Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Defensive about homeschooling?

Interesting discussion here about homeschooling vs. public schooling and women attacking each other's choices! I'm a homeschooling mother---have been since my first 2 completed Kindergarten. I tried to do the double duty---do the school day and then work with them the other half of the day but found they needed outside play time. So much for time to work with them. Sometimes it would be nice if I could send two to school and one home, rotating weeks so I always got one-on-one time with each one.

It has been educational, maybe more for me than them although I think they have flourished. I have more respect for teachers and more gratitude that I don't teach that many at once! And tons of gratitude that I don't have to send my kids to school.

Do I get defensive about what we are doing? You bet I do. I don't have the same measuring stick as the public schoolers, and I can't explain it because it's a touchy-feely thing. Public schoolers would probably think I'm attacking their choice, leaving me wondering if they are secure in their choice. Sometimes wondering if I am attacking their choice because I question how well I'm doing teaching my own kids.

Do I worry how my kids would cope in a public school setting now? Yes. I hope they would do fine, but I know there would be adjustments. There would be subjects that they would definitely be hurting in---subjects we have struggled in almost since day one. On the other hand, they would thoroughly miss the history lessons. And readings. Plenty of time to read, play, act out what they're reading, all without having to make The Grade.

Do I get jealous of moms who can just send their kids off to school and take a day off without feeling g-u-i-l-t-y? A resounding yes! Can I just tell you that there are many times I wish for that!

Do I understand these moms who knock themselves out to be help out at their kids' classes and chaperone field trips, etc.? Yes . . . and no. Yes, because we did it. No, because I never felt a part of it. Maybe I should have tried harder. Either Jim or I always went on the field trips or to the class parties. Jim enjoyed them more than I did. On the other hand, I was always worried about leaving my baby daughter with someone else while I was gone. Maybe that took the edge off for me. Homeschooling didn't force that choice.

Do I get jealous that other families can get all those wonderful programs like band and choir and intramural sports without having to shell out the bucks? Yes. Do I get sick and tired of paying school taxes and then not being able to write off the bit that I spend? Yes!

Do I fear being judged by what my children do or don't do well? Yes. Their strengths are not so obvious, their weaknesses are. How many people really notice when kids know all about the various wars and different time periods in history? How often does it come up? And yet it all helps their understanding of the world we live in today.

Some people might say my children aren't as "mature". I say they are, but they don't let that hamper their ability to enjoy simple, imaginative play. I remember a Cubmaster once saying, "I can't imagine a Bear Cub Scout actually enjoying playing like an astronaut with a mask." I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "I'm so sorry!" My boys still do! They haven't lost their childlike love of life and it shows in everything they do!

On the other hand, I don't think anyone would say my kids are social misfits. They're actually fairly popular. I think homeschooling actually lends a mysterious aura to them because they aren't subjected to the daily study and ridicule so prevalent in today's world.

Something that seems to be raising its head more lately . . . or have I just noticed it more . . . is the argument that there are no standards for homeschooling. Interesting isn't it, that no one points out that lack of standards from state to state is also a problem. School to school in the same county is also a problem. As a teen, I jumped states, from one side of the country to the other right before 9th grade, and occasionally had some bumps when I didn't know state history very well. My overall history was fine---dad's strong point, English had no hiccups---mom's strong point, Utah history decently good because of my pioneer heritage but lacking in some specifics because I didn't study Utah history in 7th grade. I studied Maryland. Interestingly, I got no black history in Maryland---maybe because we were in the throes of desegregation. Maybe you don't really want to teach about racial riots when they are everyday occurrences in the hall between classes and in front of the neighboring post office after school. I later found out my county had a place in history because it went through that in the 70s, not 50s.

So . . . now that I have written too much, do I think homeschooling is the way to go? My answer would be a guarded yes and no. I think the ideal would be something in between. Is it hard to homeschool? Yes. Is it time consuming? Yes. Is it expensive? Can be. Is it heart wrenching? Yes. Is it difficult not to be defined by homeschooling? Yes. Do we homeschooling moms care a little too much about public perceptions? Probably. They're our own children, after all. Not somebody elses that we can send home at the end of the day or shuffle off to the next teacher next hour. (Remembering my student teaching, here!) Or blame the student's lack on their parents (as a Kindergarten teacher did to me---on not reading enough to them! Now that's funny!) Now it is anyway. Not then. Do we all need to grab some chocolate and chow? Yes! Together.


Mrs. Darling said...

I have one of my kids on a charter school and one homeschooled. I have no problem with the public school except that they couldnt teach my daughter with a sensory disorder. There is no way htey would do better with her. I gave them three years and tests showed they had taken her a month for every year they had her. She placed the thrid month of first grade at the end of her third grade year. I had her for one year an dmoved her up a grade level and a half according to the same test. Now im on mys econd year and she gets tested again. We'll see where she's at. But I can tell you one thing; I nver worry that my child would know more in any subject if she were at the public school casue I know if she was there she still wouldnt be past the first grade and she's suppose to be in fifth grade now.

Jen said...

Wow, I really appreciate your honesty here. Not many people are willing to stand up and say, "yes, I'm defensive about this..." I had nearly 50 comments on my blog post, and yours is one of an extreme few to even allude to that fact.

I would like to see federal standards for education. Where we are (Utah) the standards are horrifically low. In our old state (one which was actually quite heavily criticized in my comment thread) the kids academic scores could dance around the averages here. However our state is also extremely conservative and parents are extremely defensive about the schools taking on added responsibility or added time such as full day K programs. Kindergarten is optional here and basically considered a socialization experience. Going to a federal standard will never be approved by this state unless there is an extreme shift in the political values here. State sovereignity is a huge point of agreement between liberal & conservative and it has repercussions for education.

Thanks again for your post, and also for adding me to your blogroll!

Heather said...

Great post! We too have gone both the public school route, as well as homeschool. My boys were both in public school for years, one until the middle of 6th grade the other until the middle of 3rd. I wouldn't say that we are anti public school, although, I do find myself somewhat feeling that way the longer I homeschool and see the positive benefits of doing so. Do I think homeschool is for everyone? Absolutely not. A good majority of children are much better off attending public school. I really don't find myself feeling anti public school so much for the education factor though as much as the socialization factor. We made the decision to remove our children from public school because we didn't like the socialization they were being exposed to. Socialization in the form of ridicule for being smart, or being verbally or physically attacked, or the struggles of finding where they "fit in" with the crowd that had the same moral characteristics they were being raised with. I can't however blame public education for this issue, that falls much more on shoulders of society. Unfortunately. It's such a huge benefit & blessing to homeschooling to be able to decide who your children spend time with.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to following yours! =)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

It is so nice to hear that other moms can feel sensitive about their homeschooling. It is hard to balance the mom pride with the teacher pride. I am homeschooling my children through their younger years and I LOVE the results so far. My oldest started public school last year and my son will start next year. I see, daily, the benefits they've recieved from staying home. I also take great comfort in knowing that if they need it in the future I will be ready for them.