Finley, my garden, and my thoughts on homeschooling

We went to Finley wildlife refuge our friends the Bannisters a few days ago. We had a lovely picnic and little hike.

 

I love Leonne. We always have lots of fun together.

There were thousands of little caterpillars all over. The kids had fun letting them scoot around all over their arms. Gives me the creeps a little imagining caterpillars all over my body, but I am glad that it made them happy :).

We went home and played in the yard. Gabe is obsessed with swinging and trying to do tricks on the swing. His tricks are pretty impressive, but this trick he is doing here is about to go wrong and he landed on his face. He always gets up and tries again. He is definitely a dare devil.

The kids love getting rides from Daddy.

Doesn’t her sweet little expression just melt your heart?


Miriam and Sofia by our little pumpkin patch. Our pumpkins are beautiful this year. They may be the thing I am most excited about  in my garden this year.

The silly gene  definitely runs very strong in our family.

Sofia started school today. I will post pictures of that soon, but I am feeling very emotional about it right now. During the last few weeks, I have started to open my mind to the idea of homeschooling at some point. I would love your opinions/thoughts on the matter. I think that there are definitely pros and cons. Here are some pros and concerns that I’ve come up with so far:

  • We could accomplish so much more in a shorter amount of time, leaving more time for childhood. We could ride our bikes to the park and go on hikes. The kids could have more time to be involved in imaginary play.
  • As the kids get older and show more specific interests/talents in certain areas, we could focus more on what they feel passionate about. If they are interested in biking, for example, we could take bike rides and find ways to incorporate science, math, and literature into what we are doing. The kids would have chances to be much more active than they are at school and to learn in more developmentally appropriate ways. Teachers are amazing and doing the best that they can, but they feel more and more pressure to teach to the test. Many districts have the curriculum so canned now, that teachers are expected be on the same lesson on the same day districtwide. I would never say a bad thing about teachers. I come from a family of educators, but their are parts of the system that are messed up right now. I am all about being part of the change at my kid’s schools and in supporting their teachers in whatever way that I can, but I think that it is fair to acknowledge that the politics in education are a little dysfunctional.
  • There is a stereotype that home schooled kids are “weird” or lack social skills. I’m sure many of you have heard that stereotype. I wonder if we sometimes categorize people who think a little outside of the box sometimes as “weird” automatically. What do you all think about this? If thinking outside of the box is weird, I am cool with that.
  • IN some ways I think that I would be really good at homeschooling, but in others I think that I would suck. I am not the most structured/organized person, and I would have to work on that a lot to stay on top of things.
  • Miriam seems like an obstacle in homeschooling right now. She takes so much of my time and energy still, and I would want to give Sofia and Gabe focused time. Maybe when she is at least a year older, that will be easier?
  • There is a huge homeschooling population here and many co-op situations going on. I have met many wonderful families that homeschool.
  • I wonder what the costs of homeschooling end up being.
  • I wonder if I would lose my mind a little bit. I love being around my kids a lot. I feel refueled easily, without a ton of time away from my kids. A morning run can recharge my battery or a trip to the store by myself. So…. would I ever be by myself?? I wonder how people find balance with that.
  • I most of all want my kids to be happy and thrive. Sofia and Gabe have very different personalities. Sofia does well at school and sometimes I think that she listens, tries harder, and is more motivated when someone else is teaching her. I wouldn’t want to have power struggles with her. Gabe I think would really thrive being at home, because although he is also social, he really needs down time and time to just explore in his own way. I am interested on how parents cater/work homeschooling around different kids’ personalities.Those are just a few of my quick thoughts. I am interested in hearing your thoughts!

 

Angie - September 5, 2012 - 2:54 pm

Well, you are just opening up a new can of worms my dear. And…I love that! First of all let me say that you would be A.MAZ.ING at homeschooling! Here are a few of my random thoughts. -I am not organized, detailed or structured so if I can do it…so can you. So, now that I said something positive I will say this; it is hard. There are days where the thought of sending them back to school sounds heavenly, like really heavenly. -We had T and B in public school for 2 1/2 years and we had a GREAT experience. Wonderful teachers, fantastic administration and great parental involvement. So I am not against public school! Homeschooling was something that had been on my heart for a couple of years and I kept finding reasons not to (ie, coaching, having another baby) So when we moved in February it was the perfect time to “try it”. -If you have a great community for homeschooling and co-ops available then that is half the battle! We start our first co-op on Monday and I am super excited. Veteran homeschooling moms will be my new BFF’s. They have wisdom and a perspective that I have yet to gain. I have heard continually that the first year is the hardest. -It was a big adjustment. The kids were not use to being around eachother so much. And that’s when a HUGE lightbulb went off. Their siblings, me, their dad, our family is no longer the biggest influence in their life.

So all of those rambling, bla bla thoughts probably don’t help you. I could talk (to you) so much about this. But I will end with this; it is a topic much like working moms vs. stay at home moms. It is different for every family, mother and child. What works for some doesn’t work for others. You need to do what is best for your children. Don’t let nay sayers sway you in either direction. Don’t let fear sway you. Don’t let society sway you.

I must come see you soon. We could eat cheesecake and visit!

missy cochran - September 5, 2012 - 6:12 pm

I was homeschooled because the area my family lived in didn’t have good schools available. My experience was basically that of trying to create a public school environment at home with all the structure that comes from public school (not the best way to use the strengths of the homeschool set-up in my opinion). I am now going to school to be a teacher and have since read some books about homeschooling that I wish I had read growing up. One is “A Thomas Jefferson Education” and the other is “Unschooling”. I bet if you read either of these, you will have a better idea of how and if you want to do things differently.

Karli Winters - September 5, 2012 - 7:05 pm

Definitely read “A Thomas Jefferson Education” and “The Well Trained Mind.” Both very different perspectives on education and learning, and I think reality for most people lies somewhere in the middle. The resources are endless and a topic all in itself. I would love to get together and chat with you and some elusive future date when we FINALLY get together! In the meantime, here’s a little peek into our journey.

It started last fall when she entered full day 1st grade. She’d get home, have a few minutes for a break, then have to jump right in to homework, rush through it in order to get dressed, have a snack and get packed off to dance. This was twice a week, and she’d be there most of the afternoon into early evening. Then on one other night, I had my theater class (she came too). That left just Mondays (FHE) and Fridays (date night) and she still had some private lessons on Fridays. After just a couple weeks I started hyperventilating because she was never home, her relationship with Nolan (which had previously been great) was suffering, and we weren’t getting to anything else like chores, home stuff, supplemental stuff, piano… nothing really.

The logical decision at this point was to pull her out of after school stuff. This was harder for me to do than it would be for some… A) because I think extra curricular stuff CAN be as important as academic. because the girl lives to dance.

Then there was the part about helping out at school. I couldn’t go in as often as I wanted because of childcare issues with the younger ones. And even though I LOVED LOVED LOVED her teacher, and was pretty happy with Imlay overall, every time I was there, all I could think about was how inefficient it all was. Not that there was any way around it… a classroom with 28 kids in it is just going to contain inefficiencies. There are good things about that… as in, the kids learn they have to wait and figure things out for themselves and the world doesn’t revolve around them. But I also saw how easy a lot of things were for her (and many others) but some kids would push themselves to do or learn extra, and she was not one of them. She’d plow through a worksheet and be done, and spend a lot of time coloring, or whatever other free time activity they had.

Now. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this. I don’t feel like they should be studying rigorous academics at every second of the day. BUT, since I was already stressed about not having enough time with her, I started dreaming about how I could get all the core academics done in 1/2 the time at home, and then (theoretically) add some more time into our day together.

This is insane for me because I couldn’t WAIT to send her to school when she was 5 because I didn’t WANT to spend any more time with her. Funny how things change.

I guess that’s the long and short of it. I started researching options, attended a couple homeschooling conventions, and made some decisions. And I convinced her that it would be way more fun (a process which took all year :)). And I’m totally aware that I may cave by December. And I’m okay with that. I feel like as soon as I made the decision, I DEFINITELY felt confirmation that it was right. And even with having a baby, that decision has only been further confirmed (I selfishly want her here to help me :)).

Originally, part of me felt guilty, as a product of public school. It was fine for me, should be fine for my kids. But more and more people (normal people… not crazy, conspiracy theory people) are feeling called to do it, and I can’t help but wonder if there is a reason for that. Maybe our kids are going to need that extra attention at home, that stronger foundation later on. Or maybe not… who knows.

At first she was apprehensive, but she’s excited about it now. Especially cuz she’s getting special Spanish tutors and she has wanted to learn Spanish forever. And she’s helping me plan fieldtrips, etc. I’m definitely not worried about isolation… between church, theatre and dance, she’s still going to be outside the house for like 18 hours per week. There are so many other resources through parks & rec, etc, and they have homeschool classes at most gymnastics places. The resources available now are just incredible. But I will say, if and when it’s right… you’ll know it. I literally felt like I was in a stupor of thought about her life and schedule and what was right until it dawned on me to homeschool, and it just felt right. I definitely wouldn’t go changing things if they’re working. But for me, it was just not working as it was. And at first I was worried about her not being with her close friends at school, till I realized they don’t spend much time together at all if they’re not in the same class. So, I have to be more intentional about allowing them to come play, and scheduling those things, etc. I will second Angie, though. You would be A.Maz.Ing. The things you do naturally as a mom would fit so well into homeschooling.

Claire - September 6, 2012 - 6:43 pm

So…totally random how I found out about this post…my mom is Karin Cochran in Corvallis 2nd ward, and my SIL is Missy Cochran. My mom thought that you seemed kind of similar to me and thought I might have some words of wisdom to share since I’ve always had my kids at home. My oldest is 10 (a girl) and would be going into 5th grade this year. Then I have 4 boys – 8, 6, 2 1/2 & 10 months.

I would definitely read “A Thomas Jefferson Education”. Fantastic philosophy! Something I try to do with my kids. John Holt is also great reading. John Taylor Gatto is a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but makes excellent points (“Dumbing Us Down” is a classic).

I’m not a super structured organized person–the beauty of homeschooling is that you as the parent do what works for you. If you like structure, go for it! If you don’t (like me), don’t sweat it!

My husband and I have worked very hard at creating an environment where our kids will grow up in love with learning–it’s as natural as breathing for them. It’s not a sit-down once-a-day event that has a beginning and ending date. It is simply living life. Enhanced parenting, if you will. The bike riding you mentioned above. The squabbles and forgiving of siblings. You getting to be the one with your kids when they have an “ah-ha” moment. Taking time to write letters to people. Letting the kids lead the way. There are so many things to learn in the world; who decided that reading, writing, math and science are the most important?

Okay, you don’t even know me and I’m going all off! I am so willing and happy to answer all of your bullet items–I have pretty strong feelings on just about all the things you mentioned! Feel free to email me (clairelaine@gmail.com) if you want to hear more. :) And please visit my homeschooling blog (our-family-school.blogspot.com) if you want more of my ramblings. :) :)

Good luck! And don’t be afraid to pray about pulling your kids out of school. There is plenty of time to learn what to do!

Claire

kara - September 6, 2012 - 8:44 pm

Thanks for the wonderful feedback and ideas ladies. We are good to go for at least this year. I am torn, because Sofia is doing the spanish dual immersion, and it important for us for our kids to learn Spanish. I did the same thing last year, but my way of coping with finding balance was just to ever couple of months pull Sofia out of school for a day to spend time as a family or to do something fun. I plan on doing the same thing this year as well. I will definitely keep you all in mind for people to talk to down the road if we become more serious about the idea. Angie and Karli, thanks for the faith in me that I may not suck at it if I do attempt it :). Missy, do you live in Corvallis? Claire, I think that I do know who you are? Did you and your husband do a workshop on finances at a women’s conference weekend once? I am definitely going to check out your blog.
p.s. Karli, it is ridiculous that I haven’t seen you. Congratulations on your pregnancy. Miriam is old enough that I could leave for a night in Portland some time or…. we could all get together in the winter when Chris isn’t as busy. Or.. I could come with the kids alone if he is busy!
Angie, eating cheesecake talking with you sounds divine. Hugs to you all!

Laurie - September 6, 2012 - 8:47 pm

Kara, dear…are you reading my mind? Bring it on ladies (and gents), I want to hear it all!

adrienne w - September 7, 2012 - 9:30 pm

Oh, I love you and your beautiful family! I could see you being great at home schooling. And you’ve received so much great feedback, that it almost makes me want to consider it… almost. I don’t want to say that I’d never do it, because if I felt it was necessary or right for us, I would, but I will say that I am in no way prepared or really interested in it at this stage of our family. It makes me anxious to think about it with 5 kids under 8. Denver’s sister, who I am really close to, home schools so we’ve discussed it a lot. We are really blessed right now to have a school that I feel meets our children’s needs really well. A lot of the pros for home schooling are things that our school does. With it being an Arts Core school, my kids have weekly classes in dance, drama, music, and art, as well as the arts being integrated in the classroom everyday. And starting in Grade 3, they have a music enrichment program which is group music lessons (in violin, viola, cello, or bass) right after school or during lunch. So I don’t feel like the kids need any extra-curricular activities outside of school hours and I don’t feel like we’re over scheduled. They do a lot of learning through play at the school and no homework. It has a wonderful small tight knit community in the school. We’ve also never had the kids come home with bad language or bad behaviour they have picked up. I’m sure that time will come, but so far we have had really positive experiences. We love it! I have no reason at this stage to consider home schooling. I do feel that there are pros to public schooling. And since you’ve had such great comments regarding home schooling, I’ll tell you my pros to public school. I like my kids being exposed to a diverse group of kids. They get to learn about other cultures and religions and we’ve had great talks about what other people believe. I also think that it is important for kids to learn to learn in different ways, even if it’s not the way they learn best. I think there is a benefit to learning from a variety of teachers and sources as well. I know that I wouldn’t be good at teaching every subject, that’s for sure. I think there are a lot of life lessons that we learn at school as well. I realize that there are probably ways to incorporate all these things in home schooling, so these pros aren’t necessarily cons for home schooling. One of the most important lessons I learned when I had to work full time and my kids were in day care, was that it is absolutely possible to be the most influential person in your child’s life, even if you are only able to spend a few waking hours a day together. Obviously, it gets harder as kids get older, but I truly believe that it is still possible, no matter how old they get. Our family time comes first, so we don’t hesitate to miss a day of school when family is in town visiting or we want to do something as a family, but we’ve had a really positive public school experience. Ultimately, I think, you have to do what you feel is right for your family and as someone else already said, if and when it’s right, you’ll know it.

Marie Palmer - September 9, 2012 - 10:32 am

Kara,

You “friended” me just in time for you to get another comment from another person who loves homeschooling :).

Our kids aren’t really old enough to go to school, but we are getting really involved with the Corvallis Leadership Academy, the Thomas Jefferson Education-based group here in Corvallis. I love the families and the group. My kids will start doing the pre-school class on Thursday mornings while I teach math from the classics to some older kids.

I will also be teaching a kind of intro to homeschooling “TJEd” style class for adults which is mostly once every other month. Whether you ever homeschool or not, I think the ideas and books we are reading are super-interesting and are great ideas for any family. It may be a good way for you to explore the idea some more. You would be welcome to just come to the first discussion on the TJEd book in October if you want.

(You may be wondering why I am teaching these classes when I have only begun homeschooling my kids, but I studied it for years and taught at TJEd-based school and spoke at conferences, so I’m not completely winging it!)

Anyway, we are open to, and use, many education options and philosophies, but TJEd has most consistently made sense to me, but we definitely do our own version of it.

Email me if you have any questions, or want to see the handouts about the classes this year (mariegpalmer@gmail.com). We’re having a family potluck Monday night at the park by the Harrision church building (or in the church, depending on weather and other factors) for intro and registration. Let me know if you want an evite.

No, no, no pressure at all, of course! Everyone and every family is different and you guys seem to be doing a great job.

Marie

Rose - September 10, 2012 - 10:01 am

Homeschooling is a great option, and I think you will be great doing it (seeing how well you conduct your live and learn class). Just ignore all the bad stigmas about homeschooling that close-minded people have. My husband was homeschooled for 18 years by his mother, who homeschools all of her 8 kids (she now only has the youngest one left to teach). All the kids attended college and are not “weird” or lack any social skills in anyway. I think you should try it and leave the option open for the kids to attend the regular school if they choose to. My husband was given the option by his mom to attend the normal high school, but he opted to stay with the homeschooling since it benefited him more.

Kara - September 18, 2012 - 9:22 pm

Wow Marie, you sound like a wealth of knowledge. I definitely may chat with you more sometime.
Thanks for the perspective Rose. Your little guy looks just like Bethlyn