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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My wife and I have often thought about homeschooling, but have always "chickened out." Well, as the school year approaches, we are again thinking about homeschooling. We like the current school where our children attend, so it is not something against them, but we are thinking of making the switch this year.

We have a 6th grader, 4th grader, and a 4 year old. We are thinking of using the BJU Hard Drive Distance Learning option for this year, but are still thinking. I recognize that some hardcore homeschooling families will probably think this is a cop-out, but in our situation we are thinking this may be a way to see how we like educating them at home without overwhelming us. It looks Missy will still have to work some - even with not having the expense of Christian School - so I would be involved with this as well. (Of course, I would still like to be involved even if the Lord somehow provided in such a way that Missy did not have to work at all.)

Anyway, I am not looking for a big debate about homeschooling. I am aware of many positives and negatives from having worked with a number of homeschooling families over the years. I am more interested in hearing about the following things:

1. Is anyone familiar enough with the BJU Hard Drive system to offer some thoughts regarding it? (Also, we have heard that you can get a good deal by going to one of the "hotel meetings." The closest one to us is about three hours away - are the deals enough to make such a trip worth it?)

2. Any thoughts or advice for a family thinking of making the move in our situation?

3. One of the reasons we are considering this move is to give some more focused attention to one of our children who is struggling academically. In doing so, we are also trying to decide if it is a better option to have her stay in the grade she would be in if she stayed at the school and work extra with her to shore up the weak areas or if we should have her repeat the grade she just completed.

4. At Hardingville, we had a large church with a number of opportunities outside of school for the children to have interaction with others. I believe the homeschoolers at HBC who were involved with King's Kids and Youth Group got "the best of both worlds" in regards to time at home and interaction. Our little church does not yet have these options. Should this be a concern?

Anyway, I would love to hear some input.




Don Johnson said...

Hi Frank

We have two more years to go, then we are FINISHED with home schooling! That will make seventeen years of it.

We have used the ABeka video school the whole time. We had no desire to re-invent the wheel, we just wanted an academically sound education for our kids. We had no good options here (we tried), so we were 'forced' into it.

Now, as to your questions:

1. I don't know a lot about the BJU hard drive system. We were in ABeka because at the time the BJU video curriculum was not fully developed. Once we got into ABeka, my wife was reluctant to change because she was confident with what she was doing. However, my brother and sister-in-law have been using the BJU HomeSat for a number of years and are 'distributors' of sorts, so if you like, I could maybe get them to chime in here for you.

2. First, I much prefer the video curriculum approach for many reasons. It provides accountability, it provides structure, it provides expertise, it gives non-education majors confidence, and it provides a full curriculum.

Second, I would urge you to be absolutely committed to keeping to the schedule. Two many, even with a video curriculum, have been slack with their kids. In addition to failing to build character, we have seen them floundering around academically. One weakness we have had is on the 'outside' projects like writing papers, etc. It is hard, especially with several kids writing papers and doing school, to keep the outside projects going on time. We let the kids slide too much on due dates here. I think it made the first semester at BJU a little rough. Deadlines were new. So you really need commitment on schedules and deadlines.

3. Our oldest (my famous son) was supposed to be in Grade 4 when we switched. We had him in a little Christian school here that was using our provincial curriculum. Their attitude was "he'll get math when he's ready." My attitude was "he's ready." Anyway, we tried to start him into the ABeka grade 4... he was just too far behind in math, so we ended up switching him back to Grade 3 about a month in. It was very traumatic for everyone. He's probably still warped by this experience! (We ended up 'skipping' Grade 12 and sending him on to BJ on time, he already had sufficient credits. And he's doing ok now...)

So on this one, there might be some testing that could be done to determine grade level, but it might be that you would decide to switch back after starting. Be sure you have some kind of agreement with the provider so that such an event is possible and prepare your young one for the possibility. The point of education is not what grade you are in but what grade you are getting... in other words, you want the child to learn. I think holding a child back at home is easier than at school! In any case, remind your child and yourselves that you are all in this together to make the most out of schooling. You want to help your child do the best she can.

Anyway, I think you will soon figure out where she needs to be and how to achieve it.

4. One objection we heard to home schooling was "socialization". Whenever someone said to me, "what about socialization?" I would say, "We don't want them to be socialists."

Our church is actually smaller than yours. Our kids have gone through their school years with very few friends (if any), other than each other. (One reason to have a passle of kids.) We have had most of them in some kind of sports, one sport per kid per year. Our youngest has been in piano instead. (Very expensive. But she is playing beautifully, just passed her Grade 8 in the Royal Conservatory. She is actually qualified to teach, I think, now that she has that grade.) All of our kids have been working outside the home since at least age 15. Some at 14. We have three working at McD's right now. They are all well respected at work and have received promotions right along - because they are respectful and have a work ethic. (Imagine that!)

All that to say, I wouldn't worry too much about this one. The main thing is having a healthy, balanced home and teaching your kids to love the Lord and have sweet spirits towards others. (That last bit is really hard for me to do since... well, you know, the oxgoad kinda thing. I credit my kids sweetness to their mom. They get their looks from... well, their mom. Not sure what I am contributing!)

Well, that's my take. Don't be afraid of it, especially with good options like the BJU hard drive situation, and others.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Cindy Johnson said...

Hi Frank,

This is Don's sister-in-law, Cindy Johnson, chiming in. :-)

We've used BJU Press materials from the beginning and have graduated two of our five children so far (Don is the OLDER brother. . . that's why he only has two years of home schooling remaining. . . though he'll be quick to point out that he's smarter and more handsome than his YOUNGER brother!).

The BJU video classes are superb as all of our children would be glad to tell you. And with the DVD or Hard Drive option, schooling is a breeze. Our 8-year old works as independently as our high schoolers, so your older two should have no trouble working on their own.

Both the Hard Drive and DVD kits come as complete packages. The DVD kits offer the flexibility of moving up or down a grade level in a maximum of two different subjects. So if your daughter is struggling in one subject, you could repeat that particular subject and move ahead with subjects she's strong in. The cost for the DVD package is $999 plus tax for grades 1-12, $399 for K4 and $749 for K5.

If you order from a consultant, you receive the same "deal" you would at a convention. The current promotion is for free shipping within the U.S. If you decide to go the BJU-route, I'd be glad to process your order or put you in contact with another consultant if you'd like.

The Hard Drive kits are less expensive (K4-$299, K5-$599, and $849 for grades 2-8), but they don't allow any movement up or down to accommodate students that need help in just one or two subject areas.

Like Don and Debbi, we run our school day like, well. . . like school! We're very mindful that we're preparing them for life, so we have a rising time, breakfast time, and detailed schedules for piano and all classes. It's worked well for our children, and, Lord willing, as our first one heads off to BJU in three weeks (boo hoo!), she'll find herself well prepared for what she'll face there.

If you have any question about moving your daughter on to the next grade or holding her back a year, I'd give her an extra year of review. It's much easier to do so at the lower grades, and as she progresses into the higher grades, she can pick up the pace if you're using DVDs. We held our son back in math and science in grade 3, and he's spent this summer watching two of his subjects so he can move ahead to where he should be as a 14-year old.

That was a loooong chime, but if you have any more questions, fire away!

Cindy Johnson

Frank Sansone said...

Don & Cindy,

Thank you very much. I appreciate it your input. I have to run to VBS, but I will probably have some additional questions when I come home.

Also, if anybody else has input, please reply. I would love the input.

In Christ,


Frank Sansone said...


Sorry it took me a while to get back to this. We are having a good week of VBS this week :)

If I understand you correctly, we can just order through you and I can avoid the drive to DC this afternoon? (It is about three hours each way)

With the DVD option, if things progress with our daughter is there a way to pick up the pace as the year goes on and get in two years of reading into one year - or would she just stay one year behind in reading until arriving at the point where reading is no longer a subject. (The short story is that she missed half of Kindergarten and has had difficulty since then with reading - especially her "word attack skills.")

I will probably have more later.

Oh, yeah, should I clarify that you are saying that Don would say that Don is the "smarter and better looking one" - not that you believe Don is accurate in that assessment?



Don Johnson said...

Hi Frank,

Yes, my standard line is that I'm older, smarter and better looking. Then I add a corollary that one out of three ain't bad!

What are brothers for, after all?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Cindy Johnson said...

Hi Frank,

Yes, you can save yourself a tank of gas and six hours of driving time by ordering directly through me (or any other consultant).

Using the DVDs would allow you to keep your daughter back in Reading (and you'd probably want to stay back a year in English as well because they are so closely related) while moving ahead in the other subjects.

Reading (or literature as it's called in the upper grades) is offered every year through high school. If "catching up" is important, you could purchase a reader and worktext for the next year's reading (at whatever point she's caught on) and have her complete the worktext on her own through the summer.

If you go to the BJU Press web site, you can look inside the readers to determine what grade level your daughter is comfortable with. You may want to check inside the English worktexts also.

And for the record, Don is right on his "one out of three"!:-) However, he kindly doesn't mention that his younger brother has a full head of gray hair, while his is still dark. :-)

Cindy J

Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,

This is Matt Jury's wife, Lee. We have been home schooling for two years now, but I worked with home schoolers while I worked for BJU Press.

We chose the actual textbooks/ teacher's editions. It gives us the option of flexibility (Matt's work schedule) and scheduling (we school in the afternoon, baby's nap time!). We considered the hard drive, but opted against it for financial reasons. I got everything I needed for @ $550 (not including tax/ shipping) vs. the cost of the hard drive, etc... I get to keep the books and teacher editions unlike the hard drive which you have to return after 13 months. I am able to use my materials for our next child when the time comes. We school for @ 3 hrs a day (give or take depending on the lessons) which leaves me time for my other responsibilities. If I could pick and choose the classes for the hard drive, that would be great! As for the DVDs, I will probably only use them for classes like high school science, foreign language, etc... You know, the TOUGH STUFF! :)

As for socialization, our two children are the only kids in the church. We have teenagers in the church, but no other younger kids. We have no organized church programs like Kings Kids, Awanas, etc... There are LOTS of home school groups that are well organized and very active! These groups are great and your children get to be around others to help balance the need of 'socialization'. I don't look at it as socialization just 'people time'. Hey, even I need to get out of the house sometime! :)

The most important thing is to be organized and stay organized. Once you get a 'system' in place the rest is like filling in the blanks.

Our daughter's reading is top notch and her handwriting is wonderful. Some say that children learn better and faster with that one on one attention. You can slow it down or speed it up depending on your children's needs. We have been extremely pleased with how home schooling has gone for us. The Lord led us down this path and has blessed tremendously.

Balance out the pro's and con's and decide what will work best for the needs of your family. That's what we did and we don't regret the decision.

There is always more that could be said on any subject, but I hope these few words (well maybe not few...) help and are encouraging as you decide the path that God would have for you.

Have a great day!
Lee Jury

Cindy Johnson said...

Hi Frank,

Just to clarify. . . at the end of the DVD or Hard Drive lease, all of the textbooks and teacher editions are yours to keep.


Frank Sansone said...

Thank you all for your continued input on this. It has been very valuable.

This past week my wife was able to talk with a couple of other pastors' wives who homeschool at the FFBC Annual Conference and she is pretty encouraged that we can do this. (With God's help, of course.)

I think we are going to ease into it, however, by using the hard drive/DVD option this year. My wife has never taught (although she was an El Ed major for two years before going to BJU for nursing) and I think we may want to get used to the adjustement of the children being at home first (especially since she is still going to have to work part-time at the hospital).

Thanks for the comments about socialization, as well. Having worked with a number of homeschoolers at Hardingville, I knew that the arguments regarding homeschoolers not knowing how to interract was not accurate, but I was concerned about it in the smaller church context - which a couple of you have helpfully addressed.


We would like to make an order. Since you have been such a help and you are a consultant who can get us the free shipping, could you contact us with your contact information so that we can make an order through you :). Our email address is pastor @ or our church phone (which rings to our house) is 410.896.2072.