Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Boldy going...where millions of American children go every day

So as you know, Ren and I have been cutting things to the bone lately. Thusly, we have made another major decision.

Isabel, our 5 year old, is about to graduate from Pre-K. She attends a fantastic little private Christian school in the area, with which we have been exceedingly pleased. We enrolled her there for several reasons, namely because: 1.)It's a Christian school. We're Christians, so logically, we've decided to raise our children as such. Crazy, I know. But that's just the way we roll; 2.)It's only half day--3 hours--as opposed to the 6 & 1/2 hour day in public Pre-K. We just weren't ready to subject our then 4-year old to that many hours of school per day, especially with it being her first year, coupled with the fact that she has the rest of her next 15 or more years to live out in some type of school system; 3.)We loved the smaller classes, the teachers, the brand new facility...*sigh*. I could keep going. Needless to say, we've been very satisfied with our experience, and, more importantly, so has she.

However, she's about to graduate, and next fall she'll be moving on up into Kindergarten (or the "Academy" as they call it). Our options at this point are: 1.)Keep sending her to the private school; 2.)Homeschool; or 3.)The dreaded...Dare I say it?...Public School. *gasp!*

I'll address the first option...well, first. Honestly, we love her school. I think I've made that quite clear. But here's one small problem: It's not free. It actually costs us money. That's the crazy thing about private school. And next year her tuition would be almost double what we're paying for her current year. It's been a little bit of a stretch for us to send her this past year, but with me working part time for our church, we've been able to manage it. But see, here comes the tricky part--we're simultaneously trying to get out of debt, sell a house, and I'm getting ready to quit my job and have our fourth baby! So, we either go into even more massive amounts of debt (which we already have, thank you very much), or sell one of the other children to fund our oldest daughter's first year of school, or look at our other options. Let's move on, shall we?

I'll address Homeschooling next. Honestly, I love the idea of home school. I think it's an admirable, noble, amazing, and wonderful thing to do. For anyone else on the planet ***EXCEPT ME***. Honestly, I know what I can and cannot do. I have come to know myself pretty well, and I know the way I'm wired. Actually, the thought of homeschooling right now, with this many small children, while getting ready to have another, makes me break out into a cold sweat and want to pass out. I know a LOT of moms that home school. In fact, I would even go so far as to suggest that we rename the current area in which we live from the Bible Belt to the Homeschool Belt. I feel like I am in the minority at times. I'm not one of those parents that cried on my daughter's first day of Pre-K. On the contrary, I barely stopped the mini-van in the carpool line just long enough for her to safely get out, before spinning the tires, and racing off to enjoy my few, short, precious hours. Heh heh. I'm a good mom.

I've seen and/or heard some of the nitty, gritty details. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And several parents I've talked to do NOT recommend homeschooling your first child, their first year, with a brand new baby. Who knows? Once they get a little bit older, like maybe when they can all read, write, and wipe themselves, I may change my tune. Until then, we're pretty much decided. I have spent a lot of time considering this option (like the last 5 years or so), and I've spent many hours in prayer about it. I've heard the pitches. I've had other moms try to convert and/or "encourage" me into doing it . But just trust me on this one. I don't think that Homeschooling is for everyone. And with that being said, I KNOW, it ain't me, babe. Not now. No way. No how.

Which leaves us at our third and final option, Public School. Now, 5 years ago, Ren and I would have laughed hysterically, and then proceeded to systematically bludgeon the offender, had anyone ever even suggested that we throw our precious first-born into the lion's den of iniquity that is Public School. But, life (and God) has a way of taking you from all your unrealistically high standards, knocking you down a level or two, to bring your feet back to Planet Earth. Therefore, and by now you've probably guessed it, Ren and I have decided that we will be sending Isabel to public school for Kindergarten. Now, I'll spare you all the minute details about how we've come to such a brave conclusion. But I will say that I really think the Lord Himself gave us both some sort of paradigm shift on the whole thing. The fact that we're in agreement on it is huge. And ever since we've made the decision, I've just been getting nothing but God's peace and encouragement every step of the way. I keep hearing other parents in the community saying things like, "Oh, that's one of the best schools in the county," and "If I had my choice, that's where I'd be sending my kid." And even crazier is the fact that we can see the school from our neighborhood.

The main thing we keep telling ourselves is--It's Kindergarten, for crying out loud. How wild and crazy can it possibly be?

What we've learned through all of this is that there's no perfect solution. We're just parents who deeply love our kids, and want to do what's best. Aren't we all? Obviously, there are pros and cons to all of these scenarios. We'll definitely have to reevaluate our decision at the end of Isabel's first year in public school. At that time we'll have to take a really hard look at her drinking habits, number of piercings, various tattoo locations...oh, AND examine what and how much she's actually learning and move on from there.

Pray for us as we embark on this brave new journey.


Kristen said...

Dude. Once upon a time--just being really honest--I would have probably shaken my head and thought (to myself) that you were making a mistake. I can see now, though, that like you said, it isn't for everyone, and that the Lord may actually lead different families to do different things (GASP!).

So many things you've written lately have resonated with my life and my heart. Today it's "life (and God) has a way of taking you from all your unrealistically high standards, knocking you down a level or two, to bring your feet back to Planet Earth." That pretty much sums up a lot of stuff.

And it's not like you guys can't decide to do something else later if you feel it will work best for your family. I have always thought that the first few years of school are not bad. It's the later years that seem to get trickier for most kids (and, of course, that varies, too). She'll have a great time.

We're still planning to homeschool, but I guess I have learned never to say never.

((HUG)) I completely love your honesty. And I think it's really, really good that you know yourself well. It's a valuable thing.

Angela said...

Kristen, you are a gem. Thank you so much for your encouragement. You are precious.

I probably would be homeschooling--if I just didn't have so dang many of 'em! And they weren't all so close. Honestly, it's all I can do to just get us all dressed most days. I'm not a very organized, planning type of person. And that seems like it would need to be vital in a homeschooling scenario.

I really liked your blog post recently about all your ideals that you start out with as a Christian, as a parent, etc. Parts of this post, honestly, came from being inspired by you and YOUR honesty!

Erin said...

You know I'm right there beside you. Thank God I moved away before I had kids or I would have been the "loser" mom of the group. Guess what?! I was infertile, didn't breast feed (it really hurt and I sent Wes out for formula before I left the hospital), had to have a C-section, I HATE cooking and I am sending my kids to public school!! And, I also think I am a great mom. I love my kids so much that I would lie down in front of a train for them if needed, but I loved school and I hope my kids love it, too. I think moms are great in different ways: some moms are great for their home cooked meals, soothing voices and endless patience. And some like me are great because I will buy a hot chocolate from Starbucks and call it a latte, buy you a tiny pair of sunglasses that match my bigger pair and read 7 books at bedtime and sing all the songs from Mulan or Mary Poppins if requested. (and with a smile.) I know a lot of my GA friends( like Kristen, Amy and Amy) are home schooling, and I think it's great. And I think it's God's will for their families because I know they pray about their parenting just like me. But I am so glad we are all different. it is so much more fun. And when I hear Robin singing, "Oh, how I love Jesus.." or "God is love, and Jesus came to save me, " I think, so far, so good.

Erin said...

In case that sounded aggressive, just wanted to say when I say I think home schooling is great I really mean it. I have been fascinated with it and I think it is a real and viable option. Just making the point that I am still a good mom, although not having all the domestic talents.

Angela said...

Awww, Erin, your post made me want to BE one of your daughters, drinking a latte with you while wearing my matching mommy sunglasses! :) I love you so much, and you're such a great mom. Your post didn't sound aggressive at all. Just passionate. As usual. :)

shannon said...

I just read an article about how Moms in our generation have it hard because of all the options available to us. . . I worry about all the comparisons our society makes. The one thing we all have as Moms is our intuition and knowledge of our children. We've got to let that be enough and be proud of our friends for the hard decisions they make. Fear blinds friends; fear that someone has to be wrong so if she's doing this and I'm doing that, then WHO IS WRONG?
Nora goes to public school even though I think I would love home schooling and be good at it. Christ sits at school with her, too. And all the other kids. He doesn't just reside in our homes!
Nora has learned a lot about the different faces of Jesus at school- they have a Cougars (their mascot)for Christ program and she has many different kinds of Christians in her class and a Muslim kid who talks about how good God is all the time.
Nora learns about God's world and how to treat God's people, being out there by herself. There are things I cannot teach her myself-- like how to speak up when I am not by her side.
I was so shy when I started school and my heart bled just as it does, now. It was SO HARD for me to raise my hand and say what I thought about anything but look at me now. That's why I choose public schools, because that's where I learned how to speak about what I believe, not just to the people my parents thought agreed with me.
I am a room mother and I make sure to meet all the children in Nora's class and get to know the parents, too.
I live in a county where there are many home-schooled children and, like everything, I've seen kids make it in that environment and I've seen kids veer way off course and resent it.
Ang and Ren, your kids will have open, examined hearts wherever they school. It's a good question to pose and I hope you're as happy with public school as we've been. Nora'd be lucky to run into a bright little sprite like Isabel at school! Isabel will be running into some thoughtful kids like Nora, too!

Amy said...

I almost wet my pants when you described dropping Isabel off the first day of school---SO hilarious! I was a crier with Brendan. When I dropped Elijah off, he didn't even look back or wave. He was like," SEE YA!!

Wow...what awesome ladies I have for friends!
We are all so different, and within our own families, each child is so different that keeping an open mind is KEY in education, parening styles, discipline, etc...
Every year, Amy M. and I have to practically talk each other into homeschooling another year. Sometimes it feels appealing to throw our kids into school, get a 9-5 job and be done with it! Trust me, even if you feel that God is calling you to homeschooling (as I do), it is still not an easy task and you will not hear me tell people that they should or should not embark on it. I talk in pros and cons only. It is such a nice thing, though, that I get to spend face-to-face time with my teenager and can honestly say that I REALLY enjoy him as a person. Usually by this age, they are out the door in the morning and not home until dinner time. However, homeschooling Elijah has been a ride that has made me consider committing harry-carry on more than one occasion. I know my time is short with my kids, so I am going to trudge through homeschool until we know it is time to stop. Btw, I have done the math, and if we homeschool everyone through high school, I will be FIFTY-FOUR when Zeke is done. Hmmm...can't go there right now!
You are all so amazing!! I love you!

ShadowRester said...

What I remember about Kindergarden:
Playing house, drawing pictures, getting in trouble for playing during naptime (I got hit on the hand with a ruler, but they are not allowed to do that anymore), the telephone game, missing my mama, going to the baby sitter after school (Ruth who lived in the farmhouse with about 7 kids and umpteem cats) and the madalina adalina oopscala wallacalla okinokipoka was her name song. That is all I remember. I think Isabel will be fine in the local school. It sounds like a nice school since other parents wish they could send their kids there.

Erin said...

You make a great point about within our families each child is so different!! It is SO true!! When they are 11 months apart the differences can really throw you! I can't do things the same way with Lucy as I did with Robin. Robin is very readily obedient and Lucy is very independent. Oh my. And Robin (though she acts 35 - I think she is just really short) does NOT want to potty train. And Lucy is already interested even though she is a cave woman with her language compared to Robin. We went to a rodeo here and Lucy did the pony ride and tried to hit me if I helped her. Robin sat in the stroller looked disapproving. The drop off thing is funny, too. Somedays when I drop Robin off my eyes fill with tears (esp. one day when I saw the teachers and kids praying before snack time - so cute.) and other days I feel like, "See ya! I'm on the way to Starbucks!" Oh, conflicting emotions of motherhood:)

Erin said...

It's me again. Sorry - I've had two lattes today. Just wanted to clarify that Lucy's language is coming along famously and that Robin is not a wimp just because she doesn't ride horses at age 3. I know you guys don't care, but I am trying to not pigeonhole my children. Didn't you hate it growing up if someone made a blanket statement to describe you? And you thought, "Hey! I'm not even middle aged!! I'm very nuanced here!! " I am leaving room for nuances.


Wes W. said...

Doesn't Home School means the kids stay "HOME"?!

No way, man.

Angela said...

I love you ladies! I honestly think I have the smartest, strongest, bravest friends ever. I love everything that each of you has said. It's amazing to me that there can be so many different viewpoints (even amongst Christians) and like Shannon so eloquently said, none of them are "wrong." Even just 10 years ago, what Christian parents were "supposed" to do seemed so black and white. Nowadays it simply isn't. Like Shannon also said, we do have SO many options available to us. Which is good, but hard in some ways, I guess. Good because we can make the choices ourselves, instead of them being decided for us, but hard because it puts the responsibility back on us, and how do you know you're making the best choice???

Shannon, you also made another EXCELLENT point that I hadn't yet thought of. In the past, I'd been focused on what can go wrong in the public school setting. But you reminded me that there are many things that can actually go right! Things our kids can actually learn, and from other people than ourselves. Even if everything isn't "perfect." God can work all things together for our good, right? I loved how you said, about Nora, that "Christ sits with her at school." Absolutely He does.

I have to quote Kristen here from one of her blog posts. I hope she doesn't mind. :) This has been echoing in my mind for the past couple of weeks and I think it's appropriate:

"I've come to see, though, that in life there's the Ideal (what you would like if you could dictate all circumstances) and there's the Real (what you've got). I assumed that the Ideal is just naturally what would occur, even though life experience had already given me a heads-up that's not the case."

And that's where God comes in and fills in the gaps with grace. And hallelujah for it! If He didn't we'd all be in a heap!

Angela said...

Sorry, Wes. I didn't mean to lump you in with the "ladies." Your comment made me laugh out loud.

Angela said...

And Elaine, you remember waaay too much from Kindergarten! All I remember is snack time (go figure), and the German Birdie Dance.

holly said...

i remember giggling during nap time, and having to stand in the corner for giggling during reading time. among other things..
i think the lord gives each parent wisdom and discernment for their children's specific needs and the needs of their family. he's always guiding us, especially i believe in child rearing! sounds like you guys are making a wise decision and nothing's set in stone...

holly said...

it's also comforting to know there are people like leslie out there teaching the kids..

Angela said...

That IS a comforting thought, Holly! Also, about your giggling, we would have been great friends in Kindergarten. I was often getting into trouble, but for things that I felt I absolutely COULD NOT control!!! :)

Holls, you also made a great point, one that I've often considered with Isabel. I feel as though I'd be doing her a disservice by keeping her home. One day in the carpool line, she was singing "I love my school, I love my school!" She is very pro school. Hopefully she'll feel that way about her new one!

What a great discussion this is has been!

Angie said...

I was going to say that it is amazing and unfortunate just how much stigma there is surrounding so many of our parental choices. Natural vs. medicated/cesarean birth, breast feeding vs. bottle/formula feeding, cloth vs. disposable diapers, co-sleeping vs. sleep training, spanking vs. time out, whether to let your child watch television or not, home schooling vs. private or public school. The fact of the matter is, there is no one right answer. Of course it is nice to be around other parents that make similar decisions to "compare notes," but that can be dangerous if you just end up comparing each other. I know that you have said this before , Angela, but God has uniquely equipped us to be the parents of the children that He has given us. I think that is what can be difficult though. We have to rely on Him. We can't just do what other families do, we have to do what's best for our family and ask God to give us the wisdom to discern what that is. You and Ren are awesome parents and you have some really great kids.

shannon said...

Speaking of what we remember from kindergarten-- I remember the class I was not in was the "darling" class. There were two classes and I just remember that the other class was filled with children whose parents had requested they be in a certain class with the, presumably, better teacher.
I didn't like my kindergarten teacher at all. My Mom was not social and she's also a pretty "all shall be well" kind of thinker. She did not request any teacher for me. (by the way, Ange, you usually can do this- and !I have for two years in a row - you just write a polite letter requesting whichever teacher)
My Mom and my Dad were raised in the Catholic school system and loved it but they chose to put us in public school because they just believed in our abilities to get along in the world, that all shall be well.
Anyway, me not liking the second-rate teacher was actually so informative for me. It's definitely not what I want for the first year of my child's life but I'm not scared of it, either. My kid is going to be okay because she's got me and God and a good community (that I believe in) surrounding her.
And, since I am so involved with school (I do projects with the kids monthly and read to them every Fri) I feel very connected to Nora's learning process.
I could not successfully guide Nora, through any kind of schooling, if I were to have a 9-5 job. She already has homework and books to read and we do al kinds of nature stuff and art stuff together after school.
I also want to mention that home schooling has been tempting to me for the beauty of leaving all the comparisons (in the form of grades, clothes, cliques) and the negative constraints behind. . . again, I feel that it's good to know what these societal structures mean and how to avoid being constrained by them.
Ange, thanks again for helping us all communicate about such a hot topic! It's good for me to see from where other Moms are coming and what their individual ideas are.

holly said...

ang, i wish you'd been in kindergarten with me..i would've had someone to stand in the corner with!!:)
wanted to pipe up that it has been interesting for me to read about all my friends' parenting thoughts/styles/choices...it seems there are so many more choices today, as angie was pointing out, than our parents maybe had. def. with the education angle. and it's interesting to note how or if we choose according to the way we were brought up, opposite from that or somewhere in between.
mainly i wanted to pipe up because this will make 20 comments, a blog record ang!!