Because my children have finished school sooner than the average
student, I have gained a reputation for being a “specialist” in
accelerated education. Frankly, this has always disturbed me. I feel
that by focusing on the rate at which my children complete school, many
people lose sight of why my children graduate from high school at age
11, receive bachelor’s degrees at age 15, and earn master’s degrees at
age 16. They tend to view our educational experience as a breathless
downhill race and wonder how any of the lessons were able to “stick”
when they were learned so quickly.
Webster defines “accelerate” as “to go faster; to make something go
faster.” From some of the letters I receive, I suspect there is an image
among homeschoolers of me standing next to my children whispering,
“Faster! Faster!” in their ears as they press forward to meet more and
more demanding deadlines.
When John and I decided that I would teach our children at home,
acceleration was never a consideration. We wanted what most
homeschooling parents want for their children—a superior education
delivered in a safe and moral environment. Our home, of course, provided
what we considered to be the ideal environment, but it was the search
for a superior educational experience which led to the early
In the true sense of the word, acceleration has never occurred in our
homeschool. At no time have we gained speed as we move forward. In fact,
I would describe us as faithful plodders who are able to accomplish
quite a lot because we are consistent.
The key to our success is simple: When God told me to homeschool, I
said, “Yes.” And then I committed myself to the task. Any homeschooling
mother can do the same if she is willing to make a long-term commitment
to a disciplined lifestyle which centers around an unwavering homeschool
The first thing I did after making the decision to homeschool was to
decide on a teaching schedule. I planned from the beginning to have a
twelve-month school year so that I would not have to constantly re-teach
lessons that were forgotten over summer vacation. I also decided that I
would give the children short holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of
July, Labor Day, one day for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day (I later
allowed them to take off Christmas Eve as well), and New Year’s Day. In
addition they had off every Saturday and Sunday. I then scheduled a
three-hour school day and worked everything else I had to do to care for
my rapidly growing brood (I had ten children in twelve years with no
multiple births) around those hours.
I carried that same philosophy of commitment into the classroom. We have
undergone some scheduling changes over the years. For instance, when I
had lots of preschoolers, I scheduled half of the school day in the
morning and the other half in the afternoon during the preschoolers’
naps. As my number of preschoolers diminished, however, I changed the
schedule to one three-hour session from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. The rules
that had always governed our homeschool stayed in effect:
1. No talking about anything not pertaining to lessons. Given the
opportunity, nearly all children will attempt to distract the teacher so
that they can escape their assignments. Frequently, that effort will
take the form of pretending to be interested in something that has
little if anything to do with the subject at hand. A simple, “I would
love to talk about that, but we will have to do it after school,” works
wonders. Nine times out of ten the child has no interest in the subject
and does not want to discuss it later.
2. No wasting time. At times everyone is tempted to sit staring out
the window or gazing into space. It is the teacher’s responsibility to
gently remind them to get their minds back on their work so that they
will be free to act out those daydreams after school.
3. No food or drinks. Virtually anyone can go for three hours without
eating. Students should get that drink of water before school.
4. No breaks unless a trip to the bathroom is absolutely essential.
Students should also make it a habit to use the bathroom before school.
It is then seldom necessary to interrupt for a bathroom break. All
breaks should be avoided because they do exactly what their name
implies—they break up the school day, break apart concentration, and
break down order and discipline.
In a stable atmosphere there is really nothing to do but learn. I am
always present in the classroom to answer questions and help with any
difficulty a student may encounter.
Given the right reinforcement and encouragement, children are able to
grasp a great many concepts that adults tend to think of as “too
difficult” for youngsters—especially if no one tells them that they are
difficult! I love discussing my student’s assignments with them and
helping them discover new insights into lessons in history, literature,
philosophy, etc. For me, some of the most meaningful moments with my
children have been spent in the quiet, undistracted atmosphere of that
home classroom, and I feel that many of them would agree.
Perhaps the whole topic of accelerated education can best be illustrated
with a simple algebra problem.
Q: Car A leaves Smithtown traveling due south at 100 miles per hour.
At the same time car B leaves Happyville traveling due north at 55 miles
per hour. Smithtown and Happyville are 450 miles apart. How long will it
take the cars to meet?
A: The cars will never meet. The car traveling at 100 miles per hour
will crash and burn and the police will have cleared away the dead
bodies and debris long before car B approaches the site of the accident!
If you would like to see your children move ahead in their educational
experience, forget everything you have ever heard about accelerated
education. Do not even consider skipping grades. Banish all thoughts of
eight-hour school days. Never concentrate on how you can get your
children to “go faster.” Instead, set a steady pace that can be
maintained over your children’s academic lifetimes, and put your
homeschool on a course that will allow your children to move forward
naturally, while reaping the full benefits of their educational
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Joyce’s children do move along more quickly than
most—they have been “accelerated” up to a faster speed—but they are not
“accelerating.” Twice as fast is fast enough!