How We Homeschool: An Overview

How do we homeschool?  There are a multitude of answers to that question and there are even dozens of answers depending on the point in our lives that you ask us.  Our homeschool looks much different now than it did 7 years ago and it looks different during the summer, just after we’ve had a baby or when we’re expecting.  Our homeschool also looks different with different children and our homeschool will look different than another family’s homeschool even if our goals and methods are the same.

As I write about how our family homeschools, remember that this is NOT gospel.  These are our preferences and they are working for our family currently.  All that said, these are some of the overreaching goals and ideas that have guided and will continue to guide our choice of methods.

1. Christ is King.  We choose to examine everything by the the standard of His Word.

2. We try to educate in a natural, as we live type of style, concentrating on teaching and training our children all the time and in all circumstances.

4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This passage is speaking specifically about teaching your children what God has said.  If this is a good method for teaching what is most important then we think that it is probably also a good way to teach things that are less important.

Children LOVE to learn.  A small child’s whole life is consumed with learning and he doesn’t get bored.  Adults continue to learn and many adults still LOVE to learn.  Often it is the method of instruction that becomes tedious.

When we moved four years ago, Mark and I had a lot of things to learn, new city, new people, etc.  If someone had sat us down with a street map and said, “Next week you will have a test on all the main roads in this city” that would have been tedious.  However, Mark and I learned all of the main roads in our new city by LIVING and DRIVING in the city.  We memorized a great deal of information by acquiring it as we “walked by the way”.  We weren’t concentrating on learning, we were concentrating on finding the bank. 🙂

This type of learning requires parents to be plugged in and available to their children.  It sometimes requires us to actually help them go look something up.  It requires that we talk and discuss with our children daily and that we take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us.

Now we are not saying that all learning will be fun.  Children are lazy and sinful and may not want to learn some things especially if it takes a great deal of effort.  However many times we take a process that should be fun and natural and make it tedious and boring.

3. People/children are able to learn even when the the instruction is not aimed directly at their level.

This fits into our beliefs about worship.  Our family believes that families should worship God together, children included. (Deuteronomy 31:11-13) Our children have been exposed to sermons directed at adults since they were born.  We believed that our children should be part of worship before we understood what a blessing this was to be to our children.  Our children learn from the sermons, even though they may not understand everything that was said.  They may not even understand the main point of the sermon, but each child gleans knowledge at their level from the same sermon.  We know this because we ask our children about the sermon and then discuss it with them.

When a new Christian reads a passage of scripture it is instructive and useful for him, even if he does not completely understand the historical and narrative context.  If a mature Christian were to read that same passage it would also be instructive and useful to him but hopefully on a deeper level.  He would be able to glean from that passage something that the new Christian may not understand for time to come.

This is one reason why we do not make a habit of reading Bible story books or allowing the children to watch Bible story videos, but rather stick with reading the inspired scriptures, even to our very young children.  (Neither Bible story books, nor videos are inspired and to the point that they alter God’s inspired word they are false and can be confusing to young children, but that is another issue.)

4. Relationships are most important.

Everyone agrees with this point when it comes right down to it.  (What is more important your college degree or your wife and kids?)  This a big permeating principle of the Bible.  It is an all pervasive assumption in scripture that God is a relational God.  Throughout scripture He reveals Himself in terms of relationships.  He is our Father.  He sent His Son.  The church is the bride of Christ.

So what does this have to do with how we homeschool?  Two things:

A. We want to learn together as much as possible.  We do not want to send our 12 year old off to her room with her pile of books, and our 11 year old somewhere else with her pile, and our 10 year old off with his pile, etc.  We want to learn together, to develop relationships while we develop knowledge and to be able to learn from each other.

B. We say no to a lot of activities that would result in the same type of fragmentation of our family that I described in point A.  We don’t want our 12 year old running off to ballet, while the 11 year old goes to horse back riding, and the 10 year old has guitar lessons.  This type of fragmentation is worse (in our opinion) because not only does it draw the children away from each other, it draws the family away from the home.

I once read somewhere that if we train our children to run from one activity to the next during their formative years, why would we expect them to be content and joyful to stay home as a mother, or happy to come home each evening as a father.  We have taught, by our actions, that you must look outside of the home for education, excitement and socialization.  This is not what we wish to teach in our home.

So we choose to make learning joyful, fun and exciting by incorporating learning into living.  We feel comfortable multi-grading and teaching to the oldest, knowing that the younger ones will also benefit.  We remember that relationships are more important than academics and seek to build both together and we make a concerted effort to not get carried away with all of the great educational opportunities that are available “out there” and fragment our family for a mess of porridge.

This post is not an exhaustive discussion of the reasons and principles that we consider when we are deciding how to educate our children.  For example, even though I talk about teaching to the oldest, I still spend much of my day with our younger children and even though we multi-grade (A LOT) we tweak and  adjust the assignments to fit each child’s specific and particular needs.

These are guidelines that we try to implement into our choices as we decide how we are going to accomplish this grand task of educating our own children.  This post focuses on areas where our homeschool style differs from many other homeschoolers and from a classroom settings.  Don’t be afraid to be different.  Everyone is talking about how the educational system needs an overhaul, needs more money, better teachers, smaller class sizes.  In other words, even those who promote public schools are not happy with how they are currently functioning, so don’t copy them.  Read and study, learn what you can, pray and allow God to lead you to the methods and curricula that will work best for your family.

You may be interested in reading Our Homeschool: 6 Distinctives or my series on Why We Homeschool .  Coming up next: Teaching Reading.

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21 Responses to How We Homeschool: An Overview
  1. Kelli
    July 7, 2009 | 8:52 am

    I really enjoyed reading this 🙂


  2. Mrs. White
    July 7, 2009 | 1:38 pm

    This is an excellent post. I love your points, particularly how you all learned to get around when you moved. These things do occur naturally, when we need them, and don’t work as well when they are forced.
    Mrs. White


  3. Shannon
    July 7, 2009 | 3:21 pm

    I really love your blog. You have such a great approach to homeschooling. I forget how wonderful it is to have the children learn together. Thank you for sharing.
    God Bless


  4. Nicki
    July 7, 2009 | 3:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Kimberly, since this can be so controversial to many. I totally agree, especially with reading to the kids straight from the Bible. I also love the idea that keeping kids together is best for the family as a whole. At one point we lived in a larger home than normal, so each child had their own room. We only lived there for 6 months, but that 6 months was a turning point in the girls’ relationship with each other. I am no longer a proponent of “a room for everyone.” Can’t wait to read this whole series!


    Raising Olives Reply:

    Multi-grading is one of the things that I’m passionate about. I do not think that every homeschooling family should multi-grade, but I think that many families who would benefit and enjoy multi-grading are not doing it because they don’t realize it’s an option, haven’t thought about it, or don’t think it will work.

    Teaching multiple levels at once leads to a more rich and deep education for everyone. Often my younger children bring some of the most thought provoking aspects into the discussion. It also makes homeschooling a large family much more manageable. One lesson plan for all the children for each subject is much more workable than 9 different lesson plans for each subject.

    I’m always thankful for your comments!



  5. Kristin Mikarts
    July 7, 2009 | 4:59 pm

    What an inspirational post. You brought up some things that I never thought about! Thanks!!


  6. aimee
    July 7, 2009 | 8:23 pm

    I enjoy your blog! I read it often, but cannot always leave a comment. (I’ve been having this trouble with several blogs lately!)

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I really like what you had to say about learning in this post. Especially the part about moving! That made me chuckle! That has always been my philosophy about learning as well! 🙂


  7. Jana
    July 7, 2009 | 9:15 pm

    Very good post! We also believe that children should be involved in worship and in teaching to the highest level, instead of “dumbing down” Scripture for them. I hadn’t thought about Bible stories and videos being confusing, but I can see how that would make sense. Each video is a little bit different than the next, not to mention they vary widely in Bible translations… Hm, I will have to think about how to apply that one in our family. Thanks for sharing!


  8. Whitney
    July 8, 2009 | 2:06 pm

    Dear Kimberly, Just found your site AGAIN and have been very blessed. Loved this post and would be very interested in the logistics of how you multi-grade teach. I’m looking for a fresh approach as I enter the 4th year of homeschooling my soon-to-be 6th, 4th, 3rd, and preschoolers, and toddler. 🙂 I’ve used abeka and sonlight and have enjoyed aspects of each but have discovered that I’m actually a VERY relaxed homeschooler…I don’t use tests, lesson plans, complete curriculums, etc. I assume that you do math separately …? I’ve always been attracted to less traditional methods but don’t want to do a disservice to my kiddos because of MY lack of structure and planning. Thanks for your time and thanks for sharing your life with us. It really is a blessing! Whitney


  9. Monica @ Paper Bridges
    July 9, 2009 | 8:26 pm

    well done! I’ve been beating the drum of No. 4 part b for YEARS and I suspect my extended family thinks I’m nutso, but I don’t care. I want family unity, not a bunch of kids that always want to go, go, go. We love being at home.

    This is my first time here; I’ll be back. 😉



    Raising Olives Reply:


    It is my plan to blog about how I multi-grade each subject. The children are in different levels in mathematics (not at the beginning, but once they get older than 10) and we do use some handwriting workbooks that are leveled. Everything else is multi-graded to one extent or another.

    If you have something specific that I miss or you want me to be sure to cover, please let me know.

    It is refreshing to meet others who make the choice to stay home. I find it fairly uncommon in the homeschool community and often feel guilty at all the things our children are “missing out” on. I frequently need to remind myself that we are reaching for something better!



  10. Whitney
    July 22, 2009 | 1:06 am

    Dear Kimberly,
    I’m glad to hear that you are going to blog on the multi-grade schooling. I hope its soon.:) Thanks for your faithfulness in responding to and blessing your readers. I’ve been regularly reading your posts and I’m glad to have found you again. 🙂 God bless, Whitney


    Raising Olives Reply:

    Multi-grading, coming up next, just for you!!!

    You’re welcome. 😉


  11. Lori
    September 1, 2009 | 8:38 pm

    What a great post. You have inspired me.


  12. Amber
    September 3, 2009 | 9:20 pm

    Thanks for those thoughts. We also like to stick with the Bible for the stories, and the children really do pretty well with it, picking up vocabulary, etc.

    I also especially appreciated the thought about all the activities teaching them not to be content at home.


  13. Robin @HeartofWisdom
    November 19, 2009 | 5:11 pm

    I made new workbox tags you can download free from my blog. Tags include Charlotte Mason activities such as narration, nature walk, copywork, etc.

    Workbox Tags


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