Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homeschooling Weirdo

*Please read the whole post before you hate me*

"I am never going to homeschool my kids and do that to them."  That was my thought in high school.  While I knew a couple of "normal" families who homeschooled, 90% of homeschoolers my age that I knew were complete whack jobs.  Just being real here people.  I thought homeschoolers were weirdos.

"Why would anyone not send their kids to school?" That was my thought in college as I was learning to be an educator.  I loved LOVED being in the classroom and loved teaching.  I had also always loved going to school.  I knew a couple of non weirdo homeschoolers...but not many.

"People who homeschool are hurting the public school system and their kids are going to be completely backwards" This was my thought while I was a public school teacher.  Now, by this time I had some good friends who had been homeschooled and I was very impressed with them.  I pretty much thought they were the exception to the rule.  But I still was very loyal to the public school system and thought it was kinda silly not to send your kid.  I also had some girls in my CILT* program who really hadn't been homeschooled well and were struggling with basic social and academic things.  But then again I had some that were some of the most well adjusted, smartest, nicest, most dependable girls I had ever met.

Towards the end of my teaching I began seeing more and more homeschool families who were...normal.  The 10% margin I'd say I had seen in high school was starting to get bigger.  I did not see myself ever homeschooling but I had come to the place where I acknowledged it could be done, and done well.

Then I stayed home with my kids.  Because of financial resources we "homeschooled" Snug when he was 3 for preschool.  He and two kids I had in Draycare had school three days a week.  It was fantastic.  They were learning.  The other moms were happy and I really enjoyed it.  The next year he started pre-k at a local preschool and that also went well.  My kids still go there and we still love it.  Homeschooling had, technically, taken place in my home.  Something that was NEVER going to happen.

Fast forward a couple of years.  Snug is now in kindergarten.  I always envisioned my kids in the district where I had taught.  When we moved, that was no longer possible.  I know that was really hard for me.  I loved where I taught.  Those years spent with those dedicated teachers will always be very special.  I did my student teaching with one of the most fantastic teachers I'll ever know.  I was privileged to then teach in that same building for the next five years.

Snug goes to kindergarten two full days a week, once a month three full days a week.  I am expected, by the district, to work with him at home on the days he doesn't go.  It is a LOT of work.  I find myself thinking "Why do I get up early and have this boy in school when I'm doing all the work?"  Not completely true, of course, but annoying nonetheless.  He had a very nice teacher who I'm convinced he had a huge crush on.

As his kindergarten year progressed he started first grade language arts at home as he was completely bored with what was being taught at know, when he actually got to go to school.  He is ahead in all areas, except that he cannot tie his shoes.  His teacher is surprised at conferences when she finds out he turned five a week before school started.  (Something I really don't recommend for most boys)  I don't know why she didn't know how young he is, but that is no matter.  She says he is more than ready for first grade.  I am able most of the year to volunteer in his classroom because #1 is working evenings and home during the day.  I vow that I will never send another one of my children to kindergarten as the schedule is ridiculous and I can get the work done in half the time at home if I spread it out over 5 days.  Besides, now we know several homeschool families who...are normal.  And some who we really admire and would like to have our kids be like.  So what's a year of homeschooling going to hurt?

First grade rolls around and my happy-go-lucky boy is gone.  He is depressed, hates school, and is violent to his siblings.  Woah.  What on earth???  After doing some digging and having an inside source I find out a few things and ask to have him moved to another classroom.  I am no longer able to volunteer in his classroom and had I been there we would have made the move MUCH sooner.  (#1 is now a detective and working wonderfully family friendly hours).  The principal is very helpful in making the transition and our kid is back! Yay!  However...he is significantly ahead in language arts.  And ahead in weird ways in math.  And yet he has some holes in math.  And in his new classroom he has quite a bit of homework.  Nightly homework becomes a BIG struggle.  We are not happy with the math curriculum being used, and Snug is not challenged at all in language arts in the classroom (something I absolutely do NOT  blame his teacher for as I know how hard it is to be in her position and the pressures the state is putting on teachers).

We sign up for the Great Homeschool Conference per the suggestion of a friend because we are not sending LMM to kindergarten in this district.  Then the opportunity for him to go to pre-K another year at his current preschool becomes available and we take it.  But we already paid to go to the homeschool conference.  So we go anyway, because we'll need to have that information for the next year.

Wow.  We didn't expect to be converted.  I wouldn't say converted, although I often do.  I'd say convicted.  I sat in one session and it hit me.  I'm sitting here wondering what his report card will look like when I get home from the conference (it was coming home that afternoon).  I send him 6.5 hours a day and very often have NO idea what he is doing or how he is doing.  We get up really early (he starts at 7:30 am) and then juggle nap schedules to get him at 2pm.  2pm pick up STINKS when you have little people who need a nap.  We forgo activities because our kids won't be getting ready for/in bed by 7pm.  Baseball and basketball season become nightmares because it puts our kids to bed at, *gasp* 8:30 and we can barely drag Snug out of bed the next morning.

Many things we teach our children at home are NOT being backed up at school.  God made you, loves you, and has a purpose for you.  That certainly is not being taught-in fact quite the contrary.  We already knew we'd be doing something different with the kids in later grades, but had no idea what exactly, hoping for Christian school?

Ok, back to the conference.  It was really good.  I'd recommend it for anyone-there were great marriage and parenting seminars.  But I found it quite comical that many sessions were lead by moms who "were NEVER EVER going to homeschool."  The more I learned the more I thought that maybe we would homeschool our kids when they hit 4th or 5th grade.  They were fine until then.  We also found out more about the CORE curriculum being adopted by our state.  I'll leave that for another post, but we were not impressed.  We've since done our own research so as not to just get one side, but our opinion hasn't changed.  Ok, so we'll homeschool LMM for kindergarten, and then all of them (?) when they hit middle school.  That's a long way away we don't even need to think about it.  This is Friday.

Saturday morning I saw some familiar faces...from the camp I work at 8 hours away!!!  There were a couple of girls that I had in a class last year.  They were homeschooled-I had no idea!  I asked them how they liked being homeschooled and they were very positive about it.  I told them we were considering homeschooling when our kids got older and they had a funny response-funny odd, not funny hilarious.  They got very serious and told us that kids who weren't homeschooled when they were younger had trouble making friends.  Many homeschool relationships are built when the kids are young.  Switching to homeschool is like being the new kid in a school-VERY hard.  They also don't necessarily hang on to the friendships they had with the kids in their old schools and they have a hard time with that too.  Hmmm.

Next we went to a session by a man named Todd Wilson.  We sat in his session, and he is one of the funniest speakers I've ever heard, and I cried through the WHOLE THING.  I cried hard.  I think #1 was wondering if baby #5 was on his/her way (no).  I literally felt the Holy Spirit telling me that we needed to do this next year.  It was so scary.  I didn't want to mess up my kids.  I don't want weirdo kids.  I don't want to lose my LIFE.  I don't want the responsibility of educating my kids!  "I don't...I don't..."  But I felt the Lord telling me "Yes, but I do."  Oh my gosh.

Snug is also in an odd position.  At the end of first grade, when he could easily by age just be ending kindergarten, he is well into a third grade reading level and writes at a beginning of third grade level.  He also can do end of second grade math, but still has some odd gaps in his mathematics.  He still cannot tie his shoes.  Homeschooling him this next year could get him caught up in some areas, and take him laterally in others (lots of reading and writing about science, social studies, history, and Bible at the level he is currently on).

#1 said he wanted me to homeschool but didn't want to put that pressure on me.  He figured when I was ready, this year or in five years, I'd let him know.  Um, wow.  I thought he thought I was nuts for  even considering it for more than kindergarten.  He also said we could turn the girls' bedroom into a homeschool room, move the girls to our room, and build us a room in the basement THIS SUMMER.  This was something I'd wanted to do (not a homeschool room, but the rest of it) for quite awhile and we'd been debating.

I have no idea if we'll do this for more than a year or two.  We might hate it.  We might love it. We might be completely crazy.  But you know what?  It isn't crazy to do what you know God is leading you to do.  Truthfully I mourn a little that my kids might not grow up in a traditional classroom like I did.  I loved school.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED teaching school.  I believe that public schools are a very important institution in our country.  I will continue to support our public schools.  But my kids might not be there.  And I know that's weird.  I'm reserving the right to be weird, but I vow to do my darndest to teach my kids to be respectful, participate in a group, and be good citizens-and NOT be weird-that's reserved for me.  I am not doing this to keep them away from the world, rather equip them to BE in the world.  Its a scary place.

Want to know my biggest BIGGEST fear going into this?  I'm a very insecure person.  I'm afraid that my friends who still teach won't like me.  That they'll think I don't respect them for what they do daily.  I do.  I admire them and support them.  I think they have one of the hardest jobs in the world, and yet one of the most rewarding.  I love teachers.  And next year, I am tiptoeing back into the field.  Just in a different way.

Don't hate me.

*Campers In Leadership Training


Becky Marie said...

I never thought I'd homeschool either! I'm excited for you guys, I think it will be a great experience for your family.


(PS we miss you guys)

Laura said...

I grew up as one of those 'awkward homeschooled weirdos' and loved every minute of my non-traditional education. Every year our family debated the pros and cons of public vs. home and every year I chose home. We aren't 100% sure what direction we will go with our kids. I don't want to homeschool my kids (mostly because I'm lazy and afraid that I will do it wrong) but the thought of sending them off to a public school for hours each day and falling into the culture of the world isn't one that I like. Christian schooling isn't an option for us for the younger grades. Parents have the ultimate responsibility, not only to our kids but to God. And you are right on, it isn't about protecting them FROM the world it is all about preparing them to live IN it. Praying that you and Matt do what is right for your family, your kids and that it will be so 'right' that you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is God's will for you.

Anonymous said...

Well written. I know some of the wonderful homeschooled children you are referring to and know yours can also be just as wonderful. Make it fun and interesting for yourself enough to have something to look forward to each day and they'll love it,too. Laura, in the comment ahead of mine, has a lot of wisdom in what she posted. Quit being scared of what others think. Do what you and Matt think is best. Mom

Bethany said...

Sometimes I want to strangle you for ever caring about what other people may or may not think about you ;)

Anonymous said...

Jenney, Remember me--Linda Davis from the Faircreek playgroup? Three boys, Ethan (9), Anderson (7), and Evan (4). I've been following your blog ever since you left Faircreek. I kept wondering when you would come around to homeschooling. I don't know how to say this, but I could just see it in you--hope that doesn't sound weird. I, too, had a great public school experience growing up. I, too, was a public school teacher who loved my job (as was my mother). I, too, thought homeschoolers were weird. And I, too have done a complete 180. Families, not government schools, should be the predominant influence in a child's life, where their relationships and values are formed. Which doesn't mean we want to isolate our kids from the world, it just means we want to make absolutely certain they are well-grounded before we toss them out there. You don't transplant a tender flower into the garden until its roots are well established. And Common Core is NOT a good thing, and it is in the Christian schools as well as the public. If there was ever a time when our country needed a generation raised up that is well-educated, knows its history, and fears the Lord, it is now, and that's what homeschoolers are trying to do. Don't be overwhelmed by this journey you're starting. I won't kid you, it's the hardest thing I've ever done (we've been doing it since my oldest was 3), but God will be with you every step of the way and you will see him reaffirm your decision time and time again. BTW, Faircreek now has a very large and fairly active homeschool group we'd love to have you check out. Not everyone in in attends the church. If you want to talk further, my e-mail is Linda Davis

Anonymous said...

I think you're great Jennifer. You have always been weird -- but in a wonderful way -- that is something we have in common! You have to do what is best for your children. You are responsible to God for them. Don't worry about what someone might think -- I've played that game, and you never win. Go for it -- they are worth it -- they will make it -- they are already terrific! PS: so's Matt. AB

Anonymous said...

You go girl!!!! Doing what is best for your children/family is what being a Mom is all about. God gave you them because He knew/knows you and #1 are the best parent for them. How can you do anything less than what you believe to be right for them?

Kevin's roommate at Liberty was home schooled and is a quality young man.

You will do just fine and so will they. Don't be worried about what others think, only what #1 thinks. It's going to sound funny, but don't even worry about what the kids think, they will follow your lead. If you are wishy/washy about it they will be too.

Ready, set, GO!!!!

Love to the family,
Aunt Kim