This week my daughter started studying at the local community college. I can’t believe how time has flown. After her first day of school we spent some time together talking about what she remembered about her childhood as a homeschooler. What did we do well? What did she remember the most? What did she wish we would have done better? I was taking notes, thinking about writing on the topic, for this blog post, when she asked for the computer and started writing down everything herself. Then she volunteered to be our guest writer for the day.
What follows is her own words, maybe you could call it a concluding evaluation of 12 plus years of homeschool well spent. In it you will see, through her eyes, a small picture of what homeschool is like in our home. I hope it will inspire and encourage you to keep going, keep pressing on. I noticed as we were talking that she mostly remembered the things that I didn’t call school, but were part of the rich, home environment of life long learning I tried to create. Academics were always a part of our homeschool, as I knew they were an important foundation to further learning. But workbooks and textbooks were only a small part of the home education experience.
Teaching this girl was not always easy, but as I look back, I can’t remember many of the struggles. Instead, I have a heart of gladness and joy when I think of all that God has done in her. It was worth it. I have no regrets.
Lest you think I am all done with homeschooling, I must tell you that I still have a 14 year old son home learning with me every day. By the grace of God, he will also finish up strong in a few years.
Looking Back: Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate
By Araya Frohne
I have been homeschooled my whole life, until now. In the paragraphs below, follow me back through my memories of homeschooling, and get a taste of what life was like in our house for the last 12+ years.
The homeschooling scene opens at the little house where I was born… I am four years old.
“Araya, would you like to do some school?”
“School? Yeah, lets do some school.”
Out comes the little green chalk board, and a piece of white chalk… Out comes the little wooden easel, and we begin. The chalk squeaks on the board, as a big A appears, followed by B, C, D, and so on. Next we do numbers, 1-10. As quick as it started, it’s over for the day, with the promise of more tomorrow.
I don’t know how often we did “school” in the very beginning. It probably varied. But I do know I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought “school” to be an exceptional game. Mama always explained things so that they were easy to understand, and she stopped before the excitement wore off.
Fast forward a couple years, to the big brown house we moved into the year I was six. (The same house we currently live in.) Flash cards in hand, at the other end of the hall Mama kneeled. Mama flipped to the next card: “a A”.
“Aaa, aye, awe,” I crowed. “Yes!” Mama replied, and I would take a great big hop in her direction. . When I got enough sounds correct to reach her, she wrapped me into a great big hug. Thus we proceeded through stacks and stacks of flash cards, until I thoroughly knew every sound that every letter in the alphabet makes.
Times in our little school room hold fond memories for me. There was an alphabet chart all around the ceiling, little blue curtains with brightly colored children on them, and a tiny wooden table for me to study at. The single window looked out on the driveway. One day in particular I remember peeking out the window and seeing giant white fluffy flakes drifting down from the sky. The day’s school routine stopped right there, and we switched to carving Ivory soap while watching the snow accumulate, and sipping a warm drink.
Math was fun in those days. Everything in the school room had a hand-made price tag on it. Mama and I took turns buying and selling those canned green beans, tomatoes, books, and other miscellany while I learned about money’s values, and how to count change.
One particularly fond memory from that era is of a unit study we did on Egypt. We learned about mummies, built pyramids from sugar cubes, and grew our own little Nile river from rye grass seeds and small river rocks.
Nature study was a big part of our homeschool. Mama would take us out each day with sketch books and colored pencils, and we would observe and draw what we saw. Some days we would stop right outside the front door, and examine the garden for something of interest. Other days we visited parks. Sometimes we studied birds, other times it was grass, dirt, or worms. Later, we began journaling about our nature study in split page notebooks. One half of the page was for drawing, the other half was for writing.
As I grew and matured, I became interested in inventing things. My contraptions, I called them. One contraption I remember in particular was an orange plastic Tonka size dump truck. It was just the right size seat for my brother or I, and I took advantage of that by tying a piece of string around through the windows in the cab and giving rides.
Mama always let us go work on projects as soon as our book work was done. I really enjoyed the hands-on creativity our project time provided. One year I consistently finished all my academics before breakfast. After breakfast I would look through a book full of science experiments and start making something that struck my fancy. I once spent at least a month building and tweaking a pop bottle rocket launcher. I collected empty 2 liter bottles from friends, fashioned my own launcher from a few pieces of PVC pipe, and built my own rockets. When I called Mama out to come test my invention, the rocket went so high we never saw it again. As a side note, should any of your youngsters wish to try making a pop bottle rocket, or some other creative science toy- check out sciencetoymaker.org. The website was developed by a science teacher, and the projects are all easily completed with household materials. That’s where I found the design and/or ideas for many of my after-breakfast projects.
Music was a big part of my education from when I was very young. Mama took me to a Kindermusic class, where I learned the fundamentals of music. A couple of years after graduating from Kindermusic, I began piano lessons. 4 years later, I began teaching myself violin, then I began violin lessons. After 7 years of piano lessons, I decided to stop and focus on violin. Last year, after a year of being extremely sick due to Lyme disease, I could no longer tolerate the pain from playing the violin, and sadly decided I needed a break. During that time I resumed piano lessons, and took piano for several months. I am now resuming violin lessons, and focusing my energy on regaining good technique.
In sixth grade, a good family friend came and taught me writing classes each week. She expected quality work, and taught me the joy of writing. I learned to write poetry, how to write a proper response to a reading, and ended with a ten page research paper. Ever after, I have enjoyed creative writing immensely as both a way to process thoughts, and an outlet for information.
I didn’t particularly enjoy math, though I liked it best when I went from Alpha through Zeta with Math-U-See.
I was a never-ending reader. Even when I should have been doing math, sometimes I would have a book open on my lap. As I look back on homeschooling, this is actually where I learned the most. This was my history class. Reading was by far one of my favorite activities. Everywhere I went, you could assume I had a book with me. We even have a photo of me hiking whilst reading a book (and I wasn’t posing!). Some of my favorite books were stories of Adventist young people growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The summer after ninth grade, I joined a canvassing team in Ohio. We worked for ten weeks, selling Christian books door to door. The first few weeks were amazing. Then one morning I became dizzy, and my health began slipping down hill. I somehow made it through that canvassing program. The poor leaders kept wanting to send me home, and I kept refusing, and insisting that I would get better, I would somehow finish the program. Three Emergency Room visits, and ten weeks after the summer program began, my mom flew in, and we spent a week recuperating at a friends home before we flew home. 15 months, and countless doctors later, it was decided that I had Lyme disease. We began treating it, and it became clear we were doing the right thing, however treatment showed slow improvement. During those two years, due to cognitive decline, academics came to a standstill. My home education, however did not.
The September after I came home from Ohio, a man ran over our little mix-breed chihuahua/miniature pinscher rescued dog. He felt so bad that he came back the next day, and offered us a Jack Russell Terrier puppy. After much prayer, we accepted. Soon after, Cookie, our new 3-month old puppy, began alerting me to some of the neurological symptoms the Lyme disease was causing.
In the middle of puppy training, my family went to Guam. Cookie stayed home with the grandparents. My dad teaches at the local Adventist university, and he had earned a winter sabbatical. We went to the island of Guam out in the Pacific Ocean, so my dad could build something for Adventist World Radio. Living in a new culture and environment for a quarter was definitely an educational activity. I learned a lot about island life, not only on Guam, but on other nearby pacific islands. On the way home we spent a week in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. We helped at the elementary school where my mom had a been a teacher in the late 1980’s, walked through tropical jungles, saw waterfalls, and camped for a few days on a deserted atoll way out in the ocean. Out there in the Pacific I learned more about the joy of mission work than I ever did in the states.
When we returned home, a friend who runs a service dog training program offered to have me go through a new program she was developing, as a beta tester. Thus began the most exciting, enjoyable homeschooling I have ever done: dog training. In the last two years, the dog and I learned to work together as a service dog team, and I witnessed a crazy, hyper-active Jack Russell Terrier pup become a calm, focused, well-behaved service dog. When I was my sickest, that dog gave me a reason to get out of bed. When I felt slightly better, she gave me a reason to walk.
Now I am no longer technically a homeschooler; Cookie and I attended our first day of Community College this week. I am excited about the new possibilities, and the new learning environment. But I will miss homeschool. I will miss the time spent with my family. I will miss being able to hop up and go babysit someone’s kids at a moments notice. I will miss the flexible schedule. I will miss the time to read at leisure, and the hours of curious creativity and invention. I am thankful for the last twelve years. I learned many life skills that I might not have learned otherwise. But you know what? While I’m no longer a homeschooler, I’ll actually always be a homeschooler. Because what stands out the most to me in the last years of home education is not the math or the history… it’s the creative, extracurricular activities.
There is only one thing I wish I had done differently in being homeschooled: I wish I had cooperated with more of my mom’s creative educational ideas. I wish I had let her do more unit studies with me, more lapbooking, and more notebooking. I wish I had grasped the mundane academic studies more quickly, so we could have done more creative, advanced projects.
In conclusion, I wish to thank my parents for all the time, effort, and perseverance they put into my education. I want them to know that their prayers and patience were not in vain. The love for God, creativity, and quest for academic knowledge they encouraged in me has sprouted into the well rooted plant of life-long learning.