Monday, March 31, 2008

Life Before Homeschooling

Dana over at Principled Discovery is hosting "Home Education Week", with a different topic to blog about each day. The first topic is "Looking Back", or Life Before Homeschooling! Since this is our 14th year as a homeschooling family, I have to look WAY back...

My parents were both public school teachers, and I thought I would become a teacher as well. But although I took quite a few education courses along with my Studio Art major at Smith College, I never did the student teaching required to become certified.
The summer following my graduation from college, I married my high school sweetheart and we moved from MA to Atlanta, GA, where Mark earned his masters degree in engineering from Georgia Tech and I worked part-time in the Publicity Office at the High Museum of Art. The following year we moved to Boca Raton, FL, where Mark went to work for IBM. I worked at a day care center and also took a couple more education courses at Florida Atlantic University, but when our first child came along, I knew I wanted to be home full-time.

I loved being a stay-at-home mom, and two more children followed pretty quickly. I became a Tupperware demonstrator and enjoyed the occasional interaction with grown ups and the chance to get out and make a little bit of money. I sang in the church choir and went to aerobic dance classes. During this time, when my kids were babies, I read my first book on homeschooling, which I just happened to come upon while browsing the shelves of a tiny branch of the county public library. The book was called "Better Than School", by Nancy Wallace. This was probably 1987 or 1988, and homeschooling was still pretty unknown back then. I had always been interested in children and education, and was fascinated by what I read, and a seed was planted that would continue to grow and develop over the next several years.

A job transfer took us from FL to MN, and it was time for my oldest to start Kindergarten. The school system in Rochester, MN was well-regarded, and kindergarten was only half-day, so we bought the necessary school supplies and new school clothes and confidently sent Alex off on the big yellow school bus from our little country cul-de-sac to the small elementary school a couple of miles down the road. School went fine - his teachers were very nice, he made friends and liked school... most of the time. I tried to be involved in his school, but I had a preschooler and a toddler at home, and I also took care of a neighbor's baby while she worked. And I occasionally thought about homeschooling. I remember hearing a radio broadcast on Focus on the Family which featured Dr. Raymond Moore, and I found a couple of his books in the library. I also read "Homeschooling for Excellence" by David and Mikki Colfax. These books again grabbed my imagination and altered the way I thought about school and true education. But I didn't know anyone who homeschooled in MN, and my husband thought the idea was "way out there"! So Alex went on to 1st grade and 2nd grade.

I became pregnant with our 4th child and my husband found out his job was being eliminated, so he found a new position with IBM in Raleigh, NC. We moved just in time for Alex to start 3rd grade and Sarah to start Kindergarten. I also had a 4 yr old and a newborn at home, and life was busy. We went to the library for story hours and I joined a women's weekly Bible Study. But I also met a homeschooling family at our new church who had 4 kids close to the ages of my own. We became good friends, and suddenly homeschooling seemed "do-able" for me. There seemed to be many more homeschoolers here than there had been where we lived before. I visited my friend's support group and asked tons of questions, and I convinced my still skeptical husband that we should go to the state homeschool conference and see what it was all about. Around this same time we also had a meeting with the 3rd grade teacher and a couple of other "specialists" from the school who were concerned that our son wasn't learning at the right speed - he was average in some areas, way ahead in others, and a little behind in another. This seemed to be the cause of some major concern. My husband now looked at me and said, "We can try it for a year".

That was 14 years ago; since that time we have added a 5th child to the family; I've read dozens more books about homeschooling and attended numerous conferences; we've tried and enjoyed a number of different curriculums and tried and discontinued using several others, I helped start a local homeschool support group that has grown from 17 familes to over 250 families, helped found a homeschool band, and become very involved in homeschool sports teams; we have graduated 2 from our homeschool and God willing will graduate our 3rd in June. Homeschooling has become a family lifestyle that is constantly evolving, always challenging, and ultimately an enormous blessing.


GrammaJelly said...

This has been a wonderful journey, one that I have enjoyed following throughout these 14 years. You know that dad and I are (and have been) very proud of you and Mark for following your heart, and I'm constantly bragging about 'homeschooling' to anyone who will listen. Defending (as you do, too)homeschooling to all who fret over socialization is easy with your wonderful yearbook. As I've frequently said to you..."Keep up the good work"! Lots of love from your mom and dad

Shaw6pak said...

I am thankful for your journey for selfish reasons. I am learned so much from you. Thanks for letting me pick your brain: past,present & future. But most of all, thanks for leading by such a great example. I am so glad that we are friends.~~~Kristi

Creech Family said...

Funny, I knew about your stay-at-home, tupperware and when/why you started hs'ing but lots in there I didn't know (Atlanta High Museum has been majorly funded by John and Sue Wieland for the last 15 years - small world!!) I am so very, very glad that not only did you bless your family by homeschooling but have blessed so many of us over and over again by sharing your wisdom and experiences and ups and downs. What a blessing you are to so many of us and I agree with Laura - thanks for the example and the friendship! (I just wish we were still close in miles!)