If you have followed this blog for long, you will know how much we have struggled with the educational choices we have made regarding our boys' schooling.
As always, there is so very much to say on this subject I never know how to get it all into one post.
With that in mind, I would like to share an email I got this week.
Stephanie writes this...
I am sure you get tons of emails everyday, but I just wanted to tell you I stumbled across your blog the other day and am so amazed by it. I want to be you! (Ha!..... don't worry, I'm not crazy!). I love how you are so honest and so creative. I did want to ask you about your boys and school. I read your posts about public school and home school, but I didn't find a conclusion to the Part II. Are your boys in 2nd grade at public school? We live in TX and only have full day kindy. My oldest daughter started this year. I NEVER thought I would do home schooling. But now I am seeing a whole new world. My daughter is so sweet and smart and just going thru the public school system is really freaking me out. My good friend has her girls in Waldorf school and it sounds amazing. But, even if we had that available here, I couldn't afford it. I was hoping to find some way to combine homeschool, Waldorf philosophy and public school. That is why I was so excited to find you! I can't wait to check out some of the books you recommended. What I wanted to know is.... how is this school year going and what did you decide to do? And, what book helps you most with that decision?
No, Stephanie, thank you for the nudge to post an update.
First off let me answer your questions.
- Yes, at this time my oldest two boys (twin 7 year olds) are in Second Grade at our local public elementary school. They are in separate classrooms with teachers who team teach. Half way through their day, the boys switch teachers and high-five as they pass each other. One teacher teaches language arts and the other teaches math and science. They are both wonderful and amazing teachers who are very experienced, but have not lost the love of teaching. It has been a great year! Ian's teacher was just named Teacher of the Year and we are very excited about that.
- What book helped the most? You can find the original book list here. But I have come back to this article from Lori, time and time again. Honestly though, I read and read and read every book, article, blog post I could get my hands on for awhile. My head was spinning. And finally came to .... my family, my history, my gut, my group of friends, and back to my gut again. To this day, at least once a week I question whether we have made the right decision...mostly around 4 p.m. which is coincidentally also homework time.
Things I have learned this past year:
- Virginia has really great schools. I don't have to worry about the quality of their education. That is if quality is determined by SOLs (Virginia's Standards of Learning). They will learn. The "but at what cost" question is the one that lingers with me.
- Good teachers make all the difference in the world to your child! Experienced teachers that sincerely love what they do, can make magic in the classroom. The boys have an amazing (AMAZING) art teacher and a really wonderful music program. If that is not happening, speak to the teacher, then the principal. Request a change if there is a "real" personality conflict. Just like all children learn differently, all teachers teach differently. You might find a better match with another teacher.
- I want all of my boys teachers to communicate the love of learning, but luckily they aren't the only ones who have that power. It is also my responsibility to show my children that learning is the biggest adventure you will ever embark upon.
- If you have boys, be patient. And even more patient. Especially when the schools expect them to be reading chapter books and writing book reports by the age of 6. Public schools ARE geared to studious girls.
- Get involved in the classroom any way you can.
- Homeschool, public school, private school are not right for every family. As a military family, I often find myself as a single parent with no family close by. I have come to learn that I need all of the "backup" I can, including teachers, coaches and friends. If both my husband and I were home, we might have made a different choice.
- I love that my boys best buddies are of a different culture and ethnicity than our own. I don't know if that would have happened without public school. It might have, but I would have had to really worked hard. I think I would have felt like I was forcing the issue. This just happened naturally and it feels right.
- Trust yourself.
- Education is fluid. Just because you start homeschooling, doesn't mean you can't go to public school later. And vice versa.
- You and your spouse MUST be on the same page. It takes two. (And I didn't have a quorum).
- And finally, just because you decide to send your children to public school, does not mean you can't incorporate some homeschooling into your routine. I use homeschooling resources a ton for ways to help my boys "get" what is being taught if it is a difficult concept and for ways to make learning more fun.
- Looking at the homeschooling blogs may make it all look like fun and games, but those mamas work their be-hinds off and sacrifice a lot to do what they do. I know it is not as easy as it looks sometimes.
- I have one kiddo that REALLY needs structure and boundaries. Because I am by myself a large part of the time, I stay as strong as I can, but sometimes it is nice to have the structure and reinforcement of routine that public school provides. At least for this one little boy.
- Homeschooling isn't free...you have to factor in any outside lessons, supplies, curriculum, field trips, etc.
Now, not to say that all is rosy in textbook land. I am frustrated as all get-out with our PTA. We are still spending way too much time on homework, but I have learned that my boys are not very speedy comparatively...which is OK by me. We have been teaching them that it is better to be slow and accurate than fast an inaccurate.
And the teachers are so tight for time, there is a huge lack of hands on activities and movement in the classroom...something boys really need.
I mean schools aren't going to teach them how to make fire with a magnifying glass. But my boys are making friends of every race, creed, color and religion. Which we love. They are learning that everything in life is not fun...that sometimes we have to do things when we are told to do them. They are learning that there is a place for order and routine. They are learning to respect others with differing opinions and how to discuss those differences.
On of the things I have held on to this entire time and will continue to is a piece of advice my mother gave me. She said that no matter what we choose, ultimately, my husband and I, our family and our group of friends will have the most impact on the boys. At least for now. We, as their parents, have the most say so in character development and the values that are instilled.
So who knows what next year will bring. I know now that education, like rivers and clouds and the ocean, should be fluid. We still may homeschool at some point. Or not.
We continue to do a lot of extra things with them to teach them what we feel they are missing. I wish they had more science and math in their day, which my boys love...does a Biology mama's heart good. We garden, we sew, we draw and paint. We explore.
But right now the boys are doing well and they seem to be happy with school. Which is my greatest wish...for them to love learning, to love reading, to love to explore. Some of these values they learn from school and some they learn from home.
And so far our decision is working for us.
Thank you so much for asking Stephanie!