Thursday, January 17, 2008

How did I get into this?

Homeschooling. The word frightened me. Visions of disarray and confusion filled my head. No structure to the day. No set curriculum. Arguments with the kids over assignments, timing, and due dates. My own inadequacies, especially with the high-level math courses that I took so many decades ago, concerned me. Yes, I had aced the courses in high school. But I haven't used trigonometry or geometry in three decades! I don't remember a thing about math above basic Algebra. And the public schools have fabulous labs; how could I possibly teach my kids the sciences, such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics? Would my kids turn out to be uneducated buffoons, unable to keep to a deadline or take a test seriously, not able to get a decent job? What would I do day to day at home??

Mothers of other homeschoolers I knew spoke about chaos, their own disorganization, schooling round the year, piles upon piles of assignments to correct and grade – and no time for themselves. They are with the children 24/7.

It all sounded like the stuff of nervous breakdowns.

You see, my kids aren't learning reading and writing or basic arithmetic; they are in the 7th, 9th, and 10th, grades! And my daughters, who are in grades 7 and 9, are Honors students!!

And the financial hit. How could I homeschool my kids when I've been the main breadwinner since I got married? I have a professional job; my husband does manual work - general contracting. He would go nuts sitting at a desk; I like the peace and quiet of a writing job where I spend hours on my own just thinking. And writing. And getting paid to do so. I like working. My husband's pay is not nearly as substantial. How would we manage on just his income, which is sporatic, because he's self-employed?
So when my husband brought up the subject of homeschooling our middle school- and high school-aged children over a year ago, I panicked! And I found many reasons to talk him out of it. No way, it won't work, I had told him.

So we tried putting our son into a Christian school for his first year of high school. That was nearly a disaster. The academic level of the school was pitiful compared to that of the public school. I'm not saying all Christian schools are academically inferior, but this one was. Jacob, just one grade ahead of his younger sister, fell behind her in math in just that one year. OK, so that isn't the end of the world, but there were other issues besides academic level: Discipline (or lack thereof). Little homework in math or science. Assignments that were busywork in English. Favoritism in the classroom. And girls dressed just as seductively in this school as in the public schools - a real distraction to a teenaged boy. So after the nineth grade, we transfered him back into the tenth grade of our local, academically high-level suburban public high school - a school from which I myself graduated many, many years ago.

A year ago, I just wasn't ready to take the frightening plunge into homeschooling. But I now see that there is no other way. I have to make it work, and you can follow me as I struggle to do so.

You see, this is what finally got to me. My husband made this analogy: "You take a freshly baked loaf of bread, and you put it in a manure pile. You keep it there a year, two, three… When you finally take that loaf out of the manure, the inside - it's still edible. But the outside stinks. It's absorbed the stench of the manure."

And that's what is happening to our kids in public schools. We try to teach them what it right and wrong, try to give them a Christian upbringing, try to shield them from the manure of the world. But they absorb it. How can they not when they stew in it day after day, year after year? So we decided to pull out Jacob first at the half-year mark of tenth grade. And then I'll just have to dive in. Sink or swim.

I'm a reluctant homeschooling mom, but I'll soon be homeschooling nonetheless.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)