Monday, March 4, 2013

Why We H/School (Part 2): Other Considerations

In the days prior to experiencing fertility issues (and certainly long before Matthew's birth), Geoff and I envisioned that once children arrived, we would hire a live-in nanny to allow us both to continue with our professional careers while raising kids.  We assumed our kids would go to either a public or a private school; the notion of h/schooling never once entered our minds.

The fact that I am currently a stay at home mom in my fourth year of h/schooling my child(ren) is still sometimes a complete shock to me!  My priorities and sense of values around parenting could hardly be more different than they were once upon a time.

Beyond the question of socialization, one of the issues that factored into our decision-making process was my professional life.  I've had a great education and I've done a lot of schooling in my day.  I've also had some great jobs and I loved working very part-time as a Mediator at the time all of these to-h/school-or-not-to-h/school decisions were being made.

Though there are many h/schooling moms who work part-time, I knew that in our case I would have to take a total break from my career if our adoption plans ever materialized - not only for attachment purposes, but because I found the idea of h/schooling multiple children while working part-time overwhelming.  Like I said in Part 1 of this post, I'm not going to be winning any organization awards!

Given that it was me who would be doing the h/schooling, the notion of giving up my professional life for a time in order to educate our child(ren) was a significant consideration for us once we began to consider h/schooling as a real option.

(As it turns out, I schooled Matthew for about 2.5 years while working about two mornings/week; then, when Seth and Lizzie came home, I took an indefinite leave.)

An issue closely correlated, of course, is the loss of income.  We were/are fortunate in that Geoff was well employed and we had a good income coming in, but still - I had a proven track record of earning some good dollar in my day, and it was a swallow to realize that this would be cut off if we decided to h/school.

In early 2008, when Matthew was about 3-4 years of age, we were in the midst of our already-long adoption journey and had just been told that our wait for a referral of siblings from Ethiopia would be approximately seven months.  Given that we ended up waiting almost three additional years for our referral, that's clearly another story(!), but that was the information we were processing at the time we were making our schooling decisions.  We anticipated that our second and third children would be home by late 2008 or early 2009 (the winter Matthew would be in kindergarten) and we thought that h/schooling for the first year or two would be an awesome way to build attachment with our newly adopted children.

It was right around then that I read Gordon Neufeld's Hold On To Your Kids, which I mentioned in my previous post.  While that book does not come out advocating h/schooling, the principles reflected in that book gave us serious pause to think...especially given our views on how we wanted to define 'socialization' in our family.  Neufeld spent a lot of time writing about peer orientation and the risks associated with a child being peer oriented rather than oriented to his/her parents' (or other primary care giver's) value systems, and the consequences of what he saw happening in youth today.  Not even having taken any Neufeld parenting courses at that point, his written words resonated so strongly with me (despite it being a somewhat poorly organized book, IMHO) that it was a bit of a lynch pin in our decision to h/school.

Though I would never have thought this way ten years ago, I've become a believer in not starting my kids too early (or too heavily) in their formal schooling.  (I know that in some cases, given family situations, it's necessary and/or optimal.) It was this belief that led to our decision not to send our kids to pre-school and, even when Matthew started kindergarten in our home, our school 'agenda' was, frankly, more play than anything else; three years later, it's still pretty light for all three kids (and what Lizzie does for home kindergarten is purely according to her own drive/interest).

There are European countries where children do not even begin school until they are seven or eight...shocking isn't it??  Even in most provinces in Canada, the parents of h/schooled children aren't even required to register their children as being h/schooled until the fall of the year the child turns seven...because children even here are not required to be in school until that age!

Just for the record, lest you think otherwise, Geoff and I are huge believers in education.  I was a top student throughout most of my education, and Geoff and I each have multiple university degrees and designations.  Education, and post-secondary education, have been huge parts of our lives, and we hope very much that our kids will also want to attend university in some field of their choice.  Many prestigious universities (particularly in the U.S. and apparently including Harvard) are rolling out the red carpet for h/schoolers and I'm hoping our kids will be amongst those walking them.

But (dare I say this, knowing that my parents might read this?), there's more to life than whether or not one attends university.  Much more than I want my kids to have an education, I so want my kids to figure out who they are and what they want from life.  I don't think one has to be h/schooled in order for this to happen.  But for me/us, this perspective translates into part of the reason for our h/schooling.  I want my kids to have enough time, and enough variety of experience, and enough opportunity to become self-motivated learners, to figure out who they are and what they might like to do when they grow up.  I want them to love God passionately, to be loving siblings and children and friends and spouses and parents, and to do work that is meaningful to them.  Towards that end, I want them to be socialized not to their peers nearly as much as they are to us as parents and to other adults who can provide role-modelling in their lives.

I know that these views might (or might not!) be a little controversial/debatable and I'm ok with that.  I want to be clear that I'm not judging other people for (different) perspectives or for the decisions others make about their children's education; I know that family circumstances and beliefs are often different than ours and I respect that.  I'm just sharing what has transpired in our decision-making process and the beliefs that these decisions were based on.  I have no desire to comment on other people's circumstances or decisions, though I love hearing about what other people have decided and why!

In the end, I think that the decision we made to h/school was the right one for our family.  It's a very hard decision to keep on difficult days, but I guess that's just part of living life - wading through the tougher things along with the great times.

The hard times schooling at home are certainly outweighed by the good times.  I love being able to sit for hours in our library, reading out loud to the kids.  I love that we can start and finish our school time in pajamas if we feel like it.  I love that I get to hear or participate in all of those great conversations that kids have.  I love that we've been able to give Seth the time he's needed to make his huge life adjustment without the pressure of academics.  I love that we can do school four (very) short mornings/week and get on with life learning the rest of the time.  I love that we can spend quality time with friends, go on interesting field trips, take a road trip in the middle of the school year, make a hot chocolate run whenever we want, watch a movie, lie in bed and talk, do lots of extracurricular activities, and throw all of our plans into the air on occasion just because.  When examining the situation from a broader perspective, it's a really good and flexible life style.  I really wouldn't want to trade it for the world!

(possibly to be continued with one final part - I'm working on it!)

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