Wednesday, September 09, 2009

And Yet Another Unrequested Adventure!

Well, now we have gone and done it. How has this happened? I don't understand it. Life can take you on such long and winding roads, along which there are speed bumps and road blocks, detours and stop signs. We are becoming one of "them"...the ones whom I have never imagined we would be like, not because of any negative images or perceptions, but because I just thought we were going to be more...well...ummm...normal. First, we go and adopt these kids who look nothing like us, then we adopt some more, then we get a 15 passenger van, then...

We decide to try homeschooling.

Yea, I can't even believe I am writing this myself. And you will be surprised at the child we are trying to homeschool first. No, it is not Kenny with his incredible need to catch up, no, it is not Joshua whose attachment issues led me to consider it awhile ago.

It's Matthew.

The straight A student, the one with no real issues at all. But the one who is unhappy in school because he is not being challenged enough, the one who wants to explore subjects and has done so on his own since before he could read and he begged me for books about castles, the one who is tired of kids sitting next to him in class continually using vulgar language and being totally disinterested in learning.

There are a million reasons to do it, and likely a million other reasons that folks could provide us for not doing it. I have almost hesitated to even share with anyone that we have been considering it this past week. The judgments run so deep and often even venomous about one's educational decisions for their children. I have people who I am close to who have let me know in the past they are against the whole concept and I am dreading sharing this, I have those who care about us who are cautious about the idea, and frankly I am not sure who all we interact with who will actually be supportive of the plan. However, none of that is important as I am not willing to sacrifice any of my children on the alter of "agreement". As uncomfortable as it can be at moments to have others feel they have a right to judge us about so many things we have decided to do in our life, we have a job to do and the opinions of others are simply not important.

But I know I am not a teacher, I know I don't have a college degree, I know I don't have any skills in this area. And I am afraid.

But I am more afraid of losing my son...I am afraid of him losing that light in his eyes as he discovers something new, I am afraid of losing the happy little boy who consumes books like they are pizza and wants to discuss the causes of the Vietnam war. I am afraid of watching him slowly give in to mediocrity and become ever-so-slightly depressed as he has been since the beginning of this school year.

Please don't get me wrong, I would be the first person to say that I am harboring no geniuses at the LaJoy home. But I do have 3 sons who are intellectually curious (one despite his language defecits), who are all bright and eager learners. I am not striving to be the family with the kid who graduates high school at 13 or who thinks their kid has the highest IQ of their peers. I just want our sons to thrive and I want them to continue to have that thirst for knowledge that we have tried so hard to instill in them. I WANT them to enjoy the Discovery channel, I WANT them to leave a symphony saying "That was awesome!", I WANT them to ask questions and go dig out the answers in the dictionary or Google or want to try a new experiment. We have tried our best to foster that kind of curiosity, we have encouraged free thinking and advocated for getting a good education since before they ever started school.

I am torn because I love the school my sons attend, there are some phenomenal people who work there, I have the greatest admiration for almost every single person I have met. The problem is, that style of education is no longer working for our son. It may ultimately not work for any of our children, but for the moment we are taking it one day at a time. Kenny needs one-on-one attention in the worst way, he is getting the very best they can offer and has an incredibly gifted teacher...who has twenty-some other students who also need her attention. Right now Kenny is in 4th grade, doing classwork out of the 4th grade reading book...and struggles to read Joshie's 1st grade reading book at home at night. We are coming to the point soon where we will have to admit that our kids do not fit inside the box, for a large variety of reasons, and the only ones who can open up the box and let them soar is us.

So, despite God's not-so-funny sense of humor with what I perceive as bad timing with this, we are going to attempt it. How Dominick and I have agonized over this decision!! I can't begin to tell you the number of hours I have spent researching over the past week or so...not a single night have I gone to bed before 1:00 AM, and it is beginning to show. We have looked at all the angles, we have hashed this out and tried to find every possible alternative. None felt acceptable.
Matthew struggled with these same feelings in 3rd grade, and we limped through that year with me wishing ultimately we had just pulled him out. Last year was an amazingly good year for him, our fears diminished, only to find ourselves in this place once again. It is not due to the quality of teachers, he has had some fine teachers whom I have felt blessed to have had cross his path in life. It is not the curriculum nor is it wanting to pull him out of the "worldliness", although I will admit there are a few things we wish none of our children were exposed to. I guess I can't even provide a single reason, it is just not working for him.

The fact is, we feel that God has been heading us down this path for a long time, even if we didn't choose to acknowledge it. No, I am not going to use the oh-so-tired phrase "God told us to", as if that alone should dispell any doubt. But it does feel like a bit of divine intervention here, and if I am honest I am feeling a bit like this is one of those "make or break" moments for our family, that we are at a fork in the road and can continue down the path we are on and see how it all develops, or we can take a risk and give something new a try. It might work, it might not work, but we haven't really lost anything by trying...and we might gain a lot if it proves successful.

Fear stops us from so many things in life, doesn't it? Fear of failure, fear of others' opinions, fear of being different. All 3 of these have come into play with this decision, and yet as Matthew himself told me a couple of days ago after admitting to being scared "It's OK Mom, I am up for the challenge!". How can I not be willing to push aside my own fears and walk beside him as we explore new possibilities about what school can look like?

So not post comments about all the negatives that are so often brought up about homeschooling. I already have had every argument against it running through my head for the past week. Socialization, missing out on supposed "once-in-a-lifetime" events such as prom, inability to keep up with peers in school work. There is nothing you could possibly bring to our attention which we have not already thought about. Sometimes though, we forget what school is really intended to do, it is to help us acquire an knowledge. If that is not being accomplished in a way that works for your child, then what is the point of it?

Will we eventually homeschool all the kids? I don't know. I am not worrying about next month or next year, I am going to focus on today and let tomorrow work itself out. I think there is no doubt that Kenny will come home at some point, but he doesn't need to be my guinea pig as I figure all this out, and he is happy where he is right now. The girls? Well, we would not be dropping them right in school immediately anyway. Joshie? Who knows! God doesn't tell us we have to have the long term picture all painted and wrapped up in a bow, we just have to trust and let the Spirit guide us, and right now this feels very, very right.

So I will spend the next several weeks in an uncomfortable place, as will Matthew. We will tackle something new together, we will explore possiblities, we will think outside the box. But uncomfortable is not an equivalent of "bad". And surely where we start will not be where we end, as we have much to learn as we test the waters and see what works for us. I know there will be periodic doubts that creep in, I know this is taking on a LOT at this moment in time as we await the arrival of two new children. I have run it over and over again in my mind that this means an entire lifestyle change for us, and a lot of pressure on me to be teacher/wife/mommy/friend/who-knows-what-all-else. We could take a different route, but I doubt I would be able to feel I did my best if we did.

As I have always encouraged our sons to say "We are LaJoy's we can do ANYTHING!", so I guess now is "put up or shut up" time.

So while God is dragging me kicking and screaming and dragging my heels into a new life yet again, I will try and smile and not let the fear show too much.


pearly1979 said...

Could have written this myself!

Michelle said...

I would homeschool in one second if I didn't have to work so darn hard! I think it is wonderfull and there are so many wonderfull go girl!

I know lots and lots of people that homeschool. The stigma is gone in my mind.

Mark, Stacye, Lainey & Andrew said...

Go for it. Only you (and God!) know what is best for your family.

I know many kids from all 3 environments (public, private, and homeschooled)...and they are thriving! I also know well-adjusted adults who were educated in each of these environments. As parents, we have to stop the box mentality and do what works.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Cindy!

I have a friend who homeschooled her 2 children and all she had was a ged (I am not saying that a ged is nothing). The kids are ahead of their peers and are doing very well with their schooling. It will give you and Matthew time to do different things (& things differently). There is so much on the web and so many homeschooling groups that you can tap into.

I like the part about the discovery channel & the symphony. Mine have been to the symphony, ballet, opera, and they love museums. Others look at us strange but I love that Stu will go bowling, to the ballet, a baseball game and the mummy museum in one weekend and love them all. There is so much out there to enrich their lives.


Becki Stone said...

I am a huge believer in always doing what you believe is best for your family. If I were able to stay home with my daughter (and soon to be Kaz son) I would homeschool too. You know your kids better than anyone else- you know what would challenge them, you know what would excite them. I believe in excitement learning- everything that Maddye learns about that is exciting to her she remembers! So we try to fit in as much after school and weekend learning as we can!
I bet there are groups in your city or near by city for homeschoolers- a friend of mine homeschools, and once a week they get together at a local park, or science center.
I would like to also add that I totally dislike Maddye's school. They are more worried about fundraisers than they are about teaching the children! Drives me nuts. There are so many children in her school that seem to fall through the cracks-my heart breaks for these kids.
Best wishes!

Lisa said...

Wishing you much luck! With such a great kid to work with, I think you will do splendidly! I know you worry that you lack teacher credentials and truly they are warranted & important....BUT you know your child best....his unique learning style, the areas he needs to be challenged in, his aptitudes, will do GREAT! How do I know this? Cuz it matters so much to you!
:) All my best,

Dee said...

Cindy, I think you are making the right decision. I homeschooled Alesia for a year with tutors and I wish I could homeschool both mine now.

I have a cousin whose wife never went to college and she has done an excellent job homeschooling their girls, who are both in high school now.

Check out the Pioneer Woman's website. She has a lot of homeschooling resources on there.


Heather said...

Cindy, I think you will find how supportive the homeschool community is and how LARGE it is. Get in touch with your local homeschool association. I think Matthew will flourish. Did you know that the state of PA now has a charter program that is homeschooling? They provide the student with the curriculum, books, and a computer. People are realizing that it has huge benefits. As a 1/2 homeschooler myself, I wish you the best. I'm sure it will work out and won't be long before you feel you are ready to homeschool the other 2 boys as well!

Julian and Sara said...

For me, you said it all when you said "...watching him slowly give in to mediocrity...." Every child, every parent, every family and every situation is different. You have to do what is right for you at the time. Good luck!!!!

Hilary Marquis said...

If anyone can do it, you can, Cindy! YOU know your children better than anyone and no one is more qualified to teach them.

Christina said...

YEA! I was praying for you this week for a clear head and heart to make a decision. We have been thrilled with Jerome's new situation for 5th grade (into private out of public) and pray a smooth transition for you both. I think you are approaching this with a realistic view of understanding that it will be a transition to start. As long as you both know this, there will be no challenge you cannot tackle.


Tammy said...

I have found that whenever I say I absolutely will NOT do something, God always leads me right back to it and it works out better than I could have imagined. I have said I will never live in a certain city, never work a certain job, never do this, never do that - oh and I will adopt a girl from Russia (LOL, I now have a boy from the US). And you know what? Each time I say never, I end up doing exactly what I swore I would never do and I am better for it. There is a reason God is in control and we aren't.

If it is one thing I am learning very quickly on this parenting journey is that each child is different and we, as parents, have to make decisions based on that individual child. You will never be able to make everyone happy so you do what it best for your child.

Good luck.

Ohiomom2121 said...

Dear Cindy,
As a parent who worked while having children in home school, public school and college during H.S., I can sympathize with the need to chart your own educational path with each child. Right now nobody is home schooling, and that is OK. One of our sons thinks his home schooling was a waste, and it stinks that he is having trouble getting the Army to recognize his graduation as other than a GED (we are jumping through lots of hoops to show what a quality education he had). Our other son, who is graduating college now and entered an honors program after H.S., thinks his home schooling was the best. Fortunately for us, both have done well in college and on national tests, and both have college grades to support their academic success. Be prepared, though, to have to defend your program if your son doesn't do so well on those big tests. The military would likely limit our son's options were we not able to show advanced test scores, just because he graduated from home school and not a regular H.S.

For me, the learning they achieved in home school was clearly superior to their public school offered, and they significantly increased their annual test scores because of improved math & reading skills. We gradually shifted to Bob Jones materials (more in depth but sometimes uncomfortably conservative), and loved Saxon math, although it is being watered down now. Might want to get an older version of the math books. I used whole books for reading, and focused on many classics. They did a LOT of reading! The most valuable skill they learned was reading & preparing for tests by studying the texts, and not being spoon fed orally. Parental involvement was a big part of our success, but critical reading was a hard shift for kids used to oral presentations. That first year was a bit tough for each as we left the public schools during middle school. After a year, we enrolled them in public school science & language courses, partly to gain access to sport teams, but partly because we could not do justice to those topics (although that was before some of the great computer language programs and internet lectures on topics such as how to dissect a frog!).

The way you home school will be a combination of you and Matthew...get him involved in choosing materials and getting buy in for what he will study. The home school conventions are usually in the summer, but do find a couple of moms who school very differently from each other to give you advice and then pick what seems like it will work for you two. Also, my DH was there during the days, and whenever he became involved, magic happened. Have Dominic help Matthew study for tests, or do the messy experiments, or whatever. The involvement of both parents really makes home school zing!

Also, we took the opportunity to use religious materials & had Bible study, even though I never graded those other than pass/fail (I just can't see getting a grade in that!). Our sons are highly moral as a result, and I think they were changed for the good forever because they gained a sense of independence from what everyone else was doing. God bless & good luck! Sherry

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,

The Homeschooling parents I know have two qualities:

They enjoy spending time with their kids

They love learning

I believe that you have both those qualities in abundance.

Where we live, there are lots of homeschooling families. I often see them at various activities: the mom will be teaching one kid, while a sibling has a music lesson or whatever. You have a natural learner, which should help also. I know several families who switch back and forth with homeschooling and regular schooling, depending on if the mom is working that school year or not. So it's not an all or nothing choice that can't be changed in the future.

I'm excited for you both, and can't wait to hear more about your adventures!


Peggy in Virginia

Kim Adams said...

What an exciting adventure! You are such intentional parents, and I believe that is the key to success with homeschooling ... you guys will do great together. Please do share as you learn what does and doesn't work for you. A timely post for me; while in a very different phase of life from you, I have been actively debating in my mind whether and to what degree to attempt homeschooling or start DD in school. You correctly identified the fear part, which I hadn't fully admitted to myself.

qmiller said...

Cindy: You have certainly considered every known aspect of this situation and are making the decision that is best for your son at this time. Ultimately, what more can be asked of a parent? enjoy learning together!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,

As you may remember, we homeschooled Vitkoriya for the first 2 years she was home (a little over that actually). We finally put her in a fantastic school for the last quarter of last year and this summer, we homeschooled again - at her request - so she could skip a grade this year. She is now in 4th grade and is exactly where she should be for herself.
The one thing I learned from our experience is that each kid and each situation is different. I would not hesitate to homeschool her again if circumstances change and she needs to (regardless of the reason). I learned so much about how she learns that I know I can help her better now she is at school than if I had never homeschooled her at all.

As you have already found out, you will hear much criticism - but as someone else has already posted, there are lots of people doing this and each state (and sometimes local areas) have support groups.
There are also some pretty good online curricula (as well as tried and true faves like BJU, Abeka etc.) if you need a strong outline.
For everything, there is a season.
Go for it Cindy!

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

You'll both do great!!

Susan said...

Gotta say, I'm a college prof, and I've had some home schooled students. One is finishing her PhD at Yale this year. Another is just starting grad school.

Susan said...

Gotta say, I'm a college prof, and I've had some home schooled students. One is finishing her PhD at Yale this year. Another is just starting grad school.

Joyce said...

I havent read thru the entire post and I am sorry but I really feel I need to comment now. Cindy you love your kids and would move mountains and paperwork and all sorts of stuff for your kids. A decision like this would have absorbed all your thoughts and prayers, and so I totally respect and agree that you are both making a good decision for your son. You are doing it for wonderful reasons - the biggest being that you love your son and want to assist him to grow and learn.
If I may offer a little advice - I really hope you dont second guess your decision, but instead fly with it, and trust that this is God's will for your and your boys lives. I wish you much strength - I would also wish you much enjoyment, but I believe you will get that anyway.
Love from Australia now