Monday, May 28, 2007


Since Lucy is approaching school age, I've started looking at curriculum books, and trying to make the decision about whether I want to go full-bore and homeschool her.
I know, I know, this is a bit premature, given that she isn't walking or talking yet. But no one ever accused me of not planning ahead.
Part of me is very seduced by the idea of learning with my kids, reading great books to them, and helping instill a love of learning, rather than sending them to public school and watching it be drilled out of them.
Both Dyami and I went to public school, and both of us got a good education. With a few exceptions:
  • I remember dreading the first two months of school in elementry grades, because it was all review. I made paper clip chains and tried to get through it.
  • I would read ahead in my textbooks and then be lost when I got called on.
  • Worksheets where we had to write "complete sentance" answers, even when the repetition was numbing. Example: Why did the chicken cross the road? Ans: The chicken crossed the road to get to the other side.
  • Dyami was in Montessori for his first grade year, and then in public school after that. He said he didn't learn anything new in math until sixth grade. Man, he could have been a Nobel Laureate in Math by 6th grade if he hadn't been held back by the public school system.
  • The whole 'being smart is dumb' culture really sucked. I put up with it until high school, where in our school, being 'average' was dumb. Also not cool, but it was nice to have a break.
  • A mediocre teacher and a lousy book in PreCalculus in high school. God, I hated that class. I could never figure otu the homework, and neither teacher or book helped. I scraped by, but learned almost no math. In college, I got an A in Calculus with a good teacher and good book. (I still don't remember any of it, but I did master the material at the time).
  • Dyami opted out of Honors English because the teacher was obnoxious. (Being Dyami, he told the teacher so, in class). It didn't harm him long-term, but he probably missed out on some cool books.
  • I was a little worried about getting beat up in Science C in Jr. High.
  • Junior high in general, actually.
  • Health class. Ugh.
  • Just a lot of wasted time. A lot, a lot of wasted time. And we were in good schools.
So those are the reasons a public school education doesn't appeal for our kids. Plus, I think the quality of schools around here has probably not gone up in intervening years (my high school is now nearly twice the size it was when I was there. That's kind of scary). Not to mention the bomb threats and Columbine-style incidents.

And (perhaps naively) I think Dyami and I could do a good job of educating. I am pretty qualified and excited about language, history, and social sciences. If I had a good math curriculum, I'm sure I could do fine (I always did fine with decent books). And Dyami is great backup if I hit roadblocks. Both of us love learning, love good literature, and are constantly seeking out new forms of knowledge.

When I think about actually learning things with my kids--going to the library and seeking out info on the Renaissance, or photosynthesis, or being able to fill in the gaps in my own education while helping my kids to learn, that sounds pretty cool. I mean, I did Spanish and English grammar study for fun one summer. I know, I'm a nerd.
And reading a bunch of great books together (though I don't plan on making my kids read Jerome and Hercletes in translation, sorry).
And trying to tech them spanish--maybe going to Mexico for a month as a family for language immersion together? Or to Argentina? pretty cool.

As for "socialization", I know a family that homeschooled all three kids (well, they're still in the process) through high school, and their kids are completely sane, well-adjusted, and socially adept. In fact, they're pretty awesome kids. So there's no reason it can't work.

FInally, I really, really, really dislike the consumer focus of our society. With the branding, and the emphasis on labels, and who has the best toys, and kids with cell phones, and high school kids with new cars. And the marketing is reaching earlier and earlier and earlier. This really bothers me. I know that a lot of this is guided by peers, in school, because it sure was for me, in the days of less-intense advertising. Guess, Keds, Espirit, Trapper Keeper, etc. You know what I'm saying.

Here's my hesitation.
1) I'm worried I'm thinking about this just to prove something. Like with EC, I tend to seek out the most difficult, high-effort way of doing something and then bang my head against the wall in an effort to show how superior I am to everyone else.
I do not think this is a biblical model for homeschooling. I am trying to pray that God would show me if homeschooling would be good for my mental health.
2) I have a friend that homeschools that really, truly, loves being around her kids all day.
I'm not sure I will be in that camp. I love Lucy, don't get me wrong, but I really covet the baby-free moments I get.

So those are my hesitations. If I'm a worse mommy because of homeschooling, it's not worth it. I don't want to be a witch or a martyr. I would like to have time to do my own writing and thinking again someday.


Susan said...

You will be a great teacher. It is totally cool and I've found it easier than institutionally schooling them. Besides, you will contribute to global well being. It is shocking how much is paper generated by classroom schooling. I’m talking gratuitous paper, not stimulating, enlightening sort of paper. Also you have to think up a lunch to send every day. It gets old fast. While we didn’t intend to keep our oldest home for eight years, I’ve been so happy we did. I have no plan to ever send Ella to a classroom, but of course we will pray about it when the time comes. Wait a minute! If you are already planning, I am way behind. I’d better get busy!

Heather said...

thanks for the encouragement, Susan. But easier how, exactly?

writermeeg said...

Gosh, Heather, we are oddly similar!! I've been having this discussion with myself and my husband since Senna was tiny, too (and she really still is at 16 months -- haha!). He's a public school teacher and we're both big advocates of public education in theory, but with NCLB and all, we are both terrified to send Senna into the firey testing pit.

Anyway, thought you might be interested in checking out some of the local charter schools. Some have options like 2 days in class, 3 days homeschooling, some are all homeschool but with lots of field trip and lab options -- all assign you an educational consultant (licensed teacher) who checks in regularly and helps keep you organized.

AND, all your homeschool materials are FREE when you're part of a charter school (and your kid is homeschooled but "in the system," too)! Check 'em out:

I'm trying to find out more details (and have some) on specific charter schools, but it looks interesting as a concept. You definitely don't have to be an island as a homeschooler, esp in California! Would like to chat more...

Heather said...

Yay, Megan!
Yes, a friend of mine is enrolling her 5-year-old in a homeschool charter this fall. I'll let you know how it goes.
My questions: how good is their curriculum? And how much freedom do you have to educate the way you want? And what if you have some religious training you'd like to include in schooling? How much can the state limit you the more you involve them?
I know that curriculum is my biggest fear: I don't want to teach something I don't like, and reading the Encinitas charter school site's description of their curriculum, with it's teacher technical mumbo-jumbo, didn't make me too confident.

Melissa said...

Heather, how much freedom you have in curriculum depends on the charter. Religious instruction is never allowed during "school time" if you use a public charter, though is likely to be allowed if you use a private umbrella school.

There are lots of philosophical issues around charter schools, too, of course!

Michelle said...

I think that you could totally do it if you wanted to. I agree about the thinking/writing time, but seriously, there is sooooooo much flexibility with all your choices. I have lots of friends that homeschool--having tried many different types to find what fit. And the fit also changed as the kids grew and mommy's needs changed...I've also read some really good books on the topic (imagine that!). I have lots of back issues of The Link if you want to browse...the good thing is that you still have a few more MONTHS to decide!!! Say like 60:)

It's an exciting topic though. Lots of variables. We've been split on the issue as a couple. E is worried about public school going in the crapper and the poor missing out (well, me too)...there are lots of issues involved....