Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why We Homeschool (Part 2)

Now, where did I leave off in part 1? Oh yes, I believe I ended when we started praying about homeschooling.

Anthony and I prayed both together and individually about this and each time we both felt good about the decision. I have to say that just the very idea of keeping K home put many of my other worries at ease, not just the worries about the school itself. Most of my worries had to do with the social aspect. I mentioned before that school is considered "the only way" to truly socialize a child, right? But, in my research, and from my own experience, I came to realize that the social aspect of public school is often times extremely negative. The bullying, the superiority, the inferiority, all of it can be so trying on a child's self worth.

I recognize that K's personality is very similar to what mine was at that same age. Often times it still is. Our feelings are hurt very easily. We don't take it well when someone is mean to us, it usually ends up that we are in tears. That part has been easier now that I am older but it still happens. For K it still happens all the time. It breaks her heart to learn that someone doesn't like her. These are all things that mean kids feed on.

I remember crying each time someone would say anything mean to me while some of my friends would fight back with a feisty attitude when something was said to them. Can you guess who they continued to pick on? Yep, it was me. I gave the reaction they were looking for. Did you ever have a moment during your grade school years that you just wanted to go home and have your mom give you a big hug so the world would make sense again? I felt that way all the time. As great as my teachers were, they couldn't console me the way my mom could. She was the only one that would fight for me and make sure that everything in her power was done to make me feel whole again.  She had many ‘chats’ with teachers and principals.

I imagined my little girl going to that same great big playground at the same great big school that I attended and having those same sad, lonely feelings. Her personality is such that she gives the bullies something to feed off of. It gave me a sense of peace, once we decided to homeschool, knowing that I would be here for her when she needed me. I would be here to comfort her and help her know right from wrong.

I know there are critics out there saying, "How is she supposed to learn to defend herself? How do you expect her to grow? She can't come crying to Mommy every time she gets her feelings hurt!" Rest assured, I know all of this. But I looked at my then five year old little girl and I recognized that she doesn't have her wings yet. She wasn't ready to be thrown to the wolves. I still had time to nourish her soul, help her figure out who she is, and be the best K she could be before throwing her out there for the world to mold and shape the way the world sees appropriate. Looking at the world's view of what a little girl should grow up to be is not my idea of what our Heavenly Father would want for her.

The feelings I grew up with during grade school were not positive for the most part. I felt inferior to my peers as a result of the relentless teasing I endured. I hid my face hoping no one would see me only to figure out later that 'hiding' made me more apparent. However, I did find one way to feel superior to some of my peers. Did you ever have reading groups and math groups? We had groups that ranged from low, medium and high which translates to below average, average, and above average. They always called each group a color such as yellow, blue, and red (I don't remember exactly which colors were used) so as not to identify them as the low group or the high group. I'm not sure who they thought they were fooling, we all knew which group was which. Lucky for me, I was in the highest group for both math and reading. THAT, right there, made me better than all those mean kids that made fun of me! I loved looking down on them in this manner! As an adult, I realize now how foolish I was. But at the time, it was my way of feeling superior when in fact, I felt very inferior. After all, wasn't it more important to be popular than it was to be smart?

I remember the first time I realized that I never was smarter than anyone else. Sadly, it wasn't until I was out of school and dating Anthony. Anthony is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He can rattle things off that I could never have known. Since I didn't know him during our school years, I had no idea how he had struggled in school. Unlike me, he was always in the lowest reading groups and even went to resource classes. He had a 'learning disability', which, by the way, I now have a very different view of after all of my research. I believe everyone just learns in different ways. Anthony never had a 'disability' at all. He needed to learn in a different manner, that's all. Yet, all through school, he felt inferior to his peers. He was never as smart as them and never got good grades. Funny how drastically our attitudes about education have changed. I never want my children to feel either inferior or superior to those around them, especially their friends. I only want them to know how and where to find the answers to the questions they have. I want them to know that they are capable of learning anything they want to learn, simple or complex. No one needs to tell them what they have to know by a certain age or how they have to learn it. Textbooks are not the only way to learn. BORING, if you ask me.

In our quest to find the right educational path for our family, we've learned a lot. One of the main things I've learned is that you can't take one curriculum, plug every child into that curriculum, and have it work for every child. That is why I don't like the idea of the public school system for my family. I believe that the public school system has it's place in society, I really do. Homeschooling is NOT for everyone. It can be hard and trying at times but I am absolutely loving that I get to learn right along with my kids. History, a subject I always loathed, is actually more interesting and fun than I ever knew. One of the the best things about it is that I can see that K is developing a love of learning at the same age that I had started into my hate of learning phase. It's so different when it's your own idea and not someone else's. Being forced to learn something is never the fun way to go about it. But having a question and being able to find the answer on your own is great fun!

Well, after deciding to homeschool for sure, it was time to go to the Utah Homeschool Conference. There was so much to figure out! What method should we try? Should we try a whole curriculum? Are we going to be the only 'normal' people there? Anthony was very concerned about that last question. Doesn't it seem that when you think of homeschoolers you think of the weird ones? They're out there, for sure! Come to think of it, there were weird public schoolers also! There are just weird people, in general. Lucky for Anthony, at the conference, it was about 98% 'normal' people and only 2% 'weirdies'. Those are his stats, not mine.

By the time we left the conference, I had flyers and brochures from every vendor and workshop we attended. I was armed with more information than I even knew what to do with. Where was I supposed to start? It was crazy! At that point, it all started to feel a bit overwhelming and I wondered if this was just a nonsense idea. I prayed some more and still felt good about it, so we continued.
Before I knew it, it was time to break the news to K that she would be staying home for 'school'. I must admit, she was not very happy when I first told her. She cried! It made me so sad and I thought about letting her go to school anyway. But when I asked her what it was that made her sad, she said, "I just want to ride the bus!" Perfect! Problem solved, she though that she would get to ride the bus to school everyday. Being that the school was only down the street, that wasn't going to happen anyway. Once I explained that to her, she was more at ease with the idea.

In the end, I decided that a full curriculum was not for us. Refer to a few paragraphs above.... I really like the Charlotte Mason method and the ideas presented in A Thomas Jefferson Education. (More on those in a later post.)  These two methods complement each other very well. So, our homeschool looks a lot like either of these two methods. We're still working out some bugs, there are always bugs to be worked out in life. We still have things we would like to add to our homeschool and things that we've tried that haven't worked well at all. It's a learning process for everyone but we're having a great time doing it.

K, and all the other kids, have had many opportunities that they wouldn't have had otherwise. Liberty Girls (ages 6-9) has been such a wonderful thing for the girls. They have learned so much and made some great friends. The equivalent for a boy would be Knights of Freedom. I can't wait for C to be involved in this.

My favorite part of this whole experience is that my kids get to socialize with kids of various ages. They aren't exclusive to only kids of their own age. School is just about the only time that you are forced to be in a room with 30 other kids that are your same age. At work, at church, at the grocery store, etc... you most likely deal with people of various ages. At school, you are made to feel inferior to those in the upper grades but superior to those in the lower grades. Forget the fact that some of them are reading on a completely different level than their peers, either higher or lower, or that some have the desire to move ahead much quicker in some subjects than the others. And some wish things would slow down so that they have a chance to catch up, knowing that if they don't catch up quickly, they will fall so far behind they will be pegged as a lost cause.

I love being able to move at a pace that each child is comfortable with. Is K at the same level as her peers? I don't know, nor do I really care. We are moving at a comfortable pace for her, only moving on once I know she really understands what she was already working on. She will continue to learn because she wants to, not because she was forced to. She'll remember it because she wants to. And it doesn't matter if she learns about The Boston Tea Party in first grade or in ninth grade, the point is... she'll learn it. Actually, that was a bad example because she already knows about The Boston Tea Party. You get the point, though.

Do I worry about the socialization? NOT AT ALL! Here's an interesting tidbit of info for you. Did you know that public schools are only between 150 and 200 years old? And that they were formed for the benefit of poor people who were unable to afford material to educate their children at home or a private tutor to educate their children. Over the years, it just became a convenience for most people to send their children to the public school no matter what their status was. And I'm pretty sure that 200 years ago, before public school, there wasn't a socialization crisis! My kids see and talk to plenty of people on a daily basis. They know how to speak to children and adults alike. Not to mention, most people comment on how polite they are toward everyone. I think they speak to adults with more ease than most of their peers.  They’re definitely not perfect and sometimes they need a reminder on how to politely answer or ask a question but for the most part, they’re pretty good at it.

This is not to say that all kids in the public school system are improperly socialized or that my kids are somehow going to be better off in life than yours. As I've said before, this is a lifestyle choice and it is definitely NOT for everyone. It works for us, for now. Will we do it forever? I get asked this questions all the time and my answer is always the same, "We'll do it as long as it works." When it stops working for us, we'll figure out what works whether it be public school or some other means of education. I hope that it continues to work forever but I just don't know. I imagine that in high school, the kids will have some topics of interest that the local high school will be better equipped to teach than anything else we can find. At that point, they can enroll in those classes and learn the rest on their own at home. Maybe drama, sports, band, choir.... who knows! All I know is I'm excited to see what happens in the future.

Our goal is not to have children who enter college at 14 and graduate with a degree when most of their peers are graduating from high school.  It happens, there are many homeschoolers with similar stories.  Our goal is more along the lines of giving our children a great foundation for self-worth, education, and spiritual well being.  Who knows what will happen!?

I'm sure there are a lot of things I didn't cover in this two part homeschool post so please let me know if you have any other questions.  I plan to do a number of homeschooling posts in the near future but in the meantime, ask away! 


LeShel said...

There are so many things I LOVE about this post. Thanks for sharing.
I love that you prayed to know what is best for your family. I love that BOTH you and Anthony prayed and came to the decision together. I love that your kids are gaining a love for learning.

side note: Clayton started high school a semester early. He will, in the end, graduate a year early. So three years and he's off to college. Anthony is still doing K12 and I love it. I'm glad I've got him home with me. Clayton just needed more challenge and we were planning to send him to the high school he just started because he's interested in science and math and this high school offers engineering classes and the ability to gain college credits. He's all over that kind of stuff.
cried my heart out this morning when I dropped him off. It's so good for him though.

Cari said...

Very well said! I completely agree about throwing their sweet innocence to the wolves. Also that socialization is a total non-issue. Does anyone really want their kids to act like the average teenager? And how many "nerds" attended my public school? It certainly doesn't make one "normal" but rather solidifies their social status (which they have little control over) for the rest of their school life... It is amazing how kids love to learn and really anything (even cleaning) until someone tells them it's not fun. The love of learning is one of the greatest things we can instill in our children. Thanks again for sharing!

Dana said...

Isn't it nice that we do what is needed for our children. I knew you thought I was crazy homeschooling you brother. He is so much better for it. We did try putting him back in school his 9th grade year. He fell behind again both socially and educationally, so we pulled him. As you can tell he's excelling. I think most of us have learning disabilities but children are too afraid to speak up. Not only are they intimidated by peers but the A's, B's, etc in the school system. If they speak up they get harassed. There is something to be said of learning at your own pace. If any of your readers are afraid to try HS. There are associations that can give them support. Like you said it Works and is Best for your family.

Oh and the kids are so socially okay!

Sanz @ From The Mrs. said...

I really enjoyed reading your posts about why you homeschool. I agree with so much of what you said! I get the idea you live in Utah? We do as well! I would like for my sons to participate in Knights of Freedom, I think it looks spectacular. Anyway, the socialization question is old and completely ridiculous. There are so many weirdos in public school and there are weirdos in homeschool. We live in a society where we expect everyone to be an extrovert and if you're an introvert then watch out because you will be labeled as a social misfit! Another question I am often asked is, "How do you know they are learning the right things?" To which I answer, "I don't care. Other than learning math, reading and writing they can learn about what they want! I want them to learn what they are interested in." I think I am just rambling I'll stop! I wrote a post awhile back about our reasons to homeschool too.