Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hardest Best Decision

Confession: I'm a stay at home mom who doesn't stay home. I'm a part-time working mom with 3 jobs (1 at home, 1 outside the home, and 1 a mix of both). I tend to work about 10-20 hours a week at all 3 jobs. I also drive my son to preschool two days a week, and attend a Mom's group or social event at least once a week on average. I'm also a wife. There is no way to "get it all done".

However, I feel that staying at home or partly staying at home is the absolute best thing I can do for my kids at this point in their development. I've recently made the decision to homeschool, though, so now I'm even more terrified that I will be "staying home" forever.

I work at my jobs because I love them, not because of the money. The majority of my hours, I earn about $8 an hour on average. However, I get the benefits of feeling significant, getting out of the house, and helping people (more than just my kids). At home, I face the isolation, stigma, and depression often associated in today's society with "at home" mom's. Why is this only prevalent in today's society?

Well, about 50 years ago when "everyone's mom" stayed home, women had neighbors. They had friends their age in the same situation, they had no "stigma" to fight against to prove their worth. Now, we have to join "groups" to meet other people in the same situation. We have to search online and across town, and hear about friends of friends.

So, I am a little terrified that if I homeschool because it's the best situation for my children at this point in their lives, I may never end up being able to convince myself that a "regular" school is the best situation for them. So then I can "never" fulfill my own dream of going back to school to become a marriage and family therapist and help thousands of people (I know I'm being a bit naive that I can truly help people - people have to first want to help themselves).

In reality, I'm probably postponing my dream by about 6 years or so. But isn't it interesting how our minds can make us feel trapped? I'm not truly trapped. In reality, I'm making the best decision I can for my family at this point in time. Is it self-sacrificing? Yes, to some extent. Is it also freeing, because I do have the decision-making power? Absolutely.

Why am I making this difficult decision? Why don't I just put my kids in school and/or childcare full-time, like everybody else?

For one thing, I was a homeschooler from Kindergarten through 4th or 5th grade (I was doing 5th grade level work, but when I went to "real school" I chose to go with my age group rather than my school level). I've also been to private school, public school, college, and I spent almost a full semester as a teacher at a public school. While I had a great experience with academically gifted/advanced placement high school courses, I also had some pretty terrible experiences in "regular" classes. I also, as a teacher, saw how ineffective the "system" was for reaching students.

In today's world, the "system" wants to make everyone the same by "including" all students in the same class. So one teacher is being asked to teach 20% who don't speak English, 20% with moderate learning or behavior problems, 20% who can't read, and 20% advanced kids. Oh, and there might be a remaining few children who are "normal" whatever that means. How can one teacher teach all these students (20-30 of them) without a TON of wasted time and effort? Even in the "best" schools (which just means fewer percentage of students in the "lower" categories) there will be kids who are bored and kids who are left behind.

To make a long story short, I'm comfortable being my child's teacher, I feel like elementary age kids need more time to play and less time in a boring school setting, and I want my child to be taught at his level and not taught towards the "average".

Why have I resisted for so long? It's really hard being home all day. The hardest thing I've ever done is become a (mostly) stay at home parent. There are no accolades. There is hard work, there is financial sacrifice, there is loneliness and boredom. There is the stress of constant discipline and oversight, trying to keep two young boys alive and in reasonably socialized behavior. Also, the longer you homeschool, the harder it is to go back to "the real world".

When you're child is in 4th grade and you explain to them that instead of having school for 3 hours a day and playing the rest of the time they will now be gone from 7am until almost 3 pm, not counting any additional transportation time if they have to ride the school bus or travel across town for school. Then they will have homework when they get home. It's also hard as a parent to let your child be gone for that long, when you can't oversee their behavior or learning. I don't know how long I will homeschool, but I think it will likely be through or until middle school for my oldest child.

My "dream school" for them would actually not be homeschool or public school, but a type of cooperative learning with about 15-20 kids in a relatively close age range and 3-4 teachers with a basic curriculum or plan and some fun group activities for 3 hours a day or so. At least for the elementary school years, they really shouldn't need much more than that.

Want to know our curriculum for next year? Look for a new post on Monday! Post your comments regarding homeschool below!
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