Samuel Jerome and Richnightder

Samuel Jerome and Richnightder
Our boys in Haiti

Friday, November 12, 2010

"How come you homeschool?"

Most days I love the fact that I am privileged enough that I get to home educate my children.  Most days it is a good thing and I enjoy their company, their humor, their "lightbulb" moments.  However, I never intended to be a homeschool mom.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I was capable of doing such a thing.  But then circumstances both in private school and public school led me to this decision.

When we moved to North Dakota in the summer of 2003, we enrolled Madison and Thomas in a Lutheran school and all went well there until Madison was in third grade.  She had a little girl in class that told Madison that she was beneath her and was not allowed to play with her because of this.  I really believed that the little girl must have misinterpreted what her mother said so I took the bull by the horns and asked the mother.  I honestly felt anger like I have rarely before when she looked me in the face and told me that yes, she had told her daughter that about Madison and our family.  Armed with an overt confession of bigotry, I marched to the principal's office where she promptly told me and I quote, "We've never had to deal with this type of situation before so if you choose to leave, you'll go with our blessing."  WHAT???   In short order we were told to take our black children elsewhere as they just didn't know how to handle racism!

Yes, the principal told us that it would in essence be easier for her if we took our two black children elsewhere as it was a Pandora's box issue she had never dealt with, nor obviously cared to deal with now.  It was also around this time that we moved further out of Bismarck and that prompted us to withdraw the kids from private school and enroll them in the local 2 room school house which taught K-8 grade.  Once again I was foolishly optimistic about the potential for academic growth.

Madison entered in 4th grade and continued with her record of straight A's.  Thomas began 2nd grade and immediately began to flounder.  In the little school house, grades K-3 were taught in one classroom and grades 4-8 in the other.  There were two teachers and 2 aides for the entire 19 students enrolled.  Madison's teacher was actually a nice man.  His love of educating and of children was obvious.  He worked hard to instill in the children a desire to achieve beyond mediocrity.  Thomas' teacher was something else!  It was her first year teaching and she sucked at it!!  She had a total of 9 kids in her class and needed a full time kindergarten teacher to be hired as she couldn't handle it herself.  She struggled to be kind to the boys in her class, and seemed to enjoy the girls.  None of the boys seemed to do anything acceptable and she kept detailed notes on Thomas' every misdeed Monday thru Friday.  That damn purple notebook came home everyday with page after page of detailed transcripts of what Thomas had failed to do both academically and socially. 

I stopped looking at the book as it was too damn depressing and then it became kind of comical.  If this woman was supposed to be teaching, how could she keep this running daily log?  Honestly, this purple notebook would often have 2-3 pages of notes.  The woman was obsessed it seemed with noting only bad things.  The final straw came by a fluke.  After butting heads with this woman for a year and several months, Marc attended a school board meeting where it 'slipped' out that neither teacher had passed their minimum teaching standards for the second time.  HMMMMM????

I decided to pull Thomas out of school in October and began homeschooling him using Calvert.  I love Calvert's no-nonsense approach to learning.  They expect the child to learn; not just do the work, but actually remember it and build upon that knowledge.  I pulled Madison out of public school at the Christmas break as she had overheard both teachers talking about Thomas and what a mistake it was for me to homeschool.  Suprisingly Madison went willingly.  I anticipated a fight as she is my social butterfly, but she looked forward to homeschool with gusto.

So that is how I ended up home educating the oldest two kids.  The little boys arrival from Haiti added yet another long story that I just don't have the energy to go into right now.  Suffice it to say that they too are thriving in homeschool and appear to be achieving academically and socially very well.  Now that I homeschool the kids and dare say, enjoy it, I will not go back to public school. Our experience was so sad and disappointing that once I was tossed into this realm, I feel it was for the best.  I am in this for the long haul and hope to see my children achieve to the highest possible levels.  I tell all 4 kids that college is not an option it is a MUST!

I sincerely hope I am giving them everything they need to succeed in life.  I also hope I am giving them the confidence to stretch themselves academically.  Home education does seem to be more rigorous, at least by the curriculum I use, but I feel in todays global society, it is a must.  These kids must have someone fully invested in their future.  Someone who cares what they learn.  Someone who's job review is reflected everyday in their children's behavior and knowledge.

But today, as the oldest two struggle to put together compositions and the youngest two grapple with cursive handwriting, I am ready to leap out the window.  Unfortunately the window isn't high enough to cause me permanent damage, probably just a broken leg.  Today in this household, there is much too much togetherness.  I think a recess is in order and they all need to go outside and get rosy-cheeked while mama stays inside and escapes into the cyber world. 

Before I escape life and reality, I would like to add that Madison and Thomas have each had exceptional teachers who's care and concern for them as student's was obvious.  We all remember those teachers we've had that make learning fun and instill a love of it within us.  Their efforts go forth with us forever.  Madison's kindergarten teacher in Oregon started Madison out on the right foot and Madi will never forget her.  She cared about her student's education and was a genuinely wonderful woman.  Thomas had a first grade teacher that overlooked his wiggles to help keep him marching down the road of education.  I feel fortunate that Thomas had someone early on in his academic life that overlooked his fidgeting and focused solely on his abilities to learn.  For the people who are called to teach and do it with a passion, my hat is off to you!  And for the few in that profession who are in the wrong career...get out!  You're giving the true professionals a bad name. 

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