this was going to be a full-time job! I hoped and prayed fervently that we had not just made the mistake of the century…