So how do you go about telling your parents something like this? I mean I’m sure that some parents would say, “That’s the spirit, you go girl!” Not mine. Career oriented to the core, I am from a family of women that work outside the home. My great grandmother Kitty, my grandmothers Caroline and Alice, my mother Nancy, my sister, my cousins, me…we just do. It’s our thing. And we’re good at what we do, and damn proud of it too.
So I wrote an email to my folks. A long one. I explained what was happening with the kids, the school, and the psychology and economy of it all. I tried to explain not just my concerns about institutionalized school, but the advantages of homeschooling. I provided links and quotes and facts and an overview of the chosen curriculum. Then I sat back, took a deep breath, and hit send. Immediately I started defending my position in my head, I formulated questions that I thought they might ask about socialization, and the fiscal impossibility of it all. I sweated, and I wondered how long my parents would take to answer. Or would they call? Elizabeth views caller ID, “Hello…Mom?. Mom, “What are you? Crazy?”
Less than an hour later (as a rule my parents don’t answer email quickly, so this almost made me jump out of my skin) I saw a reply in my inbox. I braced myself for the storm…and opened the reply, it simply read:
Sounds pretty good to us. Let’s discuss this summer….
Love, Mom and OP
I was speechless! Overjoyed! Stunned! Scared to the core! And humbled beyond belief that my parents understood the situation, were supporting me in the decision and were trusting me with the education of their grandchildren.
So…Homeschooling here we come. Eh-hem. So where do I start? There are like…well this might be an exaggeration…but a trillion bazillion homeschool sites out there. I was able to narrow it down a little by just adding “secular” to the search. Not because I don’t want God in my curriculum, but because I want to be able to talk about the world from many different perspectives. So often when people are wooing a potential new member into a congregation they say, “Just keep an open mind…” and then as soon as you join they insist that you close your mind against all other ideas. Ech. Thanks, I’ll keep my religion AND my science and turn off my own TV if it’s necessary. Don’t trouble yourself.
So I read about homeschooling. I bought books. I read articles. I informed myself with my classmates where I am earning my Master’s degree in Education. I thought and I prayed and I sifted through mountains of information. Part of my challenge was to find something based in the US for children who would be starting as ESL students. Another part was their very different learning styles. Sprinkle in ADD and hyperactivity and you’ve got quite a crazy salad. I read hundreds of reviews and finally I decided on the Oak Meadow curriculum. Then I had to tell my parents that their daughter, who had just barely made it out of high school (although I must admit I did pretty well in college) and had avoided studying like a gossip girl avoids orthopedic shoes, who had been working since the tender age of 15 and had rarely been without a job, was going to quit her job, nay nay, her CAREER to stay home and homeschool the kids. Oh boy.
I’m not always good at doing things in order. I’ve got a great imagination and a lot of spirit. My sister says I’m passionate. I guess that’s as good a word as any. I’m also not used to making big life decisions in committee, and all of a sudden I had a new (ish) husband and children who were quite old enough to be included in the decision making progress. So we called a “What the Heck are we going to Do about THIS?” meeting. We talked that night together, and then at different times one on one. We made drastic and silly suggestions. We laughed like loons, and ragged at each other and cried. It boiled down to this…I was going to quit my job (my wonderful, fulfilling, money-paying job) and stay home with the kids to homeschool. Impossible, I thought. There is no way that this is going to work. But I have to try.
My daughter hates that phrase because I use it too much, she says. It’s just a good way to express the fact that I am not so terribly worried about the means when we do Math, English, what have you…but the end product. What did you glean from your reading? What questions did you have? Where did your errors lead you? What did you find that was interesting along the way? At the end of the day, when you reflect on what you did, can you say that you learned something that you can use in the future? Did you help someone today? Were you grateful?
At the end of that fateful day of the X’s I was grateful because I knew it had to end. I had no idea how I was going to go about extricating us from the mess, but I had made a decision. Something had to change, or we were about to lose something very precious.
So how did I get from there to here? I saw something that frightened the heck out of me. I saw my children stop learning. My daughter is a young teen, she has ADD and some mild/moderate learning disabilities. These challenges have made her a little slower at picking up the concepts and finishing up the tasks. When she got to middle school she was far behind because her teacher had always “helped” her by giving her enough points to pass. I really thought it would be more beneficial for her to repeat a year (she is very young for her class), but I was always told that this would be hard on her self esteem. Like getting 40’s on her exams and then being passed along wasn’t hard on her self esteem.
I figured that middle school might be better, because I worked there and I could keep an eye on her work. It turns out that the teachers were so determined to “treat her like everyone else” (which I thought was wonderful, by the way) instead of like one of the owner’s daughters that they just basically ignored her Special Ed file. It turned out that they pretty much ignored all of the Special Ed kids’ files. Meanwhile…
My son was in 4th grade last year, and vastly under challenged. “The System” would not let him skip a grade, and the only accommodation that he was ever offered was more work. He got bored, and started getting into trouble. His teachers said he was disruptive and started to look for excuses to call me in for meetings. In one case his teacher called me to show me an exam he had done. His grade? A 95. But she said she was doing him a favor because on all of the multiple choice instead of marking them with an X he marked them with a /. I thanked her that day and walked out, furious with her, the system, and myself for getting trapped into something I didn’t see a way out of.
Homeschooling. Not for me, thank you. “What do I look like? A religious nut? One of those people who has 30 years worth of food and a billion rounds of ammo in the basement? Do I look organic and yoga oriented? I can’t even do homework with my kids without losing my mind.” That was less than a year ago…well…
Remember when Hilary Clinton said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”? I don’t know who said it first, but she got the sound-byte. I didn’t have kids at the time, and I thought it sounded fairly good. Everyone pull together, Kumbaya and all that. Then 2012 hit, and I had a kid in 4th grade and a kid in 7th grade and I realized that pretty much the world had stopped while everyone was checking their Facebook. Teachers unwilling to step up, students sorely lacking in education, manners and basic common sense and parents run ragged trying to find the key to helping their children while they worked 16 hour days to be sure that they had the latest $800 cell phone. I didn’t want this village raising my child.
For a long time I had tried to help those ragged parents with their kids. I was involved in a high school for about 7 years in different capacities but I couldn’t make any progress against the tide of indifference. “It’s the system”, “It’s the system”, “It’s the system”. Well, the system can brag on this statistic. Of 100 students that begin kindergarten, 10 will graduate from high school. It was enough to piss off the Pope. Add to this that because I was trying to help 260 students, parents, teachers, and anyone else that I thought I could my own 2 were falling victim to the system. The cobbler’s children…