Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why I Homeschool

Friday I registered for the upcoming homeschool conference here in Des Moines. I'm excited! I always love going to that thing! So does Paul. The first year we were considering homeschooling I emailed a friend who did it and said, "Help!" She told me I needed to go to the conference and it would answer all the questions I had. It did - and more. It reinforced to us that this was the way to educate our kids and it gave me the confidence to know that I could even school my special needs child.

I think homeschooling is wonderful and I am so glad we ended up choosing this route. But I am not a militant homeschooler, either, who thinks everyone ought to do it. I always cringe a bit when I hear speakers assert this. God's will is very individual and because it's not laid out directly in Scripture, the way we educate our children has to be a something between us and God. At the same time, I'd probably have to say that there are more families who should be homeschooling that are not, for one reason or another.

I used to have a very stereotypical view of homeschoolers and wanted nothing to do with it. When Will turned 5 we packed him off to our church's little Christian school. It was ok experience, I guess. Although, since then, Will has told me things that went on there that had I known were occurring at the time, probably would have made me upset. But every so often when I would pick him up there would some homeschool families milling around, picking up their co-op order (I think all homeschool families order from co-ops! Yes, we do too, now!) from the school. They just looked odd. The girls looked very old fashioned in their long hair and skirts and the boys looked strange, too. So I thought if I were to homeschool it meant I'd have to swear off good haircuts, birth control, and make-up. I don't garden and I'm not about to start grinding my own wheat, so I just didn't consider it! But then Ben started school. We put him in the small public school in our district. He had a one on one aide. It was a hard year, from a number of different aspects. I had to get the boys up really early in order to drive Will south 20 minutes to his Christian school and then turn around and drive a half hour north to get Ben to his. Will has never been a morning person and it was so difficult trying to get him out the door, trying to coax him to eat breakfast. Ben hated going to school and would cry a lot of mornings on the way there. David was a toddler - need I say more? And then school was hard for Ben. Every day I would pick him up at 1:00, even though it was a full day program. And every day I would get bad behavior reports on Ben - he couldn't sit still, he was a disruption, etc. Now, of course, I know that he was on the autism spectrum and that's why. But it still bothers that not one of those "experts" at the school identified that.

So that year I began to consider homeschooling. When I first brought it up to Paul, he said, "Oh, I don't think you're organized enough for that." Gee - thanks for the support! But as time went on he agreed that it would be a good idea for Ben. And then, as it got harder and harder to pay for Will's private schooling, Paul agreed to try homeschooling for him, too. So the next year we began. That first year I kept hearing from Will, "Well, that's not how my teacher did it!" but he got over that after awhile. He has excelled with homeschooling and has been pretty much self-taught all along. The other boys have done great, too. It turned out that David was a slower learner and being homeschooled from the very start enabled him to learn things at his own pace without the pressure of needing to keep up with his classmates. In fact, he didn't learn to read until about 6 months ago and that was fine. (Well, I private had moments of angst over this, wondering if I was a failure as a teacher, but once he got it, then I could sit back and say, "homeschooling does work!")

A few months ago one of the women in my on-line moms group asked for homeschooling input as she was considering the option. I typed out a few things for her, that I thought I'd share here:

The Hard Parts of Homeschooling
1. Being with my kids all day long (seriously - I need my space and quiet! It's a little hard to get having them with me all day long. Only the knowledge of knowing that I am making an eternal investment keeps me from losing my mind at times)
2. Having a niggling fear in the back of my mind that I am not doing enough to educate them and I'll end up with homeschooled dummies as a result
3. Wondering if I am socially handicapping them by limiting their peer contacts (Intellectually, I know the whole socialization argument against homeschooling is a fallacy, but I still wonder at times)
4. Making a financial sacrifice to do this (it's very hard to work even part-time outside the home when homeschooling and homeschooling itself is not free)
The Reasons I Homeschool
1. I have a responsibility before God to train my children which is a whole lot easier to do when I am with them all day rather than trying to cram it in at night and on weekends
2. My children are learning in a very relaxed environment, which is particularly beneficial for my 2 middle boys.
3. The boys' education is tailor-made to fit their needs, interests, and capabilities
4. I don't have to "de-program" them from un-Godly, humanistic teaching
5. They are less likely to pick up un-Godly and negative input from their peer contacts
6. Their dad and I are the #1 influences in their lives
7. We can stop schooling at any moment and deal with heart issues, which are much more important than school
8. It has forced me to become more organized (Seriously. It's a good thing)
9. It has forced me to become more dependent on God because I CAN'T do this without His help
10.It has forced me to be more diligent with obedience issues with the boys - if they won't obey when I say it's time to pick up toys or go to bed, they won't obey when I say it's time for math
11.Almost any foray into public can be counted as a "school day" because it's usually educational in some aspect
12. When my kids reach adulthood I will have the satisfaction that I did absolutely everything I could to ensure their spiritual and academic well-being
13. I don't have to deal with schools, teachers, and administrative staff who don't have a vested interest in my child (not that they don't care, but nobody is going to be as concerned as I am)
So, just a few thoughts on the subject. We will be starting our 7th year of homeschooling in September and to be honest, it has changed me, I think. I think I'm less selfish with my time, I'm definitely more organized, and I'm more patient. I'm also easier on myself and don't allow myself to get so exasperated with myself when I just can't do it all. But I'm still me! I don't leave the house without a full paint job, I only wear a skirt when I absolutely have to (Sundays), and don't even talk about pantyhose with me! I have a standing appointment with my stylist, who is the only person in the world who knows my true hair color. I still don't garden, I don't feed my kids wheat germ and tofu, and you won't find me embracing the quiver-full movement. I'm still ME, only with the label of "homeschooling mom" after my name. And I like that!

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