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2007 January 23 » Philoxenos

Philoxenos

So it looks like we’re going to homeschool

23rd January 2007

So it looks like we’re going to homeschool

Before I begin, be warned: this is a very long post.

I have never been opposed to homeschooling. Growing up in California, where apparently it is rather easy legally to homeschool, I was familiar with the concept of homeschooling, although I didn’t know a lot of homeschoolers myself until I got to high school. As I grew older and got into university and beyond, whenever I thought about it I was kind of like - yeah, whatever, but I don’t think it’s for me. After all, Christians need to be in the public school system too.

When I got married and my husband and I discussed education we talked about homeschooling and at that point both of us said that we would reserve a decision closer to the time it was necessary. At that point we didn’t have children.

When our first child was born I didn’t really think about what we’d do five years down the track, not realising that a decision would be made much sooner than that. When she was nearly one we needed me to go back to work for a short season, so we put her into a homebased day care. This just about killed me. It was a great environment, run by a woman in our church, but there were many times that I would cry on the way to work because I left part of my heart with her.

Fortunately we serve a God much bigger than we can comprehend and he had other plans. We found out I was pregnant just a few months after I started my new job and in some ways I was relieved because I pretty much hated my job and this way I would be able to stop working earlier as we both knew that I didn’t make enough money to warrant putting two children in daycare and we had both agreed from the outset that my returning to work was only a temporary thing.

We were able to pay off our debt before I finished work to have the baby (I believe Dave Ramsey calls it ‘gazelle intense’.) and I went on maternity leave, knowing full well that I never intended to return to work. Here in New Zealand we have a generous maternity leave allowance. If a woman has worked in a full time job for at least 12 months, she gets 12 months maternity leave, unpaid. I had only worked for ten months before having my baby, so I was only eligible for six months leave. But the government also pays $350 a week for 13 weeks (it’s now up to 14 weeks I believe), which I was eligible to receive. Although not as much as I received in salary, it certainly wasn’t anything to sneeze at!

But I digress…

During the beginning of my maternity leave, before the baby was born, I had the opportunity to develop a good relationship (which is now a fantastic relationship) with a woman from my church who was seriously considering homeschooling her oldest when he turned 5. As a result I started to learn more about homeschooling through her. The more I heard about it and thought about it on my own, I started to develop my own ideas about why I would or wouldn’t homeschool. It certainly wouldn’t be because the schools in our area aren’t good. They’re fantastic. But as I thought about it I realised that there are so many things that we want to teach our kids, particularly about God and the world and our place in it, and why should we be limited to just the few hours each day that they’re not in school?

At this point I started talking to my husband about it more seriously and he was definitely not opposed to the idea of homeschooling. In some ways he is incredibly enthusiastic and he said that he wants to be as involved as he possibly can. He’s such an avid learner himself that I know he will be a great teacher to our kids, even if we do send them to school.

About six months ago I realised that the decision to homeschool or not would need to be made sooner rather than later. Here in New Zealand we have a government funded preschool system, called kindergarten. It’s available from three years old, a few days a week. When a child turns four it is increased to every day, in most areas. Back in March 2006 I had put our oldest on the waiting list for the kindergarten closest to our house, knowing that she wouldn’t be starting until 2007. As the end of 2006 approached I started thinking more about it. I realised that some of the reasons for choosing to homeschool during elementary years still apply to the preschool years. Don’t I know my child the best? Would she really thrive among a group of 45 other kids, with only three teachers? What about nap time???

My husband and I discussed it extensively and I talked it over with my friend who is homeschooling (2006 was her first year) as well as other mums that send their kids to kindergarten. The new year rolled around and we still hadn’t made a decision.

Last Sunday we went for a walk as a family and I told my husband that we needed to make a decision about kindy. So, being the analytical, thoughtful person that he is, he said okay, what are the pros:

  • interaction with lots of other kids,
  • opportunity for us to meet new people that aren’t Christians,
  • a variety of activities.

Cons:

  • the schedule really doesn’t fit our family. This is a big one. She would need to be there at 12:45 and get picked up at 3:15. This means I would have to keep the toddler awake until after we got home, which is passed her nap time. Then I’d have to wake her up again to go pick up the 3yo. And of course the baby will probably have his sleep interrupted each time. And the 3yo still has a sleep/quiet time every afternoon during this time.

Although there is only one con, that I can remember, it was a huge one. As we discussed it more, talking about homeschooling and philosophy, etc, we realised that keeping her at home for now is the best decision. With our intention to move to the States this year we have the opportunity to offer her a bit of continuity in what could be a very stressful time for her. We had both prayed about it and believed that this is what we needed to do for our family at this time.

So… I told my husband that if we’re going to keep her at home, I needed some serious help to get myself sorted out and organised enough to be able to spend time with our oldest doing ‘preschool’ things, as well as time with the other kids, and get some housework done. I’m not a housework Nazi or anything, so I don’t spend heaps of time on this anyway. And of course she and I already do things like colour together, read a bazillion books out loud, bake together, go to the park, etc. We sat down that night and worked out a routine for our family that we’ve followed for two days now :) It works! Knowing that I’ve got a space in the day to do things like dinner prep, vacuuming, etc, means that I feel the freedom to sit down and cut and glue or whatever.
As I’ve done research and reading about homeschooling the last year, the overwhelming theme is that there are a million and one ways to do homeschool. And that, fortunately, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Although I do love to buy school supplies, it’s not necessary to be a good teacher.

So… we’re going to start homeschooling. Some would say that we’ve been homeschooling from birth and I would tend to agree. In some ways I think she’s schooling herself, as evidenced by her shouting earlier from her bed “What does DOOR start with?”

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