Before we started on the homeschooling journey we asked ourselves and God “what would be the best education for our child?” My husband and I had a mix of experience in our own educational history. I went to state Primary school and state Comprehensive school where I did well academically and went on to study a B.A.(Hons) at Coventry University. My husband went to a state Primary school and Private Secondary school, where he excelled, and went on to Christchurch College, Oxford.
We both recoginised that during our school careers there were things that we wish had been different, and i’m not going to use this space to go into detail, but we were both left with the question “is our current educational system really God’s best for our daughter, and will it help or hinder her in her relationship with God?”
We started to investigate the different options when she was about 18 months old, and at the beginning everything was on the table – including me going back to full time work to help pay for a private education. We had some contact with people who had chosen to home-educate and we went to see them. We also knew one family whose children had been in a Christian school, but due to a house move they were now home-educating. We went to a conference for home-schooling families and were impressed to see children of all ages fulfilling their potential both academically, physically and with characters in tune with the heart of God.
We asked the usual questions about socialization and qualifications and were happy with the answers we were given. Having studied Sociology at University, I know that ‘Socialization’ is the process by which a child learns the norms and values of the society in which they live. I (still) am not really interested in Rachel picking up the norms and values of the society in which she lives, where girls are encouraged to give away their virginity at an increasingly young age and drink alcohol until they are spread out on the pavement of the city centre vomitting down a drain. I hope I can do a slighty better job than that, by the grace of God.
Of course at the time we were planning to have more than one child. Our journey has not been an easy one with pain and heartache along the way, but it has made us determined to continue to strive for the best for Rachel as an only child, so we put aside out personal comfort on many occasions and ensure that she gets plenty of interaction with her peers. Rachel is one of the most socially confident young people I know, and is comfortable communicating with people of all ages.
Our other concern was qualifications. Having both been to university, we didn’t want our choices for Rachel to preclude her from attending university if that was her wish, so we were pleased to find that it was possible to gain qualifications at home that would facilitate that.
Being Rachel’s mother is the next most important ministry I have after my relationship with God and my ministry to my husband. I am very serious about that. However when we started thinking about home educating her I was a little lost. I’m not a qualified teacher, and I don’t know what children are supposed to learn or in what order, so I was pleased to find that there was a curriculum that ticked most, if not quite all, of our boxes.
So when Rachel was not quite 4 years old we started on the Preschool programme of A.C.E. and we have continued on that path these last 9 years. Is A.C.E. perfect for us? No – we adapt some of the theology that we feel is a bit legalistic, and the division of labour portrayed within homes in the curriculum does not reflect what actually happens in our home so that is an opportunity for Rachel to learn to be adaptable. We also add in some practical science, I.T., Modern Languages, Home Econ. and sports. However, academically it has been great for us. The phonic Learning to Read programme ABC’s was great and after spending the preschool year learning all the sounds, Rachel learnt to read in 12 weeks. The English Grammar curriculum is very rigorous, for quite some time I have needed the answer books to mark Rachel’s work, as we were just not taught grammar like that when I was in school.
Our journey continues…