As my family announces its intention to home school six of our kids starting in January, we’ve received many responses similar to, “WHAT THE CRAP!? ARE YOU CRAZY?! And while the answer to that question is a resounding, “YES”, there are other reasons behind our decision to home school our kids besides the crazy factor.
The simple answer is:
We are planning some travel that would take our kids from school for a period of time and we don’t want to be restricted to a two week time period. If you’ve ever bought plane tickets for nine from Alaska to the lower 48, you know that we could retire on the interest alone of such an investment. Therefore, we plan to make good use of our money spent.
The more complicated answer is:
My children are spending eight to twelve hours of the day with someone else. And other people, though I dearly love them, are not supposed to be raising my children. That’s my job. And I want to do it.
For eighteen years I have had children in the public school system…and I’ve loved it. My children have been very, very blessed to have almost 100 percent awesome teachers who love them for who they are, where they came from, and where they are going. Public school teachers have made monumental, life changing differences in my children. Our school is phenomenal in so many ways…and I adore the way those people love and treat my children.
My kids public school teachers have been their biggest fans, and my biggest supporters in their education…including our decision to bring them home.
But I will tell you…it has comes with a price. In a home with seven children there are no homework-free evenings. There is no down time. We are non-stop, by the seat of our pants, on the go every single day. All of my kids are extremely athletic and there is never a time during the school year that one or more is not in a sport. More often than not, we have two or three going on at once. Currently four of the kids are in Native Youth Olympics which is all year long. Six of the kids are basketball players, three are in track and three are in volley ball. Practices range from six a.m. to as late as eight p.m. five days a week and games on the weekends. On Sundays we collapse in a heap of exhaustion and think about how we should have gone to church…but we just needed some down time.
We have NO family time. We should be taking snowmachine rides. We should be cross country skiing. We should be spending time at our cabin. We should be hunkered down around the woodstove on a cold Thursday afternoon drinking cocoa and discussing the latest literary piece we read together. We should be…a family.
And because life is spiraling by unbelievably fast and our children will soon be grown and gone, we’ve had to take a deep look at how we are raising our kids…and make some hard choices about how to best handle our limited time each day.
Because…Do I want dinner time to consist of shoveling food in with one hand while multiplying fractions with the other because bedtime was an hour ago and we just walked in the door? Or do I want them leisurely spooning in their hot meal over conversation and laugher because they finished their work that morning, in time for basketball practice? Yes, I believe I do.
Do I want my children bound by rules to a chair seven hours a day for the rest of their childhood? Or do I want them learning in spurts, the material I see fit for their future…the realistic future of a child born affected by alcohol in utero who physically…medically…can NOT sit still? Yes, I believe I do.
Do I want them studying subjects that will never have any prevalence in their lives just because the vast majority of their classmates will benefit? Or do I want them spending their days learning life skills, work ethic, and survival skills for fending off alcoholism, drugs and abusive relationships in lives that, statistically speaking, they are bound for? Yes, I believe I do.
Do I want my child who scored about 220 on state testing and my child who scored around 480 on state testing…and are in the same classroom…judged by the same standards and required to understand the same lecture, the same materials? Or do I want them working side by side but at the level I choose for them…a level where the child who struggles can shine and feel successful and the one that things come easy to can feel challenged? Yes, I believe I do.
Do I want them spending one hundred and forty hours a month within the walls of a classroom, cramming text book information into their brains at a rate not determined by them or their abilities but rather by a standard set down by the federal government? Or do I want them spending minimal time seated behind a text book, and more of their time with their hands on the learning, outside the classroom, outside of the box…absorbing what their brains can…less if they are limited in their capacity and more if they have a burning desire to do so? Yes, I believe I do.
The fact is, my children are damaged. Their brains are affected by a multitude of past influences both in utero, and out. Without detailing their personal history…collectively, and most overlapping, my kids suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Methamphetamine Effect, Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, Neglect, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety Disorder… and… well… everything that comes along with having birth parents and relatives who passed on these wonderful attributes to their beloved, innocent children.
I have children who gain far more from learning life skills than from sitting still for seven hours a day. I have children who are not physically capable of sitting still, who don’t benefit from that many hours in a regular classroom setting. I have children who wiggle.
And by God, children need to wiggle!
Do I believe home school is for everyone, every parent, every child? Of course not. That’s why we have our phenomenal school just down the road, full of educators eager to take over where my failings leave off. Not everyone is cut out to home school, and maybe I’m one of those people who won’t be able to manage. But this is a personal decision we have made…as a family…and it’s what is best for us right now. Next school year… maybe not. Maybe I’ll be the first one in line, kicking them out of the van as I slow down in front of the school, as some of you remember I was this fall.
And meanwhile, if in the next four months, you see me running down the middle of the highway, screaming and waving my arms as if in deranged panic—just swerve, put me out of my misery, and keep right on going.