Home Schooling: It's Not For Everyone (but could it be for you?)

I’m a veteran. Not the military kind, although I do love my country dearly and honor and respect those who have chosen to serve it as a career. But I’m talking about a different sort of service: an ‘educational’ one … “Home schooling” to be exact. After a 20-year career of teaching our four kids at home and a 4-year hiatus to take a professional sabbatical (during which time I also explored other educational alternatives), the Mountain Farmgirl is back in the saddle again, teaching her youngest son at home. It’s not for everyone … could it be for you?

Let’s face it; if we’re lucky enough to have children, we ARE their very first teachers. From the moment they emerge, warm, wet and looking intently into our eyes for love and guidance, we have become (for better or for worse) the most important teacher they will ever have. It was at just such a moment that I first decided to homeschool our kids.  Christopher was all of about 3 seconds old  … and I had never even heard of homeschooling before, let alone felt prepared to undertake such a daunting task. But having lost a baby at birth a decade before, and now seeing this perfect little person, this beautiful bundle of potential looking intensely at me – almost through me into my soul -- every primal maternal instinct that has ever existed in the universe kicked into play, and I was a tiger mom, ready for action! It was a golden moment, forever crystalized in time. 25 years after the fact, I can still revisit the moment with all its sights, sounds and the sweet buttery smell of my newborn to this very day. Reliving the moment, I see my husband Dana sitting beside me on the bed, telling me to “drink in every precious moment, because in the blink of an eye our little son would be getting ready to board a school bus for his first day of school”! The jolt of that reality was such an astonishing thought that every fiber of my being revolted against it; and though I didn’t know it at the time, our first day of home schooling had begun.
To be perfectly upfront, let me say that I am an unabashed homeschool advocate, an evangelical one in fact – but I’ll also be the first to admit that it’s not an option - or even the right choice for everyone. Still, for me it has been somewhat of a mission that I have been on for more than two decades now. From home school mom to convention speaker, support group leader to homeschool liason between parents and the state Board of Regents, I have immersed myself in home schooling from just about every angle. During my recent 4 year professional sabbatical from homeschooling, during which time our daughter attended an alternative private school and our youngest son Josh attended our public grammar and middle schools here in New Hampshire, I have had the opportunity to round out my perspective and to understand the pros and cons of public schooling, private schooling, un-schooling and homeschooling in a very unique way, up close and personal. With one son now in college and another as an entrepreneur with a profession of his own, a daughter about to go to art school in the fall and a 14 year old still at home, I’ve also come through the educational fires and successfully out the other side enough times to tell you -- beyond a shadow of a doubt-- that homeschooling absolutely DOES work!
As a Farmgirl sister with this awesome privilege and opportunity of being able to share ideas with kindred spirits around the country through my Farmgirl columns, today I would like to share my  experiences regarding education in general, and homeschooling in particular. No judging is allowed … which ever one you decide on for your family, I can tell you that I have been there myself and I totally applaud your choice!
In a nutshell, my educational philosophy can be summed up in two words: Lifelong Learning! You’re never too young, you’re never too old; and it’s NEVER too late to learn! One of the things I was pretty good at while teaching my older kids, was the art of erasing the boundaries that separated one subject from another; you know, the ones that presented the world as a disjointed collection of facts to be learned. That kind of teaching, which divides learning into distinct and disconnected subjects has plenty of place when you get to higher, more specialized subjects. But early on I rather liked to show the interrelatedness of things, allowing one subject to flow seamlessly into another during the course of a day; all just a natural part of daily living. It was important to me that my children didn’t think of learning as “starting” and “stopping” at certain times of the day, after certain subjects were completed, or at different seasons of the year (such as summer vacation, a time of year when perhaps we actually learned the most). Learning is as natural as breathing and is just part of daily life. Learning is FUN!!!
As fate would have it, shortly after Christopher was born and homeschooling was unconsciously incubating in my heart and mind, I accidentally saw a flyer advertising a homeschool group that was forming in our area. At the time we were living and working in New York City where my husband was going to law school, and where I was the director of a Quaker International Community House. Having never actually known that you COULD teach your kids at home, but being enormously intrigued and drawn to the idea once I heard that it might be possible, I decided to attend what turned out to be the inaugural meeting of the New York City Home Educators Alliance (NYCHEA). I came home totally on fire for home educating our son.  Unfortunately, my enthusiastic passion and newfound conviction wasn’t met with such unconditional acceptance back at home! My husband, who was about to get his Doctorate in Law, was a man who came from a family that not only valued traditional education, but one that considered it absolutely mandatory. After all, with a mother who had her Ph.D in Organic Chemistry, a dad whose advanced degrees were in Engineering and Computer Science, and siblings with Masters and Doctorates themselves, my husband’s family was not only unconvinced about home education, they thought I had totally lost my mind and were about to have me committed. I didn’t have any better luck on my own side of the family, either. My mother had been a public school teacher for 26 years at the time and was serving her second term as President of her School Board. Needless to say, the news was received with critical acclaim … with the focus here being  on the word  ‘critical’! But although I was completely outnumbered, I was not discouraged. When you know in your heart that something is right, discouragement is not an option; patience and perseverance, however, are.  (And I had plenty of them!)
Although I totally believe that home schooling starts from the very first breath a child takes, it was not necessary at that time to actually fight the family city hall, as the expression goes. Chris was only an infant and there was plenty of time to become “official”! I ordered some homeschooling magazines and was so inspired and impressed by them, that I ended up getting all the back issues, leaving them conspicuously around our apartment, conveniently in the bathroom, anywhere my husband (a voracious reader) might pick one up out of curiosity. To make a long story short, in time he went from ‘skeptic’ to ‘convinced’ that we needed to pursue this further, and eventually he became as passionate as I.
Although we weren’t aware of them at the time, we have discovered that there are SO many reasons that homeschooling makes sense and works so well.  But before I mention a few, this might be a good time to acknowledge that there are probably just as many reasons why it wouldn’t work in certain situations either. When I give  talks on home education, right about now I can start to feel the hackles going up on the back of a few parent’s necks! No need to bristle … there are many different paths to an education, and homeschooling is only one of many alternatives. Maybe you have to work, or you feel overwhelmed by the prospect. You might feel you are not organized enough; there may be medical issues that take precedence; or you and your child’s personalities may clash when you spend lots of time in close proximity to one another. Your own personal needs will dictate the situation and the decision, and one choice is not better than another. When it IS a good fit, however, you will find (just like anything else) that the sky is the limit to the educational adventures you can take right along with your family.
Before I elaborate, let me first interject what home schooling IS NOT!! So many people get hung up on the “socialization” aspect of homeschooling -- the fear of children being isolated and “unsocialized” in a homeschool setting – that this becomes a stumbling block they cannot get beyond to hear all the great benefits. So let’s address this first. If I could pick only ONE reason to homeschool, this would probably be it. Homeschooling is NOT house arrest; in fact the entire world is our classroom (quite literally, as you will see). With only one exception in my 24 years of experience (and this child was a special case who would have been unsociable in ANY setting) I have found homeschoolers to be immensely better socialized than any other children I’ve ever met. They play with and look out for children younger than themselves; they love their siblings; they can have meaningful and polite conversations with adults, and they also feel comfortable and in control in any range of public situations. (Not so with the majority of public schoolers in my experience). In fact, for myself and almost every homeschooler I know, the opposite is almost a problem.  So much is going on in the lives of most home school families that they have to make a concerted effort to spend more time at home. Believe me when I say that “socialization” is not a problem!
In the case of my own children, no four siblings could be more different. (Fortunately they were born at home so I know that they are all mine!!). From personalities to learning styles, circadian rhythms to personal interests, each of their unique qualities would have been lost in a one-size-fits-all classroom. Let me give you some examples (Of course I’m naturally proud of my kids, but please don’t think I’m bragging about them. They each had things going FOR and AGAINST them, and home schooling allowed us to capitalize on their strengths and work within their limits or weaknesses. I’ll have to keep it short here, but the more complete story is on our website at http://ilovethelodge.com/innkeepers/index.php ). 

Christopher is our oldest. He’ll be 25 in September, and getting married this June to the sort of young  woman I have prayed to come into his life since the day he was born.  A few years ago, when he knew Elizabeth would be “the one” he asked my husband and me for a Purity ring, as they had both pledged to keep themselves pure until marriage. They have separate apartments in Pittsburgh where he is the Assistant Manager of a hotel and she is finishing up her degree in Neurology. Chris was our homeschool “ginuea pig”, so to speak. Really bright intellectually, Chris also had dyslexia and was a very late reader. With all family eyes scrutinizing our homeschool “experiment”, you can imagine the pressure we were getting when Chris was 11 years old and still not reading! I held my ground, however, because both my husband and his father and brother were late developmentally as well, and today they are some of the most well-read men you could ever meet. So, I had faith, we read a lot out loud, and by the age of 12 something “kicked in” and everything fell into place for him.  He hasn’t put books down since. Chris is a very hands-on learner, loves to build things, is physically very active, and his list of accomplishments is astounding (see website if curious). The point is, in a traditional school setting, Chris would have been ‘labeled’ and tracked in a program that would have kept him from being the high achiever that he is, and his self-esteem would have suffered in the process. While it was a ‘big deal’ at age 11 not to be able to read, in the scheme of his whole life, what does that matter, now that he does read, and reads probably more voraciously today than most people his age?

Our son Noah is another special case that was helped along by homeschooling. The first day he ever sat in a “real” classroom was his first day as a student at Johns Hopkins University, where he is currently a sophomore majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. We never taught Noah to read; he somehow intuitively absorbed it while sitting on my lap as I read books aloud to the family. But however it happened, he was reading on his own by the age of 4 and Noah’s genius became apparent at a very early age. At the age of 6 he was beating adults at local chess tournaments, and he had an international chess career that is  very impressive. We had him tested twice as a child, and his IQ is off the charts; we were told it was so high it could not be accurately assessed. All this just confirmed what we already knew, that Noah was smart, REALLY smart, and he would have been bored stiff at a public school. We were able to supplement subjects such as higher mathematics with college courses on DVD. He graduated from home High School by age 14, and spent the next few years teaching himself computer programming languages and starting a web design business. The local Chamber of Commerce named him Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and he was afterwards headhunted by a local facial recognition company as a Software Engineer. The experience and the perks were so good that he decided to put off college until he was 20. Once accepted, however, he got a 50% scholarship to Johns Hopkins University and had saved up enough money to pay the other half himself.

Our daughter Zia will be 19 this year, and is headed to the Maine College of Art in the fall, where she has just received their Presidential Scholarship. Like her oldest brother, Zia has learning disabilities and dyslexia. She was fully 12 years old before she could read on her own.  However, if there were such a thing, today she would get my vote for the “Lifetime Reader award” for being THE most well-read young woman on planet earth!  Zia has read nearly the entire library, from philosophy to fiction to historical works, and the amazing thing is that she not only retains what she reads but she can recall it and is so articulate about expressing it!  School would have been disaster for her not only for her delayed reading skills, or her lack of interest in all other academic subjects, but because she is on a totally different internal time schedule from everyone in our part of the world.  Since the day she was born, Zia has been a night person.  She begins to come alive around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and stays awake all night long, painting and drawing and reading up a storm. Years and years of trying to change around her schedule to fit more in with the rest of the family’s, has resulted in failure and tears. Her internal clock is just wound differently, and that is part of what makes her the special person that she is. Obviously, this would never have worked in a public school setting. From the time she was able to grab a paintbrush or a pencil, Zia has been drawing and painting non-stop. She sings like a warbler, dances like Isadora Duncan, and has been putting on theatrical performances all her life. Her homemade costume collection rivals that of our local theater! Her 1-year sojourn to an alternative school that focused on the arts was an interesting and eye-opening experience for her. Homeschooling had given her a maturity and self-motivation that she found lacking in her peers, and the shift in schedule to daylight hours was daunting. To her credit she stuck it out for the entire year, but ultimately decided to homeschool the rest of high school.

And now we come to Joshua, our 14 year old son, and the reason I am a home school mom once again. Josh was homeschooled his whole life, including the 2 years right after we moved to New Hampshire. The Grammar school in our little village was adorable, looking like the old 1-room schoolhouse it had originally been. Except that it now had 4 rooms, and its reputation was amazing.  Things like weeklong theater productions, half-days twice every week in winter for XC and downhill skiing, computers for every child, 3-day canoe trips, overnights on the Appalachian Trail. The kids go out on snowshoes in the spring and collect the sap to be boiled in the school sugar house.  They put on a pancake breakfast for the community to raise money.  In short, Jackson public school was just too good to pass up, especially when you are also focusing a lot of energy getting a new family venture off the ground. So we gave the public school a try and it was as wonderful as we had hoped. Josh had 5 kids in his class in the combined 5th and 6th Grade class, and a teacher’s helper in addition to his main teacher. It was incredible, but I had always expected to homeschool him when it came time for Middle School. What I hadn’t expected was resistance from him; Josh wanted to continue to be with his classmates and friends for 7th Grade. We relented, knowing that we had 2 years to make the Big Decision about what we would do for High School.  Fortunately, Josh made it for us: last week he asked us to start homeschooling him again, starting immediately. He was frustrated at school. With his sights on a college for Engineering, he was not being challenged in math. He is also a people person and born performer.  Josh has been perfecting several magic acts and stand-up comedy routines that he discovered do not go over well in a classroom setting! In short, some of his native abilities were being stifled, and his academic aspirations not being challenged enough … a perfect recipe for homeschooling.

So, what are some of the obstacles to homeschooling?  These are a lot of the ones I frequently hear about from parents:
• I’m not smart enough. Don’t think this way.  There are plenty of things my kids would ask me that I didn’t know the answer to, but it was a wonderful opportunity to say, “Gee, I don’t know, but let’s find out together.” It’s important for them to see that learning is ongoing, no matter what your age. With access to a computer, the whole world is at your fingertips (not always a good thing … more on this later!). Catalogs like The Teaching Company offer college and high school subjects on DVD, and chances are that someone you know has experience in a particular subject you may feel unqualified to teach, who could act as your child’s mentor. Have confidence; you can do it!!  
• I don’t have the time. If you have a full time job away from home, this may be true; you’ll have to decide. But homeschooling takes less time than you would think.  There is so much time wasted during a typical school day, from  the bus ride, to time between classes, lunch, recess, waiting for students to focus or catch up, etc. We had a pretty rigorous academic schedule for Chris and Noah, but the academics were always done before lunch. Granted, sometimes we didn’t eat until 1 or 1:30, but afterwards, my kids were free to pursue their own personal projects, play outside, etc.
• Money is tight. I hear you on this one! We are currently in a different financial situation than we were when we homeschooled our older children, but  back then we often rolled coins to put gas in the tank or go to the grocery store. Even so, there are creative ways to homeschool that don’t cost a lot of money. You don’t need as many books and supplies as you think you do (I always overbought books, my one true weakness). Use the library; some school districts let you use books for free, get used curriculum materials from other families, etc. Our boys had a gift for chess.  As they won local and state titles, they went on to win the Nationals and even international competitions. This required lots of travel, as you can imagine, and we were broke.  My husband noticed that they were always looking for Tournament Directors, so he studied and took an exam, and always offered his services at tournaments that our children were registered for (although he never directed in the same rooms in which they were playing). One of the perks back then was a per diem payment that covered the cost of their travel and hotel rooms as well as meals. It was the only way we could have been able to do it. Eventually they competed all over the country, in South America and in Europe. It opened many doors for them and cost us practically nothing. Be creative; where there is a will there is a way.
• I’m not organized. Record keeping is essential in homeschooling.  If you aren’t that way naturally, it is a learnable skill.
• Socialization. As I previously mentioned, this is not a valid criticism; only a perceived one by those who don’t understand anything about the homeschooling lifestyle. Relax about this one; it’s NOT a problem!
• Will they get into college? Yes they will! Statistics don’t lie, and homeschoolers tend to test out way ahead on standardized tests and conduct themselves extremely well in college interviews. Enough water has gone over the educational dam by now and the track records are so great, so that this is no longer a stigma to be concerned about.

Where to Start?
If you’re interested in pursuing homeschooling for your children, laws vary from state to state, so you will have to do some research on the requirements for where you live. Look it up online … you’ll find more information that you ever wanted to know, from the legal particulars, to curriculum requirements and how and to whom to report your homeschooling activities. Look also for local homeschool support groups who will take you under their wings.  Home school families are a very generous and helpful bunch. You are NOT alone in this!  Home schooling has become so accepted and prevalent these days that schools like Harvard have their own Dean just to review all the home school applications they receive.

So much to Choose From … How to Do it All?!
Outside the more traditional box of educational choices such as courses, workshops and classes that may be offered locally, the world is your oyster when it comes to opportunities.  Here are a few we did with our kids:
• The Family Farm – My husband’s cousin has a farm and farm stand, and our family spent more than a decade there, 4 days a week throughout the season. Helping to plant and harvest  vegetables, they also manned  the farm stand, waiting on customers (socialization!) and making change (math!).  They earned money, we got to bring home fresh, organic produce, and the hands-on experience and work ethics they learned are a priceless gift that will last a lifetime.
• The Congressional Award Program – If you don’t know about this, you should, it’s great! Our son Chris was enrolled and made it all the way up to a Gold Medal, which he received from our Congressman at a special ceremony in Washington DC. The program is open to students age 14-24, and helps them set personal goals in 4 categories (Physical Fitness, Community Service, Personal Development, and an Adventure/Exploration project that takes them out of their culture or comfort zone.  http://www.congressionalaward.org/

(Our son Josh is currently enrolled, and some of the things he is doing for Personal Development, for example, is to learn a computer programming language and then design and execute  a website for his Magic Act business he has been developing the last several years. He has already volunteered to give two Magic Shows, one to the local community and one at the library. For the Gold Medal Physical Fitness requirement, he has chosen to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail that runs through New Hampshite (117 miles!).
 Civil Air Patrol – this wonderful organization under the auspices of the Air Force helped develop our kid’s Leadership skills while giving them a great background in Aerospace Education and practical experience in actual Search and Rescue Operations.  One of our sons earned the Spaatz Award; another was chosen to be a Young American Ambassador to China one summer. Full of educational opportunities. http://www.gocivilairpatrol.com/
• Don’t overlook volunteering at museums, going on archaeological digs, etc.  We did these and other things that can be read about on our website to give you some more ideas.

There are as many ways and reasons to homeschool as there are folks who do it. Basically, though, they fall into general categories:
• Classical/Traditional – those who stress academics, and may even set up a structured learning environment that mimics a school, with desks, schedules, subjects, homework assignments.
• Unschoolers – those who allow unstructured learning and let children follow their own passions, using a more relaxed, eclectic approach , unit studies, etc.
 Religious – God-centered education, giving children an educational experience that stresses certain beliefs, values, standards of behavior

I’m often asked to give advice to new homeschoolers. I can’t really do that, because everyone’s belief system, situation and children are different. These things must be worked out by trial and error.  However, our family had some guidelines that we believed in and lived by that worked extremely well for us:

1. We taught and lived the Golden Rule, and believed in God.
2. We treated our babies and children with respect. We did not own a stroller or playpen.  If they weren’t in our arms or on the floor exploring the world on their own, they practically lived in a backpack when they were young. There they were an active part of our world and we talked to them intelligently (did not talk “down” to them with baby speak). We just talked to them intelligently all day long, assuming they could understand us even if they were babies.
3. We believed in Tools, not toys. For example, when Chris was given a make believe plastic vacuum toy, we exchanged it for a Dustbuster … a real mini-vacuum that really worked.  He felt that he was a valuable member of our family even as a tiny child because he was truly contributing.
4. We trusted our children and allowed them to take on responsibilities that might not be considered age appropriate, if we felt they were ready. For example, Chris could cut bananas for the fruit salad with a real paring knife at age 2. For his 5th birthday he got a Makita trim saw (a tiny, battery operated circular saw), but a very real one. We were with him when he used it, and he knew it could cut off his fingers and that  it would be taken away if he ever used it carelessly. He never had an accident, and today he is competent enough to build his own house from scratch.
5. No TV. We didn’t even own one. We did allow DVDs that we thought were appropriate for both learning and pleasure.
6. Computer Games were banned from our home. Instead, we read aloud played games together, and took long walks.

So there is my crash course in “Homeschooling 101 for Farmgirls Who Might Be Curious”!! Home schooling is not for the faint of heart; it is a huge parental commitment, but it is also one of the most rewarding things you could ever undertake. And now it is time for our class in Algebra, so I have to sign off and wish you a good day! Do any of you Farmgirls think Homeschooling might be an option for you?  Anybody out there already doing it, or perhaps just thinking about it? Why or Why not???!!!  

Until next time my dear friends, Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings,
Cathi Belcher, The Mountain Farmgirl





By: Debbie
On: 04/17/2011 10:17:10
Dear Cathi,
Love this piece!!! I followed my " homeschooling heart" then years ago and havens' looked back. We also feel learning is a LIFE LONG adventure not be forced, rushed, or condensed,into mere facts and figures. Creativity has been at the root of our homeschooling life and still is. Also, like you I don't believe it is for everyone, but I love an opportunity to share what we do with folks who are still asking the outdated question " what about socialization"? let ME AT UM...! And I mean that in the nicest of ways! :)
As a new blogger for MJF, I've also been invited to share our homeschool life alongside my home and beach writings which I am so looking forward to! I enjoy sharing ideas, learning materials, and support with other homeschoolers but rarely advice... It's such a personal journey for each family and I believe if homeschoolers stay true to their own path they'll have a better chance of staying on track for the duration.
Thank you for opening the "homeschooling option" door ever so eloquently today.
Your blogging sister from the East!
Beach Blessings,
By: Catherine
On: 04/18/2011 15:31:40
Loved this post on homeschooling. I myself was homeschooled from grade 7 on and loved it. I homeschooled my two older children (now 22 and 19) and we truly loved our adventures doing so. I did get asked so many times about "socialization" and I usually replied with "have you met my kids?" It usually caused the questioner to laugh simply because all my children are natural talkers and have yet to be unable to interact with anyone! I did choose to public school my youngest child (he is now 9 and in the 3rd grade) simply because he has autism. He is a "high-functioning" one but was also diagnosed with dyspraxia and struggled with many needs that I simply could not fulfill. He needed speech, occupational and behavior therapy that he could receive through the public school system. I wanted him to have all the advantages he could and this was the best way for that. I also stress to other mothers who are exploring schooling options that homeschooling is not for everyone, and I try to stress also that those who choose to do homeschooling should never judge those who choose not to or are unable to. Thank you so much for this article!! Catherine
By: steph
On: 04/18/2011 15:38:43
I love hearing other homeschool stories/journeys! I answered God's call for my life... to homeschool... about 3 years ago. I guess I am still a rookie, but can't imagine my kids ever experiencing learning any other way. As challenging as it can be at times; it is so much more rewarding. Our kids are far from unsocialized... we have to plan to be at home for downtime. But I do agree that it is not for everyone... I just wonder how often people ignore that call. This was great thanks for sharing your story!
By: Linda
On: 04/18/2011 15:56:06
Great article- I am home schooled our 3 - 26yrs total because of age span; about time one started school, I had another baby. I guess I am a little more adamant about home school- I say public school way it is, is not an option anymore. There are so many resources out there that weren't there when we started. My kids are all successful. Colleges love to have home schoolers. I've heard all the objections. After yr. one relative who was against it, said well I can kind of see why. My mil was very supportive. Husbands do need to be on board. Some states other people can home school your kids as long as you know what all is going on.
By: Nieki
On: 04/18/2011 16:29:16
Thank you for your advice. I have been homeschooling my 2 boys for the last four years. We have been thru our ups and downs with my oldest being autistic and my youngest struggling with his reading. It is nice to know that they both still have a chance at being able to read. Alex, my oldest is reading some, but not at the level everyone thinks he should be. I am just grateful that he is reading; I was told by a teacher 4 1/2 years ago that he would never read, but I guess I proved her wrong.
I am just writing this to give you a thumbs up, anyone who takes the responsibility of their kids education on themselves deserves a medal. Teaching your children can bring you some of the greatest joys and laughs. Keep up the good work.

By: Carolyn
On: 04/18/2011 17:08:13
Thanks for a great article... Sharing with others via my FB Wall. :-)
By: Autumn Carroll
On: 04/18/2011 17:08:47
It's not likely I'll read many more homeschool articles-this is my last year of homeschooling. It is also my 30th year-my oldest son is 35 and youngest is 17.
My greatest challenge so far is figuring out what to do when not teaching school,planning lessons, or shopping for curriculum.
Amazingly-that has proven to be substantial!
Thanks for a great article!
Fellow Farmgirl!
By: Raynita
On: 04/18/2011 17:13:53
Thanks for sharing straight from your heart, I could feel your passion in every word. I am also a homeschool mom. We have been homeschooling for 17 years now and your words truly inspired me. Thanks, you know how we need that sometimes even after 17 years:) I consider home education a lifestyle. It's what we do all of the time everywhere we go and most of the time that doesn't even include text books. I am with you, I don't tell people that they should homeschool or that it is the only way but if they feel the conviction, they are welcome to ask about our lifestyle. I can't imagine not having all of those precious moments and even the not so precious moments spent with my children over the years.
www.sonicbids.com/laurenleeandlibertyroad My children's musical careers would have never worked with public school schedules and we had no idea when we began homeschooling that they would be musical. We were able to follow their interests along the way. I so enjoy your blog.........Raynita
By: Cat
On: 04/18/2011 19:18:07
The more I read of you the more I am convinced that if there was ever a kindred spirit, it is you!
I am on the other side of home-schooling as all of my little ones are now grown and are home-schooling all of my 13 grandchildren. We home-schooled all four of our children and I could write volumes about how each of them excelled at everything in life. Their expanse of knowledge is incredible and they continue to learn and research.
We prayed for their spouses even before they were born and God granted us with 4 amazing in-laws! We are a blessed family and the proof is in the pudding, as they say. We never would have done it any other way. The character of each of our children have is just awesome!
Love your blogs! God Bless!
By: suzy
On: 04/19/2011 04:32:53
What a beautiful family and what a wonderful article on some many aspects of homeschooling! My last homeschooler graduated in 1999 and I would say that I still miss it BUT your idea about lifelong learning really hits home. That youngest now lives next door on our farm with his wife AND has taken over our family electrical business since his dad had two heart attackes three years go. He is like a SPONGE and continues learning all the time, whether it's something about energy and electrical to history and more!

The youngest daughter is also an avid reader and continues to "sponge up" all sorts of things as well!

Thank you again for this great article! suzy in bama
By: Debbi
On: 04/19/2011 05:57:27
I wish I could start back to when my children were young. Homeschooling wasn't talked about much in the late 60's. I must say it is about the only thing I'd do over with them, although much of what we did at home was similar to homeschooling.
By: Amy Morgan
On: 04/19/2011 07:21:20
I pulled my daughter from school in Nov. We love homeschooling. We have great joy in learning together and with each other.

No, it isn't for everyone. But in our case, it is perfect.

God Bless and have a wonderful afternoon.

By: Deborah
On: 04/19/2011 08:07:54
Well for now I am not homeschooling. But if I knew then what I know now I would have homeschooled both of my boys. I homeschooled my youngest after several serious hospital stays. He went from D's in public high school to B's and he was much happier. If we go back into foster care or adoption I would seriously think of doing it again. By the way love your blog.
By: Heather Ozee
On: 04/19/2011 12:25:11
I loved reading this. I know exactly the moment you refer to, the one where you're still examining every toe, watching as the tiny hands grasp your finger. Snuggling the velvety little creature and then it seems like someone hit fast forward and they're 10! I wish so much that I could home school my girls and I'm so glad that there are moms like you out there spreading the word about it. You're my hero!
By: Margaret
On: 04/19/2011 16:59:32
We all already know you are an amazing person and I applaud your dedication to home schooling. I wish I had, had the courage to do that with my children! And you and hubby have done a great job! Each of your offspring is an individual! Your info about the kids with learning problems gives me hope for my grandson who was diagnosed with dyslexia last year. The school has not been much help but I want to put time in with him and give him some help! Bless you and yours and love reading your blogs everytime!
By: Elayne Weiner
On: 04/20/2011 08:19:50

I will probably be the only person who will have a negative comment, and I don't make it to be mean or rude. You certainly have a right to homeschool your children, but I have to just say, that if I had a child who could not read at age 11, I think I would want a professional to teach this child. My daughter is a teacher, she is a professor at an Ivy League university. She was born and bred to be a teacher. I did some "home schooling" of my own with her as an enhancement of what she was learning in school, and we constantly explored many things together, above and beyond what her regular public schooling was providing. But I would have had to consult people trained in education if I had I child who could not read at age 11. Luckily for all of you, all turned out well. Whatever "kicked in" for him at age 12 was a fortunate turn of events. I myself wouldn't just sit and pray about it, I would have gone to the professional teaching system that is there for our children. I am not saying it is perfect, and it needs a lot of improvement. This country doesn't put as much value in its educational system as it should, and teachers should be valued and paid much more than they are. But that's why they are there, so everyone can have a decent education, and they can make it a great education with support from parents (who take the time and effort to add to their education by more reading, more outside trips to explore the world around them, more discussion on many subjects).I'm glad you were happy with homeschooling, and I commend your work in it. But you are right, it is not for everyone, and I feel I have raised just as important a person as you have even though she went to public school. She was salutatorian at her high school graduation, graduated summa at Bryn Mawr, got a Ph.D at Yale in comparative literature, teaches at Cornell University. My husband and I are very proud of her.

Note from the Mountain Farmgirl: Howdy, Elayne. Thanks for writing, and all comments, by the way, are welcome here! Congratulations on raising an outstanding daughter. You should be very proud. You and I took two of the many paths available in education. All have their pros and cons, and it basically comes down to personal choice.

I hear what you're saying about Chris' late reading, and had it not been for the fact the my husband, his father and also his brother had all been extremely late readers, I think I WOULD have panicked. However, since they  all had their doctorates by the time I was homeschooling Chris , and are enormously voracious readers now  (more, in fact, than any other humans I have ever met with the exception of our daughter!!), I knew in my heart of hearts that it was an inherited tendency that he would somehow outgrow. This was confirmed for us by a close family friend of ours, Pat Chiarelli, who was a specialist in the Rockland County NY school system in Reading Recovery. She spent time with our family very often, and confided to me that Chris' self-esteem was much better off by our letting him progress at his own speed. She was convinced that his developmental delay would be overcome given time, and she was right.  It worked out even better than any of us had ever hoped. Thanks so much for writing; differing opinions are what makes the world go round!

Farmgirl Blessings!

By: marnie
On: 04/20/2011 13:54:41
I have been homeschooling our 6 1/2 year old son from birth as well, and this year he went to kindergarten as a trial experience(and also to appease my husbands feeling that he should at least try it). We made it to mid february then starting homeschooling again. Our son is very outgoing, creative, socially very comfortable with all ages and can have in depth conversations with adults using multi-syllable words in proper context! He enjoyed parts of his public school experience but both my husband and I could see his beginnings of losing his individuality. I became a volunteer at the school and tried to get excited about it. Needless to say, I was consistently disappointed. We are more than happy to be learning and teaching together, it is truly a challenge every day!! The socialization question is always the first asked, and i kindly reply that we are doing just fine in that area, even though rural vermont does have it's challenges in winter. I can also safely say that i am sometimes easily overwhelmed by the energy of my tasmanian boy and feel like i am unable to get my thoughts organized but then i somehow find a way to say to him that i need a few minutes to think or have mommy time and can he do a simple project or go outside for 5 minutes, and it seems to work, i think he appreciates this because if i am grounded then he will be too....oh the mother -child connection,so much more than meets the eye!
By: Patricia Yelle
On: 04/20/2011 20:02:23
Bravo for you, and your husband. Two years ago my husband, who is a watercolor artist, was approached by a local home school group to teach classes for the group. They range in age from 4 to 16 years of age, and quite frankly they have been an education to us!! They are bright and articulate beyond their years, and a perfect joy to be with.
I look forward to their classes to join in their discussions and adventures as students. I have found them to be well versed in many aspects of life, and well ahead of the students enrolled in our local school. I agree, it is not for every one, but from what I am witnessing, I think it is an excellent program for those who put in the time and effort for their children.
By: Julie, berry farm girl
On: 04/20/2011 20:53:18
I loved reading this blog post! Your heart, passion and experience as a veteran home educating mom really shine through. I'm currently in my 22nd year of homeschooling with many more to go (my youngest are two year old twins). Our family LOVES to learn...and learn we do, everyday! Thanks for the reminder and encouragement as to why we do this. It is hard and takes great sacrifice on the part of all involved, but we all think it is soooo worth it. We've faced our share of learning struggles, but because we had the flexibility of homeschooling those children now shine. Thanks again for shareing.
By: Jill
On: 04/24/2011 19:45:58
Thanks so much for posting on this! I am struggling with making a decision for my son. He is now 4 and soon will have to be going to school. My husband and I are both graduates of a small private christian school, where now, 9 of our nieces and nephews attend. My mother is the school secretary and my brother in law is President of the Board. We are feeling the family pressure to send our son to that school. Of course, we love the idea of placing him there so we know everything that is going on and i would feel so safe with him there, but I also know the feeling of being conformed to what everyone else wants you to be and making personal decisions to please others, so I wouldn't "stand out and be different". Another huge downfall is the cost of tuition. My husband is a contractor and even though there is work today, there may not be work tomorrow, especially with the struggling economy. I have been a child care provider for 12 years and love to teach children( under the age of 5). I am scared of homeschooling because of teaching my child something I may not be familiar with. My husband wants me to homeschool, that is his first choice, but I dont want to fail and my failing cause him to be delayed. Our other option is public school and I have a long list why I dont want him to attend there, mainly the education. for example our state teaches children to read by "sight words" which is basically memorizing words written on flashcards. Not by phonics. Our children in our county cannot spell, because they are not taught to sound out words!! I believe this follows them in other subjects. How can they do written test in other subjects if they cannot read or spell? Oh my decisions! I remember people asking me when he was only a year old, "Will he go to Heritage?" and I would reply with a smile,"We have a while to make that decision". Now here I am a year away and im starting to panic!
By: Sheryl
On: 04/28/2011 00:27:24
I would like to address the negative comments about her sons "slow reading". Do you not realize that despite "educated professionals" children are GRADUATING from PUBLIC school without being able to read? I have children who could read at age 4 with no instruction and some who struggled until age 9. Funny thing is that struggling reader went on to graduate from an accredited home school program by the time she was 16!

I would also like to say that I believe ANYONE can home school. Let me clarify this, I do not mean those who are lazy and just pull their children out of school and do nothing with them, that is not home schooling. The abundance of curriculum out there now allows anyone who chooses to home educate their children. In addition to text books, there are DVD programs, and computer programs both online and/or cd. You have distance learning programs as well as local co ops.

Having your children home with you is a Blessing. I would have missed so much in my children's lives if I did not home educate them. 4 of my 8 children have graduated so far. One has chosen to be a teacher herself in a Christian school with a BA in Education with a minor in Science.

We can not and should not put our children in a box. Let them learn at their own pace and they will learn. Cathy has been an inspiration to many home schooling families over the years as have her children. Do not however feel intimidated by her or her children's accomplishments. Each child is different, let yours develop according to their interests, abilities and God given talents.
By: ElizabethB
On: 05/10/2011 10:48:13
I'm so glad I found this post! My 15 year old had wanted me to pursue home schooling several years ago and for most or all of the above reasons above, we never did, and boy do I wish I had. We have problems with his academics, socialization, and personal traits being stifled and the system wanting to throw labels on him. Driving me crazy with worry that he won't make it to graduation or he will but won't get what he needs from it. Now I find myself with another child on the way and one of the first issues hitting my mind is schooling. This post gave me lots to think about but also many resources that would have taken me a long time if at all to get. I thank you!
By: Gail Marla Solorzano
On: 06/05/2011 19:55:05
This blog is awesome. My oldest son is 40 and youngest is 26. I also homeschooled a granddaughter. How I would have loved this blog. Most of my homeschool experience was way before it was popular, in fact almost no one did it back then. All seven of the children went on to college, one is an international computer software enginer and all are quite well balanced and educated. If you take this time to homeschool, the world is your text book, and very few that I have met, ever regret their choice. The children learn things, they would never have learned in a traditional school. So enjoy these years, they are some of the best years of your life. Now that I am retired, I get to watch my daughters and daughters-in-law walk that same educational path, with new ideas, and happy grandchildren who learn from their parents. They are their teachers and sometimes I do a field trip or come as a guest speaker. I love it, more today than when I first started.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

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