Thursday, April 26, 2007

Making Educational decisions

From the first moments when I began to feel Beth moving around inside of me I began daydreaming about homeschooling her. I imagined my sweet little girl with blond curly pigtails sitting at the table with me, giggling as we glitter-glued the letters of her name onto her pencil box. I imagined teaching her to read, I daydreamed about the histoty notebooks we would make together, her scrawly handwriting streatching across the pages to create her timelines. I was SO excited about discovering everything again with my little girl, learning grammar rules with her, and world history. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that when it came time for Beth to begin school that she would be the oldest of four and I never imagined she would grow into such an independent-minded spunky little girl. I never ever imagined we'd have such personality clashes. I never knew that just being a mommy was so emotionally draining.

So as the years have passed and this question about "what will we do for school?" loomed nearer and nearer I began to really question if I could homeschool. I did preschool with Beth on and off since she was three (I now think that was too early, but most of her friends were in preschool and I was really feeling the peer-pressure).

It's the "on and off" part that worries me. You can't homeschool your child on and off and get through grades one to twelve sucessfully. The personality clashes worry me too. For instance when Beth was about two or three I bought her a watercolor paint set. I sat her down in her high chair and showed her "water... paint... paper." I showed it too her over and over but she continued to dip her brush in the paint and then the water and then she'd try to paint her paper. I'd say "No. Water. Paint. Paper." and she'd continue to do paint, water, paper. It drove me nuts. Daniel watched me for a couple of minutes and then he was like "what is up with you? just give her the paints and let her figure it out on her own. If she really needs or wants help she'll ask." And I said, almost in tears "But she's doing it the wrong way" and he was like "so what? let her have fun with it." And I'm thinking "How can you have fun with paints when you're doing it the wrong way?" but I let it go. And you know what? She had a lot of fun. She painted a lot after that, mostly with poster paints and finger paints, not so much with watercolors.

Learning ABCs was pretty crazy too, but that was when I discovered that I needed to introduce smaller chunks to her at a time, managable pieces that gave her a feeling of sucess. Like writing her name. I thought this child was never going to learn how to write her B. I imagined her going through life writing her name "ETH"... no seriously, I was at my wits end. I had worked with her on it over and over and over and over and over and she just didn't get it. So we went back to the basics. We practiced strait lines, "slanty" lines and curves. We did pages and pages of these non-letter lines. I would hold her hand and help her practice, then let her do it. Afer a while we did a P and then an R then finally she was ready to try again and it worked!! That was pretty cool. I was so proud of her that I scanned her paper into the computer! That was when I realized that I'd made a breakthough in understanding her learning style. I think learning styles are essential to understand for any homeschooling parent. I got this book from the MOPS library called "The Way They Learn" it was so easy to read and covered pretty much every base in learning styles. Multiple inteligences, the whole kinesthetic/auditory/visual stuff, the Gregorc mind styles theory, personality. There was tun of information but it was super easy to read and I just ate it up. That was deffinitely another moment of breakthough for me.

Then I read, around the end of last year, "The Well Trained Mind" which was another book I enjoyed a ton! It was really intimidating at first because it's like 800 pages long. It's HUGE! I checked it out of the Library though and as I got into it I felt completely empowered to homeschool. There was a lot that I could relate too because I was homeschooled K-12 plus I'm familiar with reading educational theory (for instance, when I was pregnant with Emma I read some of the original works that the Mason & Montissori methods are based on, just for fun. BTW those two methods are completely unrelated, just in case you didn't know that already.) The Well Trained Mind is a complete Christian Classical curriculum. It has step by step instructions with lists of everything you would need to buy/borrow to teach your child at home K-12. That's part of why the book is so long. The book states from the very beginning that you can do as much of this or as little as you want too, which was great because I felt like it was in some ways a curriculum for the over-achiever. Reading "The Well Trained Mind" I just felt like I had in my hands the guidebook or road map for homeschooling and I felt totally at liberty to take a detour here or there, but at least I knew how to get to the destination.

I know there are a lot of people who buy entire curriculums and I'm sure that works about the same. I just really liked what I read because I felt so comfortable with it. I'd read and think "That's exactly what I was thinking I'd like to do!" every once in a while I'd put the book down and have a little argument with the book in my mind - especially over dictation. It went like this "Dictation! I've never heard of dictation as a part of writing. That's crazy. I didn't do that as a kid, why would I do something so silly?" Then I'd have a eureka moment and realize that it was a baby-step betweem copying to composing. Anyway...

So Daniel and I started seriously talking about if we were going to homeschool Beth or not. I looked into prices for Christian schools. I was blown away. (I just checked again the tuition for the school that I liked the best and it's over $400 a month!) We talked about it a lot and Daniel finally said "I really want you to try to do at least the first three years" and I was willing to try that.

Then I got pregnant. With a new baby due in late September all my plans I had to homeschool came to a screaching halt. We moved across Atlanta, and as we were reconnecting with people at Jubilee I found that one of the questions people ask amazingly often is "So are you going to put Beth in school or will you homeschool" I wanted to just cry. "I don't know!!!!!" I feel SO overwhelmed by the thought of trying to homeschool. I feel overwhelmed at just the thought of having a new baby! But to try to do both at virtually the same time?! I feel like a just barely keep my act together as it is, I blow it with the girls often and get exasperated and aggrivated. How in the world would I be able to homeschool? Would homeschooling be the last straw that just pushes me over the edge and causes me to fall apart? Would the frail thread that keeps my world held together break from the strain? I have felt so afraid.

But then I had a thought.

"What does that say about God?"
Another way to say this is - what does this say about what I believe about God? About who I think God is and how He loves me and works in my life. How caring is He? Caring enough to want to help me? How strong is He? Strong enough to help me though homeschooling? How tender and compassionate is He? Will He really lead me in His will? Is it really a frail thread that hold my world together or is it the mighty hand of God?
I feel like I can't homeschool because I am undisciplined, because I feel overwhelmed, because I feel inadequate. But what about what God can do in and through me? Could He help me to become disciplined? Could He help me to handle the load He has given to me? Could He work through me despite my inadequacy? What if I stepped out in faith, not relying on my own strength or my own zeal but on the mighty power of God? What if I stepped up to the challenge in humility and hope that God will work in me through this step?
So Daniel and I talked again. It was so encouraging to hear his confidence. When we talked about what we think is best for Beth Daniel was %100 confident that Homeschooling is the best thing for her. I can't imagine Beth being gone for so much of the day, I can't imagine getting up in the morning to get Beth off to school with a new baby that's kept me up most of the night. I can't imagine the influences that Beth will be exposed too or how I would deal with those. I want our decision, and especially my part of it, to be made out of a heart of faith and not fear. So homeschooling might be difficult, but I think it'll be good for our family. I'm actually starting to get a tiny bit excited about it...


Amy said...

great thoughts. I love this line:

Is it really a frail thread that hold my world together or is it the mighty hand of God?

also love the photo of the girls reading with the dog. priceless!

a suburban housewife said...

Maybe you should consider beginning "teaching" during the summer. That way, you could get the ball rolling, in a sense, and get Beth into the routine of what your time spent "schooling" will look like. When the baby comes you will be able to direct Beth, while at the same time attending to your sweet one. This will also be good for the Emma and Katie-Abigail so they know that there will be times when you and Beth cannot be interrupted.

Just some practical thoughts.

Faith said...

Thank you SO much Sherri, that is a WONDERFUL idea!!