October 18, 2011

The Home School Thing

I mentioned earlier in the year our consideration of home schooling for K this year. A lot went into our decision and it was not an easy one! While I can be a pretty confident person, I also feel very uneasy about mothering (which I know is pretty common, or even universal, for most moms). There is so much to think about and worry about! Vaccinate or not? Protect or let them figure it out? Teach but also show. Give them space and say in life without letting them rule your life and getting entitled. And then there are all the things that you want to add in to give them a well rounded life that also reflects your personal beliefs. So you add sports and church and family events and cultural events and life lessons, etc, infinity. No wonder I always feel overwhelmed!

But to narrow in on one decision: the school thing. I wanted to visit the local public school before making my final choice, just so I knew what the alternative was and what to expect should any special circumstance arise that required K to go to school this year. The parents' open house was very informative. I liked the teachers and the facilities. They did a thorough job of telling and showing us what they were going to do with the kids. It seems like a very strong academic program. I didn't leave with any specific bad feelings and even felt they could do a very good job of teaching my son.

However, I did have some specific problems in terms of how well my child would fit there. First, the school day is eight hours long. For kindergarten. Apparently this is a new normal. It makes sense in a world where most kids have already spent the previous 4-5 years of their lives in daycare and/or preschool. But K has not been away from me for that long before. It sounds appealing, to be honest, to have a long break like that, but it would be VERY tough for him, and for me. Spending most of our time together to spending most days in school would be a major transition, one I wasn't sure he was ready for on multiple levels. Second, the academic aspect is a bit too restrictive. They expect kids to be reading by the time they are done with the year and they have a couple of standardized tests they are required to do for the year. For kindergarten. I'm all for high standards, but not that type of standard for children who, at that age, vary WIDELY in their abilities and readiness. Those were my main technical concerns.

My other motivating factors are social and emotional, and those two go together. K would be described as a social boy. He talks constantly, is always making new friends and wanting new friends. He loves new places and experiences and information. But he's also a bit of a mama's boy. As much as I don't want that, it's true. He's careful and nervous about doing new things, especially if he doesn't understand it and he has to do it without me to explain or ease him into it. His initial reaction to many things is fear and he hates going into things without knowing what is going to happen. He's making progress since he's done two years of swim lessons, junior farmers class, rugrats football, and more recently Tae Kwon Do, but he is very much still in the learning process.

When a kid goes to school, they are exposed to many new people all at once. And while socializing is a good thing in many ways, and a natural part of the maturation process, not all socialization is good. K is a very sensitive and intuitive kid. He has a lot of innocence left, in part because the way we live protects his age appropriate innocence. He doesn't watch adult shows, doesn't know what swearing is (I'm sure he's heard words once or twice, but has yet to repeat or call attention to it), he doesn't see or hear the news very often, and is in the dark on a few issues about people and the world that are better learned later in life. Now, there are many other kids whose parents have protected them as best they can from these kinds of things and who are great friends for him. But I do not feel at all confident that it would be the case with the majority of students in his school. In other words, I think K's innocence would be eroded too quickly by his classmates. Not completely because of willful desire by one child to hurt another kid (but there is always that possibility) but just a very different lifestyle. If we lived in a different place, I might make a different decision. Not sure.

In many ways, I think the decision to home school has very, very little to do with how "smart" the parents are. I have an education and love to learn, but I'm not a teacher. I haven't studied child psychology, teaching methods, etc. But I know my child. And I can learn. I want to teach K to love learning too. By showing him that all of life is learning, that "school" is not restricted to one building or one kind of book or one kind of person, he will hopefully embrace knowledge with open arms in whatever situations he finds himself in.

As for my part, I know that I am capable of teaching him. I do it every day without even trying, because he watches everything I do and asks a lot of questions. I feel confident about teaching the more "specific" stuff for this age because he's only 5. I know my letters, numbers, words, shapes, basic math, basic science. I can read, plan, look up and research. For now, I know that I can teach him all he needs to know and more, with maybe a few differences from what a school would show him, but still a pretty good education. I can help him slowly build more focus and ability to sit still, hopefully without breaking his spirit. At the end of the year, I plan to evaluate how things have gone and whether to continue on next year. It will definitely be a one year at a time situation for us because I go through weekly feelings of inadequacy, wondering whether I'm doing well and whether this is best for him and whether I will make it out of this alive. Those feelings are fleeting because I do know that this is best for us, I just don't always feel it is best.

I'll continue posting about this topic because it is quite multifaceted. And I think a lot about it!


  1. Just seeing him read off a sentence with some of his sight words in it, or recite scripture, or explain how boogies keep your lungs clean... I know that he's learning, and I'm so proud of the job you're doing.

  2. We homeschooled all three of our kids. People always asked us how long we plan to do it. My answer was always the same...as long as it's working! We always asked the kids how they were feeling...did they want to keep homeschooling? We took their input in consideration, but they always wanted to stay home, until they reached high school then things changed for some of them. It sounds like you have a good handle on it. It's not easy. You are with your kids all the time. But, the rewards are numerous and they FAR outweigh any problem that arises! I loved being with my kids and not having to send them off to school for a long day. I think in their younger years it is such fun! (Incidentally-love reading your blog posts! You are a great writer!)