"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hailey's Baptismal Photo Shoot

Today during the late afternoon Hailey and I headed over to Temple Square for her baptismal photo shoot.  Even though she doesn't turn eight until January, we had to strike while the weather was good and I was amazed at how gorgeous the day was.  It's November 10th and it was 65 degrees outside with no wind!  As you can see, it was short sleeve weather.  Score!

I know I am biased in thinking that Hailey is a beautiful girl, but I think she is incredibly beautiful both inside and out.  She is blossoming into such an amazing person and she is a huge blessing to our family.  I sometimes catch myself thinking back to what we were going through eight years ago when I was pregnant with her and when she was a baby.  Because of complications surrounding that pregnancy, life was very difficult to say the least.  But God is merciful and I truly think He makes things right when we have suffered.  Hailey is that reward and then some.

Her photo shoot went great and I am excited to get started on her baptism invitations.  Temple Square was pretty crowded with tourists and Hailey got a lot of attention as we shot pictures.  So many people followed us around and kept telling us how beautiful she is and how much they loved her dress.  I asked her at one point if she felt embarrassed and she said (very nonchalantly) "No, not really."  Shrug.  Everyone said she looked like a mini-bride and I think so too! By the way, she picked out this necklace last weekend when she got her ears pierced.  It actually came with matching gorgeous earrings and she will be able to wear them for her baptism, but for now she still has to keep in her original piercing earrings for five more weeks. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Why I Don't Homeschool

I tossed and turned quite a bit last night because I'd made the mistake of checking Facebook right before bed and when I did so, this lovely cartoon meme was the first thing on my news feed.  It was posted by a friend and avid homeschooler.  I clicked on it because it was attached to another organization's Facebook page.  While I didn't take the time to learn about the organization itself, I did find myself reading through the hundreds of comments, made mostly by homeschoolers and homeschooling parents, and very little by people in favor of public school. 

I need to preface this post with something: I realize that I am running the risk of upsetting my friends who homeschool their children.  That is not my intent, but it may happen nonetheless.

The homescool vs. public school debate is ongoing; that's no secret.  Five years ago when my oldest was about to enter kindergarten, I never hesitated to enroll him in our local elementary school.  In fact, he is such an introverted and reclusive child by nature and it was a no-brainer that homeschooling him would be very detrimental and would in fact push him even further into reclusiveness.  This was something that we were not going to let happen.  Looking back over the last five years, we have seen him flourish and bloom and come out of his shell that absolutely could not have been accomplished had we kept him home.  Even with homeschool groups, he would not have found the ability to find the independence that he needed. 

From day one in preschool, Cody and I have been highly involved in our children's education.  We collaborate with teachers.  We attend all of the conferences that we can.  Even after our kids come home from school (mind you, having been there for several hours already) the first thing they do is open their backpacks and show me everything that they have done and anything that teachers need me to see.  I look over tests.  I examine graded classwork.  I read notes from teachers.  I check email regularly and reply to the teachers when I need to.  If I have any questions, I ask.  I am good to clarify their instructions on things when I am unsure.  Their teachers know me on a first name basis and I them.

We read.  I have workbooks for each grade level and if I think a child needs  little mor attention in a certain area, they do extra work.  If a grade is below par on a report card, they know the consequences.  That means more academic time and attention from Mom and Dad.  Less playing with friends after school.  More time focused on the area at hand.  I work with them every afternoon on homework, all with the distractions of friends calling on the phone and knocking on the door to see if they can play.  The answer is always "No, I'm doing homework." We review spelling words all week long, even in the car.  We do math flashcards.  I incorporate inferring and critical thinking into daily conversation.  It's a lot of work and I bust my butt to make the connection between what they are doing in school to what they do at home and in every day life.  

I admit that when Ethan was in first grade, he had a teacher that was not a good fit for him.  That has been his hardest year by far, but we took it as a learning experience and if anything, it made us even better advocates for his education- both academically and emotionally.  It is possible.  You can be a good parent while sending your child away to be taught by other people for eight hours a day.  And you may have to work even harder than a parent that has their child at home all day to school them one-on-one (or now days, it involves much more of sitting your child in front of a computer and while they learn much of their curriculum, from a program and screen.)

The age old argument that children who homeschool are far advanced is true to an extent.  Yes, they can beat public schooled children on academic tests.  But I believe that there is a far bigger reason children should attend school.  It's a school of life, not just academics. My friend Tiffany taught junior high and this is what she had to say.  I really couldn't have said it better myself:

"They [homeschoolers] may learn the material much quicker and at a higher level with minimal distractions at home. But, there are things that can not be taught in the comfort of your home. In the real world students must learn with distractions, they may not have a boss who likes them or coworkers who are constantly working for their benefit. 

 Any child can succeed while in public education. While teaching I realized some students would succeed regardless of the difficulties in the class room. They worked hard, were self motivated and received excellent grades. They will be high achievers in college and will conquer many obstacles in their lives. Parents who send their children to public schools and want success for their students may have to work even harder then a parent who home schools a child. They have to coordinate with the teacher about what is going on in the classroom, and how to better help their child succeed. My son has had struggles this year in his Kindergarten class. The teacher is awesome and has been so willing to help. We have worked with her to help him find greater success. 

This takes time energy and effort from all persons involved. This is a great pattern to teach your children. We may have areas where we struggle and need further help, but we work hard and push through and find success. If we start these patterns with our young children nothing will stop them. Some of the barriers we find in public education, if overcome, can be some of our greatest victories [and advantages]. These will prepares us and our children for the difficulties we will find throughout our lives."

Now, let's get back to addressing the laughable cartoon above.  I believe with all my heart that the person who created it was a sanctimonious prick.  Who is he/she to group us into categories like this?  To say that the desire of public school is to make us conform and loose our sense of identity and uniqueness like the school of fish shown, is a closed-minded and judgmental moron.  My children attend school in a class of twenty-five and while they are supposed to follow instructions and abide by certain rules and standards, they have been blessed with wonderful teachers (with the exception of Ethan's first grade teacher) who encourage creativity and self exploration.  One reason I am so wildly against school uniforms is for this very reason.  I know they have their purpose and advantages, but if you want to further the stereotype of school stripping away identity, make them all dress in khaki and navy.  That's another whole blog post in itself.  

I spend time in my children' classrooms when I can.  I try to volunteer on at least one field trip for each kid every year.  And when I see my children in their element, surrounded by friends, laughing, playing, learning, interacting.....I see that THIS is where they belong.  At the end of last school year I volunteered for field day and something whispered to my heart that I am doing the best thing for my children.  And those times when I get the inkling that I would rather keep them home than send them to a school, I realize that they are selfish reasons.  They have to do with MY convenience and MY wants, not their wants and needs.  I am a parent and made sacrifices and some of those sacrifices included giving up certain freedoms with my schedule.  By having our children in school, we are "slaves" to the schedule of the school and district.  

I should add about the difficulty of getting a child, who has already sat in school for several hours and is tired, bored, hungry, and fidgety, to sit down even longer at home and work on more school. And it's all to make sure that the correct crossover between school and home takes place. It's extra time, extra patience, extra attention that I really don't have but have to pretend I have. It's invaluable time that needs to be taken and I am willing to do it and my kids benefit from it. And it's all because for OUR kids, it is far more beneficial for them to be away from us, in school, taught by and interacting with other adults and children, then to be at home with a mother who lacks the ability to provide them with the resources they need (and by resources, I don't mean knowledge). So don't you dare go and make my kids out to be dead sardines squished in a tin, screaming for help. My kids are happy, healthy, thriving, brilliant, well rounded individuals who greatly benefit from the way we do things and the sacrifices we make.

Our days are not our own, Monday through Thursday.  Our lives revolve around early mornings, lost shoes, cranky girls who have tangled hair and a son who just wants to lazy around in the morning and read.  I divide my time all day between gymnastics, preschool, kindergarten carpool, library time, laundry, laundry, cleaning, laundry, driving to the school to take a kid something that they forgot, church callings, Girl Scouts, making food and cleaning up food, and at 3:45 the front door swings open and Ethan and Hailey burst in with a million things they want to tell me.  And the backpacks go flying and the shoes get tossed and dirty socks get stripped off and thrown on the floor.  I feed them a snack and we get down to business (homework).  And then it's soccer and ballet and scouts and piano and everything else that we bust our butts to give our children to ensure that they have the most well-rounded life education that they can have.  

Anyone who thinks that parents who send their children off to school have it easy because it takes the responsibility away from the parent are HIGHLY mislead.  If anything, I believe that as a parent who does NOT homeschool, I have it harder and have to work that much harder to make sure my children succeed.  It is not easy.  And if you are a parent who sends your child off to school and expects the teachers and administrators to do the work of raising and educating your child while taking no responsibility after 3:30 in the afternoon, you are doing it wrong.  Dead wrong.  

I do believe that the educational system is partially broken, but I also believe that the family and home system is partially broken as well.  Wherein lies the solution?  It all comes back to the parents.  Parents need to step up and take more responsibility to ensure that their own children are making the grade.  And if they are not, they need to work on it with their child and the teacher.  Get involved.  Show the teacher that you are interested in your child's education and you will be amazed at how willing the teacher is to work with you.  Know the kids your children like to hang out with.  Talk to your child.  You don't have blindly to send them off to school every day, unaware of who they are friends with and what influences they are coming in contact with.  It all comes back to the dialogue between you and your child.  

Ethan is getting to an age where his friends are becoming more important to him than his own family.  I don't worry about it because it's a natural life process.  The other night we let him invite a bunch of his school friends over (the ones he talks about but we don't know, and a bunch of friends that we DO know) for pizza and a movie.  We wanted to allow him an opportunity to bring friends into our home in a safe environment where we could monitor what went on and of course, eavesdrop on some conversations.  I know we have yet to experience life with teenage children and we may have to go back to the drawing board when we hit that milestone.  But for now, talking to our kids, talking to their teachers, and talking to their friends and friends' parents gives us the peace of mind that our kids are blossoming in a healthy way.  They are still under our wings to an extent, but have their heads completely out and are able to see and experience the world in a way that they couldn't if they were not allowed to leave us for several hours a day and be under the care of other adults.  I truly believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and I suppose we are lucky because we live in a fantastic village.  

I don't believe that homeschooling is bad, but I do believe it puts children at a disadvantage in some ways.  Most of those ways have to do with the social and emotional education of children.  On the flip side, I see that public school has it's flaws and can put the child at a disadvantage academically.  Is there a perfect solution?  I don't believe so.  But I do think that good parents do what they believe is best for their children and that parents feel strongly on both sides of the debate.  At the end of the day most parents have the same goal in mind, and that is to produce healthy, happy, smart, well rounded children that can function responsibly in society and do well in life.  I suppose both sides have a different way of going about it. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hello, Old Friend

Yesterday at Ethan's final (outdoor) soccer game of the fall season, I ran into someone and it filled me with joy.

I was sitting on the sidelines talking to Audrey about this and that, there was a grandpa type guy sitting a few feet down from her.  He was wearing a fishing cap and sunglasses and over the course of Audrey's and my conversation, I noticed that Grandpa Guy kept looking over in my direction.  After a little while I started wondering if he was looking at me or someone behind me.  Right at half time, he got up and walked over to me and took off his sunglasses.  My heart was so happy to see that it was our beloved Dr. Allred!!  What?!  No way!!

I jumped up and hugged him.  Turns out his grandson is Isaac on Ethan's team!  What a small world.  It was so wonderful to see him and to finally meet his cute wife, June, after hearing all about her for years.  She was exactly like I had pictured her!  What made my day more than anything was that Dr. Allred picked ME out.  He recognized ME, after not seeing me for about a year and a half.  I have said before that we love him and have always thought of him as family, but I know he had a jillion patients and families to see after.  So the fact that he knew who I was and gave me a hug made me feel like a million bucks, but miss him even more.  It validated my belief that he really was and is the best pediatrician in the world.  He doesn't just "say" he cares about his patients, he really means it.  He was invested in them and that's what made him such an invaluable doctor and a wonderful advocate.

I will never forget how after each baby, he was as concerned with how Mom was doing as how the baby was doing.  He would sit and talk and make sure that all was good at home and that I was getting the support and help and SLEEP that I needed.  And when Garrett was born and cried twenty hours a day and Cody had a difficult time bonding with him, I sat in Allred's office at Garrett's two week check up and cried and confided my feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion and just plain fear to our good doctor.  And he listened and told me that he would love to talk to Cody (or me) any time he needed to because he had been there and knew how hard it could be on dads too.  I could go on and on with stories of how he helped get us through some tough times and how good he was to our kids.

Anyway, it was so good to see him and talk and catch up on life in these past twenty months, and the kids were thrilled to see him and didn't hesitate giving him huge hugs.  He is still in remission from cancer and he and his wife bought some horses that they board just a few miles from our house.  I said that Hailey just might need to come out there and "exercise" them some time and he said he'd love it.  We talked about my "journey" in finding a new doctor for the kids and he asked me the name of the GP that we decided on.  When I said it was Ray Ward, he and his wife laughed and said "Ray grew up in our ward!  Tell him hello!"  They both said how great he was and that we made a great choice in going with him.  That made me feel even better in deciding on him as our new doctor. 

I know I we are not the only patients of his that miss him and appreciate him so much.  I'm sure he had that effect on all of them.