Monday, October 3, 2011

Education @ Its Best

I am part of an elite group.  I'm in my not so mid-30's and loved being home-schooled as a child.  That in itself is not so rare but, now I've chosen to send my own children to public school.  I have many friends who home-school their children; I have a couple of friends from my youth who were taught at home but, there are not many who made my same decision.  This leads to questions by all; I'm asked by public and home schoolers alike, "So, you are raising your kids in the same town where you grew up (I know, a little pathetic but the best choice for us), you seem to have turned out okay; Why are you not home-schooling your own kids?"  I respond with slightly different statements and various depth depending on with whom I am talking but, here is the reality:

Home-schooling in the 80's
I was taught at home from 3rd-8th grade.  My little family was a bit of modern day vagabonds and rarely stayed in one house terribly long.  We didn't move far, but we moved often.  I was unbearably shy at school; I was small and one of the youngest in the class.  I couldn't go to the bathroom during the day because that involved raising my hand.  By 3rd grade, I still couldn't read.  We were set for a new school (ours closed) and my mom pulled me (and my younger sister) out.  My parents felt like I was a bright kid but that I wasn't able to learn in the public education environment. 

My mom and dad were right.  Under my mom's nearly undivided tutelage, soon I became an avid reader and devoured library books.  I journaled and genuinely learned to love academia.  My mom is a very disciplined woman (a huge under-statement); she made sure that we were getting our scholastic education, physical activity, music, art, and socialization (mostly church).  We moved a couple more times while I was home-schooled.  I was always led to believe that it was my choice to be taught at home or go to public school.  I even went to middle school classes with a friend one day to see if I thought it would be a better fit for me.  I quickly decided no.  I would have died a slow and painful death in middle school.

By high school, I was much more confident and my very competent Mom was feeling like she could no longer give me the kind of education that I deserved.  We all decided that going to public high school was best for me.  I won't lie.  The first 2 years were a really hard adjustment period.  The days were long.  The home-work was insufferable.  I couldn't believe that kids learned by listening to hour long lectures.  Tests were frustrating because I really didn't know how to study.  The halls and the lockers were over-whelming.  The lunch room was insanity.  By junior year, I had down a system; I spent a lot of time in the library where it was quiet and orderly.  I figured out how to study.  I didn't have a ton of friends but a couple of close friends and a couple of very surface friends and dated only a bit.  My senior year, I met the boy who would eventually become my beloved DH (he spent hours in the library because that is where I was... but that love story is for another day).

I went off to college and flourished.  I took classes that challenged me.  I found professors who inspired me to think.  For the first time ever, I felt like I really fit in.  I had a very dear friend as well as large groups of good friends.  I took part in debates and raised my hand and took risks.  I studied hard and earned partial academic scholarships.  I wrote the column for the student run newspaper and was a literary editor for the yearbook.  I absolutely loved college; the adjustment period was long over.

The decision for my own children was challenging.  I believe that often times children get a much more well-rounded education at home, I certainly did.  There is way more support now and it is more socially acceptable than it was in the 80's.  There are more appropriate field trips.  How better to study the constitution than with a trip to DC? or mammals than with a quick ride to the zoo?  That said, it takes a special kind of parent and a certain kind of child as well.  It is hard to get a balanced interpersonal education at home; often kids don't have the opportunity to try and fail in a safe environment, without a parent there to bail them out.  Obviously the lists of pros and cons of each were enormous but nearly equally balanced for me.  In the end, my DH and I decided to follow a similar path to mine.  We want to believe in public education and we want our kids to be a part of it, that said, if they were drowning, we would rescue them.

Our Dear Son begs to be taught at home.  He loves the order and consistency of home.  He hated his adorably sweet and nurturing preschool (we skipped 3 year-old because he wasn't even close to emotionally ready).  In half-day Kindergarten, he was so out of sorts that I kept him home at least one day a week.  By 1st grade it was 2 or 3 times a month, and now (5th grade), it is just a few Mental Health days a year.  My very bright DS feels that it is a waste of time to learn something over and over again that he already knows.  He feels like he could get his work done in less than half the time if he didn't need to wait for the slowest person in the class.  He is right!  That said, my goal is to raise my children to be functioning adults with purpose and integrity.  In his case, he needs to experience how to relate in a world that isn't always organized and tailor-made for him.  He is not shy.  He is not floundering.  He is more than a bit unmotivated, but that is not reason enough to teach him at home, in fact, that is probably a reason to keep him in public school.

Our Dear Daughter frankly needs the socialization.  She would wither at home rather than bloom like she is now.  Academically she is not as quick as our DS but she works hard, tries her best, doesn't need much special help, and socially miles ahead.  She makes friends everywhere she goes.  She loves her teachers, the staff, her peers, and school in general.  While I was pushing our screaming 4 year old DS into preschool, our 2 year old DD was grasping the door-frame so she wouldn't have to leave (those were not the greatest of days).  I can't imagine how stifling it would be for her to spend her days locked like a princess in a tower here.

I know we are doing the right thing for our family, but many times, I wish that I was home-schooling them, especially when they've had rough days.  I know that I have the required discipline, organization, creativity, and usually patience (particularly when I'm not divided with my job).  I love spending time with my kids and cry inside on Mondays when I need to send them back to school.  I read my home-school friends' blogs and a pang of regret runs through me.  That said, we have dear friends and extraordinary teachers that my kids would not have experienced without this decision.  My children have learned lessons that I am totally incapable of teaching; and I make sure that my time with them teaches them what our public schools are totally unequipped to teach... about our values, unconditional love, balance, respect, integrity, moderation, etc. 

In the end, a challenging decision with no right or wrong, not easier or harder, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.  In my personal situation, I would not be the happy, independent, confident adult that I am today without my own Dear Mother's dedication to teaching me at home...  and with that... I give an enormous Thank You... to Her (and my Dad)... and to all the dear home-schooling parents.  Most likely, someday (probably not today), your kids will thank you from the very bottom of their heart.

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting to hear your perspective! You know your kids so well, and it's neat that you are open to home-schooling or public school. As always, your parenting always puts your kids' best interests first.