Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why We Decided to Homeschool

Since moving back home, I get asked quite often why we decided to homeschool.  I didn't get asked when we lived in Florida for a year, but then again, I feel like the further north you travel, especially if you live in a metropolitan area with "good" school districts, homeschooling becomes more of a rarity, so for the two months we homeschooled in Florida I never really had to think about why we homeschooled.  I had expressed interest in it before, but almost immediately dismissed it because my brain is so disorganized (which later, in my research for homeschooling, learned is not a weakness but just a strength that becomes a weakness in formal school/learning settings).

Truth be told, we got cornered into homeschooling in Florida.  We moved there a month into the 2012 school year, were in a horrible school district, the private school options would have depleted any hopes of savings, and transferring her to a different district or magnet school was not an option in our county because we had missed the application window.  We weren't going to send her to a bad school and we weren't going to deplete our savings.  So, we homeschooled, until a miraculous opening in an amazing charter school became available.  

Once James' job was over and we knew we would be moving back to the DC area, I knew I wasn't going to put her back in the school system.  The reasons are many, so instead of writing a long piece on all my reasons, I figured it may be easier to break it into parts.

Reason No. 1:  Logistics

  • I hated having to wait until almost the end of June (when school let out) to start our summer.  
  • I hated having to miss Boomsday, which happens every Labor Day weekend in Knoxville, because her first day of school was always the Tuesday after Labor Day.
  • I hated not being able to take weekend road trips to Knoxville for football games because we  had to be back for school Monday. 
  • I hated having to wait for school breaks to take road trips to Georgia to visit my in-laws.
  • I hated having to wake up Paloma from naps because the bus was about to drop Izzy off.  
  • I hated that the bus LOST Isabella twice.  
  • I hated that if I was on an outing with Paloma and picking Isabella up would be easier, I had to still trudge to the bus stop because that's where I had to pick her up if I hadn't given notice.  
  • I hated that the bus stop wasn't walking distance and that transportation wouldn't give me a closer stop.  
  • I hated how early school started, Isabella bleary-eyed from waking up so early.  It also meant that if I wanted time to read and run before the kids were up, I would have to wake up at like, 4am.
  • I hated rushing every morning no matter how early or on time Isabella had woken up.
  • I hated that if I didn't have dinner planned and/or ready by the time we got home, the evenings were a mess.
  • I hated that I had to load an infant in and out of a car seat when Izzy stopped taking the bus and I was picking her up from school.
  • I know all of the above are total First World problems.
In essence, school was getting in my way of living everyday life.

Reason No. 2:  Izzy Started Hating School

 My curious, smart, fun-loving, school-loving little girl started faking sick to avoid going to school.  This did not happen in Florida, because her teacher was amazeballs, pardon the expression, but she was.  However Izzy would still celebrate when there was no school or when there was half day.

Reason No. 3:  Mean Girls

Drama, drama and more drama!!!!

"Mom, Suzie (made up name) said she wasn't playing with me because I invited Mary (another made up name) to play with us, but I only invited her because she was all alone.  And then I told Kristy (made up) I wanted a break from playing with her today and she started saying mean things about me and said she wouldn't be my friend unless I played with her."


Then, I heard Isabella employ one of said tactics on a friend and it was all I could do to not ring her neck.  I will not and do not tolerate emotional manipulation.  I have been down that road, am guilty of it myself and know how destructive and powerful it is.

Reason No. 4:  Because We Can

Some countries do not allow you to homeschool your child.  You have no option but to enroll your child in either the public school system or pay to send them to a private school.  There are so many liberties we take for granted in the good 'ole U. S of A!

 Reason No. 5:  I Couldn't Ever Keep Up

  • This post is a really good window into how our year functioned.
  • Planning dinner and lunch and trips to the grocery store were always a nightmare for me, and as soon as I did get a good routine going, a vacation or slip in schedule would set me back weeks.  It was constant stress.
  • Homework wasn't ever long or dubious, but when you already struggle with keeping routine and schedules and planning meals, making time to spend with your child while he or she does homework is just another obstacle in the evening.  Sometimes we'd spend 30 to 40 minutes on homework.  At home, we can be done with an entire day's worth of school in two hours, maximum.
  • Field trip forms, school auctions, family nights, money collections for the homeless, due dates for projects, I couldn't ever keep up with it all.  Sunday night or early Monday mornings you could find me furiously thumbing through Izzy's Friday folder just to make sure I wasn't sending her unprepared for the day.  When I did miss deadlines, or homework, or projects, I felt like I was in school again making excuses for myself.
  • Cleaning the house?  Ha!  

Reason No. 6:  I'm a Snob

Or am I?  When the emotional drama with Isabella started in school, I didn't know what the heck to do or how to handle it.  I had never gone through it when I was in elementary school, at least not the extent it got with her.  There were mean kids, but nothing like what Isabella experienced.  Then again, when there were really troublesome kids at my school, they would get kicked out if their behavior didn't change.  That's one of the pivotal differences between private and public schools.

In public schools, teachers and kids have to deal with troublesome kids.  When we raised the issue of bullies at Izzy's school with her teacher and principal, they brought in behavioral therapists to meet with the children in question.  That was not good enough for me.  The discipline, or lack thereof, was infuriating.  Shortly after her troubles began, Isabella started faking illnesses and lying to her teacher.  It was a mess. 

I also didn't know my boundaries.  I didn't want to be that mom, so I was constantly talking myself out of standing up more.  I was ill-prepared to handle the situation.  Since it was my first time dealing with a public school system, I didn't know how big of a fit I could throw to get things fixed, and I was scared to throw a fit.  

James most always thought I was being over-dramatic.  He said kids would be kids and they learn how to handle it, but that was not good enough for me.  I was watching my little girl fall apart and it killed me inside.  All I could think of was, is this it?  I have to go through this with her until she's in college?   I also found myself wanting to strangle 4 and 5-year-olds.  It was not good. 

So, snob or not, I wanted more for Izzy.

Reason No. 7:  Kids Looked Bored

Before we moved to Florida I would help out in the classroom some days, and the kids looked bored and uninterested.  I couldn't blame them.  Spanish bingo is only fun for so long.  The work and activities seemed monotonous and pointless.

Reason No. 8:  Politics

State and federal standards, No Child Left Behind, teachers unions, blah, blah, blah.  School administrators and teachers face huge obstacles.  I have friends who are teachers that have really tried to mentor their kids because they really care, only to have some political nonsense stop their efforts.  It's insane.

Reason No. 9:  Religion

We want to be Deuteronomy 6 parents: 
These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. -New International version
Emphasis in italic and red are mine.  When in the world was I ever going to have or find the time to talk about all the hard lessons and wonderful stories told in the Bible when I "sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up"?   I would never have time to sit at home and walk along the road.  Shoot, half the time I was falling asleep with the girls when I read books at night.    And when I got up, I was taking care of myself so I could prepare to take care of the day.  In fact, I'm still taking care of myself first thing in the morning, but at least now we have the whole day to sit and chat if the need arises.  And trust that Isabella has plenty of tough questions concerning God and the Bible.

And it isn't that you can't be Deuteronomy 6 parents if your child is in school, Christian or not, it just takes a concerted amount of effort and dedication to instill Biblical principles in your children if you're already a spaz case in the brain, like me, juggling everything I've already mentioned that seemed to set me up for total and utter failure in this area. 

Reason No. 10:  I Kind of Like My Kids

The crazier our days got during the school year, the grumpier I was.  And homeschooling has not been easy our first year, but I have been able to really enjoy the girls.
  • I catch Isabella and Paloma snuggling on the couch watching Mickey Mouse while I tie up loose ends in the kitchen.
  • I see Izzy pushing Paloma around in an empty cardboard box pretending she's taking off in a rocket ship into space.
Some moms need the time while kids are in school to gather themselves, have time to get the day ready, work from home, etc.  Being with the girls all day does affect my mommy social life, but we have been able to meet other families like us, so it all works out.

Reason No. 11:  I Know What's Going On

Izzy isn't coming to me with worksheets that require I reference the week's synopsis to know what's going on and what they're covering.  I know what we're doing, her weaknesses in math, and able to mold a curriculum that better caters to her learning style.

If anyone ever told me I would homeschool my children I would have told them they were crazy.  It is not for everyone, but anyone can do it.  There are some amazing teachers and schools out there.  Our experience in the school system was not bad overall, I just wanted more for our family; more flexibility, fun and time together.  That was hard for me to accomplish with Isabella in traditional school.