Friday, February 15, 2008

My Turn...

Most of you wouldn't know (or be surprised), but there are several families in our church in Farmington who homeschool their children. While not a necessity, religion is often a springboard for homeschooling families, as it is a way to reinforce values as a part of the educating process. Certainly faith based ideas are not taught in the public school system, nor do I think they should be, as the contention it would cause would be over-whelming, even in my tiny town of 5,000 or so.

The question was recently presented on a blog that 4 of them contribute to, "Why do you homeschool?" And each of the 4 contributors responded with their own reasons. I read the first one a few days ago, and in doing so even had about 13 seconds of a twinge of guilt. I love my children, I see challenges from public school, I love spending time with them, but also love being able to send them to school, does that mean school is just a (somewhat) cheap babysitter for me?

Then I literally shook my head, and thought, "Wait, what are my reasons for sending my children to public school?" So, in the interest of sharing, and with no Spirit of contention at all (for I truly believe the decision is individual) I would like to share my reasons in this forum.

We bought our house in Jay for a few reasons, it was central to family, the furthest set of grandparents was only 5 minutes away at the time. Taxes are low, thanks to the mill, curbside pickup for everyone didn't hurt, and my husband graduated from the small school district, which was still small. I put Dustin into a private Preschool when he was 4. I was surprised to learn then that some children began at 3. I told people who would ask if he enjoyed school, "Oh yes, my little socialite finally has a social gathering to go to!" When Dustin was 4, he, Brian (2), and my mom and I went swimming at the beach. Dustin started talking to a couple of girls who were maybe 8 or 9. It went like this, "Hi, my name is Dustin Jones, and that's my brother, Brian Jones, and his whole name is Brian Scott Jones, and my whole name is Dustin William Jones, and I'm 4 years old, and he's 2 years old..." And in under 3 minutes he was happily sharing a foam noodle with them. Dustin is a very social person.

He has benefitted greatly from public school. He has had successes, the GT program in Jay is run by his dear friend's father, and this man alone has inspired Dustin to seek for greatness. Mr. Taylor was also instrumental in bringing the Gear-Up program to Jay Middle School, any middle school student could attend. When Dustin arrived home from day 5 of the five day program, he informed me that he wanted to invent the new fuel to replace gasoline. I never would have dreamt I had that potential at his age. His grades are through the roof. His friends all have grades through the roof. Numerous teachers have commented to me personally what a joy his class of 45-50 students is, how attentive and well-behaved and kind they are collectively. We are truly blessed. He also has failed. He did not make the Middle school basketball team, and pretend I told you (though I never would) he cried when he was cut in the first round. But he survived, and realized that basketball is not the end of the world.

Brian came into this world a very different child. Much more like his mom than his dad, socializing is not a natural thing to him. Unlike his mom, he had the added stress of speech problems. His bright shining eyes had many thoughts to share, but he didn't know how to form the words. After 6 months of speech therapy, at age 2 1/2, he finally uttered "Mom" for the first time. People would say, "What does he call you?" "He doesn't, I am always here." At age 3 he was in a preschool for developmentally challenged children, due to his expressive speech delays. It was a great experience for him, and at 4 he went there and to the private preschool Dustin attended.

This preschool taught a concept unheard of to me. Children were not encouraged to take turns. If one child had a toy, and you wanted it, you were told to wait until they were done. But isn't it that way in the real world?

Brian LOVED the other children. He did not readily know how to interact with them, but at that age they were very kind, and he learned from them as much as the teacher. He was so much better prepared for school, because of it. Brian is a child who always roots for the underdog. In our home, he supports the Yankees, and Jeff Gordon. No one else likes either of them. At school, he plays with the children who no one else wants to play with. "Everyone was playing football, but Bradley didn't want to, so I played with Bradley today." Thank goodness his class has him there.

With much suffering on my own part, he has had the extra help to accomplish his lessons at school. An ed-tech for his first 3 years, but he has overcome those needs, and not had one these last 2 years. He still hates writing. But he can come up with ideas now that meet the teacher's request. He likes bugs, even picks them up. He would never have learned that from me. My children all have interests that do not relate to me or Bill, but that enrich their lives.

Michael is a hard one. The preschool closed, so i took him to a daycare in Farmington that had a preschool program. It was expensive, though, and he only went through Christmastime. He didn't like it, and I worried because he would not speak up to the teacher there when he was upset.

He liked kindergarten for the most part, until they put security cameras in the hallways over Christmas break. He had an excellent teacher who maintained order and could teach even with 18 kids. He was sure the security cameras were out to get him, though, and 2 were directly above his classroom door. But I finally asked him if he thought the camera could jump down off the wall and scold him if he was naughty, he laughed, and overcame his fear.

He came home from his first day of first grade, and asked if I would homeschool him. I asked him why, and he missed me, and school was too hard. His best friend Zakary was also in another class. I told him that he was a smart kid, and could learn the things he needed to with time. He still has frustration, but I remind him of how much he has learned already. He made some new friends, particularly Andrew and Owen, and now his complaint is only that he got his name on the board once. "It's a pretty silly rule, only one person at the trash can at a time, I needed to empty my pencil sharpener." But, he still goes back, and he follows class rules as best he can. He also cried last month about the fact that he had never been voted good citizen. I asked his teacher, in an effort to keep the program positive, what could I encourage him to do to be a good citizen. She said he needed to stay on task and complete his work, and also he had been talking when he should have been working, so he had gotten his name on the board. That one he didn't share with me ;-)! I told him this, he tried harder, and today announced he was good citizen this month!! He was tickled pink at his accomplishment.

When baseball starts in April, Dustin and Brian will both be exercising steers daily, and with school, homework, and household chores our life will be very full. I will wish I had more time with them at home. But, I cannot put that above the great accomplishments they have had.

My children are the only Latter-Day Saint children in the entire school district. Thank goodness they are there! Dustin was in a discussion last year with his class about different religions. He came home and asked for a picture of the First Vision, an artist depiction of when Joseph Smith saw God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, in a grove of trees in 1820. He wanted to bring it to school and show the class. This experience did not convert the 13 children in the class to "Mormonism". But, it strengthened my son's testimony, and perhaps touched a heart. Simply having the Holy Ghost with a person, and putting the person in a place, can bring the Spirit to that place.

I am grateful for good teachers. I am grateful for strong children, and a voice that can be heard in our district. I am grateful for public education.


Tara said...

Thank you for sharing your reasons for public schooling. I am glad you did, because I think it's important that people hear the good in both sides. I know that my experience must have a tainted edge, but it is, like you said, a personal decision. Even if Gabi were to stay in public school (which we've considered), Beth would not thrive there at all because of her particular personality and needs. However, there are many things that school can offer our children, as well as sports, clubs and many other social settings. There is also, as you hinted at, much that our children can share with others in the community (and at school). I'm glad that public school has been good for your children, and that they are setting wonderful examples to the people they are in contact with. For those of us who home school (or will be homeschooling), there is another part of the community we can reach with our example. It takes us all. I think that is part of the reason the Lord aids the situations and resources in our area that we come in contact with and in our decisions in reactions to those things. Thanks you, once again, for sharing your reasons and the positive of public school!

Juanita said...

First of all...I love the YANKEES! I appreciate our children's ability to be missionaries and to hang onto their blossoming testimonies. When Mattea was in preschool, there were some immodestly dressed student teachers (low cut short shirts and thongs hanging out)... Anyway she never hesitated to tell them that it wasn't modest. I appreciated it because it showed me she got the concept, however I had to stop her because she got to a judgmental hurtful point with her peers on the matter. Anyway, thanks for your post on public school.

Angela said...

I am new to the blog- I bounced off of Kim Smith's - This is a great post- I homeschool 2 and send 1 to Public and 1 to Private. There are a lot of great schools and a log great teachers! You are making the right choice for your kids. Frankly, somedays I feel that someone else could do a better a job! Love the honesty!

Ashleigh said...

This can be a controversial topic. I enjoyed reading your insights, thoughts, and honesty.