Sunday, September 7, 2008

Time to go to School

When I was a little girl, I used to take all my stuffed animals and line them up in my bedroom. My dad had mounted a chalkboard on the wall, so my "classroom" was all set to go. I knew, from about age 5, that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.
(Courtesy of Google Images)

Upon entering college, my roommate was undecided on a major. She told me she wanted to take a few classes, see what her interests were, get her general requirements out of the way, then finally decide what she wanted to major in. I, on the other hand, enrolled in the College of Education on day 1. I knew, from the get-go, that I would some day be standing up in front of that class room telling everyone what to do helping children learn.

I wavered a little bit during my sophomore year... I thought maybe Education wasn't the right field for me. I considered personal finance, but one class of that stuff was enough for me. Let's just say, I'm glad that project on preparing a tax return was just a MOCK tax return. I had begun in Elementary Ed and after the Personal Finance class fiasco, I finally landed in Secondary Education, emphasizing in Mathematics. Truth be told, that's what I had wanted to do in the beginning but I was intimidated that I would some day encounter a Doogie Howser type, and I would be humiliated beyond all recognition in front of a bunch of other teenagers during class. I guess I either realized that having a smart kid in class wouldn't be so bad, or else I realized the unlikelihood of that really happening, because I decided to go for it. I made it through and only graduated one semester late. Whew!
(courtesy of Google Images)

I taught full time for 4 years. Two at a public school, two at a private school. I also was a classroom aide as well as a part-time teacher, all for math classes. I also taught at Sylvan Learning Centers. Further, I did private tutoring in my home for people from grade 3 all the way up to college algebra.

This is not a resume. I DO have a point. I'm gettin there....

So, when my children were born I immediately began thinking about all the choices I had for education. Certaily, I was qualified, right? I could teach them to read! Teach them to do math! Spell! Learn geography! I could have my very own in-house Doogie Howser!!!!

By the time I was to start sending my first child to her first year of preschool, at age 3 (almost 4), I had two more children, ages 29 months and 11 months. Now, this was just pre-school, mind you. We were living in Wisconsin at the time, 6 hours from the nearest family members (10 hours from the nearest family members who didn't have a 9-to-5 job), no close friends (had only moved there 2 years previous), and a had husband who worked constantly. Frankly, the decision to send Peppermint Patty to preschool was a no-brainer. It was like, the choices were, send her to pre-school or poke myself in the eye with a fishing pole that has a treble hook attached, then pull it back out.

This is a treble hook (Google Image)

Frankly, I needed a break. And the preschool we sent her to was Christian. Lutheran, even. My husband, being a Lutheran pastor, was very particular about what would be taught to our daughter. I was very particular about her enjoying herself and feeling safe. At first, we were told that the school would not have room for her so we considered keeping her home after all, and I was fearing the treble hook. But, alas, there was a space. She went to school twice a week for two hours. Thus, I still have use of both eyes.

And, before ya knew it, we moved again. New home, new surroundings. One more round of being far away from family, no friends, husband working all the time. However, now we were on the cusp of educational decisions. Soon, two of our children would be preschool age. Then, soon after, kindergarten. We decided we'd go ahead and do the preschool because the little one, Linus, was still so young and FEISTY. It would be tough to actually accomplish learning while trying to keep little Linus out of the dog dish.

Finally, Kindergarten registration was upon us. The local Lutheran school seemed GREAT! The teachers were fantastic. Small student-to-teacher ratio. Nearby (only 5 miles away). But, I had one friend who homeschooled her children, twins who were the same age as Peppermint Patty. She told me how great it was going to be: She'd be able to go at her own pace, teach whatever was of interest to the boys, they could take long breaks for vacations, etc. It sounded so great. Plus, she just happened to be one of those "perfect mom" types who always seemed like she was doing a better job than me. Not that she rubbed my face in it or anything - that's the whole point. She was so sweet, and sincere, and honest, and helpful, and generous, and like Mary Poppins. I really got to thinking, "Does she just love her kids that much more than I love mine?" (Remember this, because it is a recurring theme.)

My husband and I decided that the right decision for our family was to send our kids to school. We lived in a VERY rural area at that time, so the choices were: public school, Lutheran school, or homeschool. There was no other Christian school (not that it mattered, we are Lutheran). There were no Classical schools, Waldorf Schools, Homeschool co-ops, part-time schools, etc. So our choices were limited to all day school or home school. I realized that my sanity threshold was about to be crossed and I sent Peppermint Patty to our local Lutheran School. I was nervous but also cautiously optimistic.

Well, let me tell ya... SHE THRIVED. She loved it. We loved it. She made tons of new friends. She learned how to read! And write! And do math! And sing songs that even I didn't know! And she learned to play the handbells! And how to grow a plant in an empty 2-liter bottle! And she visited a farm on a field trip! And she learned how to tell time! And she played kickball with her 7 classmates! Here's my point people...

At least half of those things never would have happened if I'd homeschooled her. Maybe they COULD have. Maybe they SHOULD have. But let's face it, they would NOT have.

I am good at SO many things. Just ask my BBB (best blogging buddy). She knows me pretty well and could probably give you a list. On that list would likely include "high school teacher". On that list, and not within a mile of that list, would you find "tolerate her own children at home, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for longer than one summer".

This realization was heartbreaking for me. Many nights I actually did cry, throw up, and spend countless hours online trying to figure out why other homeschooling mothers loved their children more than I loved mine. How could they do it? Don't they get sick of the arguing? How do they get the laundry folded, the furniture dusted, and the children taught too? How do they keep a FEISTY toddler occupied while trying to string macaroni onto a piece of yarn? How do they explain the rules and play of soccer with only 2 or 3 children? How can they afford to buy all the supplies needed for children in multiple grade levels? And why do they love their children more????? I mean, I love my kids a whole whole big fat bunch. What's the matter with me???

I think I finally found peace when I simply watched my daughter. At school, she was happy. She was learning. She was growing into a beautiful young girl. She knew her prayers, she knew how to be kind to people and animals, she had a love for reading, and she was challenged - not just academically but also mentally and emotionally. She had to learn about waiting in line for her turn. She had to learn that someone wins and someone loses and sometimes that doesn't feel so good, but it happens to everyone. She had the chance to learn from her peers. She had the chance to learn from "OK Pals" that were twice her age and much like the older sibling she does not have. Just, simply put, she was in a good place.

If I thought, for one moment, that she was in a bad or detrimental place, I would have removed her. No questions asked. I would have home schooled her, no matter how hard it would have been for me, if I thought that teaching her at home would be better than at the school. But that never happened.

Even when, in first grade, I butted heads with the new teacher. She was young and inexperienced. I felt that I had some "suggestions" that she better put into practice, or else she must just be a big doofus. I spoke to the principal, who saw my point of view, but he ultimately stood behind the teacher. GRRRRR.... Okay, I see that is good. I only wish my administrator had stood by me when I was a new teacher. But that's for another post... Anyhoo, I had to realize that the school was still good, and what can I (and Peppermint Patty) learn from this? Life is not always a bowl of cherries. When you are given a tough situation, how are ya gonna handle it? Are you going to pout about it? Yell till you get your way? (obviously, not the best choice) Are you going to avoid the situation? Are you going to remove yourself from the situation? Are you going to stand up for yourself? (Better choices) Or are you going to adapt to the situation? We decided to learn - for ourselves - and teach - for Peppermint Patty - how to adapt. Sometimes we have no choice but to deal with a situation, and how we deal with it is a reflection of character. We felt that even when we are put in situations that are uncomfortable and less than ideal, there is still learning to be done. We just really felt that, when it came to school, even a situation that was not perfect could still turn out a perfect solution.

So, this is where my homeschooling will end. I will teach my children life lessons, I will read to them and help them with homework, and I will support the teachers at their school. I truly respect Homeschool moms for the hard work they do. I don't think they're crazy for what they do - it's what fits for their family. I really pray that they, also, don't think I'm crazy for what I do, because it fits for our family. Just like many (NOT ALL) homeschooling moms I've met who completely hate all the stereotypes about homeschool, I also hate all the stereotypes put upon "traditional schoolers" like us by homeschoolers who think their way is the only right way. So Hey, Homeschoolers, we aren't making a wrong decision to send our kids to school any more than you are by keeping yours home. We're just making the right decision for what works for our family.

Now, we are in Texas. Again, no friends, no family, new school again. Only one difference: there are homeschoolers all over the place, man. LOTS of choices down here. Still, I choose to send my kids to full-day Lutheran school. Why? Because it's what fits for our family. They are learning and thriving. It makes them happy. And that makes me happy.


Dorsey said...

I'm with you gal!! I have found MANY mamas who just would sooner cut off their own arm than NOT homeschool their children. I, on the other hand, just lack the patience with my own children. I help with homework, and am even a thriving member of a local PTA group. Good luck with the kiddos!

Bridgett said...

I did it for kindergarten with my oldest. Everything was wonderful until March. She was done, I was done, and those last few months were terrible. The next year, it was montessori (city living has its advantages). Didn't even consider homeschooling with my second. I could have made it happen if I had to, but why go crazy when there are good options elsewhere??

ReformingGeek said...

I've seen the results of home-schooling at age 17-18....not always good and the home school folks I know say they are doing it to basically "keep their kids away from the hoodlums" and "to instill them with our values". Hum....they have to get out there at some point. Your point is valid. Do what's best for YOUR family!

stephanie (bad mom) said...

From the chalkboard (mine was propped on my closet ledge) to the switch from elementary to secondary to the no way will I homeschool because I will go insane feelings, we are so alike [except I'm one of those weirdo English majors while you are a practical Mathmetician type].

I have met more critical homeschoolers around here than supportive, do-you-own-thing ones, which makes me sad.

I'm glad you came to peace with your decision - I bet there are plenty of stressed-out homeschooling moms who are teaching their kids an entirely different lesson about living...

Kellan said...

I could never have homeschooled my kids. Mine have always gone to public school (christian preschools too) and we are very lucky to live in an area that has excellent schools and they are all thriving. I think it is a different/personal choice for every family and not every mom is cut out to homeschool - I know I'M NOT!

Nice to see you - thanks for stopping by my site. See you soon - Kellan

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Hey girl, left you some bling on my blog. COme and get it.


Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

Are you LCMS? Not that there is anything wrong with Evangelical ;)
It can be so hard finding what works best. We have a half-home school option and that is hard, not as hard as full homeschool but enough to know I cannot do it. I need my 'ME' time :)

binks said...

Girl, do what is best for your family & don't feel guilty. At least you have choices.
I was a single mom and worked 40+ hours a week to pay the bills. Not a hard decision for me, eat or private school. ;)