Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Evening Lecture

Lillian and Frank Gilbreth (the parents in Cheaper by the Dozen) would attend lectures for their Saturday evenings dates together.  When I read this part of the book I laughed out loud to Jeremy "Who even hears of lectures these days?  Let alone attends them for pleasure!"   It seems like such a quaint old notion.  But then I actually had to laugh again because I am apparently the "who" that is interested in attending a lecture for pleasure.  I already had planned and-- after being snowed out last week-- we are on for tonight for an evening lecture.

I've asked two experienced homeschooling moms to speak to myself (and all the other people I could interest) about their experiences with homeschooling.    Specifically three things:
  1. Why did you choose to homeschool?
  2. What philosophies or curricula do you use?
  3. What are the goods and bads of homeschooling?
And this isn't a lecture I organized for the sake of curiosity as in "Sure, let's all hear your travel log of your trip to Antarctica since I plan on never going near the place myself."  This lecture was organized for the sake of interest. I'm interested in the option of home based education for my children. 

This isn't a shocking "bet you never thought you'd hear those words come out of my mouth" situation.  In reality I've said on many occasions that I may be interested in homeschool.  I've never been "committed" to the public school system.  The system is a tool, or opportunity, that is there for me to use if I feel it's right.  I felt no need to enroll Owen in a preschool when he turned three.  Feeling like it was certainly within my abilities to teach my own child his ABCs, colors and 123s--I organized a preschool co-op instead.  I was really unsure about putting Owen into the school district preschool for speech services.  We did it because it felt right to us and it turned out to be a great blessing for Owen.

Jeremy and I always knew that we would not simply drop our kids off at school and forget about them.  Jeremy and I each have a day we volunteer in the classroom for reading centers every week.  I also joined the PTO, started attending meetings and got put in charge of classroom parties.  The volunteering for reading time is good, but I previously held some idea that the PTO did more than throw parties for the kids--so it's not quite the same as being "involved" in my son's education other ways. Really I feel like I don't have a clue what Owen is gone doing every day.

Cheaper by the Dozen was a very inspiring example of making the home a place of learning--supplementing school learning with self-motivated "fun" learning.  I also read a great article on my church website about  making the home a House of Learning telling lots of examples of how parents were able to be involved in supplementing their children's school education at home.  After one of the examples the author asks "Were there any conflicts between the home program and the school program? No—the two enhanced each other."

This is not how I feel.  I do feel like there is a conflict.  I think I would be capable of supplementing Owen's education at home--if he was ever at home that is. 

Owen wakes up at 7:20 and after an hour of "Eat your breakfast. Go put some socks on. Find your backpack." we leave the house at 8:20 for school.  We enter the house again 7 hours and 40 minutes later at 4:00pm.  Owen goes to sleep four hours later at 8:00 pm.  An hour of that time home I am in the kitchen getting dinner ready.  An hour (or more) of that time is spend in the "Find your pj's.  Brush your teeth. Get ready for bed." mode.  So that leaves 2 possible hours of our day that might involve quality "happy" time with Owen.  Honestly, in this first year of kindergarten I've come to feel like my life with Owen is already over.  I might as well help him fill out college applications and get him an apartment because he's gone!

But he's my baby!  He's only 5 and that's barely past 4 and I never see him.

It will only get worse.  He doesn't have any homework this year.  But in the coming years he'd get plenty of that too.  And there's always sports teams or music lessons to take up the rest of the time.

But it goes beyond just wanting to actually spend time with my child--I have responsibilities to fulfill as his mother as well.  I have things I'm expected to teach him. Things like good manners, responsibility, and the more important things of God.  But I cannot see where the time for me to teach this can come in our current schedule.  I want to teach my children "meaningful work" and real responsibilities.  Throwing his oatmeal bowl in the sink, and making his bed on the way out the door doesn't really seem all that meaningful to me.  And we need time for family study of the scripture, and Family Home Evenings.   Time for my children to work to develop their own testimonies of the Gospel. Time.

Something I read on a homeschooling blog has really stuck with me.  They were talking about choosing the right homeschooling philosophy/curriculum to base your children's education on, but it can be applied on an even larger scale to base what form of education you give your child.  The questions was, consider the curriculum you want to use--does it reflect your family's values?

My current answer is "No."  I don't mean does public school teach my children my religious beliefs, I mean our values.  Like the value of meaningful work I was talking about.  Another thing we place high value on is our family and family relationships--over so many other things in life.  One of the big problems I'm having with "school" right now it the underlying idea that schools are meant to replace families.Not in a devious way--in fact I'm sure it's a benefit to many children who don't have a stable loving family at home--but not for my child. 

At Owen's school children can be dropped off up to an hour before school for Boys and Girls' club.  Then they can have school breakfast, have lunch and a snack at school, and stay after school again for another hour and a half and have another snack.  So the parents pick up their kid after work, feed them dinner put them to bed, then dress them in the morning and drop them off again at school.  That makes me sad for those kids.  And it makes me sad when Owen asks, "Mom, can I stay after school for Boys and Girls' club?  It's really fun," (as his friends prompt him), because I tell him "No, we missed you and want to spend time with you." 

I've never said that I would homeschool as a rule, because in situations where there is no moral absolute right and wrong I feel it's best to make decisions based on how you feel in the current situation, not based on fear or superstitions you've heard other people talk about.  (This relates to my decision to happily birth naturally in a hospital as well.)  To really do what's right for your child means actually looking at each specific child's needs and desires.  That's why we put Owen into preschool after teaching him at home for a year and a half.  At the time it felt right and we saw the blessings from making that decision.

Public school is no longer feeling completely right for Owen.  I'm not against public schools as a whole--Jeremy and I both came through public education just fine.  And it's definitely nothing against the teachers or faculty.  I love Owen's teacher and think his principle is great too.  I just don't know that this is what we want for Owen right now.  I'm not convinced that homeschool is the one true answer that will save our children either.  I've always been interested in charter schools and other forms of alternative education.  I really think it comes down to each individual child, and the different educational resources that are available at the time.  

But I believe the more educated I am on the subject the better.   So I am excited to attend this lecture tonight and learn what experienced homeschooling mom's have to tell me.   And who knows, maybe one day soon Owen's typical school day will look like this:  Reading good books while his little brother enjoys his company.

What some more food for thought?  A not boring movie questioning traditional schooling: Sir Ken Robinson.

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