Monday, August 13, 2007
So, how did it all come about? Are we angry at the children's private school? Have we become anti-school?
We did not leave the school because we were in a huff or angry with them. Although we had (and have still) some concerns about specific issues, they were not insurmountable, and we still do believe in the mission and goal of that school. We are prepared to teach the children through high school, but we are also both ready to put them back into a good private school if we see that it would be best for any individual or all of them.
First of all, we had already made a compromise on the type of schooling our children were receiving. We had wanted them to be in a Classical Christian School from before we had children. However, the closest one to us was almost two hours away. We then looked into other private Christian schooling. We considered teaching them some of the methods and subjects of a classical school in addition to their normal education, but thought they wouldn't exactly be thrilled at coming home and doing more school, so we pretty much let go of that idea.
A couple years ago, we thought about homeschooling the children, and we had been planning on homeschooling Elijah, at least for kindergarten and possibly first grade, anyway. However, Rich thought it was good for me to have a break during the day to catch up on rest, housework, and have one on one time with our younger children. We are in a better place now to make sure that I get time alone or with girlfriends, and we have found several local homeschooling groups and co-ops (which was my only prerequisite, that I have the support and advice of local people who were also homeschooling).
The reason we have chosen to do this now is that Alexander and Dominic's new teacher at school had actually taken Alexander a step or two back in his academics, and was just progressing with advanced kindergarten with Dominic. We adressed this in parent-teacher conferences, but didn't see much of a change. Now, Alexander was going to move into a class with the teacher he had had the year before who really challenged the children and was just excellent as a motivator and educator, but we knew he would be entering third grade with a handicap, because he was no longer used to the rigorous work. Dominic, meanwhile, would be continuing with a lot of the basic stuff he knew, and both of them would well be on their way (and already were) to seat warming, goofing off and a strong dislike of school. I was sick of seeing all the busy work they were doing, I can imagine how they felt doing it!
I don't want to make their teacher sound like a bad person. She was not. She was caring and seemed to really love children and teaching, but she used to be a kindergarten teacher, and it seemed to us she was still teaching at that level. There was also a marked decrease in the religious instruction the boys were receiving. We, of course, had been teaching them at home, but a big part of why we were sending them to a Christian school rather than the public school or a secular private school was that we wished them to be exposed to prayer, Bible reading and a Christian worldview in their daily work. This was less and less evident, and on top of that, we were seeing the children exposed to a variety of worldviews without them being given a Christian context to work from so they just ended up confused and with a watered down, feel good kind of Christian sentiment, which we think is more dangerous than secularism. There was also a great deal more disorganization this year with the school and activities, and I finally tallied up all money we were spending the fees, tuition, fundraising, field trips, required purchases, etc, and found that for two of our children, we were spending approximately $950 a month, not including school supplies or gas money, it was going to go up the next year, and as I told Rich, I knew I could be disorganized for much less than that.
Money wasn't really why we decided to do this, it just helped us to look at what we were getting for what we were paying. So, we started researching homeschooling methods, availablility, the law in our state, the opportunities available to us, and found that our biggest obstacle was going to be limiting what we do, rather than finding enough to occupy us. Our cost for starting up with four children, including school supplies, is about $2000, which is about two months' tuition and fees for our two boys, with a sibling discount. We expect to pay another $500-1000 as the year progresses, and probably about $1500 a year for the elementary years. This, along with the lowered gas requirements of homeschooling, has allowed us to hire a housekeeper to come help me around the house once a week, and for us to seriously look into more extracurricular activities for the children. These are things we've wanted to do, but put off for financial or time reasons. Homeschooling also allows us to take our vacations when we wish, rather than when we need to for the school year, as well as allowing us to continue with at least some of our lessons as we travel. We will be able to join Rich on more business trips, visit museums we wouldn't otherwise get to see, and take a more relaxed approach with their formal education during seasons of the church year that are more intense. It also means that we don't ever have to consider their school year over. If the children want to keep learning, it will just be a natural part of their daily lives.
Before we made the decision to make this change, we did discuss it with Alexander and Dominic. They are old enough to understand and to have input in this kind of shift in their live. I was concerned they wouldn't be interested, but they thought it was a great idea, especially when they found that they would still be able to see their friends, and go to Boy Scouts, play soccer and baseball, and all of those things that they love. All summer, they have been asking when we can start homeschool, so I've been giving them history books and math stories for them to get a head start on the work we will do this year. I've been playing Latin CDs and pointing out the roots of words to them, and it is making me excited about learning again, too.
On the advice of many homeschooling, and former homeschooling friends, I am making good use of my library. This lets me take a look at many of the books I am curious about before shelling out the money for them. It also keeps me from buying every little kid story version of the Iliad, or Greek Mythology, since I can save our purchases for the really good versions and borrow the simpler ones for now.
Just FYI, your local Borders (if you have one) should be willing to extend you a teacher's discount for anything you're buying to help with your children's schooling. 20% off helps when it starts to add up.