Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hopeful beginnings

I remember when I first heard about home schooling. I was barely married, and certainly not pregnant yet.

(This was before American Christian intelligentsia decided that the Catholics were right after all- the way to win the world for Christ is to out-procreate everyone else. LOL At this point in time, evangelicals were still teaching that the way to win the world for Christ was to preach the gospel. How silly, right? ;-)

An old friend of mine, roommate actually, married before I did and had started her family right away. She was the one who discovered home schooling and was excitedly sharing all about it with me. She was planning on home schooling her young daughter, and was already getting plugged in to a local home school support group. I was immediately intrigued by the idea.

I had grown up in a family that was not at all close. My dad ran out on us when I was two, and though my mom remarried, that marriage didn't last either. We had been in and out of church the whole time I was growing up in our single parent home. I was very much aware that my mom would much rather have preferred I did not exist. I determined that if I ever had a family, we would be close and supportive of one another.

Also, like so many people, public school did not hold much in the way of fond memories for me. The very worst day of my life was my first day of school in fourth grade- and after I unveil more of my life, you'll know that's saying a lot. Nope, school was a social hell for me, at least until I started partying in junior high. That of course turned out to be one of those temporary solutions that brought greater long term problems. *sigh* But it did alleviate the social suffering of my poor unhappy heart for a season.

But aside from the social hell that most of my school career had been for me, it was also very boring for me intellectually. I was a gifted student and intitally I loved school. When my mom was married to my step-father we went to a great school in the affluent suburb of a large city. (I later found out it was a charter school, cutting edge stuff.) I loved school then, as I received lots of kudos for my intellect. After the divorce, my mom took us back to her hometown- a small town (population 1500) out in the middle of nowhere on the Great Plains. It was a different world. A different and very boring world.

So three things about home schooling appealed to me right off the bat. I intended to raise a close, loving family in which my children knew they were wanted, no, celebrated.

I also wanted them to avoid the cruelty of the chicken yard, which is the closest analogy I can find for what happens in peer group institutional education socially. (For those readers who like public school, keep in mind this blog is about my subjective experience and opinion. You are allowed to have a different experience and opinion. In fact, I encourage you too! LOL)

Plus I was so excited about the opportunity for my students to learn at their own pace, however fast or slow that might turn out to be. And the freedom to get up and go explore the world as a family on a learning adventure! What could be sweeter?

So when my husband got home I very excitedly shared with him all I had learned. He loved my enthusiasm, and said he wasn't necessarily against trying it if I really wanted to give it a go when the time came. He had some reservations, but for the most part, he just wanted me to be happy. And so my journey into the world of home schooling began!

I went to one home school support group meeting with my friend and found the people to be, well, a little weird. They all looked Pentecostal holiness, if you know what that looks like: dowdy and unfashionable. But they were nice enough people, and that didn't bother me so much. I am very much a live and let live kind of person.

I would up getting pregnant shortly thereafter, and my thoughts turned elsewhere. I was more interested in pregnancy and nutrition, natural childbirth and the radical idea of breast feeding! I read everything I get my hands on, attended all the birthing classes at the hospital, hired a doula, and read "What to Expect When You're Expecting". I even visited a real nursing mom from La Leche League who showed me how an infant latches on. How courageous was that, baring her breast to a stranger?

Keep in mind all of these was before the internet. Yes, there was life before the internet! Instead of web searches we had to go to the library and look things up in the card catalog. We could go to book stores and look for new books according to the sales categories. And we could get recommendations from friends and social clubs, like Mommy and Me swim classes at the community pool.

So I moved on to the more immediate challenges of being a first time mom. I am proud to say that although the natural childbirth thing didn't work out, my baby and I did make nursing work- in fact it is one of my greatest accomplishments! No one in my family had ever nursed a child. Even my grandmother had bottle fed her babies, and that was back in the 1920s! It made me feel I was all the things I wanted to be as a mother: close, nurturing, supportive. Good times.

When my daughter was two we moved to another state, and I lost touch with my former roommate. But before I left she lent me some books (I still have these books, which shows what a sucky friend I am. Warning: do not loan me books!). One was a book on learning styles by Cindy Tobias and another was a wonderful book called Family Matters:Why Home Schooling Makes Sense by Dave Guterson.

Those two books were my introduction to home schooling, and I LOVED what I was reading! These books were about EDUCATION, not religion. In the beginning that's what home education was about: education. A nurturing, gentle education that segued seamlessly into the natural experience of sharing life together as a family. *dreamy sigh*

It was not about religious indoctrination or how to raise perfect Christian children or how to be a perfect Christian family. *disgusted snort*

Those were good books. I still highly recommend them, especially Mr. Guterson's. They are some of the best books out there about home EDUCATION.

I was hooked after reading them, and I still am.

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