Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Meet my beautiful new niece, Harper Catherine, born this evening to my BIL Brian and sister Sarah. She came out with sweet strawberry blonde fuzz, creamy skin, and a chin dimple to match that of my favorite newphew and her proud brother, Lincoln. What a great gift from God!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
And just a bonus shot for you of our Parker Monkey cause he's just so darn cute! Stay tuned for pictures of my brand-new neice, scheduled to appear tomorrow!
Thursday, April 09, 2009
This choice was precipitated by a recent change in Danny’s schedule. Up until three months ago, his work followed the school schedule perfectly: he left by 5:45 a.m. and was home by 5:00 p.m. He always had weekends and school holidays off. Even with a full day of school and an early bedtime, Alyssa saw her daddy for at least 2 ½ hours a day. We’re now adjusting to an 11 a.m. start time – putting the end of his shift at around 10 p.m. – and a mere 45 minutes or so in the morning as a family of 5, which is marred by the rushing around of getting out the door to go to school. The four of us then have a great lazy morning together of playing, eating breakfast, riding bikes, reading - all the stuff we used to do together in the evenings. It works, but it’s just not complete without Alyssa. Next year throw Parker into the mix with 2 separate start and end times, and family time will be limited even more. School is just inconvenient. Of course we recognize that convenience alone shouldn’t be the sole basis for a decision like this, but if the kids’ formal education can take place in 3 hours instead of 7 ½ (+ homework), starting at 11 instead of 8, packed mostly into Monday-Thursday (leaving P.E., field trips and other fun stuff for Fridays when Danny’s home all day), and scheduled around the vacations we want to take instead of the vacations the state says we can take, how can that be all bad? We would rather our kids spend time with us than wasting it on things like lining up, passing out papers, collecting papers, recess, lunch, movies, teaching to the ESL’ers, dealing with discipline issues, and the list goes on (not that valuable life lessons can’t be learned through those things, just sayin’ that there has to be a more efficient way). The last two weeks of spring break have been a little bit of heaven around here. The kids have gone on all kinds of bike rides and runs with Danny (Alyssa included!), we’ve been able to sleep in a little, spend the night at grandparents’, let Reagan nap when she wants needs to instead of when it fits with the pick-up schedule, go away for a couple of days, stay up late with our Bible Study students, and just enjoy our little girl. I’m under no illusion that homeschooling would be a total break from routine or responsibilities, but it would be flexible and far less time-consuming.
Which leads me to another compelling “pro” for our family: extracurricular activities. We want our kids to be involved in soccer, dance, T-ball, swim team, church events, music, AWANA. We believe that God can use those kinds of activities to teach them about teamwork, taking on a challenge, and submitting to a leader, or to develop life-long habits of health and discipline. We just don’t think they’re valuable enough to sacrifice the majority of our family time to enjoy them, so up to this point we’ve generally said no. But with homeschooling, we can potentially free up an extra 3 hours each morning and make the afternoon running around to such activities less of a drain. I know plenty of people do it all – I just don’t think I can – nor do we want our kids or our family to be that busy.
Our hope is that involvement in these activities outside of school (in addition to, potentially, a homeschooling group, and the many kids in our neighborhood), will counteract our one big fear in this endeavor: socialization. I used to think that traditional schooling was The Way to turn out Normal kids. I am now willing to admit that kids can learn social skills outside of that environment and that I don’t necessarily want our kids to be normal. We want them to be godly, and they can learn that as well, if not better, outside of the peer pressures a school would provide. It’s okay for them to be odd if normal means being up on the latest trends and acquainted with age-appropriate vices. And have you ever noticed that there are strange kids in schools too? It just seems that if you’re strange and homeschooled you’re that way because of homeschooling. I know our kids will face those stereotypes, as will Danny and I, but hope that we can overcome them and prove the naysayers wrong.
A social benefit we hope our kids will receive is lasting friendship with each other. A consistent theme among homeschoolers we’ve known is a genuine love for and enjoyment of their siblings, no matter the difference in age. Despite the importance I’ve always placed in my mind on friendships from elementary, Jr. High and High School, and my many “friends” on Facebook, I can count on one hand the number of real relationships I’ve maintained from my pre-college days. Danny is the exception with many great friendships dating back as far as elementary school. My sister and I another exception in that we’re incredibly close while she went to private school and I went to public. I’m not saying sibling affection can’t happen outside of a homeschooling environment, or that valuable relationships can’t be formed early in life, but I’d rather give my kids the best possible chance at being friends with each other than at being the most popular kid in school.
Another potential challenge is, of course, the academics. I might be totally naïve here, but at this point I think I can handle the challenge of teaching. Undoubtedly there will be days that prove to be much more trying than I’ve anticipated. I know God will teach me patience and if the kids learn nothing else they will hopefully see the result of His sanctifying work in me. But He has given me some life experience and an education that leads me to believe we’ll be okay. I taught kids piano for several years, and have taught college now for five. Teaching someone to read admittedly seems a little daunting, but there is curriculum for that, right?! (Which I should probably be researching that instead of blogging!) For all my lack of early-childhood-education knowledge, however, is the real benefit of knowing what my kids are supposed to be learning and reinforcing that in everyday life. Once I figured out that Alyssa was learning about money in school we could count coins together waiting for our food at In-N-Out. When we discovered she was a little wiz at decoding but not as strong in comprehension, we could focus on asking her questions about what she’d read instead of just letting her plow through. If I become her primary teacher, I’ll know things like this immediately and first hand. We’ll be able to spend extra time on the areas in which our kids struggle, as well as challenge them in the subjects in which they thrive, instead of just teaching to the middle. I mean this as no indictment of teachers in general or Alyssa’s teachers in particular. We have loved both of Alyssa’s teachers thus far and firmly believe that the majority of teachers do the best possible job within the many constraints of the system. However, we would love to be able to give our kids more personalized instruction, supplemented by experiences outside of the classroom, and rooted in a biblical way of looking at life.
With all of my defenses here, which is by no means a comprehensive or even convincing list, I do want to reiterate that we know this is not a perfect solution. If it were we wouldn’t have struggled over our decision for as long as we have. Public school isn’t perfect, private school isn’t perfect, and even the best homeschooling isn’t perfect. There are pros and cons to each, and our list of pros and cons will certainly be different at this time next year. We’ve prayed about it, talked about it, discussed it with other parents from both sides of the fence, found support from both of our families, and ultimately determined that this is the best choice for our family at this time. We think it will be fun, we know it will be hard, but we’re really looking forward to have our three favorite little faces here all day every day, at home, with us.