Thursday, September 29, 2011

Home Schooling Part 1: The Myths & FAQs

Since we began researching home schooling three years ago, I have been asked lots of questions by moms (and dads) and have been in many conversations about the issue of education.  The topic of home schooling brings up a lot of fears and puzzlement in the hearts of parents, which makes my heart sad.  In an effort to encourage those of you who have young children, I want to start a blog series to peel back the layers of time, prayer, and research that have gone into our decision.  

Let's start with the most frequently asked questions & concerns:

1.  What about socialization?
This question makes me laugh just writing it.  Take a minute and think about a classroom, with 25-30 kids, and one teacher.  Pupils sitting "neatly" in their seats, being told to hush and sit still, boys being told to not be boys.  Peer-to-peer interaction only takes place UNsupervised with kids who don't necessarily come from homes that value your values.  Your child will become like THEM, not vice versa.  Children need to be taught how to interact with adults by you and your spouse (think life-long lessons here).  Moms are the gatekeeper to what their child learns and she relinquishes most of this right when she puts them in public school. 

2.  Don't you just need a break from your kids?
Yes.  Absolutely.  And there is a very big part of me that dies because I don't get to imagine sending all my kids off on a school bus at 7:30 in the morning and not have them return until 4:00pm.  But really, when I set aside my selfish heart, I can't imagine how that would make me a better mom.  The cost of how their little minds process the break in relationship is simply not worth the reality of public schooling my children.

Surprising enough, the minimal structure has actually helped me find some peace of mind.  My kids are no longer bored, Zoë thrives at the table while she works, and begs for more.  It's given me some breathing room, the TV is on waaaay less, and we have something to look forward to the next morning, rather than dreading the next day's long hours.  

3.  How will you find the time to keep your house clean, do laundry, and cook?
Let me tell you a little secret.  (This comes down to philosophy of home schooling.)  On our busiest day, we will spend 90 minutes home schooling.  Yep, that's it.  45 minutes encompasses math (20), reading(20), and handwriting(5).  And another 45 minutes reading literature on the couch in our pjs.  Afternoons are spent outside with nature journals on their own self-guided fun.

Using textbooks, a school's curriculum, and spending hours and hours at the table becomes school at home and ventures out of the home schooling category.  This was the moment that tipped the scales for me because I simply could not imagine giving up 4-6 hours of my day to sit instructing, marking errors, and writing on a chalkboard.

At Carole Joy Seid's seminar this past weekend, she said something that spoke further to this issue.  Paraphrased: Mommy's job is not to play with her kids, it is to work.  There is nothing more important than modeling a strong work ethic and instilling that into my children.  If my kids want to hang out with me, they can help load the dishes, fold the laundry, or stir the pancake mix.  Of course, I play with and read to them but that is not my primary responsibility in our home; it is not to entertain them and make sure they're happy.  Carole also said their future spouses will thank me for it one day...again, the life-long lessons developing in their hearts.     
4.  What's wrong with public school? 
Briefly, the PBS website refers to universal education for all citizens as "America's noble experiment."  It wasn't all that long ago that children were educated by tutors & governesses from within the home.  

This was particularly interesting to me, emphasis added, also taken from the PBS site listed above:
In the nineteenth century, the American classroom was sparsely decorated and furnished. School design was simple, expressing the frugality of a largely rural, agricultural economy. Rural communities had few resources to expend on education, and there was a lack of commercially available products for schools. Often the school would be open only for a few months of the year, usually when children were not needed to work at home or on the farm.

In the one-room schoolhouse sat students of all ages and abilities. The sole teacher was usually an unmarried woman; sometimes the students were older than the teacher. Using only the most basic resources — slate, chalk, and a few books — teaching and learning consisted mainly of literacy, penmanship, arithmetic, and “good manners.” Recitation, drilling, and oral quizzes at the end of the day were the norm in classrooms across America.
(Doesn't that list of subjects sound familiar?  Look at our schedule under #3 above.)  Today, schools are a very different place and it only takes watching the evening news for five minutes to see the problems: funding, classroom size, character of teachers, and bullying.  The public school system is a very broken place and, simply put, doesn't deserve my children.

5.  Aren't Christians supposed to reach their community?   
To sacrifice the well-being, training, and character of our children for the sake of a religious notion, based on nothing or loose theology at best, is blasphemous.  We do not ask our children to evangelize their friends in a setting apart from us until their theology is sound.  Families are asked to reach families, and this can be done best outside a public school, while running errands with mom and interacting with people at the grocery story or local park.  Some of our family's most beautiful gospel-moments have happened while we're out and about during the day.    


Beyond preference, I am convinced and convicted that all moms can home school their children.  We take things one day at a time around here, and look just a few months ahead, only lesson planning for the semester.  God gives us grace for the place where we're standing today, and He'll give us grace for the field tomorrow.  If you have questions or need some encouragement in your own process, please don't hesitate to ask away (comment below).    

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oh the Joys: Delighting in Teaching my Child(ren)

Zoë turned six just 13 days ago and we began to home school her today.  We don't do school at home, we home school.  We follow the great wisdom of Carol Joy Seid, Gladys Hunt, and Raymond S. and Dorothy N. Moore.  We believe that less is more...less time, less subjects, and less pressure.  More play, more creativity, and more nature.

We have long been on the journey with preparing for our children's education.  It has indeed been a long and arduous one, with ups and downs, backs and forths, and prayer on steroids.  (Let me just say, it is one thing to research and ponder your child's education but that process is a mere prelude to actually educating your child.)  

So today continues that journey and it started with peace and a sense of things falling into all the right places.  Some day I'll put some more detail into how we've spent the past three months getting ready for today.  For now, here are pictures of the big girl on her first day of school.  

With Daddy before he heads to work

"First Day of School 2011-2012"
Our "fun" book with wipe-off marker time

Mostly focusing on *great* books

Must-haves for Mom: coffee, lesson plans, and cute pens!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Giving Up Your "Birthing Right"

I read a really good blog this morning that described an observer's sorrow at a mom's last minute "emergency" c-section because the induction process didn't work. I appreciated the writer's heart and definitely agree with her frustration at the process but I feel like there's a finger being pointed in the wrong direction.

It wasn't all that long ago that men and women treated healthcare very differently. Doctors made house calls. Husbands paid for the care and medicine out of their own pockets. And care was only summoned in the event of emergencies. "Go fetch the doctor, John Henry is cut his arm off under the donkey plow." You get the picture.

Things are very, very different today. I haven't studied the journey of healthcare and how it's affected the way women approach carrying and having babies but isn't it time that women took responsibility for their own ignorance? Maybe it's just easier to blame the doctors (the "enemy" in some people's perspective) instead of rightfully suggesting that women need to know more about their options. I don't know the statistics but I wonder wow many c-sections are performed because 1. Mama doesn't take care of herself and has health issues, forcing a c-section, or 2. Mrs. Mama has a deadline and is just plain tired of being pregnant and requests insists on demands being induced. Maybe it's not just the doctors' fault that birthing is no longer a regular part of life, but now considered a medical issue. (Caveat: Obviously there are very good reasons for c-sections and I'm thankful for the healthy babies that result. I am not suggesting all c-sections are unnecessary, just a lot of them. But I'm not a doctor nor a medical researcher so if you disagree, think of me as just plain dumb.)

There's this little story in Genesis 25 where Esau, hungry and impatient, gives up his birth right (inheritance) to his twin brother, Jacob. It was a decision made out of feeling & ignorance/misinformation ("I'm hungry. I must eat now and this is the only way to get food.") rather than information & truth ("I'm hungry. But I can wait, I will not starve and can find food from another source.") I haven't heard many teachings in the church about this story but I think there's a general consensus that Esau was the idiot for giving away what was his, and not Jacob, for taking what wasn't his. What a sad, sad ending.

I guess I'd just like to see the "finger" pointed at women, too, rather than condemning the collective of OBs. And I tend to have strong opinions about things like this, usually considered counter- or anti-cultural and perceived as abnormal. So be it. But I'm a mama who has managed to keep possession of her "birthing rights" and that makes me a happy mama.