Tag Archives: home school

Homeschool Decision Part 4: Time

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final installment in a series regarding my decision to home school my three children.  Here are the links to the introduction, part 1 , part 2 and part 3

I confess that my decision to home school is not a simple matter of numbers and research. I understand that there are intangible concerns that can’t be researched and reconciled away.  These concerns start with, “aren’t you worried that your kids will drive you crazy?” and the simple answer to that question is “yes, yes I do.” I worry about implementing discipline in the classroom.  I worry that Lucy and Max won’t create an octagon of sibling rivalry where they act out every sinister impulse they have ever had towards each other.   However, I feel comforted that these obstacles will be overcome with a little bit of effort.

1.) Time.  The nice thing about not having 18 students, but only having 2, is that I can complete my school day in about 4-5 hours versus the 7-8 the school requires. This means the kids and I will be in the same room together for a short period of time.  This gives us more time for activities outside of the house like music lessons, gymnastics classes, bike rides, field trips, etc.

2.) Experience.  I’ve spoken with several home school families and I’ve read several books and they all say the same thing, which is that the first 3-4 months are an adjustment but the kids actually become calmer and more obedient.  This occurs because your kids are getting the constant reinforcement FROM YOU regarding what kind of behavior you expect from them.  Since children are naturally programmed to want to please their parents they pretty quickly fall into line. The other reason is that they don’t have the constant stimuli and distractions of 17 other 9 year old children.  The best book I read regarding these issues was “So You’re Thinking About Home School” by Lisa Whelchel (and yes, it is that Lisa from “Facts of Life”).  The book is a collection of essays written from different families who made the decision.  If you are thinking of home school, I would definitely start by finding and talking to other families who have made this choice already.

3.) I Actually Like My Kids.  One of the benefits of being an older mom is the greater awareness of the fleeting nature of time. I only have seven years left with Lucy.  SEVEN YEARS.  I have fifteen with Harper.  I have already lived 15 years almost three times over.  That is nothing and the idea that I will be spending more of that time with my kids instead of them being some place else is appealing to me.  The truth is I will be an old grandma and I probably won’t even be around for great grandchildren and so I need to suck all the fun and joy out of my own children’s childhoods.  I won’t have a second chance to do this.

In the end this is a very personal decision (like any other parenting choice).  Right now I feel that this is the best place for my kids.  Will I feel the same way in two years or three years or five years? I have no idea.  For those who want to learn more I’m providing you a list of links to some of the resources I have utilized to make this decision.

The Texas Home School Coalition – this is the Christian lobbying organization for home school families in Texas.

“The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child” by Linda Dobson – I loved this book and it was a great guide to what to expect that first year and how to prepare for it.

Penelope Trunk Blog –  Penelope Trunk is a career blogger, but she also home schools her two boys.  She also has Aspergers.  I like Penelope because she is very steeped in current research and like me, does little without first consulting the experts.  Be warned, this is not some warm fuzzy religious high moral home school blog.

SAIL – the Collin County Home School Co-op

PEACH – Plano Christian Home School Co-op

And of course, I must acknowledge the great support I have received both from David’s family and my own.  This is a controversial decision. For many people it is difficult to understand why I would do something that seems so drastic.  Hopefully this series of blog posts makes my thinking a bit easier to understand. If you still don’t agree – well, that is okay. We can totally still be friends.

Homeschool Decision Part 2: The Academics

I’ve taught college freshmen for seven years.  These students have come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from rural high schools to private school graduates.  This is what I can tell you about freshmen English students.

1.) They don’t know the rules for capitalization

2.) They don’t know the rules for apostrophe usage

3.) They don’t understand that they can fail a class.

4.) They expect that they will be able to take quizzes and tests as many times as needed until the right grade is achieved.

5.) They don’t understand that work will NOT be accepted if it is late.

6.) MANY of them have NEVER written a basic research paper

As a result of this experience I have always been rather suspect of our public school system.  However, I understand I’m biased.  That I am only seeing these students through a very narrow lens and perhaps I am not being fair.

When I first started questioning whether or not the academic needs of my kids were being met I decided I had better rely on hard facts instead of my own perception.

It Is All About The Test

The first thing I wanted to take a look at was how testing has actually affected our school environment.  I went to the Texas Department of Education and did some reading.  The STAAR test is focused on the following “core” subjects: math, reading, writing, science, and social studies.  At first this seems like a completely fine list, until you think about what is MISSING from this list.  For example, art, music, history, geography, handwriting, and literature (which is different from reading).  After I looked at this list I compared it to my kids’ daily school schedule and it was an EXACT match.  They had time allotted to math, reading, science and social studies, and that is it.  My kids go to art, music and library once for 30 minutes EVERY TWO WEEKS.  My conclusion was clear, yes, the school teaches to the test.  In fact our school is so good at taking the test our test scores are some of the highest in the state.  Our school excels at the STAAR test so well because they start testing the kids in Kindergarten in anticipation of the test in third grade.  Max spent so much time in assessment and testing this year that at one point his teacher went almost three months without reading with him one-on-one.

The Numbers

I desperately wanted my assumptions to be wrong.  I wanted to find some secret piece of research that showed how superior public schools were to anything else.  I searched.  I went to the university library and dug.  The numbers, studies and results were so overwhelmingly in favor of home school that I couldn’t ignore them.

  • 74% of home school students attend college
  • 46% of public school students attend college
  • The average SAT score of a home schooled student is 1043
  • The average SAT score for a public school student in Texas is 985

The Pedagogy

The numbers are there.  They are solid, but when you combine them with the limited subject profile, and the school process you start to wonder how we’ve limped along as a society for as long as we have.

The public school system was designed at the same time as the industrial revolution – the development of the Model T and Ford’s radical assembly plant mode of operation.  The goal of public school was to educate the masses – the poor.  As a result the public school system is set up like an assembly line.  All 6 year olds in and every year extra features get added and they get spit out at the other end.  However, our children aren’t cars and they aren’t cogs in a machine and they definitely don’t all learn the same way, grow the same way or react to the same learning environment the same way.  I would like for somebody to explain to me the benefit of giving 1 adult 19 students ranging for the autistic and academically challenged all the way to the gifted and talented students and expect HER to meet all of their needs equally.  She can’t.  And the fact that more than 90% of public school teachers are women that is even more detrimental for our boys.

But don’t take my word for it, I suggest you watch this great video. It takes 11 minutes

Changing Education Paradigms

And if that video doesn’t do it for you, then I suggest you read “The Knowledge Deficit” by E.D. Hirsch.

That’s Great But…..

Here I am with the academics obviously better, but what about socialization?  I mean goodness, you don’t want to raise social dorks do you? How will your kids learn to be competitive? How will they learn to stand up for themselves? How will they learn social norms? Well, I save that for part 3.


Home School Decision Part 1: The Big Picture

When deciding to home school the kids this coming fall the first question I asked myself, which may seem obvious, was “what do I want my kids to get from their k-12 education?”  I suppose as a former project manager I can’t help but focus on the end goal.  What am I supposed to achieve at the end of my project?  What is the big picture?  My father used to say, “if you don’t know where you’re headed then how will you know if you’ve arrived?” What seemed like a simple question ended up being rather complex when I really thought about it.

We send our children to public school with what expectation?  That they will learn to read? They master reading by 2nd grade.  Learn to write? Also complete by 2nd grade.  No, it is more than that.  At the end of the day this is the list that I settled on:

  • College Readiness: I of course would like my children to achieve higher education and I would expect their K-12 education to prepare them for this level of course work.  This means their reading comprehension, study skills, and a certain breadth and depth of knowledge. Their ability to complete basic library research and understand the components of a basic sentence.
  • Fundamental Understanding of Core Subjects: math, reading, writing, science.  But I also want them to know geography, government, literature, history, social studies, philosophy, etc.  They need a strong foundation in a variety of subjects.  It is this combination of subjects that provides them with a lens through which they can see and understand the world.
  • Citizenship: I would like my children to learn how to be contributing members of society, which means instructing them in the value of hard work, community service, and government.  This also means learning to be tolerant, respectful and polite.
  • Critical thinking: I want my children to challenge assumptions and think for themselves.  In an age of media overload I want them to be discerning in their reading and research.  My parents encouraged me to question EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY and I would like that same curiosity to be encouraged in my own children.
  • Variety of life experiences: I want my kids to have the ability to participate in non-academic pursuits – athletics, the fine arts, school government, etc.  The humanities have always been a big part of my life (and David’s) and I want my children to be exposed to this variety.
  • Knowledge and Understanding of the World:  I don’t want them to live in a bubble (I know, you are shocked by this because I’ve chose to home school and isn’t that what all home schoolers want? a bubble). I want them to know a Buddhist, Atheist, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, Black, Hispanic, Gay, Asian.  I want them to “eat from the banquet of life” -to love and appreciate the rainbow of the world and why it all works together to create something bountiful and beautiful. I want them to know that their heritage and their values are not the only ones that exist.  I want them to not be afraid of “the different” but to embrace it.

I will be the first to admit that this is a tall order, even for the public schools to fulfill.  It is nearly an impossible order when you consider the constraints under which the school system functions.  When I started down this path I was trying to prove that home school was NOT the right decision and so I was trying very hard to give the public schools a fair shake.  I looked at this list and I assigned a grade for each item, reflecting how well I thought the school was doing at accomplishing these goals. The school system ended up with a 2.16 GPA – they received 2 Ds, 2 Cs, 1 B and 1 A.  And the A was in “Knowledge of the World” and the B was in “Variety of Life Experiences” — the recess of the school system.  So yes, the school was getting an A in recess but failing everything else.

I am not pulling my children out of school to isolate them.  The fact that my son learned the F-word in 1st grade is bothersome, but I can parent around that.  The fact that girls in Lucy’s 3rd grade class are watching YouTube videos, unsupervised, on french kissing is troubling but I can parent through that as well.  I can even parent through bullying and “mean girls”.  But it is not worth the effort of dealing with all of these social nightmares when the academics aren’t performing.  At the end of the day the only good thing my kids were getting out of the school system was something they could receive at an afternoon on a soccer field or the Girl Scouts. I definitely don’t need the school to insure that my children are exposed to a variety of cultures or to expose them to a variety of life experiences.  I am fully capable of doing that part myself.

The next thing I looked at was how were the academics — really.  I had my perceptions based on the results I see as a college professor and what I see coming home as a parent, but I realize that I am not objective.   The next blog post will look at the academics.