Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Do you hear that? That low hummm... coming to a feverish crescendo... just before the cymbals start to crash... crash... crash!

It's the sound of parents flocking to all the Big Ass Office stores to score supplies hoping that they will finally, this year, get everything the teachers ask for. It's the sound of all the cars taking off for three and four day weekends trying to savour the last of summer, even though it's not going to get really nice until their kids' butts are stuck to a chair. It's the sound of teachers stapling and hanging and shifting things in the class room for the optimal fung shue environment for learning. It's the sound of JCPenney usurping an 80s classic (still irritated by that) in order to get Gen X parents into their stores for the kids' wardrobes.

It's the Back-To-School buzz!

My BTS'ing is a little different. This weekend, we will be meeting a new Co-Op group that we will likely be joining. A new pink guitar was purchased instead of folders and highlighters. I'm mapping out the best route for our Moab to Durango to Mesa Verde loop. I'm scowering CraigsList for a school desk with attached chair while weighing the cost against actual use. I'm pulling out the sketch books and paint supplies, the inflatable globe, the puzzle of the 50 States...

Did I mention I homeschool?

Last fall, I sat on the back stoop of our formerly owned home talking to my husband about the fact that after a year in private Kindergarten, the Wonder Minds of the public school across the street were not going to allow Banana Girl to start first grade because her birthday was two weeks after their cut-off date. Never mind that she knew all her Popcorn words (the 100 words kids need to know to get into 1st grade) within the first five months of kindergarten. Never mind that she was given the Math Monkey award at her end-of-year celebration for being a walking calculator. Never mind that her mom spent the prior ten months working at a contract gig that she didn't really adore (f*ing hated) just to pay the tuition for the private kindergarten because she was told by the previous principal (idiot) that she would be able to start first grade. No... now, they were saying no. Just like that. After all that work.

(EXPLATIVE that rhymes with LUCK!!!!)

We had talked about homeschooling for quite some time, but then my husband got a taste of a two paycheck lifestyle. Homeschooling became a distant thought that we had pushed back behind the plans for building a pool and adding in that outdoor kitchen... don't forget the new floors... what was that? Homeschool? Huh? Sorry, I couldn't hear you over the din of my narcissism. We had a very serious discussion about what either path would mean to our family. I was scared. So was he. Choosing to school our own kids would mean great things, but sacrifice. Were we up for that? Could I handle sitting at a kitchen table and teaching my child all that she was supposed to learn at school? And then he reminded me about the incredibly ridiculous homework load that the older two would bring home because the shit didn't get finished at school. The mere memory of it sent me into convulsive fits and before I got the call back from the school across the street (ironically named Hope), I had already signed the Banana Girl up for the California Virtual Academy. "But we can test her into first grade," the principal pleaded, feeling thousands of dollars in state funding slipping through his hands...

A couple of days later, box after box after box came via UPS with everything our little student was going to need. We met other families at Back To School day where we had our pictures taken. I got a Teaching Parent ID card for discounts on school supplies at Target (holler!) and to show the police that the nosey neighbor down the street with all her cats had nothing to worry about. Just kidding. About the police. The target discount is For Real, yo.

Luckily, the curricumlum that CAVA uses is K12. FYI: Several states across the country are using K12 as part of their public school alternatives, slapping their names on it, and calling it worthy of receiving Government dollars. What that means is that our tax dollars come right back to us in the form of a fantastic curriculum (with all the texts, workbooks, computers, art supplies, music CDs, etc. covered by my state taxes, amen!), an awesome on-line system telling me what to do next, a real teacher that I can call if I don't know what to do next, and, my personal favorite, the freedom to explore anything that sparks my kids' minds.

Even armed with all those school supplies and my little ID card, I thought I had made a big mistake. The Biggest Mistake Ever! I was so overwhelmed. But I remembered something a friend had told me... it was going to take at least three months to hit our stride. It took us at least that long, for sure, but eventually, we figured it out and started to have a lot of fun (who knew) learning.

While there are some real sacrifices to homeschooling, there are a lot of great benefits. As I mentioned, we have an on-line school system. That means, wherever there's a connection, there's school. That means that we get to travel throughout the year without having to consult the school district calendar. That also means that our classroom environment can be as dynamic as I choose.

The kids love that!

I know the question that is already forming in your head. You've got it sitting there, tickling the front of your mind, blurring all the other words together so that you can't even see what I'm writing until you get to ask your question... it's the question I always get.

"What about socializing?"

I used to make a point of listing all the sports and dance and play groups that my kids were involved in because I wanted the person I was talking with to feel confident that I was not holding my kids captive in a basement only letting them out for church and the occassional doctor visit. I wanted to assure all the (judgmental) people (moms) that I was, in fact, a good mom. But then I would walk away from our conversations feeling all icky and whorry... I didn't need their approval to know that I was doing the right thing for my kids. Did I ask them about the food they feed their families and then continue the conversation by asking if they fried or baked their chicken, because you know grilling is much healthier and that's what we do and you should too? Did I? And did I point out that their socialized child just pushed that kid over there down the hill, but don't worry about scolding him because right now, you are too busy judging me? Huh?

So now, when I get that question, the one you know you want to ask, but you have way better manners than that, I just turn it back around, just like I was trained to do when stuck in a no-win situation with a client. "Do your kids get the right socialization?" I usually follow their long winded and somewhat defensice answer with an open ended question that gives me a chance to breathe:

"How do you feel about the forty to one class ratio?"

So, I'm not here to sell anyone on homeschooling. I just saw all these people buzzing all over the place and it was starting to get all frenetic so I thought I'd look into it and then all of this just spilled onto my keyboard. I feel like I was standing on a soap box. Maybe because all the complaining is finally just frustrating me. Parents have choices. We do. It's just that some choices come with a little more personal sacrifice than others.

Now, if you'll excuse me, we need to Wiki why we can not make square pancakes. After that, we'll be painting, and then we have a wayward beetle to disect.



Sugar said...

No need to point out the typoes... just in case you were worried that the homeschooling parent can't spell. ;)

smiles4u said...

Good for you! I happen to have homeschooled my 5 children when they were young, for 4 years...I loved it and although yes, it is hard work, it was well worth it...well worth the sacrafices made and the memories we made learning together. I learned so much while we did that.

As far as the socialization factor goes...I used to basically give the same answer you do. School is not for teaching socialization to our children. In all the years that my kids attended school I had to spend lots of time at home, undoing the damage of things learned at school, learning this supposedly inportant "socialization".

I will seriously consider homeschooling my two little people when the time comes for them to start the schooling process. The thing is we are always teaching our children from day one...even when my kids went back to the school system, I was still essentially teaching them the things that they needed to learn for life.

I am excited for you and your children...I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

Ann said...

I'm not a Mom (yes, even at 40...), but I've never for a moment felt judgmental about homeschooling. Though, it never ceases to amaze me just how judgmental others ARE about it - and why? Who is to say the Learning Gods said there is one way to school a homo sapient? Who? Yeah, that's what I thought oh yee Learning Gods. Uh huh.

And you know [soapbox], when I think of just how dangerous school can actually be to a child's psyche - I'm sorry, GO homeschooling.


Marfa-Everyday Stuff With Marfa said...

I love your blog's new look. Its more personal than the last one, I think. I also like the pictures. It looks like you've been having some fun! Good luck with the homeschooling!

KingdomWriter said...

That is so cool to decide to homeschool! You are by far a much braver and unselfish person than I am... I put mine on the bus in the morning and then start to pray...
I am in awe of people who pull this off. I have just got to know a lady in our church who homeschools her 7 children. And she is still sane. Deserves a medal. You all do. I can't even get my two to do their homework. Sigh

Rowena said...

I have considered homeschooling my kids, but frankly, I am not that selfless.

I have a master's degree in teaching and did english/social studies/art for five years. It's hard. And without the breaks allowed by teaching in the schools...I don't know if I could do it. Maybe if I had to, but I still want to be able to write, professionally, finally, and am looking forward to kindergarten so I can have that time.

It is nice to know that I have the option of homeschooling if I do need to.

By the way, it takes professional teachers three months to hit their stride, too.