Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Part Two of Homeschooling: Assessing Your Child's Needs
As a parent, I am allowed to re-evaluate any choices I make for my children, and hopefully I'm not too proud to change course. I have done this with many things already: the one that comes to mind right now is potty training. (That update will be a separate and coming blog post.)
As a teacher I was constantly assessing my students' needs and adapting lesson plans to fit their learning styles and levels of understanding. (Teachers who teach well and design their lessons well never teach to the middle of the class learning curve, never just to the top, never to the lowest student. Yes, it is totally possible to differentiate instruction and keep all students engaged and learning. It is an art form. Some teachers learn this and some come by it naturally, but all teachers are trained this way. This is what it means to be a teacher in our current school climate.)
I do this as a parent: each one of my children is different. What worked for one in areas of discipline has had to be tweaked a bit with the other. I see differences also in how they transition and adapt to new situations, how they feel loved and show love.
My husband and I feel very passionate about being part of our living community, and we desire to do that by sending our children to public school, but there are a few people I can think of that I admire and understand their choice to homeschool.
1. I have reconnected with a childhood friend who has made the choice to school her children at home. She seems to be a very self-motivated person, with appropriate goals for her children, but the thing that really seals-the-deal for me is that this last year her husband had to go back to Georgia for further military training before deploying to Iraq. Homeschool fit this cross-country move and experience. They were able to move and not be pulled out of a classroom and then plugged into another one. Homeschooling gave them the freedom to explore their new surroundings and learn the history of the East Coast. If this were my situation, I would have done the same.
2. My cousin and his wife have homeschooled all their children. Their oldest is graduating this year and their youngest is still in grade school. The benefit I see from their choice is that this has allowed them, as a family, to do ministry in very unique ways. For one, they show God's love to a marginalized group in our society, the elderly. I love this family and always enjoy my time with them.
3. I also admire a woman who saw that her sons were not thriving in the private school they were attending. After doing research she decided to homeschool. I didn't keep up with the entire process, but it seems that after a year of homsechooling they decided that the oldest really did need/want to be in a more traditional school setting, and so they chose to send him to another Christian school that fit him and his learning/social needs. It seems that this is an excellent fit, and they are happy with their decision. Their younger son chose to continue homsechooling. I admire her for assessing her boys' needs and choosing accordingly.
4. Another mom who has chosen to teach her children in this manner is someone who was a middle school teacher, an excellent one. She still believes in public education, but her oldest had learning needs that were not being met in a regular classroom. She is the first to admit that she's exhausted and that to homeschool correctly it has to completely overtake your lives. It becomes your life, is your life, and you as a mother are tired. These were her words summarized. She still does it because she sees that it is working with her family.
Good parents make decisions they feel will be good for their children.
However, I feel like I see a growing trend with Christians who are making a blanket decision to homeschool without really evaluating their children and even themselves. Not every parent makes a good teacher.
My mom is and was an excellent teacher. She began teaching the year Kennedy was shot and ended her career as a 2nd grade teacher the year of 9/11. She was expert. She should have been nationally recognized. :) She was my inspiration, and every child left her room a better person and student. But there is no way she should have been my teacher. One summer we tried to do a little tutoring and it was a huge failure. Our personalities clashed, and that was the end of it.
Also, if my parents had homeschooled us we would have had a rich understanding of history and some of the basics, but would have "graduated" with little or no math /science skills.
This is why I am a fan of the traditional school model. It has teachers who are experts in their area teaching that area/subject to my child. They are passing on a love of science that might not be present in the home.
If I had never gone to school I would have never learned to enjoy athletics. This was not something my family celebrated. I am a better, more rounded person for having other authorities in my life, seeing gifts in me and encouraging me to try and explore them.
So, even though I see families who homsechool and do an adequate and sometimes necessary job, I am still not persuaded. I still want a different life for my kids and a different outcome that is missed when school is done in the home setting.
Keep the thoughts and comments coming, and be gracious with me if I ever change my mind on this topic. :)