Monday, February 23, 2009

Family Culture and Education

Now that Anna's about six months away from starting kindergarten, I'm getting asked what we'll be doing for her schooling. I've shared on here before that we've decided to homeschool but I don't believe I've broached the "why."

When I mention to someone that we're planning on teaching our children at home, I'm quick to share that it has nothing to do with the public school system (of which Kevin and I are both products). Really. I'd have no qualms sending my children to learn at our neighborhood school. I'm not afraid of them occasionally being exposed to ideas that may be different from ours. In my opinion that's actually a POSITIVE thing--they'll need to love and live with varying types of people throughout their lives, and what better time for them to first experience this than while living under our roof? (Basically in all things I refuse to buy into the Religious Right's scare tactics. And now I'm stepping away from the soapbox...before I get on and can't get off.)

So why homeschool? I've had a hard time fully articulating my thoughts on this but an amazing woman who always inspires me, Lisa, blogged recently about how every family has a "culture", a way of life that is unique to their family. This really put into words some things I'd been thinking about. What kind of relationships and life do we hope to foster in our family and what is the best way for our family to achieve that? We have four children within three years of each other. They are each other's primary playmates and best friends. Our older kids adore their younger sister and she spends her days keeping up with them. It's priceless. No they don't always get along perfectly, but God has really knit their hearts together. Our days are spent pretty simply, just living life together. I love it (most days anyway!)

Public school, for us, would introduce a pretty different lifestyle--getting all four kids out of the house by 8 a.m., spending time in the car for pickups and dropoffs and extra-curricular activities. The kids would be apart a lot more, segregated by age, and family life would look really different. Not bad, just different.

Homeschooling seems like a really great fit for us. I LOVE the idea of learning along with my kids, reading great "living" books together (aka literature and original sources as opposed to textbooks), and just having a really natural approach to education.

Something I'm REALLY excited about is a program Anna will be attending. It's fully funded through the public school system, but it's an enrichment-type program for homeschooled kids. One full-day per week she'll GO to school--kindergarten will be a self-contained kindergarten class, but starting in 1st grade they get to choose from different electives. This school offers a ton of fine arts that I am SO excited about! My kids would have the opportunity to do dance, piano, violin, choir, it's awesome! Plus they'll still get to have that time away from me, doing their own thing, making friends, learning to respect non-parental authority, etc., and I think there's great value to that.

I have no clue what the future holds for us, how long we'll homeschool, or what next year will look like. But I do think this is the path God has us on for now. I'd long worried that if we homeschooled, my kids would be isolated from friendships, and that they wouldn't be exposed to diversity in any way (part of why we value living in a city). But over the past several months God has blessed us with many dear friends with Ethiopian children that we see very regularly. I never dared imagine my sons getting to grow up with so many kids that share their background--but they are. (There were, including my boys, 10 Ethiopian children at our house the other night.) Crazy thing is I'm not just friends with these people because we all have adopted kids--that may be how we met but these are really amazing people that I feel so blessed to know and I can't wait to get to know them better. Also amazing is that three of these Ethiopian children attend our church, and we adore their families! (Our church also has families with children from Korea, Guatemala, China, it's pretty cool.) And some of our Ethiopian friends go to the homeschool enrichment program our kids will be going to!!!

All of that to say I feel like the Lord has really affirmed our desire to do this. I used to want to homeschool, then I got scared off by the stereotypes (I guess I'm weird like that) and was concerned about my sons never knowing anyone else with brown skin (HUGE value for us), but we already feel blessed beyond measure by the people in our kids' lives and God just seems to have removed all the barriers I saw to homeschooling. I can't wait to start and there is just something really magical about witnessing your child learning to read or mastering a skill. I can't wait to see how our family culture plays out and the benefits that will come from homeschooling.

So that's where we're at, for now. There ARE some other reasons I'm wanting to homeschool but this post is already ridiculously long as it is, so maybe I'll save that for another post. (And I do reserve the right to fail miserably at--or just plain dislike--homeschooling and enroll my kids in public school at any time. Just so we're clear.)


Eos said...

I homeschooled for only one year (3rd gd) and loved it...I loved learning along with my daughter (interesting how much you forget!LOL), shaping our own schedule, directing what I thought was important for us to focus on, etc. If she were willing I'd do it again in a heartbeat but she prefers school. I too don't have any issues w/ public schools (my own experience wasn't bad) but homeschooling gave us such wonderful flexibility (we were traveling so we needed that flexibility) that I still miss being able to do just 2-3 hours of schoolwork and have the rest of the day for fun things. I think you'll love it.

joy said...

hey, brianna, i'm going to order some long denim skirts--do you want me to get one for you, too? ;)
i think it's amazing to have our kids together so much more than they would be otherwise. and it's so sweet because on eli's school days, the boys usually play extra well together because they have missed each other. sounds like a great program in your area and it is exciting to be so involved in your children's learning. i'm excited for you and your family and i echo your disclaimers at the end of your post.

Brianna Heldt said...

eos i think it's so great that you're allowing your daughter to pursue the type of education she wants!!! that is so neat.

joy, YES, pleeaaaaase make an order for me. maybe we can get a discount if we buy a whole bunch? :) how neat to hear how well it's playing out with your kids. who are adorable by the way. miss you guys!

Mike and Rachel said...

The two things I am not looking forward to with the start of school are segregation by age, and a long day plus homework. Our elementary starts a little after 9am and gets out just after 4pm. Blech!

Brianna Heldt said...

rachel i know, the long school day is one of those other reasons i want to homeschool. and the homework, i've heard even the little kids have a lot now but maybe it won't be so bad? you probably already know a lot about it from your teaching days! (and i suppose it's really just a result of what the state mandates, no child left behind etc.?)

Shana said...

This one-day-a-week thing sounds interesting. Do you know if it is unique to your area, or if something like it exists in other areas? I would be interested in finding out if our area offers anything similar. I am still in the process of figuring out what to do with Emma this fall, but homeschooling is definitely on the table. (I was home schooled from 2nd - 9th grade, btw.)

Mike and Rachel said...

Yeah, the state, or maybe district, mandates homework, even though there is no evidence that homework improves learning. There is usually reading (always good) and then a few worksheets designed to take anywhere form 20-40 minutes depending on grade level.

Parents LOVE homework. I always had parents asking for more and more. I would politely say that I was not going to assign "busy work" and give a few ways that they could enrich their child's learning experience without writing their spelling words 5 times each. I understand the importance of teaching discipline through homework, I just don't want to deal with oodles of homework after dinner when we want to have family time.

That being said, I am really looking forward to being a room mom, subbing a few days a week, and getting my hair cut whenever I want.

Brianna Heldt said...

shana it's not a nationwide program or anything, it's through a local school district. maybe a district in your area has something similar?

rachel that's funny that parents love homework! i would not be one of those--i didn't like it when i was in school either! :)

being a room mom would rock, but having three other kids, i wouldn't be able to volunteer in anna's class at all, and that is just sad. which is part of what i realized, that i WOULDN'T be able to be super involved at her school b/c siblings can't come when you volunteer in the classroom.

Angela said...

better order me some skirts, too! could you make mine jumpers? ha! ;)
is the nose ring the new jumper, cause i WANT one of those! ;)

brianna, we are so alike in so many ways...including the disclaimer at the end!

we are looking forward to seeing you every week next year! yay! ry can't wait for 'kindergarten'! so fun that he and anna will be together! are the twins the next year, then? with addie?

Brianna Heldt said...

yep, yosef and biniam would be the next year (they BARELY miss the cutoff for this year actually.) yayy!!!

i was just talking to kevin again about noserings on saturday night. i still want one too. i'm tellin' ya, one of these days you and i may just need to take the plunge...

Hauswife said...

Good for you! It fits our family culture as well, and I wouldn't trade it for the world!

By the way, I just found out that an old friend from Westmont days, Jeff Wright, is a new friend of yours! Small world.

Brianna Heldt said...

lauri i know! we met jeff when we first started going to our church--actually, i think we met him when we were out here visiting the august before we moved. he and brenda and their kids are great! (he also knows kevin's cousin who also went to westmont...did you know tanya sandwisch?)

darci said...

teehee, i laughed at your last few lines on your post..that's my motto! i didn't read all your comments..crying baby, but i hope you enjoy it. you might like the book "educating the wholehearted child' by clay and sally clarkson. it has been my handbook, and i noticed you are excited about learning from living books, which they are proponents of, for sure. all the best. darci


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