I have been feeling a lot of stress and anxiety lately about what the best way is to educate my children. What are the benefits of private school vs. public school. What if we move into a "bad" school district. Will they ever be able to get into a charter school. The list goes on and on. I am currently facing the choice of what to do with them this coming fall. This past year they have been at a Reggio Emilia pre-school. A bit pricey for the education they are receiving and a bit much for me in regards to the social outdoing that the parents seem highly concerned with.
My oldest child has embraced the free spirited and play directed learning. He has become a social butterfly to outdo all the other socialites of his class. But he has been impacted and influenced by the behaviors and values of his peers in ways that are less than positive. He has become accustomed to the lack of structure and discipline and cannot focus on a task for more than a moment if I am not standing with him and intensely guiding him. He is away from me for just enough time that he feels that my authority has less meaning then it did before he entered the pre-school setting.
My daughter has regressed in her social behaviors, her independence and in her confidence. I observed her at school last week and wondered who that child was sitting in the corner not conversing or engaging with anyone. No way was this the same dancing chatter box that entertains my living room and anyone in the grocery store who cares to look her way! Some behaviors that I noticed in other children were things that I had seen creeping into my own home since September. "Spilling" a drink onto your snack plate, painting body parts at the art easel, talking like a baby. Things that my daughter has slowly begun to do in order to copy her lovely classmates.
All this being said, I was beginning to panic. What have I done to my children?? Where do we go from here? A comment was made by my daughter's teacher..."Well the worst thing you can do is pull her out of school now, she'll get over this it is just a phase". Right, so I'll just let her independence and self-confidence shrivel up while I wait for her to come out of this phase. And another comment "The most important thing about school is the social experience, the good habits and the bad". WHAT?!? I am not sending my children to school to learn habits, those are things that should be shaped by their family and their values.
I have been researching a lot about home-schooling and read an amazing book Homeschooling for Excellence. I was sold on the idea and ready to pursue it but afraid I wouldn't be able to handle it. I have been told by me children's teachers that it is a bad idea and that I wouldn't have enough knowledge to prepare them for the world. I thought they might be right. I began to doubt my capabilities. That same day a friend suggested a website to me on disciplining your children. I really began to doubt my capabilities, even my friends think my kids are not in my control, how could I ever home school them and prepare them for the world effectively.
Then it hit me. Why am I trying to prepare them for the world? Isn't my job as their mother to prepare them for so much more. To know right from wrong and then act accordingly. To nourish and strengthen their soul and their relationship with God. To influence and guide their value systems and their beliefs. To prepare them to make choices that are pleasing to God and to adequately stand on their own two feet with confidence in their morals and their ability to make good decisions. Of course they need to learn to read and write. Of course they need to do science experiments and math problems and learn the names of all the oceans and continents. But do they really need to do that 6 hours a day away from their home and family, being influenced more by the value systems of whoever they happen to sit next to and whichever teacher they happen to listen to?
I wondered if I was overreacting a little? Then I struck up a conversation with a fellow parent at school. A woman I had never spoken with until today. She knows nothing of me, my values, or my struggling decisions about school. She says to me out of the blue, "I miss having them [her kids] home all day, now that my oldest is in first grade I never see him anymore" . She went on to lament about how busy their lives are just responding to the daily grind of FIRST GRADE. There is homework, sports practice, conferences and work, let alone chores and responsibilities at home. She told me to keep them home and hold on to them as long as I can because once they are in school I will lose them.
I don't want to lose my kids to some system. I don't want them to be more comfortable talking to their peers or their counselors because they are the ones they spend all day with. I don't want their values being shaped by people I don't even know. I don't want the media influencing them without me there to guide them in understanding and dissecting the purposes of that media. Can I do that? I don't know. But if my heart is in a true and honest place about this and my main goal is to prepare them for the kingdom and not for the world...how can I go wrong?
What will this look like? I'm not entirely sure. I have lots of ideas and resources that I am eager to explore with my children. But I do know that if it is done with eager willingness to whatever God has in mind for us and we do it as a family in support of one another's needs it could be a very beautiful thing.
I'm thinking a semester in Africa could be a fairly significant learning experience......