Wednesday, May 27, 2009

a domestic trap?

Michael and I are throwing around the idea of homeschooling. It's something we've been talking about since Jonah has started coming into his own and both of us grew tired of the public school system.

Things reached a head when we realized the severity of Jonah's food allergies and that traditional school simply wasn't working for him.

He currently attends the local Montessori School, but the tuition is breaking the bank, literally, as we smashed my piggy bank I've had since high school and counted out $84 in coins so we could afford groceries. A $635 tuition bill would be a nice one to lay aside.

Jonah is also highly gifted. At least I think he is.

He's not a super genius. He's not reading at a 12th grade level or multiplying large sums in his head or writing concertos. He IS reading, doing basic arithmetic, and creating his own science experiments. He's also extremely precocious.

I have my doubts at times, about what we should do when it comes to education.

I am a product of the public school system and I feel I turned out alright. My husband attended private Christian School most of his life and turned out about the same as I did. I know people from all walks of education and when it comes right down to it, it's about who they are as people and how their parents maintained the home. Sure, teachers can affect kids in a huge way, but not before their parents have already molded them in a specific vein.

I've been a stay at home mom now for a little over thirteen months. That sounds insane to me. I never thought I would do the stay at home mom thing. Never ever ever in a billion years. My education was important to me. Empowerment as a woman is important to me. Further education is high on my priority list. I have a master's degree. I love teaching. But I found, as a mother, that I love my kids more, and daycare wasn't working for my family.

Jonah had fun there and nice friends, but he was drawing with only the black and red crayons, literally, and it was time to reassess our lifestyle.

I'm not sure I'm capable of homeschooling.

It was something somewhat looked down on when I was a kid and also something that to me seemed a trap for a woman. To be teaching the kids at home, changing diapers - putting off life for another year and another year until, in the end, what is left of you as an individual?

But I have worked hard to maintain my personage since quitting my job. And I've found a lot of myself that was lost in my career moreso than it has been lost at my home.

No, I don't have time to sit down and finish my novel or my painting that has lulled in the easel now for six months or more, but I do have time to let my mind paint pictures. I do have time to act in the local theatre, direct around the town, throw some culture into the education of my children as we listen to Rossinni and identify the instruments in the orchestra in the CD playing in the living room.

Our family is just different. We're vagabond artists. We can't help it. My husband's job on base is there to put food on the table. And while he's a mathematician, he's also an artist. I have never met someone who can more fully use both sides of his brain. I'm the right brained psychopath with a feminist streak. So our kids and traditional schooling? The public school system? It just doesn't seem right.

And me, the feminist, Christian, artist, hippie, vegetarian...well...I guess homeschool does fit, after all.


Pete said...

As you know, I don't have kids of my own. However, I've done a lot of retrospective thinking about my school experiences. I went to nine different schools before college (ten if you count a semester of homeschooling). I also had lots of friends who went to various schools -- some of them were home-schooled all the way through high school.

Some observations and thoughts:

- Class size REALLY REALLY matters. I learned more and got better attention when there were less than 15 students in the classroom with the teacher. Despite having a solid academic base and being interested in learning, it was harder to focus in large public high schools. Plus (as you know) the food sucked.

- Real-life, context-based learning is more memorable. My home-economics teachers took us outside (!!) to change a tire, took us to a nearby house to learn to prepare meals, and made sure we got our hands on sewing needles and garden dirt. I clearly remember each of these lessons-- and I don't remember many specific classroom lessons (they blur together). As a freshman, I also got to work as a lab assistant in the chemistry lab during an upper-level class. This gave me a chance to touch equipment and feel things out while interesting class lectures happened at the other end of the room.

- Home-schooling is hard. You never get a chance to be anonymous and zone out when you might really need it. On the other hand, a responsive teacher would perhaps recognize this need and either change the subject or take the learning in a new direction (eg. let's go learn about human body motion and team organization using a soccer ball).

- The best learning I ever did was at the Oregon Extension. Everyone studied one learning object (a book, video, audio, artwork) at a time and engaged in multi-topic discussions about the content/context of the object. Having a common ground of objects and ideas allowed the conversation to grow and deepen through several months. Being required to speak and write our own thoughts made me aware of my voice in a new way.

- I love the idea of a home-school group, where a group of parents take turns teaching their 10-15 kids. This gives the kids multiple teachers and viewpoints, takes some of the strain off the educators, and gives the kids a chance to socialize (which is missed with single-family home-schooling).

Anyway, all this to say I like your thinking (and I talk too much).
Best! ~pete

avalaskova said...

A feminist, Christian, artist, hippie, vegetarian with a master's degree and a great husband and considering homeschooling - wow! It's a mirror image of myself. I too didn't think I'd fit into the stay at home mom role but we've decided to go with home learning for our children (2 &4). It sounds like you've made previous decisions based on sound judgement so don't think yourself nuts for considering homeschooling. Really - what feels right is just that, right for you.

Jonah will let you know if it's right for him.

Missy said...

Peter: Thanks so much for you insight. For a kid who went to public school her whole life, it means a lot to have another perspective, and I agree with the lessons I remember most having to do with actual life, rather than a picture on a page in a book - something to touch and do, rather than read about or look at.

To my other reader: It's nice to hear from a kindred spirit. :-)

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