Sunday, October 20, 2013

It's My Job

The pay is minimal but the benefits package is amazing! I love my job- motherhood! I love my kids and getting to be around them all the time is totally delightful! I am so blessed to be able to stay at home and what's more, to educate them at home- something we are only a few years into.
Homeschooling was something that wasn't entirely on my radar until God put it there.  It sounded like a nice idea, but just not for us. Then, through one next-season mom reflecting out loud to me how if she could do one thing over again with her (amazing!) kids, it would be to homeschool them... a few months later friends and acquaintances who homeschooled their children seem to come out of the woodwork.  Kind of like the buying a new car thing- suddenly you see your car model everywhere!

So mid year, 2011, we pulled out of public education and I brought my ninas home for their academics.  Here are some of my reasons as shared in a facebook discussion about a year ago.  Believe it or not, the following is just my reasons in a nutshell, and even in the past year more could be added!

It started out with the conviction that I wanted my children to have a firm grasp on God's Word throughout their childhood. I attempted to give them "Bible Class" each day, but with the hustle of getting to and from school, homework accomplished, dinner, chores, etc. I just didn't have enough time. They quickly adopted the habit of spending their first 5-10 waking moments reading their Bibles, and we would do devotions during breakfast, but it just wasn't enough. Let's add into that it felt silly to have my kids go to school to learn about evolution and darwinism and such and then come home and be told that what the teacher said was wrong.

Almost as important to me, was the chance for my children to play. Much learning and discovering occurs during playtime, naturally, and in ways that worksheets and lectures can't accomplish. Homeschooling eliminates much of the time spent at school where kids are lining up, taking bathroom breaks, walking the halls to this class or that, teachers are trying to get them to cooperate, etc. Take all of those things out, and for a few more reasons I'll list next, and we are pretty much done by lunchtime! That leaves lots of time for inadvertent learning!

Specifically, for my children, it became apparent that public education wasn't the best answer. My oldest, who was finishing up her grammar school years at the time, was/is a straight A student. She was involved in every extra curricular offered, almost. Student government, morning news, chorus, gifted classes, science club... She was rarely in her own classroom, and still she flew through her homework, and never so much had a question of how to do it. When was she learning? Was she being challenged at all? Being home allows her to go at her own pace. There's no stopping and waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. Or having to wait till a following year because she's exhausted her lessons for the current one. These reasons are often overlooked in schools because so much focus must be placed on students with behavioral difficulties that require more urgent attention.

For my youngest, it has been suggested by her doctor she might have a mild bit of Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning autism. It manifests itself in her extreme perfectionism and the unrealistically high standards she sets for herself. She's methodical and a little bit obsessive, but just with herself. It baffles me, because it is so contradictory to the rest of our family style, and I have been so intentional about encouraging them to do their best work, but that errors and mistakes were encouraged, because it is a sign of growth and stretching. So, my youngest, only in Kindergarten at the time, was falling apart in class crying because her teacher instructed the class to "write how it sounds" and she could not wrap her head around that, she wanted to write it exactly correct and felt frustrated that she might not get it right. After several meltdowns where she had to be taken aside to calm her down (once she gets going, its quite the process to calm her again, one that I've perfected as her mom, but a teacher simply cannot be expected to know), I talked to the guidance counselor who assured me my daughter was perfectly fine and that I should not be concerned because she was not misbehaving. This was frustrating and affirmed to me what I mentioned at the end of the last paragraph.

Through the years I have spent some time in my children's schools. I believe we have been blessed by the teachers that they have had, and the administration at our local public school. The PEOPLE we have loved! I had a particular problem with some of the rules, however, I do understand why they are necessary. I often would go to the cafeteria to have lunch with my kids, but this was discouraging. The students have a very brief 20 minute lunch and they are not allowed to talk. I get it. 20 minutes is not a lot of time and kids, after being told they must be quiet in class all morning, would most likely rather talk with their friends than eat what mom packed for lunch. BUT, can we blame them? I felt miffed that in a 7 hour day we are expecting a child to be silent for so much of it. I marveled that my kids were even able to form friendships at all. When??

Teachers these days have unreasonable demands. The classrooms are much too large, the teachers are drastically underpaid, and their hands are tied in so many ways. How can a teacher be expected to educate 25-30 children, who all learn different ways- some needing one-on-one attention, others thriving in groups, some who learn best auditory, some visually, some kinetically? My middle child absorbs information a lot better with music on, but some people (like me) need total quiet to focus. The amount students are expected to know these days, combined with the logistics of time vs. learning styles and behaviors and the numbers alone and I can't see how a genuinely solid education is feasible. The student teacher ration at home is 3 to 1 and it's exhausting enough. I have many friends who are teachers and have heard much feedback about the pressure on them that forces them to spend more time on paperwork and drilling for standardized tests. Many of my friends are at school well into the evening hours when they should be at home with their families, because of this demand. More and more often I am hearing teachers say they love the children, but they can't stand their jobs because its all about paperwork and tests and dealing with bad behavior. The blame here, in my opinion, lies partially with the government, and otherwise with the parenting of our children in general. Parents expect too much of outside sources to raise their children for them, which results in much blame when things don't go well (because that's not how they were designed to go), the government steps in and has to create a solution, meaning they have to have a very detailed, very regimented handle on every single obstacle that can possibly come up, which means paperwork, and tied hands. Indoctrination is an excellent documentary about all of this, but in truth, I saw it happening way before I knew about this movie. I highly recommend it.

I have already mentioned the difficulty in educating a classroom of children with various learning styles. A school teacher has neither the time or the energy to cater a curriculum to each individual child. But, a parent, even with multiple children, is a student of her child. As a mother, I have studied my children extensively. I've watched them, paying attention to their likes and dislikes, their moods and their triggers, their natural inclinations, struggles, and strengths. From day one, I have been studying them, and while there are always variables and factors of circumstances, certain characteristics are engrained, knitted in them from before they were born by their Creator, the only being that loves them even more than I do. So who better to teach them? I may not have a degree in education, but I would have every degree in knowing my kids. I know how to calm the youngest when she gets worked up. I know by the tone, or the brief hesitation, when one of my children is trying to breeze through an assignment and not give their full effort. I know to what degree each of my children are capable of being challenged, and I am more motivated than anyone else to set them up for every opportunity. The work itself, not to downplay educators, is easy enough. I struggle with fractions to this day, but there are enough resources out there to aid an educator in teaching, and then we are learning side by side. I love this perspective of homeschooling where I am learning alongside my children. So much of my (public) education has long sense left this mind of mine, and in this way I'm grateful. We sit and discover together. And bonus: watching them grow and learn and stretch and discover each day, their faces lighting up when the lesson finally makes sense, their proud smile the first time they can recite their Latin blessing, such a joy! In this, I am selfish, I WANT to be the one on this journey with them. I have them for such a short time before releasing them to the world, I want to take every opportunity I can.

Because I am so motivated for my children to be responsible, self-thinking, wisdom-bearing, discerning adults, I love that homeschooling allows me to shape my kids to be independent self-motivated learners. In the early years, it is necessary to teach each lesson or principle, and help at every turn. As a child grows, whether home-schooled or in public school, the responsibility shifts from the educator to the child. The setting for this is remarkably easier for the home-schooler, though. For instance, my oldest is given syllabi, the resources she needs, and is off on her own. It helps that her personality and learning style lends itself well for this. She is eager to learn and loves the opportunity to take initiative. Truthfully, she pushes herself further than I probably would, but she has that freedom. I am very present to answer any questions and bounce ideas off of. We discuss her lessons, but I needn't be there at every turn. She knows her own learning style and has the freedom to explore her subjects accordingly. Therefore she becomes a lover of learning. This is SO invaluable! Forget algebra, forget historical dates and scientific theories- if a child has a thirst for learning- that will take take them farther than any amount of memorized data! And I'm convinced that this love of learning is directly proportionate to the freedom a student has to take a concept and run with it. My child may ask me a random question about outer space. She becomes fascinated with the notion that the moon effects the tide. I will urge her to explore that. I will allow her maybe even to scale back on some other subjects for awhile so she can research to her hearts content. We will look up information together, watch some videos, check books out of the library, find some hands on project/experiment we can do to replicate what occurs, visit a planetarium, etc. And then it becomes a question she sought and found the answer to herself which is very empowering! She learns that if she wants to know something, she has every ability to find out!! And you know what? Perhaps the next child is not so easily self-motivated. Like learning to ride a bike, she might take some extra time before she feels confident enough to move forward on her own, and that's ok! I'll hold on longer till she's ready. There is no "You better know it by now or your out of luck!"

Another thing about homeschooling that I love is the scheduling freedom. If we have a vacation coming up, there's no stress about how many days of school or what tests they might miss. There's no having to fit our travels into Christmastime or summer break. We can take school on the road if we want to, but even if we don't, we can adjust things simply and without fuss. I have friends who home school who's husbands are military. Long and/or frequent deployments put such tension and stress on families, and all the relationships within that family. When a soldier gets two weeks in the middle of his overseas tour to come home to his loved ones, will they be able to take a vacation or even sit at home and just be together if they want to? How much healthier for these children to have that extra time! And how much more connected will the soldier feel to have that time as well! It doesn't JUST benefit military, think of all the instances when a flexible schedule might benefit... opportunities to take trips, marriages or deaths/illnesses, or family reunions. When my children were in school and one might get sick, there was that conflict between "Should I let them stay home even though they might miss something pivotal or get behind?" or "They are running out of excused absences, are they really sick enough to use up another one?" or "How contagious do I think this is?" lol. Oh, the germs that would be passed around a classroom and several times over! At the other end of that spectrum is that long stretch of a break in the summer. Some might argue that kids need a break, and I absolutely agree! However, I don't like the idea of shutting learning off for 2-3 months each year. I find that, in doing so, we spend a solid chunk of the returning time in review and readjusting back into "learning mode." I prefer to lighten the load dramatically in the summer but still keep a light schedule in practice. More lessons are finely chopped or minced and stirred into "fun" so as to not be too obvious that they are still learning a lot. What about moving? In many areas, where you live depends largely on the quality of the schools in the area. Do we give embrace a long work commute to live outside the inner city? Do we overspend on housing so that our children will be able to attend the right schools? What freedom in knowing my kids get a great education wherever God sees fit to send us!

So, there are many other reasons, but I think I've hit my major ones. I just want to say again that I delight in my kids, and I feel so unbelievably blessed by them and to have this opportunity to educate them at home. I have an unbelievable support group of moms who have helped me transition. The children have formed amazing friendships and they love being home-schooled as much as I do! We have a very eclectic method to our days, but it works wonderfully for us! God bless!

Here's a few other reasons :)

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