Monday, August 27, 2012

Deciding to Homeschool, Part 2

As I mentioned in Deciding to Homeschool, Part 1, I have amassed a list of why I cannot homeschool. I am embarrassed by how selfish some of these are, but my goal in writing these posts is to hopefully encourage someone like me who may be in a position like I was in.
  • I'm not a teacher. No really, I have a B.A. in English, and I had some education classes but when I did my formal observation I realized I did not really want to be a teacher. I felt like I needed to have a passion for it that I didn't have. I felt like I couldn't do it because I don't have any formal teacher training.
  • I don't know how to teach a kid to read.
  • How will I do this with an infant? How can I adequately devote time to both kids?
  • I don't like schedules.
  • I'm a night owl. (So is Aiden)
  • I don't like having every day planned out for me.
  • I like to do my own thing.
  • I'm not crazy about a lot of 'rules'.
  • I like to be able to 'wing-it'. Ok, honestly, reading these last few I know you must be wondering how I ever held a real job, much less a corporate job. Well, I did. And I was damn good at it too. I had a very non-conventional approach to things that worked. I was probably sometimes very irritating to work with. But I got the job done. I was late almost every day of my work life. Sincerely. BTW, I was completely public schooled, so having to be at school every day did nothing for my work life as far as punctuality is concerned.
  • I don't know what curriculum to pick.
  • I don't even fully know my philosophy on learning/teaching in general.
  • I don't have space. This was a big one. My home is 1044 square feet. I have a 200 sq feet storage unit and an attic packed to the brim. We have to frequently switch things out between home and the storage unit (like seasonal clothes). My office is the dining room (no, we can't eat in there) so the four of us live in about 850 square feet. We do not have a garage. We basically have rabbit trails going from room to room. Not because we are hoarders (no, really, we're not), but because we need the stuff here for daily life.  Especially now that we have had to bring baby stuff back from storage (high chair, bouncy seat, swing, crib). It's actually very, very stressful.
  • I don't have a designated classroom. Ties into the one above, but I have friends who homeschool who have designated closets, rooms, bookshelves, classrooms, or all of the above. I know I can't provide this for Aiden. Honestly, it grieves me that I can't provide this for him right now. But, I have spent my life making do and if I made excuses for lack of space for every time it was an issue my life I'd never do anything. We've lived here for 14 years. It's been an issue for a long time.
  • How will I roll out all my new OSD ideas? This is another big one. My most selfish one. If only I could show you all my ideas!
  • What role with my business take? Obviously ties in to the one above. I'd been planning on rolling out lots of new products when Aiden was gone at school.
  • What will my family think? I had some family who were not and a few who are still not on board with this idea. They think I am making a big mistake. That's hard to swallow. I don't care who you are, you want your family to support your decisions. I was shocked and hurt when they didn't. I got comments like, 'What if you don't do it right?" "What if when you put him in 'real school' he's behind?" "What if he ends up being weird and doesn't know how to talk to other kids?" That's hard to take from people who you look to for guidance and support.
  • I'm not goody-goody enough. Uh, I'm pretty sure my fellow church going homeschool moms do not make time for new episodes of Dexter, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones. Pretty sure...I'm pretty sure they do not subscribe to Stephen King's newsletter and buy every new King book in hardback because waiting for paperback would be considered torture.  I am also pretty sure they do not look longingly at the newest comic issues of The Gunslinger. Also relatively certain they do not know the difference between a band saw and a reciprocating saw nor do they know standard stud spacings in new and old construction. They have probably not been on the roof of their homes, much actually roofed it. I could go on with the construction talk, but you get my drift.
Despite all the concerns above, I knew God was directing us to homeschool Aiden. In fact, I'm convinced that we are NOT sending him to public school. It would be a waste of every one's time. But I don't know what to do next. So I ordered the two books I mentioned in my previous post. I first read Lisa Whelchel's book. I needed it. It doesn't really explain all the different methods in depth, but it does speak to the heart. Each chapter is a family explaining how they homeschool and why it works for them. It doesn't do any public or private school bashing which I appreciated. It is very much a 'what works for you' kind of book. In her chapter (page 21) she writes, "I eventually realized that God was no longer blessing my acting career because He wanted me to be the one to raise the children He had so graciously, and quickly, given us. I was to find His blessing at home."

I cried when I read that. I mean, cried and cried. I called Jon at work, crying. You gotta understand, I run a business out of my home. This business is my third child. I love it. I've lived for it. It's mine. It was an idea God had given me and helped me support my family. I have nurtured it for years. I have grieved over the number of copycat businesses that have stolen profits from me. So I had spent hours and hours while pregnant designing my own new passport and checkbook covers. I had spent hours learning how to use Adobe Photoshop. In order to 'save' the business that so many freakin' copycats had plundered and taken as their own, I had come up with loads of new custom OSD designs. I had plans to roll out these new designs as well as a whole new baby line and home decor line when Aiden went to school. If I homeschool, how will I ever accomplish this. I don't know that I will. But I did know I was no longer at peace with those plans. And I had gone from not ever wanting to homeschool ever, to kinda getting excited about it. After reading Lisa Whelchel's book, I now knew that God was calling me to homeschool. But I didn't know how or what to curriculum to pick.

Enter Cathy Duffy and her 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. This is a wonderful book. It helped pair down all my concerns into bite-sized pieces and attack them. Up to this point, a lot of my concerns were really just mine. Once I told Jon I was pretty sure God wanted us to homeschool, he was already on board. He had been letting God work on me to get to the same point. So we went through Cathy Duffy's book together. We discovered a lot of the philosophies we had about schooling in general were remarkably pro-homeschool. We dislike state testing of students because teachers end up teaching to the test. We wanted Aiden to be able to focus on subjects that interest him in depth, not just touch the surface of subjects. We are not big fan of textbooks--we had already noticed that most of our learning had come from reading biographies and other non-fiction works, not from boring textbooks. It was important to us that time be given each day to Bible ready and Scripture memorization (obviously not going to get this in public school). It was important to us that Aiden be able to have time to be a kid and explore extracurricular activities w/o pressure (like soccer, swim lessons, basketball and t-ball). Once we finished going through her activities, we discovered were not at all in line with the Traditional way of teaching - which is what public school was based on. We scored highest on Charlotte Mason and Unit Studies with an Eclectic approach coming in third.

I didn't even know who Charlotte Mason was. I still don't really. I'm planning on reading up on her more! Anyway, next up was determining my teaching and Aiden's learning style. We focused on me since I'll be primarily the one teaching. Aiden is so wired like me, so our styles are pretty much the same. I already knew this, but it helped me understand a bit more about us and then Cathy directs you on how to find curriculum to match your student and you as a teacher. This was so invaluable. She reviews lots of different curriculum in her book and on her website. A lot of the big names I had heard before and considered buying were SO WRONG for us. I'm so glad I read her book before I bought anything.

I guess you're probably wondering now what I chose. We went with Sonlight curriculum. This is whole other blog post, so I'll address why at that time. Right now, it's late and I have a 5 yr old to teach tomorrow! I'll also addressed how some of the 'fears' were resolved.

Let me interject a few things here. I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom. One look at Aiden just after having him and I knew I could not let anyone else care for him but us. No one would do as good of a job as we would. While I do believe it is in a child's best interest for one parent to stay at home, I know not everyone can swing it. And I don't mean I-like-to-drive-Mercedes swing it, I mean, We-don't-eat-if-both-parents-don't-work swing it. I grew up in one of those households. I do think some people think they need things they really don't, but that wasn't the case when I was growing up. You also need to know that I have always said I would NEVER homeschool. It's not so much that I had a negative preconceived notion about it, I really didn't. (Well, not much of one.) I think I just found it unnecessary. I had also known a few homeschooled kids and thought they were a little, uh, socially misaligned. They basically had a hard time fitting in with the rest of us (I'm referring to my middle/high school years). I guess it was lending credence to the 'socialization' aspect of homeschooling. I just really was never interested in it or saw myself doing it. It seemed like a lot of unnecessary work. And I had just always assumed that my kids would go to a 'normal' public school. My posts about homeschooling are not an attempt talk negatively about public or private schools. I think the point I'm trying to make is I'm not being judgemental about those who don't/can't stay at home and homeschool. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that we decided it was right for us. I am also a VERY black and white person. I don't see a lot of shades of gray. I'm all or nothing. It was truly God's doing that took me from never wanting to homeschool, to being completely, totally and utterly excited about it!

Deciding to Homeschool Part 1

It's almost September, and I don't even know where to begin to start with how much has been going on thus far. I'm planning on going back and recapping a few things, but let's start with one of the biggest decision we've made as a family thus far...homeschooling our oldest.

Starting in January, before Luke was born, both Jon and I started to go into mild panic about sending Aiden to Kindergarten. It was a feeling we were both having and hard to pin down. What exactly was bugging us about sending him to school (public school)? Millions of kids go every year, why would ours be any different.  We talked about holding him back for another year. His birthday is early July, so he'd be a young 5 in his class. I didn't like this idea. I felt like we'd be holding Aiden back other words, I knew he was very ready to learn past the preschool stuff I had done with him.  With the birth of Luke, our decision and really any talking about it was put on the back burner.

Around early June we starting revisiting the issue. The news had been packed with weird things happening in elementary schools and I just kept having this feeling that school isn't as safe as it used to be. I know, the great things never get reported, but this wasn't helping our decision. So we started looking into private schools. My first choice was a Montessori School not far from our house. It was only 1/2 day Kindergarten and I'd already been using some Montessori activities at home for Pre-K. It was also almost $500 a month. Gulp! For a 5 year old? Other local private schools ranged from $200 to $700. Double Gulp!! Even if we had the money, I just didn't think I could justify that!!

A friend of the family casually mentioned homeschooling. I was immediately opposed to it. We were just going to have to get over our public school issues. But I didn't have peace with this. And over the next few days, I felt like God was making a change in my thinking.

I was starting to think maybe homeschooling K for Aiden would be the absolute best thing for him. I still wasn't 100% certain, and I didn't know HOW to teach him. So I posted a Facebook post - here's what it said, "We are considering homeschooling or at least part time homeschooling. All the information out there is overwhelming. Does anyone have favorite websites and/or curriculum? Do all school districts let you part time home school (like use them for certain subjects) or would we have to find a private school for that. Outside of Church, what do you do for social interaction? I'd like to hear any cons too - like I said, we haven't decided for sure what's best Aiden since he will be a very young 5 when Kindergarten starts in August, but we may not really know unless we let him try traditional school. Just trying to gather info..."

The post alone just goes to show how little I knew about homeschooling at that time. You would not believe the comments and private messages I got. Oh dear, I had basically started a public school versus home school debate. I had no idea it was such a hot button topic. I have lots of teachersfamily and friends, and of course, almost all were pro public school.  Their biggest argument against home school was the socialization issue. All pro-homeschoolers said that wasn't an issue at all. I also got a lot of very, very sweet private messages from dear friends and some friends I hadn't spoken much to since high school. And they brought a few things to light about homeschooling that I hadn't previously considered.

  • We can go at our own pace. If he's advanced or needs help in any particular area, I can tailor the curriculum however I see fit. Not going to get that level of attention in public or even private school.
  • Takes half the time. What takes a classroom 8 hrs to accomplish, can be accomplished in 3-4 hrs. That leaves the afternoon to do fun stuff together. Sciene projects that wouldn't be done in a normal K. It also ensures we are not going from school, eating a quick snack in the car, to soccer or swim practice, to home to eat dinner, bath, bed and starting all over again the next day. We would have room in our day to breathe...and enjoy one another.
  • The school wouldn't get the best part of his day. Let's face it, 8am - 3pm? It's the best part of your child's day. Why on earth would I be ok giving that up to someone else?
  • Two great books were recommended, 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's  by Cathy Duffy and So You're Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel

As a result of the post, I start leaning toward homeschooling (despite all the 'cons' listed). And telling myself the whole time that this is crazy, I can't do this. I didn't know where to begin. If you've never homeschooled and have never really paid much attention to it, it's incredibly overwhelming to get started looking into it. About this time, I'm at the end of July. Registration for public school was August 15th. I basically had 3 weeks to learn all I could about homeschooling and decide if it was right for us. I started by calling the elementary Aiden would be going to to find out what they specifically teach. Class started at 7:45am. Ended at 3pm. Most of the morning was the 'learning' part. Then lunch, then a 2 hr nap (not joking). Recess, then indoor guided play. Curriculum focused on learning basic letters and numbers and writing them. I was floored. Not only does Aiden already know all this, he hasn't napped in at least 2 years. So I would basically be sending him to a glorified free daycare. I cannot even begin to catalog all we have sacrificed for me to stay at home with our babies. Why am I now going to be ok with sending him to a glorified daycare and call it school?

So while I'm not ok with sending him to public school, I'm still amassing a list of reasons why I cannot homeschool. Part 2 of this post starts there.