Friday, November 20, 2009

My Big Fat Homeschooling Dilemma

If you are close to me in anyway, then you know that I am constantly going back and forth over whether to send the kids to traditional public school or to homeschool. I have been fretting over this for the past two years and the debate continues strong. A few months ago I would have told you that I had made my decision: I would be sending Frannie to regular K. So then why can't I just drop it? Why do I keep yakking about it, reading books about it, and asking a bunch of questions about it? Why can't I let it go?

It must be my need to fully research everything. For example, we are going to get some laminate flooring in the house next year and I've had four different guys to the house so far to show me samples and give estimates. Every person who has been here has taught me something new about the process so I can then ask more detailed questions.

But schooling isn't flooring obviously. It's much bigger, lightyears more important, and has taken me much longer to process. And I'm still processing every single day. I'm sick of it actually.

So here is my big fat homeschooling dilemma laid out:

Frannie is social. She thrives in group environments. I can't get her to eat so many foods, but if she is with other kids she will gobble up anything on her plate. I have seen time and time again how she dedicates herself to something if other kids are doing it too. So in terms of school I believe she will learn so much and just soak it all in. I suppose this could also backfire and she could adopt "attention-getting" behaviors that she sees. I certainly have seen her play the whole "us two are in and you're out" scenario with other girls. But in talking strictly academics, she does well in groups.

With homeschooling it is much harder to create a group environment. I know that I would sign her up for outside activities such as ballet, art classes, and possibly girl scouts, but what about an academic environment? I do worry sometimes that the school system has become so focused on test-scores that they are introducing concepts too soon and overburdening elementary aged children with homework. I hear friends of school-aged ones bemoan the amount of homework that their kids are taking home. It's all very time consuming and often just busy-work. Part of me feels that if I'm going to be spending an hour and a half on homework then I might as well just homeschool and get it done earlier in the day.

That said, homeschooling is such a huge responsibility. It requires long-term, short-term and daily planning. It's another job that is enmeshed with mommyhood.

So that is part of it. I actually have other concerns about the academic parts of home vs. traditional school but this post could end up being ridiculously long if I list absolutely everything that is on my mind.

So onto the social part of it. I go to an amazing homeschool group on Tuesday afternoons and there is just the best group of little girls and boys and they all play together so wonderfully. We are there for about 3 hours and it is non-stop playing and make believe and fun. Everything that is great about childhood is present in those three hours at the park. Every time I come home I think about homeschooling again because I really don't want to let that go. I don't want to let the park day go! I couldn't ask for a better group of children for my children to grow up with. Truly.

So when I think of homeschooling I feel like I am choosing between park days and flexibility but also taking on the sole burden of my kids' academic life, which I'm not convinced yet that I can handle! When I think of public school I feel like the academic burden is lifted off of me, and I think she will learn a lot, but I also see a future of social cliques (and all that that entails) and one-size-fits-all learning environments with lots of evening homework. In addition to Frannie, there is the matter of Adam and Natalie to consider. Obviously I have no clue what type of learner Natalie is, but Adam's style is starting to emerge. I actually see him as an independent learner at this point.

Right now I'm reading 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. It helps you to figure out your child's natural learning style, your (the teacher's) learning style and needs, and match you to curriculum that will fit. I have also read Discover Your Child's Learning Style. I recommend the latter book whether someone plans on homeschooling or not simply because it gives insights into what kind of learner your child is which is helpful to know no matter where a child goes to school. Before reading that book I was often confused about why Frannie would learn things well in some situations but not in others. After taking the little analysis tests they offer in the book and reading her learning profile it all made much more sense to me.

So at this point I am at the place of seeing if I can possibly find an educational method and curriculum that works for the both of us to see if I could handle the academic responsibility of schooling at home. Meanwhile, I am going on tours of my local elementary schools next semester to see how things are run in my district.

What about Jason? How does he feel about all of this? Well he is an open-minded soul. He can see the pros and cons to both decisions as well. If I give a convincing argument for either one, he is pretty supportive. My parents are the same. Either choice is fine to them.

Whatever decision we end up making, I hope you kids don't hate me for it in the future! Mama is just trying her best! Remember that!


A. said...

You sound like a perfect candidate for a charter. :) They pay for your curric, and extra money for your social activities (ballet, piano, etc). Plus, you get an E.S. who helps you with knowing what you should have done in the year as well as regular meetings to check in with them. You still have the flexibility to choose your own curric, learning style and set-up, yet have that charter back-up for the guidance and resources. it seems they have it all, too, when it comes to curric's. i chose a more classical curric for reading and it turns out a friend in a charter got the same one.
Plus, some have groups that have formed out of them if you want more regular meet-ups.
Our group is mainly gals from our church (with a majority in the same charter), but we do plenty for my little social bee. A field trip once a month, a co-op art class twice a month, park days 1-3 times a month, as well as holiday parties throughout the year. Not to mention, the older girls are in a book club where they share and read, and now the younger girls have started one where the moms read, then we do activities based off the book.
Sorry to ramble!!!

Therese said...

Oh Jamie... precious mother! You are a great teacher and if you decide to homeschool your children they will be better for it. You will be better for it. If you put them in school, I can see that you will be an involved mom in the classroom. You CARE about your kids and how they are educated and hearing you now makes me think that even though you may put the kids in school, you need to be a part of it in any way you can be.
Because you are so passionate about this, I really don't see you releasing the 'reigns' to anyone else.
But maybe you will consider joining a large public school charter that allows you to choose the curriculum and teach it at home, but have the accountability of turning in sample work, and more social options available, or a once-a-week school option.

As far as social.. you know that school doesn't make one social- Parents and personality have a lot to do with that.
As far as Frannie doing things because other kids are doing it... that could turn into a bad thing, yes, but also consider that the kids in the class don't really have a choice. They HAVE to do the lesson whether they want to or not. And in our homeschool, there are certain things that Sarah HAS to do whether she likes it or not.
Just something to chew on!

No matter what you choose, you are a great mom!

Iris said...

Jamie, this post makes it sound clear to me, you want to and should home school. If you don't like it, you can always opt for public school later. Yes it will be a challenge, to home school, but I know if anyone can do it you can. Just go for it and do it. You are able to. You have the resources. You know what to do. Just do it.

Laurel said...

It is a big decision, I think you are to be commended for just thinking about it. I think too many parents just go along with what everyone else is doing. You are really trying to make the best decision for YOUR family. Trust yourself, you will find the best educational fit for yourself and your children!

Jamie said...

Wow guys. Thank you for the encouragement and advice too. I really appreciate it.

Therese is right about me not wanting to give the reigns to anyone else. I sometimes wonder if I have leftover DIY mentality stuff from homebirth. But I am trying to separate what I view as my needs vs. her real needs. So I want to make sure I'm not homeschooling because it is more of a fit for ME but because it is what is right for her and the other kids. I really want to do what is best for them. And it is so so so hard for me to really know what that is sometimes.

Amy- Good to hear from you! I am intrigued by the charter school thing. I keep hearing about that one in the IE where they pay for curriculum and classes too. Lauren I think tried to get into that one for this academic year but they are full.

Iris- It's funny, but every Tuesday I want to homeschool and by Friday when I'm tired I really wish I could send Frannie on a bus! So every week it is this cycle of "I want to homeschool. No, no, I don't. She needs to go to school." And on and on it goes.

Laurel- yep. Still struggling with this. Last we "spoke" I was done with the topic. I'm actually sooooo annoyed with it now.

Frannie really wants to go to K, but she also seems to think she can still go to park day. So she doesn't understand how it all works. I definitely feel like this is just as much a lifestyle choice as it is an academic one. It's like trying to pick a life. Which life would you like? Door number 1 or door number 2?

Iris said...

Jamie- Of course, but weekends are make for recovering :)

Jamie said...

But I work the weekends! Well, Friday night and Saturday.

Lauren S. said...

Just remember, Jamie, you're not married to either one you pick!

Jamie said...

Very true. I don't know why I feel married to the choice. It really is kind of dumb. But I do feel like I need a certain conviction about it, because I can't bail on my choice when it gets hard. If Fran has a few hard days at school or if I don't favor her teacher, I can't just yank her at a whim. Likewise, if I'm going to be here at home, I need to be convicted as to why I'm doing it because I know it will get hard sometimes.

Anonymous said...

To home school or not? I feel I got a lot out of the CHN Expo (California Homeschooling Network?). I am thankful DH went with me the 1st day and then stayed home the other two days. I was able to attend many lectures and ease some of my concerns. I also ended up with many more questions.

I am still on the fence of whether or not we will home school. Currently (as of this post) we are leaning towards homeschooling. As a result of the Expo, I am on 6 mailing list that offer almost daily ideas/suggestions for homeschooling. For my preschooler, it seems to be working out okay. When he is ready for K, I have a feeling we'll have the hang of it and do well homeschooling... Uhm... I will feel more confident to home school him, and he will be used to Mommy way of teaching.

As for the socialization, sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing for him or not.

UGH, No I'm going to be thinking and rethinking all these pros and cons of homeschooling again. ;)

If my kids end up going to public school, you bet I'll be very active at their school, in their classroom, ... in their educational journey.

Jamie said...

Maribel- The CHN Expo really turned me off! I was like "NO I'm NOT doing this!" after that convention. I felt like the whole thing was so unschooly in nature. I left wondering how many of the people speaking really had their act together. There is so much talk about how great it is, but there has to be a reality check that this is WORK for you. Homeschooling requires the mom to work at it, and also continue managing the household. Anyways, I see potential for a lot of laziness if there aren't clear educational goals and that conference seemed like it was all about "Don't you want your children to be happy!?" Well, yeah sure, but what I'm concerned about right now is their education.

Anyways, even when I wrote it off, this topic has come back to me. Like I said, I guess I'm just not ready to let it go yet.