He Says, She Says Saturday: Homeschooling

(aka HSSSS:HS)

c. December 20, 2007

Pippa's first rendition of her own name. c. December 20, 2007

Well, you’ve waited a long time for an installment of your favorite husband and wife bloggy duo doing what they do best, so this week, we aren’t going to disappoint.  We are tackling possibly our biggest (and certainly most potentially controversial) topic yet.  Oh, yeah, and it’s timely, too!

We have just this very week begun the process of sticking a little toe in the pool of homeschooling, and we have no idea whether we’ll be spending the next who-knows-how-many years in the pool or just doing a quick lap, finding the water a little too chilly, and hopping right back out.  (Uh, sorry… metaphor taken way, way too far.)  Last night we ordered this pre-K curriculum for me to start with Pippa this school year.  At this point, we are planning to start her in public school for kindergarten next year, but we are open to being totally swept off our feet by our “experiment year” and deciding to stick with homeschooling for as long as we feel it is the best thing for her and for our family.

Homeschooling is something Trevor and I have thought about and talked about for longer than we’ve had children, but as the time to make a definite decision grew nearer and nearer, we have found ourselves with more questions than answers.  I thought that the more I looked into homeschooling, the more certain I would feel that it was a perfect fit for us.  It certainly does look good, and I see so many good reasons to do it, but I still see a few pretty good reasons not to do it, and that’s where I am right now.

The Pros:

  • I am a trained, certified teacher.  If I am going to be at home with children, why wouldn’t I be their teacher?  Why would I send my children off for someone else to teach, so that I could go and teach someone else’s children, all the while wishing I could be with my own instead?  I love the thought of being the one to witness those great Ah-ha! moments: learning to read, learning to add and subtract, learning how a transistor works in an LDR circuit (okay, so part of me is still thinking long term maybe).  Is that a selfish reason to homeschool?  Maybe.  Let’s move on.
  • For pre-school, it’s cheaper, even the way that we’re choosing to do it, which is at the more expensive end of the homeschool price range.  Unless this year is a total disaster, we are planning on using the same material to teach Romilly and Beatrix before they start school, too.  And the new one, come to think of it.  That’s less than $100 per kid.  Bargain.
  • Homeschooling would keep the girls primarily in an environment in which I control their influences.  I can see and deal with heart issues as they arise without having to wonder if new behaviors (or turns of phrase) have been picked up somewhere else or just from their own sinful little hearts (or learned from mine for that matter!)
  • Homeschooling , at its best, gives kids a foundation of loving to learn and sets them up to be lifelong self-teachers.  I really do believe this.  As much as I loved my public school experience (I truly did, and more on that will follow in the Cons list), I can look at who I am and know that I have been trained to be deadline driven and very motivated by the praise of others (read: grades).  Now that no one is requiring me to keep to a certain schedule or marking my performance, well… let’s just say I would not be a straight-A student anymore with my current syllabus of cooking, cleaning, and planning fun and enriching activities for my children.   Low B’s if I’m lucky, except for the cleaning – you already know about that.  A lot of that is probably my personality, and just plain human weakness, but I can’t help but think that that the qualities that I’ve seen in homeschooled adult friends (namely self-motivation and stick-to-itiveness) serve them very well in whatever they pursue in life.
  • No having to unteach and reteach the subjects that are being taught from an unbiblical point of view in schools.  I was amazed when I was a science teacher at just how pervasive the evolution mentality is.  The foundations are laid early, and in more topics than you could ever imagine evolutionistic ideas being relevant to.  But even the evolution can of worms is secondary to the implicit, relativistic no-one-is-right-no-one-is-wrong morality that colors how almost every subject is taught.  Schools make a great effort *not* to teach morals, but nature abhors a vaccuum, and in this age of political correctness, I absolutely believe children are getting the message loud and clear that “whatever I think is okay, is okay for me.”  And that’s *not* okay for me.

The Cons:

  • Clearly, I am not the most organized girl in the world.  I believe I can rise to the challenge of staying on top of things and keeping the necessary records, but it will be a challenge.  To that end, I will not, as I once thought I might, be doing Pippa’s pre-K year from scratch.  Yes, it might be cheaper and even more effective to write all my own lessons and get all or most of our books from the library.  Maybe I will get there someday if we stick with this, but in order to give this a fair shot at working, this year we are using a very structured pre-packaged curriculum that I have heard good things about from several people.
  • I am *not* going to list “lack of socialization” among my cons (I mention it here only because it seems to be everyone’s number one point against homeschooling), except to tell you why I don’t buy it.  Homeschooled kids are, in my experience, at ease with people of all ages because they have been living life with their families rather than being cooped up in the company of only children born the same year as them.  In the grand scheme of life, spending forty hours a week or so with people exactly your age and who have spent their lives (for the most part) living within a few miles of where you’ve spent yours is not a realistic scenario.  I’m not saying it’s damaging or that it’s a good reason *not* to send a child to public school, just that I don’t see socialization with peers to be the be-all-end-all that it’s made out to be.  What a wealth of wisdom and life experience there is to be gained from accompanying a parent on daily interactions with others: errands, church activities, visiting neighbors or elderly friends (hmm… maybe I should have listed this as a Pro…).  Not to mention that there are *ample* opportunities to get homeschooled kids together with other kids.  It just isn’t an issue.
  • But here is the one Con that continues to niggle at me and make me question the whole thing.  As Christians we are called to be salt and light to the world.  We are to be in the world but not of the world.  Our lives are mission fields.  At what age in the life of the young believer does all this come into effect?  I can safely say for my girls “not yet”, since I don’t believe any of them has truly understood the gospel yet, though we pray each day that they will.  But suppose, by God’s grace, Pippa at age nine is a growing, thriving young believer with a true sense of God’s purpose for her life?  At that point, I think I would want her to be in her mission field.  I would not want to deprive her of the faith strengthening (though trying) experience of seeing how the world lives and what makes us different as God’s children.  Nor would I want to deprive public schools of the (hopefully positive) influence of Christian children.  Junior high and high school were incredible times of growth in my own life.  In part because of the wonderful youth group God placed me in at the time, but also, I believe because it was a time of becoming aware of what others believed, and claiming my faith as my own.  I can remember discovering in middle school that a long time friend, raised Jewish, was now calling herself an atheist.  It shocked me to my core to see how the world had already pulled her away from what she had been raised to believe, and I wanted desperately to talk her out of it, to defend God’s glory somehow.   I tasted my first tastes of mocking and labelling, and I learned to cherish and cling to my faith.  More importantly, I know that even at such a young age, God is able to use a believer in the life of another, and I want that for my kids.  It’s hypothetical and probably a few years off, but therein lies my one glaring objection to homeschooling.  And I think it’s kind of a biggie.

I would absolutely love to hear anyone’s thoughts or experiences on the subject.  What decision did you or will you make for your own children and why?  What other arguments (for or against) have I overlooked?

Most of all, I’m looking forward to finding out what he says about it, and I’m sure you are, too!  Don’t let me keep you.

Lovely Day

img_2162.JPGI love my life, but “pampered” is not generally a word I would use to describe myself.  Yesterday was definitely the exception.

My dear friend Erin gave me a spa gift card for my thirtieth birthday, and yesterday after a few months of to-ing and fro-ing with our busy schedules (*cough* her busy schedule) we finally managed to make it happen. Although I was (and am) still fighting the dregs of the nastiness Trevor passed on to me, I decided I would certainly prefer fighting it while having my feet and hands massaged than at home chasing after little ones.

Oh, it was lovely! I do love a good pedicure (incidentally, I’ve only had three in my life, and always under similar circumstances to these), and they left us in the foot spa for such a nice long time, long enough to catch up on the last six months of our lives and laugh over old times.  It was just perfect.

Things took an interesting turn during our manicure when Erin asked me when Pippa woud be starting kindergarten. “Next September,” I told her, “but we’re still playing around with the idea of homeschooling .” At this point, Erin’s manicurist really, umm… came out of her shell.

“Can I ask why you would think about doing that?” she said.

“Okay, wow,” I said, laughing a little.  “I feel like I’m being interviewed.”

Things were still feeling fairly light and breezy at this point, so I thought I’d try just dodging.

“Well, we’re really still just thinking about it at this point.”

“Yeah,” she said (the manicurist, remember, whom I had just met about twenty minutes earlier.) “But why? I just don’t understand why people want to do it.”

“Well, I used to be a teacher, and I guess I just would really love to be the one to teach her to read and add, and, you know, all the really big stuff. I’d just really love to be her first teacher.”  An innocuous enough answer, I thought.  Nothing preachy or militant about that, right?  That ought to satisfy her.

“But you already are her first teacher, and what about the socialization thing?”

I think, at this point, I might have gotten a little bit defensive.  I mean, I’m not *at all* sure that we are going to homeschool, but I have a ton of admiration for people who do, and plenty of friends who were homeschooled themselves, so “the socialization thing”?  Thems fightin’ words.

“Oh, the whole socialization things gets totally blown out of proportion,” I told her. “There is such a good network nowadays of homeschool families that organize social activities. Plus they are with their moms all day so the actually get to be out in the real world interacting with people of all ages, rather than just being at school with kids exactly the same age as them all day, so it’s just a different kind of socialization. Plus they always have the option of taking a class or two at public school if they want, it doesn’t have to be all one or the other.  There really isn’t as much of a socialization issue as everyone acts like there is.”

Yes, I did.  I said all that to a manicurist.  It wasn’t my finest moment.  But she still wasn’t done!

“But what about in high school?  I mean, parents just aren’t qualified to teach every subject. And how on earth are they ever ready for college?”

Alright.  You want to fight?

“By the time they get to high school they know how to teach themsleves,” I explained to her. “They know how to pick up a textbook and read it and practice it and learn it, so they are very prepared for college where that’s exactly what you have to do most of the time.”

“But what about kids with learning disabilities?”  she persisted.

Okay, really?  I just want to have my nails painted here and talk to my friend whom I haven’t seen in forever.  Can’t we be done now?  Please?

“I’m not saying it’s for every family, and I’m not saying we’re definitely going to do it.  We’re just *thinking* about it,”  I said.  I don’t remember exactly how it ended.  Maybe Erin rescued me at some point?  Maybe this was when I made my lame attempt to chat with my manicurist?   (“How do you manage to keep your nails painted so nicely when you use nail polish remover all day long?”)  But that was pretty much the end of it, and things went back to being light and breezy, and we were not escorted off the premises.  Whew!

We were then taken to a very tranquil little seating area to admire our hands and feet, sip water from champagne glasses, and discuss what had just taken place.  Honestly, I felt like it could not have been any worse if I had casually dropped into conversation that I was taking my three-year-old to get a tattoo.  I am still recovering a little.

We went on to have a late lunch at an adorable little cafe nearby (Erin treated, “for my birthday”, which was in October), and then we picked out the biggest chocolatiest slice of cake they had to take back to Erin’s house.  There we sipped coffee (black and sweet, like the good old days when we had no fridge of our own to keep milk in), ate way too much cake, and looked at pictures of our “hometown” Edinburgh from her recent trip with her sisters.

(We were so excited about our complimentary Shania flip-flops that we wore them to lunch.)
It occured to me on the way home that a picture of our faces might have been nice too. But you’ll just have to settle for one of us in our beloved Edinburgh, where we first met ten years ago. We still pretty much look like this.  Only way better now, of course.

It was just a lovely day, and we shall have to do it again soon.  Thank you, friend!