Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Homeschool Life

I've been wanting to post on this for a LONG time, but I always have something else that I feel like I need to do.  Today I am putting off all that other stuff to do so that I can actually create a record here of what we do in our house for homeschool.

I want to write about our reasons for homeschooling, our schedule, our curriculum, and our school room.  This will have to be done in a series of posts.  I am committing to myself to get these blogs out there.  It is my wish that I would be a regular blogger, so I just have to "habitualize" it a little bit. (is that a word?)

Anyway, when we first moved to Guatemala in 2005, BoyD was 10 months old and we had not thought through what we were going to do for him in terms of schooling.  I loved "teaching" him at home, but that was all really just play, books, and animal flashcards!  The thought of teaching him how to read and how to do math was overwhelming to me.  I was open to the idea of homeschooling simply because I didn't know what other options were available for me here in Guatemala.  

Since then we have had 2 more kids and my philosophies regarding parenthood have morphed somewhat.  That is either a benefit or a drawback of living out of the US, depending on your perspective.  I have definitely become more conservative/extreme.  I think that it is because I don't have the American culture pushing in on me all the time.  Even though we live in Guatemala, we don't have the Guatemalan culture pushing in all the time either because we aren't Guatemalan!  We live in an American style house, we read books in English, and generally don't live exactly like the Guatemalans.  (Maybe we should be more immersed in the culture here, but that is the subject of a different post altogether!)  So...we sort of form our own culture to an extent.  This is one reason why missionary kids are sometimes called "third-culture kids."   

So, that being said, let me just lay out for you the reasons we have chosen to homeschool.  [Disclaimer: I realize that homeschool isn't for everyone.  I would never set myself up as judge over another person's family choices in regards to how they educate their children.  This is just our perspective.  Please don't be offended, although I welcome discussion and dissent for the purpose of growth!]

1.     Our schedule.  Brandon travels quite a bit.  We travel as a family quite a bit.  We have meetings across the country in the middle of the week.  We travel to the states at various time of the year.  We have visitors that come and stay with us from a couple of days to many weeks. Brandon works so many weekends, that any mini-vacations we take usually take place during the week.  If the kiddos were in school, we would have a heck of a time trying to keep them up to date with their school work.  

2.     Our kids.  BoyD is exceptional.  He just turned 6 and would be in kindergarten if we were in the states.  Yet he reads at a 2nd grade level (at least) and is finishing up a 1st grade math curriculum.  He is a SUPER fast learner and does not need much instruction.  Remember that I was concerned how I was gonna teach him to read?  Well...I didn't teach him.  He sort of just figured it out.  At one point I tried to teach him his consonant blends (bl, br, etc) and he already knew them.  He doesn't need reading instruction and very little math instruction.  He just gets it.  If he were in school, he would have to endure a lot of time spent teaching subjects that he doesn't need instruction for.  Talk about boring!  
And GirlM just turned 4 and is reading short vowel words already!  Again, I haven't really "taught" her how to read, just worked with her on her letters and sounds and she gets it.  

3.     The schools here:  I do not want to bad mouth the schools in Guatemala.  There are some very good ones that offer a wonderful education.  Here is the issue with them in regards to my family.  There are 2 types of schools here.  There are colegios (private schools) and escuelas (public schools)  The public schools are free and normally have very large class size.  If you can find a public school that has relatively small class size, the teachers still have to direct the teaching to the average student, too fast for someone who needs extra help in an area, and too slow for the student that has already mastered the subject.  There is also the issue of stability because there are teacher strikes, there is not always a substitute system if the teacher is sick, and it is secular in its teaching.  (no biblical perspective on history or science, etc)  The private schools have smaller classes, usually bilingual, and may or may not have a Christian perspective. They also cost anywhere from $40-130/month, depending on the school.  Plus there are material fees, you have to buy the books, inscription fees, so that can get a little expensive, especially if you have more than one kid in the school.  I really don't want my kids to learn English from a Spanish speaker.  Call me crazy.  Also, even though BoyD is ready, he isn't old enough by Guatemalan educational standards to enter the 1st grade, so he would have entered Kindergarten in Jan.  (Their school year is Jan.-Oct.)  So that would have put him even further behind.  There is also the issue of norms in the school setting and teaching methods that I personally don't agree with, especially for little boys.
There are two "American" schools here that use American curriculum, American schedule, and the teachers are all American, but the kindergarteners and 1st graders can't speak English very well yet, so the teaching in those grades is SUPER slow.  Won't work.  

4.     Our parenting philosophy:  God gave us these children.  I love them and enjoy them.  I like being around them.  I only get a few short years with them so little and so moldable. They are in the process of forming beliefs and habits and a world view.  I want to be the one that forms that world view.  We also believe that the person/people that spend the most time with the child will have an enormous influence on them.  Be it friends, teachers, grandparents, etc. Brandon and I believe that God designed it so that we would be that primary influencer.  That in order for us to raise them up in the way they should go, we need to be around them a lot...being consistently available to direct, correct, rebuke, encourage, praise.  If they were in school all day, I would miss many of those moments.  Even if their teacher in a school is godly, gifted, precious, caring...that teacher is not their mother or father.  

5.     Our philosophy on education: The Bible tells us to teach God's commandments: "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." 
We want every subject that we teach to reveal God's love for us, His divine nature, and His purpose for our lives and for humanity.  I want my kids to know the Bible as well as math.  I want them to be rooted in truth.  The school system is by its very nature it has to be to meet the needs of the secular community.  For our children, we believe education should be done with the world view that God is the creator of it all, and that all life (science, literature, math, etc) can, and in fact does, point to Him.  In order to live out that philosophy, we much teach our children at home.  Our family just can't logistically re-teach everything that the kid learns in school to give it a biblical twist.  

6.     Control: Because I homeschool, I get to control what my kids learn, how much time is spent on each subject, and how I teach each subject.  I decide if my kid needs to be outside on a beautiful day, or if we need some extra character training instead of more history.  I can let my kids sit on the couch to read, or listen to classical music while they do math.  I know my kids better than anyone, and I know what they need (most of the time, haha!).  I don't want to delegate all that authority and control over to someone I hardly know.  I can seek expertise when needed, realizing that I know squat about educational methods.  But, I am blessed to have a mom who taught for over 30 years an now owns a publishing company that produces educational materials.  She’s my “in house” expert! 

7.  Efficiency: It takes me an average of 2-3 hours a day for me to teach BoyD everything.  He has another 1-2 hours of independent work apart from that, depending on how fast he wants to work.  We never have homework.  He never has to do work on the weekends or in the evenings.  We can spend a lot of time on something that interests him and blast through something that doesn't.  Very little time is wasted, so he gets more play time, more time for extracurricular activities, and his entire evenings and weekends with daddy.  

So there you have it.  The reasons we homeschool in the Scott house.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  Do you agree/disagree with anything thing I wrote? I welcome the discussion.


Laura said...

It sounds to me like you are following the path best for your family and I think it is an excellent choice. Kudos to you for taking on that challenge and being such a wonderful mom to your kids.

Joy Aleman said...

I agree with the majority of your reasons, and I know they work for your family. The only difference I came across while making my decision was the social aspect with my half guatemalan/half american then 4 or 5 year old daughter. She is an extremely social person and needs more than just the family around daily to develop well.