Monday, July 5, 2010

Evaluating Kindergarten - Part 2

If I had a dime for every time someone said to me that they could never homeschool their child(ren), I may not be a wealthy woman, but I'd certainly be a bit better better off than I am.  That is one of the two most popular responses I hear from people when they learn that we're homeschooling.

This post has to do with my own concern in this area:  I'm not sure that I can homeschool my child(ren).

Unlike most other homeschoolers I've met, I'm quite insecure about homeschooling.  In some ways, I'm terrified by it...even having done it with Matthew for a school year now.  Maybe because I've done it with Matthew for a school year now.  Like I said in my last post, objectively, I think our year's gone pretty well, and I'm gearing up for our second year already. And based on what I've seen of Manitoba's curriculum for grade 1 students, I feel perfectly fine about our plan for next year. 

But I'm still anxious:
  • I wonder how other parents seem to be able to get their kids to actually sit down to work at school stuff on a regular basis.  My kid seems very resistant to regular school work - or is it me and my methods that are off?  I don't know.  One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can work with your child's style and adjust accordingly. But as well as I know Matthew in many/most respects, I don't know that I've figured out his learning style yet so that I can adjust accordingly. Why don't I know this stuff?
  • In some ways I've been very relaxed about homeschooling.  I don't care if we 'do school' every week day...and sometimes, we've even done school on weekends!  In fact, I even suspended it altogether for about six weeks at one point in the winter, in favour of games and puzzles and other fun stuff, when I sensed that Matthew was feeling overwhelmed by things and getting frustrated by his ability to 'get' things.  But I get stressed when I hear other homeschooling parents speak confidently about their child's work/progress, or hear them talking about their kid's amazing accomplishments.  
I know that Matthew's just fine and that he's doing great.  I need, though, to relax more when it comes to comparing what we do with what other families do.  Most of my anxieties stem from a comparison perspective, I think.  When I focus on what other families are doing in their homeschooling endeavours, I get anxious.  But when I focus on my own child and see how he's developing, when I consider everything we've been able to do together this past year, when I think about all of the great moments we've had, when I think of the learning we've both had as we've worked through the rough moments together...I feel fine.  So when am I going to learn to stop looking at other homeschoolers as my compass point?  Because really, when I'm trying, simply, to look at my own family, when I'm looking to God as my measuring stick, I am a-ok.

I'm writing this on Friday evening, July 02, sitting at the kitchen table at my parents' cottage, overlooking the lake.  I'm watching two families of ducks swim past the dock, heading out to the bay.  Oddly, as I watch these ducks, my anxieties lessen.  Maybe God sent those ducks to me for a reason - to give me a different way of thinking about things.  Maybe not. But those feathered little families are prompting me to remember why we're homeschooling in the first place:  because I believe education starts at home; because I want Matthew to orient himself around his familial roots and to derive his values from those roots instead of from a peer group; because I want him to be surrounded first by his family and by a small community who will contribute to the raising of him; because I want him to learn in the way(s) in which he learns best; because I want him to be 'socialized' in a way that is different than the norm; because I, like every parent, want the best for my child and because I hope that, for Matthew, this is the best. 

On Canada Day, Geoff and I had over for dinner a (homeschooling) family that we're just getting to know, and really enjoying.  At one point in our conversation, the Mom in that family commented that she's often heard people say that they make the decision to homeschool on a year-by-year basis, rather than committing to it for the longer term but being willing to change their minds if it's not working.  Her comment struck me because of how often I've said to people that we're going to make the homeschool/public school decision on a year-by-year basis.  The truth is that it's really only my own insecurities that lead me to say that to people.  The truth is that I would dearly love to homeschool my child(ren) from this point to the end of his (their) high school education.  But the truth is also, to bring this post full circle, that I'm not sure if I have the ability to do this for that long. And the truth is, too, that maybe it's my ability that needs to be re-evaluated on a year-to-year basis, rather than my desire to do it.  

* Thanks so much for the comment/empathy/encouragement, Michelle - I think I needed all three!!  And wow on having the kids right across from you next year - that could not be more perfect.  I'm glad you've found a way to make that work!
* Oh, you are all so kind - thank you, thank you, for your comments and encouragement.  I, like, dove into your words and felt like I wanted to absorb them for their comfort!!  This is such a learning curve and you're right, Darci, I feel like I might just screw him up somehow...which is, of course, the last thing any of us intend to do with our kids.  I have to say, though, Darci, that if you saw some of my kid's manners (the burping and the farting, and the gales of laughter that follow each of these types of events), you'd question how effectively I am teaching him certain things!  Thank you all!!!!!
* Donna, I think I need to remember the 'strong drink' remedy for certain days!!


  1. It sounds like you and Matthew are doing really well with homeschooling my friend. :)
    You are too hard on yourself. Right now you are doing your very best and Matthew is meeting all areas. That's great!
    I'm trying so hard to learn to live day by day, year by year in all areas of my life and it's a struggle isn't it?
    As you know, I tried homeschooling and had to stop because the kids therapist felt that I needed to focus on being a mum to my newly home twins and not mum/therapist/teacher. It was too overwhelming for me and the relief was amazing when I stopped.
    But I am so lucky since the kids start full day Kindergarten just across the hall from my classroom in September. We'll see each other all the time and our school is a small Catholic school with great values.
    Right now you know the best way for Matthew to learn. Maybe that will change as he gets older, maybe not. You'll grow and adapt as he does.
    You're doing an awesome job!

  2. Hi Ruth!
    Let me just preface this by saying I have NO homeschooling experience yet, I am just starting in sept :) But I just wanted to add a few comments for far, almost EVERY homeschooling mom I have met has the exact same insecurities as you, that they will not be able to give their kids the best education possible. Also, I know my sister-in-law, when she is homeschooling my 7 year old nephew, every 15 min lets him get up and run around for 5 min, or she has the same problem of not being able to keep him focused and on-task...I think that is normal for boys! And last, as daunting as the high-school years seem...I think much of the time they can do the work themselves. I went to a self-directed school for high school, I had no teachers or classes, I went for help when I needed it, and I graduated with honors. It's one of the reasons I am the most excited about homeschooling my kids, because I have experienced for myself, the benefits of an alternative learning program. It sounds to me that you are doing great, if Mathew is reading and writing that well after only kindergarten, you should be immensely proud of yourself!!


  3. hi Ruth,
    I can so relate to what you said! Trust me, it gets much much easier. The homeschooling moms who seem to have confidence are most likely not in their first year of it. I well remember that first year, the inadequacy I felt, as in "if my children turn out to be imbeciles it will be ALL MT FAULT!" :) Now with my oldest heading into grade 5 (at home), I am so much more relaxed. I have learned what works, what doesn't, and seen the evidence of how well homeschooling DOES work. I think it just takes some time of doing it. Hang in there! You're doing a great job, and really, you've been teaching matthew the REALLY hard stuff since birth--honesty, integrity, kindness, strength of character, manners, etc. The 'educational' side of teaching is so much easier. :) darci

  4. It sounds like you're doing awesome! I agree with Michelle that you know what's best at this moment and while that may change for you and Matthew, you're doing exactly what you should be doing at this time. He's lucky to have such an incredible Mom who is able to step back and evaluate both him and herself. You're amazing!

  5. Ruth,

    I re-evaluate my decision to homeschool WEEKLY!!!!!!!! Each week for a different reason, I can't handle the discipline, I am not sure he will learn quickly enough, what about his social skills, how will I continue to keep two boys busy enough... Each time the pros outweigh the cons and I recommit. I'm sure you and I will have this discussion many times over coffee/tea/wine/VERY STRONG DRINK! in the years to come...