Why We Homeschool

why we homeschool

This week, Anna and I are going to share some of the reasons we’ve chosen to educate our children at home. I want to preface my post by saying that I know and respect many classroom educators, many of whom are close friends and family members. My decision to homeschool in no way is a protest against all classroom teachers (who have, I believe, a hard and often thankless job that requires creativity and toughness).  With that said, here are a few of the reasons we homeschool:

I did public, private, and home schooling growing up, and I’ve volunteered or taught in all three settings as an adult, so I feel like I have a real perspective on all three options. Hands down, my favorite years were homeschooling. I retain the most and have the fondest memories from those years, and I’ve been looking forward to homeschooling my own kids since I was a pre-teen!

In high school, my AP European History teacher (a life-long public school teacher married to our public high school principal) commented on how today’s school system grew out of the factories of the industrial revolution—education is supposed to happen in 50 minute increments, with the days broken up by bells telling you to go to your next task. I’ll never forget my teacher asking what that had to do with learning.

People often ask me how I can focus on four different children of varying ages. Well, it’s much easier than trying to divide my attention between a classroom of 10-25 children of varying ability levels. When I taught 6th grade math and reading, my struggle was always to challenge my top students while teaching the lesson to the average ability kids and trying to keep the two lowest achievers from being totally lost. It’s a myth that a classroom full of kids approximately the same age can learn all subjects at the same pace—they’re all individuals with different strengths in different areas. Frankly, I think this aspect of my job is simpler than any classroom teacher’s!

I love spending time with my kids. It is exhausting but fills me with joy. I love having so much time to sit and read with them, color with them, and watch them play together. I get to have their best hours instead of sending them off during their most energetic part of the day and getting them back when they’re tired and crabby.

I believe that young children, particularly boys, learn by moving, touching, playing. Sitting at a desk in a classroom seven hours a day would severely limit my son’s education.

When I work one-on-one with my kids, I know exactly what they do or don’t understand. I get to see the thrill of comprehension each time they grasp a new concept, and I don’t need to sit them down to take a standardized test to know if they’re learning.

Homeschooling gives us the flexibility to go in depth into topics that particularly interest us. We use our curriculum as our foundation and follow rabbit trails whenever we want. For example, in preschool/kindergarten, I have my kids memorize the names of the Presidents of the US in order (a foundation for future US history). We live really close to the Reagan Library, and my kids know a ton about Ronald Reagan because we visit so often. After the Reagan Library had a special exhibit on George Washington, T read several books about him, not because he had to, but because he was genuinely interested! That’s the kind of learning that sticks with you.

Lastly, because every homeschooler gets asked a million times, here are a few of my responses to the question, “What about socialization?”

First, I believe that the ability to “socialize” only with 20 other individuals who are exactly your own age is a skill that you’ll never need in real life after you leave the elementary classroom. As an adult, you’re always going to have to interact with coworkers or neighbors of varying ages and maturity levels. Our family time and homeschool co-op activities teach our children to interact confidently with adults and children of all ages. This spring, we had a park day where kids from 4 weeks to 14 were playing together, watching out for each other, and having a ton of fun. I watched my three year old walking hand-in-hand with two preteens who willingly brought her along on their hike. I heard an older boy encouraging my son as he learned how to throw and catch a football. The social skills those kids are cultivating will serve them for the rest of their lives.

Secondly, the phrase I probably used the most as a classroom teacher was, “It’s time to learn, not to socialize.” I was constantly telling my middle schoolers to stop talking and pay attention to the lesson. And by 6th grade at our school, they didn’t have recess anymore. Looking back, I guess they were supposed to socialize during lunchtime (instead of eating?). So I actually think that a school setting is a terrible place to socialize with your friends. I have a friend who pulled her son out of public school precisely because he was constantly getting in trouble for being so social! Extracurricular activities like sports, drama club, and church were where I hung out with friends growing up, no matter what form of school I was doing at the time. We’ve already gotten the kids involved in soccer, tennis, swimming, and ballet, where they interact with other public, private, and home schooled kids of their own age as much as I think is necessary at their young ages.

Lastly, because we can get our work done more efficiently than a classroom full of kids, we actually have more time for play dates than kids in a school setting. We go to CBS once a week (where T does a homeschool Bible study with other 1-3 graders, and my girls are in a great children’s program), and every other week, we have park day afterward with all the other homeschooled families. We frequently plan field trips with fellow homeschoolers, and since we finish homework during the day, we have more flexibility in the evenings, as well.

In closing, my parents believed that they needed to evaluate every year what schooling situation would be best for each kid. My brothers and I all experienced home, private, and public school over the course of our pre-college career, and we were all very successful in college and are (I think!) well-adjusted adults. My husband was initially skeptical of the whole homeschooling thing (being a product of 13 years of Catholic schools), and we’ve agreed to take it a year at a time for our kids, as well.  Stay tuned for further educational adventures down the road!

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Hidden Art Friday

Happy Friday, everybody!

Tomatoes!

 

Do you remember my garden from a few weeks ago? The tomatoes have been faring much better, thanks to regular watering. The end-rot appears to be mostly gone. The basil also benefited from pruning, and has continued to produce for me, although not as much as if I had been faithfully tending them all summer. I have never before had any kind of success with tomatoes, so our first harvest of edible tomatoes was absolutely delicious. It’s true–when they’re home grown, they taste really good. The squash vine produced one amazing, huge butternut squash, but then the rest of the vine had mildew on it, so we pulled it out and planted a fall crop of lettuce and cilantro in its place.

We will be using the garden produce on Monday in this yummy Caprese Couscous side salad to take to a Labor Day cookout with friends. What are you up to this long weekend?

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Why Do We Want to Have It All?

(HT: Emily’s husband)

Recently (ok, it was the beginning of the summer, and that tells you a little about how caught up I am in the news world), the CEO of Pepsi was interviewed about the intersection of career and family. If you would like to watch the entire show, you can do so here, or you can read some of the highlights here.

I would encourage you to read the entire article, because it is a good, honest look at the compromises made by women who attempt to have the career of their dreams and a family.

Here are some of the more heart-wrenching quotes:

But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure.

You know, you have to cope, because you die with guilt. You just die with guilt. 

You know, stay at home mothering was a full time job. 

How can you do justice to all? You can’t. The person who hurts the most through this whole thing is your spouse. 

I thought this interview was breathtakingly honest and helpful. Here is a woman who has given her all to have the job of her dreams, and succeeded. She is living proof that women are competent, capable, and driven. And now, with grown daughters, she is looking back at her years of rising in management and having small children, and the report she gives us is not encouraging.

She makes it clear: it is impossible to have the career of your dreams and be a good mom. You cannot be in two places at once. You will always be making decisions about your priorities, and this woman is upfront about the fact that she prioritized her career. Can you hear the regret in her voice? I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. 

Who among us wants that regret? In the modern discussion of what women want, we’ve completely neglected the long view. We’re all wrapped up in fulfillment, feeling good about our abilities and ourselves, and not feeling chained down to a house with a kitchen and kids, and we’ve forgotten to peek into the future. Our goal is to be old women whose children and grandchildren love them. I do not want to hit 50 and be wondering if I’ve been a good mom. I want to give it my best shot now.

You just die with guilt. Let’s not be these women. Let’s choose the unpopular road now, when it matters, so that we can live out our older years without this kind of crushing guilt. I guarantee, no pastor sitting by a deathbed has ever heard the dying whisper, “I wish I’d given more to my career.”

Posted in For New Moms, Having It All, Importance of Mothers, Using Our Minds | Leave a comment

At home with the baby

at home with the babyDuring our vacation this summer, my parents took our three big kids to the state fair while I got to spend all day home alone with our youngest.  It’s been quite a while since it was just me and a baby, looking at each other in the quiet of an empty house.  Without the chaos of all the older kids, I found myself remembering all over again why I chose to stay home in the first place.

What did J and I do all day, just the two of us?  Well, the normal things.  She waddled behind me as I cleaned up breakfast dishes and unloaded the dishwasher.  She chewed on a pen while I went through the reams of artwork my kids had produced since arriving at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  I got her some milk while I sipped a warm (!) cup of tea.  She went down for her morning nap as soon as she started giving sleepy cues, not when I got around to putting her down or when she and the 3 year old were fighting over the same doll and I realized it was an hour past naptime.  She had a good, long, quiet nap, uninterrupted by emphatic discussions in the bathroom right next to her door.  When she woke up, I made her a sandwich, and she got to start eating it right away rather than waiting for me to slap together four more before tossing one on her tray.  I noticed as soon as she had finished that one and made her another one before she had a chance to stand up in the high chair and start screaming.  Then I got her down and she played with my old dolls while I read the book I’d started during her nap.  She wandered off, and I found her a few minutes later, climbing into the umbrella stroller that had been brought into the dining room after a walk last night.  I left her there to entertain herself while I did a few more things on my own.  Then we looked at a few books, took a few adorable pictures (see above), played hide-and-go-seek, and ended up in the living room where my brother’s old piano lives.  With no one else around, it was easy to pull her up on my lap and let her plink the keys while I sounded out some of the old pieces I used to be able to play.  I found out that she sings.  She probably has for weeks, but her sisters spend the day singing so much louder that I hadn’t heard her do it before.  The power went out.  We laughed at the semi-darkness.  We played pat-a-cake several times in a row.  We shared some hugs and kisses.  She came back to the dolls in the family room and sat on my lap, pulling them out of their bin while I put them back in.  I read her a couple pages of her big sister’s new Richard Scarry book.  We went upstairs to change her diaper.  She snuggled up with me for a minute before she went down for her afternoon nap.

What did I accomplish that day?  Couldn’t I have hired a childcare professional to do all that (and accompany me to J’s next doctor check-up to help tell the pediatrician which skills–sorting, babble, hide-and-seek–she has developed since her last well-baby visit)?  A nanny could have told me that she’s singing now, that she’s babbling several sounds in a row, that she squeals with delight when you come upon her hiding behind the ottoman or when she gets chased from one room to another.  An observant daycare provider could have told me that she seems more musically inclined than the average child, and if my older three had grown up in the same daycare, might have remembered them well enough to say that she’s acting more and more like her oldest sister did at the same age.  If a family member or good friend had been watching her all day, she could have told me to make sure and do pat-a-cake with her, because the way she ducks her head and burrows into your chest at the end is so adorable.  Yes, I could have outsourced this sweet day in my baby’s childhood to someone else, and I probably could have been doing something prestigious and impressive with my college degree like discussing Jane Austen’s portrayal of motherhood with a high school English class.  As fun as that classroom discussion sounds, I have the privilege, for this relatively short stage of life, of studying my children.  (And don’t worry, I’m already sharing my passion for literature with them, too!)

Life is not always this idyllic, and it’s easy for all of us to get caught up with the business of life and miss the little moments with our kids.  We can focus on the mundane aspects of our calling and miss the sublime.  We may struggle with feeling the need to justify a quiet day spent accomplishing homely tasks, believing our culture’s lie that we could have it all right now if we just tried harder.  Whether we’re enjoying a quiet day at home with a baby or feeling overwhelmed with the squabbles of a houseful of noisy kids, let’s remember that being everything to someone is a foundational and vital calling!  Let’s press on together, shall we?

Posted in For New Moms, Having It All, Home Life, Importance of Mothers, Parenting | 1 Comment
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