Aug 28, 2013

Our Controversial Decision... I'm Sticking To It.

Last night, I was at a youth activity for my church. I was talking to a friend who is homeschooled. She seemed a little aghast when I told her I'm putting my girls back in public school this year. I talked to her about why--that MayMay benefits from all the intervention, which I cannot give her if I'm teaching all of my children. That Bella also benefits, because there are control issues she struggles with. My teaching her at home was triggering and tapping into those. We basically spent each day dealing with a day-long tantrum over 3 math pages. She is so much more peaceful with the structure of school, and having teachers that are not me, who she is still struggling to work through trust/abandonment/acceptance issues with.

I went on to say that I'm keeping Loli in as well, because it wouldn't be fair to have her two sisters in and not her, and she'd be pretty jealous. My friend was incredulous. "She likes public school?" She said.

And I said, yes. She does.

The thing is, I did, too. I had struggles... mean girls in Jr. High, not-well-taught subjects, learning the pointless (I think... I know not everything thinks so) skill of ingest-and-regurgitate-sometimes-by-filling-in-bubbles-in-no.2-pencil. But there was something I really enjoyed espcially about starting a new year of school. There's something about going through things together with peers, about learning to respect and even love authority figures outside my home, of being parented and loved by lots of people. The school system we attend is unique in that at least half the teachers are in our stake, if not in our ward. I trust these teachers to love my kids. And they need (especially my adopted kids) to be loved by lots of people. They need to have connections with friends...and you can have those when you homeschool, but when you're in a sunday school class full of kids who all attend the same grade in school and you don't, there's going to be talk you aren't in on, plans you don't get wind of... friends you aren't quite as close to as your friends who go to school with them are.

My adopted girls, especially, need to feel like they're a part of things. My heart knows this instinctively.

Lately I've had a lot of heartache over the homeschool-vs-conventional school issue. I am very glad I homeschooled my girls entirely for 3 years. They needed that time with me. And now... they need some time without me.

I know some people (even dear friends) are going to disagree with me on this. I know I could, in posting this, get all kinds of comments about common core, about the evils of our educational system, about the liberalization of curriculum, about all kinds of stuff, some of which I agree with and some of which I have kept my mouth shut about for three years when it's been discussed among my homeschooling friends because I have never really agreed with it. The thing is, I homeschool my kids because I feel they need me. And because i feel like a child shouldn't be forced to sit for 8 hours in a desk when they can learn just as well in 2 or 3 hours, and then spend the rest of their day playing, as children should.

But I have realized, through many recent and salient experiences, that there are things that my kids also need to learn by going to school.

I think there are good and not so good things about both public and homeschool. And in the results I've seen (and I've seen a lot... skywalker's entire family was homeschooled until college, and I have a few different families who are friends who were homeschooled all the way through 12th grade, and I've been in multiple homeschooling groups and met many different families and have taught, in co-ops, lots and lots of different kids).... have shown me some interesting stuff. I feel like the challenges I'd deal with in public-schooling my children, the behaviors and problems that might develop, are not less worrisome than the ones that could develop and emerge if I homeschooled my children through the twelfth grade. They're different, but equally potentially difficult.

Public schooled kids, any homeschool mom would say, tend to be taught to learn and think in a certain, standardized way. They learn obedience, and routine, and convention and conformity.

Well, Homeschooled kids don't learn these things, but I have noticed that a lot of my friends and relatives also haven't learned some things that are important to me. I won't list them here, because I don't want to get too controversial or preachy.

What I have learned is that, while public school is by no means perfect, it is important to me for my kids to learn some of the skills that only a public school experience (I have come to realize, though some may argue) will teach.

And.... it is important, to me, for my kids to not be intimidated by the "system," to learn how to exist inside it, while still questioning it. I can provide the impetus for questioning, and Jeff will certainly provide a bunch of that, too. But what service am I doing my children, if they do not learn how to excel in a classroom before I send them off to college?

I know a lot of only-homeschooled kids. Watching them go on to college, I have seen a lot of them succeed amazingly. And others have struggled. I have decided that my opinions don't matter. What matters to me is what feels right to me, for my kids. My two adopted girls need to know how to do this school thing. MayMay in particular tends to perform very poorly in unfamiliar situations. If she never learns how to be a kid in the classroom, she's going to struggle when she gets to college.

Bella needs to understand that, while what she wants is important, she needs to respect those with authority over her. Having just a mom has not taught her that. Sometime during the first week of school last year, she began being mean and controlling and angry and slightly abusive to me while she was doing her math homework. I just looked at her and said, "Well, I'm not going to help you if you're not nice to me." She panicked. "But I'll get them all wrong," she wailed. "Maybe," I replied. "But if you want help, you need to be nice to me and to trust me. In the end, it's your responsibility to do your math. And how well you do is now between you and your teacher. It's up to you... I'd love to help you whenever you need it, but not if you're going to say mean things to me and act this way."

We never had a problem after that.

She needed to understand that.

Sending Loli off to sixth grade today was terrifying. But she'll do OK. She's a strong kid. She'll be a good friend, a good student, and a good daughter no matter which arena I put her into... and in giving her a chance right now to learn away from me, we've got an opportunity for her to learn about how to navigate the world away from me and Jeff and our direct influence, but with us still here all the time to support her. I think that is an important stage in parenting and growing that if we only homeschooled, we would not have.

My Husband and his siblings all found themselves pretty late in comparison to their peers and even extended family members. Jeff married me at 30. His sister married at 27. His brothers married at 26 (young for their family) and 32. I have always had a bit of a feeling that for them, college was high school. They grew up after they left home.

I want my kids to do some growing up while I can still help them do it.

And that, my friends. Is why.


Nicole said...

This is great Sarah! I homeschooled for a year and loves it. Then my kids went to public school...and we loved it. Not everything about it (as you mention) but there were less than perfect things about homeschooling too. I was very close to homeschooling this coming year and when it came down to it...I couldn't order the curriculum...and felt at peace with them going.

Really, the greatest gift we have is personal revelation. And we can get it each school year, for each child. I think in the coming years we'll go in and out of both systems based on our needs. This shouldn't be about which method is "right", it should be about which method is "right right now."

Looked into getting a charter school started here so I could ha e my cake and eat it too...but it takes a few years and I don't even know how long we'll live here.

Good luck!

the nice one said...

Great Post! It's funny because I am super passionate about schools. Imagine that! Anyhow best of luck this year. Your girls will be great!

Sarah said...

Great post, Sarah. I am still homeschooling all of my kids but I see that Ella will most likely go to school either next year or the year after that. And I think it will be a good thing, in general, for her....she is growing up and it is lovely to watch most of the time and I think for every kid--at individual times---it is really good parenting to let them go but still support them. My boys will most likely go at some point, too. I loved school. And I love having my kids home. And I agree with what (I read) you are saying that there is good and bad to both.

W. J. Swenson said...

It's the depths to which you explore an issue that astounds me. Now extrapolate what you've supposed about your children's exposure to other people and situations and you'll understand the value of experience. You're an incredible lady and one of the most interesting I've had the pleasure to meet.

Emma Tank said...

We've been struggling with trying to figure out what we're going to do with our kids when they get to that age. Grig was homeschooled, and the couple years he did go to public school he hated it. On the other hand, I rather liked public school, and I'm an Elementary Education teacher by profession. Sometimes it was hard, but I feel like the things I learned socially helped me find a job and do well in college. We'll have to see what the situation is when we get to that point. We'll keep talking about it and visit the schools and see what we think when we get to that point.

Annalisa said...

I think anyone putting so much thought and prayer into these kinds of decisions shouldn't have to worry so much about the controversy it might cause, but it's hard not to. My grandpa always used to say, "Do your best and let the devil take the hinder most." I'm pretty sure that means that if you're doing your best, you just don't have to worry what everyone else is thinking or doing. Simple, right? So, not that it matters, but I think you are doing great, accounting for each child's needs and abilities. I have a few years before I have school age kids, but I have been watching to see how they best learn, respond to discipline, as well as accounting for my own health issues to make that decision. Whatever we choose, I hope people will be supportive and trust the efforts we put into the decision.

Kelly said...

Very well put. I agree completely. I have had very similar thoughts that you have had and you expressed it better than I thought it. :)