Friday, May 1, 2015

Can We Really Talk About Homeschooling?

(Note: This post was written as a rebuttal for an anti-homeschooling post that went up on a pretty popular mom blog submission site earlier this week. The original post was pulled from the website roughly 24 hours after it was put up. I sent in my rebuttal anyway, as they asked for one before pulling the piece, and received an email today from one of the editors saying the author of the post had been verbally threatened, so they pulled it for her safety. The original post was very belittling to the homeschool community, as the author did actually call anyone without an education degree who homeschooled their child an "idiot," but I find it disheartening that she was verbally threatened for sharing her opinion. We're all adults here, and as I understand not everyone would agree with her opinion or mine, verbally threatening someone who shares an different opinion than you is just idiotic.
So here, on my site, let's just all get along, please. Hold hands and sing kumbaya and shit, even if we don't see eye to eye. I felt my piece should be read anyway, as I took the time to put my heart and soul into it, so here it is. ~Morgan, aka Tatted Mom)

In January, I decided to homeschool my kids.

Why are you laughing? Kinda trying to be serious over here. I really did. No, seriously.

No, I didn’t bump my head. No, I’m not on drugs. And no, I don’t have a degree in education.

The public school system, as my family knew it, was failing my kids. We live in Arizona, which is currently ranked #43 out of 51 in the nation. Then, we live in Tucson, which is rated #228 out of 355. Statistically speaking, we’re at the bottom of the bottom here, and despite the valiant efforts of my kids’ teachers, it showed.

Instead of the “old method” of simply multiplying one number by another, my 4th grader was bringing home some core curriculum BS of what looked like follow-the-bouncy-ball on a number line. I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to multiply it, or sing along. And he couldn’t figure it out, either. Note after note went to his teacher from me, stating, “He did the homework, I just taught him the simple way to multiply, because neither one of us could figure out what the paper was trying to teach him.” She was very understanding, unlike my daughter’s 7th grade math teacher, who just constantly marked her work wrong because she wasn’t doing the 27 step core-curriculum-taught method, but instead was doing the 5 step method that has worked for me for 21 years now.

So, core curriculum- strike one against the public school system for my family.

My kids spent half of this school year in public schools, and when we kept getting notices in
December about some new standardized test in April, I started shaking my head once again. Tucson public schools teach for the standardized tests- that’s about it. If it’s not going to be on the standardized test, it doesn’t get taught. So, my kids’ days were filled with reading, writing and math. Science and history were still being taught, but not with as much vigor as the three subjects on the test. And recess was now no longer an actual lump of time for my 4th grader- it was grouped in with lunch, so the faster you scarfed down your food, the more time you’d get outside to play… on a full stomach… of food that wasn’t even properly chewed.

Strike two against the public school system for my family- too much emphasis on standardized tests.

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Strike three came quickly and out of left field. My daughter started developing some severe anxiety about going to school each day. We had already pulled her off the bus, as the other preteens on the bus were watching porn on their phones in the morning, and when I reported it to the transportation department, they put a monitor on the bus for one day, who saw no porn watching (surprise, right?) and then basically said my complaint was unfounded. Cool, I’ll put on my Batman pajama pants and drive her to school each day- not a biggie. My daughter was in the GATE program- Gifted and Talented Education, which means she was in a self-contained program inside the middle school near us, of what was supposed to be above-average kids. Once the bullying from the bus kids died down, the bullying from the GATE kids started up, because my daughter refused to be friends with the popular girl in the class who decided to give everyone in the class cute little nicknames that included racial slurs. Yep, these are 7th graders, mind you. The list the popular girl wrote was found by a teacher, and the child was NOT suspended, despite using words you really only hear in rap songs nowadays. This same child went on causing problems all year for everyone, but the kids just took it- she was the “popular girl” after all. My daughter stood up against her, and as a result, was bullied by her peers for the remainder of her time in public school- something the school did nothing about.

Strike three. That’s it. We’re done.

So, what are my qualifications to homeschool, you ask? Well, I graduated salutatorian of my high school class, never finished my double major bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology, started my own business at the age of 23, and run a successful home business at the current age of 34. No education degree, no certificate (unless you count the World’s Greatest Mom print out my kids gave me a few years ago). We are a military family, so keeping my family stable during multiple moves and bouncing around ups my adaptability rating, I guess. But as far as a piece of paper that some people want you to have that says you are “qualified” to teach- yeah, I don’t have that.

What I do have is a love for my children that the school system could never have. I know my kids’ potentials and it is my sole purpose every single day to help them attain it, and exceed it. They aren’t a number in a classroom, or a last-name-comma-first-name. I don’t have to worry about 35 kids in an overcrowded class, I just have to worry about them, and what they are learning.

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So what does a typical homeschooling day look like for my kids? They each have an online math program that monitors their skills by grade level. They have grammar workbooks and vocabulary with reading comprehension workbooks, both above grade level. They do typing and French each day, and practice their music (my daughter- the violin, my son- the drums). We watch the news each day and pull out maps so when a country or state has events, my kids can find them and know where they are. We do science and history together as a family, and since January have covered the settlers up to the Revolutionary War, dinosaurs and prehistoric life, the Italian Renaissance, ecosystems, the environment and conservation, nutrition, and we’re currently working on the human body and learning about the government and the election process, as this is an election year. If my kids want cupcakes, they have to make cupcakes themselves by following a recipe, and I only give them ¼ cup and ½ teaspoon so they have to do math to figure out how many scoops of everything to put in. My 13 year old daughter recently showed an interest in crime scene investigation, and checked some books out from the library, so as that was my interest in college, we’ll further that subject area as a family. My 10 year old son just recently started his own YouTube channel, on his own, after teaching himself how to do stop motion videos with his Legos, and my daughter currently has her own hair bow business on Etsy. She taught herself how to make them, and I guide her along with marketing, business math and how to run a business, as it’s something I’ve done for pretty much the last 13 years of my life. Both of my children have blogs, where they have to post their creative writing assignments, and anything else they feel like sharing with the family members who can see it. Every month we cook an ethnic meal together as a family, and learn about the culture of the country whose dish we are serving. And my kids get science and history subscription boxes in the mail, which they look forward to doing each month.

This is homeschooling.

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I spent a lot of time in the beginning justifying my reasons for homeschooling to family and friends. At one point, I decided to stop justifying and just let the kids speak for me. I shared pictures online, and links to my kids’ YouTube, Etsy and blogs. The questions stopped; people could see the positive changes in my kids, and in our family as a whole. No stress, no anxiety, just happiness and a love for learning again.

If you talk to every single homeschooling family out there, you’ll hear a different story each time. Some kids have never been to a public school. Some families tried public school, were disappointed, and left. One family I know of was actually bullied by the school officials. And in my local homeschooling group, I even found a family with a story similar to ours- son in the GATE program at another school, GATE kids were little a-holes, they pulled their son in January. We live on opposite sides of the county and pulled our kids from what was supposed to be the top programs for our children, for the same reason- come on, now. You can’t tell me that doesn’t PROVE that the school system as a whole is failing our children.

If nothing else, homeschooling has taught my children and me both that every family is different, and what works for one family does not work for another. I have never seen an instance of bullying in the homeschool group in 3 months of being a member. Homeschooled kids seem much more open to diversity and the differences in people, and embrace new members. My kids have found friends, and I’ve found friends, too- open minded, free thinking, intelligent women from all walks of life.

We love our switch to homeschooling, but I know it’s not for everyone. It’s what is best for my family, and that’s all that matters, really.

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  1. I love this, SO MUCH. Thank you, for such a heartfelt and thoughtful response.

    I'm angry and sad, too, that the original writer was bullied. Her article had me shaking with anger and I commented at the time, calling her out on her ignorance, but to threaten someone for having a controversial opinion is just plain wrong. How can we start a dialogue in that kind of atmosphere? How can someone's opinion be addressed, and perhaps changed, if they have to duck and cover? Not ok. :(

    I love this. As a previous public school mom who has retreated to homeschooling for the emotional, mental, and physical well being of my son, I thank you.

    Whether kids go to public school, private school, charter or magnet schools, or whatever, each of us is doing our flat-out best for their futures. We all need to respect that, and hold one another up. We're all in this together, Mamas. Let's start acting like it.

    (I'll spare you the rendition of kumbaya. Trust and believe, nobody wants to hear me sing.) ;)

    1. Amen, lol. I can respect differing opinions- hell, it's what makes the world go 'round. I couldn't respect the blatant insults, but threatening wasn't cool. Most moms are just doing what they feel is right for their families, which is all anyone can do, really. ;)

  2. I, too, live in AZ. After a 1 1/2 years of fighting with my child, the teachers & the administration. I pulled my teenager and enrolled him in online school. I did it for other reasons than yours, but I did it all the same. My son has now been freed from the stresses of being "stuck" in a brick building, getting home at an ungodly hour and dealing with "other" kids & teachers. THIS move was good for both me & my child. Not only for his education, but for OUR relationship. He now works part-time at our stables (stalls, exercise, turn-out, etc), plays polo through a work-to-ride program and does his household chores. I've seen an amazing difference in his attitude and demeanor. Everyone around him has commented about how "grown up" he's becoming. THIS was the right mover for US. He's now passing with A's & B's (versus failing EVERYTHING). He's reclaimed 6.5 credits since January. I'm extremely thankful. I'm extremely proud. I just wish they would have had THIS option available when I was in school. I would have never left the barn. The big plus for us is the fact that he can travel. All he needs is a WIFI connection. His team is preparing to go to Guatemala to play in a youth tournament there.... guess what? He doesn't have to take time off from school. He can either work ahead, work online while there or wait until he returns.

    Like the writer says... she lets the work speak for itself. And it was the right decision for HER family. KUDOS to you.

    1. Your story is AMAZING! We, too, like the freedom and the fact the kids can not only do their work, but have time to take part in activities that interest them. That's been one of the biggest changes for us, which has led to being more stress-free and happier. Homeschooling isn't right for everyone, but I'm so glad it worked for your family, too, and you are seeing definite improvement! Thanks for your comment! ;)

  3. Hey Morgan, it's such a shame how our education system in the USA is so poor, yet we want to bully others into thinking we are such a great nation. These politicians should really invest their time in things closer to home. Always an informative share xo

    1. I agree! Fix things at home before we try and "fix" other countries! ;)

  4. I say this with complete sincerity-public school wasted the best years of my life.
    I was also in the "Gifted" program. I wasn't better or worse for it, however.
    Homeschooling proponents face angry parents who like their babysitting service and don't take kindly to anything that threatens it or even casts unfavorable light upon it.
    Alf Argent