In a few short weeks our oldest son begins Kindergarten. His preschool years are over (insert crying emoji). He graduates into the world of learning, schedules and heightened expectations! OH MY!
Since about the time Isaac turned three I started to contemplate our school options. In today’s climate school feels complicated, just visit any park filled with parents of preschoolers and you will overhear many anxiety filled conversations about the variety of educational options available in our community.
When I first considered homeschooling I met with a Mom that had been homeschooling for years, just to get some insight on the day to day life of a homeschool family. My gut reaction was to run. Not because of anything the Mom said but because I saw clearly what an investment of my time, patience, life and energy homeschooling would be. I was afraid. I told myself I would suck it up, despite my apprehension and prepare to send my children to public school (since financially private school is not an option for us). Of course that was just fear talking and slowly that still small voice started to speak over the next few months and years pushing me into the thing that in my heart I said no to.
Here we are, just a few weeks away from jumping into Kindergarten and I can honestly say I am excited and mostly optimistic things will go well! I’ve noticed though, that people immediately want to know “why” we have chosen to try this route, when the inevitable discussion over “where your kid goes to school” arises. I imagine it’s a logical question anytime you encounter something different than the mainstream. Here are the answers we have mulled over in our home and have pushed us to try something different this year:
1. Our Kid.
Every kid is different, which is pretty amazing! School is setup in a way that demands conformity and doesn’t always do the best in making room for all personalities. I was a teacher, I do not blame teachers and I have encountered some amazing teachers that take great efforts to accommodate all students. That being said entering the system can be tough for many kids.
Our kid is extroverted, yet shy in new places, he loves to learn, run, play, loves his family and friends. He takes great comfort in our proximity and shows no signs of being ready and is no way eager to take on the world of learning solo. Honestly, I think he first needs to be ok playing upstairs by himself before I expect him to independently navigate a whole new world of kids, adults, as well as academic pressures for 40 hours a week. I’m sure I could have done more to ready him for this transition. Due to finances and preference we opted not to put him in preschool, which may have prepared him better for Kindergarten.
Overall, though I think it’s just who he is. At this age he loves both to “do things by himself” and is very capable but on the same hand relishes the proximity and comfort of his family. I am thankful for the connection he has with his family unit and hope that more time together only continues to build the bond our family unit shares. I hope extra time in his comfort zone will only helps him grow to be a more confident and capable as he has more and more opportunities to interact with the world independently.
Brent and I are in a unique spot as we both have worked or are working in our community public schools. We know there are some amazing kids and teachers working all around us. We also have seen first hand some of the amazing struggles public schools face. I could go on and on about the challenges public schools face and the reasons why are so complex, no wonder all the scholars, statesmen and laymen haven’t found a uniform solution or cause for the troubles out there.
Although, I am nervous about embracing the responsibility of educating my own children, I am in a unique position in that as a licensed teacher I have all the skills needed to do so. We spent time in a local homeschool co-op this past school year and I saw 4 and 5 year olds that were so kind and enthusiastic about learning! They had the freedom in their homes to explore knowledge beyond the SOL’s and approach topics in ways that felt fresh and exciting to them. I have the power to help give this to my kids! What a gift!
3. Activity and Play.
This is the first time I’ve been full time about a 5 year old boy. All they want to do it talk, run, explore and play! I have a pretty mild boy… nonetheless it’s tough for me to envision my boy, who wakes up in the morning with playing with Rescue Bots and catching frogs on the brain, spending the best hours of his days indoors at a desk. This next year during normal school hours we will have the chance to play soccer, do tumbling, learn with other kids at a bible study, learn at a co-op, go to parks, sleep in, play at home, check out books at the library and spend a little time each day practicing reading, writing and math. It seems like he gains so much time and freedom back this way.
I know from my experience as a teacher so much time is wasted at school. I mean if you’ve ever had to manage 20 some 5 year olds you just realize everything takes forever.. there is no avoiding this fact. Just imagine how long it takes to get out of the door of your own children and then add 20 more kids to the mix and you get the picture. Teachers are hero’s to even attempt to accomplish meaningful learning with 5 year olds on a daily basis! It’s my hope to save some of that unavoidable wasted classroom time for my kids to have a little longer to be kids. I want them to explore, learn, run and be free to just be kids.
Here’s the thing, somethings has changed in the past 25 years since I was a Kindergartener, the expectations of what values we impart to the next generation has gotten murky. Don’t get me wrong, I am an optimist in a largely pessimistic world. I know some rockstar A+ parents of children who thrive in every environment they are placed in. I think good things are growing in the next generation and I hope I am apart of those growing strong and kind humans. Nonetheless, the rules on how we collectively influence children have gotten weird. Even with my closest friends I am not always sure how to address normal childhood misbehavior for fear I will hurt a parents feelings. On top of this families are stretched thin these days. So many Mom’s going it alone. Media is everywhere changing the language our kids learn at age 5. Etc. Etc.
I’ve spoken to many parents who have school aged children and the stories they tell are hard to hear. Kindergarteners being told they’d be better off dead by their peers, little girls being touched inappropriately on the bus, teachers intimidating their students because they are unprepared or just plain mean. Maybe I’ve been talking to the wrong folks but I’ve yet to hear of a person who is in love with the things their child is exposed to once entering the doors of public school. I have faith that kids have the ability to navigate these things and with loving parents many challenges are able to be overcome. I also know my kids will one day be on their own in this world and will have to navigate the good and bad solo. I can’t protect them forever.
Although, I wonder when as parents we started accepting this notion that a little trauma is apart of “normal socialization?” I also just am not convinced five is the age my kids are ready for me to take off the training wheels off and let them fly. Brent and I hope deeply that the values we hold– that we should be loving to others, we should serve others, we should always be honest, we should show kindness in every situation, we should live with generosity, be strong under pressure, persevere in hard times, we should live with joy and always be curious— are passed on to our kids. We want to invest in our children, hopefully in a wise way, so that these values stick and help them to grow into beautiful people. We feel extra time with us can help in us achieving this goal. We pray God’s grace to be on this time because only he knows our hearts and can guide our kids through this messy world. We know their are no guarantee’s in this parenting thing but we strive to do our best with what we have been given.
We are in a tender season in our home. Our boys are so close. They play non-stop. They also fight non-stop but they love each other fiercely. Ruthie is fresh and the boys grow in their affection towards her each day. There is no way I could image taking Isaac out of this equation at this stage in the game. Our children are growing closer each day. They make each other laugh. They teach and challenge each other everyday. They wake up in the morning filled with joy at the prospect of being together for another day.
I anticipate there will be seasons were togetherness is less lovely. Where our kids need space and the ability to go it alone. We aren’t there yet. I want to give them this moment to lean in. To laugh more. To connect and be a family.
So there it is the things that have informed us to take the leap into the unknown world of homeschool, at least for this next year. We will take it year by year and see what we feel is the best method for our family. These are the things God has placed on our heart but our choice is not the right choice for anyone other than us. I really believe if you are a invested parent your kid can thrive and learn in so many spaces. There is no “one sized fits all” solution for education. Not everyone Mom has the skills or desires to formally school her children. Some children want nothing more than to be in a school.
That being said I think if you are a Jesus follower, praying hard and listening closely about how you choose to educate your kids is important. Brent and I both have worked in a variety of public schools and there are challenges in the system. Keep your heart open to how you can invest, pray, be apart of your kids education because we haven’t arrived once we hit Kindergarten, the work has just begun! If we want to grow those strong and kind humans we gotta stay at this thing.