The Homeschooling Journey Begins. Carmen is the mother of three sweet little girls. She began homeschooling when she noticed that Logan, her oldest, was very interested in learning, but school was still in the future. Homeschooling began very naturally because of this, and time just continued to tick by. The days turned into years, and homeschooling had turned into a way of life for the Martinez family. In fact, in order to structure her life so she could fit homeschooling in, now that it was becoming a bigger endeavor, Carmen quit her part-time job with State Farm. At that point Logan was officially school age, entering first grade, Adeline was 3 years old, and Baby Hiro was on the way. Carmen was around two and a half years into her homeschooling career. Now there was no turning back!
What does a day of homeschooling look like at the Martinez residence? “We have tried several different schedules, but the one that works the best seems to run like this: Mornings begin later, around 10, and we start the day by cleaning the house together. This seems to work well because we begin fresh with an organized environment. We do our lessons for a while and then stop for lunch. After lunch we like to have a story time, and that either means I read to the girls, or Logan reads to all of us. The two younger girls take a nap after story time, and that is Logan’s time to do independent work. Naps are super important in our homeschool – they keep all of us sane. The girls don’t necessarily sleep each day, but we all need some quiet space alone. Including mom. Maybe mom more than anyone.”
Goals and Motivation for Homeschooling. Carmen Martinez has a calm and gentle demeanor, and she speaks frankly. “You know, our goals are to have our children grow to be God loving, wise, caring and well-educated people. So, hopefully we lead them in the right path.” To that end, Carmen shares they do not have very formal benchmarks to gauge their progress, academically or any other way. “We don’t really test or anything like that or use a system. I do go to my local library and they have assessment books that you can get, like What My First Graders Should Know or My Second Graders Should Know and it has basic test questions and so I kind of use that sometimes in the beginning of the year and the end of the year just to make sure we’re on track. And then I actually have a couple friends who are teachers and they have assessed my children before too as well, just to make sure they’re doing well. So that’s as far as we have gone for testing.”
Rewards of Homeschooling. “Yeah, I definitely want to be appreciated and thanked for every little thing I do. But that doesn’t happen. When things click for them or they finally can read that sentence or that word or they come up with a new word and you’re like, oh wow, they’re learning! They’re learning! I listened to these homeschool podcasts and the mom on there said that every time a child accomplished something she would say, “This payday, this is my paycheck”. And so it was just a reminder that, oh, it’s paying off all my hard work is paying off. So I thought that was pretty cool and that’s just stuck in my head. And so I’ll say that when the girls do something good. Sometimes I hear my girls making their own songs up about God and sometimes they use Bible verses and it’s really touching to see that they’re also growing in their faith. As long as they’re learning each day I feel confident, but right now it’s not too hard. I use a lot of tools from the internet or the library to help me. Educational DVDs are awesome. I kind of just take advantage of those things as well as the books we use. But for now I would say sometimes I set my bar way too high, like if I plan my day out and then I don’t accomplish everything because it’s just life. I’m the cook, I’m the caregiver, I’m everything. So when I don’t accomplish everything I feel really discouraged and sad. So for the most part I don’t really make a very rigid schedule or plan. I try not to write out a whole lesson plan because you know, sometimes the day just goes on its own way, so I am satisfied as long as they’re learning.”
Personal Growth. Carmen shares about her own personal growth as a homeschooling mom. She emphatically states that even in early elementary, she is learning so many things right along with her girls. She adds, “I am learning patience. And I am becoming more organized because if I’m not organized then everybody’s all over the place. But their work is kind of basic but sometimes I learned new things like teaching them about Amelia Earhart or different sciences or about history and things that you don’t really learn about in school or in more detail. So that’s kind of fun when we’re like, “I didn’t know that.”
Close Relationships. I would like to say that my kids and I are very close. We talk about our days, talk about things, we hang out. I make it a priority to hang out with them, we have girl nights and paint nails. Sometimes we’ll do things in the middle of the day. I think that’s very important to let them know that they’re valued and that they can come to me with anything. So I try to keep an open book and hopefully things will stay like that.
Favorite Part of Homeschooling. I think my favorite thing about my life is that I guess I am able to stay home and homeschool. My mother was a single mom and she was always working, and she did an awesome job, but I’m very blessed to be able to stay home and homeschool and I know that it’s a blessing. So I would say being home with them and seeing them learn things and not getting a report from a teacher telling me what they have learned or done. It is really fun when you see their face light up and they accomplish this thing, completed something or finally understand how to do that math problem and seeing that smile firsthand is awesome.
Support Team. Ideally I would like to homeschool til my girls graduate from high school but we’re taking it year by year. When I first started homeschooling I wasn’t quite sure how to homeschool, I guess, or how it works or what you could and couldn’t do. So I did ask my friend, Belmary, she was homeschooling before me, so she recommended a TEACH Homeschool Support Group and she would also encourage me to take it one day at a time and that was very helpful. And my husband was a great support as well, he was on board and supporting me throughout this time. And so on throughout the years, I have some new friends who homeschool and they encourage me and pray for me and help me. And then we share and donate homeschool material and whatnot. So, as time goes by, you definitely build a support team.
On the flipside, I think that a lot of people just don’t understand why you would homeschool or what homeschooling is about. In the beginning, we had a lot of questions and people wondering whether our girls were learning this and that particular thing. I think it’s just because they were maybe worried or concerned, you know, and it’s kind of a foreign concept, especially in my community growing up. You just send your kids to school and go to work and you survive. So, I think, throughout the years they learn to accept it. So that’s really good. And thankfully, no one was really against it – although I did get some comments, thinly veiled advice that things would be easier if I just sent them to school, and why do I not send them when I live so close to a really good school.
Words of Advice. If you have the means and the will to do it, then just do it! And even If you don’t have the means, God will provide! God will provide because he has blessed us with these children (or child, as the case may be), and placed them in our care. And the most important thing we do is help them build relationships with God, with us, and with each other. So I think it’s very important. And, don’t give up on those hard days. There will be good days and there will be bad days. Don’t give up and call a friend who also homeschools to get some words of encouragement to carry you through. I’d definitely say if you’re going to start homeschooling, you should build that support system and meet people who also homeschool and have the same lifestyle as you because it is hard and we need each other. That’s it.