Fairytales and Crayons

I am a strong believer in the magic and necessity of childhood. When I play with my children we often weave in characters from fairy tales, we focus on all things make-believe and then we express ourselves with crayons, finger-paints and Letters. I have seen some of the best teachers at work and I have been lucky to call them friends. I have been blessed to have a Mother whose passion was Early Childhood education and who has passed on bits of knowledge so that my children can be blessed as well. In no way do I think that educating children is easy, nor do I think that just anyone can do it. In fact I believe that the public and private educational systems is filled with unsung heroes that do amazing work on a daily basis and that the role of a single teacher can change a child’s life. In fact I believe this so strongly that I have worked in private schools for most of my adult life either as a teacher, aide or volunteer.

As a child I experienced life through the lens of public institutions, private ones, and even as a home schooled kid. It is because of this varied background that when it came to schooling my own children I had never questioned the idea that they would attend either a public or private school and ride the big yellow bus. In fact I felt so strongly about my own homeschooling experience that I swore to everyone who knew me that my children would never be homeschooled. I would rather work nonstop in order to be able to afford a good private school than put them through what I thought homeschooling was.

I was home schooled in the early 90’s and some of the home schooled kids that I had met were weird. Although looking back some (of the not weird kids) were also my best friends. It was during the time of stereotypes when most thought that homeschoolers were socially awkward kids who didn’t quite fit in with their modern peers (with a few exceptions of course). However, it was my personal experience with home schooled adults and teens much later on as an adult that began to change my mind. In fact many of the most intelligent, most grounded and well-rounded people I have ever met were products of a home schooled education.

That and God…

Around the time of my oldest daughter’s 1st birthday and just before my sons 3rd birthday, out of nowhere I decided to just start researching the homeschooling options. I remember calling my best friend (who was home schooled and is a kindergarten teacher) , laughing insanely, and telling her that I think I might home school my kids only to have her laugh just as insanely back to me. She allowed me to go into my rant about how afraid I was to put my son into the California public school system and how with a third child on the way it just wasn’t feasible for us to pay for a private school, before she stopped me and bluntly said this has to be a God thing and if it is than start praying now.

Two years and tons of prayer and research later, I called her again (really I talk to her all the time but you know what I mean) and this time it was a different rant…

“I can’t do this, he is just too advanced and loves to learn so much I can’t put him in a kindergarten class with almost 30 kids. Even if he had you as a teacher and a great aid he is just going to get lost in a class that big. He wont fall behind but he is just like me and my husband and he will get bored and then he will turn and talk to everyone nearby and just get in trouble all the time. Than he will slowly start to lose his love of learning and he will just get frustrated. But I can’t afford a private school and all the Charter schools are really just homeschooling through the public school system. With my husband deploying and our fourth baby coming isn’t that just too much for a person to take on? There is no way I can do this”

Thank God for good friends because her words are what have helped me more than anything else…

“No, you can’t. It is too much for one person, you can’t raise four kids, put a newborn on a schedule and go through the emotional roller coaster of a deployment. But you can’t live with yourself if you settle on your son’s education either. You know where I stand on this, Kindergarten is the most important stage of a child’s life because it is in Kindergarten where a kid gains a real love for learning. A good kindergarten teacher can create a lifelong learner. Its time for you to pray hard, pray for God to give him the best teacher for him and if that teacher is you than it will be undeniable. You can do it, but if there is another way, try it.”

Two weeks later it was a conviction, not a fear. There was an absolute concreteness that had settled in me…my kids are going to be homeschooled. I talked with my husband who admitted that he would prefer to have me home teaching our children over being in the work place bringing in a second income. He also admitted that up to this point he had kept quiet because he felt that if I was going to home school our children than I would have to choose it. He did not want me to feel pressured into doing it and that due to my propensity for depression after childbirth he did not want me to feel forced into something that might overwhelm me. I love that he is so supportive of me that he allows me to come to conclusions on my own, despite his own convictions on the subject. He knew that he could not be here to help and just kept quiet.

Since than I have done lots of research, I have started to do small projects with the kids when energy permits and I have spent more time reading than watching tv (all of which only convicts me further). My extended family as been extremely supportive, my friends are gems and the kids are already getting excited about doing school! I am still trying to figure out if we will join a local home school organization or if we will home school through the local charter school. We have decided on using a Classical approach (it just fits so well with my academic background that all the money spent on a Bachelors and Masters wont go to waste!) and I love that I can focus on the things I love and am passionate about to my kids through their subjects. I love that even in 1st grade it looks at history chronologically, geography in its entirety, science is based on the scientific method (it’s not words in a book but questions and answers in real life), math focuses on building strong foundations not on abstracts and reading/handwriting is the foundation of it all. I absolutely love that my children will learn Spanish, Latin and Greek as well as logic, debate and public speaking. It’s a process I intend to chronicle on this blog…mostly because at the end of the day, with a husband deployed, I will need someone to decompress to or rant to…whichever works.

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