Perspective from a Homeschooling Graduate
by Lauren Dymmel
Reflecting on the first twelve years of my education, I smile. I can’t help it. Numerous memories of my home education, with my family, replay themselves in my mind. They are memories of triumph, of tears, of consoling moments listening to my parent’s voices read aloud. The bright, warm days where we held school outside, the random field trips where something written on a page came alive in real-life, the sweet, valuable friends made along the journey, and even the rebellious days where absolutely no one could focus and instead we exercised our imaginations all day, usually building with lego or constructing forts. All of it now culminates into the smile sparkling through my eyes, pouring breath of excitement into what lies ahead.
As much as I advocate for homeschooling, and hope that I can give my future children a home education even better than mine, I do not see it as my life-savior, something I owe for anything and everything valuable in my character and work ethic. When I speak of home education, I am speaking about much more than just the books I read and the curriculum my family chose, however amazing they may have been. In my case, in a very real sense, to be educated at home is to be educated in life. This is the case for many homeschooled students. The following paragraphs contain my reflections, thoughts, and realizations, having graduated as a home-educated student, who never even stepped foot into Kindergarten. My hope is to encourage you. Strive not to compare what you read here to your own experiences, failings and triumphs, but through the grace of Jesus I hope you look forward to tomorrow, to start again, to breath deeply, a new day, a full day, a day worth living.
As L. M. Montgomery said in her fantastically written and famous book that embodies one of my most treasured, fictional characters, Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it yet.”
Please also note, I do not think that a family should homeschool at the expense of everything else. God calls each family to a unique life. Ask Him what that is for you and your family. If you are a current homeschool family or are rolling the thought of it around in your head, then I hope the follow paragraphs bring encouragement and light to your journey. For it is a journey, winding with twists, full of challenge. If I could only say one thing, it would be that it is worth it. Thankfully, I get to say much more than that!
My Early Years – Learning How to Learn
My education started very young. Being the first born, my mother overachieved, as the up-tight woman she used to be, making everything perfect because it seemed as though everyone else had it perfect. By the time she could have enrolled me in Kindergarten, I already knew everything that I would learn there. There was no reason for me to go. And as for the social aspect that many ill-informed individuals still tighten their foreheads at, well, through my being friends with our whole neighborhood full of both young and old, there didn’t seem to be any issue.
At home, I learned how to learn. This is one of my greatest treasures. The main goal of grade school needs to be this process, this discovery. If you know how to learn, how your brain works best, your pathways are limitless. Especially in this technological-savvy age that we live in, with limitless amounts of information looming at the fingertips of every student. I learned how to learn. I developed a love and appreciation for education and the learning process. I also grew to be self-motivated. My homeschool education extended its hand to these processes. I do believe that is partially just who I am, but through the environment I grew up in, this seed of self-determination flourished. Despite its length of process and difficulty, learning how your student learns is both the ultimate goal and reward.
Maximize Your Time
Being at home, time can be maximized. Time can be used to your advantage. You do not have to facilitate a classroom of 30 students; your classroom is much smaller. Time does not have to be wasted, it is very possible to be laser focused. Over the years, many friends of mine who attended a public grade school have described their classes to me. My younger self was always curious to hear about what “real school” entailed. Little did I know how blessed I was, learning at home in “fake school.” They shared highlights of how time was wasted in the classroom. Whether this happened because of a teacher, too many movie-watching days, or poor planning, is irrelevant. The relevancy is that it does happen. And it happens a lot. What really gets under my skin is how accepted and normal this idea is. Wasted time. I understand that there are much larger classes at a public school, I know first hand that a group takes longer to teach than an individual. But in my opinion, this is too much of a compromise. Large classes put immense pressure on the teacher, pressure that many of them crumble under. It is not effective. It diminishes the quality and intentionality of a student’s education. This is where home education differs.
Because time is not wasted, students are able to invest in activities and personal, unique interests on a deeper level. I was able to invest into extracurricular activities, such as music, at a dynamic level. I was able to take lessons on two instruments and teach up to 26 students of my own students at the same time. I started to teach private music lessons right before I turned fourteen and have not stopped. This was an excellent way to support additional lessons for myself as well as maintain high quality instruments for personal use. Through this opportunity I discovered my love for teaching. I am very confident that I would not have been able to do as well in school and run my own business if I was in school. Homeschooling allowed for flexibility of schedules that I would not have had otherwise. Whatever I was in to, music or sports or writing, I was able to explore it in special ways because my time was maximized. Please note that I have had many friends who are involved with orchestra, etc at a public school, and are musically brilliant. The point here is time; my point is not to claim that a public school cannot give a student a musical education.
Cultivating Unique Learning Styles
In a homeschooled setting, it is much easier to cater a subject’s format according to the student’s learning style, needs and interests. I have lived this. In third grade, after many months of fighting a battle with reading and spelling, a specialist put the stamp of dyslexia on my forehead. Homeschooling allowed my parents to adapt to my needs with this learning disability. I was not just held back a grade or two, hoping that would fix my issues, that I could catch on, that I would try harder. Trying was not the issue. Giving me more time was not the solution. I didn’t need to be held back a grade, I needed intentionality on a specific issue. My brain needed to be rerouted. I physically needed new neurological pathways in my brain. This takes time, and people took time with me. With reading, writing, and spelling I started to work on first grade material, and after two and a half years of intentional, individualized therapy, I caught up to the level of my other subjects. Because of the intentionality and intensity of the tutoring, which retrained my brain, the effects of dyslexia have been erased almost entirely.
To reiterate, I learned how I learn best. As many are familiar with, there are three main types of learners: auditory, kinesthetic, and verbal. In grade school, I was an auditory learner, who also benefited from kinesthetic learning. Flash cards are my best friend, in every subject. Listening to a lecture and taking notes in a creative way on paper also clicks extremely well in my brain. I have friends now who do not know how they learn best, and this discovery can be a serious learning curve. Not only learning how to learn, but learning how your student learns, makes the sky the limit.
While that was extremely vital to my education experience, there are other factors. Discipline is key. My home has been very disciplined from the beginning. Through the discipline that my parents gave with my education, added with my driven, competitive spirit, I learned how to self-motivate and self-discipline. While this is somewhat of an unteachable attribute, it can be encouraged and cultivated. My brother who is closest to me in age has a different natural approach to tasks, but even he has developed self-discipline, it just takes on different forms than mine.
A Supportive Framework that Grows with You
Throughout my life, my family has always succeeded in supporting each other. My parents helped me go all in. When I played basketball, ages eight to thirteen, I would go to the gym with my dad to workout, practice my shot. In the off season we would swim laps. All this took place before 7:00, sometimes 6:00 in the morning. From a very young age my daily schooling began at 6:00 am, with math. My mom was happy to homeschool my brothers and I in every subject but this one. This one was my dad’s responsibility. At this time, he worked long hours and the early morning was the only time he had to teach us. I started at 6:00 and my oldest brother began at 7:00. After that I continued school, or completed my chores, followed by more school. It was not a perfect system, but there was a system, a list, priorities.
My parents also helped to transition me into taking charge of my studies. I think a part of self-motivation and discipline I have today is because of this process. Through seventh grade my mom guided me very closely in figuring out what needed to be done for the week, and then helped me break the large list into small lists for everyday. Starting in eighth grade I did this for myself. Every Friday or Monday, I would plan out the following days, a different color for all six of my subjects. This is how my brain works. I do this in college, now. I go through my syllabi weekly, either on Saturday or Sunday, and make a large list of everything that needs to be done for the week’s classes, and break down larger projects approaching in the coming weeks. It works splendidly. I will also break the assignments and review sessions I create down and assign them to certain days. Figure out how your brain works, that is the most important thing. When I began to study Latin in seventh grade, I discovered that flash cards click well. Like the strategic schedules, I use them in college. The idea of “how does my brain work?” is a process though, one that cannot be rushed. It will not be perfect, but you must strive to understand how your student’s brains work. As much as I think I understand the way I learn, this past fall semester I discovered a new study technique that worked especially well for exams: self-lecturing. It is exactly what it sounds like. I study by giving a pretend lecture to an imaginary classroom, and through this I look at my notes less and less, remembering more and more. For me, if I can teach and explain something a couple different ways, then I understand it.
It is likely that you have heard this before: read to your students. I am a firm believer in this, having seen its results first hand. Do it everyday. Do it as much as you can. Read to them even if your student is only half listening. Read to them while they play lego at your feet. Read to them as they color. This intentional process has been written and studied by many. I am a testament to its positive affects. Both my parents took the opportunity to read aloud to my brothers and I often. When I was young it was part of our everyday schooling. This act instilled not only some sort of intellectual confidence in me, but also cultivated a wholeness and close-knit connection within our home. Read aloud, you won’t regret it.
Intentionality is a necessity, always. You could take your life in one hundred directions, but God is pointing you in one. Homeschooling gives space for this intentionality to blossom. If the Lord has called you to homeschool, it is worth it. With the grace of God, you are capable. The opportunity to homeschool and the time spent with your children in your home is a gift. Open it.
Meet the Author
Lauren Dymmel is a college student seeking to further her relationship with the Lord in everything she does, as well as finding excitement and motivation in everyday life. Writing, investing in people, spending time outside, performing music, and most of all teaching are what fuel her passion and make her soul smile. She is currently a student at a private university where she is studying TESL (teaching English as a second language) and minoring in Cello Performance and Linguistics. Lauren was homeschooled throughout her entire grade-school career, encompassing an array of homeschooling experiences, including taking part in Classical Conversations and finishing high school while being dual enrolled in a local community college. Lauren’s discoveries and experiences are exactly that: Thoughts and ideas based upon what the Lord has allowed her to walk through. I hope you enjoy Lauren’s perspective on homeschooling!