Monday, April 7, 2014

Lies That Kept Me From Homeschooling

My family has recently made the decision to switch from public school to homeschooling, beginning in the fall of 2014. It was not a decision made lightly, but it was certainly a decision that came as a shock to my friends and family. Some of them are downright laughing at me- not because I have had anything against homeschooling (and not because they have anything against it), but simply because I was pretty convinced that I would never want to do it. HS has always been on the table for me, but I have taken a "one year at a time" approach to it. As long as public school was working, I didn't need to torture myself. This year has made me see differently. Between new school policies, CRCT and common core, issues with teachers and other kids, PS doesn't seem like the healthy option for my kids anymore. I've done a lot of research, read a lot of blogs and articles, spoken with a lot of homeschooling moms, and one thing throughout all of this has become abundantly clear: I have been lying to myself about my abilities and my expectations.

Since I have shared the news with my friends, I am suddenly in the very humorous position of having to defend homeschooling. The girl who was so adamantly convinced that it would take a miracle to change her mind is now talking up the merits to other people. Seriously, it's a riot to my closest friends. The only thing I've got going for me is that I never said I would NEVER homeschool. At least I'm not a complete hypocrite!

It's astounding how many people I've talked to who seem to be very interested in HS but think that they can't do it, for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons are lies they are telling themselves- I know, because I told myself the same things. I decided, as a recent miraculous convert, to list some of the things that either kept me from HS or have served as an excuse for others. If you are on the fence about pulling your kids out of school, perhaps these lessons I've learned and these excuses that have been proven to be lies will help you make up your mind.

1. I'm not patient enough.
This is my #1 go-to excuse. I am not a patient person. This is a well-known fact among my friends and family- and my kids. I guess I sort of had it in my head that HS moms are a special breed of women- women who don't yell, who find infinite joy in messy houses and chaos and craft projects, women who love to listen to the same book over and over again and who don't completely lose their cool over anything. Me... I am not that woman. Homework time at my house can be enough to turn me into Mommy Dearest. Where I once envisioned doing countless craft projects with my little princess, now I know I am too much of a perfectionist to really make that dream a reality. I have a hard time with schoolwork errors that could have been corrected if my kids had simply taken the time to recheck their work. And my biggest mommy secret: I hate reading to my kids almost as much as I hate listening to my kids read to me. It drives me insane.
Since I have started researching, though, I have discovered that MOST OTHER HS MOMS ARE JUST LIKE ME. None of them are perfect. Many of them are honest about where they struggle with the HS process. The difference is that they have learned to embrace it, to take their weaknesses and turn them into teachable moments, to work through those weaknesses to make themselves better moms. I have always said that God would really have to change my heart in order for me to consider HS- and He has. Completely. I trust that He will give me and my kids what we need each day to thrive in this new family dynamic. If I try to compare myself to other homeschooling moms, or just other moms in general, I will come up short- always. That's okay. There's grace for that. Part of parenting is dying to self- doing things that are hard or uncomfortable simply because it is what is good for your kids or your family. Change and growth happens when you die to self. I may hate reading to my kids, but I do it because it is good for them. I may think that I am not patient enough to homeschool, but they are my kids and my responsibility. I can give them what they need to thrive without driving myself insane in the process.



2. I'm not smart enough.
This is a huge one. I think that we as moms tend to think of ourselves as "less than" in many ways, so figuring out if we can really teach our kids is a huge stumbling block in our decision about how to educate them. I know that it seems like teachers go to school to learn how to teach our kids everything they will ever need to know- and really, how do you compete with that? I don't have a teaching degree. How in the world am I equipped to teach my kids?
A lot of what teachers learn in school is classroom management, legalities of teaching, and other things that don't even apply to homeschooling. I won't have a classroom of 28 kids to manage, nor will I have kids with a variety of disorders and learning styles to cater to. I don't have to figure out how to meet Common Core standards. All it takes is one email from the teacher with a misspelled word to tell me that teachers are just as fallible as I am. They may have gotten a teaching degree, but they still have their strengths and weaknesses- just like I do. My daughter's teacher told me a couple of weeks ago that she could teach math all day long, but when it comes to parts of speech, she has to do a major crash course before she teaches the kids! That teaching degree doesn't ensure that they know everything there is to know. Teachers also have teaching guides and a variety of teaching resources at their hands to help them- and so do you.
The scope and variety of curriculum out there for HS is astounding. You have everything from textbooks to DVD teaching to online schools. Co-ops, classes, actual schools where the kids go for one or two days while you reinforce at home are also options. If you can't do math very well, there are so many ways to ensure that your children learn what they need to know- ways that fit your family and your child as an individual. HS seems like a very singular endeavor, but it isn't at all. There is a ton of support and a ton of resources out there to help you. If you want to teach your kids, you CAN do it. It doesn't matter if you are a dunce at geometry- there is a curriculum out there to help you and your child to thrive in a HS setting. Even better? You get to learn right alongside your kids. Dianne Flynn Keith says, “We can get too easily bogged down in the academic part of homeschooling, a relatively minor part of the whole, which is to raise competent, caring, literate, happy people.” This is so true! You may not be as good as a public school teacher at English, but there is no one better to teach your child the truly important things. 

3. What about socialization?
Ah, socialization. That go-to buzz word used by adults any time they hear that someone is taking the drastic step of pulling their kids out of school. How in the world will your kids ever learn to be around PEOPLE if you homeschool? I used to think the same thing, honestly- but I think that it is because I misunderstood what socialization means. I also think that we tend to greatly misunderstand what homeschooling is like. We have a picture in our head of a mom and her kids around a table, holed up in their house day after day with absolutely no interaction with the outside world. This just isn't an accurate representation of what most homeschoolers look like. The average homeschooler is involved in groups and co-ops, plays sports, has friends in their neighborhood/church/homeschool group. They go on field trips and volunteer in their communities. They learn how to speak and interact with adults. The people they are surrounded with often share similar family values and interests. Somehow, though, we hold public school up as our shining example of socialization. A great deal of public school is teaching the kids in your class how to walk in a straight line without talking, how to not interrupt, how to sit correctly during story time, etc. (Don't believe me? Hit up the Education section of Pinterest. It will open your eyes.) They sit in a classroom all day long with little time for anything but the most superficial of interactions because a teacher has a great deal of information to impart and not a lot of time to teach it. Kids have 25 minutes for lunch and 20 minutes for recess- the only "social" times of the day, really, and even those social times are limited by the behavior of the class. Think about it: some teachers make their kids sit in alphabetical or boy/girl order at lunch. A lot of teachers take away recess time as a punishment for infractions or for unfinished work. Their social time is greatly limited in these instances. Because of the varying types of family dynamics/ethics/beliefs, kids are likely to walk away from interactions at school with new bad habits, information you don't want them to know/talk about, or hurt feelings. I live in a community where a majority of the kids come from a wealthy subdivision. A lot of these kids are very clique-y, and tend to exclude other children. Some of them are downright mean. Socialization in public school often leads to bullying and self-esteem issues. That is not to say that all social interactions in PS are bad; indeed, my kids have made some great friends. However, a lot of their interactions with other kids have been less than pleasant. My kids will be taking Spanish classes next year at a co-op. They are in Girl and Boy Scouts. They play sports. They have a ton of friends who are HS. Socialization is the least of my worries.

4. If I have to be with my kids all day long every day with no break, I will kill myself.
When one of my closest friends recently informed me that she was pulling her son out of school, this is exactly what I told her. Not without humor, mind you, but still. Sending my kids to school gives me a break during the day to grocery shop, clean, run errands, meet friends, and do all of the other things it is hard to do with kids in tow. I think about how horrible the hours of 4pm to 6pm are, with homework/dinner/dog walking/sports competing for our time and attention, and I wonder how in the world I would be able to do that all day long every day without hurting someone. My friend then told me something that really opened my eyes: In our state, you are only required to provide 4.5 hours of educational instruction per day. WHAT?? But kids go to school for seven hours! How is this possible? I guess when you take out the amount of non-instructional time involved in classroom management for 25+ kids, this is about right. What this essentially means, though, is that if we start "class" at 8am, we can be done with EVERYTHING by 1pm. This gives us the rest of the day for naps/rest time, outside play, cleaning/chores, errands, reading, etc. We won't have homework eating up our evenings after 7 hours in a classroom- we will be done.
For me, this put a whole new spin on homeschooling. This would still provide me with a lot of flexibility and freedom. This will give my kids more time to just be kids. This will give us time to develop a stronger relationship than weekends and a couple of strained hours every evening currently provide. Am I still giving up kid-free shopping? Yes... unless I wait for the weekend or go when my husband gets home from work. Am I giving up impromptu coffee dates with friends? Yes... unless we hit the playground together for some adult and kid socialization. As an introvert, I will have to be very careful about ensuring I get time away from my kids each day, even for just a little while, in order to recharge my batteries. This will be a challenge. We are already facing a lot of challenges, though, so really it will just be a DIFFERENT challenge.

5. Homeschooling is too expensive.
This can be true. Curriculum can be very expensive. If you have more than one child, it can be EXTREMELY expensive... depending on the curriculum you use. Again, there are a lot of options out there, ranging from free to costly. The curriculum I am looking at (for everything but math/science) is free online, except for the cost of books (literature). If you are allowing cost to stand as a barrier in your decision about whether or not to educate your kids at home, let's do a little bit of math. I have three kids. At the beginning of the year, I am asked to provide a huge list of necessary school supplies, both for my kids and for the classrooms. Let's say that that equals about $75 per kid. Then, of course, they will need new clothes that follow school guidelines. I shop at consignment sales and buy clothes when they go on sale at stores, but this can be costly- especially when you buy specific and trendy brands/styles. Let's say, on the very cheap side, $100 per kid twice a year. All of the kids at our school are asked to buy class t-shirts at $10 a pop. So far we are up to $855, and the year has just begun. Then along come school pictures- $25 per kid for the cheap package. Class parties and activities? Let's say $20 per kid for all of the various food/treats/valentines/goody bags/book swaps we are asked to provide for. Then you have teacher gifts, ranging from a few dollars to $25 or more depending on family income. We have 5 teachers this year, so let's say between teacher gifts and teacher appreciation week, our total comes to about $20 per teacher... that's $100. Then there are field trips... My kids typically have three or four a year. I'd say that equals about $40 per kid, depending on the field trip... so $120 for our family. $30 yearbooks (and we only buy one). Book fair? $10 per kid. School fundraisers? Bingo night? Jump Rope for Heart? Fall festival? Add another $150 on there. We are up to $1,390. My son really wanted to do Chess Club this year, so that was $120 PLUS $8 per day for needing to be in the afterschool program in order to attend Chess Club. That's $200. That's the only afterschool activitiy we could afford to do at school, but many families do way more than that. Then lunch. Kids have to eat, of course. Whether or not we send lunches or buy lunch, it still comes out to about $10 per week for each kid. That's $30 per week in food costs at school. Minus breaks, that is about 36 weeks... so $1,080 on food alone. We are now up to $2,670. Let's add in another $20 per kid for incidentals, like spirit week/school stores/etc. Oh, and ice cream. Every Friday kids at our school can buy ice cream for .50... so at $1.50 per week, that is $54. This brings our grand total up to $2,784 for a year of free public school that is paid for by our taxes. For almost $3k I am paying for my kids to attend a school where they are exposed to a curriculum I don't agree with, subjected to standardized tests that don't accurately represent who they are, placed in classes with children who hit/punch/kick/defecate in the classrooms because of inclusion policies, sit alongside kids call them names or impart "wisdom" I don't want my kids to know yet, and are at the mercy every day of other people bringing weapons to school. Your total will look different than mine, but let's face it: public school is not free. It's not even cheap. It might be a steal compared to private school, but  we need to step back and figure out the cost of educating our kids that has nothing to do with money. I could put that $3k to better use educating my kids at home, and without paying the heavy social/emotional price that we are paying now.

6. But I don't want my kids to be weird.
We all know the "weird" homeschool kids. They are sort of a punchline. A joke. "Oh, you were homeschooled? THAT explains a lot." I suppose that sometimes homeschooled kids can be weird. There ARE parents who stay at home all the time and never expose their kids to anything, and their kids might not know how to interact in a way that seems "normal" to us. Perhaps, though, we should stop seeing "weird" as a bad word. Perhaps some kids are just destined to be weird, whether or not they are homeschooled. We use the term "weird" to describe anything different than our experience... and, unfortunately, this is both an unfair label and a gross misunderstanding. Gifted children are "weird" to kids and parents who don't understand what being gifted might look like. Kids with learning disorders, kids with sensory issues, kids on the autism spectrum- they all get labeled as "weird". Kids who like something different than their peers are "weird". Little boys with My Little Pony backpacks and little girls who like football are "weird". When things don't fit into a specific type of mold, it makes us uncomfortable. Public school is all about trying to conform kids to a correct type of "normal". I don't want kids who conform. I want kids who think for themselves, who are free to learn how they learn best and be the best version of themselves possible. I want kids who are comfortable in their own skin and have their own passions and who aren't labeled according to what other kids and adults think is normal. Weird kids turn into amazing adults- and if being "weird" is the price my family pays to create amazing adults, that's okay with me. I'll take the weird kids.

7. But isn't it better for my kids to be in school than at home with me?
I guess this one pretty much sums up all of the other points. When public school is our experience, it seems like the best experience or even the only correct experience. This holds true in a lot of circumstances. My family has had a couple of experiences concerning unhealthy churches. We were extremely involved in these churches- happy to volunteer, to serve, to invite others, to espouse the merits of how they do things. I was even on staff at one of these churches. Then something would happen and our eyes would be opened to what we were exposing ourselves to: Unsound doctrine. Works-vs-grace mentality. Staff abuse. Mismanagement. Ungodly leaders. Even so, because it was what we were comfortable with, we would try to stick it out and hope that things would get better. They didn't. It wasn't until after we left that we could see how bad things REALLY were- and what a blessing it was that our eyes were opened.
Leaving public school, for me, is just like leaving an unhealthy church. It has worked for us, it has been okay for us, but it wasn't until this year that my eyes were really opened to just how bad things are getting. I am not okay with the government telling teachers how and what to teach. I am not okay with Common Core or changing dynamics of what is appropriate and necessary for kids to learn. I am not okay with any kind of curriculum that doesn't take into account learning styles and differences. I am not okay with my daughter's teacher telling us, "Do not teach your kids a different way to do multiplication because they HAVE to learn it the way I teach them." I am not okay with my daughter's teacher yelling at her class because they "HAVE to learn it this way because it is the BEST way!" I am not okay with a school dictating what kinds of values my kids should have. I am not okay with my kids spending seven hours in a classroom and then another hour on homework. I am not okay with my kids accidentally calling me by their teacher's name or them accidentally calling their teacher "Mommy". I am not okay with my kids' school performance and intelligence being dictated by a standardized test. I am not okay with my kindergartner's class being held hostage by one little boy with autism who cannot have anyone walk by his desk or interrupt him, who defecates in the classroom trash can and suffers no punishment for his daily physical abuse of his peers. I am not okay with my kindergartner losing recess time because he forgot to put his name on his paper. Things that might have made me uncomfortable at one time have now become deal-breakers for me. Is this the environment in which I expect my children to thrive, more so than at home? Not anymore. I really like the quote from John Holt that says, “What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all.” 
I have received a lot of encouragement from a lot of different people, but the most encouraging thing I've heard was said to me by my second grader's teacher. I decided to schedule conferences with my kids' teachers before the year is over just to let them know what we are planning and to see where my kids are academically (to see if their teachers had any views on areas of struggle my kids might have). I was expecting censure from all of our teachers about our decision, but have instead received a lot of support. After telling me how wonderfully my son is doing and how he doesn't seem to struggle with anything except his perfectionist tendencies (he comes by that honestly!), his teacher looked me in the face and said, "We will really miss him here next year- but I don't blame you a bit. If I could afford to be at home, I'd homeschool too."

8. But I just don't know if I can do it.
You can. If it is important enough to you, you can do it. Like I said earlier, we are dealing with education one year at a time. Homeschooling is our next route. If that doesn't work for us, we will figure out something else- but I have to be willing to try to do it. I have to be the person that says, "I don't care how uncomfortable it makes me- if this is what is best for my kids, this is what I am going to do." God can change hearts, and God can give you what you need in order to do what you need to do. Trust in that. I will never be the mom that says that homeschooling is best for everyone. It's not. NOTHING is best for everyone. Chances are, though, if your heart is telling you that you should but you are letting any of the excuses on this list stop you, homeschooling might just be the right option for you. In his book Homeschooling: A Family's Journey, Gregory Millman stated, "We want our children to become who they are--- and a developed person is, above all, free. But freedom as we define it doesn't mean doing what you want. Freedom means the ability to make choices that are good for you. It is the power to choose to become what you are capable of becoming, to develop your unique potential by making choices that turn possibility into reality. It is the ability to make choices that actualize you. As often as not, maybe more often than not, this kind of freedom means doing what you do not want, doing what is uncomfortable or tiring or boring or annoying.” 

 Be open to the challenges, struggles, growth, changes and blessings it has to offer you and your family without comparing yourself to other people or believing lies about your abilities. God gave you your kids for a reason. If this is what He is asking you to do, you CAN do it. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13

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14 comments:

Cameron said...

I fought with all those lies myself before making the decision to homeschool. Be encouraged, Mama! You're not alone!

~Cameron
http://www.southernmotherhood.com

Carrie said...

What an exciting time for you & your family! I too left the public school system for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line was it wasn't working for our family & I felt we deserved better. I realized I could either complain or do something about it. Despite the hard days of homeschooling, I feel so much better having done something immediately productive for our family. When I started homeschooling we had 3 children. I loved how work was usually completed before other children were home from school & I appreciated my husband's comment that our home actually felt more peaceful.

So that is my hope for you. I hope that although it will feel like it is a chaotic & crazy change at times that your ability to control your chaos will bring a new layer of peace & contentment over your home.

Many Blessings,
Carrie

Latisha said...

I am tripping over all of these things as well - even though I was homeschooled myself and know the value of it. This has been very encouraging to me. I have begun to worry about many of the same issues with PS, and have been praying about it. Not only do I need to be convinced myself, but my husband would need to do a 180 as well.

Latisha
confessionsofamartha.blogspot.com

Heidi Brachle said...

Thought provoking for sure. My oldest is finishing up Kindergarten in PS. I struggle with some of these thoughts when I think about the years ahead. Her PS is really great right now, but I'm all too aware that as she gets older PS may not be the best for her. I was home-schooled through my freshman year of high school and we participated in a co-op. I really struggled in math and the teacher in my co-op that was supposed to help me and tutor me, had daughters that didn't like me, so he found every reason to give me as little help as possible to just pass me along. By the time I went to a private high school, I was lacking in enough foundation high school math that it prevented me from taking further math classes and I had to supplement my math credits with basic business math. Anyway, I think I've been gun shy about HS because of my experience. We too take each year as it comes and plan to school each child as they need. I pray that I will have courage to do whatever God calls us to in the education of our children.

I'm thankful you shared your process because I think there is a general idea that HS moms do have it all together and honestly sometimes HS moms seem really intimidating. May God grant you all the grace you need to teach your children well this next year.

Heidi

Hilarie said...

Oh my goodness - I could have written this post!!! We, too, are planning to pull our kids from public school next year. My husband (not me) is concerned about them being "weird" or unsocialized. (Although I plan to join a co-op that we've already visited, so that negates most of his arguments on those points.) I'm concerned about my lack of patience and the fact that I'm an introvert who NEEDS quiet and alone time. (And the fact that I work from home!) But I believe it's what God has put on my heart, so I'll trust him to use me and mold me into the teacher my kids deserve.

Anonymous said...

Confirmation. THANK YOU!

mena1119 said...

I think what your going through is completely normal and I think that God will bless this next chapter of your lives. We had the same exact feelings as you had and I was so sacred, but I was so blessed and found the most amazing tutor program/ school that my son goes to once a week. We love it and what once was the worse thing in his life has turned into the best day of the week! We do classical conversations and I have a NEW SON!!! His bad attitude towards school has completely disappeared...PRAISE the Lord!!! Praying for yall :-)

mena1119 said...

Scared ... not sacred...hate my phone. Lol.

Karen said...

Your post is so timely. We are considering taking our now 1st grader out of a wonderful private Christian school for a year to homeschool her. I actually used the word "never" when I would talk to my HS friends, but I think she needs a year off from the pressures of the school environment. She's smart and likes school, but it's just too much right now. With one or two exceptions, every objection was one I shared. The Lord has been revealing to me where each one was a lie. What a great analysis you did!

I would only like to add one thing. That little boy with autism....his parents are probably more frustrated than you are right now with PS - but it's their only option. Here's the reality - you could punish him by beating him till the cows come home for hurting other kids and it won't stop it. He can't. He needs support and his family needs prayer. I know - We spent over $75000 in legal fees trying to get our autistic daughter the right services in public school. When we won - and she got what by law the school was required to provide-all the bad behavior stopped. So while that environment is awful for the other kids and their families, please know that it is 1000 times worse than that for this child and his family.

This Mom's Heart said...

Thanks for the comment. My heart goes out to that little boy and his parents for sure. I'm aware of autism and how hard it is on families. I don't, however, have to leave my own child in a classroom to be exposed to those things or to be hit and kicked because the little boy can't help it. Several times the whole class has had to come to a standstill because of this little boy, and the other kids in the class have had to be gathered in the back of the classroom or elsewhere. It's a hard situation for everyone, but I can take steps to make it easier on my own child, which is my responsibility. I don't lack compassion- I just don't have to continue in that environment.

Anne said...

Best of luck !!

I made the decision 5 years ago and haven't looked back once. I couldn't imagine doing anything else now.

http://101daysofhomeschooling.blogspot.com/

Kaylene said...

"I'm not patient enough." We homeschool as well & I think this crosses my mind every day. But like you said, If its important enough, you can do it! :) Thank you for this encouragment! I needed it!

Boogaboo said...

Thank you for your insight. I am considering homeschooling my second grader next year and I have some similar concerns. I appreciate you.

Tiffany Johnson said...

I really enjoyed reading your post! I have to be honest: I have had a bad taste in my mouth for the topic of HS, only because a family member chose to go this route which resulted in blatant disrespect of OUR decision to have our kiddos in PS (and their blatant bashing of public schools...even directly to my very impressionable children.) In addition, other family members have chosen to "side" with their choice, therefore my husband and I are not supported in any way with our choice to have our children in public school. We cannot discuss what our children are learning in school, or mention activities that they are doing, or we are met with a very negative comment about what a waste of time that must be. It is very frustrating and has become very divisive in our family. We are supportive of them making the decision, and have never stated anything negative what-so-ever. I just wish that in the same way they (and the rest of the extended family) would respect our decision to have our kids in PS. We moved from a town that we loved, because we did not agree with the way our daughter was being taught. We prayed over and over about our decision, and know that we made the right choice to move to a school we knew was amazing. My apologies for rambling, but I just had to say thank you, thank you, for your kindness and grace in how you wrote this post. I wish more mothers spoke with love to all of us that are trying to raise our children in the best way possible.