Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why We Homeschool

Frequently Asked Questions about our decision to homeschool:

1."Why do you homeschool?"
2. "Wouldn't it be easier to send at least some of the kids to public school?"
3. "How do you do it with so many kids?"
4. "I would be afraid my kids weren't getting what they need."
5. "Don't you worry about socialization?"
6. "I would go crazy if I was home with my kids all day. You must be a saint."

I am writing this post as a reminder to myself because as the year progresses, I am sure I will question our decision when it gets challenging (like I always do).

1."Why do you homeschool?"

There are a multitude of reasons that our family has chosen to homeschool, but I will try to be brief (though if you have read my blog before, you know brevity is not my strength).

My first two children, Bryce and Blake, attended public school though 2nd grade and kindergarten, respectively. Honestly, I had never really considered anything else. However, in their last year of public school, my oldest son was bullied terribly (yes, as a 2nd grader). I was shocked at how early the bullying started and how ruthless kids could be, which started me thinking of other options for my son.

In addition, my son was very smart, and the work he did at school was not challenging him. It was as if he was treading water in his class despite his desire to learn which saddened me.

It was also in that last year of their attendance in school that I was fortunate enough to work as a teacher's assistant in a public school under an amazing teacher, Mrs. Bray. I absolutely loved her and learned so much from her, and I wanted to share that joy of learning with my own children. However, I noticed that all day I was giving my all and my best to other people's children, while I had no idea what my own children were doing in their classes.

I also witnessed the bureaucracy that public school teachers come up against, and for the record teachers have an amazingly difficult job and don't get paid nearly what they are worth.

It was also about that time that our family truly came to Christ and realized that we wanted Him at the center, and we wanted to cherish our time together as a family. We wanted to teach our children about biblical truths to give them a good foundation of their faith so that as adults they would be able to defend their faith.

Plus, as we began to add older adoptive children to our family, the need to spend time together laying a foundation and bonding also became incentives to homeschool.

Currently, we have 10 adoptive children and 3 biological. I only mention that because 10 of my children are not native English speakers. They are ESL (English Second Language) or ELL (English Language Learners)...or whatever it is called now. That definitely posses some challenges that make it difficult to attend public school. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing are all areas that are affected by having English as a second language. Additionally, math word problems and "keeping up" with lectures are affected.

Some of my children had little or no schooling before they came to our family, which means we were not only starting with a new language, but we were also starting with zero academic knowledge at all (and one of them was 11 with no school experience and no English)!

Some of my children have major learning disabilities and processing issues that would make them easy targets for bullying in public school. Not only that, but there is a good chance that they wouldn't ask questions or do the work and therefore they wouldn't learn.

We, as parents to these children, have a vested interest in our children. While I'm sure all teachers want their students to learn, they also only have them for one year. Our children are our children forever. We know their strengths and their weaknesses. We know what motivates them and what they need for encouragement.

Flexibility. While one student may be struggling at English, he/she may be doing amazingly well in Math. Therefore, the student may be working at multiple levels at the same time doing 4th grade reading and 8th grade math (an option that isn't readily available at a public school).

Anyone who has read up on adoption (or even has a close friend that has adopted) knows about the challenges of attachment and bonding. We knew that we wanted our children to learn to love one another and love us, and we weren't sure when there would be time for that if everyone went off to different classes and different directions. We have a very unique situation, as we have teenagers that are almost adults that have only been in our family for a year. We want time with each one of them; we don't have all the young childhood memories with these children, and we want to make as many memories together as we can.

Being a part of their growth is beautiful. It's painful and often slower than we'd like, but that growth is evidence of our work together.

2. "Wouldn't it be easier to send at least some of the kids to public school?"

YES! Well, at least during the day while they were at school it would be easier (obviously). But, that's only part of it. Getting everyone up and out the door with 15 people sharing 3 bathrooms to get ready, would definitely be an obstacle. Then, I would have kids going in all different directions all day, coming home at the same time, and all needing help with homework (that I would have to figure out as to what is required along with what they covered in class) for the next hour or two. Then dinner, bed, and start again. Not a whole lot of time to enjoy each other, and they are growing up so fast. Maybe I am selfish, but I want to spend quality time with my kids and have them spend time with each other.

Additionally, I would have to try to keep up with what is going on in each of their classes to be an involved parent, which logistically would be difficult. Not only that, but like I said, some of my kids have behavior issues that would be more difficult to monitor and correct in a public school setting (and which wouldn't be fair to the teachers or other student's in their classes). Plus, then we would spend the time with them at home dealing with discipline issues from school rather than getting to enjoy our now limited time together which doesn't sound like fun. So, would it actually be easier? In some ways maybe, but in other ways it would be harder.

3. "How do you do it with so many kids?"

Shoot, I could probably write a blog post just on this aspect of our homeschooling. There are the basic things like how we use videos to teach the different lessons of math, and computer programs to help with reading comprehension quizzes, and so on. But, without going into the daily schedule and which actual curriculums we use, let me say it is a juggling act, but, honestly, the key is that the older children help with schooling the little ones (which helps solidify the concepts they have already learned).

Older students help me grade papers (which would probably take me all night if I did it alone). They also help with putting kids on their computer programs, and sometimes they even help make snack or lunch. Older children sit with younger children to listen to them read a book and ask them questions about it (because it would be impossible for me to listen to every one of my children read every day and do anything else). Then, the younger children get to listen to their older siblings read a story to them working on auditory skills and listening to modeled fluency. (We call this exchanged reading time "Buddy Reading" as the younger siblings read to their older sibling buddies).

The older kids will throw in a load of laundry and younger ones hang it up on the line during their break. The kids help take turns cleaning up from lunch and snack.

I have to say, our kids are pretty awesome, and I honestly couldn't do it without them. We work together, and that is the only way it would work.

4. "I would be afraid my kids weren't getting what they need."

Absolutely I worry about this. I am only one person, and I am not specifically trained in special needs or even teaching for that matter. How do I know they are all getting what they need? In short, I don't.

I mean, obviously, I research, organize, and plan all summer and throughout the year. I use the best curriculums I can find after reading the reviews and research. I try to make sure that I provide a rigorous and yet interesting curriculum that is hitting all the areas that are required, but I am sure I am missing things. I try to modify work for each child's needs and challenge them enough to make it achievable but not overwhelming, which looks completely different for each child. I try to give the children opportunities to use the learning styles that work best for them. However, almost every sentence in this paragraph is about me "trying." I can't do it all, and no matter how hard I try, I will fall short (as we all do). However, we try to keep Christ at the center, and trust in His help to fill in the gaps.

While my students may not be exposed to every piece of subject matter that they should, I try to give them the skills needed to comprehend, analyze, think logically and critically, and make connections. I want them to love learning, so that they can learn anything they put their mind to.

There is another part of this equation though; the children have to put forth effort too. No matter how amazing a curriculum is or how perfectly someone teaches it (not that I ever teach something perfectly, but hypothetically even if I could), there is no guarantee that the student will learn if they don't make a choice to. I saw a quote somewhere that summed it up well,

"If you don't want to learn, there is nothing I can do to teach you; but if you want to learn, there is nothing I can do to stop you."-unknown

I often feel inadequate to the task, but it reminds me to more fully rely on the Lord for His strength and His wisdom.

5. "Don't you worry about socialization?"

Um, No. I don't. I know there is a lot of negativity regarding homeschoolers not being socialized, but I am not buying into that hype. First off, we live in a 2300 square foot house with 15 people. It's not like my children are off in a bedroom by themselves all day. In fact, none of my children even have their own bedroom.

My children are exposed to all different ages of kids with different personalities and idiosyncrasies (some of which are extremely challenging and often annoying). Yet, my children have to learn to problem solve, communicate positively, diffuse situations, and figure out how to get along. All the while, my husband and I are here to demonstrate how to effectively do that and instruct them on acceptable options rather than just having them fight it out on the playground. We are family, so the option to just avoid a child that is mean to you on the bus isn't an option; instead, we work to restore relationships between one another no matter what.

If anything, our are probably more socialized than they would be at public school where they would be grouped with only peers who were the same age as them (which by the way is not like the "real world" where they will work in jobs and have roommates of all ages).

Our children are also involved in youth group, Sunday school, piano lessons, and home school co-ops where they are socialized with others outside our family too.

6. "I would go crazy if I was home with my kids all day. You must be a saint."

This is probably the statement that makes me cringe the most.

First off, what is it saying about our children when we say that they make us crazy. I think people say this in jest, but it sends a hurtful message about not wanting to spend time with our kids when they are gifts from the Lord, and we should cherish the time we have with them.

I am NOT saying that I don't get frustrated and feel overwhelmed and inadequate at times, because that would be a complete lie. However, even in those difficult moments, I have to remind myself (sometimes out loud) that my children are on loan to me from the Lord, and He has entrusted them to my care. I should be honored at the privilege that it is to be home and be with my children when many others cannot be.

I am NOT a saint. In fact, when people say that (sometimes in front of my children), I am literally waiting for one of my kids to start laughing and say, "My mom, a saint? Ha!"

No. I am not a saint; I am just a mom trying to do my best like most moms I know. And, just like every mom I know, I fall short... Every. Single. Day. I say the wrong thing. I raise my voice. I get frustrated. I forget appointments. I am human. However, I also say sorry... Every. Single. Day. I tell the kids to pray for me for the things I am struggling with.

My kids are smart. They don't need me to admit that I have flaws for them to figure it out on their own (it's pretty obvious). But, hopefully, by humbling myself before them, confessing my own sins, and asking for their prayers and help, they will recognize my (and later everyone's) need for grace and mercy.


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