Monday, October 4, 2010

Addressing Some Questions

I was asked more than once why I don't consider sending my boys to public school to cut down on my stress level, among other reasons.   I thought I might as well cover that here, not to defend my convictions or change yours, so much as to simply address a heartfelt suggestion.

First off, sending the boys to school wouldn't relieve any stress.  Whether I homeschool or not, my days are still going to be filled with meal preparation, meal clean-up, laundry, and cleaning up messes.  The stress in any stay-at-home mom's day comes largely from trying to get these tasks done in a timely manner, amid frequent interruptions.  Ideally, we don't want our kids waiting until 2 p.m. for their lunch, or 7:00 p.m. for their dinner.  So time pressure is built into the day, as well as the dread that repetitive, mundane tasks can bring.  I love serving my family, but it gets old, despite my best intentions to keep a smile going.

When Momma's got something stressful on her mind, like a special-needs child's issues, or financial issues, these everyday stresses become more of a challenge, or on the other hand, they help lend structure by putting Momma on productive auto pilot.  

What things most often make you lose your cool--either inwardly or outwardly?  You got down on your hands and knees and wiped under the baby's chair how many times today?  Six?  How'd you feel about it after, say, the third time?  Probably not positive.  Repetitive tasks are inherently stressful, and cleaning in particular, because our work gets ruined before our eyes, sometimes minutes later.

When women first come home from the workforce, they have all these preconceived notions about how many neat and wonderfully imaginative things they will do with their kids.  But somehow, it's never like that.  Little people need fed, dressed, brushed, changed, snacked, watered, juiced, and all their messes--and there are many!--need to be cleaned up before they spread and cause even greater chaos.  

To actually spend time with the kids, one has to be intentional about it--really letting things go, as long as a meal isn't due.  Chores are never done--more are always being created, for one thing. 

Non-homeschoolers probably think that homeschooling moms spend a lot of time sitting at the table with the pupils, teaching and correcting.  Not so.  I rarely sit down at the table unless I'm reading aloud or eating there.  I help my boys as needed, but the majority of my time is spent keeping my toddler safe from herself, and keeping up with the above tasks.  I do short readings with the boys (and stories with the girls) throughout the day, but I'm often standing for those--sometimes even moving about, unless Beth is sleeping.  Beth likes to grab the books I'm reading.  Certainly there are times I can manage read alouds with one or two children in my lap, but this isn't the rule.  Regardless, I love reading aloud to children.

The boys, incidentally, have developed good listening skills and can build something with Legos the entire time I'm reading, and still do a decent retelling.  

Keep in mind that teachers don't teach new lessons on a daily basis--or even on a weekly basis.  Yes, this is true.  I was shocked by this my first week as a student teacher.  

The year was 1990.  New student teachers were required to sit in the class and do nothing but observe for two weeks, after which they were slowly given some control over the class.  During the final two weeks (there were eight weeks total), the student teacher fully controlled the class, with the master teacher stepping in only when absolutely necessary.  

My master teacher didn't teach a single lesson that first observation week.  She just assigned work and monitored the class.  Nothing new had come up in her curriculum that week.  The kids did their review math problems, read the story in their readers, did their assigned worksheets, wrote their spelling words, etc.  It was completely boring and I said to myself, "There is no way I will ever teach like this!"

And I didn't.  Not saying I was better, by any means.  Just different.  I put the textbooks in the desks for Back to School Night, lest any parent start a worrying.  But we never used them, except for the math practice sheets the school provided.

Teachers may go through classes to learn how to write a lesson plan, and they may cover some theory, but that certainly doesn't mean they can teach.  If you want to revere a teacher, it's best to pick one of the old timers who've seen many hundreds of children pass through their classrooms.  They know a thing or two.  

As for the rest, even if they are good enough to teach to the majority, they are usually lacking in real ability to reach the bottom and top of the class, amid the other day-to-day classroom pressures.  I say this because I don't think any parent should feel that a classroom teacher can do a better job because of  the "professional training".  Indeed, the hardest part for a classroom teacher is not the teaching, but the discipline and organization.  The same is true for a homeschooling mother or father. 

I have a unique perspective about public school verses homeschooling.  I was a product of public schools, I taught in a public school, I supervised 60 homeschoolers in grades K-12 through a California Charter School, and now I'm in my fourth year of homeschooling.

First off, homeschoolers have fine social skills.  I've never met a single one who seemed "off" or unsocialized.  Even if naturally shy, they know how to handle themselves around a variety of ages, including adults.  They are not disadvantaged by remaining with their families.  Often they are kids with rich, varied interests, as though they'd already majored in a thing or two in college.

I was not raised a Christian but I was taken to a Catholic church intermittently.  My parents did not have personal relationships with God, but my mom was raised a strict Catholic.  I did not have a personal relationship with God, but I had a churched conscience, meaning I wanted to grow up to please God, marry while still a virgin, go to church, etc.  I knew right from wrong in regards to the big stuff.  There were plenty of sins I was taught nothing of, however--including pride, envy, coveting, ungratefulness, fretting, etc.  I call these the more subtle sins, for lack of better terminology.  At any rate, we know God hates them as much as the outward sins.

I lost my virginity at age 19 while in college.  I dated the same man for two years before deciding I was ready, even though when I'd met him, I told him right away that I wanted to be a virgin when I married. you know how I finally arrived at that readiness?  My conscience knew premarital sex was wrong, but popular culture got the better of me.  I finally asked myself, how can this be wrong if so many people are doing it?

Good does not influence evil.  Evil influences good.  

Do not be mislead:  "Bad company corrupts good character."
1 Corinthians 15:33

I remember then eighteen-year-old Bristol Palin referencing this same phenomena in describing her own fall to premarital sex.  "All the kids do it."  She wasn't dismissive of her behavior, just describing the environment in which it happened.  Although raised in a Christian home, her character was corrupted. 

Her mother was shocked at the turn of events, describing how mature and responsible her daughter had always been.  She didn't worry about Bristol.    "If it can happen to Bristol, it can happen to anyone."  Corruption will happen slowly, over time.  It might happen out in the open, or quietly in the heart.  

But it will happen.  

Even if kids can manage to leave public high school with some Christian sentiment intact, they rarely leave with a Christian worldview.  And really, it's our worldview that determines how we make decisions.  

I saw my first graders exposed to a whole lot in my classroom via children who came from morally liberal homes.  Hard as I tried, I could not stop all questionable conversations.  And indeed, most of these highly influential conversations occur in the lunch room and on the playground--where adults only circulate, rather than listen.  

Some parents have Rated R movies on while young children are around.  They either don't care about guarding their child's heart and mind, or they are ignorant of the consequences.  Some parents have over-night boyfriends come and go every few months, or every couple years.  Many young kids watch worldly TV and blab about the latest episodes.  These children have no idea these things are worldly, so they see no problem in bringing them up in front of the class.  There is no shame, just ignorance.

Day in and day out, year in and year out, children in public schools have high level exposures to worldly ideas.  As a parent, you'll hear just a fraction of it.  It isn't the teachers that are the problem, usually.  It's the kids.  Churched kids and Christian kids will probably develop school friendships with--and confide in--kids who come from worldly homes--genuinely nice kids often, just lacking in moral compasses.  You probably won't notice it for a while even if you have a playdate or two to check out the situation.

As you can tell, I have strong convictions about 1 Corinthians 15:33.  My own conscience was corrupted, and even if my parents had been Christians, they wouldn't have had enough hours with me to undo the worldly damage.  Public school makes for long days for kids.  The best hours of the day are gone by the time they arrive home--the witching hour is not far off.   

If you choose public school, you might succeed in raising a godly child who will hold onto her faith after high school (your chances are less than 30%).  

If you choose homeschooling, you will probably succeed in raising a godly child who will hold onto her faith after high school (your chances are over 80%).

I realize not everyone has a choice in how the children are schooled, because of husbands who disagree, or because of finances. 

Because of the above statistics and my own experiences, my kids will never go to public school unless my husband passes away and there's no other way for us to manage.  And even then, I would think of every conceivable plan to do both--work and continue to homeschool.

Don't choose public school because...

- it's easier on you than homeschooling. 

- you aren't a trained teacher. (You can buy curriculum that tells you what to say and do, if you need it. Public schools spend billions of dollars on teacher's editions that tell teachers what to say and do at every turn.  You can be idea-less and still teach.)

- you don't think you can spend 24/7 with your munchkins. 

- you fear they won't be prepared for college if you homeschool.

- you fear they'll turn out to be freaks if you homeschool. 

- you fear they'll never leave your home if you homeschool. 

If you choose public school, base your choice on your convictions, whatever they may be.

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