10/12/2007
This reflection comes from my wife, Ricci.

Since the birth of our daughter, maybe even before, I've been thinking about homeschooling.

A little background to give you perspective is that I'm a trained public school teacher. And having worked with some extremely educated, creative, and indefatigable people, I have nothing but respect for the profession. At first I wasn't sure why I wanted to homeschool, or what it was that I felt had to change. It was just something at the back of my mind that felt "off". So, I started reading, regurgitating what I read to my husband, and then reading some more. At first I didn't even know what I was looking for. I picked up everything that had homeschooling in the subject. I read about Maria Montessori, the Waldorf method, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason, and Classical education. Trying to sift and filter what I thought was valuable, what I agreed with, what I disagreed with and trying to come up with my own philosophy of education.

And the question kept coming up in my mind, why? Why with so many choices out there now (i.e. charter schools, magnet schools, etc...) was I doing this. Why was I committing our family to a lot of work and hassle when there are highly trained professional out there who we're already paying with our taxes to do this important job?

To answer this for myself I had to look at our life and the changes we'd been progressively making since our marriage in 2000. Seven years ago, my spirituality manifested itself in reading my Bible, praying (when I could figure out what to say), going to church, and treating others nice. Now obviously that was all good, but there was a void a big void. If that was all that my faith called me to, then Christ's sacrifice wasn't worth much. There had to be more, and more in a big way! We had to be alternative beings, we had to live alternative lives, lives that when against the flow, not a 'niceified' version of mainstream culture. It said so right there in the Bible I'd been reading. So as a couple we read and talked. We talked about simplicity, about community, about solidarity with the poor, about spiritual consequences of ecological practices and made decisions based on what we came to believe. And the point of all this is we are still searching and refining, tossing and tweaking and our children are an integral part of this process.

So, to get back to education, if our family believes in living alternatively, and being alternative beings in this current consumer, me-driven culture, and passing that on to our children, then these years of our children's initial formation are important. If we chose to send our children to public school at the age of five, for six to seven hours a day 180 days a year the struggle, I feel, would be an uphill one.

Now, I'm reading this and realizing that it's sounding a bit holier-than-thou, and that's not how I feel at all. So let me say just a bit more. I wrote this to share our story, our path, one that we think meets the unique needs our daughter. This is not our call to abandon the world at large, isolate ourselves in our home, and 'fill' our children with what we believe. It's one way of giving them a chance to see that there is another way to live. We want to teach our daughter, and later our son, to think for themselves. To be an active participant in their own education, not passive receptacles for society to 'fill up'. Part of the process may be to later send them to public school, I honestly don't know and I'm not worried about it. We're making this up as we go along.

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posted by Eliacin at 2:11:00 PM |


15 Comments:


At October 12, 2007 at 8:57 PM, Blogger Cindy

hi Ricci-
just found your blog. thanks!

we homeschool our daughter. we aren't isolationists either! our reasons are many of the reasons you noted, plus some huge educational ones (we live in Alabama, what else do i need to say?). I won't hijack your blog with homeschool chatter, but if you'd like to converse, please jot me an email. cindy@cindybryan.com

 

At October 12, 2007 at 9:04 PM, Blogger upstream

Hi - I have been pondering this also but not sure why.

I resist because of the 'removal' factor. I am attracted by the flexibility factor, but I am finding it hard to determine your own reasons from the post. Can you clarify a little? Maybe more specifically what you would gain from homeschooling?

 

At October 13, 2007 at 7:12 AM, Anonymous sonja

I've homeschooled my children for 5 years now. We're beginning the 6th year this year.

I began this venture because my daughter had done Kindergarten and 1st grade in the local public school and was shriveling. All of her love of learning was drying up and dying. So we brought her home and I decided to homeschool her and her younger brother.

Our reasons for homeschooling are numerous. I think every family needs to approach this decision carefully and (if of a faith) prayerfully. Every family and every child is different and has different needs and a different context.

That said, here are some of the things I've learned over the course of this journey.

It's hard. But it's soooo worth the time and effort in terms of the relationship you have with your kids.

The flexibility is wonderful. And learning *with* your kids is sooo much fun too. It's the thing that keeps me going back each year. And the dinner conversations now that they are getting older are phenomenal.

If you want to "walk the walk" with your children, there's no better way. They can see and walk it with you day in and day out. You can volunteer at a nursing home (for example) once a week as part of your "school." Your children have the time and the space to develop relationships across generations that most children don't get until they become adults. My children are naturally fairly outgoing, but one thing I notice is their ability to talk to anyone ... older or younger and treat them with dignity and respect. Other people comment on this too. That's something that kids in school seem to have a more difficult time with.

You get to pick and choose what you and your children will learn. I know that very often this is presented in a negative context. As in, those horrid public schools are teaching sex ed. But the positives are that when you find something that your child is interested in, you can pause and spend time there for as long as s/he wants. They can really learn it. For instance, it's been hard for me (a pacifist) but my son is entranced with WWII and guns. He's learned everything he can about them and has long conversations with anyone he can about the battles and this gun and that airplane, etc. But the flip side of that was when my uncle (who served WWII) came to visit, my son had a great conversation with him and was able to draw my uncle out in ways that no one had ever been able to do before.

This has gotten long and I apologize. There is a lot to consider when you think about homeschooling. For our family it's been a great experience. But it really is not for everyone. If you want to talk more you can e-mail me at sonja at paxunum dot org .

 

At October 13, 2007 at 7:38 AM, Blogger One Voice of Many

We also currently home school. We have three children. My 7 yr old and my 5 yr old attended pre-k when they were 4 that was only 3 mornings a week. My 4 year old is currently in the same program. Once kindergarten hit for the older two, we went straight into home school.

We enjoy the flexibility, the freedom to choose how we want to teach the information as well as be there for those "ah ha!" moments that come along. On one level, it is about pulling out of the system as well.

The argument of "they need socialization" doesn't plague me. In our area's public school, kids aren't allowed to talk in the cafeteria; it's too noisy. They don't have p.e.; don't know why. They do have a very short recess though. I'm glad for them for that.

I could ramble on and on but really it boils down to what works best for your family. I don't rave against the public school system. Mine might wind up there one day. But, for now, we want them home, they want to be home, and it's working for us. When it stops working, we'll re-evaluate.

 

At October 13, 2007 at 7:57 AM, Blogger Julie

This is a big question for me (and one that I am sure with resurface in various forms on this blog over and over).

I am drawn to forms of homeschooling mostly for the alternative lifestyle issues as well as huge educational issues. But the stigma of isolationist fundamentalist Christians and homeschooling hovers over the decision. I don't want to shelter my child or prevent her from learning ideas I don't buy into, but I don't want her love of learning to die, or her to be indoctrinated into a rewards/punishment system, or be forced to say the pledge, or taught by (well honestly) almost any of the people I know who are teachers (sorry but do they really give degrees for not knowing anything?!). Its a decision I am struggling with.

Emma is just 2 so I have a bit of time to think this through. but I have also discovered that when she attends dance class without me, she comes out of her shell and abandons her timidity. She might grow out of this, but I don't want to stifle her if she needs time away from the parental figures.

 

At October 13, 2007 at 12:00 PM, Blogger Sarah Jane Rhee

I am convinced that the public school system as a whole in our country cannot instill in children a love of learning. They're too busy taking standardized tests to be able to develop and pursue their own interests. What are they learning instead? How to perform for rewards and avoid punishment. How to consume. How to compete. How to conform.

My daughter's only 3, but in Chicago it seems that most kids her age are already in some sort of preschool program. I don't think I'd mind her being in a play-based class of some sort for a few hours a week while she's 3 or 4, but I dread the thought of sending her to school when she's 5 or 6. We may try homeshooling/unschooling at that point, as there is a very strong network of Unschoolers in Chicago, so I'd have a community of other parents to support me.
This is definitely something that makes me want to bury my head and cry sometimes.

 

At October 13, 2007 at 8:01 PM, Blogger LietoFine

Hi - I have an 18 month old and this is something I think about too. I'm in a slightly different situation in that I was homeschooled. Julie said it really well about the stigma of fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers. I definitely don't want that for my child, but I'm not sure that I'd be able to prevent it. Growing up my family was just on the fringes of that and really we did a lot of the good service type things that people are mentioning related to Emergent thought. The problem I end up seeing is that even though I socialized all the time, I was still a "social misfit" and didn't really fit in with anyone in a community. Since our family was service-oriented, people were happy to have us around because we'd do stuff for them, but it never formed into any sort of give and take community. Whether Emergent or fundamentalist Christian, I don't want to make my child irrelavent to the world at large because I do things with him so differently than everyone else.

Cristi :]

 

At October 14, 2007 at 5:52 PM, Anonymous Scott

Walter Bruggeman said a few years back at one of the Emergent Theological Conversations regarding the scripting effect of our culture that the point is not to ever let our kids go to the movies, but teach them how to view the movie wisely.

I would think that the same would apply to public schools. It is not that we shouldn't send them to public schools but equip them to engage that education and the diversity of cultures they will experience there in a wise way.

Finally, I would like to note that I am a product of the educational system that Cindy sniped at above. I did all right. I don't buy into nor appreciate the stereotype.

I also happen to know multitude of highly qualified, compassionate and dedicated teaching professionals. It is unfortunate that Julie seems to have never met one. There is no field that has the corner on the incompetence market. My guess is there are plenty of deadbeats carrying the degree she has as well. The implications of Julie's statements are unfair and her limited anecdotal evidence does not speak to the profession at large.

 

At October 14, 2007 at 8:07 PM, Blogger Cindy

Scott, I apologize. I shouldn't have made such a generalization.

 

At October 14, 2007 at 9:47 PM, Blogger Ricci

Hi Upstream - Thanks for your question. Since our daughter will be turning five soon, understand that most of what I'm speaking to right now is what we hope for.

First of all she is an extremely social creature which keeps her introverted mother very busy, so I'm definitely having to consider how to deal with the social issues. Our district here has a homeschool link where they offer music, art, and language classes along with some others which I'm hoping will help her have that kid face time she needs.

As to what I think we can gain it's a little harder for me to verbalize at this point but I'll try. I guess we want her to think of herself as part of something bigger than herself, as a member of a community. Not just an individual pursuing personal desires and goals, but as a member of society working for the betterment of all.

On the flip side we want to be able to treat her as an individual with individual needs. If she's struggling and needs a break we skip it and come back to it later. If she loves something we dive in. If she's studying art we jump on the bus and head downtown to the museum. There's a lot more to it but that's the basic idea.

 

At October 14, 2007 at 9:50 PM, Blogger Ricci

Thanks to all for you thoughtful comments.

My husband has been encouraging me to share for quite a while, but it's taken me a bit of time to get up the nerve. It's wonderful to hear that there are so many others out there thinking similar thoughts.

 

At October 14, 2007 at 10:00 PM, Blogger jeff greer

Me and my wife have had discussions about this as well. Our daughter is 3 and the we have thought the same things about having the early years to teach our daughter that there is a 'different' way to live and helping her to have the ability to make her own choices instead of being one of the crowd... on either side of the spectrum. So it is a tough decision, since every child is different and every situation is different. You also make a great point about the amount of time a public school setting would have influence over her and this at an age where she doesn't really comprehend how to make the right decisions all the time. But, I am completely against 'isolation' or 'separation' from culture. We would also teach the opposite... how to be immersed in our culture, yet live according to another standard and not the cultures standard... how to give and not take...how to love and not hate...how to give grace and not judge...how to make the right choices when all the voices are shouting 'do whatever you want to do'. These are important values that a 5 year old doesn't have a grasp on yet at that age and so I see the reasoning behind wanting to have the opportunity during at least the early years to help teach our child those values. Unfortunately, I have seen very few (maybe 2) examples of homeschooling that didn't stem from 'isolation because of fear of the world' or homeschooled children who were so incredibly smart, but yet had absolutely zero social skills, so it is great to hear of others out there who are 'breaking the stereo-typical homeschooling walls down' and doing it differently. this helps tremendously in our decision making process of what to do when our daughter is ready to start school. thanks so much for the thoughts!

rock on,
jeff

 

At October 15, 2007 at 10:12 AM, Blogger brett

I love all your thoughts.
This is an issue I think about a lot. I will be getting my credential to teach in California next year. Our oldest is 2 so we have a few years yet. I am a firm believer in Emotional Quotient over Intelligence Quotient because of the severe offset in public schools.
We also live on a farm where my daughter has little to no interaction with other kids. Unless our situation changes I think we will put her in the public school system to help get social skills. I know there are other ways of achieving this but we don't go to church and are circumstantially isolated, not necessarily intentionally.
Maybe after teaching a bit before she enters school will help us decide.

 

At October 15, 2007 at 12:48 PM, Blogger Lisa

We've homeschooled our kids their whoe lives. At ages 13, 12, and 10, here are some of the things that I am currently seeing as benefits of our homeschooling. (Please note that I am not excluding public school kids from some of these things, but this is our experience)

1. I love the social experience my kids have had. They do not feel bound by grade, so they have friends their age, younger, older, and adults. Their social life feels a bit like an extended family. I guess it feels more like my social life does as an adult and I see them benefitting richly from it.

2. They are grounded and comfortable with themselves. They are a bit mystified by their observation that kids who attend school seem to want to all be alike. It is their experience that different and varied is normal.

3. I can tailor their education to their learning styles. They can really delve into the things that fascinate them and be efficient with the things that are less exciting for them.

4. They have free time in which to follow their passions or just be....

I guess that is just a start. It's working well for our family, it's hard work and we love it!

As far as isolation, I think that that is a parental decision. We are part of a group of 125 families in San Francisco. Very few of them would describe themselves as Christians and of those, there are many different practices represented. Our kids will know the people we know, so they'll only be isolated if we isolate ourselves.

I'd love to talk more homeschooling with anyone interested--farmgirl70 at comcast dot net

 

At October 31, 2007 at 1:49 PM, Anonymous Mike

A common theme that I have seen running through a lot of the "pro home school" comments suggests that the public school system is incapable of teaching, equiping and nurturing the kids that go through it. My thoughts, as a product of public education, and having 3 kids (B12, B11, G6) in public schhol is that the development of the child is a team effort amongst the family, the school and the church. Just as some parents are dumbfounded that their kids aren't learning anything in the classroom because of the "system", these same parents are also the ones who expect their kids to learn about God and Jesus at children's programming without any re-inforcement at home.

My kids exhibit the traits that most of the home school crowd state that their kids exhibit - wonder and awe at learning, healthy desire to go above and beyond what's required, well-mannered, able to communicate with people younger and older than themselves, etc. They didn't get that way because NOR in spite of their schooling. It's been the contant involvement of both my wife and I, as well as their Sunday School and mid-week programming teachers. It takes work, but that is what you have accepted once you become a parent. You can also use all of the time outside of school as real life learning experiences as well, not just during the time that you'd be home-schooling.

Part of what Jesus calls us to do is to go out into the mission fields and help bring the good word to all. That doesn't mean just adults - kids, even as young as Kindergarten, can lead by example and show a secular society what Jesus has called us to do. My kids use their lives as examples of what God has called them to do, and they couldn't do that at home while being home-schooled.