Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Why Homeschool. Part One.

Chris from Notes From the Trenches has started another blog over here, and I'm not sure why she has two, but I do know I can't get enough Chris. Today she talked some about her homeschool, which I was so glad to read since, even after stalking all her old posts until her site meter flagged me as a potential serial killer, I haven't seen much about how she does things, why she chose homeschooling, what a homeschool day is like in the Big Yellow House. Hmmm. Maybe she'd give me an interview! LOL Anyhow, after I visited Kacey's blog and read about her grandson, I got to thinking I really should put down on "paper" why I picked homeschooling. My kids may someday want to know why I turned them into social lepers chose to school them at home.

Just so everyone is clear right up front; To each their own. Whatever school you dig is dandy with me. The main thing I've noticed is that people usually have a strong opinion about homeschooling, and that's cool, but if you can't be supportive, you can keep it to yourself around this neck of the woods. I'm not trying to convince people that public schools are evil or tell people they aren't being great parents if they don't homeschool, I'm just going to tell you how I, (we, really) feel and felt to make this choice for our family.

I didn't decide to homeschool on a whim. The thought never even crossed my mind until we moved to the great state of TX. The older three have done fine with public schools and I've done my share of parent teacher conferences, wrapping paper fundraising and crazy back to school supply lists. When we moved to TX, our kids did notice that the classes seemed easier, but they didn't complain and life went on. When we moved here, we also started to hear about more and more homeschooling families. Droves of them. Back home, if you were homeschooled, you were a freaky-folk. But I had to admit that the more I thought about sending my cute little kiddos off on that big yellow bus, I thought more and more about my own school experience and I started to think that there had to be a better alternative. So settle in and I'll tell you my tale. I'll start my story by taking you down the path of my education.

School started for me at a young age, I must have been three or four, because I attended two years at a religious pre-school. The thing I remember most about pre-school was graham crackers with milk, the smell of my nap rug and how being around the nuns made me feel like I had swallowed my tongue. I remember being picked up from school when it was dark outside and how I loved to memorize the streets from school to Grandma G's, the bank, the store and home.

I went on to Kindergarten, and I remember the day I decided to learn to read. I was watching Ripley's believe it or Not or some similar show and they showed a child who was four and could read. I was sick about it. I was already past four, and I couldn't read. So I bugged my mom. She says she wouldn't teach me because she didn't want me to be too far ahead of my class. I remember reading signs to her on the way to and from school. Grandma says she thought Mom was talking crazy talk, but I remember her giving me the Dick and Jane book, reading a few pages with me and going into the other room. Within a few hours, I had made it through, and from that day on, I could read. And read I did. I was voracious right from the start.

We moved before I started first grade, and the first day of school, I boarded the little yellow bus bound for the two room school house that served our ranch community. It started the moment I boarded the bus. There were two boys who were in fifth and sixth grade. They called me ski jump, owing to the upturned, button nose that sits in the middle of my face. I couldn't stand it. I had no idea why they would treat me like that, and I remember wishing I was invisible. At school, my class was the largest. There were four first graders, and they were all girls. I don't even remember if there were second graders in our class room, I think there were, and the third to sixth grades were taught in the second classroom.

My teacher was outstanding, one of the best in the district. Tests were taken each year, and I know mom told me that she was given the option of moving me up a grade, but declined because she was worried that I'd miss something I'd need later. The only difference I noticed in the class room was that I sometimes got extra work, and I ALWAYS got poor marks in behavior. Those little boxes at the bottom that graded area's like, "Uses Time Wisely", "Works Well With Others" and "Controls Talking" could be marked for area's worthy of special note were filled with the "Needs Improvement" check mark every.single.time. Grades given were E or E+, S or S+ and U. E=Excellent, S=Satisfactory, and U...well, you get the idea. I thought I deserved an E on everything. I did what I was supposed to, and I was always done first. School for me was like being reminded of things I already knew.

But as much as I excelled in the classroom, I paid for it on the playground. Remember that this is a country school. It doesn't take as long to teach when the teacher to student ratio is 1:6. These were the days of school recess. The teachers talked, the kids played, and the bullies reigned supreme. In this day and age the schools employ "Playground Monitors", but not so at the two room school house. I don't think I made it out of the first week of school when the three girls in my class held my arms back and used my stomach as a punching bag. It's not that it hurt so much, as I just couldn't believe what was happening. I don't remember when, or even who I told, but I remember my mom trying to teach me to hit pillows in hopes I could defend myself, and any other times I complained, it was explained to me that I acted like a know-it-all and that's why the other kids picked on me. Now to be fair to all parties involved, I probably was a know-it-all. After all, I pretty much did, At least where first to third grade was concerned. I probably was a brat, and I had no idea how to be liked, and really, in the scheme of things, that was all I wanted, to be liked. Well, to be liked and be the best, at everything.

Despite the social problems, I had an amazing grade school experience that included afternoons peering over the bridge at the river while we ate our picnic lunches, building snow caves and spending endless hours sledding down snow covered hills, school sponsored weekly ski trips (I ALWAYS ditched ski school after the second year...Sorry dad!) even a real Indian Rendevoux where we got to bead our own moccasins, make coup sticks and sleep in two real, full size, tee pee's. We climbed the rope everyday during our "unofficial PE", and used the mats to make mazes during recess. We had mud bomb wars and got our library books brought to us on the BookMobile. Our PE and Music teachers came once a week, and since I could memorize anything, I was always given the lead role in the school play. The good parts were very, very good. Unfortunately, the bad parts grew worse and worse with the passage of time, and my self-esteem was tossed like a dingy on the sea. Up with one kind word or success, down with every playground snub and awkward moment.

I couldn't tell you for sure when things came completely undone, but I know everyone around me recognized it when I yelled at the music teacher and crawled under my chair. I scared myself that day. I never had an easy time dealing with authority. I couldn't give words to the feelings I felt, so I got frustrated and cried, or lied, but I had never yelled. My reading was tested and it was "discovered" that I could read and comprehend high school level material. I was tutored for reading in the room with the older kids, but my parents knew they had to make big changes. At the prompting of a family friend, they enrolled me in the Lab School at the University and I began attending there in the fifth grade.


brandi ginn said...

OK I'm started college in 5th grade?

I see you said this is 'part one'...I'm wondering what this has to do with home schooling.

Have you ever heard of charter schools? They are better than 'public schools' because the parents are involved in creating the cirriculum and making sure it's acedemically sound. The education is more like a private school without the tuition.

My girls go to the charter school that my husband helped found. He is head of the cirriculum comitee and currently on the board of directors. The standardized testing came out this week and even though the school has only been open 1 year--we are #1 in the district.

momofalltrades said...

Brandi, my school experience is a big part of why I chose homeschooling. The academics are one piece of the puzzle. This series is meant to become part of my personal history. (I print my blog periodically since this is the only way I can stay motivated to keep a journal.)

I think charter schools are fantastic! Choosing my own curriculum has been one of the most exciting parts of homeschooling! I think it's awesome that you and your husband are intimately involved in your girls' education.

I'll clarify in tonights post, but I didn't start *college* in 5th grade, I started at the lab school (for elementary and middle school age kids) at the University. Technically, it was a private school, but it was established as a hands on learning tool for the College of Education at UW. So it was private school with TONS of student teachers. Once the University discontinued the school, parents got together and got a Charter school put together. I'll elaborate more on what was done to address my academic needs tonight.

BTW, I'm impressed you stuck with the story thus far and commented! LOL I'm pretty sure this stuff will be boring to everyone but myself and my family.

Kacey said...

Gollyee, momofalltrades --- don't short sell yourself about this post. I hung on every word and am anxious to hear the rest of your experience. I, too, knew how to read by the first grade through osmosis, I suppose. I had no Kindergarten, but had 4 older siblings and I could out read them in short order. I have always said that for some reason----I just could read. I couldn't misbehave, because kids didn't act out in school back then. I always loved school and seemed to know whatever new chapter opened to me, without trying. Math, Geography, English, Spelling --- I checked out the new thing and knew what it was about without trying. Nobody has ever tried to explain to me why some people learn like sponges and others spend their school days in total frustration. I know without reading your next blog that you are being sucessful with home schooling, but some home schoolers are horror stories. I'll tell you about that later. Meanwhile ---go mom go!