Why We Will Homeschool

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I believe that education is not a “one size fits all” system. Every child is different, every family is different, and every school district is different. I whole-heartedly believe in the freedom and grace for each family to decide for themselves what the best fit is for their child’s education. It is my husband and my personal decision to choose the homeschooling route for our children. In no way do I believe we are making the more righteous choice in education, because I believe that there simply is no such thing as a righteous choice when it comes to schooling. With all that being said, here are our key reasons for choosing to homeschool:

1. I don’t believe in teaching to the test.

I grew up in the Florida public school system, so FCAT was god. FCAT told my teachers what was allowed on their lesson plans, which words were deemed acceptable for vocabulary tests, and that the only acceptable form of writing is a 5 paragraph essay. FCAT determined the educational future for all those who took it. We were given numbers 1-5, which then determined what classes we were allowed to take. I remember my senior year in high school, when FCAT was no longer required, yet our teachers were still forced to spend the first 10 minutes of a 45 minute class covering the FCAT vocabulary words of the week. Tests are inevitable no matter what course of education you pursue, I just believe that my child should learn more then what is on any given test, and that their educational career should not be defined by their score on a single test.

2. Contrary to popular belief, I believe school is for education not socialization.

There is a popular notion in our society that school is a great resource in socializing our children. This is one of many issues that the general public has with homeschoolers, because they feel that we are doing our children a disservice by not socializing them in the traditional school setting. My husband and I chose not to buy into this particular notion. First of all, we are limiting our thinking if we honestly believe that the public school system is the one-and-only appropriate source of socialization. The homeschool network can also provide interaction with one’s peers, discovering and pursuing one’s passions, and can help a child engage in diversity through co-ops, group classes, field trips, sports, clubs, church, etc. Second of all, what are we teaching our children if we present school as the only means to meet friends and interact with others? This is not reality, because one day school will end. Third of all, I believe the front-runner in my child’s education should be his/her academic pursuits. When it is time for school, I believe it is time for education. Upon entering college, I was amazed to find what could be accomplished within a semester, meeting 2-3 times a week. My desire is to be more efficient with my child’s education, removing the 8 hour time constraint, allowing them to work at their own pace. This will then open up more time for extra-curricular activities.

3. I get to fully know those who educate my child.

I grew up in the public education system. I’ve had some absolutely amazing teachers, and I’ve had some not-so-great teachers. I’ve had teachers whose passion was teaching and children, and then I’ve had teachers who chose their career path in order to match the vacations of their family. Believe me, you can tell the difference. The unknown variable of the teachers in the public and private school system is not something I wish to encounter. I do not want to hear myself every summer say, “May the odds be ever in our favor.” Through homeschooling, I am able to choose who will be teaching my children, and I have the opportunity to fully know those individuals with an influential role in my child’s life.

4. I am able to identify and cultivate my child’s talents and interests at a young age.

Electives do exist within the homeschooling network, contrary to what you may think. The beauty of this network is not being limited to what your specific school has to offer. Public and private schools are confined by budgets and what personnel they have on hand. If a student’s interests go beyond what is being offered, they must transform their interests to match the school’s options, or they are forced to look outside of their school to others avenues where they can dedicate what little time they have left in their day. A child’s options are even more limited in elementary school. Homeschooling allows my elementary-aged child to show interest beyond p.e., art, or choir, with curriculum to further cultivate those interests.

5. My husband’s and my philosophy in education is best met through homeschooling.

Our philosophy can be described through this quote:

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” – Paulo Freire

The way in which we see ourselves educating our children to deal “critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world” is through homeschooling.

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Homeschooling is Not the Righteous Choice in Education, But Neither is Public or Private School

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This should not come as a surprise to anyone, but there is quite the stigma attached to homeschooling.  Many individuals perceive homeschoolers as socially inept, incapable of interacting with their peers, having a degree of egotism, and not as well-rounded as those who attend “regular” school.  Then there is the perception of the parents who force their children down this path.  They’re seen as these crazy, fundamentalist Christians who are terrified of the big bad wolf known as the public school system. And so they sequester their babies, lest those terrible heathens negatively influence poor, innocent, and naive Johnny.

I recently viewed a documentary where all these stereotypes fit into one family.  I watched in horror as this freckled-faced little boy was being told the terrors of evolution from his mother (my apologies to those whose faith is founded on the concept of creationism, I just simply believe that Christianity and one’s salvation cannot be shattered by the literal or figurative interpretation of the creation narrative).  Then the younger brother enters the room, beginning his “science lesson” of the day and he states that he felt Galileo made the right decision  giving up science for Christ (I am tired of hearing all the cases against science from Christians, they can and do co-exist because all truth is God’s truth.  And on another note: since when is teaching the unimportance of science a science lesson?).  The scene concludes with the mother claiming that the godly and righteous path for education is homeschooling.

Just to clarify, there is no righteous path in education.  The only righteous choice is your decision to be an active parent in whatever path your child embarks on.

As I concluded watching this scene, I was filled with so many emotions.  Contrary to what you may think, I did not feel fear or hatred towards homeschooling, nor did I feel disgust towards the family.  What I did feel was that there is an incredible disservice being done to those who homeschool.  We watch documentaries such as this and assume all homeschoolers are the same.

Yes, people like those depicted in the documentary do exist within homeschooling, but as I have learned, it tends to be those with the most extreme views who are the loudest in our society.  These types of individuals always find their way to our television screens.  Why you might ask?  Because they create ratings, they generate traffic, and unfortunately our American populace has deemed the extremist entertaining.

But since when did we start whole-heartedly believing everything we see on TV?  Aren’t we supposed to come to a place where we recognize that not everything is as it appears to be? Yet, so many of us take the horror stories we hear from others, or the incredibly biased interviews and documentaries we see on our television screens and determine that this is a true representation of homeschooling.  And if by some miraculous act we encounter a “normal” homeschooler, we then deem them to be the rare exception.

But what if I were to tell you that these extremists are actually the rarity?  Would you believe me?

I ask that you cast your preconceived notions aside and join me these next couple of weeks as I showcase the real faces, the real stories, and the real reasons behind homeschooling.  As the French poet, Victor Hugo, once said, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”  Within the realms of homeschooling, the school door may look more like what you walk through after a long day’s work, but it can also be a door being opened to education, opportunities, and possibilities.

Guest Post-How Many Lives Did I Come With?

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Our twenties aren’t the easiest period in our lives: we are grown-ups who still feel 18; we are new parents still scared of our own; and we are out of the plethora of friendships and relationships that college brings. We are trying to juggle life and all of its sharp turns and mountains through the screen of an Apple or Android, instead of looking up at the community around us. We are so scared of being alone that we would rather be glued to our iPhones than face the truth: we have boxed our community in a 4inch screen.

It is staggering how much I depend on my phone. I am in a constant state of communication between Facebook, Instagram, CandyCrush,  emails, texts etc. There isn’t a time where I am not aware of my phone. What if I get full lives on CandyCrush? What if Orange is the New Black comes back for season 2 on Netflix without me? It is my watch, my link to the world, my friend in time of need (lunch alone) and it is my crutch to the community and friendships around me. Going through this period of my life, I am becoming aware of the fact that I don’t have the community that I was used to during college. A few months ago I read a book called MWF seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche, and I realized that I am not alone with this feeling of friendship crisis. I am not in college anymore.

Truth be told, that college style of friendship isn’t what I want anymore. Call me old, but I can no longer handle late night coffee runs and all night extravaganza’s- I can barely stay up until 11 anymore. What I want is a community that is going through the same experiences and tribulations that I am. People to do life with. But, so often, we find out that life isn’t like college where your possible BFF is right next door, friends take a little bit more work to find. It is the talk in the grocery store to the person behind you. It is the mom who also brought their child to the park.  It’s the book-club down at the library.  It’s looking up from your phone for 1 minute to realize the possibilities around you. Set it down, my friends; embrace the eminent idea that life is happening all around you and take part of it, run with it, and for the love of all that is holy, get a life.

True Gentleness is Giving a Hand to the Frazzled Mom

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I was at a gathering one night where a group of women were discussing the concept of gentleness.  Parenting was brought up and what gentleness looks like in that realm.  One woman offered a story:

Two moms were going to the grocery store.  One mom was soft-spoken and gentle with her children, and they remained quiet and obedient throughout the shopping trip.  The other mom entered the store frazzled and yelling at her children as they dart every which way.  The first mom embodied true gentleness, while the other just appears foolish to her fellow shoppers.

My eyes widened, and I’m sure my jaw must have dropped.  I looked around the room expecting to see other faces mirroring mine, only to find that I was alone.  Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I just have one of those faces—you know the kind.  It’s the face that perfectly reflects the thoughts and emotions of the person without any censor.  Oh, those darn faces!  I’m certain that there were other women that night whom felt the same way as I, but I guess I was the only one whose face was outing her emotions to the room.

As a relatively new mom, I’m daily bombarded with blog posts, news reports, and  journal articles telling me what I should be doing and how I should be feeling when it comes to parenting.  Often times I walk away from these readings feeling defeated.  The worst are the overly-spiritual parenting bloggers.  They paint motherhood as a field of sunflowers that you frolic through, as you smile and admire your ever-delightful family frolicking next to you.  To be honest, when I am changing my daughter’s diaper and she keeps trying to grab her poop and bring it to her mouth, it’s hard for me to imagine us running through a field of daisies together.  All I can picture is feces.

My initial disgust with this story stemmed from the fact that I was a new mom, and I felt like the story was just another one of those readings telling me how I am not good enough.  I am sure I’ve had times where I look presentable at the grocery store; times where my daughter does not make a peep, and onlookers smile at us as we quietly stroll about the aisles.  But more often than not, I am the other mom.  I’m quickly running to the store because I’ve forgotten a key ingredient to our dinner recipe, or we’ve run out of toilet paper and already I’m frantic.  My daughter is, more than likely, yelling at me because I have ripped her away from her toys and am forcefully strapping her into her car-seat.  We finally arrive at the store, and now I am on referee duty trying to keep my daughter from grabbing everything she sees while also trying to remember what was on my shopping list–which has inevitably gone into hiding.  Frazzled would certainly be the ideal word to describe me, but foolish would not.

New moms, veteran moms, and somewhere-in-between moms, I am certain we’ve all had shopping trips like this.  Shopping trips where things did not go according to plan and our children forgot to put their show-face on in public.  At one time or another, we can all relate to the frazzled mom.  And I’m certain that in our frazzled state, what we needed was not judgment on our failure to show gentleness, but rather for someone to be gentle with us.

Here’s a better story about gentleness:

A woman embarks on the treacherous journey of Christmas shopping.  Minutes have turned into hours, and suddenly it feels like an entire week has been spent standing in the checkout line.  At this moment, one child demands  the nutritional snack of Gummi Worms.  Upon hearing the word “no”, the child then throws herself on the floor screaming.  This sparks a chain response with her other child.  The line continues to move forward, and the mom is forced to drag her screaming children along with her.  It becomes apparent that a crowd has gathered.  Fear and astonishment mark the faces of the onlookers.  Soon, the mom realizes that not only are these onlookers starring at her unruly children, they are also starring at her.  The mom notices a man approaching them, and it is a police officer.  Instead of addressing the mom’s inability to keep her family in line, the officer draws his attention to the children.  He informs the two girls that their mother and all the other shoppers have the desire to shop in peace, which they are disrupting with their screams.  The children fall silent.  The officer then turns to the mom and says, “Being a parent.  It’s a tough gig,” (Carry on Warrior 155-158).

When I think about gentleness, I can’t help but feel like we’ve missed the mark if we are looking down on those who aren’t depicting it.  The problem with someone making a judgement of who embodies gentleness more, is that they themselves are not extending gentleness.  Being gentle with one another goes beyond our circle of friends and family.  If we are only gentle to those in our circle, for example mother to child, then that really isn’t anything to be admired or praised.  The true gage gentleness is not through your interactions with your loved ones, but how you interact with those you do not know, including the frazzled mom with screaming children at the grocery store.  The true embodiment of gentleness is the officer offering a word of encouragement to an obviously frazzled and overwhelmed mom.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”