Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not What We Do, But Who We Are

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I wanted to add a tab to my blog about Homeschooling in case someone wandered in and had an interest in homeschooling for their family.

Yet when I thought about how I might write about it, I realized there is little separation between our life and our learning. Fifteen years ago, I began to consider homeschooling my son because he was so miserable at school and seemed so content being at home. Something bothered me about forcing him out the door each morning, pushing away his tearful hugs.

At that time I didn't know many homeschoolers. The ones I saw out in public seemed very conservative and I wasn't sure I would fit in. I felt more like a rebel homeschooler. And I was terrified.

There were two things that solidified the change in our family's way of learning. First, at the recommendation of my son's second grade teacher, we took him to be evaluated for ADD. We happened to hear from a friend about an excellent doctor at Duke University. Maybe it was overkill for ADD in a seven year old boy, but that's the way the story played out.

This child psychologist spent six hours with us, testing my son in a range of strengths and abilities. We told the doctor we were considering homeschooling. (Remember this was 1997 and homeschooling was not common or well understood)

The doctor looked at us steadily and then spoke clearly, saying, "Only you can make this decision for your family, but I can tell you that your son is achievement oriented. He has achievement oriented parents. It's in his genes. If he never goes another of school, he will be fine". This came from a man who obviously valued education.

Dr. March at Duke University

The second influential incident started as a morning conversation between my husband, Mark, and I. We were having a quick cup of coffee and I began to share my insecurities about being able to provide everything our children needed for their education. And he said, in his kindest voice, "Even if you do nothing, the children will benefit more from being with you all day, than from being in school".

What a vote of confidence! I'm not sure I believed it then. But it gave me the courage to move forward. In the beginning, we faced plenty of opposition. Everything from grandparents who spoke out against our decision to a teacher who actually called me and asked if I wanted to ruin my daughter's life (referring to oldest daughter who was then in Grade 5) This daughter graduated from Furman University two years ago with a degree in English. She has had a great deal of experiences already in her life, including managing an ice cream shop as a teenager and most recently teaching English in China. Whew, I'm relieved to say, and she will agree, I did not ruin her life.

During the initial adjustment period of not sending our children to school, we lost some friends and found some new ones. We spent alot of time relaxing and figuring out how we wanted to fill our days. I sometimes woke up in the middle of the night and thought with horror about what I had done. Pulling children out of school was still very rare. I was on the edge of a wave of change in education and it's never easy to be among pioneers. But no matter what happened in our physical world, I felt and saw a small light within myself. Significantly, this is the first time in my life I remember recognizing this light and agreeing to follow it. Since then, I have come to revere the light, protect it, and always, always follow it. It has led me around the world, and never once led me wrong.

Maybe if you are considering homeschooling you are interested in what products we used, what course of study we followed to ensure success. Over the years, we have tried different types of curriculum, but usually we would use something for a while and then do something completely different. I have found the best and most effective learning happens when a child wants to know about something. Then I help facilitate their learning by providing books, movies, and experiences relating to their inner drive to explore a topic.

In the end, not that this is the end by any means, so I should say, TO THIS POINT, I have one child out of college, one attending college, one in high school, and two little girls who are 4 and 5 years old.

Homeschooling Works! It just does. It's amazing what we learn just by being in the world. And with technology, now everything is at our fingertips. It's also important for me to mention what my children have not learned. They don't do peer pressure, they don't have a herd mentality, they will not likely be approached to join a cult. For better or worse, they are free thinkers. They question everything, including authority.

(People who know me well also know we have struggled with one particular child in some heartbreaking ways. I do not blame his troubles on the fact that he went to public high school. I also do not think he benefited from his experience there. And that brings me back to what I wrote about earlier today....... I recognize he is on a sacred journey. I am certain to write more about him in days to come.)

I hope I have given a good overview of how we came to homeschool and how we have defined homeschooling for our family over the years. Now we have little ones again, and a chance to choose again the way we will order our priorities. I can't say how things will change, but I know what will remain constant.......

The line others draw between learning and living is a line we will continue to erase. We learn what we live. I hope to share some of our living and learning experiences here.

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2 comments:

norie said...

amen and amen...at least two little girls who came from xiajiang will experience homeschooling...the safest and most loving of all places for children who have lived in a place that is not always safe and loving!

i just could not agree with you more...

love, love your post sherri!

Nikole Hilton said...

Sherri,

I just wanted to thank you for the kind words that you left on my blog a little while back. I was very hesitant to start a blog as I have always struggled to transfer my thoughts from mind to page. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It really means alot to me.
I currently homeschool two of my children and continually praise God that I am able to do so.

Blessings,
Nikole

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