People ask me why I homeschool my kids. Used to be, I’d shudder. I didn’t understand why so many were outraged by my choice to pursue this way of educating our children. I didn’t know how hurtful ignorance could be. We are now in the high school years, and I’ve grown accustomed to inevitable questions thrown our way. They can usually be summed up in these three questions:
1. What makes you qualified to teach your children? In other words, ‘How dare you think that you could do better than a certified professional?’
2. What about socialization? (My all-time favorite.)
3. Do you intend for them to pursue college?
Used to be, I’d become very defensive about these. Who was anyone to question my intentions with regards to my children? Why so interested?
I’ve attempted to answer these in many ways, at varying times along our homeschool timeline. But, sometime along the way, I realized that I wasn’t answering these questions for them. I was answering these for me. And, that’s when I stopped with all the questions.
Nowadays, when I sense one of these bullet questions in my line of fire, I simply turn away. I don’t run. I don’t hide. I simply turn toward those who ask the right kinds of questions: “How are you?” “How can I support what you’re doing?”
Wednesday morning was a time for us to acknowledge our God, in all that He provides us. For many, this is an uncomfortable statement, to say and to hear. For me, this statement has come by way of great struggle and resistance. I wasn’t the kind of homeschooling mom whose faith sat easily in my being. Sure, I grew up as a Christian. Even raised in a family whose grandfather was a priest–Sryian Orthodox, to be specific. But, that didn’t stop me from leading a life paradoxical to my upbringing.
I allowed several cultural influences into my life and proudly carried each and every one of them as a sign of accomplishment. I was an independent being, supremely capable of taking care of myself…and later, my family.
Then, a drastic shift in my life-choice occurred. I began to listen outside of myself. I learned through others–particularly from my fellow homeschooling moms–that there is someone greater than us. Yep. He got me. I learned I could openly welcome Him into my life and not feel like I was the “weird” one; the naiive mom who schools her kids and loves it when they are the ones who remind me of God’s love and acceptance. That to call myself a Christian takes more than simply going to church and saying Grace at the Thanksgiving table. Calling myself a Christian means taking a risk. Stepping out of my comfort zone. Pleasing God over others.
‘Prayer at the Pole,’ Wednesday, allowed we homeschooling moms to see, first-hand, how God blesses us. Our teens were in charge of the event. We watched them assemble around the flag pole; read Scripture; pray, not only for themselves but for those who couldn’t; and best of all, play and sing music for His praise. It was the best kind of school.
Playing For God
SCHOOLING-FOR-HOURSMy sister, who lives in Lakewood (a lakeside suburb of Cleveland and my birthplace), has a grandson who hates school, primarily because it’s difficult for him, given his learning difficulties and insufficient home and school attention in providing him with, what I consider, an education which utilizes his strengths to help him overcome his difficulties.Given that I continue to work, professionally, with kids and adults with learning difficulties, and that I have a son with such, news today from my sister about his school’s “abandonment” of him by stating that they cannot provide him with any help, and on top of that, that he needs medication (because, frankly, that’s what so many school teachers recommend when they can’t figure out how to really help a child) not only disappointed me, but was expected.I said as much, last night, when she called me to ask if I’d, yet again, participate in a conference call about her grandson’s situation. He’s nearly 12 years old and in dire need of a new home environment–one like mine, for which we’ve offered. He stayed with us last Spring for a week, and I “homeschooled” him, evaluating what he could and couldn’t do well and providing my sister with a detailed written report, which was shown and discussed at the conference meeting a few weeks following.That conference call was insightful in two ways. One: I noted, by several of the special ed. teachers’ responses, that nothing has changed in the last twenty-eight years I’ve been practicing. Two: The motto seemed to have been: Blame the parent. Take little, if any, responsibility as a teacher for the child’s deficits and behaviours. Act like a middle schooler, by rolling one’s eyes and taking a defensive tone, when someone outside of the school system challenges an ideology manifested in old behaviour modification protocols–something I’d been taught many moons ago and had tossed into the trash can the first year out of school.The fact that I was a stay-at-home mom and homeschooling my children seemed to have ratcheted up the defensive quotient for some in that room, namely the special ed. teachers. So, when my sister had called me last night to ask me to participate, I declined.I knew the outcome without ever needing to be present to witness it. When the teachers’ methods of “teaching” a child to conform, i.e., sit still at a desk for hours upon hours, and if he doesn’t, then put him in a solitary room until he “calms down,” and they perform this ritual everyday from the start of school, then is it any wonder that this child continues to fall further and further behind? This school program was supposed to be specifically designed to help kids with behaviour and learning difficulties, and, yet, nothing was acheived. Hands were thrown up and medication recommendations pronounced.Now, I want to add here that he doesn’t live with my sister, even though she has legal guardianship of him; rather, he lives with Kaukab. Without going into details, because this isn’t the place and it’s too complicated, I will only say that it’s not good. In fact, it’s pretty horrible.There is this disconnect between what the child needs and what schools can or are willing to provide. Yes, parental participation is vital. I’d be the first to say. But, why is it that too many teachers want to dismiss an alternative idea about how to best teach a child who isn’t equipped to learn in a traditional way, at least, not at first? When they become aware of new information about a child’s strengths and interests, such as art, as is the case of my sister’s grandson, then why not use that to help make a better education plan?My sister called me shortly after this morning’s meeting to tell me what I already knew. When she mentioned to them about me and my homeschooling activities as they might pertain to her grandson, the resounding response was summed up in this quote, “How does she homeschool them? Does she have them at desks and spend eight hours a day teaching them?, as if by not doing so, he would fail to be educated. The irony would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.
Drummer boy had been sick over the weekend and it was pretty evident that school today would be short-lived for him. Driver boy seemed to think that if his brother was to do less schooling today then he, too, might be able to do the same.You would think that for as long as we’ve been schooling at home and that this wasn’t the first time anyone has been ill, that driver boy might have pondered the question a bit longer before posing the ridiculous to his sage mother.The stupendous thing about homeschooling the kids is that no matter how sick they are, there’s always a way to insert some school into their day. Today was no exception. Lying on the couch, with a roll of toilet paper nearby, allowed drummer boy to listen (along with his brother) to me read and discuss the history lesson. He even managed to read some of his book, “Pure Gold,” a biography on Eric Liddell–think Chariots of Fire–and do a lesson on pronouns. I had briefly talked about various parts of speech, along with some children’s books on the subject, when they were younger, and have always discussed grammar while doing actual writing, but since they’re now in the ninth grade, I’ve decided to buy into the notion of knowing specific grammar terminology–if only a little. One has to compromise a little, I suppose.As driver boy contemplated the awaiting school day over his morning cereal, thoughts of Christmas break swirled above his mischievous head.
Friday was our monthly Speak-Up day, where various homeschoolers come together to give a “show-and-tell” about everything and anything. I always look forward to these, because a.) it relieves me of much actual school to do, b.) I never know what I’m going to learn from these kids, and c.) lunch out is a part of this day, followed by ice skating, which most moms don’t partake in, but rather sit by the fire and talk about, what else(?)–school.Well, Friday’s event didn’t disappoint. Not in the least. In fact, I think it had been one of our most varied. Here’s a sketch of what we had presented:1. a beautiful wooden model of a catapult, built by a boy of 12yrs. and his father2. a live chicken, with teeny eggs, raised and presented by catapult-boy’s younger sister3. piano playing4. a knitting history and presentation of various knitting stitches, courtesy of violin girl5. poetry6. Bible triviaPretty fun, don’t you agree?This is why I love homeschooling so much. It’s so nice to see so many students of different ages and backrounds teach one another and given so much support for their efforts. Blessed are we.
Had attended a Cantata last night in which violin girl performed, and afterward, we had all gathered in the church’s reception area for some refreshments. All was good. I sat at a table with some of the other musicians, along with said violin girl. As I was noshing on some lovely Christmas cookies and orange-y cheese ball spread, something perked my ears. Another musician, seated across the table from me, was talking about her recent music competitors, and her impression about why she won the competition. Apparently, it was because, and I’ll use her words here: “Yeah, I think I won because some of them were homeschooled and they didn’t really know how to present themselves very well…,” to which I abruptly, but politely smiling, said, “Oh, we homeschool!” Yes, I apparently rendered her speechless.I could have, no, should have stopped (since violin girl was giving me some pointed looks), but something came over me. I think it was a “mother bear” instinctual thing. I went on to (politely) add, since another musician (adult) I had known turned the conversation toward a positive note about homeschooling, that I couldn’t understand how we’re here, nearing the end of 2010, and there are still so many misconceptions about those who homeschool. And so much seems to still center around this notion of socialization.Maybe I’m naive, but if you’ve raised children who can talk to people of any age, without starting a fight; order a hot dog from a street vendor; know how to be quiet and reverent in church or at a funeral; and engage in countless group activities, be they sports, an art class, or just hanging out with their friends at the movies, then I think they’ve got the socialization thing down.Still, I could have shown a bit more grace. At tonight’s concert, I decided to extend a smile and compliment this same musician. I couldn’t blame her for what she didn’t know. For, the best socialization is the kind which draws from one another mutual respect.
Today was portfolio day. For you homeschool moms out there who do them, you’ll appreciate this little tidbit. I started out a week ago, intent on pacing myself. For weeks ahead, I make the portfolios in my head, but I don’t actually physically manifest them until close to evaluation time. It’s something we procrastinators instinctively know how to do. But, this year, I was determined to do better. I had three of them. Not many, considering some families, but enough for me. I had spent a good long day and evening scouting out scanned, emailed, and loaded pictures of our school year and printing pages upon pages of them. (I actually figured out how to change the ink case, since hubby had decided to go on a leisurely bike ride and I was forced to learn–my prime motivator.) Another evening-into-late night was spent filling up lots of clear, plastic protector sheets with school papers and concert programs–I think I used about 180 of them in total.Luckily, I got these done just before leaving for Nashville, Sunday. Last night was spent combing through and organizing the saved-up work papers, schedules, and other non-academic (as defined by the all-knowing school officials) materials, eventually stuffing those into the clear, plastic cover sheets, as well. I must say, everything looks so much better, so official in them. Wish they weren’t so expensive. I finally finished them around 1:30…A.M. But, I was rewarded with three official-looking papers, with my evaluator’s signature emblazoned (well, not emblazoned, exactly) across the signature line. I had made it through another year…almost. You see, drummer boy hadn’t finished his Algebra 1 coursework, and I told him that we were a “homeschool” school and this principal (that would be me) couldn’t, in good conscience, give him full credit until we finished the entire course, unlike many public schools, where often the text is never completed (not a dig, just a fact). To give you an idea about how much he “abhors” it, I give you drummer boy:
This was not his Algebra book, although he indicated that it wasn’t all bad. We use an actual math program (Videotext) for that. Good thing my evaluator has a great sense of humor, as I think, this was her favorite photo of the more than 60 I presented among the three portfolios. So, we’ll be forging ahead with finishing up the Algebra only to begin the school year with Algebra 2 (yay, for me).By the way, I managed to rack up two college degrees without Algebra 2, and make a comfortable living. Why is it so important to force it upon everyone. Violin girl lectured me on the merits of challenging students to work on courses that they may never use.Who is her teacher, anyway!?