Monday, September 1, 2008

The Homeschooling Handbook

In the past weeks, I've been slowly reading through "The Homeschooling Handbook" by Mary Griffith. Even though I haven't finished it yet, I thought I'd let you know I found it a great source of useful information.

It covers a wide range of practical subjects concerning homeschooling, important for a beginner who knows almost nothing about it - starting from various approaches, or a mix of them, used by different families, homeschooling settings and materials, and how homeschooling might evolve when your children grow and their needs change. It also devotes a chapter to legal issues, which is relevant mostly to those who live in the United States, but was also interesting for me to read because it shed some light on possible political aspects of homeschooling.

For my husband and I, since we live in a country where homeschooling is practically unheard of, it was refreshing to read that even in places where homeschooling is considered an acceptable option today, it might not have been so twenty or even ten years ago. It gives us hope that maybe even when we head on this journey, a local homeschooling community will gradually expand.

Because homeschooling is such a "pioneer" idea here, I was amazed to read about how it has evolved in the United States, with the options of highly organized and structured homeschooling and a variety of available curricula. Since we are Jewish, Israeli, and plan to teach our children in Hebrew (of course), I expect a lot of adaptability will be required from us.

The book is rich with personal testimonies of individual families, which I enjoyed reading - however, I feel that specifically large family homeschooling dynamics were somehow left out. Perhaps it is different in the last chapters, but so far, I have read about families homeschooling two or three, or maybe four children - but not seven or eight or more, which I suppose requires much more flexibility.

"The Homeschooling Handbook" isn't deeply philosophical, and it isn't written from a religious perspective, but rather speaks to a wider audience, religious and non-religious alike.

Some may say it's a bit early for us to think about these matters in-depth, as we are only expecting our first child, but we are simply in love with the idea of homeschooling and the rich possibilities it offers. The more we discuss it, the more certain we are that for us, and for many, many others, it would have made much more sense to be homeschooled for a variety of reasons (religious, practical, matters of family dynamics, and more) - and we want this option to be available for any future children the Lord chooses to bless us with.


Anonymous said...

Anna, I am curious...many people in the West homeschool because the public schools are so very terrible (bad influence on children) or because tuitions at quality private schools would be impossibly expensive for a family. I am wondering why in Israel you would really plan to homeschool, when there are quality religious schools that are provided for families?

Wenonah4th said...

It sounds a little funny, yes, but you're not premature in planning on the broad scale. Homeschooling is a mindset, not strictly an academic process, and you really begin it with your children when they're born. It's up to you when you begin what you actually refer to as schooling, whether you do that as a nursery thing or wait to "traditional school age". I occasionally refer to myself as an aspiring homeschool mother, because our dd is only 2. However, we have a planned "schooltime", following the Brightly Beaming nursery curricula, so really we are already homeschoolers.
You'll just know going in, what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I'm planning to homeschool too, and I recommend the Charlotte Mason stuff - I haven't read any of the original yet, but I know Susan Schaeffer Macauley cites her a lot in For the Children's Sake, and I've also been reading in the Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola - it's an organic approach that makes a lot of sense to me. Especially when the children are younger, you can follow their interests and help them learn both the skills they need and the subject matter through living books, books that have stood the test of time, and not get bogged down in workbooks and textbooks. I'm really excited about it, and looking forward to it! Best of luck to you and your husband.

Jaime said...

Actually, if you will be "pioneering" as much as you say, it's probably a very good idea to begin researching & planning for homeschooling now!! Best of luck to you.

Mrs. Anna T said...


I didn't have the chance to experience religious schools, but my husband studied in religious schools and yeshiva, and he was the first between the two of us to suggest homeschooling.

We believe *we* are called to teach and train our children in the ways of the Lord, as we are commanded in the Shema: "And YOU shall teach them diligently to YOUR children" (emphasis mine).

We believe there are worse schools and better schools, but by their very nature, schools aren't an optimal setting for learning, especially for young children. Each child cannot possibly get enough individual attention to be allowed to progress at his or her own space; slower children are labeled as stupid, and quicker children are bored; a lot of time is wasted on discipline, travel to and from school, reading out names, and the general dynamics of a large group. The entire system is bulky and faulty. We think that the younger children are, the more schools act as a government-sponsored babysitter hired to occupy children while Mom is out working.

And finally, you'll be surprised to know what is going on at some of the supposedly "good" religious schools. I know for a fact that in certain religious highschools for boys, there's a rampant problem of pornography and homosexuality, which has broken the lives of many teenagers while they were far from the supervision of their parents.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Karis, I have read "For the Children's Sake" and loved it. I'm now slowly tackling the original Charlotte Mason books.

Bethany Hudson said...

Anna- I don't think it's early at all! (And thank you for the resource, as I'm doing research on homeschooling now, too--with a 13-month old!) Currently, I'm reading "Pocketful of Pinecones" by Karen Andreola which is written as fiction but tells how to make Charlotte Mason Nature Notebooks and gives some great resources and ideas for nature walk ideas.

Lady M said...

We have been blessed to have homeschooled from the beginning (5+ years now). We too felt like we were called to homeschool. I was hearing from my SIL how glad she would be to send her then 3 year old off to school. It made me so sad to hear that - I enjoyed spending my time with my then 3 yr old and then newborn and simply could not imagine sending them off to government school.

Yes, there are some schools that are better than others, but my own mom was shocked when my brother & I told her that if we had wanted drugs, etc. we knew exactly who to go to in our highly ranked school.

We homeschool for MANY reasons, but our religious values are a main reason, academics somewhere below that amongst the other pile of reasons. Like you said, we the parents are instructed to teach our children.

I know there are plenty of Jewish homeschoolers here in the USA so there should be at least some online enouragement & curriculum available to you. I would HIGHLY encourage to continue to do all your research/studying now - even prior to baby arriving. There are so many different thought lines out there. We do use CM method ( and we all enjoy it.

I am going to head back to my couch - I have exhausted my "up time" for the morning.

FLCATXOK said...

This is the first time for me to comment although I have been reading and enjoying your blog for months now.

I think it is wonderful that you are learning about home schooling now before your little one is even born. I first heard about home schooling when my son was two years old in 1987. I knew immediately it was for us. We home schooled our son his whole life and I have no regrets doing so. I think you are wise to begin thinking and planning about now while you have more time.

Thank you so much for your blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna! I have been Homeschooling for awhile now and would like to set your mind at ease about large families doing it--Because of age spacing it would be pretty unusual to teach more than 4 or 5 at once-some being too young or others having finished! Might I recommend a book called Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorn 's?? It is a VERY comprehensive treatment of a classical education and its 3 components-pretty intense methods but worth the read (doorstop that it is!) I am not very informed on CHarlotte Mason but a google search turns up some disturbing leanings from my spiritual perspective.

Everly Pleasant said...

Well, I am a homeschooled girl in a family of ten, so if you ever want to leave a comment on my blog or email me at feel free! We know all about large family education.
:) Everly

Sarah-Kate* said...

Well, Anna, I am proud to be a second generation homeschooler. I was home-educated from 3rd grade on through graduation. What better experience and knowledge to know what to do and not to do! :-) My husband and I are going to homeschool our children-- no question! (Doesn't matter what the school system is like! There's TONS of reasons we are going to!) I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 6-month old right now. But we hope to have a large family. I come from a family of just three children-- who were all home-educated. But I have MANY friends who come from LARGE families who do it no problem. My sister (the one I've mentioned before) is expecting her 6th and is homeschooling. She has many posts about it on her blog, but check these posts out:

The post on June 5 should REALLY appeal to you! :-)

Have you heard of the Duggars from Arkansas? I think they are fantastic! Talk about homeschooling a large family-- they are expecting their 18th!!! YEA!!!! What a blessed family!

Be encouraged my dear! You are on the right track! :-)

Mrs. Joel Correa

Candy said...

Dear Sweet Anna,
I just seen your pretty picture in the post below. So lovely :)

This is my first year home schooling our son! I had not really heard of home schooling all that much at all in Canada. It wasnt until I started blogging that I realized it was an option!
The only regret that I have about home schooling is that we didnt know about it to have done it sooner. I so wish we could have started home schooling years ago. Oh well. At least we are now.

We are following the Charlotte Mason method and I higly recommend it. It is so awesome. I have our home schooling schedule on my blog sidebar (near the bottom) if you want to see it. Its a general idea of what we are doing. The idea is that its a very causal, totally non stressful way of teaching and learning. Its actually fun and lovely and relaxing. Everything we learn/that I teach our son is focused on the Word of God.

I highly encourage those who are not home schooling to just read the Charlotte Mason books.
Another great book for everyone to read is called The Marketing of Evil (I think written by a Jewish man...I may be wrong, I cant remember now) but soooo worth reading. He recommends why every Christian/ Jewish person/ anyone who follows Gods commandments to home school.

Candy :)

Michelle Potter said...

"Anna, I am curious...many people in the West homeschool because the public schools are so very terrible (bad influence on children) or because tuitions at quality private schools would be impossibly expensive for a family. I am wondering why in Israel you would really plan to homeschool, when there are quality religious schools that are provided for families?"

I find this question interesting because it belies the strange (IMO) though common idea that sending our children to someone else for their formal academic education is the default option.

I have 7 children, and I believe that God has given them to me (and my husband, of course) to raise. It is OUR job to make sure all of their needs are met, both educational and otherwise. The government here has several programs for providing food to children (food stamps, WIC, free meals at school), but it's still understood that feeding our children is OUR responsibility.

To me it only makes sense that I should continue teaching my children just as I have since the days they were born. If circumstances ever require that I procure the services of a professional teacher (for example, I'm thinking swimming lessons next summer), then I'll be glad that option is available, but I see no reason to send my children away just because the schools are there.

One of the sad consequences of seeing public / private schooling as the default norm is the growing tendency to send children away to school at earlier and earlier ages, to give them a head start. Here in the US we have heard politicians propose mandatory schooling for children as young as three years old. (I don't think that has passed anywhere, but I could be wrong.) Recently I read that a blogger I know, a religious woman who I consider to be a good mother, is now sending her two year old to preschool. Why? Because that's what people do now. Then the other day I was reading a blog post from another woman who was concerned because her four-year-old doesn't want to go back to school -- all day long, four days a week. (Happily she's decided to home-preschool.) Honestly, as a former preschool teacher, any mother with even the slightest inclination could do as well as most preschools. Give you child some paper and crayons, scissors and glue, and a basket of wooden blocks and you are all set. And your child will have an advantage that no preschool can provide: spending all day every day with his very own mother, who knows and loves him better than anyone else in the world.

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

I knew I would homeschool any future children I would have while I was still in high school. After being in the gifted program for my entire school career, my family moved down south and I was stunned at the low quality of academics there. In lit class I always wanted to bang my head on the desk out of boredom for the books and works we were reading there were ones I had read YEARS before. I wound up leaving early, to finish up in a home school program I paid for myself, and then beginning college at sixteen.

I do what Sean had called "homeschool lite" with Peapod now, which is an hour of day of focused play to allow her to learn through art, music, and nature study. I will not start any "academic" work in the true sense of the word for several years yet, but with so much to learn in the world around us, I really don't see how there can be an arbitrary age for starting the learning process. Especially with such a curious little girl as she is. :o)

Robin said...

Well, I'm not going to add much here, but I don't think you can start researching too early. I sent my oldest child to public school for Kindergarten, 1st and most of 2nd grade. When she was in 1st grade, I started doing serious research as I had been convicted that this was what I needed to do. I ended up pregnant, and my husband discouraged me from pulling her out until the baby was born and I was more organized. I'm sorry that we did that, because it was a very difficult year for her. She's home now and thriving. Rather than spend her days doing mundane worksheets and struggling at a pace she can't keep up, she spends her days reading, drawing and painting. We do very short lessons in math, grammar, and handwriting. The rest of the day is hers to explore and create as she feels led.

Charlotte Mason's method is an incredible way to teach. As I go through our daily lessons, I see more and more the importance of letting the children experience things rather than shoving information down their throats. The challenge is to create areas in the home where learning takes place naturally - shelves with blocks, art supplies, papers, easy access to good books, nice little nooks in which to read or do crafts, a little garden area in the yard or a nice pot on a porch where they can plant their own seeds, etc. That's what I'm working on now, and my children help. It's all educational and all good.

If you get this idea down early in your homeschooling career, adding children is no problem.

Gombojav Tribe said...

Thanks for visiting my blog...AGAIN! I hope the posts on homeschooling were helpful! We're always willing to answer questions, too!


Lady M said...

I also meant to add that we attend a family integrated church that is full of homeschooling families - and with only 2 children (and one on the way), we are a small family there! Many of the families there have 5-11 children (yes, I said 11!). They all do a fabulous job!

Blame the baby brain for forgetting to put that in my first comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
Me again. I've been looking around online some more, and Ambleside Online (which of the other posters mentioned, I belive) has some really great (free!) Charlotte Masonesque resources, like booklists and schedules, as well as art for downloading. I am really, really looking forward to this! My son is sixteen months old, so I have a while yet to get everything together. Also, I wanted to mention that I'm the eldest of five homeschooled children - it can be done! As we got older and more independent, we required much less of my mother's time and were able to more or less teach ourselves from the books, so she could spend more time with the younger children. There's a certain economy of scale to it - before very long older kids need less and can actually help out with chores and entertaining the younger ones and so forth, so the burden on the mother is finite, so to speak. In my own experience, I've found that having one baby takes up all my time, so having more won't take up any more ;-)

Miss Amy Smarty said...

Home schooling parents must be fiercely independent. To me it seems very pro-family. Instead of just sending your kids off for the government to tell them what they need to learn (I still can't believe it's so widely accepted here in the USA!!!), you keep them at home and teach them things that are best for your family, and the long run. Sure, people abuse it sometimes. But for the most part, home schoolers score the highest on college entrance exams, have the most extra-curricular skills, are respectful, modest, kind, attentive, mature...the list goes on and on. But, it's hard work. I haven't decided yet if I want to homeschool or send my children to a private school. I hope to homeschool, but I don't trust my ability very much.

Anonymous said...


I just found your blog a few weeks ago. Congratulations on your coming blessing! We just had our seventh child 7 weeks ago and we also homeschool. Our oldest is 15, next 13,9,7,4,2 1/2, and the baby. My husband was homeschooled the last two years of highschool, and we knew we wanted to do it from the very beginning. I think you are very wise to be investigating this during your pregnancy. Here in the States, (we live in Ohio) too many parents view their children as a hobby or treat them like a pampered pet and at the other end of the spectrum, ignore the child altogether. Sad to say, even well-meaning Christians live like this....sending the children away to pre-school, public, or private school. Many parents here just don't seem to realize that they were given these eternal souls to train up in the ways of the Lord to the best of our ability. It bothers me when I hear mothers in particular say, " I never could do that....homeschool." or " I can't wait until that kid starts school...then I can go work at such and such a place."

BTW, I am a Registered yes....I could work and bring home much more than my husband does complete with all the benefits, health insurance, ect. Instead, I quit my job in a small hospital working in OB/nursery/postpartum to stay home with my children and homeschool them. I just couldn't imagine someone else raising my children when it is my God-given responsibility. And BTW, that is how I explained it in my good-bye letter to the unit director!

Our oldest just turned 15, and I wept that day thinking to myself: " Have I spent the time with him that I really could? Have I poured myself into his life influencing him for the Lord? Where has the time gone?" and I have to say, I've never been sorry for the decisions I've made. You can never replace those years when you hold them in your arms and spend those sleep-less nights praying over them and their lives that God would use them in His service. When we had our fifth child, the doctor said : " There is no greater gift that a couple can receive from the Lord than the gift of a baby." So true! I pray we greatly value the gift or gifts we receive with thanks....

You are definitely on the right track. Even if you don't receive much support in homeschooling as it is so new there in have lots of folks cheering you on here in the States...

Blessings to you and your growing family . I'll be praying for you throughout the rest of this pregnancy.