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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Ten Things I Wish I Had Known
When I Started Home Schooling
1. It is all right to be
2. Do not worry about high
3. You can be a great teacher
without a teacher's degree.
4. There is not just one
5. Be willing to experiment.
6. You do not have to finish
7. You don't have to know
your children's learning style right now.
8. Your child is better
off without the usual "socialization."
9. Teenagers are wonderful
10. Commitment is the key to success.
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Sunnyside Up: Humorous Anecdote
In this issue, veteran home schooler, Debbie
Wilson shares with
us what she has learned -- 10 things she wishes she had known when
she started home schooling.
May the Lord bless you and your family for
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Read "Getting the Most Out of Home-School Events"
Ten Things I Wish I Had Known
When I Started Home Schooling
by Debbie W. Wilson
When we first heard of home education we were
we knew of no one who was doing it in northern Maine in the early
We had decided before we married that our
children would not
attend the public schools. Unfortunately we knew of only
Christian school in the area, and neither the curriculum nor the
discipline impressed me when I visited it.
But home schooling terrified me. I was
not trained to teach
elementary school. What if I failed to teach something or to
teach it well? What should we do about socialization? What
would happen if we were arrested?
Looking back now with one son in college and
the other in
the 11th grade, I am sorry to see the end of our home schooling
approaching. I think if I had known a few lessons in the
beginning that I know now, I would have more eagerly embraced
Here's what I have learned:
1. It is all right to be afraid.
Apart from our Lord, nothing matters to most
of us as much
as our family. We want to be good husbands or wives. We
do the right things for our children, to place great
opportunities before them, to give them the best.
For this reason home education can be frightening.
are so many uncertainties, and so many people do not understand
what home schooling involves. We feel so inadequate.
Yet, when God placed His Son on this earth,
He did not look
for a fancy home, a high income, or prestigious education. He
chose a man and a woman with character. Mary submitted to God's
decision in spite of the problems it might cause for her. Joseph
was a just and merciful man who also obeyed God's instructions.
God still wants parents to be dedicated and
characteristics He sought for in Jesus' parents, He seeks for in
us, the most important being our obedience. He tells us in James
1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth
to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given
As we obey Him, as we seek His wisdom in the
Word and in
prayer, He will give us the wisdom we need for His glory and for
our children's eternal welfare.
2. Do not worry about high school
Most home schoolers begin early in their child's
but a question they keep hearing is, "What will you do about high
school? How will you teach algebra and chemistry and . . . ?"
We do not know what will happen in 10 years
or in even one
year. God has hidden this from us. What He requires is
faithfulness today. God will provide what we need for each step
of our way.
Right now He wants us to concentrate on kindergarten,
third grade, or wherever our children are, on doing the best job
we can for what our children need now.
3. You can be a great teacher
without a teacher's
My best reading teacher was my mom, a high
who had never heard of home schooling. When, as a first grader,
I would bring a book to her and ask her what a word was, she
would tell me to sound it out, but I had not been taught phonics
in the public school. Troubled by this, she taught me from what
she had been taught.
Most of us have a good idea of what our children
know. They need to know how to read, write, spell, and do math.
They need to know about science and history. We can get help
from curriculum guides, or lists printed by publishers, to show
us what is commonly taught in each grade. We can read and learn
the things we do not know.
Though teacher's training can be helpful,
it can also waste
much time for the home educator who does not need to learn to run
office machines, write up specialized lesson plans, or control a
crowd of antsy 6-year-olds.
Instead of teacher's training, read books
written about home
education, magazines and newsletters for home schoolers, and
books of basic knowledge. Talk with experienced home schoolers
and friendly teachers. Remember how your favorite teachers
taught. As you learn, as you develop, and as you change to meet
your child's needs, you will become the teacher the Lord wants
you to be.
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4. There is not just one perfect
I think I spent the first 10 years of home
for the perfect curriculum while my husband spent the same time
reminding me how well the boys were doing with what we were
using. Though there are many good curricula, there is no perfect
curriculum for every home schooler.
What may work well for your best friend with
sociable personality may not work well for your quiet,
introspective personality. What your bookworm daughter loves,
your take-it-apart-and-see-what-makes-it-tick son may hate. One
of the wonderful benefits of home education is to be able to
experiment with curriculum and methods.
Talk with other home schoolers about their
over their materials and ask for their opinions on what they like
and dislike about the program they use. Talk to distributors
curriculum shows. Read summaries of new materials, and return
materials that you order that are not appropriate if they are
unused and in condition to be resold.
5. Be willing to experiment.
In our early years of home education, we used
textbook curriculum and really liked certain parts of it. I
loved their reading curriculum and the way they taught word
problems. We experimented with another math program I respect,
but my boys and husband wanted to return to the original
curriculum. We have used a little of several other curricula,
plus I have put together some of my own the last few years in
literature and history.
Sometimes a child benefits from trying a different
curriculum or approach. Maybe he needs to get away from the
history textbooks for a while to try a reading or
literature-based approach. Perhaps instead of working all the
way through that 4th grade science book, he will blossom studying
about the ocean, ocean life, and marine ecology.
In some subjects you need to learn a foundation
can build on it, but in other subjects it won't hurt to be
creative. Study the chapter on insects while they are hopping
all around you instead of waiting till February. Maybe with a
new baby coming, this is the time to study how a child forms in
the womb or how to care for one.
As long as your child learns his basic foundational
subjects, you can adjust when and how he builds on that
6. You do not have to finish the
When we lived in Maine, the home schooling
process involved a lot of work. Among other things, you had to
list what your child would be studying in each subject, so you
would list the subjects discussed in the curriculum guide or the
glossary of the book. Unfortunately, this always left me nervous
as the end of the year approached, because I felt the government
was staring over my shoulder to make me finish that book
regardless of whether my child hated it or we had faced some
Then I smartened up. I stopped listing
all of the contents
of the books. Though we still finished the books, the pressure
Now we live in a more relaxed state, Indiana.
At times we
have changed books mid-year because one was not working out.
We have dropped a subject mid-year and finished it later or not
We realized that most public schools do not
always finish a
I do not mean to sound lax. We work
hard, and I plan
thoroughly, but I am no longer enslaved by my home schooling.
Both boys have done well, scoring high on the Iowa Basics Skills
Test, but when the inevitable delays occur or problems arise, we
adjust our scheduling, our curriculum, or our methods. And
sometimes we do not finish the book!
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7. You don't have to know
learning style right now.
To the new home schooler overwhelmed with
the whole idea of
home education, teaching to your children's learning style sounds
intriguing and bewildering. I really did not know my boys well
enough or enough about learning styles when we were beginning to
have made a reasonable guess. As I learned more about each, we
adjusted some of what we were doing to accommodate how the boys
Actually we used ideas for several styles.
aloud helped them develop their listening skills. Don bought
each of the boys a carpenter's tape measure when they were about
three to help them learn to read numbers. We would roll match
box cars next to the tape measure and read the number (and later
the number with the fraction) by which it stopped. We chanted
numbers and the alphabet. We taped large letters on construction
paper around the living room. We went to the library each week
and always had books around.
To be truthful, I still cannot tell you precisely
boys' optimal learning styles are, but I have figured out
strategies to help them over the rough spots.
Today there are more materials on learning
styles than there
were when we began. Some of them have great ideas to help you
utilize your child's strengths.
I would caution you, however, not to build
so much on their
learning strengths that you do not strengthen their weaknesses.
8. Your child is better off
I always have hated being asked, "What about
People seem to have the idea that the only
way your child
can learn to get along with others is to be thrown in the midst
of 30 other 5-year-old tyrants to see who rises to the top. Your
child will face being bullied, having his lunch stolen, and
hearing words that would have embarrassed the most ungodly sailor
50 years ago. He will be told that he can make his own decisions
about values while the public school undermines yours in their
sex training (beginning in kindergarten), their drug training,
and their child abuse training. This seems to be the
government's version of socialization.
But God has another idea. He says, "Be
ye kind one to
another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for
Christ's sake hath forgiven you." We may need to teach our
children that kindness includes sharing their toys, playing what
the other person wants to play, and having good manners, but the
heart of socialization is the Golden Rule. In the past, even
public schools taught that.
As our children play with others under our
can praise instances of kindness and point out selfishness or
rudeness. We can teach respect for other people and their
belongings, because we are all made by God's hand. Our color,
our things, our names, our health, or our strength make none of
us more special in His sight. He loves each of us and knows each
of us. How small self-esteem looks compared with God's esteem!
Because each person is made in the image of
God, we need to
respect that other person too, for God made and loves him just as
He does me.
A child can learn these lessons best when
we live them out
before him. Our children do not need socialization, they need
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9. Teenagers are wonderful people.
I used to worry about when our boys would
"Just wait until they become teenagers," people would say.
"They'll rebel. They all do. It's just a rite of passage."
It is not true! Not all teenagers rebel.
though found occasionally throughout history, was the exception
rather than the rule. Only since the '60s have we seen the
massive teenage rebellion that we often hear is normal.
The good news is that teenage rebellion does
not have to
occur if you build a close relationship with your children.
Spend time together not only in study, but in work and play and
My husband Don has been great in all of this.
other men might be out golfing or doing something with other men,
he spends time with our sons. Often they are working together,
but sometimes they are shooting together, playing ball, listening
to me read, talking about the Bible, exploring ideas, making
plans, or wrestling around the house.
Don is our boys' #1 fan. He encourages
such as computer or rocketry, even when they are not his
interests. Also he has modeled for them what manhood means in
his treatment of me, in his stands for the Lord, and in his
spiritual leadership of the family.
We have found that explaining the dangers
of certain types
of popular music and eliminating it from our home has helped the
boys set their own music standards. Getting rid of our
television got rid of some of the unscriptural cultural ideas
about women, sex, and marriage that so many men struggle with.
Of course, in a society where many women dress immodestly and sex
is joked about openly, we have had to discuss these. Sexual
temptations abound for a young man.
We have discussed for years the types of wives
should look for. Their attitudes about women and marriage
differs so much from the boys I grew up with. They look forward
to finding godly wives and raising families for the Lord.
Because of the high cost of vehicle insurance,
our boys have
to wait to get their license until they are 19 and can help with
the insurance. Neither complains. This gives both of them
years to practice driving with us before assuming the
responsibility of driving without us. It also gives them time
earn some money for a car and insurance.
Of all the years, the teen years have been
the best so far.
The boys are idealistic, committed to the Lord, thoughtful, and
fascinating people. I must admit that we do not always see eye
to eye, but we discuss those differences of opinion. We have
little disciplining to do; usually explanation of the problem
suffices. The Lord has richly blessed us.
10. Commitment is the key to success.
Some of the most successful home schoolers
I know have only
a high-school education, yet, their children regularly score very
well on tests.
One family was told that their 1st-grade daughter
problems in the public school, needed counseling, and would never
succeed in home education. In spite of this warning, her parents
took her from the public school to home school her, and she did
wonderfully, because her parents were dedicated to the Lord and
dedicated to giving her the best education they could.
I have also seen parents who passed their
child a textbook
and the TV remote whose children did not do so well. In spite
what I tried to convince my mother when I was a teenager, you
cannot concentrate on two things at once, at least not algebra
and a game show at the same time.
Making home schooling a priority makes it
that every child will excel in the same things or do equally
well. However, personal attention will help any child do better,
helping him to exceed what the "specialists" thought possible.
Part of that commitment displays itself in
hitting the books every day, in learning from the unplanned
situations that interrupt your book learning, in not giving up
when you wonder if you are doing any good.
Commit yourself to do the best job you can
do. If today
went poorly, try a fresh approach tomorrow. Call a
home-schooling friend for a good cry and some encouragement, but
keep coming back, because you are shaping a young man or woman
Debbie W. Wilson, Indiana
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