The journey began a little over a year ago, during a church service. The plan has always been that I would stay home with my kids until the youngest was old enough to start Kindergarten (she's only 1, so that's awhile still). Then, I would go back to school and get my teaching license to teach in the school districts. However, during this particular church service, they were talking about spiritual gifts. At the time, I wasn't even thinking about schooling for either of my kids, because it was so far off. But, during the service, I clearly heard, what I consider to be the voice of the Holy Spirit, say to me, "Why would you go back to school, spend $30,000 minimum to get a certificate to teach, when you could teach your own child, without spending any money at all?"
Now, before I continue let me clarify... when I say that I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, I don't mean audibly. I mean, a "thought" pops into your head, that is not your own thought. You know in your heart and in your soul that this is coming from a higher being.
Anyway, that was the first thought of homeschooling being an option. But, I am a researcher by nature, and I wanted to make sure that I fully researched all of our options. So, the journey began by touring many different types of schools and evaluating all of our options.
We toured 2 local public schools: 1 larger, 1 smaller.
We toured a Spanish Immersion school.
We toured a Christian Montessori school.
We toured a private school.
We toured a homeschool co-op.
We explored the option to homeschool w/o a co-op.
Our criteria (in no particular order):
- How many days
- Music/Arts programs
- Gym program
- Ratio of teacher to students
- Foreign Language programs
- How much homework is given
- Is movement involved in the day
- Is self-motivation a part of the learning style
- Is there room for special interest learning
- Is there a grading scale
- Socialization options
- Hands-on learning
- Structure to the day
- Spiritual influence
- Are life skills taught
- How is peer pressure, competition and bullying handled
- Does it foster closer family relationships
- What time does school start and end
- How far away is it/How much will I be driving
- Ability to learn at your own pace
- Flexible vacation time
- Healthy meal options
Smaller Public School
pros: movement in the day, plenty of socialization, somewhat hands-on, structured day, no driving/1 block from home, half day Kindergarten, free
cons: no foreign language option, homework, no option to pursue special interests, no spiritual influence, life skills aren't part of the curriculum, no flexible time for vacations, not able to foster closer family relationships, can not ensure safety, can not learn at her own pace, cluttered classrooms, unhealthy meals, 19:1 ratio
Ultimate Decision: Close to home and only half day, but no room for Spiritual influence and large class sizes. Also, DD didn't respond well to the cluttered classrooms.
Larger Public School
pros: movement in the day, plenty of socialization, somewhat hands-on, structured day, half day Kindergarten, bright/open classrooms, free
cons: no foreign language option, homework, no option to pursue special interests, no spiritual influence, life skills aren't part of the curriculum, no flexible time for vacations, not able to foster closer family relationships, can not ensure safety, can not learn at her own pace, cluttered classrooms, unhealthy meals, have to drive, large and scary building for a Kindergartner, 19:1 ratio
Ultimate Decision: Though DD responded better to the classrooms, the school itself just felt too big and could be intimidating to a Kindergartner. Also, I'd have to drive her everyday and there's no room for Spiritual influence.
Spanish Immersion School
pros: ability to learn Spanish and Chinese, plenty of socialization, structured day, useful later in life for Missions Trips, unit studies method, colorful classrooms, teaches character development, free
cons: no hands-on options, homework-sometimes hard to help with, no option to pursue special interests, no spiritual influence, life skills aren't part of the curriculum, no flexible time for vacations, not able to foster closer family relationships, can not ensure safety, can not learn at her own pace, unhealthy meals, have to drive, 19:1 ratio, no English
Ultimate Decision: Would be really helpful to speak fluent Spanish for our future missions trips as a family. However, not speaking any English during the day could be scary for our DD, who is already intimidated to go to school and frustrates easily. Also, the school days are 3 full days and start at 7:50AM. I'd have to drive and the school is 30 minutes from our house.
Christian Montessori School (w/homeschool option)
pros: lots of parental involvement, homeschool part-time, lots of movement throughout the day, interest-led, socialization options, hands-on learning, structured day, spiritual influence, uses natural materials, teaches life skills, no competition, instills closer family relationships, school starts at 9AM, ability to learn at her own pace, mixed age influence, classrooms are bright and open with live animals, only serve clean meals, instills a love of learning, maintain school garden
cons: expensive, no foreign language option, ability to choose same activities instead of getting a variety, no grading scale, distance/driving
Ultimate Decision: We really loved almost everything about this school! It came down to the cost, distance and inability to learn pass/fail. There is an argument that pass/fail is a negative thing, however, in today's society, they will be graded in the "real world" in that fashion. At some point, they need to learn that.
pros: music and art programs, gym program, pass/fail grading, socialization, structured day, spiritual influence, teaches character development
cons: expensive, full-time days, poor foreign language program, homework, very little movement in the day, no option for interest-led learning, very little hands-on learning, no life skills taught, no flexibility for vacations, doesn't foster a closer family relationship, distance/driving, can not ensure safety, no option to learn at her own pace, unhealthy meals
Ultimate Decision: We really loved this school, too! We loved the music, art and gym programs. We loved that during the tour, all the teachers were so friendly and came out of the classrooms to greet us. We loved that in the middle school grades, character development was a large focus. Again, it came down to cost and distance.
pros: 2 days a week, many non-traditional class options, small ratios, classes run by licensed teachers, interest-led classes, socialization
cons: cost, complicated structure, spiritual influence, not a lot of flexibility for vacations, distance/driving
Ultimate Decision: A homeschool co-op felt more like a private school to us. There was a lot of unstructured downtime between classes, which we weren't very excited about. The kindergarten program seemed very preschool-like, which my DD is ahead of the game on. Plus, this is about a 30 minute drive.
Homeschool (no co-op)
pros: can do anytime and any day, art program options, 1:1 ratio, foreign language options, no homework, get to share in her successes and stay involved, can get as much movement in the day as she needs, interest-led learning options, can instill pass/fail with some flexibility, hands-on learning options, can structure our day to work for us, spiritual influence, teach life skills, flexibility for vacations, no peer pressure/competition/bullying, instill closer family relationships, no driving, can learn at her own pace, can serve healthy meals
cons: cost, gym and music programs, socialization
Ultimate Decision: Homeschooling would give us the flexibility we needed for both time and ways of learning. We would have to pay for it ourselves and outsource gym and music programs. And we'd have to be intentional about socialization.
Though we looked at many different criteria for our choice, the two most important things to us were these: that she grows up knowing Jesus and that she grows up knowing her sister.
Given those two things, homeschooling was our best option. Unfortunately, there's very little room for Jesus in the public schools and the private schools are too expensive for us. And if she's gone most of the time on most days, then it's very difficult to develop a relationship with her sister.
Ultimately, the decision was made. We were going to be a homeschooling family.
I wanted to write this post, to share how we came to our decision. My hopes in writing this post was not to offend anyone, but to share this very personal journey and assure those loved ones we know who are working in the school districts, that we don't think the school districts are bad or that teacher's are failing. Quite contrary. I know families whose children thrive in that type of environment and I know many amazing teacher's first-hand.
Put simply, traditional school, at this time in our lives, was not the right decision for our family or for my daughter. I say "at this time in our lives" because I have no idea how long we will homeschool for. Many in the homeschool community have warned me against this type of stance, but the truth is, I take my direction from God. And for now, God has shown us to homeschool. We will take it year by year and child by child and follow what we believe to be, is the Lord's leading.
Stay tuned for how we chose our curriculum!