Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We have decided

*The following contains a lot of words and no pictures : -) *

When Jeff and I first got married and before we had children, we talked a lot about how we wanted to raise our future family. One of the things we talked about was what form of education we were going to pursue. Were we going to homeschool, do public school or private?
Jeff and I were both public school kids and for the most part, our experiences were positive. Jeff was very successful in his academics and I in the athletics. So from those experiences, we never even thought twice about where our kids would attend school.
Well, over the past couple of years as our friends and family's children have started school and a vast majority were deciding to homeschool, Jeff and I started to talk more about it. Then, Joseph had his fifth birthday and we were like, "Holy cow, he starts school in six months, what are we going to do?" I never ever ever thought we would talk so much about this subject, pray about, read about, get advice about than we have these past couple of months. The thought of homeschool or public school has consumed our thoughts and prayers.
I first want to thank each and every single person that has prayed for us over this decision, who has mentored us, given us advice, and the homeschool moms that have allowed me into their homes to shadow them for a day of school. I can't thank you all enough!!!!
For us, this coming year, we are going to try public school. You may not really care much what I have to say past this point, because I am going to list a few things that we prayed, read, and felt why God is calling us to public school. It helped us significantly reading blogs that gave advice about either one, so I thought I would blog about our decision and who knows, some points (or maybe non of the points below) may help a family out in deciding what to choose for their family.
Before I begin, if I say "I" instead of "We," don't think that Jeff didn't have anything to do with this decision. He had a lot to do with this! For us, how we first approached this (when we started seriously considering homeschooling), Jeff told me that he wasn't going to tell me to homeschool. His reasons were because I was going to be doing the bulk of the teaching and he didn't want to put that burden on me. (That's why I love this man!). Jeff gave his take on homeschool and public school and then listened to my take on each one.
Also, this post is in no way, shape or form to bash other forms of education. If I say something that may offend you, just understand this.... that is not my hearts intent.
One of the first things we did, was we sat down and did a pros/cons list for homeschool and public. Now, we have nothing against private, but being a one income family, there was no way that was going to be a viable option of us.
Pros/Cons: This was a great way to dissect each choice and give us a better picture of what homeschool and public school may look like. When we were finished, we prayed over the list for Gods direction and wisdom.
Sought out Godly council, books and blogs: I feel like I became obsessed with this. Every where we went, the park, our walks around the neighborhood, etc, where ever it was, I just started asking parents of children that looked around Joseph's age, where their kids went to school and how they like it. I have recently met several neighbors whose children go to the school that Joseph will go to and I haven't heard one bad thing about it. They have all said the curriculum is wonderful and all the teachers they have encountered have been wonderful. Jeff and I prayed endlessly about this decision. We love our kids way too much to just throw them into something without going before the throne on their behalf. I had my friends at covenant group, our community groups, and my Wednesday bible study praying for us in this decision. One book that we read that really sealed our decision on public school was Going Public by David and Kelli Pritchard. I will mention this book a lot in this post, so brace yourself.
Why do I want to Homeschool? When we started throwing around the idea of homeschool and Jeff informed me that he wasn't going to tell me to homeschool, but would support me if that's what I felt like I was being called to do, I asked myself the question, "Why do I want to homeschool?" What it boiled down to was....fear. Since the second I found out that I was pregnant with Joseph, I immediately, as his mother, felt like a mama bear. My job from the second they are in my tummy, is to protect them and provide for them. The thought of my baby (yes, he will always be my baby), being picked on out school, hurt or made fun of just makes my stomach churn. There are a lot of horrible things in this life, but one thing that can really get a mama bear (I promise this is the last time I refer to myself as a mama bear) really angry is someone sinning against our child. Joseph being sinned against has happened quiet a few times and it hurts. So, I started thinking about him being at school, being sinned against and me, the mam....oops, I said I wouldn't say that again, being here, at home, not being able to protect him tempted me to worry. Then, God graciously stepped in, and I was reminded that I am not in control. I may feel like it when he is here, but I'm really not the one in control. I shared this point with my covenant group ladies, about being fearful, and I was sent this wonderful blog post. It was this one mother, in my situation, and she told another mom that she was fearful of sending her child into an environment she couldn't control. This amazing mother, who I would love to meet, said, "I don't believe in making decisions based on fear. Ever. If God isn't the author of fear, then when I listen to my fears I know I'm not listening to the voice of God." Whoa! How true is that statement? I then began to pray that fear, worry and anxiety about Joseph being in a different environment would be taken from my heart and mind. "Do not  call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy, do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread....I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him." Isiah 8:12-13, 17
Quality Time: This was something else I thought a lot about. Not getting to spend time with him. Seriously, it has been less than 7 times that Joseph has been without me for an entire day. I hated the idea of him being gone, what seems like, all day. The whole reason for me being home is to love on him, provide for him, and shepherd him. I then talked to a friend whose son is in public school, so I asked if she ever felt like she missed out on time with her son. She said, "No, because the time I have with him is more quality time." Then I started thinking, I am here with my boys from 6:30a-5:30p and the amount of time that I am actually playing with them isn't the entire day. I do my chores, they go to the Y child watch while I work out, they go to bible class on Wednesdays, so it isn't every single second of the day I am with them. One of the things Kelli Pritchard said in their book was that she would have everything done before she picked up the kids from school, so that way the time she had with them after school wasn't wasted on other things. Some people have argued that public school is super long and do we really want our child under someone else's care for that long of a period. The book that we read broke the times down between how much time is spent at school and how much is spent at home. The time at home was 3 times as much. (For the life of me, I can't find the page it was on). When you factor in the time before school, the time after school, weekends, holidays and summers, it far at weighs the 180 days they are in school.
Not wanting our child to become corrupt: This is something that I have heard as to why a lot of Christian families homeschool. They don't want their children to be led astray by "worldly" children or be corrupted by their classmates. I hate to say this, but we are equally corrupt. Sin is sin. It isn't going to be the teachers or my sons classmates that make him corrupt. Joseph, or all our boys for that matter, are corrupt because they were born human. I like how this one blog put it, "The kid that aces the SAT, is a basketball star, has perfect attendance, has memorized 400 Bible verses and never kissed a girl is equally corrupt as the kid that drops out, gets three girls pregnant and work's at Wendy's." We need to teach our children that "Salvation is from the Lord," (Jonah 2:9), not of the school, or of the parent. It's going to be our job, as their parents, to teach them to guard their hearts and to be prepared in and out of season from the first day of kindergarten.
Teachable Moments: For the longest time one of the things that has gotten me excited about our boys going to public school, is the teachable moments. Now, our intentions aren't to throw Joseph into the trenches and take the grenades, but take the moments that we are together and talk about what he is going through and learning and bring scripture to life. As much as we want our boys to be Godly influences in public school, our goal isn't to have our sons be preachers at 5 years of age. We simply want him to be "a good student, a good citizen, and a servant-leader-to model what Christianity actually is." The main job for Jeff and I is to do most of the talking with teachers, administrators, coaches, board members, other parents and even our children's classmates.
Best Advice: One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to take each child and each year at a time. This semester, we purchased a book titled, Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons. We try to do a lesson a day, but sometimes it doesn't work out a particular day, but doing these lessons, I really felt like God was showing me that Joseph and I aren't made for homeschool. What happens almost every day is we sit down to do a lesson and Joseph will make a mistake and when I correct him, he will just shut down. When I tell people I don't think I could homeschool my kids, I get these crazy, confused looks because I have a degree in Educationa and taught for a few years before staying home. What I tell them is that I am a totally different teacher than I am mother. As a teacher, I am more driven and straightforward. I don't do well with laziness, defeatous attitudes and I tend to get very firm when I am teaching. For Joseph, this really gets him upset. He is my pleaser by nature and when he gets an answer wrong, then I correct him, he generally will shut down. If I continue to show him how to do something or encourage him to try again, he thinks I am mad at him, then begins to cry, then he will just guess at answers to get the lesson over quickly. It can be pretty frustrating. All this got me thinking one day. I was never big into learning and my academics growing up, I was more the sporty girl. However, I loved to teach and it wasn't until I got to college and started my field base assignments/student teaching that I realized how much fun learning can be. I want our boys to realize that a lot sooner than I did and going through what we go through for a 20 minute reading lesson for an entire year would be no fun for Joseph or me. I know what a lot of you might say, "Oh, he'll get used to it." True, but I want him to enjoy learning from the very beginning and not in May when we are almost done.

"Change the filter now, rather than the entire engine later":  I thought this was an awesome quote from the book, Going Public. One of the reasons that we have always loved the idea of our kids attending public school is because we would rather teach and model for them how they are to act now, when they come home with stories from school or if they are struggling in an area, rather than have them here, homeschooled for the next 18 years and then they get their first dose of reality in college. We would rather deal with fall outs when they are 5, 10, 15, rather than when they are 18, on their own and away from home. "Lord, we pray for us all, catch us early in our sin.The sooner mistakes and deliberate wrongdoings come to light, the sooner we can confess, repent and rise above our weakness."

Tough Decision:  This decision process has been a very challenging one for Jeff and I. We really appreciate all the support and positive encouragement from the individuals that we have. We know that many of you may think that we are complete idiots for sending our innocent children into, what some may refer to as the 'pits of hell,' but for us and our family, this is what educating our child is going to look like for this coming school year. I stumbled across this quote right after we had declined two New Jersey job offers about two years ago. Just be thankful that I read this after we declined because I told Jeff, if I had read this before we declined, we might not still be here. I actually came across this quote on a blog that I read often and that mother used this quote for why she made the decision to homeschool. Isn't amazing that two people can look at the same quote and interpret it into two different ways?  Ms. Shirer says, “When you face two options and each seems to please God, consider the one that displays God’s glory, power and strength. This makes room for God to reveal Himself to you and show Himself through you. God wants us to see the wondrous things He will accomplish in us. Don’t be fearful about the hard road He may ask you to take. Be encouraged and excited about seeing His divine, supernatural activity in and through you. God’s voice commands the option that will display His power. He desires to show Himself strong in you and will encourage you to do things that require trust and faith.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-9: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." I know some homeschool families and books about homeschool use this verse as to why they homeschool and arguments as to why they think every believer should homeschool. I really took this verse to heart and read over it several times to see what I was missing. At first, I was thinking, "If we have our children attend public school, one of us will be there when they wake up and when they lie down. I will be taking them and picking them up from school, so we will have plenty of opportunities to talk about the gospel. What am I not seeing in this verse that  alot of other believers are?" I started to feel a little insecure in that maybe I wasn't listening or obeying God, that I wasn't that great of a mother because I didn't feel this strong pull towards homeschool. As I was typing this blog post, I went back to this scripture but this time, I read the commentary for this specific scripture. Here is what my commentary said for Deut. 6:7 "The Hebrews were extremely successful at making religion an integral part of  life. The reason for their success was that religious education was life-oriented, not information-oriented. They used the context of daily life to teach about God. The key to teaching your children to love God is stated simply and clearly in these verses. If you want your children to follow God, you must make God a part of your everyday experiences. You must teach your children diligently to see God in all aspects of life, not just those that are church related." 

We are very excited about what God has in store for our family and for Joseph as we begin a new phase. We are approaching public school with completely open hands and if we in any way feel like God is calling us to pull him out of public to homeschool, we are more than willing. We thank you again for all your prayers, words of wisdom, and guidance during this process.


Linda said...

I appreciate the process you went through to make the decision to send your son to public school. I never considered anything other than public school when my daughter started kindergarten. Half way through 1st grade I discovered that homeschooling was the only way for us. I probably agonized over my decision to pull her from public as much as you did to make the decision to go public. I had good support and good advice, including Welcome to Homeschooling Guide. Five years later we are still homeschooling, but the thing that is most important is that we have choices, whether that choice is homeschool, public school, or something different. Keep your options open, and your heart. Enjoy your choice until or unless you feel the need to change. Great post!

April said...

stopping by from Jenna's blog today. Loved reading through your hearts desires on this issue. My oldest is 2 but I'm already processing through whether public or homeschool will be our choice (I went to public school) You articulated your thoughts so well! Love that you're choosing to not parent out of fear, but rather in humble trusting of God.

Sandy said...

Stopping by from Jenna's blog today. That is a very well-written, comprehensive list of things to consider when making the choice for your child's schooling. What a lucky child to have parents who agonize so over making the right choice for him!