Bringing our kids home
This is not a short story, so grab some tea or coffee. And a brownie. All stories are better with chocolate. Ed and I talked about homeschooling when our first was born in 2003. I’d been a public school girl through 10th grade and finished high school at a small boarding school and loved the intensity with which we learned in our super small classes and the supportive relationships we had with our teachers. Ed had gone to public schools straight through, and being the smarty, continued on to do a bachelor with honors and 1.5 masters degrees. Anyway, baby one arrives and the idea of turning her loose into a school system I had not enjoyed, nor felt particularly well served by (keep in mind I went through the Lower Merion School System, one of the “best” in the country) terrified me. Ed and I are also conservative Christians, and the values present in the local schools were and are not in synch with what we wanted for our children.
Doesn’t that sound grand? Don’t we sound ambitious? Proud? Well, babies two and three arrived within the next three years. Three babies in three years, a husband who (as a pastor) works crazy hours and I was at the front of the line to sign my oldest up for preschool the January she turned four. I felt overwhelmed by laundry, matchbox cars and doll clothes. The idea of actually trying to teach my kids anything beyond washing their hands after using the bathroom exhausted me.
My daughter thrived in preschool, as did my two boys. We moved them to a parochial school when my daughter was ready for PK, my boys followed for PK and Kindergarten. They were learning, we were involved in the school, their teachers were dedicated. The situation seemed ideal. We had two more children, they played at home while the “bigs” went off to school each day.
When my second child entered first grade, we saw changes. He “hated” school. This child, who was reading by the end of PK, no longer wanted to do anything “schoolish.” He hid when it was time to journal, destroyed erasers into a snowfall of pink around his desk, disrupted class, was rude. By Christmas, I was getting weekly calls from his teacher. Having just been laid off from my job, I offered to come in and shadow him, I could understand her frustration in trying to teach 17 other kids while my son was putting on a three ring circus. My husband and I spoke to him about his behavior, spoke with his teacher – there were a lot of things not working in the situation.
I don’t want to place the blame solely on the school, teacher or my son; but the situation was not healthy, and something needed to change. We tried having him moved to the other first grade, but that was not an option. I looked at the local public school, given that we are in a highly rated district, it seemed only right to do my “homework.” The principle was lovely and even mentioned one of his kids was leaving traditional schooling for a cyber school. For a variety of reasons, the public school was not the right choice for us. The parochial school we’d come to view as a second home, was not working either.
So we fell back into the option we’d discussed nine years earlier – homeschooling. I spoke to friends who homeschooled. Pieces fell into place and between the start of Christmas break of 2011 and January of 2012, we withdrew our son from school, enrolled him as a self paced student in a local cyber school (we are able to use the Calvert School curriculum through PA Cyber and really enjoy it) and joined Classical Conversations. After a month, my husband and I could see the changes in our son. After two, I knew I wanted to bring my other kids home too. In a rare show of thoughtful planning, I kept them in their school (where they were thriving) through the ’11-’12 school year to give me time to organize our lives to fully embrace what it means to “homeschool.”
We are nearing the end of the ’12-’13 school year, my first full year homeschooling all three bigs while keeping our two littles from destroying our house. My children will be finishing their current grades about 3 months early and moving onto next year’s. We are formal learners, I do make them sit down and practice spelling, do math drills, read about history and science. But we also do live learning. They add the cost of the items in our grocery cart – mentally. We’ve read the adaptations of the Iliad and the Odyssey by Rosemary Sutcliff. We identify leaves, bugs and animals into their proper classifications of living things (Kingdom, Phylum,
Class, Order, Species – if you were wondering). While we’ve always been a family of readers, the word “voracious” and “book worm” and “put down that dang book and do your chores” are also ways I can describe their reading habits. We pray together as a family more; we pray to be diligent in our studies, kind in our actions, we pray for mommy’s patience to be as boundless as her opportunities to exercise it. Ahem.
Homeschooling is not to be jumped into lightly, but when you embrace it whole heartedly, there is a peace to be found in the chaos unlike any other. You can follow our adventures at ActualMom.