21 September 2012

school daze: a four part series

this is not a rebel post...

i am asked a lot{just about everyday}by friends and strangers about my decision to homeschool. it means different things for each of my 4 boys so to answer the question, i will be writing a 4 part series on fridays in this here little blog {honestly, it is a good reminder to myself}.the approach to schooling each boy is different, but the reason is the same. here goes...

i never thought it would come to this. ever. before i had children, i looked at families who homeschool like many look at a cult car accident. with fear, curiosity and a little anxiety. it was not on the tip of my tongue when someone asked me how i saw my future. did i even think of exploring this alternative approach to education as i read about the bradley method of childbirth? i can't recall. what i do recall is when it came time to drop my first born off at kindergarten, the entire ritual felt completely unnatural. i remember asking another mother thinking maybe she would agree. instead she laughed, "are you kidding? it feels glorious!" then i knew it was me. and the me was screaming, "abort mission!". 
first day of kindergarten

a few weeks into kindergarten, i saw a shift in our boy. the once loving child now greeted us in the carpool line with anger and contempt. and that anger was usually directed towards his younger brother. a rift was growing between these two little fellows who had once adored one another. i now know that our home community was being shaken. and if there is something that matters to us, it's community. if our primary community wasn't strong, how could we go about building it elsewhere? for me, the notion of homeschooling meant cultivating community at home. 

the rest is history. our boy came home to school mid kindergarten year with the full support of my Mister whose observations were in line with what i had been seeing for many months prior. we took a leap of faith. we began a long and arduous hike down a path that seemed less traveled, but in reality has been around long before dewey and his philosophy of how to educate the masses. 

that 5 year old is now a boy of 13 years. i wish i could say d.i.y. education has been a jaunty jog down a moss lined path, but it hasn't. with every rotation of the sun, my firstborn has become increasingly more difficult to manage. i realize now that it was more to do with not getting the challenge he needed than from having a sour attitude {which he accomplishes well}.

recently he had a geography quiz on the 50 states for his tutorial. his tutor required him to freehand the u.s., labeling the capitals and peppering in the features and 32 major rivers. in his boyish way he waited til the day BEFORE the quiz to take the task seriously. so last week, as i walked through the dining room {his commandeered work space} i saw him practicing. pencil in hand. papers scattered. he was pouring over an atlas and my laptop and a map. it was a heavy task. but within a few hours {and much to my surprise} he sat with me and went through all the rivers and all the features and all the capitals with excitement. but then again he loves to learn. it is nothing for him to pick up a book on a particular subject and teach himself{a trait he inherited from his father}. his vocabulary on things science or math related prove that as i sit with mouth agape confessing, "i never taught him that." he is self motivated and let's face it, self taught on a lot of his subjects.  

we have stumble-tripped our way into what is now our 9th year of schooling at home, and in some ways it feels like we have only begun. this year our school year began without fanfare. no photographs on the front porch. no special breakfast. we just started. actually we kind of never stopped throughout the summer{damn math!}.we kind of sort of school year round{damn math!!!}.

so finally after finding a tutorial that agrees with him, my oldest is soaring. he found his match with 8th grade. this afternoon as i drove him home from a biology class, he held a petri dish of his mouth sample to observe the bacteria growth over a week*. i gloated, "boy, you are one lucky duck. that science class is amazing. i might not know how to pronounce 'protista', but i know where to find you someone who does." he beamed. "yep. thank you, mom." 
later as we were making dinner and finishing out our day, i nonchalantly asked, "how long do you want to be homeschooled?" he quickly articulated, "until college. i have no desire to go to public school." i offered, "there are other options besides homeschool and public school." he asked, "yeah, like what?" and i told him some other ideas i had percolating in my mind. he shrugged them off, seemingly content with life as he knows it. and i am fine with keeping him at home-i think.

now his younger brother, is a different story. more on him in a later post. speaking of his younger brother, these two continue to mend fences and throw stones, but in the end i know that homeschooling has afforded us what we love-community and freedom to teach, learn and live the way we wish for as long as we can.

whatever we decide for the future, i know that my time with THIS child, my firstborn, has been well spent and the hardest sacrifice i have ever made. there were days when i longed deeply to go to lunch with a friend {and sometimes did-oopsie} or have a career that carried me out of the house. but the lasting thought that stuck with me, that stills sticks with me is: on my death bed i will never wish i had spent less time with my kids. they may wish i had, but i won't and well, that's the best i can do. and hey, i have learned a lot. just ask me about the fertile crescent. seriously, go ahead and ask me...


*he compared his mouth to that of our dog's. anyone who says a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's has never watched the bacteria grow in a petri dish. no more kisses, Kip. sorry, buddy. 

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