Saturday, September 15, 2007

Homeschooling


A couple of gals in a playgroup that I go to have told me that they are planning to homeschool their children. They were both homeschooled themselves when they were kids. At first I didn't really do anything with this information - after all, I went to public school and wouldn't know the first thing about homeschooling. But it kept nagging at me, so after some online research, I decided to take a corespondence course (see my "Homeschool Oasis" link for more info). Basically the course consists of reading a bunch of books about homeschooling and writing about what you're learning from them.

Let me start by saying that public schools serve their purpose very well, since many parents don't have the option of homeschooling or aren't interested in it. I have a very close friend who is a high school teacher, and I think that teachers have one of the most important and influential jobs in the world, second only to parents.

Having said that, a lot of what I'm reading is beginning to convince me that homeschooling Christina would be a good thing. For example:

Children learn in different ways and at different paces. Public school is only able to teach children in one way and at one pace because there are so many kids in each class. Individual attention is much more conducive to learning.

Public schooling does not teach a Christian world view. On the contrary - I remember in high school learning that evolution was a FACT, not a THEORY. I don't recall hearing anything about opposing viewpoints, such as that of intelligent design.

It seems as though the school system teaches children to have short attention spans. Kids are taught to focus on one subject completely for the hour or so that they are in class, but as soon as the bell rings, they must stop what they are doing to move on to the next subject, regardless of whether they are finished with their current project. The only time they have to catch up is at home, when they should be spending quality time with their family. (For more info on this particular view, read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto - it's a fantastic book.)

Now the philosophy of homeschooling that I'm learning about is delight-directed learning. It's a form of "unschooling," where the belief is that children want to learn. You provide them with a good learning environment and lots of available activities, and let them lead the way. To quote an essay I read by Barb Shelton (the teacher of this course) entitled So What About Prepared Curriculum?:

"We have somehow gotten this view that 'education' is filling our kids' minds with facts and information. While that certainly enters the picture, it is NOT what true education is. Education is teaching them to think, cooperating with God in preparing them 'for the works he prepared for them to walk in,' allowing time for the stuff God breathed in them to come to life, and character building. This is why we are hearing so much about employers who are frustrated with what the traditional school system is giving them. The schools are not producing 'educated people' but rather 'schooled' kids whose minds are only 'puffed up with knowledge.'"

OK, so this is all some very convincing information, but here's where it gets a bit hazy. I was talking with someone the other day, and they asked me why I wanted to homeschool Christina. The first thing that came to my mind was that I wished I had been homeschooled when I was young. I even asked my mom to homeschool me at least a few times through middle school and high school, but she never pursued it. My main problem with school was the social aspect. It just felt like one big popularity contest, and I didn't want to participate. On top of that, the curriculum didn't move at my pace. The regular classes were too slow paced and easy for me, but the honors classes were too hard.

So now I'm thinking that maybe I just want to do this for my own reasons, because I had such a hard time in school. On top of that, I don't really know what kind of career I would want to pursue if Christina did go to school, so maybe I'm just looking to be a stay-at-home-mom for as long as I can. And since Christina is an only child, and I'm pretty sure it's going to stay that way, I'll have to really work to make sure she gets time to be with other kids, to learn the aspects of socialization. I know that I tend to lean toward being overprotective, and I'm afraid that by homeschooling, I would just be trying to protect Christina from the influences of the world. And while we should protect our children, I don't want it to become an unhealthy thing.

I was talking to Sean about this the other evening, and he said that whether I decide to homeschool Christina through the elementary grades probably won't make much of a difference, since she'd just be learning about the basics anyway (reading, writing and arithmetic). But once she gets to be at the age for middle school, it would be best to have her in the school system, since she'd be learning much more that I may not be capable of teaching her. While this is a good point, I keep thinking about Barb Shelton's quote about prepared curriculum. Isn't education more about giving Christina a love of learning and teaching her HOW to learn than it is about filling her mind with facts and information?

Anyway, I'm up in the air at this point. Thankfully I won't have to make a decision about this for quite some time, considering Christina isn't even 1 yet! ;-) But I'd love to hear what some of your opinions are on this subject, so please let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

It goes by so fast!


I'm amazed that it's been seven months already since Christina made her debut into the world. I try so hard to remember all of the little details about her as a newborn, but already the memories seem to have faded. Maybe I was just so frantic and stressed out during those first few months that the memories didn't even form - I was in a daze of new-mommy'hood. The few things that I do remember never seem to get written down. I'm afraid that one day Christina will ask me what she was like as a baby, and I'll have no recollection at all! So here are some of the things I don't want to forget:

I was so nervous taking Christina out of the hospital to go home. We left the hospital around 8:00 PM, and it was a cold night, being that it was January 20th. I was so afraid that the cold air would somehow harm her tiny body. I bundled her up and held her very close.

When Sean was driving us home from the hospital, he was so cautious and nervous. And we had our seats positioned just about as far forward as they would go, so we wouldn't risk bumping into the car seat in the back. Even though Christina had cried when we first put her in the car, she fell asleep once we got moving. It was such a big moment for me, because I knew that once we got home we would actually be parents - no help from the nursing staff - just us!

I slept on the couch in the living room with Christina until she was about four months old. From that first night when we brought her home, she decided she wanted nothing to do with her crib - she wanted to be in Mama's arms. And she was so sensitive, especially during the first two months. I would walk around the apartment or sit in the rocking chair with her in my arms until she fell asleep. Then I would ever-so-slowly try to move over to the couch and lay down with her tucked into the crook of my arm. Half of the time she'd wake right back up and start crying again, so I'd start all over. I think it kept her calm to feel my breath on her face - I know that sounds odd, but if I moved my face away from hers, her eyes would pop right open.

Well, Sean just got home from work, and the baby will probably be waking up pretty soon, so that's all I'll write about for now. I'll try to add more later as it comes to mind - there are so many things about her newborn days that I don't want to forget!