May 07, 2012

questions answered- why i love public school.

i've had a few friends ask me questions lately on facebook, by email, or in person...
because these questions have been mulling around in my mind, i thought i'd type my answers out here.
{note- usually each question is a long email or message... i'm just going to paraphrase the questions for the sake of space.}

Can you tell me why you don't homeschool?

Sure!!  I LOVE the concept of homeschooling.  I know MANY amazing families that homeschool.  They are good, educated families who i love and admire.  I completely covet many homeschool rooms that i have seen on the internet.  I adore the concept of a Thomas Jefferson education.  And, my "teacher playing", paper loving, sticker chart making soul yearns to buy text book and academic programs from the many, many homeschooling texts that are available.  So many parts of homeshooling sound dreamy and idyllic to me.  It is my nature.  I am a teacher.  But, it is not my reality.  You see, I am a regular old mother that sometimes longs to be a  homeschooling, farmer's wife.

I can not speak for homeschooling-- because I have never tried it.  But, I can speak for public schooling... and so I will.  I honestly, honestly am not writing AGAINST homeschooling.  I don't know that life.  I love the idea of that life.  I'm just writing about my own experience with public school and why I love this life.  Hope this doesn't sound offensive or naive.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE school.  I have never seriously considered homeschooling my own children.  By the time my oldest was entering Kindergarten, I already had three younger children.  Drew was four, Anna was two, and Ellie had just turned one.  Anna had fallen into a camp fire the summer before and we were still spending five mornings a week in occupational therapy at the hospital.  School was a natural option for us.  I do remember being very upset that Jakob would have to attend all-day kindergarten.  I thought that was too long and created for working mothers.  It caused me great trauma.  This next year, Leah will be in kindergarten.  It is half-day, two hours.  I think that is not long enough.  It is also causing me great trauma.  (hah!)  Aside from my initial nervousness, I have LOVED school for my children.  I have even sent many of my kids to a half-day preschool the year before kindergarten.  Sometimes i think it's funny that people assume i homeschool because i have a large family.  I think i would have been more likely to homeschool if i didn't have such a large family.

I also need to say one more disclaimer.  As far as big families go, my family is a little bit weird.  Perhaps it's because I wasn't raised in a large family.  Perhaps it's because I don't homeschool.  Perhaps it's because I am an oldest child who felt like i carried too much adult responsibility at a young age.  Perhaps it's because I'm weird...  But, I don't like my older kids to parent my younger kids.  I don't want them to feel responsible for the younger kids.  My older kids are wonderful, kind siblings.  And, they do help out a lot.  (Much more than they would if they didn't have younger siblings.)  But, Todd and I carry the bulk of the teaching, training, and caring for the younger kids.  I believe that the only way homeschooling would be possible is if my older kids took a much more prominent role in the lives of my younger kids.  (Well, at least that is how 19 and counting does it...)  Perhaps that would be a blessing.  Having the bigger kids at school learning big kids stuff gives me time with the little kids to focus on little kid stuff.  And, it alleviates any mother-guilt i might have in the afternoons when i'm bringing my little kids with me for big kid stuff.  Does that make sense?

I get a bit defensive when homeschooling mothers insinuate that parents send their children to school because it's too hard to have them home, or because they aren't willing to make the effort to teach them at home.  I do not send my kids to school because i'm not willing to teach them.  I send them to school because i think i can teach them BETTER with some time to prepare.  I am not a stay at home house cleaner.  I am a stay at home mother.  I use my time at home, without the bulk of my children, to study, to learn, to plan, to teach my younger children, to do things like shopping and cleaning, so that when my children are home I can teach them things I think are ESSENTIAL.  Yes, I always have to re-evaluate my day to be sure that I really am spending my time effectively.  Just writing this has reminded me the value of the teaching moments I do have.  I am recommitted to teaching more at dinner time and using my Sundays more effectively.  Sending kids to school does limit the time you have to teach them.  But, sending your kids to school does NOT replace your role as a mother and a teacher in your home.  Not at all.

I LOVE the ebb and flow of my life.  I love structured mornings with my children, quiet afternoons when my big kids are at school, and the exciting evenings when everyone returns.  I love summer which is my time to plan and teach and field trip ALL DAY LONG.  I love it.  Summers and weekends, my life is LARGE FAMILY.  We are busy and buzzing and full.  There is an amazing dynamic that happens when everyone is together.  There is not much one on one, but there is much goodness in family associations.  When fall comes and my kids return to school, there is a feeling of peace, structure and order that returns to my life.  I regain the individuality of my time.  I love both.  People who come into my home are ALWAYS saying things like, "Your house is so calm and quiet.  Where are all your children?  I always thought your house would be crazy."  Yes, it is crazy sometimes.  but, having afternoons with no big kids really, really makes it possible for me to regroup, organize, order and welcome them home with a smile on my face and homemade cookies on the counter (well, sometimes).

Honestly, I think the ages of 0 to 5 are the years where you are building a foundation of obedience and understanding.  Having time with my little ones when my big kids are at school gives me time to focus on them.  When my older children are home, my younger children are easy to loose in the mix of life.  I LOVE having quiet days with my younger children.  With all my children I have looked forward to their year before kindergarten-- because we have many, I really enjoy the year that my younger children are the oldest.  (The oldest at home.)  Without older children around, it is easier for me to teach skills that i could not have time to teach with all my kids home.  I love these preschool years at home.

Jakob's first teacher was AMAZING.  She was an older woman who had been teaching school for years.  Her classroom was fun and well organized.  She taught me much about how to be a mother by her teaching example.  They sang and exercised and learned so much.  Yes, i did march up to the school and defend my poor child who got yelled at by a mean lunch lady for not standing in line single-file, he had no idea what single-file meant.  Jakob has learned SO MUCH at school.  School has taught him to follow rules.  To behave in large groups.  To navigate social settings.  To listen to directions.  To deal with teachers and lunch ladies who do not know him and are not super-sensitive and understanding. Jakob has learned to be a leader.  To work independently.  To be responsible for himself.  Yes, he has learned academics... but that is secondary.

I am VERY picky with the teachers my children get and I'm pretty vocal.  Teachers make all the difference.  I defend my kids and I let people know when I don't agree with a curriculum or organizational choice.  Because I help as much as I insist, they still like me.  I have felt, many, many times, that the teachers my children have been given have been complete blessings to our lives.  I feel the "it takes a village" feeling.  As a mother of a large family, I CAN NOT do it alone.  I can't do everything-- so i pick and choose.  For me, I have enjoyed having someone else teach my child math facts, spelling and history, so that i can teach my child morality, manners, cleanliness, kindness, religion, sex ed., arts and crafts, service, etc.

When Jakob was young I started teaching him his letters.  He began stuttering and I was concerned.  Everything that he wrote looked mirror-imaged  I slowed down on concentrated academics.  In second grade, Jakob's teacher gave him a standardized test.  Although he was reading on a 5th grade level for comprehension, he could only read 2 out of 11 words individually.  It was a weird test result.  He was exceptionally above average for every other academic area and low-average for reading.  She suggested that we have him tested for dyslexia.  The dyslexia teacher was AMAZING.  He was diagnosed with dyslexia and entered into a program that re-taught him reading skills and rules.  This program taught him differently.  It was almost like reading mathematically.  They taught him cursive to help avoid confusion of letters.  He was the only child in the school who qualified for the gifted program and the dyslexic program.  What a blessing that education was in his life.  He would not have received this diagnosis or subsequent education at home.  It is just another example of why i love and appreciate other people helping me raise my children.

I believe my family is better because of the many outside influences and teachers who have touched our lives.  Teachers who love my children, just like I do.  Who see them and understand them, just like I do.  Coaches who encourage them to work hard.  I LOVE the community interaction that comes from being in public school.  I love the families we have met through school, I love my kids' friends, I love the teachers, secretaries, and principals we have worked with.  These people have become great gems in my life.  I can't imagine raising my family without the positive influence of good people.  Especially because I have a large family, I love sharing the heavy burden of responsibility that i carry.  I hope that doesn't make me sound like a lazy mother.

It's interesting to me that i feel so strongly about the positive influence that others have had on my life and I really don't even think about the negative influence.  Honestly, I really can't think of a single negative experience I've had with school.  I do love summers for the unstructured time I have with my kids.  Sometimes i hate the rush of mornings and lunches and finding shoes.  But honestly, i love the structure that school days bring.  And, if i really don't want my kids to go to school-- i would let them stay home.  If I want to take them out of school for two weeks, I just do it.  I don't ask permission.  I've never had a problem with teachers or administrators.  (Is this just my selective memory??)  Perhaps it is because I'm really good at dealing with things that bother me when they bother me.  I have honestly found that whenever there is a problem, there is either a misunderstanding or a good solution.  In my experience, people in academics are there because they love what they do.  Their intents are good.  (Yesterday I wrote about a concern I had when I thought a male teacher had taken my daughter to Dairy Queen for lunch without notifying me.  Turns out I had the story wrong and it ended up being a GREAT learning experience for my tall-tale telling daughter.  Another example of a supposed negative turning into a positive.)  There was a time when I had some issues with the policies of the school PTA.  I got involved with PTA at my school and in the district, and i changed the policies that concerned me.  We re-wrote the bylaws.  Schools need good, concerned parents.

When Lily was one or two, i noticed that she wasn't crawling well and was hardly speaking.  I was never worried... I knew she would grow out of it.  But, I did notice that she was DIFFERENT than all my other children.  She was slower.  I had the state early intervention therapists come to our home and once or twice a week we worked with occupational and speech therapists.  They were darling girls who loved lily and who spent individualized time with her teaching things I needed help with.  They gave me some ideas, and shared the burden I was carrying.  Lily began crawling in a couple of months.  I am a good mother.  A really good mother.  But, I am not a mother that thinks I have to do everything myself or that I do it better than everyone else.  I am always grateful for the touch of others in the lives of my children.  I'm not afraid to ask for help and I really do appreciate the blessing that my community has been on my family.

Finally, I have to say "by their fruits ye shall know them."  So far, I have four children in public school.  I am AMAZED at all they know and at how responsible they are.  There is power in a teacher's expectation.  There is power in testing.  There is power in grading.  My children read often, they study, they learn.  They can do advanced math.  They understand phonics rules.  They know more about history than I do, they remember the names of the parts of the cell.  They quote to me lessons about anger management they have learned.  They have learned so much from school.  They do not struggle with behavior problems, they almost always get straight A's.  My kids feel like good kids because they shine in social settings.  They have learned to be missionaries and stand up for what they believe at school.  They have learned to obey and to do things they don't want to do for other adults.  They have had incredible experiences because of public schools.  (My first four have made it ok... but, I'm not done yet.  Next year is going to be a doozie of a year.  My five year old is a feisty, non-seat-sitting, little one.  we'll see how she does in school?!!)

My kids are amazing at learning independently and setting goals and completing goals on their own.  Not only are they self-motivated academically, they are self-motivated to do things athletically, musically, for church and scouts.  In my family, the kids are pulling the reigns of our buggy.  They are more concerned then I am about finishing school projects, signing off another scout requirement, completing their faith in God, getting to school on time, bringing snack to soccer practice, having time to practice the piano.  I am amazed at their responsibility and achievements.  I'm not certain if this has come because of public school, or because of things I've taught them at home.  But, I never wish I had done things differently.

I always say that if i had a child that was struggling, I would homeschool them.  When chores became contentious around the house, I stopped chores to change the tone.  Even though I think chores are a good thing, we needed a change to fix the rut we were in.  It worked.  I imagine if I had a child that went to school and felt like a constant failure, I would pull him out and concentrate on helping him see his own great worth.  This has not been my experience.  Yes, mothers are a child's best teachers.  I know this is true.  But, my life has been so blessed by the sweet touch of great men and women in the academic setting.  School has always been a blessing in my life.  I have enjoyed taking full responsibility for their foundational education, moral education, religious education, and supplemental academic education.  I have been so grateful for public schools.

I do homeschool my children.  Everything that i really want them to know, I teach them at home.  I am continually trying to improve my teaching and embrace the moments.   I will say it again.  Every day i am grateful for public schools and the great men and women who help me parent.  Every day.

I 100%, maybe even 120%, believe that there is NOT ONE RIGHT WAY.
There isn't.
just because public school was the right choice for me and my family does not mean that it is the right choice for EVERY family.
in fact, i would even say, that just because i love public school this year doesn't mean that i would never pull all my kids out of school and tour the country in an RV.
or, spend a year on sabbatical in another country.
i LOVE those ideas.
i came from a sweet, conservative town in Texas and i now live in a darling, small town in Oregon.
people are good here.  perhaps my experience would have been different if we didn't live in these quiet, sweet places.  i don't know.
i may have some younger children who do not excel in the public school systems and i KNOW that there are many, many amazing education opportunities outside of public school.

there are many right ways.
for my family... public school has been a blessing.
i believe that mothers are blessed with intuition.
God will tell you what is right for your family.
And, if you listen to that voice inside you, even if it seems hard, you will ALWAYS be doing things the RIGHT way.
i know it.


AJ said...

Just want to say I am a homeschool mom and I LOVED this post!! Lots to consider. I love the village raising a child too. I am so glad for supportive ward members!

Tiffany said...

Per your usual... FaBuLoUs!!! :-)

Catherine Andrews said...

Well said!

Catherine from Wyoming

CTR Mama said...

I find it tremendously interesting that you have to make a case in favor of public school . Why do you suppose there is such pressure these days to homeschool? It's as if anyone who has more than one child and stays home should homeschool or they are not good mothers. I think schools need those strong kids and parents. But I am blessed with really good, safe schools. So glad we all have options to do what is best for our families!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...