Thursday, August 03, 2006

Why Homeschool. Part Two.

Picking up where I left off...

Fifth grade was a new life, a second chance at having a good education. How blessed my family was and is, to be friends with both the Director of the lab school, and one of it's best teachers. Now that I think about it, it really is remarkable that the three families that were closest to my grandparents were full of truly talented educators. I don't know how it all went down for sure, but one of the families had a daughter who was becoming a teacher, she was the one who administered the reading test to me as part of her course work. The other two women took care of getting me in the school, and even made sure I had transportation to and from school, since we lived a little hike from town. The school it's self was a learning lab for the students at the college who were training to become teachers. It's simpler to call it a private school, but, that sounds stuffy and privileged. We weren't poor, but my life was not one of privilege. If not for the efforts of my grandparents friends, I would have had no choice but to continue on in public school. This thing they did for us was a blessing beyond measure.

So I started the fifth grade with another round of testing. They figured I could read and comprehend most anything they threw at me now. At some point they made a video of me and a classmate demonstrating our ability to read and regurgitate, like we were some kind of circus act. They managed to make me feel a little bit special and a little more normal and tried to give me a glimpse of what could be possible. The school encouraged students to work at their own pace, and most of the kids that attended were very bright and hardworking. It was something else to be with peers who were above average, it was nice to have it be OK to be smart. And yet, fitting in socially was still elusive for me.

I don't know how I looked on the outside to people, but I was a mess on the inside. I'm pretty sure I spent more time in the councilor's office than the other kids combined. Somewhere along the way, despite the supreme effort of teachers who really cared about me, I lost the thirst for knowledge. What I really wanted, was to fit in, have friends, and not be the butt of people's jokes anymore. School just wasn't fun, it wasn't work, it was just a meaningless time suck punctuated by occasional after school activities that helped keep me from going off the deep end. We still lived on the ranch, and I would awake at four thirty am to complete chores and ride to town with my dad so that he could be at work by 7. After school, I made my way to his office and we rode home at about 7. My sister's accident was followed by my grandfather's illness and I juggled a lot at home. I felt the weight of responsibility around my neck and I resented that it made me even more different.

I was in the seventh grade when I told my family that I didn't want to go to college. I told them I'd change my mind if they'd let me take college classes in place of at least some high school course work. I knew it could be done because the kid I sat next to in typing class took college classes when he was in the ninth grade. I think the push to just hurry up and get childhood over with began around that time. I felt powerless in so many ways, defeated and worn out from wanting to be good, and never quite living up to my potential. In fact, I was sick of hearing about my potential.

The lab school didn't offer high school, so I re-entered the public school system. I had been good at cheerleading, and was encouraged to try out, but just couldn't muster the enthusiasm to do it. I heard you had to pay for the camps and uniforms, and arranging transportation for after practices and games meant negotiations with dad. I figured, "Why bother?" I was just putting in my time so I could get out. Somewhere, I stopped being the gangly girl with the pug nose and became the girl with the small boobs and the great butt. It attracted a few boys, and I picked one. I figured he'd probably use me and dump me, but he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. I was 15 at the time and the idea that someone thought more of me than I thought of myself put me over the moon. He was a year older than I and when I was a junior in high school, I asked my parents to let me become emancipated. I didn't intend to marry him right then, I just wanted, needed, some kind of space. I wasn't raised to live with someone out of wedlock, but it would provide a means of survival, I was past caring what people, including my family, thought about me. When they turned me down, I planned a wedding date two weeks after my high school graduation. I turned down being the hometown rodeo queen and concentrated on the freedom that I could almost taste.

Brandi wondered what all this has to do with why I chose to homeschool. To me, it has everything to do with why I homeschool. I came a hair's breath away from screwing up my life beyond all recognition. I didn't love my highschool sweetheart. I loved that he loved me. It took all of 18 months after I graduated and got married to figure out that I could love myself and was worthy of a more suitable mate. I was married, divorced and remarried by the time I turned 21. When I remarried, it was to a man 18 years older than I who had three kids. It was sheer dumb luck and the love of God that I got an incredible husband who really did see through all the crazy, weird behavior, took a gamble on whether or not I'd grow into a decent wife, and gently began the process of helping me understand and gain self worth. My parents and grandparents did everything they could, but they couldn't overcome the feelings of shame, hopelessness and self-loathing that were planted there by my peers.

Academics played a big roll in my desire to homeschool, I figured I certainly couldn't do worse than the two room school house, and if I paid close attention to their individual needs, I could probably do a darn sight better. Socialization played a big roll as well. Socialization is one of the biggest concerns people seem to have about homeschooling, and quite honestly, it's probably the biggest reason I got passionate about it. I want to pick my kids' friends for a while. I want to make sure they look up to people worthy of their respect. I want to help them navigate their social interactions until they have a better idea of who they are and what they believe. I want them to be able to focus on school work while they mature socially, whether that pace is slower or faster than other children their age. I don't want their self worth tied up in whether or not they get picked for dodgeball, or who sits next to them at lunch. When I had my kids, I knew I could never send them to daycare. There wasn't anyone in this world who could love them more or nurture them better than I could. When it came time for school, I knew that nothing had changed. No one cares about their education and their socialization more than I do. When I first brought it up with Hubster, he wasn't completely on board, but he wasn't sold on the alternatives either. Finally, the more we talked and prayed and researched it, we knew it was what we were supposed to do.

I have found myself scared to death that I will screw this up. I worry that my kids will be "the weird kids". The first year, I worried over my ability to teach them what they need to know. But the farther along this path we go, the more success we have under our belt and the more confidence we gain to keep going. So far, both kids have learned to read and write, do addition and subtraction, read time, count money, measure things, and they have the bug, the itch to learn more. They hate it when history time is over and they often don't even realize I'm giving them a science lesson. They just like spending time with mom and dad and playing together. We're starting 1st and 2nd grades this year. They play well with other kids, in the neighborhood, at church, at community sponsored sporting events, and at homeschool functions. We don't plan on homeschooling through high school, but even that depends on what we feel is right at the time. I have struggles with dyscalculia, and the thought of teaching them higher math makes me extremely uneasy. But if that is what needs to be done, I will find a way.

The bottom line is that deeply personal events brought me to my knees to figure out what I could do better for my kids. We've heard differing opinions on whether we should or should not homeschool our kids, but it finally came down to Hubster and I feeling like this is what we are supposed to be doing, and then doing our best to do a good job of it. I can only hope my kids will have a much better experience than I did, and I feel more and more confident that my choice to shield them from the world will help them with the things that matter most. My job is to protect them as long as I reasonably can and do everything in my power to help them set and realize their goals and dreams.

And believe it or not, that's the short version! LOL


Kacey said...

You have a great way of expressing yourself and sound like a wonderful mother/teacher. My grandson, who is so bright is the son of my daughter, who has a master's+ in education. However, my darling daughter-in-law has chosen to home school four children with no formal education. I have yet to see an open book or a child sitting down with paper and pencil. They are up on the computer until 2 or 3 in the morning and arise at noon or thereabouts. The boys have all started work outside the home at 14 or 15 and are totally out of it scholastically. The #2 boy writes in our church blog and sounds like a poster child for suicide. They are never evaluated by the state or local school system. I am so afraid that they will turn on their parents when they are about 25 and realize that they have been robbed of a normal high school experience. Wow! That was some run-on sentence! Anyway, not all people should home school, but you sound like you have your act together --- just consider high school, if the kids express a desire to do all the teen stuff! Keep writing, I love to read and have found 4 new bloggers this week. I am thrilled!

The Homeschool Bookshelf said...

Wow! I can relate to so much of your post! It's great that you have chosen to homeschool and it sounds like you will do a great job of it. We have always homeschooled and can't imagine it any other way. We are starting our high school years with our oldest and he still loves homeschooling! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the rest of us.