Friday, December 11, 2009

We Interrupt this Program....

Last week, my cousin Julie played a little Q and A game on her blog. She kindly answered all my Qs, and as per her rules, it's my turn for As. I didn't realize I had so much to say, so this may take me a little while to finish. And since it's not a recipe that I'm sharing, I feel a little exposed, like the first time you put on your bathing suit for the summer. So let's dive in, shall we? I hear the water is fine.
I'll answer the bottom two questions today as soon as time permits.
Julie asked: Why did you choose to home school? Will you always home school?

I’m not sure that my decision to home school was made in a single light-bulb moment. I taught elementary school for about six years after I finished my undergrad. I picked up a little about the way that kids learn, especially about how to teach kids to read. I loved helping them learn to read, to discover books. When Sailor was born, I thought I’d teach her how to read a little early, maybe start about age 2 with letters. It was amazing how quickly she was able to learn. I didn’t feel that I was teaching her how to read, but rather reminding her how to read. Soon she was inhaling novels, reading over 300 pages daily, well before she was kindergarten age. At this point, I was still planning on sending her to school, but I worried about the boredom factor. When she was five, she tested out of K and went straight to first grade, but it still seemed slow- paced compared to the one on one tutorial she was getting at home. And ironically, she didn’t have time to really enjoy reading like she had been doing before school began.
(Side note here: Having taught school before, I know that there are many children that aren’t being challenged academically. I also know how difficult it is as a teacher to meet the demands of each student, especially since the needs of the lower performing students are more immediate. I take my hat off to public school teachers; their work is difficult, often thankless, but absolutely invaluable.)
But I also missed Sailor terribly that year she was in school. I hated dropping her off every day, just to have her come home tired and cranky, with not much to show for the many hours that she was gone. I felt like I was getting the worst of my child, simply for the benefit of socialization. I decided to bring her home for one year, believing that perhaps she and West could march off to school together the following year, and maybe I’d stay home and write or get a PhD, or find some other meaningful project for myself.
But we found out that first year that we love it. We’re here together, the three of us, working our tails off to get a good education. We are all learning together. Sometimes I feel that I am teacher in name only, since I suspect that I am learning the most of all. We work incredibly hard to fit it all in, but there is still just enough time to devote to violin, piano, fencing, dance, art, friendships, play time, and other worthy pursuits. I don’t plan on homeschooling forever; I never really had a forever plan to begin with. I try to make the decision afresh each year.
It isn’t always easy. It’s actually a whole lot of old-fashioned hard work, especially since I teach in the evenings at the college. I run from one teaching gig to the next, hopefully with just enough time to slap on a little lipstick. It’s an unconventional choice to be a home-schooler. People aren’t always sure what to make of you, so there is a sense of being under a microscope. Most people are extremely kind and encouraging. Either way, I can’t let external opinions influence my decisions about education, or anything else for that matter. My house is never in perfect condition. Sometimes the kitchen table is covered with science experiments for weeks on end, but that’s OK. We’re learning. And that’s precisely the point.
I want to honor the decisions of the charges also, so if they ever choose to go to school, I’ll support them and buy them a new backpack and pencil case. But for now, they love to learn at home. I’m hopeful that the fire of inspiration has been permanently lit. I’m excited about learning and I love being able to be a part of the process with my children. At least for now, and we’ll take it day by day. I truly suspect that I will look back at this experience as my favorite part of motherhood.
And I'll clean off the kitchen table when they leave for college.

Julie asked: What was the first cooking contest you ever entered? What was the first one that you won/placed in? Which one was your favorite to compete in? What will you do with the money if you win the French's one? What is your motivation for entering the contests? Do you want to go be in the Pilsbury one together if I ever get brave enough? I already saw you in it once. I don't even care about winning, I just want to go.
Julie asked: You seem invincible to me.

You always have. You homeschool, and craft, and cook, and teach college, and serve on the charter school board. I mean, really, is there anything you can't do? Is there anything that makes you nervous? Anything you are not confident about?


Seth and Julie said...

Thanks for sharing. I am always afraid to ask people why they homeschool because I don't want them to think I am judging their decision.

I am actually fascinated by the idea and I think I would love to do it. But, I think my reasons are wrong. I just don't want to send my kids out. I worry and I miss them. I can't control what they hear and see out there. I know my job is not to control their lives though, but rather to teach them the things they need to know to go up against this world and still remember who they are.

Also, I am not social enough to homeschool. I do not get involved with other people as much as I should and I do not want my kids to suffer because I did not create a social network for them. You are so good at getting them out and involved.

I like that you give them the decision making power to choose to homeschool or not. I think it is important to make sure the decision is a good fit for everyone.

Although, it sounds like they are so far ahead of the game at this point that school might be a huge hinderance to their progress. I am not terribly impressed with the direction that public schooling is headed.

Good thing you didn't answer all three questions at once. Imagine how long this comment would have been.

Be back later for more answers and more commenting.

Mishqueen said...

I was homeschooled through my elementary years, and I'm so grateful for it. And that was back in the day where my mom had to fight the school board in every state we moved into to prove that it was legal to homeschool. She paved the way for a lot of other mothers have an easier path later. And yet she was heavily criticized. The people who criticized will never know that we turned out ahead of our class, well-socialized, and a close and loving family. But we will always know. :)

Keep up the good work; keep doing what your heart tells you is right! We support you!

Unknown said...

wow, props to you prudy for playing such a meaningful role as "teacher" in your kids' lives. I think it's amazing, and though I NEVER (I'm afraid my patience and lack of skills wouldn't permit it anyway!) plan on doing that for my childres, I commend you for doing it for yours!

thanks for sharing, you REALLY do do it all!

Fantastic Mr. R said...

Thanks for letting us peer into your life. It was fun to hear more about your family and ideas.
You are a wonderful mother and a great example to those about you.

Leslie said...

I love the question and answer session, but I have no time to write. It's Erin Leigh's Birthday!
Just know I am reading along and commenting silently in my head.

Adrienne said...

Wow I just had two long conversations today about my decision to homeschool....and now more of it here. I was educated at home, public, and private schools, and right now teach my own children. It is hard work, but it's fun too.

Marjie said...

I'm not a teacher. So I buy the Calvert School curriculum with which to teach my 2 youngest boys. There is no more satisfying feeling than the "Ah Ha!" moments they have when they get a new concept! And it's a lot more fun to call recess from noon to 3 because the boys and dog want to enjoy the fresh snow, or sunshine, or whatever, than to have to do things on a set schedule. Tell Julie I'm not social, either. But the boys go out to play with the neighbors, and meet their friends, and they do fine. And all I have to do is see the school super twice a year. I believe Ryan will do wonderfully in public high school next year, and he can always change courses and homeschool again if he so chooses.

Isn't it wonderful to be able to make these "controversial" choices?

Katelin said...

Hi, Erin, this is Julie's friend Katelin. I've enjoyed following your reunion, and I really enjoyed this post. Now I just have to ask if you'll share more tips or hints about teaching children to read. 300 page novels before kindgergarten--kudos to you both! Also, do you have a certain Home School curriculum that is your favorite? I have many concerns about public school education, and would like to check out some HS options before I send my little one off next year. Maybe I'll keep him to myself!

Prudy said...

I'd love to chat HS with you. Send me an email at and I'll give you a phonecall sometime in the next week.

Jen @ said...

Hi Prudy! Wonderful post!

I am having a linky party on Monday about homemade gifts and I was wondering if you would link up your fudge post from last Christmas. I made that for my neighbors and it was soooo good!

Hope you are having a great weekend!


Michal said...

great response to a question common to homeschoolers. i have been asked to write about that question as well and as yet haven't done. there are so many reasons that i love homeschooling and find it to be the best thing for our family, at least right now. i really appreciate that the internet makes me feel not-as-unusual, as there are so many homeschoolers who choose to blog and share about their experiences. it helps when most of our local friends have chosen to attend public school.

and it's good to hear you say that the kitchen table is often covered in science projects. sometimes i stress too much about having our house just-so. you are so right-- we can have a clean kitchen table when they are grown and gone, which will come far too soon!

Pamela said...

Thanks for sharing a positive outlook for homeschoolers. I homeschooled my two children and was a board member of the Florida Parent Educators Association. Loved homeschooling after I had a serious talk with God...really didn't want to at first. I can say that I have a relationship with my daughter today because of homeschooling. I am very thankful that I did!

Deanna said...

I've enjoyed following your blog for quite some time (I made the lemon bars several months ago and they were a tangy *hit*)! Your reasons for homeschooling mimic my own -- but I like your wording better. I think I'll print it and memorize a few of your lines, if that's alright?

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