Mom Turned Teacher: A Homeschooling Guest Post

school zone

A few months ago I did a post about my decision to send my son to a traditional school, and not to homeschool him. In the interest of fairness, and curiosity, I put some feelers out there to find another mom who made the opposite decision of my own.

Luck would have it that Allison, from the blog Our Small Hours, happens to be experienced in homeschooling and traditional schooling alike. She was kind enough to write a guest post for us, which is what you’re about to enjoy.

If you’re intersted in finding out about homeschooling, and how her family homeschools with two parents working full time, and some great real food recipes too, check out her blog at www.OurSmallHours.com Thanks Allison!

Without further ado, I give you Allison’s piece.

When my oldest son was born I simply could not imagine a time when I’d have to send him off to school for hours each day to be cared for and taught by someone else.  I believe that many mothers share my overwhelming desire to never miss a moment of their child’s life.  However, in our society, there comes a time when every parent must make the decision to take on the responsibility of their child’s education or to allow teachers and school administrators to take over the bulk of this important job.  My decision was not easily made and some may find my decisions concerning my children’s education to be strange and difficult to understand.  At the heart of my choices is my desire to do what is best for each of my children and to help them pursue a life-long love of learning.

By the time my oldest son was ready for Kindergarten (two days before his fifth birthday!) I had two more sons who were two years old and seven months old.  I had slowly realized over a year’s time that I was not in a good position to attend to my son’s social and educational needs alone.  I needed help.  He had the benefit of preschool for the previous three years and thrived in the classroom environment.  Although, like many moms, my heart hurt at the thought of being away from him for 7+ hours every day, I knew that keeping him at home with me with me would be to ignore his needs.

Now, many would say that I didn’t need to give him much or that learning need not be formal and I agree with them in theory.  Learning absolutely does not need to be formal and five year olds do not require very much time—when that time is given one-on-one and there are no special needs to consider—to teach.  At that age children are incredibly self-motivated to learn, which makes home schooling a breeze.  Still, my child was beyond the grade-level work we had been doing at home and enjoyed regular interaction with peers.  I was busy with his brothers—one who had begun to exhibit signs of being on the spectrum and the other who had just been diagnosed with Failure To Thrive.  Needless to say, I had my hands full.

6802749660_1b80d00597_nMaking the decision to send my oldest son to public Kindergarten was the right one for him and for our family.  In all, he spent two years in the public school system and thrived.  In late July, just a couple of weeks before he was to begin the 2nd grade, my son expressed an interest in home schooling.  We knew home schooling families and he understood that it was an option for others and wanted to try it for himself.  My husband and I had been talking about my middle son’s struggles in preschool and the fact that he would likely not do well in a traditional classroom environment.  In addition, life was a little simpler for us since the baby was healthy again and older now.  It was a perfect opportunity to give home schooling a try.

We began home schooling by making an agreement with our son.  He would get to decide each school year if he wanted to continue home schooling or return to public school.  He would have plenty of social opportunities through weekly parks and recreation programs offered for home schoolers, activities with our local home school group and sports.  He has never asked to return public school.  He loves home schooling and has expressed on many occasions that he’s glad he doesn’t have to go to school all day.  As a serious athlete, he values being able to sleep in when his body requires it.  Home schooling has also allowed him more practice time than his teammates who must spend their days sitting at a desk.

Since all children are different, it wouldn’t be fair to only write about my oldest son’s experience.  I have two other children whose education is just as important to me.  My middle son has never attended public school.  In fact, when he was in preschool, he attended on a modified schedule because three days a week was overwhelming to him.  He has mild Asperger’s.  He would find the social setting of school to be too much to handle.  Instead, we are able to guide him in social interactions and teach him how to interact appropriately with others.  He is able to spend ample time pursing his interests—something he would not have enough time to do if he were in school all day.  He is working at grade-level on the subjects we formally school and above grade level (Quantum Physics, folks.) on the subjects that we unschool.

My youngest son is a social butterfly, much like his oldest brother.  He is a little behind developmentally and has articulation difficulties.  We sent him to public Kindergarten and he excelled.  He was given an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that included speech therapy.  I saw him mature and speak better over the course of the year.  When the year was over, however, he asked to home school.  Since we value our children’s input into their education, we decided not to send him to first grade, but to home school him instead.  The first semester of home schooling was a breeze, but I could tell that he was missing the social interaction that school provided.

8539203297_5795c5aecc_nLast fall it became clear that I would have to return to work full-time.  Since all three of our sons have found home schooling to be a good fit, we knew we would have to work to figure out a way to continue to support their love of learning at home while providing them with the amount of social interaction that they each desired.

For my youngest, who was already in need of more social interaction, a fellow mom—who herself was home schooled as a child—stepped in to help with his home schooling and, because she has children his age, has provided him with all of the “extravert time” he needs.  In the two months that he has stayed with her while I work, he has matured by leaps and bounds and his speech has improved more than it did with two semesters of speech therapy!

My older two are quite independent in their learning and use an internet based program to complete the subjects for which we use a more formal curriculum.  For the subjects we unschool, we spend time on weekends and evenings supplementing with books and question/answer sessions.  (Find out more about how we make working full-time and home schooling work for our family.)

I consider myself to be a big supporter of freedom of choice in education for all parents and children.  As evidenced in my own family, all children have different needs.  I can honestly say that my youngest is probably not an ideal candidate for a strict interpretation of home schooling.  My middle son, on the other hand, would likely experience many emotional issues if placed in a traditional school environment—even with an IEP.  My oldest has excelled in both places.

My only caveat to educational choice is that the decisions we make about our children’s education be well-informed and not done out of selfishness driven by our own emotional unwellness.  Decisions about how and where to education our children should not come from a place of fear or guilt.  In addition, our children should be given some say in how and where they learn.  Listening to what they want, and more importantly, why they want it, is key.  Showing our children that they are free to learn and putting them in an environment where their natural love of learning is fostered will lead to a better future for us all.

For more information about homeschooling, and other fantastic goodies, check out the blog www.OurSmallHours.com

Title and photos were added by me.

This post featured on Party Wave Wednesday, Tasty Traditions, Thank Your Body Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Small Footprint Friday, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday

The Teacher Turned Mom Dilemma

clown mumu 1Homeschooling was off my radar until I read this book by Quinn Cummings and started reading blogs by other moms who believe in a lot of the same principles I believe in; like traditional food, midwifery, green living, breastfeeding and, you know, trying to be the best moms ever and still maintain some semblance of sanity. Turns out that many more parents than I ever knew plan on homeschooling their kids. This all led me to seriously consider homeschooling my son too. In fact, I was certain for a couple weeks that home schooling was the route for us. This was new for me, especially since I was a kindergarten teacher in a very traditional private school for years before Porter was born. I love teaching, and while I’m not sure I’ll do it again, I’m not sure that I won’t either.

If Anyone Can Do It, It’s Me

One train of thought is that since I’m so good at teaching other people’s kids, I should be able to teach my own kid. I mean really, so many people do this. Then I had this epiphany today. When I would give a parent positive feedback about their child, like “she’s so helpful” or “stays on task well”, they would often respond with, “My child? No, certainly not my child.” To which I would respond that yes it’s true, their kid is fabulous.

The other side of this coin is when this fabulous child has their parent in the classroom at some point during the day. This focused and happy child often turned into a whiny, dependent toddler who seemed to have forgotten how to hang their jacket on a hook, let alone complete multiple classroom tasks unassisted.

It wasn’t until today, with my 2-year-old, that I realized that many kids really do act differently when they’re around their parents, in their comfort zone. That’s not to say that I expect my child to be whiny and dependent, but the grace he shows, already, while working with other adults and peers is astounding. I have taught him countless skills and will continue to do so. Utilizing homeschooling websites is an invaluable asset to me already. As a family we will continue to give him a diverse array of experiences, but I feel like he would be missing out on a personal growth experience by not getting to go to school. I’m not talking about socializing either, because I don’t think that’s as big an issue as other non-homeschooling people might.

He’s Got The RIght Personality

My son is a trusting fellow, and that’s how I hoped he would be. My husband and I have worked really hard to make our home comfortable and safe for each other. To always be there when Porter needs solace, a hug or reassurance. In the simplest of terms, I’ve got an extroverted kid. He gains energy when other people are around, he’s not afraid to talk with people and enjoys getting attention from just about any smiling person we may come across.

For my child, and many others I suspect, it’s almost easier to learn from someone other than their own parents. A teacher is someone who is at a comfortable and objective distance from Porter. Certainly not someone who’s cold, but someone like me. Who genuinely loves teaching, relates to children easily, dedicates their life to making sure generations of kids learn to read and write and become whole individuals.

Saying Goodbye Is Hard

Teachers will understand definitely understand this next part. When I told a parent of a crying child that their son or daughter would be just fine only moments after they left, I wasn’t trying to placate them. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and I knew in my core that their, normally, happy and vibrant child always returns to being themselves almost immediately once the parent has left. I also know that leaving your child, crying or not, can be heartbreaking in and of itself. Shoot, the first time I left Porter at the gym daycare for and hour he didn’t cry, but I sure did.

And Then There’s Me

I mentioned earlier that my son is 2, and I don’t care what anyone says or how they try to sugar coat it, he’s a handful. Certainly, I’ve made changes that have helped my energy level and patience (like cutting out sugar most TV), but I have interests that I really want to pursue. Being a stay at home mom is not what I thought it would be.

Something in me believed that because I enjoy cooking and teaching children, that I could learn to like cleaning and folding laundry, and (gasp) spending my entire self devoted to my child. Life would be one big playground after another and we would frolic and float on the bliss of childhood wonderment. And we do, just not all day everyday. There’s that whole issue of reality to contend with too.

Reality, It’s No TV Show

It turns out that I still don’t like cleaning, so much so that I hire someone to come to my house bi-weekly to do the bulk of it. Laundry? Don’t even get me started on how big my pile of clean clothes can get before I force my husband into the servitude that is folding and putting it all away. As for the cooking, I’m doing more of it than ever and that’s okay. But I’m no Donna Reed having dinner done, or even started, before Luke gets home from work. I call it a good day as a stay at home mom if a majority of the toys are off the floor, Luke gets a proper greeting and Porter is in a good mood.

Back Where We Started

All this leads me back to the whole school thing. I want Porter to go to school for many reasons, and my own selfish needs are one of them. That’s right, I’m being selfish so that I have something to give. So I can reserve a piece of me that is genuinely excited to explore and pursue new interests and goals.

In the last few months, considering homeschooling vs schooling, I have gained quite a bit of respect for parents who choose to home school. I often reference their websites and blogs for ideas that I can use at home. But in the same way that I knew I would breastfeed my son, when the time came for him to sleep in his own bed, and the same part that doesn’t force him to eat dinner if he’s not hungry…I know he’ll be attending preschool taught by a genuine teacher. A person who loves what they do and does it well. Who wants my child to be successful and who I’m sure will assure me that during the day, when I’m not there, that everything continues to be peachy for my sweet boy, and knows in their core that it’s true. I know I can trust in that.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling vs traditional schooling? Leave them in the comments below.

This post featured on Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Small Footprint Friday