{Best of 2014} The gift of homeschooling.

By: Joanne Rivest

Before sunrise, the oil lamp flickered bright in the middle of the dining room table. Coffee and tea were poured in steaming cups, the aroma gently teasing our senses luring them to finally wake. My son and I began to work. The books were opened and together we started our lessons. The house was quiet with no phone calls or doorbells to draw me away, and the absence of lawnmowers or buses outside of the windows to distract my boy from the advanced level mathematics on the table enabling the lessons to begin. I was able to focus one on one with my boy, and he was able to focus one question at a time in his math lesson.

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Those early morning wake ups were tough, for both of us. But desperate times called for desperate measures, and the multi level teaching and multi person speaking was just way too distracting for my boy to effectively learn his advanced mathematics. So what is a mom to do? We took action.

I am a second generation homeschooler, and have been immersed in the home school culture for many years. When I started teaching my own children I began to devour book after book, resource after resource in order to perfectly craft my children’s education. Since I am the firstborn in my family I tend to like order, so I would draft schedules and make charts and lists for every conceivable need, and my lesson plan books were colour coded by grade and subject so that everything would be ‘perfect’. The advent of the internet brought a whole new world of possibilities to my fingertips as I would search website after website marveling in this wonderful new resource that brought many more options to the table for my children’s education.

I started to compare different homeschooling philosophies. There was the Classical Method with its use of the trivium that spoke to my heart. It’s well ordered and highly academic program with its rich base of history was a dream for me to teach in those early years. Sally Clarkson, spoke words of wisdom in her series of books that she wrote for mothers, “The Ministry of Motherhood” and “The Mission of Motherhood“. She challenged my carefully drafted education plan with her philosophy of education in her book, “Educating the Whole-Hearted Child”. Once again I had to revise that colour coded binder.

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Our third and then fourth baby were soon ready for formal education to begin. With my younger children I seemed to have more time and patience for the ‘messes’ of everyday life, which probably stemmed from my letting go of having a magazine-like home. We spent much time painting portraits of bunnies like Albrecht Durer, while listening to classical music. It no longer mattered that paint was messy; messy became beautiful (at least when talking about painting). Ambleside online became a constant resource for our many library trips each month. My carefully planned Classical Method seemed to have morphed into a Classical/Charlotte Mason approach and my children thrived. Nature walks in the many local conservation areas became our favorite activity of the week, as we took time to notice the beauty of creation.

With our oldest children beginning high school, the importance of essay writing and science class took precedence. We began to research different ways to achieve higher education. My carefully laid out plans and that binder needed to be revised once again. With our oldest son graduating high school, and now entering his second year of college, it has become abundantly clear how the educational path that we followed was exactly what he needed. The time we spent walking on those nature trails allowed much opportunity for discussion. We talked about the stuff of life; our goals, his goals, and the biggest goal of all, which direction that he felt God calling him to pursue.

When I first began homeschooling I envisioned a 9 to 3 schedule. Never would I have thought that I would be lighting a lamp and making coffee before sunrise in order to provide an atmosphere that helped my child to learn. I also expected that my children would learn best the way I learn best. Boy, was I wrong. Each of my children have learned to read using different methods, methods that worked for them. Some of our children love to learn by themselves, and others require one on one teaching. The gift of homeschooling allows me to tailor my teaching to each of my children’s needs.

Teaching our children is my passion. I knew from the time I was young that if I was blessed with a family I would want to home educate my children, and I am so thankful that God has given me this opportunity. The one aspect of my home school binder that has remained constant is the Biblical approach of each area of our studies. Our steadfast goal has been to learn each subject from a Biblical worldview. When teaching science, I would look to the Bible and see how Gods Word and science align. History has been especially enlightening as we would compare the events of the Classical World and the events that were happening in the Bible during the same time period. The Bible has come alive in the hearts of our children as we discussed Sargon of Agane and the Great Pyramids near Gizeh, and see that these events and rulers were taking place in the biblical times of Jacob and his children. Watching my children learn and grow in faith has brought me such great joy over the years.

There have been many special moments that have been given to me during our home school journey, and like many paths that are travelled, the rough terrain and bumpy spots tend to bring the greatest accomplishments. As our home school journey has come to an end for our firstborn son, some of the fondest memories are of the two of us sharing a steaming cup of coffee in the lamplight so many mornings ago. What a precious gift I was given to be able to pour into his life, encourage him and cheer him on.

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That lesson plan book of mine has taken many turns and detours throughout the years. I look with anticipation to the new choices and philosophies I am yet to discover. As we approach the beginning of a new school year I am prayerfully considering the curriculum choices and scheduling that each of my children needs. The task sometimes seems overwhelming, but my strength is renewed when I am reminded of the scriptures ~ Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3

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Joanne Rivest is a wife to the love of her life and best friend, Jeff and together they have four children Kyle(19) Lauren(17), Conner(14), and Katherine(9). Joanne is actively involved in her church and community, with a passion to serve Christ with her whole heart! Joanne home schools her children, loves to read and can always be found in a pair of heels with a tea in hand! 🙂

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