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Posts Tagged ‘homeschooling’

I haven’t really talked much yet about one important part of my life.  Homeschooling.  Parenting choices make for one of those conversational topics that are best avoided, like politics and religion.  Just bring up breastfeeding at a baby shower and you’ll see what I mean.  You may as well toss meat to hungry wolves.   Of course, that makes it great fodder for blogging, right?

Kinesis builds marble run

The life of a homeschool family may be slightly unusual.  Since we are in the midst of moving and packing, I must admit that we have gone into summer schedule a bit early.  Lots of Nova specials on Netflix, and other things we can thrust upon our children while we pack. We’ve been studying the Civil War, so today they started watching the first episode of the Ken Burns series. Kinesis was assigned to draw a picture based on the episode, Entropy to find one interesting topic and research it further. In reality, Kinesis drew a quick picture of Lincoln, then started a wrestling match with his brother which went downhill from there, so they will have to watch it again tomorrow. The road to wisdom is difficult and cruel.

When you admit that you homeschool, there are some frequent responses, range from the positive, (“Wow!  That’s awesome!  I wish I could teach my kids, but it must be so hard!”) to the questioning, (“How do you handle testing?  Will your kids go to college?  What about socialization?”) to the outright hostile, (“You don’t even have a teaching credential, and you are going to remove your children from public society?”)  Folks who don’t homeschool often don’t know much about it, or think they do, or don’t realize quite how diverse a community it is.  So while I know it’s been done before, I’m going to give you my top ten list of common misapprehensions about homeschooling.

1.  All homeschoolers are unsocialized geeks.  This is completely untrue.  I know plenty of well-adjusted young people who were homeschooled.  One common trait is that because they spend much of their time with adults, either with their parents or out in the world rather than isolated in a particular peer group, they tend to relate in more mature fashion than many of their peers.  There are many studies that support this thesis.  http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a746434208     My kids, however, are unsocialized geeks.  This has nothing to do with homeschooling.  They would be geeks in school, just like Flash and me. 

2.  All homeschoolers are brilliant.  Homeschool kids come in all ability levels, just like all kids.  There are indications that most homeschooled children test better than their brick-and-mortar schooled friends.  I would argue that having a very small teacher-student ratio is a large part of this.  If every public school teacher could sit down individually with just a few children instead of 30, those kids would learn faster too.  Our children, of course, are indeed brilliant.  Usually.  Most of the time.  Often.

3.  Homeschoolers are all fundamentalist, science-hating neo-con crazies who want to keep their kids away from the liberal homosexual agenda.  Many conservative Christians do indeed homeschool.  But there are plenty, I would posit a majority, who like us just want to do the best for their kids educationally.  We are very science-friendly, my kids know about evolution (even watched the three-part Nova special this week), and religion has very little to do with why we chose to homeschool.  They may or may not choose a different path–Entropy decided for a while that he wanted to be a high school teacher from watching Glee. 

Entropy meets author Patrick Rothfuss

4.  Homeschooing is so hard, my family could never do it.  Well, yeah, if you have that attitude, sure.  But lots of things are hard–training for marathons, raising kids, mastering Expert level on Rock Band.  People do those things all the time.  Seriously, there are so many resources out there that homeschooling is no longer unusual.  You can buy curriculum, find things online, join local groups, or even go the public-school homeschool route. 

5.  Homeschooling is easy, your kids just lie around and play video games while you ignore them all day, right?  Um, no.  That’s called child abuse, not homeschooling.  My kids only lie around and play video games after we attempt to beat some knowledge into them.  Kidding!

6.  Homeschoolers don’t support public education.  While there are those who choose to homeschool because they are opposed to public schools on principle, we are not those people.  We always vote for school bonds, and think that public schools are not only necessary but that they should be given the best resources possible.  We simply don’t think that they are the best choice for OUR children at THIS time.  I mean, I may never sail into the Port of Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to build, or that my family doesn’t benefit from the increased commerce it supports.  A well-educated population is good for everyone.  We’re doing our part, and are glad for them to do theirs.  Go public school teachers! 

7.  Homeschooling takes place at home.  Sometimes.  But the big secret that homeschooling families try to keep quiet is: everything is less crowded during the week.  Malls.  Disneyland.  You can tote your books to the beach on a Wednesday, and not have to fight for towel space.  I’m particularly fond of Starbucks as a venue for school.  Free wi-fi, snacks available, and plenty of caffeine to keep me motivated.

8.  There is one homeschool curriculum that everyone follows.  Not true.  I would guess that homeschoolers in general are better educated about a variety of forms of pedagogy than any other population, including teachers who tend to be trained in one approach that meets standards.  That means that there are unschoolers who follow child-led learning, school-at-homers who follow the state standard and use textbooks, and classical homeschoolers who enter into the great conversation with historical sources and great books.  We are sort of reformed-neo-classical ourselves.  We teach Latin, read great literature, and make sure our kids have a healthy dose of geek culture as well.

It's science!

9.  Moms homeschool, dads work.  Uh, yeah.  Well, talk to Flash about that.  Stay at home schooling dads are certainly a minority, but they do exist.  I’m married to one.  I do the planning, he does implementation.  It works for us.

10.  Homeschooling is for everyone.  Nope.  Just like any other lifestyle choice, it works for some and not for others.  We love it, and I can wax rhapsodic about the benefits of homeschooling.  Sorry, friends IRL, it is just so much a part of our life I can’t help the occasional outburst.  We somehow seem to do well spending almost all our time together as a family, learning together, laughing together.  (OK, this is intended as sarcasm, as I can hear my Kinesis and Entropy arguing in the other room.  “Don’t throw your shirt at me!”  “You hurt my leg!  I’ll never walk again!” ) 

It’s the life we choose.  I like that my children are familiar with Beowulf, and Greek mythology, can sing the Large Hadron Collider rap and don’t know that Gilbert and Sullivan are not cool.  I have a kitchen cabinet full of chemistry equipment (all safely labeled, you know).  We can play games and watch TV and go on trips, and it’s all educational, and it’s all part of life.  Even our upcoming trip cross-country will be a great opportunity for learning, as well as fun.  It is work.  It is hard.  But if we didn’t love it so much, we wouldn’t do it.

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It has not escaped my attention that my recent transition from seeming emotional stability to my new status as a wreck is happening at the age of 40.  It seems almost too classic to be coincidental, right?  Midlife crisis, meet RevMommy.  She’s ripe for the picking.

So I find myself faced with both the opportunity to do something new, go into uncharted water–a good thing.  And a bout of severe depression that often prevents me from doing anything at all beyond rolling over and going back to sleep–this is not so good.  Part of me wants to face the second half of life with enthusiasm and excitement.  I like to think this is the real me.  Another part of me is feeling at sea because for the first time in my life, I’m not defined by my job.  This is my scared part.  Really, really scared.

We live in a culture in which we are defined by what we do for a living.  When you meet someone for the first time, most people ask “What do you do?”  They don’t mean knitting, or collecting comics, they want to know where you work.  Flash has faced this disability for many years as a Stay-At-Home-Dad.  Only in the last few years has SAHD even become a thing, one that you can admit to. (An aside about Flash:   He’s an awesome dad, as shown by the way he spent his afternoon coaxing our terrified and resistant son into having his blood drawn.   Flash not only spent 45 minutes trying to calm a hysterical child with Asperger’s, but even had them draw his own blood just to show it was safe.  He so rocks.)   I love to shake up personal introductions by asking questions like “What is your favorite book?” or “Where did you grow up?”, if not “What is your first memory of being in a kitchen?”  That’s a great one.

In my case, I’ve been in a pastoral role my entire adult life.  I went to seminary right out of college at the age of 21, worked as a youth director, was a missionary, and was ordained and in a church at 25.  I remember one elderly lady in the first church I served asking my age, then replying, “Honey, I’ve got shoes older than you.”  So while I may not have grown up in the church, I have certainly become the woman I am in the church.   Being a pastor never stops.  People I don’t know often want to tell me how horrible religion is, or contrariwise they suddenly stop saying fuck and act as if I’m going to slap them with a ruler.  Or they just close down and move out of the conversation.  On the other hand, there are the folks that jump right in to theology, or the story of their personal crisis, or ask me to pray.  Once the words, “I’m a pastor” are out of my mouth, I become a stand-in for their entire personal relationship with God, however bad or good that has been.  And after a while, I started to see myself that way as well.  Who I was was what I did. 

Tonight I met with an old friend (old, in the sense that now she’s an adult woman in her late 20s and I remember her at age 13 in church youth group) to talk about my exploring the possibility of my becoming a doula.  A doula, if you are not a parent or became a parent before they became popular, is a childbirth attendant.  A woman who professionally supports the woman in labor, as opposed to a midwife whose focus is on the baby.  

We met in a totally cool coffeehouse, so cool that it is definitely not near where I live.  Funky couches, art, nothing matching or blah–we sat on a bright green Victorian style couch.  The customers were all young, hip, and busily working on their laptops.   I want to live there.

Anyhow, my friend is not only a doula, she’s currently expecting her first baby.  I’m a total childbirth geek, I loved being pregnant and being in labor, and using a doula was a big part of that.  I have oodles of experience in hospitals, and it would be nice to be there to celebrate the beginning of life rather than my usual role.  Don’t get all excited, I’m honestly just trying it on for size.   I don’t really know which way God is calling me right now, but it feels odd to even think about taking off my virtual “I’m A Pastor–Tell Me Your Problems” button.  In a way it could be so refreshing.

So the “Rev” part of “RevMommy” has suddenly become nebulous.  However, as Mothers’ Day reminded me, the “Mommy” part is still right on target.  If I define myself by anything, it is being a Mom.  One thing I know I want is to continue to have the family oriented and centered lifestyle that we do.  I want to spend as much time as possible, do as much as possible, with my children before they move up and out.  I’m not satisfied with a couple of hours a day of interaction with my biological offspring.  I want to be part of raising them.  Not a helicopter mom, hovering overhead; not a Tiger mom, demanding perfection: I want to be a cheetah mom, protecting them when they are helpless, teaching them to hunt by my side as they grow, then letting them go knowing I gave them myself 100%.   Hence homeschooling.  Scheduling my work life so that I can do as much as I can during their sleeping hours.  Spending my free time playing board games and going on family field trips and watching family movies.  Living a child-centered life in a culture that really rejects that sort of thinking.  Being a mom is my rock right now.  

Belated happy Mothers’ Day to all you moms out there.   It really is the best part of my life.  And while I’m still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up, for now I’m happy just being a mom.

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