Sunday, June 9, 2013

Planning for FPEA Convention

Now that I finally have sponsorship to attend the FPEA Homeschool Conference this year, I have been sitting at my computer screen for most of the morning just trying to figure out how to plan my days so that I get the most from this conference. It’s too bad I can’t multiply myself in order to get all of the information! There's so much information and I'm so hungry for the knowledge! But, I have to focus on which workshops will most apply to me and my family. This has forced me to think strongly about building the foundation of my children’s homeschooling.

It is difficult to sort through the throng of information that you get online regarding home education goals. It's impossible to get a clear and concise answer as to what my homeschool philosophy should be. After all, every family dynamic is different. Every family has different values and different things that are important to them and even different educational goals. So, I had to stop for a moment of looking through the workshops, and just meditate on my reasons for homeschooling. Which needs require attention now? What subjects am I most competent in? What do I want my children to get out of this experience?

From all that I have been reading, I know that during the first year there are adjustments that need to take place. During this first year it’s going to be all about relationship- getting reacquainted with my children, their learning styles, and strengths and weaknesses. One thing that I see a lot of people saying is to pace yourself, and take that first year to teach the subjects you are most knowledgeable in. I am also aware that after so long in public school, my children need time to get used to a new routine, getting to know mom as a teacher, and shifting their focus.

So here is what I came up with.

1.       God is the most important missing element. I need to begin to teach my children how to have a relationship with God. We need to build a strong foundation in the Word and Christian values. How to pray, honoring God, reading the Word and also praise and worship need to be the cornerstone of our education. This means going back to some seriously fundamental things that I can admit I have neglected.

2.       Reading and writing is important. My children need to strengthen their reading and spelling. These are subjects in which I naturally excel. Therefore, it stands to reason that this is my starting point. We need to work on phonics, letter sounds, pronunciation, and spelling. I think I may as well link in handwriting, since both my school-aged children have handwriting that shows a serious lack of care.

3.       My children have a thirst for science. They are eager to have more hands-on science since they are not allowed too much science exploration in school. This may be a good opportunity to tie in biblical worldview by teaching about creation, plants, animals, and maybe even some simple physics and/or chemistry. 

I have to say that after putting these things in perspective and writing them down, I was able to get a much better idea of which workshops suited my needs. The choices became much clearer and my day is now laid before me with the clarity I needed. Now, to figure out what to wear..

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Decision to Homeschool

If you had presented the idea of homeschooling to me only a year or two ago, I would have laughed and gave you a million reasons why I couldn't. I'm not a teacher! I don't have any college degrees! I don't have time for that! I don't have patience to do that. But a year ago, my life changed.

It began with my job as a school discipline clerk working with middle school kids. During my time at the local middle school here in Florida, I became very disillusioned with the school system. Seeing the lack of effectiveness of the system opened my eyes to a world which was once hidden. I could see first-hand the failures of the discipline system within the public schools, the raw ignorance of middle school students, the lack of effective communication skills, an inability to relate to persons of authority, and most of all, the utter boredom permeating the students. At first sight, I shrugged all of this off as just poor parenting on some parents' part, and maybe a severe lack of discipline in the homes of some of these students.

My position as discipline clerk allowed me the unique experience of day-to-day interactions with several problematic students. In addition to my duties- which included entering discipline issues into the county database, translating for the deans with Spanish-speaking parents, and using mediation to assist the deans with student's as needed- I was asked to cover the break time of the teacher who supervised In-school suspension. That meant that I had the privilege of spending a good 30 minutes per day in the company of tweens who were often disrespectful, and ill-behaved. I disliked this portion of the job at first- to say the least.

However, as time went on and I had the ability to form relationships with these kids, my opinions changed drastically. These kids were difficult on the surface and even outright disrespectful! However, there were some who despite their exteriors were sweet, curious, and bored. When asked about their parents, these kids respect and love their parents, but often feel disconnected. "They don't understand me." is a common complaint. Another thing that I saw first-hand was their ability to learn. While most of the students with behavior issues were failing, it was not because of an inability to learn. I believe the core issue truly was boredom.

Boredom and pressure. Intense, crazy pressure like I never experienced or had to endure during my own school years. Pressure to be "cool", to be accepted by incredibly critical peers, and to understand and fit into a morally corrupt and insane culture. While many of these kids could not share even a decent paragraph about any subject in school of interest, those same kids could recite lyrics to songs with intense sexual undertones, violence, and drug culture.

I received a heart-breaking wakeup call. 11, 12, and 13 year olds ARE having sex, and it might even be happening in school (as evidenced by the 12 year-old girl and 13 year-old boy who were caught sharing a stall in the 6th grade hallway bathroom for which I had to relate to Spanish-speaking parents).  Pre-teens ARE experimenting with drugs (as noted when the school deputy was forced to do a search on a 13 year-old who was bringing in marijuana and bragging to other students).

As the school year was coming to an end, another fact came to the surface- one I didn't expect to encounter. This is what middle school is like in today's world. These are the types of influences my children would be around, these will one day be their peers, and these pressures would be their pressures. A question formed in my heart and all I could do was pray- Lord, what can I do to protect my own children from... this? The answer took an unexpected form- homeschool.

I began to research the idea and the state statutes exactly one year ago. I even asked my kids if they would be willing to try it. The answer surprised me. It was an enthusiastic YES. Yet, with a baby due in July and a toddler to boot, the idea  began to fade. Soon August was upon us and the start of a new school year in public school was inevitable.

Over the course of the last few months, our family dynamic has changed considerably. My children are growing up fast and concerns about peer pressure and worldly value systems has once again forced me to consider this alternative. I am determined to give this homeschool stuff a try because my kids deserve the opportunity to have a great education without hinderance. Besides, what's the worst that could happen?