January 17, 2010

Not a Debate

I don't like confrontation. Period. If I'm not happy at a restaurant, I'd choose to never come back rather than say anything. As I've gotten older, I've had to become more assertive, but still avoid arguments at all costs. Unless you mess with my bear-cubs, then momma bear shows up.

This is a strange way to start a blog post about our choice to homeschool, but I want you to know that this is not a debate over what type of schooling is the best. To level the playing field, let me begin by saying that I grew up in private school (loved it), taught in both private and public schools (loved it), and our two oldest attended public charter school for 3 and 5 years each respectively.

When our oldest child was ready to start kindergarten, friends would ask if we were going to homeschool. I think they asked that because of my teaching background. At that point I did not -in the least- feel called to homeschool. I had my hands full with a toddler and a new born and I knew my limitations. We considered private school, but because of the cost, it would only be a one year option. We were fortunate enough to be in a good base (public) school district, but I felt strongly about 3:45pm afternoon release being much too long of a day for kindergartners. We applied to a public charter school, knowing that if we got in, it was the Lord's doing because there were 10 slots available and over 300 applicants. We did get in, and for the first two years it was an answer to prayer. The school had an early release (1:30pm) and a low teacher/ student ratio. Even though the school had one of the highest scores in the county, we began to see things that were disturbing. Performance over character; test scores over students' needs; undiplomatic administration, etc...

When my oldest was in 3rd grade, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Sometimes being a former teacher is a great thing. Sometimes it makes being a parent tough. As my child began to struggle at that school, I was torn between being the parent who supports the teacher and the former teacher who knew what the problem was: the teaching methods. During that year, I happened to hear a friend of mine say something in passing that caught my attention and planted the seed of possibility: the possibility that the Lord might be calling us to homeschool. I argued and wrestled with that thought for almost a full year. I didn't say anything to my husband. I just, as we like to say, wrastled! During my wrastling I began to notice families that homeschool. Much to my surprise, I discovered something that I didn't think was possible: they were... normal! I've spoken before about my stereotyping. I thought that if I began homeschooling, I would be reduced to wearing mom-jeans, no makeup, and my 4 year old might ask me to nurse him again. ;) During the course of that year, my heart was softened, and the layers of prejudice were peeled away.

In October of her 4th grade year we had a better teacher, but my child had already been earmarked by the administration. (This is when momma bear has a really hard time.) I began to pray and ask the Lord to make it very clear if we were to homeschool. One of the most clarifying moments was when I approached my husband about it. My black-and-white, quick-to-give-his-answer husband simply said, "Let me pray about it." Whoa! This was serious. After about two weeks, (of which I kept quiet and didn't push, thankuverymuch) he said, "I think we should try it." I didn't want this to be my decision, or even our decision.We wanted this to be a God thing. We made a list of pros and cons. The list of pros grew long and, to our surprise, the list of cons remained at 2. Over the course of the next few months we received confirmation after confirmation, some big, some small. Nevertheless, we witnessed God's faithfulness as he gently guided us to this decision.

Should we have homeschooled from the beginning? No. We weren't called to do that.
Just because something is "good" doesn't make it right if it's not the Lord's will.

What about socialization? Bwahahaha! My kids are extremely socialized. The difference? Let's just say that I've watched my 5th grader bloom. I began to see things in her social behavior that bothered me. There wasn't anything wrong with the girls in her class, but I began to notice a negativity that was spreading like a cancer. My 5th grader still has friends her age and she has her own personality, but I am seeing that loving, caring, nurturing, joyful little girl again.

I only get one chance at this.
Someone recently told me that I can't shelter them forever. I'm not trying to shelter them. I'm nowhere near forever. I've been called to train them up in the way they should go... to be godly, productive members of society. If I can protect their innocence as long as possible and provide a healthy, nourishing environment then why judge me?

Do I judge those who choose public school? Absolutely not. Do I think those who send their children to private school have the advantage? No. Do I regret the "time lost" while my children were in school? Nope.
No judgement. No guilt. No regrets.
If we as parents would step away from blanket statements/ opinions about schooling, we just might step out of the way enough to let the Lord speak to individuals.

So there you have it. Bless your heart for sticking with me for this long. It was a long answer to a short question. Speaking of questions, last week I had an "ask me" day. A couple of the questions were about homeschooling:
Tracey asked: You have conquered 1/2 a year of homeschooling. Is there anything that surprised you about this journey? I didn't realize how much would be available to me as a homeschool mom: good deals, support groups, teacher resources etc... My favorite curriculum resource? The Well Trained Mind.
What are your top 2 likes and dislikes about homeschooling? I love the flexibility of the day. We can get so much done and still have time for them to be kids (another soapbox for another day). I also love how easy it is to tailor to their strengths and weaknesses. I dislike lesson planning. It's more work than I anticipated. Not awful, but definitely work. I can't think of another "dislike" right now. Well, maybe that I sometimes need there to be 3 of me.
If someone were to start today, what's the number 1 piece of advice you would give them?? Whoa, girl, that's a loaded question! My number one piece of advice would be this: you can do it.

O Mom asked:
Do you plan on home schooling all the way through high school? That kind of scares me. The whole transcripts and calculus and chemistry thing. We still have 3+ years to decide. Whew!
What if one of your kids wants to go to H.S.? We will always listen to the opinion of our children. We might not act on that opinion since we, as parents, have been given the responsibility to make the big decisions for them. What we will listen to, is the Lord's calling. Do you belong to any home link programs like through your public school? At the risk of sounding dumb, what's that? So to answer your question, no. We are, however, starting a co-op on Friday. I'll let you know how that goes. ;)

To wrap up this dissertation post, I want to say that our decision to homeschool has been the best decision that we've ever made. My fears have been put to rest: I was worried about mommy burn out. We've been at this for 6 months and I still like being a mom (whew!) I was afraid they would get sick of each other. They have a closer sibling relationship than they have ever had. I was worried about my ability to teach my own kids. Rather, I am much more aware of their needs, strengths, weaknesses and learning styles.
Is it perfect? No. Do we love it? Yes!!!


Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you sweet friend for walking by Faith!!!

Richella said...

Thank you for visiting me at Imparting Grace. I'm so glad to find your blog. . . I look forward to coming back when I have to settle in for a good visit.

We live in Durham. . . and now my oldest son really does "live at Duke," where he's a freshman.

I LOVE the window in your header. If I could have any collection I wanted, it would be of old church windows.

I look forward to getting to know you better!

Carpool Queen said...

Great post, friend. I've loved watching you take these steps of faith this year, and when I'm with your kids, I know it's SOOO the right decision for them.

Love ya'

Annie said...

I have to tell you, this whole post is confirmation for ME that we are not alone as parents wanting the best situation for our child. While homeschooling is not our issue, middle school and all it's "yuck" is. Our son, currently a 5th grader, is doing very well at his school (public). And I know that next year he'll have even more fun and learn even more with the 6th grade team we have been blessed with! However, it's that next step -- middle school and beyond for that matter.

I KNOW my kiddo. I KNOW what he needs and what he doesn't. And I KNOW what he should and shouldn't be surrounded by. And the middle school that's next in line ain't it! (Did you like that, Teacher!? :}) So, we're in the midst of moving him to an entirely different school district for MS -- and potentially HS. This other district is about the same size as the middle school he's supposed to attend. The WHOLE District! And they have better scores, teachers, parent involvment, etc.

God has a plan for this Boy He's blessed us with and I am not about to sit back and just "let" things happen to him. Thanks for SUCH a great post!
-from one Mama Bear to Another...

The Chubby Dove said...

Thanks for this post. It was very encouraging.

Our oldest son went to public school for his first two years. LOVED IT!

Now, both of our kids are in private school. LOVE IT, but it's very expensive!

I also have a teaching background and find it VERY HARD to believe that I could homeschool them...and they'd still love me at the end of the day. (The thought of trying to teach them math scares me to bits, too!)

However, it IS something we have talked about and still may be on the horizon for us. YIKES!

Lacy said...

You inspire me..simply put! Thank you Lord for putting Gretchen into my life. :) Funny you can be states away and be my topic of dinner discussion. Thanks for your help firend.

Bugs and Sunshine said...

Great post and I'm proud of you too for walking by faith.

God called us to homeschool this year and I about croaked. I mean I wear a smokey eye for pete's sake and I'm pretty sure I don't own a denim jumper :0).

It has been A.MAZE.ING. for us too. We have bonded so much. Don't know what next year holds but I do know God promised me that he enables those he calls (for anything) and he's holding true to his WORD!

Anonymous said...

love it! love it! love it!!

having watched my sister HS their 4 kids over the past 14ish yrs, i've become a huge fan of
home-schooling & all of its many, many benefits. (and those kids are far more "social" than i am -- there are a couple of major extroverts in that mix!) ;)

i think my fav. line in this post is, "If I can protect their innocence as long as possible and provide a healthy, nourishing environment then why judge me?" AAAA-MEN!!! our society has lost the value of protecting our children so much so that healthy, biblical protecting is viewed as sheltering/bad. but last time i read I Cor, love always protects. always! (reminds me that i need to get back to this book i started a while ago called, "saving childhood." hmm, is it in box #1? box #2?) ;)

anyway, thx for sharing your heart, & your journey. praise God for His blessings in it,
TZ :)

Amy Kinser said...

We have three children, a junior, freshman, and 1st grader and they are all homeschooled. Is it always easy...no. Are there days it would be nice to send them somewhere else and let someone else do it...yes. Can I imagine not having them here with me and not being able to be a part of this journey in each of their lives...no. Days sometimes are really tough, but they are also so rewarding. I have loved homeschooling since the beginning and pray that the Lord will allow me to finish up all three children here at home. You are right, though, whatever is His will.

Dixie said...

well put,my dear and what a blessing for me to watch as you followed the Lord and found Him so faithful--Isa. 40:11.

Rachel Cox said...

Can I just say that the more I read your blog, the more I wish that we lived close to each other so that we could go and get a cup of coffee together! Your heart is just so precious!!

Anonymous said...

oh be careful, once I started homeschooling my boys held me hostage and wouldn't return to school! It was a riot and I loved every minute of it, have fun!

O Mom said...

I agree about the kids getting along even better. My 2 youngest are 6 & 9 and people are always amazed at how good they play together.
Home link programs......The last 2 years were the first we have been a part of one. Our school district provides it (basically because they want the money for their school from our kids) but they give us 1200. dollars a child to buy curriculum.....There are good and bad sides to these programs though, but we have had no problems with ours, they don't tell us what to do or anything..... I just have to buy our christian books on our own.

Billie Wyatt said...

Thanks for sharing your insight! I was just thinking how I wanted to ask you what made you decide to homeschool.

Tracey said...

You are awesome! (I'll stop at that because you know how I feel about everything you've said in this post.) Can't wait to hear about the co-op.

Karen said...

Big hugs to you friend! Being where God wants you is the best place to be.

Gretchen said...

I am soooo glad for the day I started reading your blog. I echo both the thankful prayer of "Lacy", and "Rachel Cox"'s wish to be neighbors.

You inspire by your daily walk of faith, Gretchen.

My oldest child has a patchwork of schooling systems under his belt. Each the best we could do for him at the time. Each rich in its own way. Each sacrificial. Each imperfect. But thru it all, God has been so faithful. I home schooled him for his 6th grade year, and have partially done so for 7th and 1/2 of 8th. This is not the life I saw myself living. But then...I never was any good at omniscience. ;) Blessings on your school!

Sandy M. said...

So well put, my darling daughter. And you should feel so encouraged by all these comments. It has thrilled my heart to see you all blossoming as you go through this new journey, watching as God led the way in your decision & the way He has supplied all you need each step of the way.
I say this all the time, but I am so glad that I really DO get to be your neighbor! Love you SO much!!!

Anonymous said...

I may be calling on you. We're homeschooling next year. It may be just for the year, it may be longer. We're deciding as we go. I'm going to a Classical Conversations information meeting this week to see if that might be something we're interested in pursuing.

Anonymous said...

I did public school first too! I was not planning to home school in elementary either. I left my heart open to it as well, and at the time, it was a huge decision. I am three years in now, and I don't think I will ever go back. Although I can't predict future needs at this point, I can't see my kids back in the system, at least not at this point. Its a true sacrifice, but what I think surprised me most was the rewards from that sacrifice. We live in a time where sacrifice is giving up our lattes or driving an old car. Giving our time in this way seems huge to most people. Even for myself, when I made this decision. I think I have a new perspective on it now. I see the gift of time as the most rewarding gift. It builds lasting relationships, it creates lasting bonds, it builds my character as well as my children's character, daily, and it makes me happier overall. Sure I don't get all that so called fun time, but was it really time that gave me the happiness and satifaction I feel now overall. No way! I'm not advocating that women not take time for themselves, that would be really unhealthy overall. However, I see a lot of frivolous time that really at the end of the day lacks a lot of meaning overall. I would much rather spend my free time now reading a good book, or going out with friends, rather than some of the other things I used to think were so important. I commend you for your courage to say these things. Many of us home schoolers get a lot flack for home schooling. I honestly don't know why, maybe like you said, the stereotypes are heavy handed. If only those people could meet my kids and many home schooled kids, what they would realize is that kids are kids. There are eccentric kids, active kids, shy kids, kids who do not like math, or reading, home schooled or not. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, but ultimately it will be our character that pulls us through. That is what I hope my kids take away from our homeschooling days, that ultimately their character is what will define them. Some of the best people I know had to struggle, and I have to struggle too. Its how we go about our struggles, that makes us the people we are. I'm happy you have found this to work for your family, I wish you all the best. Its fun reading your blog, and I can so relate to all that you are saying. It really is the journey, not the destination. I hope you get a lot out of your journey. I'm sure you will.

The Cherry Family said...

Thank you so much for sharing! I love reading your blog but usually don't comment, I guess I am a silent stalker!

anthonyandbeth said...

i'm so glad I ran into you in the bathroom this morning at co-op! i didn't realize you had joined the co-op and i didn't realize your daughter was in our class...still trying to remember first names! :) but it all came together for me. she is a sweetie and I'm so glad she's doing music with us.

thanks for sharing your post. similar in that we started out in public school never even considered homeschooling. through a series of events in 1st grade we felt the Lord calling us to homeschool. i love it most days and then i have my moments where i hate it. still believe it's where God wants us. having some struggles with our oldest with attitude stuff and choosing joy. praying for wisdom on how to handle all of that but know it's best he is at home. i hope to get to know you better. i'll be back to read more. love your blog! :)

Kellieab said...

I'm not even sure how I stumbled across your blog, but I am so glad I did! From your parenting posts to your marriage ones to your organizational ones, they are all what I needed. Thank you for letting the Lord use you!