Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asking myself "Why?"

I've been reading a lot of homeschooling articles for encouragement. It really does help! You can imagine that someone like me (who struggles so much with consistency) would be FREAKING out right about now when I get closer and closer to really needing to buckle down and do school with Lily. I've got the reading program already, it looks fabulous the more I figure out how to teach it, and we've gone through the first book already. Lily is really excited to continue on and be able to read!
(The picture below is what she made the other day of a "sick snowman" .. she covered him in penned spots and he needed the scarves because he was cold and sick.) ;]
As I was reading the articles a bunch though, I noticed how some said that they felt called by God to homeschool their kids and others spoke of the benefits of homeschooling in a christian environment at home rather than the evil world. I don't necessarily disagree with those articles, but as I got to thinking about why I want to homeschool my own kids I thought about a few things. First.. I'm a second generation homeschooler. That is.. I was homeschooled all my life growing up and am now homeschooling my own kids. My Mom was one of the "pioneer homeschoolers" back in the day when it was pretty weird to do so.

I remember my dad having a talk with me when I was young.. 12 maybe? .. about how they had taken ideas from their parents and did some things the same way and some things differently. He told me that when I was grown up and had kids I'd look back at what they did and see what was good and what wasn't and improve on what they did. I noticed the other day that while I consciously thought of the things I wanted to change and improve I don't as often think about the things they did right because I naturally copy those things.
Lily is VERY creative and never seems to have enough projects to do! She has quite a long attention span for a 5 1/4 year old as well (the picture above is how she made a space ship from a part of a toy and a cut straw pushed onto it's ends) She's very much like I was/am with her appetite to make things and be creative. She also loves puzzles and I've noticed how I teach the girls how to put puzzles together and how I help them is just like how my Mom did it with me. Allowing me to find things on my own (not doing it for me) and giving me the tools or advice to discover and figure things out on my own.

My mom did a great job with those things, but why do I want to homeschool? I kept going over the reasons of "why?" I mean the BIG reason.. not just the tiny things that I like, though those are many. My experience wasn't "perfect".. but does it have to be? I realize now why we changed curricula every year till I was probably 13 at least. I think we mom's are really worried about doing the best we can for our kids (which is a good thing of course!) And I've had the HARDEST time choosing between curriculum. Even when I think I've chosen, I constantly keep second guessing.

I think the main reason why I want to go with Sonlight is because of how great my own mom was at reading out loud to us. I remember how I wasn't very good at reading out loud (not very smoothly or conversationally) when I was about 14 and wanted to be able to read out loud like my mom. So.. I practiced diligently for a while on my own (by reading Pilgram's Progress out loud to myself!) I love reading to my girls and they seem to enjoy it too! I love doing sound effects and voices too sometimes. :}
Right, so, I've picked out what curricula to go with. Youssef is all for it too since he loves the literature base that it has and "real books" sound great. Do I believe that homeschooling is innately better than other ways to school children though? Is that way we are doing this? I thought a lot about it and I can't say that I think homeschooling is better in itself from other ways to be educated. Really, I don't think it's for everyone and no matter how you choose to school your kids being involved is really important. Obviously, you can be distant from your kids if they are in a public school, but you could also become distant from them and neglect them even when they are homeschooled even when you have more opportunity to be with them and teach them. So, it's really more in our parenting and relationship with our kids than in a certain method or "rule" or world view that will raise them well. Whether it's private school, public school, homeschool, or then which curriculum to go with if you choose to homeschool, the thing is, you can pick the BEST place or method or curricula EVER and still not be the best parent to them.

So, again.. why? It's not because I think it's just automatically a superior way to go (as I've heard other homeschoolers say)... it's because even though I can see holes in my own education the benefits of being taught by my mom were invaluable. I didn't see it all at the time of course, but my older brother and I always got along pretty well even though we are so different (for one thing) I have great memories of us making forts together outside in the afternoons. Honestly, I don't remember a whole lot about what we did in school... I learned how to read.. I know that. ;] My grammar and spelling aren't so great (though my husband "the language buff" has helped me a lot just by example and gentle tutoring.) I know I read a giant history book, but I didn't retain any of the information... Which war goes to what date? I have no idea. I thought world history was more interesting than American history, but I can't tell you much about that either.
It always amazes me how my husband can rattle off some historical fact and the names and dates of dictators and so forth (he went to a public school, but is smarter than the average bear anyway.) Okay, so does my lack of "school knowledge" mean that my education was a failure?

What is more important though? Being able to remember the dates of the civil war or getting along well with my family? Which has served me better in life?

My skills are very much in art and music and I don't find it difficult to teach myself something (if I really want to learn it...) My older brother taught himself how to fix his car and fix other stuff by getting books from the library and figuring it out! That's how I taught myself the harp and knitting and other things. Neither of us look "lacking" by any means as adults. And while any sort of schooling can fail at helping a child retain the facts and dates of history (for instance), homeschooling gave my brother and myself the opportunity to learn how to learn. It gave us the time to develop our interests and work on our natural skills. I remember my older brother making paper airplanes of all kinds when we were around 7 or 8 and now he actually works on real planes!

My mom was always there for us to be a listening ear (well, I don't know if she was actually paying attention to me totally, but she at least pretended to, so it worked!) She didn't criticize the projects that we worked so hard on and gave us some solid Biblical truth. While I don't remember much from my science book, I still have the Bible songs and verses stashed in my memory (that have come out now and then to encourage me many times.)

These musings are all a bit rambly... right.. so what is the answer I came up with?

-- What I truly want is to be WITH my kids. I want to homeschool them because I want to be apart of their lives. I also want to give them the opportunity to develop their interests and truly be prepared for life as an adult. I want to share the learning and growing WITH them as well!

Homeschooling is a lifestyle. And.. honestly, it freaks me out to have all this responsibility.. but I'd have it anyway wouldn't I? Because, it's called "parenting." It just feels more vital in a homeschool lifestyle to do the best job as a parent as I can. With them always being home they will see my life and where I fail. Teaching them to make their beds each morning or clean up after themselves is torture for ME because I have to be even MORE consistent than I would for myself, but it's valuable for them as well as me. It's growing together, and while I know I will fail in my parenting in many ways. Isn't that better than not to have tried my best and going the direction that I know we need to go? The homeschooling path isn't for everyone, but I feel (when my kids are young) that if I sent them to a school I would be letting someone else do my job of parenting my children.

Fortunately, God's strength is made perfect in our weakness, and none of this is about ME being perfect or choosing the "right" way to school my kids or the "perfect" curricula for them. It seems to ALWAYS go back to this truth. From the struggle of doing the dishes to parenting to everything else in my life, it's not about me doing anything correctly... it's about not being enough and Jesus being enough through me. It's about His grace in my life giving me the ability to do what I can't do on my own.

As I look at the teachers manual for Lily's reading program and start to feel overwhelmed, I need to remember where my strength comes from and just do that first days work with her... I don't have to worry about the last lesson, or even next weeks school work. No, just today's and dive in. Taking that step of faith in believing that God will give me the strength to get to the end. Even when I don't feel like I have that amount of strength today... but.. I don't have to worry about tomorrow, do I...

I guess the main thing that I'm thinking of right now is just what God has been impressing on me lately. It's not about the "best" method of schooling or the "best" parenting techniques or rules or anything of that sort. It's being WITH my kids! I don't just mean physically.. because I'm physically with them all the time. But... available and paying attention to them right away. Choosing to homeschool doesn't necessarily make me do that though.

You can make up rules and force your kids to obey (when they're young.. theoretically) ;] BUT you can't change their hearts.. you can't MAKE them love you or do what is right when they are grown up.

You could make up a rule about not watching TV (for instance) but that doesn't necessarily mean that your family will do more together and love each other more deeply.

Last night, right after Youssef brought the girls in from swimming in the pool here at our apartment complex, we did a "movie night" and watched "the Princess Bride" projected on the wall while eating dinner. It was a fun time together of talking to the girls and enjoying each other. Someone could make me feel guilty or make me feel like a bad parent because I let my kids watch cartoons and movies .. "is the TV a babysitter?" "Don't you think they watch too much?" Perhaps they do watch more than they should, but is the answer to ban the TV? Should we create more laws to follow or better punishments to implement? That might MAKE them obey, but as I said before.. the laws won't change their hearts. The LAWS won't bring us closer as a family. Contracts don't improve relationships. Those things only control behavior, and my goal for my own life and my childrens is to know God. It is NOT to be good pharisees and law keepers.

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments..." It starts with the relationship and THEN obedience happens. Keeping laws does not grow love.. but loving someone makes us want to obey them. Later in John He says "A new commandment I give to you, to love one another as I have loved you." He gave his life for us, so are we to give our lives to our children??? ... Yes.

That is what I've been struggling with. I don't feel like God is calling me to just homeschool or to make up a better way to discipline my children... I feel like He is impressing on me the need to give my life to my children. The every-day all-the-time of my life. Somehow that doesn't jive with being on Facebook overly much and spending tons of time on my own projects. It doesn't fit with putting the house work or organizing as the first priority. To continually tell them to "wait" for something that they ask for just because I don't want to stop what I'm doing. Deciding to homeschool won't automatically teach me to be unselfish. Picking the best curricula won't be the means to give my children the "perfect" education. Choosing to have or not have a TV won't automatically bring us closer as a family or protect our children from the world.

So, rather than spend more time looking for the better thing or the "trick" in raising and teaching my children I need to just focus on them. No matter what method of schooling or parenting I decide on, developing a relationship with them is the point - loving them, spending time with them, listening, and being available to them.

And now, as I reach the end of this... is it more important for me to read this whole blog post and re-write it to improve it? Or should I just finish so I can help my girls with their projects?

... I'm going to choose the later.

1 comment:

jeremy and lenore diviney said...

I like this post very much. =)