Friday, August 28, 2009

for those wondering what we're thinking

You all need to prepare yourselves for the inevitable fact that I will likely be talking about homeschooling a fair bit on this blog. At least for the time being. As we muddle our way through the beginning of this journey, writing helps me focus my all-too-often-rambling train of thought.

If you read here regularly, you'll know our reasons for not sending Liam to either the nearby French school or the far away English school. And because some of you have asked (and I'm sure others silently sit and shake their heads/roll their eyes/wonder what the heck we could possibly be thinking) here are some of the reasons that we are homeschooling:

  • Not clock-bound. Learning can take place any time, any place.
  • Children receive individualized attention and instruction. Tutorial-style education helps each child achieve his full potential and has many advantages over the typical classroom where one over-worked, under-paid teacher tries to meet the needs of many children at different learning levels.
  • Children develop respect for parents as teachers.
  • We have direct supervision over what our child is studying first hand and how much is actually being processed and absorbed.
  • Homeschooling means a teaching and learning experience for both parents and their children every day.
  • Provides greater opportunities for student-directed, hands-on, and experience-based learning.
Behaviour (Firefox doesn't like Canada's superfluous 'u'... shout out to my Canadian peeps, yo.)
  • As parents, we will be able to model and reinforce valuable behaviour and de-emphasize undesirable behaviour in a natural manner.
  • We will have more quality time to train and influence our children.
  • We will be better able to give guidance in areas of philosophy and religion.
  • Homeschooling can put more emphasis on teaching character and work ethic (continuously fostered, day in and day out) which is a parent's job, not the school's.
  • Transfer our values and beliefs to our children and address their questions when they have them.
  • Protect our children from some of the negative influences they may encounter outside the home, giving them confidence and independent thinking away from negative peer pressure to conform.
  • Be the main influence in the lives of our children - NOT their peers and NOT their teachers.
Home Life
  • Homeschooling helps to foster a strong sibling relationship.
  • It improves the parent/child relationship.
  • Spending more time together increases family unity and closeness.
  • Promotes parental responsibility for the welfare, socialization and education of our children (no one can argue that this isn't SORELY LACKING in modern society).
  • Homeschooled children are healthier as they aren't exposed to as many sick classmates (and their siblings' sick classmates, and their siblings' sick classmates, etc, etc). Related: H1N1 scare? Not a bad argument in favour (there's that pesky 'u' again) of homeschooling. *wink*
  • Parents and children have the best times of the day together, not just the loose ends. I will have all day with Liam, when we're all feeling our best, not just ramping off to get to school/work in the mornings and winding down from a stressful day in the evenings.
  • School hours are flexible to accommodate family schedules and vacations. ie, spending over three weeks in Regina at Christmas AND being able to fly before the beginning of the "high season" and thus save money and Air Miles.
My Qualifications 
I know my children better than anyone else and love them more than anyone else possibly could (Peter excepted). My concern is for their whole person. In as much as I want the best education possible for them, I believe that homeschooling is best for moral and spiritual development. Parents -as opposed to teachers- are concerned for the spiritual and character development as well as the social and academic welfare of their children. I have the most direct and long-term responsibility for my children.

The tutorial method (one-on-one) has always been a superior method for educating children. Homeschooling epitomizes this method, providing the essentials for success -a close relationship between the student and teacher, motivation, flexibility, and individualization.

What about Socialization?
Popular opinion assumes that children need periods of interaction with a group of peers to acquire social skills. By contrast, many believe that extensive peer contact during childhood can cause undesirable and negative peer dependency. When you stop and think about it, do you want your child modeling their behaviour after another young child? Why not give them access to a trusted, lcmpetent and loving adult -namely their parent- after which to model behaviour? Liam will act like a child ALL. ON. HIS. OWN. He doesn't need 8+ hours spent in the company of dozens of them to figure out how to be a six year old boy. Traditionally, children spent their waking hours playing alongside -and working with- their parents as they worked, cooked, cleaned, tended to household and business matters alike.

Young children are more likely to be influenced by the majority than to be independent thinkers and an example to others. Children who receive their education outside the home are prone to accept their peers' and teachers' values over those of their parents. Dr Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University found that children who spend more time with their peers than with their parents (as Liam would be, being gone from just after 7am until 3:30pm or later), generally become more dependent on those peers than their parents.

What it comes down to for us is this:
  • Do we want our children to model after us or after their peers? After their teachers at school or their teacher at home?
  • What kind of socialization do we want for our children, positive or negative?
* * * * * * * * * *

None of this is to say that homeschooling is the best option for everyone, or that those who choose to send their children to school are not concerned for the spiritual and character development of their child. That is absolutely NOT what I'm saying.

When we first moved to Gatineau, we registered Liam for kindergarten at our neighbourhood school, and were at first upset when he was transfered to the school the zone over. During the year, however, we heard from parents, an aldermann who lives a few blocks from here, AND an elementary school teacher in the public system that it is not a good school. Our hope was that he would be able to continue at the school he attended for kindergarten, but our request was denied do to space constraints. However, the next most viable option would have him gone for 8 1/2 hours each day. That is much, much too long for a six year old. If you take away the time spent rushing to get ready in the morning, the time needed to prep and eat supper, then the rush to get to bed in hopes of avoiding cranky kids the next day, that would leave us with barely an hour of quality time together.

An hour together! He's only six!

The other reason that I haven't brought up here before is a new "Ethics and Morals" course Liam would have to take at any of the public schools. As Christians, we fully intend to teach Liam as much as possible concerning the various religions and world views... in an age appropriate way, after he has a firm base in biblical Truth and Knowledge (capitalization deliberate... we believe in absolutes). The Ethics and Morals course curriculum devotes a mere 14% of it's time to what would be considered Judeo-Christian, but lumps Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism all together.

Even that though wouldn't be enough for us to pull our child out of school. What concerns us is that we have no control over how these views of religion are presented. He might have some militant atheist for a teacher who scoffs at him for believing in God. A teacher who, because they're together for 8+ hours a day, would be held in very high esteem in Liam's eyes. He might have a teacher who tells him that all gods are the same. Whether or not you (my avid reader, *waves*) agree with me on any of these points, is somewhat irrelevant. We do not believe it is the school's place to teach morals and ethics and religion to our child. Period.

The clincher for me was when I learned that one of the assignments in this course is to create your own god.  YOUR OWN GOD. Although I'm pretty sure that for most kids the final product will closely resemble Santa Claus, the whole idea of creating your own god is absolutely not okay with me. Some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering what the big deal is, but some are likely sitting with their mouths hanging open.

It just didn't sit well with us and combined with what we'd heard about the school, the fact that there wasn't really another viable option, our request to stay at last year's school having been rejected, well, homeschooling began to look better and better. Peter was not very keen on the idea at first and he still has some reservations, but after going through some of the curriculum ideas over the last few days and talking with some of our homeschooling friends, we decided to try it for this year. We will evaluate at the end of the year and discuss where to go from there.

The fact that we were buried under about six feet of snow last winter didn't factor into it at all...


  1. I wondered if the Ethics and Morals course was part of your hesitation. I only attended school in Quebec at the post-secondary level so I wasn't exposed to it though I had friends who were. I think it's important to learn about different religions and what people believe in, or even to learn that different people have different beliefs. I figure we all share the same planet and it might be helpful to know what different people believe in. But calling it "ethics and morals" irks me.

    And though I'm not religious I can absolutely understand why someone instructing your son to create their own god would upset you.

  2. Yikes! That would do it for me. I wish you guys lots of success and lots of fun on your homeschooling journey this year. I love all the Canadian "u's". It makes things much more coloUrful!
    I have never heard of a course like that. I am guessing it is only something done in Quebec? I am in Manitoba. There is a part of the province, known as the "bible belt" here, and due to the fact that so much are believers, or from the Christian faith background, they do not shy away from talking about faith from a Christian standpoint in their public school(just in that specific division). It is run based on demand(I assume that if suddenly everyone started protesting, it would be discontinued), but that is the only thing that kind of resembles the course. In my town, there is a lot of church involvement among the at-risk kids(there are lots of programs run for them), and since I teach at a school with more than half the kids being from the "inner city,"it can become quite the regular classroom conversation. Being on the otherside as an educator who is a believer, I am always excited to say, "Yeah, I go to church too!" But I still have to be cautious about what I say, and the conversations only happen if the students bring them up. What an interesting world we live in.

  3. OOps, there was a typo and I don't know how to go back and fix it, so, I'll just say that I forgot a few words, and actually chose the wrong one to type! I meant to say: "Due to the fact that so MANY of the community members are believers..."
    Sorry bout that!

  4. I agree... the creating your own god...ugh. I remember taking all sorts of things on Greek gods, other religions and such too, which I think is good to know as well, but 'create your own'? I'd probably just make God for that assignment and get a fail because He's not my own making, haha.

  5. Thanks for the great post! I could just link here and say "yeah that" to save me some time LOL.

  6. Creating your own God?? Yeah not okay with me either. That is why our son is going to Catholic school. I want him to take part in the Christmas stuff we were part of as children. I have nothing at all against home schooling. I think it is great for many reasons, like what you stated. However, you know me... I would not do a good job with it!! I look forward to reading more about this topic from you.

  7. "We do not believe it is the school's place to teach morals and ethics and religion to our child. Period."

    I agree. Teaching religion/spirituality in particular is a job that should be done by the parents. :)

  8. This is really interesting to read, Amy. I think I disagree with you on a couple of fundamental points, and I'm really happy with having my boys in our local school, but it's very interesting to read your thoughts and rationales nonetheless. Wishing you (and Liam!) great success on this journey!

    The one thing I've always wondered about, and I don't see in your post, is what happens a few years down the road. Are you now committed to homeschooling for all of elementary school, or can you bridge him in if your circumstances or opinions change?

  9. Love the look of the blog, Amy! Sorry if I've not mentioned this before. As for the create your own God thing - eek! Yeah, that wouldn't be okay with me, either. We have Christos going to a Catholic School because I want him to partake in Christmas concerts, etc. like I did when I was younger and in school.
    I don't disagree with your choice in homeschooling - I'm sure you'll be a great teacher to your child. I, on the other hand, would suck terribly at this sort of thing. As I'm not even able to tell my son no for most things, as you already know! I wish you guys luck!

  10. Excellent post Amy!! Very well thought out and well said!!
    *who's mouth IS hanging open and who IS scratching her head and who IS definitely grateful to have her kiddo's at home with her and is about to head outside and play with her kids in the beautiful sunshine! ;o)

  11. Hey Amy, I was wondering what happened to your Friday posts? I finally got '30 day Shred' and was looking forward to posting with you on it! Finally started on the second workout... can you say 'ouch'?

  12. What a great post, you've obviously done your research. For various reasons, I do want to send the kids to public school, French being a big part as well as other things. But, I sent this post to my DH who would love me to agree to homeschooling. You certainly make a great case for it!


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