A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

About School, But Really About Motherhood, too.

The only time I've ever voted differently than Paul in our entire marriage was on the issue of school vouchers. Oh, I get that anything that raises taxes is bad. I'm with you on that one. But the idea of being able to send all my kids to Christian schools was just too tempting.

There's a lot of judgement in mothering circles. Once you cross the minefield of breast or bottle and cloth or disposable, and find your place in the working mom/stay at home mom spectrum, you hit the school years.

Many families make one schooling decision and stick with it for their entire parenting career. There's something to be said for constancy. Other families may try one method and find it's not working and so switch to another educational setting. Our motto is: Education is a year by year, child by child decision. Sounds a little wishy washy, but it takes the needs of the individuals and the needs of the family as a whole into consideration. It works for us.

This puts me in the unique position of having children in all 3 main school options this year: public, private, and homeschool.

Public school. Popular because it's free and easy, public school traditionally is looked down upon in homeschooling circles. I've gotten more than a few raised eyebrows from people who homeschool when they find out Hannah is in public school. Like we've blithely thrown her to the wolves, instead of making this choice after careful consideration. Hannah is in ps for two main reasons: I don't teach kindergarten; and she wouldn't have passed the entrance exam for our private school. It's the best place for her for this year, and she loves it.

Wait, what do you mean, you "don't teach kindergarten"?? But you homeschool! Well, yes, this is my 15th year homeschooling. But Zachary went to private K4 and K5. Josiah and Samuel went to public school for K. Brianna and Eli went to private school for K. Of the two kids who didn't go to school for kindergarten, I really regret not sending one of them. Hats off to K teachers. I'd rather have a root canal than sub in a K class for a day.

So what's this about an entrance exam? It's kindergarten, for crying out loud! Well, the private school requires that kids be able to write their name (capital first letter, lower case remaining letters), recognize numbers 1-20, and know the sounds that letters make. For a 5 year old that's only had 18 months of exposure to English, that's a big, "Yeah, right."  Public school is the best option for this child, this year. See how I feel like I have to defend my choice?

Private school. Paul and I were the first of our friends to have kids. As the babies kept coming, I found myself hanging out with other moms with younger kids, and not so much kids Zach's age. Consequently, he was a little socially immature from being around little kids all the time, and Paul felt it would be a good idea to send him to private high school for a little positive peer pressure. It was a good call. Not that it was always easy, not by a long shot. But it was good for him, and I'm glad we sacrificed to make it happen.

The first year, we sent Zach (freshman) and Brianna (kindergarten). The second year, we sent Zach, it was Eli's turn to go for K. The third year was just Zach, and the fourth year was Zach and Josiah (5th grade). Yes, Josiah decided he didn't want to homeschool any more, so we ended up sending him to school so the rest of us could get some work done. For the last three years, it's been Annaliese's turn to go for high school, and Josiah has continued to attend private school with her. This year, Samuel will be joining them, and we'll have a senior and two freshmen.

Homeschool.  I could write post after post about homeschooling.  After all, I have over a decade of material to choose from, right?  I think there are a lot of misperceptions about homeschooling.  I've been asked countless times who makes sure I'm doing it right, which, honestly, I find insulting.  No one makes sure I'm doing it right.  And what does that mean, anyway?  There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families.  No "one size fits all" is going to work for every student.  (Which is true of public school, as well, but no one wants to admit it.)  But it seems like people who don't know much about homeschooling think that we should be "watched" by "real" teachers to make sure we're not screwing it up.

Homeschooling has two main catagories:  Charter school students, whose parents DO meet with a credentialed teacher on a regular basis, and turn in learning records, attendance sheets, etc. and Independent homeschoolers, who file one form, once a year, that lists how many kids and what grades we're homeschooling, and that's it.  (There is a third option in our state, but I've never personally met someone who has a private tutor, so we'll skip that one.)

As divisive as motherhood is on so many issues, you'd think ALL the homeschoolers would stick together, right?  Nope.  There is a line between the Charter and Independent camps as well.  Charter kids get public school funding, which means cool science kits and extracurricular classes paid for by the state.  It also means standardized testing (which you can opt out of, but it's strongly encouraged that you test your child).  Independent means just that.  No oversight, no funding.  If that seems dangerous to you, please understand that most parents truly want what's best for their kids.  Parents don't set out to mess up their children's education.  Most homeschoolers are very conscientious about making sure their kids get the best possible education they can give them.

Which, when you think about it, is true of most parents in ALL school settings.  We all want what's best for our kids.  We all want to give our children the best start in life, and the tools they need for a successful future.  We're ALL doing the very best we can, in our individual circumstances, to make that happen for our kids.  Let's lighten up on each other and instead of allowing our own insecurities to make us defensive our choices or judgmental of someone else's choices, let's support one another.  Motherhood, the actual parenting part, is enough of a challenge without constantly feeling attacked by the very people going through it alongside us.

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