Looking Forward

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Mr._Magorium

Remember the movie, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium? Near the end, Mr. Magorium instructs Molly Mahoney to “turn the page, continue reading… and let the next story begin.”

Whether I look at this part of my life as the next story or just the next chapter, I’m definitely in a major transition and I can relate to Molly’s reluctance to accept the inevitable change.

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Driving Marissa to college, the back (and around her seat) loaded with her stuff, including a giant stuffed penguin.

Just this past weekend, David and Marissa and I drove to BYU-Idaho where we settled Marissa into her apartment, which she shares with five other girls. We unpacked her belongings, placing everything on the shelves, drawers, built-in desk or in the open closet.

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Walking around Idaho Falls. It’s hard to see, but one of our temples is in the background.

We made a few trips to the local Walmart and one trip to Albertson’s to stock her up on basic groceries and other necessities, such as cleaning products and bedding. The multiple shopping sprees happened because there were other college related activities going on in between (picking up her student card, meeting mentors, etc.) so we were on limited time frames, plus we kept discovering things we hadn’t anticipated, such as the desire for bed risers (so she can store stuff under her bed). The stores were bursting with other parents shopping with/for their college kids. We were all on the same mission, buying many of the same items, which were getting picked over fast. Popular items such as pancake mix, Pam spray, individual plates, bowls and mugs, and fingernail clippers were scarce!

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Returning to her apartment after our only shopping trip together.

We attended the parent orientation where tears threatened as I took in the sea of parents and students surrounding us. I was thinking dark thoughts, taking myself back in time when I was 18, fresh out of high school and clueless about what to do next with my life. I didn’t have supportive, loving parents encouraging me along the way. I knew college was a long shot, but I had to get away from home. I had no money, no guidance and honestly, I was burned out from just surviving high school. So I took a job for the state of Colorado, as a roommate to a deaf mom and her eight-year old son. They had been rescued from an abusive family and placed under the care of the state. My job was to help the mom become as independent as possible. Sadly, I knew more sign language than she did. We quickly became friends as I helped her cook and clean and be a responsible mommy. I knew how to parent because I cared for my younger brothers and raised my baby sister. But I digress…

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Driving through Zion’s national park on the way back to Tucson.

I could tell my baby girl was holding back tears of her own when we hugged farewell on Saturday morning, after taking her to breakfast. I cried all the way back to our house in Utah, where we picked up our son, loaded our own things in our car, hugged our oldest daughter farewell, and began our drive back to Tucson. (We said goodbye to our oldest son over Labor Day weekend.)

Just the three of us. I now have three college kids living independent lives. I’m now raising a sort of “only child” for the next five years. And this mama is on a roller coaster ride! Letting go of my kids, watching them spread their wings and soar, is natural and for the best, but it is most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever done as a mother. It brings me joy to see them taking full responsibility for their lives, pursuing their dreams and especially continuing to live our gospel values, but oh how I miss having them around on a daily basis, seeing their smiles and receiving their hugs.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother who misses me and yearns to hear from me and be a part of my adult life. What I do know is that I’m going to find joy in this next chapter of my life. I’ll probably continue to have a few weepy moments, and I can tell my son is in a bit of a funk right now, missing his big sister terribly as they are best friends, but we’re going to embrace this new homeschool year together (which we can finally ease into tomorrow now that we’re back in AZ),  and we’re going to look forward to each and every text and phone call from the college kids, and especially to spending Thanksgiving and Christmas altogether as a family.

So, here’s to turning the page.

When I Grow Up

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Just this summer, I was mentioning to a long-time friend how emotional I’ve been preparing for this new chapter in my life, in which three of my four children are now grown and in college, leaving only my baby of thirteen-years, home as a sort of “only child” for the next five years.

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I guess I should’ve been prepared for the questions she then threw at me, as I’ve heard them from well-meaning friends and family before:

“Have you thought about taking some classes? Figuring out what you want to be when you grow up?”

Sigh.

I remember singing this song when I was a little girl… “When I grow up, I want to be a mother, and have a family. One little, two little, three little babies of my own…” Oh how I loved mothering my younger brothers, my baby sister and my dolls! When I was a teenager, I chose to spend Friday nights babysitting of all things.

My friends and family know that I married shortly after graduating high school and immediately began a family of my own with my wonderful husband, who had already put himself through six years of college, and was established in his career (he’s sixteen-years older than me). I have been fortunate to have the means as well as the desire to stay home and raise our four children.

I’ve embraced my roles as wife and mother and I’ve made my family my career. I am a homemaker. I serve in my church, have my own hobbies and love to spend time with my family and friends. I look forward to being a grandmother someday. (I want my grandchildren to call me, “Nonnina” which means “little grandmother” in Italian.)

I know it’s typical for many of my friends and family to “go back to school” at some point, and I honestly admire them for that. However, I have never felt compelled to follow that same path. That is not my dream. I seem to know something they don’t know: I have already furthered my education in other ways. My non-homeschooling friends and family don’t get this, but my travels and living abroad, my homeschooling lifestyle, and just being a wife and mother have taught me so much! For example…

♥ I know the life-cycle of frogs, how volcanoes are formed, and other science related tidbits, from hands-on unit studies and experiments.

♥ I understand Algebra for the first time because I taught it to my son (and teaching reinforces learning).

♥ I can name various cacti of the Sonoran Desert from my nature walks through desert gardens.

♥ I’ve improved my nature photography skills simply by taking photos out in nature.

♥ I can share first-hand knowledge about Peruvian culture, having lived and traveled in Peru for four years.

♥ I can speak and understand Spanish from years of submersion.

♥ I’ve expanded my vocabulary from reading classics aloud to my children.

♥ I’ve learned planning and organizational skills, simply by planning and organizing my home and homeschool.

♥ Etc. etc. etc.

I took a cake decorating class once, with my daughter and enjoyed it because it was special mother-daughter time. So, yes, I have thought about taking a professional photography class for no other reason than my love for photography.

 

But, what do I want to “be when I grow up”?

I’m already that person. 😊

Homeschool Vs. Public School (An Honest, Real Life Comparison)

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There are all sorts of arguments for and against homeschooling and public schooling, but these are my family’s real life experiences with both and how we compare the two side by side. A little background about my family first: Both my husband and I grew up in the public education system so that was all we knew when we started raising our children. We also move around because of my husband’s job, and so my children experienced multiple schools in multiple states, as well as in two countries outside of the U.S. (Canada and Peru). You can read our story about how we became a homeschooling family, here.

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Mornings and sick days

Public school mornings-

  1. Wake up at a specific time, whether or not child had enough sleep.
  2. Get dressed and eat a quick breakfast. Often times, my child wasn’t hungry yet so I’d send them with a granola bar and apple and hoped they could sneak it in.
  3. During winter or on chilly days, bundle up with outside clothing such as jackets/coats, hats, scarves, mittens, boots, etc.
  4. Head out the door with backpacks, lunches, homework, text books, parent-signed papers, etc.
  5. Walk or mom drives or catch bus to school (depending on where we lived and the weather).
  6. Depending on the school, go straight inside and to locker or classroom OR wait in the school yard (regardless of weather) for the bell to ring, before lining up, and filing into the building one class at a time. Parents are permitted inside (it is a public building), but I always felt unwelcome by the staff unless I was there to parent-volunteer. Once I accompanied my 6-year old son into his school to help him remove his bulky snow suit. A teacher saw me and questioned why I was there before informing me that my son was old enough to take care of himself. (This made me realize how many times teachers and staff talked down to me, the parent.)

If a child wakes up not feeling well:

  1. Evaluate child. If it’s just a cold or allergies or a slight tummy ache or headache, tough luck! Send the child to school with the assurance that they can always call home if it worsens (and the teacher/staff allow it). If the symptoms are a fever or throwing up, the child must stay home, but an immediate call to the school is warranted or else I was sure to hear from the school later, chastising me for not informing them right away.
  2. Call the school and excuse the child’s absence. (As an introvert, this was always a stress-inducing phone call!)
  3. Get missed school work from teacher(s) so your child can stay caught up.

Homeschooling mornings-

  1. Wake up naturally, when child has enough sleep.
  2. Get dressed if going somewhere (or just because it’s daytime) OR stay in pajamas a while longer because pajamas are comfy!
  3. Eat a leisurely breakfast when child is actually hungry and enjoy it together.
  4. Um… the choices here are limitless. Go outside and play or for a walk/bike ride together. Or snuggle up and read a fun story together. Or go to a co-op class that is only twice a week. Or make a craft. Or help Mom with some housework. Or start right into lessons. OR…

If a child is sick:

  • There is no one to call (unless it’s a doctor). No absence(s) to excuse. No missed schoolwork to stress over. Snuggle up to your child and relax!

My family’s conclusion- While we found ways to simplify the morning routine when my kids were in public school (laying out clothes and making lunches the night before, for example), nothing beats the easy-going, natural mornings we spend together at home. And when my child is sick, there is no added stress or anxiety. 🙂

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Following a school calendar and rules

Public school- 

  • School days and hours are set in stone.
  • School policy and rules are set in stone.
  • Family vacations require notifying school in advance, often require every teacher’s permission, and are limited to a set amount of days per school year. They also require catch up/make up work when child returns home (or taking school work with them to stay caught up).
  • All absences must be excused by the parent within a certain time frame, with a valid excuse (which is up to the school to decide whether or not to accept). There is a set amount of allowed absences per school year. Unexcused absences may mean a penalty such as a parent fine or even a parent spending time in jail!
  • The school has the right to discipline your child for any reason.
  • During school hours, the school has more rights to your child than you, the parent.

Homeschooling-

  • In the states in which we’ve homeschooled, we have been able to set our own school days and hours.
  • No absences to excuse or make up.
  • Family vacations may be anytime and for any length without anyone’s permission.
  • Your child is yours.

My family’s conclusion- We love the flexibility and freedom that homeschooling gives us. We are on our own time schedule and calendar which is really nice. We can vacation anytime of the year without guilt or worry. 🙂

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Socialization skills and peer interaction

Public school-

  • Each of my kids made some good friends at school. Contact with these friends was limited to between classes, recess (for elementary years) and lunch (if they shared the same lunch period). True friendships were nurtured outside of school hours.
  • My daughter’s middle school class were her only peers the entire year due to the class moving as one unit from teacher to teacher, as well as having lunch together, instead of each student having a separate schedule. This was what led us to pull her out of middle school. My daughter wasn’t accepted into any of the social circles no matter how hard she tried to fit in.
  • Each of my kids were bullied multiple times. Once, when my daughter’s situation became bad enough that it went to the vice principal, she (the victim) was required to apologize to her bully and that was that!
  • My kids always heard profanity in the hallways.
  • My kids often saw inappropriate, even disturbing behavior by other kids. Once, my daughter and her friends were exposed to full frontal nudity by a teenage boy who was mad at his girlfriend. (He was never disciplined.)
  • My daughter was exposed to drug fumes in her high school locker room during a lock down, and drug invitations were issued frequently on the bus.
  •  There was a designated smoking area for students in the front of the high school.
  • My kids learned how to stand in line and wait their turn. They also learned how to take instruction from different teachers. They were given responsibilities and given rules to follow.

Homeschooling-

  • Each of my kids have made good friends at church, in the neighborhood, at cub/boy scouts, in co-op classes, playing team sports, taking dance lessons, etc. These activities give more time for peer interaction since they take place outside of school hours.
  • At home there is no profanity, no drugs/alcohol, no immoral behavior, no immodesty, and no bullying. Of course, there is typical family behavior, such as occasional sibling rivalry and squabbling!
  • In real world settings, such as the grocery store, library, and playing with neighbor kids, my kids learned how to stand in lines, share and wait their turn. At home they are taught and practice good manners, how to be a true friend, as well as how to take care of their belongings and help care for our home.
  • At home my kids are free to be their authentic selves.

My family’s conclusion- We found that most friendships develop outside of school hours when there is actually TIME for children to freely interact and socialize. We found that all positive social skills are first learned and practiced at home. 🙂 We found the public school environment to be worldly, often lacking the moral standards and values we embrace at home.

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Quality of education

Public schooling-

  • Only secular knowledge is taught and God is not allowed.
  • Children are grouped by age and ability. Class sizes are large and teaching is aimed at the average student. My son who read at a college level in elementary was often bored and unchallenged. My daughter who caught onto concepts slowly, often struggled to stay caught up.
  • The curriculum and teaching methods are one-size-fits-all. Parents have little to no say in what is taught. Sometimes a parent may opt their child out of questionable subject matter (such as sex ed which is only taught from a worldly point of view), but sometimes they aren’t even made aware as was our case with my daughter who learned everything in sex ed EXCEPT abstinence.
  • Individual abilities and skills are usually not taken into account. My friend recently shared a true experience where her son in elementary school was not allowed to present his report memorized (as he had prepared) in order to keep all students “equal”.
  • Teaching mostly takes place in an uninspiring classroom setting in the form of lectures. Children must get their teacher’s permission to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Field trips are few and limited.
  • No child enjoys standardized testing. Most homework is unnecessary and only cuts into precious family time after an already long 6-8 hour school day.
  • My kids had some wonderful teachers, many average teachers and some bad teachers.

Homeschooling-

  • Both secular and spiritual knowledge is taught in our home because we believe that both make up a whole education. God is welcome. Prayers are said. Scriptures read.
  • Children learn together regardless of ages and abilities. Children can learn at their own pace and really nail a subject (such as a math concept) before moving on.
  • Children get one-on-one attention and learn in a variety of ways, including their preferred learning style. Parents can tailor the learning to their child’s individual needs.
  • Parents have full say in the curriculum and subjects taught (what and when). Subjects, such as sex ed can be taught with our family values in mind.
  • Children may choose which subjects to research. When they are personally interested in the subjects, they retain more of what they study. Children also have more freedom with the books they read.
  • The home and outside world make up the learning environment, making for more hands-on, creative learning. Fidgety children can stand and move around as they wish. They may use the bathroom and get drinks and snacks freely. Lots of field trips can take place.
  • The parent is always aware of how their child is doing, so testing is only done periodically and only on the actual subjects taught/learned. In the states we’ve homeschooled, my children were not required to waste their time taking the standardized testing. There is no homework and daily subjects are covered in two to three hours instead of six to eight.
  • The teacher (mom and/or dad) is fully invested in the child’s education and no teacher will love their student more. At church and in co-op classes, plus outside lessons (piano, dance, soccer, etc.) children are exposed to other teachers.

My family’s conclusion- We appreciate having the full say in what and how our children learn. We love learning in a spiritually safe environment. We love spending our days together. Childhood is fleeting and I only get eighteen short years, if I’m lucky, with each child before they are grown up and leave home. 🙂 Sending them to public school feels as if I’m throwing them to the lions while missing out on too much of their childhood.

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End conclusion- These experiences came from ten different public schools within three different states, plus Canada, and from seven+ years of homeschooling. While there are pros and cons to both public education and homeschooling, for my family we can honestly say that homeschooling has more benefits and serves our family better than the public school system. For us, it is a superior choice for educating our children. Also, my daughter, who was homeschooled in her high school years is doing extremely well at her university. 🙂