"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

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. 

1 comment:

Samantha said...

I love that, it makes a lot of great point about parental responsibilities that I don't think are very often addressed.

Not that I have kids in public school yet, but it definitely makes me want to step up my involvement in their daycare doings, so thanks for the good nudge :]

P.S. Totally in love with the family picture you guys have!