Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why We Homeschool

I'm having One Of Those Nights. You know what I'm talking about - the kind of night where you lie awake looking back over all the choices you've ever made and trying to decide if they were the right ones, or if you've completely screwed up your life, your kids' lives, the delicate balance of the universe itself...

If you don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky and go back to sleep.

To be perfectly honest, I don't do this often. I usually sleep like a log 5 minutes after my head hits the pillow. I don't second guess or dwell or ruminate... I just do my best all day, and go to sleep at night so that I'll be fresh and well-rested so I can do it again the next day.

And now I'm ruminating when I should be sleeping. Trying to remember the certainty we felt 6 years ago when we made the decision to homeschool instead of doing what everyone else does.

Why did we do this?

It would be a good thing to remember right now. I know there were good reasons when we made the decision to do it, and good reasons to keep us doing it for all these years.

I'm making a list, so that 1) I can relax and go to sleep and 2) I'll have something to read in case this ever happens again.

Here it is, in no particular order.

1) We wanted the kids to be themselves, think for themselves, and not feel they had to conform to fit into a group of same-age peers.

2) We liked the efficiency of it. It really doesn't take 7 hours to get a day's worth of formal learning done.

3) We liked the freedom of it. We can do our work when and how it suits us best.

4) Homeschool learning is more similar to how adults learn. There are no bells telling you when to start or stop. You can follow your interest wherever it leads you, and take all the time you need to satisfy your curiosity about the subject.

5) It has allowed us more free time to pursue other interests. The kids would not have had time for all of the activities and sports and experiences they have had if they were in school all day.

6) They can learn at their own pace. Quickly through the easy stuff, taking more time to master the harder stuff.

7) They are in mixed-age settings. They are not with the same group of same-age peers all of the time.

8) We really know the kids well and can see their strengths and weaknesses in our every day lives. (Not to say that our schooling-friends don't know their kids, of course - but we knew it would have been a real challenge with one of ours if he were in school all day.)

9) We know the kids' friends and their families. Whether they homeschool or not, most of them share our core values.

10) We have been able to ground the kids in those core values, which often differ from the mainstream, secular, consumer culture.

Okay. That feels a bit better.

I have to remind myself that rarely are decisions perfect. Either way, you gain some things and give up others. My friends who have kids in school have their own likes and dislikes about their choice. It comes down to what makes the most sense for our own family at each point in our lives, and on which path we believe God has called us to follow.

I want to stay on this one a bit longer to see where it leads.

If God wants me to switch paths somewhere down the road, I'm hoping He will make it obvious.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the 'one less traveled' by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Trying this again...

I know it looks as if I've been neglecting this lovely little corner of cyberspace, but it was all part of my devious plan to trick all three of the people who had been reading my blog into thinking it was defunct and go away.

Now that they're gone, I will resume my research on the tribe of Savages with whom I seem to be permanently stuck.

Surveying my surroundings:

It's a good-sized dwelling, but it contains an oppressive amount of clutter. I recently started a clutter-awareness campaign, despite the protests of the Savages, and I do think I've made some progress in clearing out key areas of the dewlling. Of course, all the junk wound up in the basement, which is now a complete disaster. If the junk isn't removed from the dwelling permanently soon, I can guarantee that it will slowly but surely work its way back into the rooms I worked so hard to clear out. Such is the nature of my work.

As for the Savages themselves:

They are all male, as far as I can tell. The oldest one is kind of cute, roughly my age, and I have accepted him as a mate. We bunk together and occasionally get some time without the smaller ones around, but not much. He does a lot of crossword puzzles, and he has a talent for making me laugh and taking over with the care of the younger ones when I've had it with them.

The biggest Savage child is taller than me, but only 12 years old. He is the "squeaky wheel" of the group who has the most demands, needs the most attention, and does the most damage. He frequently takes his pubescent angst out on his guitar. He's getting to be pretty good at that guitar. This is good since, despite his genius IQ, he doesn't seem too interested in schoolwork.

The middle child is 9 and is frequently described as an "old soul." He is wise and perceptive, strongly motivated to learn and achieve, and quick to remind us of the forest when all we are seeing is the trees. We have noticed that he is growing his hair long, but we don't bother him about it. He's a good kid, not mean or rebellious or disrespectful. If he's growing his hair, it must be for a good reason.

The littlest one is 5 and very cute. Everyone still calls him "the baby," although this isn't really accurate. He's actually a kitty. Ask him and he will tell you about how he's a special kitty because he has "opposable thumbs." Or he will just meow at you if he doesn't know you well. He's been a kitty for 2 or three years now. We wonder how this is affecting his brain development, but he seems pretty smart, he gets along with the other children, and he fears nothing, so we're just chalking it up to an active imagination.

Then there's the dog. Another male, of course. He provides hours of entertainment for the tribe as they chase him around, put clothing on him, and "talk" like they imagine he would talk. I'm thankful that he can't really talk because I'd be afraid to hear what he'd say, and because it's already noisy enough around here.

It's a very busy tribe, with some kind of schooling or activity going on from the time we get up to the time we collapse from exhaustion at the end of the day. Savageman goes to work early in the morning, and I try to get up before the others do for some uberproductivity time, but the littlest one has superhuman (kitty) hearing and wakes up and finds me before I have a chance to get anything done.

The biggest one is up next, armed with reasons and excuses why he shouldn't have to learn anything from me today, or at least right now. He avoids me as best as he can for as long as he can, pretending he's eating breakfast for three hours.

Finally, the middle one, who is wise enough to realize the power of adequate sleep (or maybe he's wise because he's the only one of us who gets adequate sleep - I'm not sure which) emerges from his room, looking like a bedraggled sea monster with the hair sticking up every which way. He prefers to skip breakfast like I do, which is fine because it won't be long now until lunch. His Savage brothers yell, "AAAAAAgggghhh! A sea monster!" And he waves his tentacles in the air and scampers back up the stairs to get dressed and comb his hair.

The rest of the day is spent engaging in a variety of activities, from math and history and science, to field trips and activities, sports and scouts and martial arts. When we finally reach the end of the day, it feels like I've only done half of what I had planned to get done that day, but again, such is the nature of my work.

Overall, it's not a bad place to be stuck. I like it here.