February 20, 2010

Education at Home: Part One

"School days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, brutal violations of common sense and common decency. It doesn't take a reasonably bright boy long to discover that most of what is rammed into him is nonsense, and that no one really cares very much whether he learns it or not."
~ H. L. Mencken

It's a rare decision that gets made around here with 100% confidence.  Some no-brainers for me were things like nursing and going vegetarian.  As I sit here trying to come up with some others, I am beginning to think that those are the only two decisions I've ever made with absolute certainty.  Homeschooling, being a SAHM, trying to be an emotionally intelligent parent - those choices just weren't as cut and dry.  Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying that I would do anything differently, but there is truth in the statement, "I sometimes worry if the choices we've made are not the best ones."  I've been thinking about writing this out for a really long time.  I was going to preface it with something like:

I'm not defending my choices.  I'm telling the story of how we got here.

But the truth is that I'm probably doing both.  Right now, I'm specifically talking about homeschooling, but you could probably substitute that word, and a few details, and get the same basic reasoning behind most of the decisions I make.  I've been thinking a lot about homeschooling because I seem to be reading and listening to a lot of people talk about it lately.  I don't generally talk about it much, but I listen and what I usually hear is just how much more everyone else does than we do.  And I always find myself asking the same question in my head, "How on earth do they do all that?"  I can not wrap my brain around any sort of schedule that looks even remotely like an actual school day.  It simply does not compute.   The really weird part though is that I very much like control, organization, and schedules.  Before I began living this life, I always imagined it would look very differently.

A Brief(?) History of How We Came To Be Homeschoolers

I'm not sure how it started.  I knew what it was because my aunt homeschooled my cousin.  What I don't really know is why I decided that we should do it.  My best guess is that while working for EarthLink, I spent a lot of time browsing the Internet.  Frequently I would come across news stories about kids getting suspended for bringing butter knives to school, or having colored hair.  Boys couldn't wear kilts to dances and girls couldn't be voted prom king.  There was also B's and my own experiences in school.  Neither of us felt that public schools could give our kids the sort of education that we thought they should have.  School seemed more like an evil social experiment than a place of learning.  Private schools were all religious, and discounted immediately.  That left homeschooling.  

Robotson wasn't even out of diapers when I started joining local homeschool support groups.  I never attended events or participated in the email loops.  I barely even read them as they came through, but I wanted to know what was going on.  When I was laid off from EarthLink, and decided to go ahead with the SAHM thing two years earlier than originally planned, I had a lot of really grand ideas.  We would spend our days in academic pursuit, the house would be spotless, meals prepared on time, and on and on.  Absolutely none of that happened.  I think I was a  bit lonely for a while.  B was working.  We lived far from all of my previous coworkers, and most of them were childless.  We didn't have any non-work friends because we hadn't had time for them.  Robotson never had any playmates for the same reason.  It was just him and I; so we got a dog.  Then I got pregnant.  All of a sudden I had three creatures that needed my constant attention.  Robotson would be starting school soon, and I had no idea what to do, with no real support system.

Plus during all of this time, I realized something very important about Robotson:  he is not the sort of kid to sit at a desk and do workbooks.  This is not a major revelation really.  Most boys (kids) are not all that interested in sitting still and listening to someone else do all the talking.  But I fought him.  Boy did I fight him for the entire year before he was to be officially registered with the state.  I kept putting off finding a curriculum because what would be the point in spending money on something that there was no way he was going to learn while bouncing off the walls?  I had a million doubts about whether I could do this, and I still lived in the fantasy land of weekly field trips, science experiments, and a son that was reading before Kindergarten.  It was a stressful year to say the least.

At this point, I'd only heard of unschooling once.  I saw a bumper stick on the back of a mini-van and had no idea what it meant.  I looked it up online, thought it sounded a bit scary, and never really thought about it again.

We moved into our first official year of homeschooling with no curriculum.  I had a book, Home Learning Year By Year that I used as a guide.  I spent hours piecing together my own First Grade course and then set about the task of teaching Robotson.  It worked alright for a little while, but eventually it became obvious that this just wasn't for us. At this point I wasn't sure if homeschooling was the problem, or me, or my son?*

To be continued...

*Wow!  I had no idea how long this was going to be!  It seems like a good place to stop and let me collect my thoughts before I move into where we are now and how we got here.  


  1. Thanks for posting this!! I look forward to getting the rest of the story, however many posts it takes. It reminds me of when I meet someone in the grocery store on a Thursday and they find out we are homeschoolers and they ask me why. How am I to answer that while shopping? There is not nearly time to explain LOL! I'm left with just saying "because it works for us" and smiling.

  2. I'm also looking forward to the rest of the story! I'm going to officially be a SAHM at the beginning of June for at least 15 months as I take the next school year off of work to stay home with the baby. We live in an isolated area and I also don't really have many friends around. I'm really worried about getting lonely and depressed, or having unrealistic expectations for myself about the "running of the household" (said in a scary echoey voice). And I won't even be homeschooling - G will still be in public Montessori 4 days a week. I'm scared! I look forward to learning from your experiences.

  3. okay, I didn't realize my comment would come under the name "battlemaster" because of G's blog, LOL.

  4. I am really curious to hear the rest of the story. I don't plan to homeschool at this point, but I am curious to listen about other journeys on this road.

  5. LOL "Battlemaster"! I knew who you were :)

    I'm so glad it's interesting reading! I worried about it becoming way too long, but I guess it's as much for myself as anything. Thanks for humoring me :)