The Jacksons: Home-schooling a balancing act
Source: Asbury Park Press
By: THOMAS P. COSTELLO
May 10, 2012
Linda, 41, and Derrick Jackson, 42, pastor at Life Covenant Church in Marlboro, are homeschooling their four children, Alyssa, 14, Christopher, 12, Samuel, 11, and Isaac, 4 in their Holmdel home. This family stays busy: On Tuesdays and Thursdays Derrick takes the children out for several hours of basketball practice. On Wednesdays, they have piano lessons. On Thursdays, a public speaking class. And on Fridays, a gym co-op that meets at the Red Bank YMCA. But faith is always a part of their children’s “life training,” Linda Jackson says.
When my children were young, my husband asked if I would consider home-schooling them. Our sister-in-law was home-schooling her children at the time and he thought it was the best option for our children's education. I was not nearly as enthusiastic as he was. In fact, I was not excited at all. I was concerned about how people would view them, that my children would be labeled "strange" and not "socialized" properly. My mom, in particular, thought they wouldn't fare as well if they were home-schooled because they would not get the competition they needed to excel.
However, I attended a home-schooling convention and was struck by the teens I saw there. There was something about them which stood out to me. I couldn't explain what it was. But my husband remarked, "They don't have the marks of the culture on them." I realized at that moment how beautiful that was. They didn't blend in with the world around them, but at the same time they were not strange.
After great soul searching, I decided home-schooling was the right option for us. Raising our children to be adults who love God and people are important goals for us as parents. And we felt home-schooling was the best way to instill these values.
Keeping the faith
Many are surprised to find us home-schooling in Holmdel, a district known for its better school system. I am sure the children would receive a more than adequate education in the Holmdel school system. However, the reason we home-school is not simply for the education, but more importantly for instilling values and training our children to care about the things we care about.
Prayer and seeking God's guidance was a definite part of the decision making process. Reading the Bible and praying together is part of our daily routine. We spend at least 30 minutes a day doing this. I would call this part of our children's life training. We hope they continue in these disciplines even when they are grown.
Simply as a parent, I feel qualified to be responsible for my children's education. Who would care more for their education than us? I have a bachelors of science from Cornell University, as a well as a Masters of Arts from Gordon Conwell Seminary. Having been through all that education, I feel I am adequately prepared to teach and guide my children to learn what they need to learn.
What works for us
I oversee and teach a majority of the academics. But Derrick coaches them in basketball and other sports.
I use a variety of curriculum. When the children are younger, I like using curriculum which is more hands-on. For instance, for math, I use Shillermath, a curriculum known for its Montessori style of teaching. When one of my sons were younger, he could not wait for math time each day. He loved playing with the materials that came with the curriculum. For history, I started with a series called Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer. Rather than simply telling history facts to the children, the curriculum told history in story form. And amazingly, when I used to ask my children what their favorite subject was, they would respond, "History!" What a surprise that was to me because I never found it interesting as a child. In fact, I began to learn history myself and looked forward to reading the next "story" to them!
There is rarely a typical school day because we have activities interspersed throughout the week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays Derrick takes the children out for several hours of basketball practice in the morning. On Wednesdays, we have piano lessons. On Thursdays, our children participate in a public speaking class. And on Fridays, we are part of a gym co-op which meets at the Red Bank YMCA. We plan our school days around the different activities.
As the children reach middle school, I begin using online curriculum to supplement their education. My two older children learn math through Thinkwell, an organization that offers a variety of courses for middle school and up. For writing, we use Write At Home. The children submit weekly papers which are returned with comments. When my children need help in these subjects, I serve as tutor, more than as teacher. Sometimes, when the subject is difficult, I become a fellow learner with them as we learn it together.
Passing the test
Having been through the college application process myself, I know what challenges the children face in preparing for it. Depending on the child and their interests, I will decide how hard to push or not push. I realize that each child is different, and not all were made to go the challenging academic route. There are many excellent colleges. Depending on my children's interests, we will know how to best steer them towards developing the different talents that each one is gifted with.
The children's grades are in the A's and B's. In some subjects some of the children may be a grade ahead. Many of the curriculums I use have a grading system built in. Yearly, I have the children participate in standardized testing to gauge where they are at in comparison to others their age. It helps me to judge if I'm hitting the mark, or if I need to help them in particular areas where they may be weaker.
Ever since they were young, the children participated in the Holmdel Youth Athletic Association. They have played on recreational teams for soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball. Derrick serves as a volunteer coach for basketball. The children get opportunities to connect with others in our community through this league.
Derrick recently inquired with the athletic director in Holmdel about the possibility of our children participating in middle school and high school athletics. The athletic director said that he was waiting on the BOE to make a decision on whether our district will allow home-schooled children to participate. But Derrick was encouraged to find that the NJSIAA decided to allow homeschoolers to compete in interscholastic sports last year
I wasn't sure what to expect when I first started, but there are definite days where it's more challenging than I would like. Someone once said to me it must be difficult to be both their mom and their teacher. And in many ways, it is. But I've learned that the most important part of home-schooling was to first make sure my relationships with my children were in good working order. Before I could teach them, the children had to respect me as mom, and I have to respect them as my children.
When I first started home-schooling, I may have over-pushed my children to excel. Sometimes I focused too much on the academics and good grades. We have struggled with many tears. But I have learned along the way that my relationships with my children are far more important than good grades.
A disappointment I struggle with is not being able to give each child as much time as I would like. Balancing being teacher, mom, cook, maid, chauffeur and the many other hats I have to wear is a challenge. When we don't meet goals we set (such as finishing a curriculum by a certain date), I am disappointed as well.
The family that learns together...
I treasure the time we have together as a family. Because we home-school, we are more flexible to vacation off season times when the crowds are not there. Also another benefit, is that we have been a part of a skiing co-op. So for the last several winters my children have been able to learn to ski and snowboard as part of their education.
Just like when parents are proud when they see their children take their first steps, I think the greatest satisfaction has been seeing the children read their first book, or figure out their first math problem, write their first poem or story. As a homeschooling mom, I am privy to many of their "firsts."
As we set out home-schooling, I have mentioned we have our goals to raise them to be people with values. Even now at their young ages I see them care for people and that brings me great joy.