Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Homeschooling....what IS our role???

As a first year homeschooler there are a million and one things to consider, many of which have nothing at all to do with curriculum. Why do we homeschool? What is our role? What are our priorities? What kind of "end product" do we wish to have at graduation?

I received a comment based upon my previous post which, although meant as a bit of "dig" was actually received by me as a huge compliment, for it means that for our family, I am on the right track. The comment was as follows, anonymous as usual:

"The offers of help are very generous but ending up as the general contractor of your childrens' education may not be the best use of home education."

This goes to the very heart of how we view our roles as homeschoolers, something every homeschooling parent has wrestled with, I am sure. It also explains exactly how I view my role, as essentially the general contractor, despite the fact that others find that to be "not the best use of home education.". Not the best use in whose opinion? Are YOU parenting my children?? Daily I am amused and bewildered by just how many people out there feel it is their right...in fact sometimes their duty...to judge how others choose to lead their lives and make the incorrect assumption that their beliefs ought to be someone elses too.
I realize there are many, many different approaches to homeschooling, and reasons why people elect to do so. There are so many assumptions we keep running up against about homeschooling by those on both sides of the aisle...homeschoolers as well as public education advocates. Why do we have to pigeon hole people into categories? Why does it have to be assumed that the main reason we pulled our kids from public ed was to remove them from the world or to have them only view the world from the perspective of their parents?

I have no problem with anyone who elects to homeschool for any reason. The fact is, it has nothing to do with me and it is none of my business...whether they want to be a general contractor or not :-)

From the very beginning we had many, many valid reasons for homeschooling. The one reason we never considered for homeschooling was so that I could be their one and only teacher and the one and only perspective they heard from. I don't have the audacity to think I am intelligent enough nor gifted enough to teach every single subject in the best way possible. I also do not want my kids having such a narrow life that they only have contact with me in a teaching capacity. While I know that may work for some families, it is not what we want for our kids and never was.

My role IS yhat of general contractor! I will teach what I can teach well. There will be things I could probably teach myself and handle just fine, but we might know of someone else who can offer a new perspective, real life experience, or add a more interesting twist to it. Or they might flat out be extremely talented and be able to leave me in the dust while teaching something they have a passion for, where for me it would merely be another subject. How sad it would be to deny my children the opportunity to learn from other wonderful, talented people! It takes nothing away from us as a family, nor does it remove me from the role as their primary educator. What it does is provide our children with a broad range of other trusted people to interact with, thereby also blowing out of the water the whole "socialization" question as well. Sometimes it seems you are darned if you do, and darned if you don't, doesn't it?

The fact is, we are an unusual family. I am certain we are viewed as odd by many, or even very, very wrong. That is fine and doesn't bother me a bit. I am actually totally thrilled and humbled that so many people have approached us and offered so generously to work with our kids. It has been unexpected, and surprising to think that there are so many who desire to help us and even want to spend time within the hustle and bustle of a family filled with "tweens" which most people would go out of their way to avoid. I also know our children will be better for it.

I also know the truth, and that is that we can use every bit of help God sends us. Easy for someone else to say we might find a better use for home education when they don't have 4 of their 5 kids reading at a 1st-2nd grade level with 3 of those being 10 1/2 - 12 years old. We have lost years and years with our kids academically, and language acquisition puts us further behind. If someone is willing to come into our lives and spend time listening one on one to our children read and help correct them, all I can say is Hallelujah! Do you realize I was told that Kenny might have to hear things hundreds of times before certain material sticks? If someone else can be another voice and perhaps handle 50 or 60 times, I am sure it would also help Kenny be happier...let alone a worn out mom who happens to have 4 other kids who all need to hear things at least 20 times for it to stick! Hahaha!

One of our main goals with homeschooling was to provide out kids with a broader, more hands on and interactive education than what they might receive in public school. I am sorry, but I am just not all that broad or interactive myself, so I need to utilize the services of others. I am assuming from our commenter's remarks that this means I should eliminate piano lessons since I can not play myself...and that makes me a general contractor in hiring a teacher, or perhaps we ought to "can" art lessons too since that also has to be "subbed out" to a professional so they can learn to draw something a bit more advanced than Mom's ever-so-cool-yet-not-very-artistic stick figures. Or maybe soccer, softball and TaeKwonDo should be pushed aside since I can't really do an adequate job of teaching those things (OK...softball I could rock at!) merely so I don't appear to be shirking my Traditional Homeschool Mom duties and appear to be too "contractor-ish".

But let's see, for all the hours others graciously have put into helping our kids, I wonder what I can mark on MY score card, even if I am "only" a contractor and I could find a "better use" of our home education. Spent over an hour today working with Angela on how to properly use her softball glove and practice pitching, played 45 minutes of a game with Joshua and the girls so they could learn vocabulary. took all the kids to the pool and hung out for 2 1/2 hours for PE time, went to a meeting to learn more about curriculum so I can be a better "contractor" and lay out a good game plan for our kids, spent time encouraging both Kenny and Matthew as they worked on piano lessons, spent an hour reading Silly Billy, Bearenstain Bears, and frog books to the girls tonight while Dominick worked with math with Kenny and Matthew while they played the same Monopoly game for the 2nd day in a row and explained the concept of developing properties and how that increases rental income, explained why the crop duster plane has to fly so far our to make turns to spray the fields, working with our school to set up a group field trip to Denver for the Body World exhibit, and I am sure a ton of other things I am missing.

And this was our "vacation week"...

But I am "only" a contractor and surely have better ways to spend my homeschooling education opportunities. Yea, I am doing nothing...

Nothing that is but teaching English all day, every day, getting our girls in 3 months to reading at a 1st grade level after hopping off a plane with a working English vocabulary of about 20 words. teaching math every day at 3 different levels (soon to be 5), teaching more advanced writing to Matthew and beginning writing to the girls, hitting phonics like a wild woman, explaining what refrigerators are and that mermaids are not real, ongoing work with Kenny whether he was homeschooled or not on enunciation and helping him with homework, helping perform autopsies and inquiry after the fact into what critter's skeletal remains we have on our kitchen table.

Yea...I could probably find a much "better use" of our home education...

That is not at all mentioning the 100 hugs or more doled out today alone, the kisses on the head, the "good job's" and thumbs up as I watched kids jumping off diving boards and swimming 5 feet for the first time. It does not include the whispered "I love you Mama's" and responses back from me as Angela and Olesya lay on either side as I read to them and gently brush their hair aside with my hand. It does not include my reassurances to Josh today for the millionth time that I would never leave him.

Yea...I totally see what you mean, I am "only" a general contractor. Thanks for pointing that out, I'll try and do better...

Better that is at utilizing those around me who have offered over and over again to bless our children's lives with their gifts and talents. Better at finding even more creative ways to engage my children with others and to tap resources available. Better that is at helping my kids by stepping back and seeing the big picture, just like a general contractor does, and yet being involved in the day-to-day to the level that I know all that is going on and can offer input or make changes as needed.

Most importantly, I think I'll try and do better at not listening to others who think they know how best to educate our children.

THANK YOU God, for hearing my specific prayer and showering us with loving, caring friends who give of themselves and from the heart. Remind me over and over again, God, that only YOU truly know what our kids need and that YOU are the one who will meet their needs, using me as the "general contractor" to sense it, oversee it, and show gratitude for all whom you send. Give me clarity and wisdom, and let me hear you speaking always...and help me to shut out the numerous naysayers and "I know better-er's". Help me to always see this is the family YOU created, and to lean on only you as we make decisions regarding the education of our children. You and I both know my limitations, which are many, and my heart, which is overflowing not only with the love of the children you have given us, but for the people who have stepped up and whispered in my ear "Let me help.". That is you, and we both know it. Thank you for giving me reassurance in the form of support that is tangible this next year as I fearfully step forward into the unknown and try to do my best each and every day. You have heard my cry and answered in the most loving and awesome way. Thanks...thank you, thank you!!


Your General Contracting Homeschooling Mommy Disciple


Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so sorry, It really wasn't meant as a dig at all! Nor do I dare suggest that you don't know how to parent your children. Actually, what I was trying to get across (it is so hard sometimes to get it right in writing)was that you do know what their needs are and sometimes all the offers of help can make us panic and think that we need to accept everything and everyone else knows better than we do and then the result is a stressed out family, running in so many different directions, getting help from so many different people that the beauty of just being with your kids that homeschooling allows, is lost. How is that for a horrible run on sentence? I was trying to make the last message brief because the baby was messing with the key board and the 4 year old needed me and the others were getting in to mischief and I should have just been minding my own instead of trying to communicate. I really am Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Very well put, Cindy. I'm sorry that you feel you have to defend your choices, as you do not...to anyone but the Lord.

I know a lot of homeschool families. I homeschooled all our kids for kindergarten except the last two who arrived at 10yrs and 11yrs. I did it mainly to have them home another year for a variety of reasons...to teach them phonics (which was not being taught, but rather "whole language"/inventive spelling), so they'd be older/more mature when they started public school, to have more time together rather than having them "socialized" by other kids their own age, etc. But that's all the experience I have myself with "schooling" my kids, unless you count all the homework and projects(school/4H) we've helped with, conversations over the tons of topics families have, teaching life skills, "field trips" we've taken in the course of daily living, counseling them through childhood, adolesence, and adulthood. Etc. and ad infinitim!

I admit, I haven't known anyone doing it quite the way you are. But I don't know any homeschoolers with such a variety of learning styles and educational challenges as your kids seem to be facing. And unless someone has had a child come into their home speaking another language, they have no idea all the areas of learning that intrudes upon.

I'm not sure why more don't copy your style! I think your plans sound amazing! I agree totally that to utilize "experts" is only going to help your kids. Besides learning from people who are passionate about their field of interest, the added benefit will be in having more people who care about them and whom they in turn care about in return.

Your examples of music/art/sports lessons is right on. We do and should utilize others who know what they're talking about.

There is also something called "dual enrollment" that parents can utilize in our state. That allows kids to attend whatever classes they choose at the public school, while still homeschooling what they choose. It also allows the school to "count" the kids for funding, so everyone benefits. Your kids should also be able to participate in school sports under that system, or maybe regardless.

My prayer is that God helps you sort through all those swirling thoughts, as you work towards the best plan for each of your kids. And that you can also feel at total peace with your decisions. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that your intention is not being your childrens' one and only teacher. I think that is sometimes the goal, in some families. We teach our kids our values and morals, and we do encourage them to choose the same, since we believe God's Word is the right choice. But we also know they can and should learn from others they come in contact with. Hopefully, if we've done our job well, they will be able to discern Truth from the lies the world throws at them. We trust God to work in their lives through others besides ourselves. Yes, they are our kids, and we want the greatest influence in their lives to be us. That's what families are for, to pass on our ideas and values. But we also know, as you so eloquently stated, that their lives will be richer for having other trusted adults in their lives. We value the things others can teach them better than we can, because of their strengths and interests and maturity in places where we aren't mature!

I am so excited for your kids! You are onto something very large and exciting. You've taken the word "education" and applied to it the much broader definition that it deserves in the lives of our kids. Parents truly are "general contractors" for our kids, as we manage and monitor the "construction", subbing out those jobs that will best suit our final goals for their futures.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

One of the most effective counselors in Montrose completed his education through Regis College. This program works off campus (campus is 300 miles from here). He chose his professors from the best in this community, tailored his curriculum with an advisor from the college, and did hands-on, supervised learning. I'd recommend anyone to him in a heartbeat.

I did my counseling education the conventional way. I am an advocate of public schooling, but I often took my kids out for special kinds of educational experience, and I think my friend's unconvention education was in many ways superior to my own from a public institution.'

Different ways meet the needs of different people as you so eloquently articulated. Keep up the good work, the good loving, the good living for yourself and Team LaJoy.

Love you,

P.S. Thanks for passing along the love and praise to me to. I feel hugged by you every day.

Lenore said...

I have just one thing to say to you today...."YOU ROCK!!!" :)

April Taylor said...

I can't wait to homeschool! Right now our oldest is in Kindergarten and loving it, but I look forward to a time when I can be the "GC" of their education. I have always thought that, like me and my husband, our kids will have an eclectic education, involving several different kinds of schooling including homeschooling.
I love your HS plan, it works for your family. I think you guys are incredible. All of you!

Hilary Marquis said...

The next time I get a snarky comment or disapproving look about being a homeschool family...I'm sending them to you blog! Perfectly said, well done!

wilisons said...

Maybe you should say you are "community schooling" rather than homeschooling. You are using the best resources your community has to offer to maximize your children's education. Sure wish I could do this for my kids!

p.s. Do you know about the Orton-Gillingham and/or Wilson program for teaching reading? Either would be great for children who need very direct phonics instruction and vocab building.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, and all of that when it wasn't even intended to be snarky.
It sure is easy to be misinterpreted when there isn't tone of voice and facial expressions. Hope it never happens to anyone else.

Lindsay said...

I think it is lovely that anon. apologised to you. I've seen a lot of anon. comments over the years that run from questionable to outright hostile. But I don't think I've ever seen an apology.

For what it's worth Cindy, I think you are absolutely doing the right thing in bringing others in to share their passions, knowledge and enthusiasm for learning with your kids. We all have a limited pool of talent within ourselves; recognising that and allowing others to help can only be beneficial.

We cannot do everything by ourselves: we are designed to need others, to build communities, to help and be helped, to reach out as well as reach within. You are showing your children this fundamental aspect of humanity when you give them the experience of having other adults interact with them. You are showing them that being strong does not mean being alone. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. You are using your village. I'd say that makes you more of a Chief than a general contractor ;)

Anonymous said...

Not sure I quite understand this comment. . . One of the reasons I have not considered homeschooling is that I don't feel like I, alone, have enough to give my son. Even if I thought myself a brilliant educator, I would want him to have input other than mine--different perspectives, interests and talents and different styles of being human. If I had the network of people that you do to teach and mentor, I just might change my mind and decide to homeschool . . . GC sounds about right to me.

Anonymous said...

I think this is funny, you know what this proves? All of us have a different experience with General Contractors. The word forms a different image for each of us. Some see competence and efficiency and others disaster. In the end, it was just a loaded word.

Anonymous said...

We are all general contractors to our children's growth and development. For the educational part, I like "gut schooling" and I know you read my post. :-) Simply put it means Mom and Dad know their children best and will do what needs to be done at the right time instead of the timeline set by the schools for the average student. Cindy, you are completely on the right track. Forget about their ages and go back to the younger age books and activities so they can learn English and *enjoy* your family culture. They will zoom through but you'll be glad that you introduced all the books, songs, etc. you loved as a child (childhood classics). This might mean closing your ears to others who want to rush the beautiful process that is unfolding in your family.

~Cori at wonderinthewoods.wordpress.com