I want to say Thank You! to Homeschool Mosaics for giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts each month. This month, I’m going to share with you why we started home schooling and some of the transitions we’ve encountered through the years. My goal is to provide encouragement to you and your family as you continue on your home education journey.
My wife Carrie and I were married in 1992. We have two great kids. Ryan is 16 and Ashleigh is 12. We’ve also experienced two miscarriages and two ectopic pregnancies. We make our home at an elevation of 7,143 feet in the cool pine and aspen trees of northern Arizona, near Flagstaff. We get about 100 inches of snow on average and rarely does it get above 90 degrees in the summer.
The word transition is defined as: a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another; or change. As I write this, I’m sitting in Marlow, Oklahoma, 780 miles away from our home. We were just here a few weeks ago for Christmas. We’re back for one of the greatest transitions in life – a funeral. My wife’s grandfather, Carl McMullin, passed away. He was 91 and a veteran of WWII. He was awarded six bronze stars while he served with the 3rd Army under General George Patton in Europe. This transition has been a while in the making, with his health declining over the last few years.
Transitioning to home schooling wasn’t on our radar when our son started kindergarten. Both my wife and I are the product of public schools in Texas in the 70’s and 80’s. Our son had an amazing teacher in kindergarten. Ryan couldn’t wait to go to school everyday. Mr. Thomas took a genuine interest in him and we experienced a fantastic year. First grade started great! Another wonderful teacher and what looked to be another good year. A few weeks into the year, Ryan’s teacher developed some major health issues, and as a result, only taught about 6 weeks. The rest of the year was taught by five different teachers, each lasting about six weeks. His second grade year Ryan had a teacher who was one of those who should have retired a long time ago. It was a frustrating time. We were at the school, helping out, being good active parents, doing what we were supposed to do, but it just wasn’t working. Little did we know that the transition to home schooling had begun.
My wife came around before I did to the idea of home educating Ryan. We found out that his third grade teacher was going to be an individual known for espousing liberal beliefs in a very vocal way, and neither of us wanted that for Ryan. The transition for me was abrupt and took place on a Saturday morning the summer between Ryan’s second and third grade year. Some friends of ours had been home educating their children and the father had a very pointed conversation with me in our driveway while we were having a garage sale. I don’t remember the exact details of the conversation, but I do know that we decided that weekend to home school
With just a few weeks before “school started,” Carrie and I were scrambling to figure out what to do. We talked to a few folks, did some research, and decided to go the “home school in a box/DVD” route, because it seemed like something we could handle and the price was right. Our transition to this new way of thinking and living allowed us to experience every available emotion known to man! We had many successes and many failures, and you know what? We survived! No long term damage to our son. No long term damage to my wife. No long term damage to me. We decided in the spring that this route (home school in a box) wasn’t one that was going to work long term. So we started another transition period…and that’s when it happened…we were introduced to…THE HOME SCHOOL CONVENTION!
Our first home school convention was in Phoenix. This transition was probably the most overwhelming to us as we weren’t prepared for the amount of curriculum choices available. We went from our little box of books and DVD’s that UPS dropped off at our house to a literal warehouse of every type of curriculum available. We were overwhelmed. What was the best? What worked for this family? What worked for that family? How would we know what would work for our family? Carrie and I split up and we each found a math curriculum we KNEW would be the best for our son! Then came the english curriculum! Then the science curriculum! Then there were the history videos! So many choices! So much money!
We were a mess. Carrie and I didn’t know what to do. We wanted to make the RIGHT decision, but how could we be sure? Looking back now, we couldn’t be sure of anything! So we stuck with our original curriculum game plan, added a few pieces we thought would help, and dove into the school year. We thought this was the BEST decision. We had starts and stops, ups and downs, but generally we had a decent year. We were still newbies and weren’t sure if what we were doing was working, but our son seemed to be getting it, and he was progressing, so we were happy.
One thing we didn’t do was panic. Panic causes wildly unthinking behavior and rash decisions. We found our local home school support group and we had more and more friends who were making the same choices we were about education. That was comforting, but it didn’t mean that we were in lockstep with them either. This led to another transition…creating our own path. Carrie and I found what worked for our kids, and we followed that route. We were informed by decisions of our friends, but not influenced by them.
In 2012, I had an opportunity to transition in the business world and I created My Home School Grades, which has become the premier online scheduling, grade tracking, and transcript software for home school families. Since then, I’ve been able to listen to and speak with many home school families around the world. I’ve met veteran home schoolers, some who are a few years in, some who have just started, and some who don’t even have kids yet! I have been able to see families in transition throughout all of these stages.
The one common aspect that all of these families have in common is that at some point, about some item or issue (usually many at the same time), they are scared and frightened. Fear overcomes them and they tend to make decisions because they panic (see definition above). I want to encourage you today that when the transitions come and fear creeps in and you start to question every decision you have ever made…know that you are not alone.
Here’s what Carrie and I do (warning – this is not easy!). We make the BEST decision in the moment. We take the facts we have right now and we make the best decision we can. Many times it will turn out to be the RIGHT decision. Some times it may not. “But John, What if this happens? What if that happens?” We can’t predict every outcome, nor should we try. Make the BEST decision right now, and then adjust as time goes on. Otherwise you will be paralyzed by fear, and that never leads to good outcomes.
No matter what stage of home educating you are in, know that transitions will occur! Embrace them! You won’t have babies around forever. Your kids will learn their times tables. They will succeed. They will fail. You’ll have great days and not so great days. Your kids will grow up. They will get married, they will probably give you grandchildren, and then you can drag out the box of curriculum you’ve been storing in the garage all these years. Then you can encourage the next generation as they transition through life.