Monday, August 20, 2007

Texas State Homeschool Coalition Annual Conference -- Part One

Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I returned this weekend from a trip to the THSC Homeschool Convention and Family Conference. I went :) I didn't particularly care if I learned anything or was a cheap vacation and I got to have a much needed "mommy-break".

I have not attended one of these conferences in many years. The last one I did attend was a local conference put on by the local support group, not a state conference. The keynote speaker at that last conference was Susan Wise Bauer who is best known for the book she wrote with her mother, Jessie Wise, entitled "The Well-Trained Mind". Susan spoke to my very heart. She spoke of how sad it was that she was teaching college freshman in an Ivy League University who didn't know grammar and punctuation rules. She spoke of reading the classics and using them as a basis for all education. She spoke of learning history in chronological order starting from Adam and Eve and moving on from there. She introduced new curriculum written by both she and her mother for teaching language and history. Both subjects were taught by sitting together with your child and reading and then discussing together and working on projects and then allowing your child to do some copywork and dictation. It all sounded so wonderful. It sounded exactly like the way I would love to learn. I completely abandoned my former history and language curriculum and invested time and energy into preparing to teach my boys in the classical method. I was going to teach the trivium and my children were going to go to college knowing their grammar and punctuation rules, knowing their history, (in chronological order), they were going to LOVE reading and especially the classics, they would complete their 12 year education with me with notebooks full of all the writing they had done in each of the core subjects, ready to show to the colleges of their choice how much they had learned in homeschool. Oh, and we would do it all snuggled together on the couch reading and having meaningful discussions....

The reality was that my boys couldn't or wouldn't sit still for more than 5-10 minutes at a time. Their minds drifted off to far-away galaxies while I was reading classical stories to them and they could not answer one single discussion question when I was finished reading. We had to go back and re-read often to the point of my only reading the exact sentence the answer was in before they would get the answer. If I read a preceding sentence for context, or a following sentence for clarification, I would lose them entirely. My dreams of giving a classical education to my children went up in smoke. Big, black, choking all in it's path, smoke. I won't even mention my one-week attempt at teaching Latin to a 4th grader...I'm still twitching.

So, we moved on. I went back to a unit-study type of curriculum that we had enjoyed when B. was in the 1st grade and the only child I was schooling. It didn't work as well for multiple children. I didn't have the time to put into it that I had when there was only the one child to teach and the one baby to watch. With 3 children to teach and another baby to watch, it was just too much. So we reverted even further to a workbook based curriculum that we had used way back in the beginning for B.'s kindergarten. However, the curriculum has changed over the years. It wasn't as comprehensive and not as instructional. It assumed that I knew what it was asking for and could effectively pass that on to the student with no help whatsoever. It was sadly mistaken...

Enter "Switched On Schoolhouse". I took the online tutorial class to introduce the curriculum and I had both of the older boys take it with me as I wanted their input as to whether or not this was something they wanted to do. They both liked the program. They liked the built-in games, and the "tiny tutor" videos. They liked the fact that it was on the computer and they didn't have to write everything down. I liked the fact that I could tell it what days we were going to have school and it would automatically generate the lesson plans for the entire school year. I liked the fact that it automatically created report cards. And I really liked the fact that I could decide the grading scale and what percentage of their grades were based on daily work, quizzes, and tests. I could decide how many times they could try a problem before it was counted incorrect. I could decide how many points they would lose for each attempt if any. I could go on and on...but I'm getting old and the natives are getting restless in the background.

So, we jumped in with SOS for the 3rd and 5th grader. SOS starts at 3rd grade, so we stuck with the old standbys of Math-U-See and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for the kindergartener. It has not always gone smoothly. Along the way, I found a few things I wanted to do differently with some of the assignments, and I was able to change them with this curriculum. However, in the back of my head I was a little nervous about whether or not what I was doing was "correct" or not. I had feelings at times that perhaps my children were just retarded, and they really couldn't learn like other people's children. And I was beginning to doubt whether I really should still be homeschooling the older children or not.

Now join me for the 2007 THSC Homeschool Convention. The keynote speakers were Debra Bell, author of "The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling" and Andrew Pudewa from "Excellence in Writing". Both of which were very entertaining. Both of which also spoke to different things that I had been doing in our homeschool and both were supporting what I was doing!!! It felt so good to hear that my instincts about what was best for my children were correct!! There are days when you feel that someone else might be better at teaching your children. It was nice to hear that I actually knew what was best for my children! It was like confirmation from God that yes, I should be teaching my children at home and no, I'm not failing them.

I will be doing some future posts on specific things I got out of the conference, but this post has only one purpose. I wrote this post to encourage those of you who are following a plan that you were sure at one time that God had called you to, but are now struggling with whether or not you are failing in that plan, or whether or not you were the right choice for the job in the first place! All you have to do, is be obedient to the call. God will take care of the rest. God was apparently speaking to me and guiding me in what was the best way to teach my kids when I didn't even know it! I thought I was fumbling around in the dark and grasping for answers. As it turns out, I was doing what the experts are now recommending. That HAD to be just had to! Cause it sure couldn't have been me!

So, don't give up on whatever God has called you to do. Keep walking until HE turns you in a new direction--not when that annoying voice in your head tries to turn you. 'Cause chances are that little annoying voice in your head is not your friend, and does not have your best interests at heart...or those of your family. :)


The Preacher's Wife said...

I have so much respect for homeschooling momma's...

So glad you got to go to this conference and be encouraged in your mission!

Cheri said...

We homeschooled for a year in Korea, and boy, was it a challenge. But, honestly, I miss it, and so does The Boy. But neither of it miss it enough right now to take him out of school. And the Lord's not calling us to either, so it works out.

On another note - that you for the main message of today's post. The past few weeks have been disheartening while we slog through the paperwork process for our adoption. I broke down in the lawyer's office, got angry with my husband, and questioned if it all really worth it. God spoke deep in my soul reminding me that it will be worth it, and it will happen when He means for it to happen.

Thank you!