Saturday, December 20, 2008

Homeschooling Revisited

That time of the year that I hate is rapidly approaching. I'm not referring to Christmas, but the season that occurs right afterward: Preschool& Kindergarten Enrollment. Once we return from the holiday breaks, the open houses, curriculum fairs and application bombardment begins.

I hate this time of year because I actually care deeply about the education my child receives and am secretly afraid I will make the wrong choice that puts him off learning forever. No matter what choice I make, it never seems to fit perfectly our family or our child.

Public school makes me nervous because of overcrowding and classes sizes in our district. Not to mention those ever creeping up "standards" that require Kindergartners to read and take long standardized tests. I'm all for high academic achievement, but artificial evaluations designed to impress the parents are not my ideal educational goal for my children.

Private schools in our area are financially prohibitive, and my choice based from investigative research would be an all-boys school, the closest of which is located in Downtown Seattle, and thus, completely impractical from a commuting standpoint.

Enter: The Pioneer Woman

Many of you are probably familiar with this blog as it is one of the most famous Mommy blogs. The Pioneer woman writes with wit, seems well-educated, and has chosen homeschooling for her children. She also includes the viewpoints in her posts of other families that have made the same choice for different reasons and take different educational approaches. Her posts encouraged me to investigate some of the homeschooling or non-traditional educational approaches available.

And are they ever available! I assumed that either you were at home, working on schoolwork for 6 hours per day, or you went to public school during the same time frame. I had no idea how many variations and options there are for home education! There are tutors that meet weekly, keep records and teach specialized subjects. There are co-ops to join with language and science classes, field trips, and more. There are also combination programs of half-time public school/ half time home instruction. In addition, there are literally dozens of curriculum options. In sum, a whole new world of education to explore!

I need far more time to think about the best option for our family as we proceed. I suppose I really should get this thought out since Noah keeps growing and will be approaching 5 this summer. Yikes! I do have a few concerns about homeschooling/home educating.

1. Intellectual & Physical space
I need space to get my work done and create. The kids need this space as well. Right now, we have quiet time in the afternoon that gives all of us this time and space. As the kids get older, however, I wonder if this will become a significant drawback to home educating. I have noticed it seems to be less of a problem for families with land and/or a farm with lots of chores or outdoor places to roam. Unfortunately, space is at a premium around here and we don't have the option of a larger place so it is a concern for me.

2. Financial concerns
The long term plan to pay for college includes me returning to work. If we choose to home school, those plans will be delayed or rethought altogether. I'm not sure how we could afford to have me out of the work force for all those years. This is less of a concern during the elementary years when we had planned for me to be at home anyway with younger children.

These are just some of my thoughts as we move forward on the educational trajectory. I will post more musings another day about some of the curriculum options I am currently exploring. For today I am simply overwhelmed and humbled by the many challenges involved in raising responsible, God-fearing, and educated citizens!


Zebu said...


I too can relate to your feelings on the overwhelming questions of homeschooling. I faced the same issues when I home schooled my children. The boxed-form curriculum and structure of public schooling is incorrect, in my mind. Each child should be able to progress as he is able, and each child should be taught in a tailored fashion as to how he learns. A lecture format and standardized testing procedures are not the mold that fits everyone. I don’t think that anything perfectly fits any family as far as homeschooling, but you can certainly adapt it to match your children’s’ needs—something that is not considered in the public school room.

When we home schooled, we did a time block mixed in at times with a co-op. where we traveled to different locations for art, Spanish, quilting, ceramics, band, field trips, sign language, etc.

As far as space, we lived in a small house where we used one corner of the family room for our school. More space would have maybe been better, but we did fine with the space that we had. When we weren’t schooling, my children played outside with the dogs and cats or went to the park. I would have loved, in retrospect, to have stayed on the ranch that we had just come from. We had rented a house on 62 acres. But, we made do with what we had.

My children always had chores to do. We never perfected any one system that always worked, but I switched off using different chart designs, chore schedules, etc.

The curriculum options are vast—so vast, that one needs to pray before you shop! :). There is a lot of good material out there.

Most importantly, you mention that you are “…humbled by the many challenges involved in raising responsible, God-fearing, and educated citizens”. That right there shows your sincerity of heart and a desire to raise up children unto the Lord. Because of that, and with His help, you will choose just the right thing for YOUR family, and it will turn out beautifully. :)

lissawi said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Zebu!~

Zebu said...

Oh, you are so welcome. :)

Emilee said...

You probably don't remember, but my parents actually did part-time homeschool/part-time public school with us for years. It worked really well and I think provided a real benefit over our lackluster public schools. FWIW, Brian and I are tentatively planning part-time homeschool (+ religious private school, most probably) too. Good luck with your discernment. We have a few years yet before this issue gets more urgent in our family, and I already feel a teensy bit stressed out about it.

lissawi said...

Em - My mom actually reminded me of that fact a few days ago. I didn't remember, but I think that might be our best option too. I'm not sure how flexible our school district would be about part time there, part time home though. How did your parents coordinate the curriculum with the school? Did they work it so you had writing/reading at school and science at home or did they just not worry about doubling up on subjects?

Emilee said...

Re: school district flexibility, I can check with my dad if you want, but my memory is that they were less than thrilled, but kind of couldn't stop him. He picked us up at noon on Fridays for years, all four of us, so that spanned several different schools over the years.

Re: curriculum coordination: HA! He made absolutely no effort whatsoever to coordinate with the school's curiculum. You have to understand that his desire to homeschool basically came from a contempt for our public schools. For our homeschool afternoon, we did a lot of hands-on science (which is my dad's particular talent), math that was much more advanced than whatever we were doing at school ... we memorized a lot of poetry, read biographies, studied art books ... there really wasn't much chance of redundancy, honestly. I think that's the last thing you need to worry about.

LadyKathryn said...

Saw your link on SnS; just wanted to say that God will help you navigatge thru homeschooling and there are conferences that can equip you --as well as other home school moms.

I would not have missed those years with my twin boys and my daughter and youngest son for anything! learning is a way of life, and for us wasn't just on the schedule.

If you need some mom time-- you might check into the two day school programs at the Lutheran church near you which probably has a preschool and elementary school. Or get together with a support group...

When you look at the long term future-- it can be overwhelming but God is faithful and will provide for all your needs, when we step out in faith, He is faithful to provide; it is not all up to us as Moms.

blessings as you raise your kids --
from Oregon
Lady Kathryn