26 Years of Homeschooling: Then and Now

Our first schoolroom (Also the dining room)

Wowza! Tim and I have now been homeschooling for more than a quarter of a century. Yes, that means we are getting old, but we still have a few more years to go. (Five to be exact. And yes, we are definitely counting!)

Our family, homeschooling, and the world in general have undergone enormous changes in these 26 years. It's been kind of fun to reminisce about they way things were then and now. Here are some of the things I've been remembering.

1990-1991  vs. 2016-2017 school years 

President George H. W. Bush was in the second year of his presidency. He had only recently succeeded Ronald Regan.

NOW - U.S.
Donald Trump rather unexpectedly defeated Hilary Clinton and is serving the first year of his presidency. What a crazy ride it has been already! Trying to steady the ship is Vice President, Mike Pence.

THEN - World
East and West Germany reunited a few days after we started school in August.

NOW - World
Last summer Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. ISIS threatens security in the West. Syria continues to disintegrate. Venezuela is collapsing.

Baby Kristen loved just hanging out
near the school action
THEN - Our family
We had three children: 5, 4, baby, and we lived in a little house tucked into a small mountain cove in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. Our kids liked to wander up the mountain and play in the little rill that ran down it. We met many snakes, but never any black bears, though some did roam the mountains.

NOW - Our family
This year we had only two children at home: 16 and 13. (Plus three in college and four adult children). We've made our home on a farm in southern Indiana for the past couple of decades. No bears around here, but plenty of turkey and deer. Some things don't change: Ben, our youngest, still spends plenty of time exploring the creek in our front yard.

THEN - Technology
Tim had an IBM clone that ran DOS, and I didn't yet have a computer. We were a couple of years away from hooking into email and the internet via AOL. When I needed to make copies, I ran to Kinkos or the church office where Tim worked. Our kids loved to listen to music and stories on cassette tapes. That was the extent of our technology!

Paul's life improved  immensely when
we bought headphones long enough
to allow him to attend his algebra II
online class and still reach
the fridge
NOW - Technology
I think we have four computers running in the house now plus a couple of tablets. I don't know if we would have been able to homeschool through high school without all the resources made available by the internet these past years. Most importantly, we rely fairly heavily on The Potter's School for wonderful, live classes as our children hit junior and senior high, especially for English classes. Add to that Google research, online purchasing of books and supplies, and the ability to find help and inspiration from others in forums and social media, and the way we homeschool in 2017  looks so very different from 1990!

THEN - Homeschool curricula
When we started homeschooling, I gathered catalogs from just about every homeschool supplier. This wasn't hard to do back then, as the number of people selling materials to homeschoolers was very, very limited. Finding material was sometimes difficult, but making curriculum decisions thus was pretty easy. You didn't have to decide if you preferred Charlotte Mason, Classical, eclectic, traditional, or unschooling. Most of those terms didn't really exist, or at least weren't known by most of us trying to teach our kids. Early homeschoolers generally fell into the "school at home" camp or the "anything but school at home." (I.e. unit studies, living books, etc.) For our first many years we used KONOS, a character-trait unit study program with a wonderful combination of hands-on projects, discovery learning, and oodles of good books.

Studying Indians in the early days

NOW - Homeschool curricula
Finding good curricula has become challenging for a new reason - the options are seemingly endless! Rainbow Resource, a major homeschool supplier, now publishes their catalog in two giant volumes which they mail out in two successive years! Of course the internet, blogs, and Pinterest, provide limitless inspiration and resources as well (if you can keep from getting distracted and losing focus.) As a product reviewer for Practical Homeschooling magazine, I have the opportunity to test out many new products, some of which are duds, but others which make their way into our lineup.

With our two students in junior and senior high, our methods of instruction look different than back when learning about the ear meant making a model large enough to crawl through. With our older kids we outsource a number of classes to our online school or community college. But just as back in our first year, high-quality books play a major role in all we do.

Cool! Andrew just found the lens from the cow's eyeball
THEN - Purpose
We started homeschooling because we wanted to intentionally teach our children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength while providing a well-rounded education. We also desired to help our children grow in Christ-like character and to give them tools to learn and help them to love learning.

NOW - Purpose
We're still homeschooling for those reasons, plus we've appreciated being able to customize the education for each one. Overall we're encouraged by the results. Though we are more aware of the downsides to homeschooling than ever, this method of educating our children works well for our family. Most of all, we're thankful for the freedom parents have to choose from a variety of schooling options.


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