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To Homeschool, or Not to Homeschool: That Is The Question (Pt. 2)

November 16, 2010 25 comments

After our initial discussions on homeschooling (click here if you missed it), my wife and I tried to talk about other things but we’d always end up talking about if/how our feelings were changing, new research we found, or anecdotes we’d heard about homeschooling. Our discussions often played out like a game of He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, where one of us would bring up a point in favor of homeschooling followed by a similar point against homeschooling. These are some of the things we came up with in support of homeschooling.

Why We Should Homeschool

1. Kids These Days

Remember Whitney Houston when she was awesome?

The 3 kids who could actually sing, sang this song while the rest of us stood around picking our noses our class sang this song for our 6th grade graduation. Perhaps the parents in the uncomfortable seats of our multipurpose room felt the same way that day as I do today: if these children are our future, we’re screwed.

Shortly after D1 was born in 2008, I found this article: A Nation of Wimps and I also read a book with the same title. The book was just ok, often given to hyperbole, but the article brought up a point that my wife experienced firsthand as a high school teacher.

Talk to a college president or administrator and you’re almost certainly bound to hear tales of the parents who call at 2 a.m. to protest Branden’s C in economics because it’s going to damage his shot at grad school.

My wife began her career as a high school teacher in 2004, and every year, she had at least one hyper parent who constantly advocated for their child. For example, one particular parent scolded my wife saying, “You’re ruining his chances of getting into college!” To which she replied, “Your son ruined his chances by skipping my class repeatedly. And besides, a ‘B’ in Algebra isn’t going to ruin him.”

Another point in the article I also witnessed.

In the hothouse that child raising has become, play is all but dead. Over 40,000 U.S. schools no longer have recess. And what play there is has been corrupted. The organized sports  many kids participate in are managed by adults; difficulties that arise are not worked out by kids but adjudicated by adult referees.

I went to a kid’s soccer game once and the behavior was appalling. “RUN! KICK THE BALL! RUN! NO! THE OTHER WAY!!! STOP PICKING THOSE FLOWERS!!! STOP PICKING YOUR NOSE!!!” Instructions were yelled out constantly and when one kid accidentally knocked another kid down, the parents went at it, while the kids just stood idly by.

These two examples have more to do with particular parents more so than the public school system, but you don’t have to search too far to find a parent who wants to shelter their children from any pain or hardship, e.g.,  parents who have their kids wait with them in their cars for the bus, or wheeled backpacks to prevent back problems, or a bottle of Purell attached to those backpacks.

And my wife and I were able to see products of that parenting climate firsthand when we led the college group at our church. Increasingly, we found the students unable to make even minor decisions without some sort of guidance. We found students who were deathly afraid to make mistakes, and risk-adverse. And yet, many of them had a sense of entitlement though they themselves haven’t sacrificed much, if anything at all.

So if these fragile, entitled kids are our future? We’re screwed. Thankfully, through this here daddy blog, I’ve met some pretty incredible moms and dads so all hope is certainly not lost. But schools are still filled with a lot of bratty kids and parents could have undue influence on the staff. Do I want to shelter my kids from that? Yes, but no more than those same parents who would criticize us want to shelter their kids from pain or failure.

2. My Wife is a Teacher

My wife began her teaching career shortly after we were engaged in July of 2004. That first year was terrible. She often worked from 6am to 1am trying to get everything done – she knew all the custodians by name as they had to unlock the doors to let her our. I often delivered her dinner and had to force her to eat as she often neglected to eat. As if the first year of teaching weren’t demanding enough, I got sick and spent two weeks in Johns Hopkins for surgery.

The next year, things got marginally better. She only worked from 6am to 7pm and she actually had time to eat lunch. Now in her 7th year, she’s a pro.

Since my wife has that background and went through those difficulties, lesson-planning and instruction aren’t very daunting to her. And remember, she’s cheesy wonderful, so she’s excited about teaching the kids how to garden and take care of the earth, planning trips to museums and other countries, etc…

One of the biggest struggles she had as a teacher was dealing with parents. If we homeschool, she only has one parent to deal with, and trust me when I say that she knows how to deal with me this parent very well. A little too well for my taste, actually.

3. Flexibility

My wife has these grand plans to travel the world with our family. She’s low-maintenance frugal and would rather spend money on experiences than stuff (I am blessed beyond measure. For serious). We also love visiting some friends we’ve met in Chiang Rai, Thailand and plan on taking our kids with us on family missions trips. And homeschooling gives us the flexibility to do that.

4. Curriculum

Along with parents, one of the frustrations my wife has with public schools is the increased focus on standardized testing . Combined with discipline issues, preparing for standardized tests takes up much of her time as a teacher, which leaves very little time to inspire students to love what they are learning.

In our research thus far, we like that we can craft the curriculum as we see fit. Our curriculum will be based on what our kids are interested in supplemented with things they need to know for college entry rather than our kids having to meet certain performance criteria mandated by the state.

So these were the four Pros to homeschooling that dominated our early conversations. Next time, I’ll discuss the Cons we came up with, but for now, are there any other Pros to homeschooling that you have experienced/witnessed that I haven’t mentioned?

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To Homeschool, or Not to Homeschool: That Is The Question

November 9, 2010 33 comments

First off, thank you to all my readers who left a comment on my first homeschooling post – the thoughtfulness of your comments blew my wife and me away. Definitely lots of food for thought there. Thank you.

Ok, so everyone and their mom has probably used or modified Shakespeare’s To Be or Not to Be as a post title, and homeschooling isn’t a matter of life and death, but for me homeschooling is similar to Hamlet’s musing. He sees pain in life as being inevitable, just as I see pain in public school as inevitable, and often a positive thing that can build character; and he compares it with the fear of uncertainty in death, just as I fear the uncertainty of what the long-term effects of homeschooling will be.

So how did two products of the public school system come to a point of considering homeschooling their kids? A confluence of factors actually. First, my wife is a rather cheesy awesome person. One thing that has remained constant through 2.5 years of dating, 1/2 year of being engaged, and 5+ years of marriage is that she is always thinking of cute trips and excursions she can take with me, and now our family. Just before we got married, she bought Rails-Trails and several other books with date ideas. My date ideas usually involve us consuming massive calories followed by calorie burning activities afterward (get your mind out of the gutter); her idea of a fun date is visiting some cheesy cute, often educational place. She absolutely adores the Washington Post’s Weekend section, and has been compiling a list of dates and/or excursions she’d like to take.

Second, something changed in my wife when we had D1 and even more when we had D2. My Mother-in-law is a go-getter. Despite being an immigrant with two kids at home and language barriers, she worked her way up the corporate ladder and continues to climb today. So naturally, my wife is the same way.

On her old webpage that was hosted by UMCP, this was her list of “Boos” on her bio:

  • Celery
  • Rude, inconsiderate, egotistical, or disrespectful people
  • People who don’t believe in women in science
  • Polluters
  • The way women are sometimes portrayed in society
  • How kids these days grow up too fast

Yup. That’s how much she hates celery. She was a mechanical engineering major and she did really well. Toward the end of her college career, she felt God calling her to be a teacher and to make a difference in high school student’s lives, so she became a math teacher. Despite consistent success in the classroom and accolades from her department chair and principal, she always wondered if she made the right choice by giving up a career in the corporate world.

Yet, when D1 was born, her career started to seem less important, and she often lamented having to go to work and miss out on memories with the kids. I was the exact opposite. While I loved D1, work was often a welcome respite from nonstop daddy duties. We had numerous discussions of her being a SAHM, but we ultimately decided that when the kids go to school in 5 years or so, she’ll be on the same schedule with them so she would be able to spend all summer, winter break, and Jewish holidays with our kids.

The SAHM conversation reemerged after D2 was born.

Third, the parents and the kids she encountered were far different than when we were in school. My wife encountered many parents who insisted on their kids having cell phones and often did all the fighting for their kids. As a result, much of my wife’s time was spent on dealing with parents rather than teaching and inspiring students.

So those three factors led us to the point we were a few weeks ago, when we began discussing homeschooling. Neither of us knew very much and had biases against homeschooling. So she did what she knows to do: borrow books from the library. And I did what I know to do: turn to strangers who are not so strange on the internet.

At this point, this is how I would describe our views toward homeschooling:

Wife's View on Homeschooling

Pop's View on Homschooling

Would that change as we had further discussions and got more educated on the subject?

What about you? What are your views toward homeschooling? If you homeschool, what were your thoughts toward it initially? What about your spouse?

Be Cool, Stay in (Home) School

November 3, 2010 71 comments

If you grew up in the 80s/early 90s, you probably remember this PSA:

Despite the ads assertions, I stayed in school–up to my Master’s–and I was never really cool.

When I became a dad almost 3 years ago, we worried about a lot of things, but schooling wasn’t ever a consideration. We can’t really afford private school – while keeping all of our organs and/or blood, anyway. My wife and I are both products of the Maryland public school system and we turned out ok. Since we pay for public schools through our taxes anyway, you can bet my cheap Asian tendencies won’t let my good money go to waste. And that was it. I mean, we obviously weren’t going to homeschool.

Growing up in the DC area, I thought homeschooling was usually reserved for Christians who thumped the Bible and thumped it hard in the Mid-West. I think my wife mentioned it once or twice in passing and I was usually against it.

A few months ago, I noticed a book in our bathroom: What the Rest of Us Can Learn from Homeschooling. I didn’t think much of it – I mean, it’s not like the book was Homeschooling for Dummies or something. If it was, I would’ve likely reacted like a guy who found What to Expect When You’re Expecting in his gf’s bathroom.

A wiser man would’ve seen the book and, considering his wife has been wishing she could stay at home with the kids ever since D1 was born, thought, “Perhaps my wife is considering homeschooling. Maybe I should talk openly about this?” I’m not that man. Instead, I thought, “That’s cool. I guess she can apply those ideas after the kids get home from school.”

But the past few months, I’ve become more open to the idea of homeschooling our kids while considering several things. [steps onto soapbox] First, while I loved a good portion of my childhood, I didn’t enjoy the social pecking order, and while I was bullied and bullied others in turn, bullying in the internet age, and the long-term emotional damage it can cause, frightens me. Second, the way the education system seems to be going bothers me. While athletes get paid millions of dollars to play a game, teachers are paid relative chump change to manage overcrowded classrooms. And while taxpayers fund new stadiums because billionaire owners want to make more money through luxury boxes and other additions, states struggle to find money for new supplies or badly needed renovations. The disparity in spending for sports vs. education is appalling. Even in institutes of higher education, football and basketball coaches are often the highest paid employees on campus. So based on what we as a country are investing in, it seems entertainment is of far greater value than education. [steps off soapbox]

So a few weeks back, Helena over at Life in the Pitts had a post on homeschooling: Homeschooling: My side of the story. The post was so intriguing that I decided to ask my wife about homeschooling that night. And when I did? The floodgates opened.

She said, “Wow. I can’t believe we’re talking about this,” no less than 8 times that night. So Helena, my wife has never read your blog but she already loves you.

And for the past two weeks, homeschooling, along with our next (and hopefully final) home, have been the primary topics of conversation between us. Our homeschooling decision (read: single income), will affect the house that we buy, both in terms of the value of the home and the layout. And our homeschooling decision will obviously affect our kids. So there’s definitely been a lot of talking, praying, and fasting going on in our home.

I’m going to post more about this, especially my initial thoughts on homeschooling and chronicle how those thoughts develop and change throughout this journey, but I wanted to know what some of my readers thought, as well as those who may have been led here through a websearch, especially if you found me while searching for BBQ. After all, if we do homeschool, I plan on teaching several of the classes myself: Meat Appreciation, Know Your Cuts of Beef, The Art of Grilling, and BBQ Lab.

What do you think of homeschooling? Were you homeschooled? How’d that turn out? Know of people who homeschool? How are their kids turning out?

I’d love to hear from you.