Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Run It's Course?

Get ready for a long and honest post. Please do not continue reading if you do not want to see my inner demons and the havoc they wreak (I did not know how to spell that word until just now.Wreak; from where does that come?)

We homeschool our children and really do love it. Although I am not a stellar homeschooling parent, I do not think I am failing them either. I probably teach like I do everything else: mediocre, fine, B. There are some areas in which they are far ahead of their class, some where they are behind and some where they are perfectly average. My children are socially balanced, participate in activities outside of our home (scouts, dance) and play well with other children. Because of lack of exposure, they do not use phrases such as You're not my best friend anymore or I'm not inviting you to my birthday party or _____current over-hyped and over-priced product_______ is soooooo cool! They are connected to family, they teach and learn from one another, they have regular, intimate conversations with their parents, and they have learned about the birds and the bees from their informed parents (not first graders that learned what they know from a fourth grade brother) at an age and in a way we deemed appropriate. Other perks from the parents' perspective is the tighter control we have on friends and the child's use of free time. We get to see the light bulb turn on and the satisfaction of accomplishment. I get to learn or remind myself of ideas and concepts learned so many years ago. We can take the chance to teach about the world with our moral compass instead of the states' and we are at bat when important life questions are asked.

There are some things about public school that are quite attractive. This time of year, when the other children are buying new clothes, filling backpacks with new crayons and clean notebooks and anticipating the excitement of a new grade, a new teacher and a new desk partner, we just keep getting up and cleaning the house, doing the laundry, reading our books, and exploring our craft box. I feel hum drum. There is no celebration of taking pictures in the dew-wet grass in their bright white sneakers with tightly braided hair. There is no need for backpacks or uniforms. My friends are making out their To Do lists that include organizing, cleaning and setting aright the home. Reading books left forgotten for the summer and childless grocery shopping sit on the list, waiting for school to start. My house is never clean, I rarely get time alone, I have mastered reading my books amidst the chaos of five children on hardwood floors. I paint walls with a child on my hip, I cook with a child standing on a stool by my side, I fold laundry just a touch faster than my baby unfolds the laundry.

The biggest tug for me is the fact that because I am so busy keeping a home and schooling my children that I do not get to serve others. To have a couple of toddlers over because their mother needs someone to tend them throws my whole day into commotion. I want to help them, but my children need to learn to write and, you know, read.

And then there's the work. Teaching my pods at home is a lot of work. There is the teaching, to be sure, but there is also the preparation. Since I am not quite so egotistical as to think I know everything I would like my children to know, I try to set up field trips, guest teachers and outside mentors. Calls are made to grandparents for more information, the Internet is always on and I have shelves and shelves of books for study. Even with this, children ask questions my resources can't answer. I'm sure public school teachers would say the same thing, but at least it wouldn't be my fault if a child was ignorant about a thing. (Yes, judgement against homeschooling moms is high--extremely high.)

Here I sit, wondering whether I'm willing to take the cons along with the pros.

I would love your input. Those of you who know me or my children, do you see gaping holes or flagrant shortcomings? Comment anonymously, if you think it would be embarrassing to tell me what you think I ought to know. Why did you choose to home school? Why are your children riding the bus to public school every day? Would you make the same choice again? Did you do one then change to the other? On a slightly different note, what could I do with my pods to celebrate the beginning of a new school year, to make it special?

You can see I feel I am at some sort of a cross roads. Talk me through, world friends.


  1. This year I have a friend who is planning a "not-back-to-school" party to celebrate homeschooling. It will be after labor day and she's going to have a fabulous sundae party. She brings the ice cream and all of us lucky guests provide the toppings. It'll be at a local park.

    I'm excited. I remember the excitement of a new school year and it's fun to somehow bring that to my kids.

    We do have backpacks...or at least large colorful totes...that we fill with new school supplies each year. There is something magic about a new box of crayons (even if the box lasts about 12 minutes before getting torn and the box of old crayons is spilling over.) My kids also like to try out some of the other wonderful things school has to offer...every now and then they insist upon trying a sack lunch and were thrilled when we went to the local college to ride the bus around campus for free. -Note- the science building had great exhibits all through the halls. : )

    I have enjoyed your posts. You have a fun way of writing and I am positive your kids are so blessed to have you as their teacher!

  2. I make the first day special by taking our school picture and printing it and sending to the Grandparents with a letter. We do buy tons of paper, pens, art stuff and markers..it's just fun. :)

    The reason we homeschool is because after having two children in public school and seeing what was lacking we wanted something better for them. Also, I love how pure his heart has stayed and what compassion he has for people.

  3. Great post - I found your children to be charming & well-adjusted. I especially noticed your son's sweetness - not sissy sweetness but an age-appropriate innocence that I think that my boys have missed out on by being in public schools. The bus? No thanks. Too much time with too many other kids without adult supervision. I am the queen of the carpool line.

    As far as not being able to serve, I would recommend setting specific time aside that is protected for schooling. I did it last year with the gym (... "I am available after 11") and it preserved my sanity.

    Pros? You get to choose what you teach your children - knowledge yes but especially values. You can adjust your schedule to meet your family's needs. Not knowing all the answers is not the end but the beginning of discovering & researching. And you get to be with your kids through the day.

  4. These are the kind of posts I like to read...because I really gather my own opinions when people are actually honest- so thank you for actually talking about the cons of homeschooling-

    Homeschooling to me is an option for mainly the personality and "how they learn" in my children. Kenzie is sensitive and very sweet...she has some boldness in her but she is mainly a peacemaker and kind to all she meets. This could be detrimental in public school. I am afraid she will please too much and get hurt in the end by friends and teachers- and maybe even follow when she should be leading with her beautiful attributes. Although the praise from getting good grades and getting that "star" on the paper might really challenge her to do better. I don't agree with the "you're-the-best-in-the-classroom- here-is-a-star-for-the-whole-class to-see" but I can imagine Kenzie being a very good "student" in the public school eye.

    Julia is hands on and she would be a mess in public school. She is also 2 and so she could change- but she would have to be tied down to the desk- she needs to touch feel and eat to learn. Public schools cannot cater to different types of learning and so 1/3 of students lose a chunk of their learning potential in a public school setting-

    but Julia would be strong against influence and she could give a crap what anyone thinks of her- so she would do well with the social pressures.

    These are my thoughts- if I could afford Montessori I would go that route- Some charter schools are really amazing...and yet I feel childhood is robbed when 5 year olds come home with homework and tardy slips because they wouldn't stop pretending when the recess bell went off- but other than that- the charter schools are producing quite the smarties- the one here in Ogden is bilingual and by the end of their first year in kindergarten, the kiddos are speaking espanol. So...

    I really have been playing with the idea of homeschooling them until they are of the age of accountability...8 years to play learn, discover, be taught by goodly parents, to be taught what is right and wrong by the parents point of view, to give them the correct lessons on history, to warn them of false doctrines, agendas, ideas- there must be something very vital about those first 8 years for it to be doctrine to get baptized at 8- their developing minds need to be nourished by love and security from their mommy and daddy-

    ok now it sounds good- but I still think I would go crazy being a stay at home teacher- and I really like my space and being with friends instead of my children at times. So...it is a toss up. I just want the best for my kids- and with everything sort of crumbling around us...it just seems obvious- although you might be really surprised with where you live Emily- that little town probably has some really good charters or elementary schools- and I'm sure good principles are still being taught- with no political agendas to worry about-

    oh and middle school...oh dear...I will take my kids out of middle school if they want to stay home. I just will. Nothing productive comes out of middle school- the whole popularity, clothes, friends...just can kill a spirit right over.

    I am officially done with this comment...I am just grateful I have 2 years to figure this out..

  5. Emily, if anyone is a good homeschooling parent, I am pretty positive that you are! Having no children at that age yet, I have not considered this option at all. But I do think that your concerns are valid, and if you're feeling this way, maybe see if there needs to be a change.

    All I can say is that I think there can be many good things learned from public education. For me especially it was good to be in an environment that challenged me socially. In my situation, I needed to learn to fend for myself, and yes I learned a few unpleasant truths about people, but I also found a lot of good friends. The bus was not always pleasant (especially carrying that big old cello, or wearing a cast) but I always had siblings who protected me like lions. I don't think I would have seen that as much if Mom had always been nearby.

    I found many, many wonderful teachers, and most of them challenged me, even though I didn't struggle too much to get good grades. I also learned valuable experiences of learning how to adapt to certain teaching styles, personality types, and rules.

    I learned that sometimes people respect you for standing up for your beliefs, and sometimes people don't.

    All I know is that I believe public education prepared me to deal better with the "real" world after high school. That is not always a pleasant prospect in this world, but it was necessary for me. I went to a non-church school, and many of those "survival" lessons were important for me to have learned early on, so when I was totally on my own, I was confident enough to deal with challenges.

    And, as always, even in places and times of challenge and perhaps oppostion, I always found good friends to support me.

    Some of these social lessons also were immensely helpful when I was single, lived with various roommates, and worked a full-time job.

    I do believe that many of these ideas can be taught through homeschooling, and I have no doubt that your children are well-rounded and well socialized, but I do think that there might be something to be said for allowing them to be out from under their mother's watchful eye sometimes and be faced with character-building experiences. Yet, as a mother, I also sympathize with not wanting them to have to face some of that.

    It was also of course impotant that mom and dad supplemented my public education with lots of home education, especially lots of reading!

    So, bottom line, its your decision, I just wanted to add my thoughts in for what they're worth. Each child is different, and perhaps some of my siblings might have another opinion from my own about public education, but for me it was good for me to experience the bad with the good, even though it would have probably been more safe and more secure to have been homeschooled.

    Whatever your decision, you'll do a great job. Prayer will help.

  6. p.s...and when I say "experience" the bad with the good, I only mean that I recognized it and witnessed, not that I felt I had to be involved with the bad stuff. It was just good for me to see it was there and that I didn't want that. To see the stark difference between my life and others.

  7. While I'm not against homeschooling, it's simply not for me. I supplement a lot at home because I know school alone isn't adequate, but in all honesty I do not have the patience to homeschool.

    Also, my eldest thrives on the competitive nature of school. He wants to have higher test scores, read more books, etc... than everyone else. I think he would do only enough to get by if he were homeschooled.

    It sounds like you're doing everything right as far as homeschooling goes (because there are people out there who really should not undertake homeschooling). Maybe ask your kids what they'd like. No decision in this case is irreversible.

  8. Oh Emily! We need to have a good long heart-to-heart chat. I can COMPLETELY understand how you feel. Every August I feel this way. Please call me soon-- I would LOVE to talk.

  9. wow! I admire you for homeschooling and doing what is right for your family!

    So, for the last 3 years our kids have gone to a private Christian School. We loved it.

    this year they are starting public school and they are so excited for new friends and new adventures and I am super nervous about huge classes and the things they will bring home. But than at the same time I tell myself that at home we are open and honest about how we feel and what we believe and the expectations that we have towards behaviors and academics. I know they will be fine and I know they will prosper as long as I am an involved parent and don't just blindly trust the public school system with their education and their future.

  10. I used to be sooo against homeschooling. Mostly because when I was in High School a family of 3 kids that had been home schooled their whole life started coming to school. They were all VERY shy, didn't really know what to do in social situations. Then the kid in my grade went to the same college as me and seemed to go a little wild. But they seem perfectly well adjusted today.

    And today they have so many resources for home schoolers to get out and interact with one another and of course church & sports programs that I don't think the socialization - learning how to interact with others is an issue. (YMCA PE program, Upward Sports, cubs, Play groups, MOPS, etc).

    I don't think I could ever be disciplined enough to home school "officially" but I do and have always read to the kids, done flash cards, have them work with money right away, etc. Ethan in first grade was reading at almost a 4th grade level and he could already count money in kindegarten, which the rest of the class didn't learn until 1st grade. So, I know it wasn't school where he learned so much.

    I was/am seriously considering homeschooling Jasmyn (8th grade) this year, so I can control the information going in. I frankly am still at a loss.

    I think it depends on your kids too. I have always worried about Jasmyn being influenced by others, however, about Ethan I have no worries. He is usually the kid telling the other kids what is right and what is wrong. The jury is still out on Grayson...he does everything that Ethan does so hopefully he will be the same way.

    Don't worry about your house. One thing I learned since I quit work is that you can spend every waking hour cleaning and with children home it will never be clean for more than ten minutes. My kids still think I make them work too much and that I'm always working - doing projects but I have let go of the idea of my house being perfect and I have actually let people into the house when there was barely a clear spot to walk. (Grayson is super mess maker & fast)

    I think it was a lesson Heavenly Father wanted me to learn. From the time I was pregnant with Grayson to 18 months of breast feeding, I didn't feel like myself, everything was too overwhelming. It helped me to put things into perspective and learn to prioritize.

    I think you are doing what is right for your family.

    I just remembered that some homeschoolers would come to CCS for music & choir classes. Also, you can sign up to be a pta member of your local school, get on an email list & find out when social or sports stuff is happening and attend with the kids.

    I don't know how you do it all - You are Amazing!

  11. I can't tell exactly from your post, so can i ask one question: Are you starting to get burned (burnt?)out? If that's the case then I think the debate takes an entirely different direction.

  12. We've never met in person, but let me just throw a few things out there:

    I loved your 2nd paragraph about why you homeschool. I'm just starting out with the Urban Kids, but what you've done sounds very much like what I hope to accomplish.

    As far as serving others... here's how I see it. You are nurturing five future adults. They will go out into the world and have countless effects on a great many people. If you can dedicate your time to that long-term goal, then you ARE doing a great service to this world. It can feel like you're not doing enough day-to-day, but in the long run, the world will really and truly be a better place for your efforts.

    The work you do? Believe me, your kids are getting more attention and devotion than any classroom teacher can provide. And if you don't know the info and they see you find it, thus learning how to find info for themselves, then you are setting an excellent example!

    Finally, and this is going to sound more flippant than it's really meant to --
    I shared this post with Urban Dad, who has been teaching for 18 years. I did a stint for a few years before having U-Kid 1. And we both fervently agree that in most cases, your kids could stay home and stand on his/her head all day and learn more. I'm not kidding! While there are talented, devoted teachers out there (U-Dad being one, of course), there are also far too many jerks. I've seen them in my college classes when I changed careers, in their classrooms, heard it from their students and heard it from the teacher's own mouths in faculty meetings. It was all enough to make U-Dad & me realize when U-Kid 1 was an infant that we were not handing our kids over to these people.

    Just from reading your posts, I would bet a month's income that your kids are doing great and that a huge reason for that is because they have a situation where their wonderful mom is able to also be their teacher.

    Hang in there!

  13. Your Older, Fatter, & Loving SisterAugust 28, 2009 at 12:58 AM

    I love you. I think you're amazing. I know you live what you believe. I don't have any well thought out advice or thoughts, but I know through counsel with your sweetheart and prayers to Him who loves your children even more then you...and me, you'll reach a healthy happy decision for your family. But you already know that. I just wanted you to know that I know it too (:

  14. Just a few more thoughts...

    I remember sitting in a church meeting where one lady was talking in front of the group expressing her feelings of gratitude for another lady who had given her what she needed that week...how it had blessed her life immensely. I sat there thinking similar thoughts to those you have expressed..."my life is so busy right now, I never have time to serve anyone, I wish that could be me, I want to serve." A few minutes later I realized that she was talking about me. All I had done was give her a call to invite her to an activity that ended up being just what she needed at the time. Wow - big lesson learned. I learned that when I am crazy busy being a Mom and doing what Heavenly Father has asked me to do he can still work through me to bless the lives of others. I feel like he is giving me extra capacity to feel the spirit at times and to know what others need because I am trying...and am so busy with small kidos. I get the feeling that I might have to try alot harder to get that same capacity when I am in another season of my life and have "time".

    Also, I loved your description of the things your kids are missing out on from public school. Yes, great kids can be raised while attending public school. I like to think I am one of them. However, my kids have a very limited swear word vocabulary. They have not missed out on learning to cope with the bad. Just this last summer my kids dealt with rudeness from neighborhood kids, have learned to interact appropriately with clubs and church groups, have come to me sad and with questions regarding information they have learned from neighborhood kids...but they knew where to come!

    And - we get to teach them that unlike the world teaches they don't have to go out into the world on a quest to "discover themselves". Instead we have the knowledge that a loving Heavenly Father sent us here and we get to try to become more like him. We get to instead of "discovering ourselves" DECIDE who we want to be and make ourselves that way. Wow...what an empowering concept. Yes, you can teach your kids that while they are going to public school but you miss out on alot of the day to day teaching moments.

  15. P.S. Of course it all comes back to what your sister said... after prayer and talking to your husband you will make the perfect decision for your family. :)

  16. I'm a total public school advocate. I'm a big believer in keeping the best and the brightest (and the kindest and nicest) in public schools. I don't like the concepts of private schooling or homeschooling. And it is unfortunate that so many LDS moms keep their children at home. Part of my job as a mother is to prepare my keiki to be responsible adults. I'd rather they learn valuable life lessons when the stakes are low like "Son-n-so took my marker and then teacher took it away and now it's gone forever." What a crisis of values. I want my kids to be adept at handling these situations before they go off to college (where the teacher taking a pen away is NOT their biggest challenge). So many life lessons come from the public school environment. How to say no, deal with bullies, cooperate with people you don't like, work independantly, and helping another student in need. These come quickly to mind. All of these life lessons come into play as an adult in the workforce (even the bullies part!). You expressed a longing to serve others. I think children need to be given opportunities to serve as they let their light shine. I feel good when my children come home and tell me how they were an example to a child whose home environment may not be as stable as ours or whose positive role models may be few and far between. Hope my opinion doesn't offend, just expressing my reasons for sending my kids off to school.