Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Time for Reflection

I think, when you love something, and feel passionate about it, it is easy to succeed at it. Regular readers know my passions are children, families and education. They all came together in homeschooling - you could consider it an intense lab, where I got to try out all the things I believed about how children learned. An intense lab with high stakes.

I must also point out that it was a family effort. It seems as though I get all the credit - I was the primary source of education - yet I couldn't have done it without Eric. I was the one having all the fun, he was the one who had to go to work every day. He provided financial support so I could work part-time and homeschool full-time. He was my back up on all things educational - we were a nice compliment for each other. My spatial abilities and hard-science knowledge are weak - Eric's are strong. Between us we had strengths in all the major academic areas. Also, Web and Riley are the ones who did the work and they are the ones who put in the effort to achieve their college goals, and they deserve huge applause for setting and reaching those goals.

Getting back to Eric, the most important thing he did was to give me his trust. He put his faith in my abilities to educate our children, he trusted me to create an environment and a curriculum that would achieve all the goals we had for our boys. He was my greatest cheerleader. At the same time, he was an active participant in teaching. In our house every moment was a teaching moment. Everything we did had education woven in to it. It might be values based, or academic, or skills based. It might involve working with individuals or a group. It might be about relationships, or ownership, or ethics. Really, it was all about life. Our goals for the boys were simple: to be fully themselves, to love to learn, to know how to self-educate, and to be life-long learners.

I believe that children learn best through experiences. When they are young, those experiences are play. When they are older, those experiences range all over the map. I never taught a lesson in the traditional sense. Instead, I played with them when they were young, providing experiences that were rich with learning. I provided hours of free play where their imaginations ran wild. When they were older, I wrote up a daily assignment sheet and left it on the kitchen counter. There were only two rules - one was that their assignments had to be done by 5:00 pm. How they chose to do them, when and where they chose to do them, was up to each individual. Rule two was that the TV could not be turned on until they were done. (By the way, we didn't have video games, so that was never an issue). I was a facilitator - following where they led, helping if they needed it, asking the questions to make them think.

It wasn't all idyllic and wonderful. Let's get real - two boys, home together all day? They argued and fought, but at the same time were best friends. They argued with me, they whined about their school work (and lack of video games). In short we were just like every other family in the world. We spent lots of time hanging out with other homeschooling families, at 4H events, at the Y in homeschool PE, and with each other. Sometimes it was perfect, sometimes it wasn't. In the end though, I feel very content about the childhood Web and Riley had, about the time I had with them, about the gift Eric gave me when he gave me his trust.

A long time ago, we made a decision to step off the path and create our own way. It was a scary decision, one that we took a lot of heat over. Today I'm standing at the end of the new path, and I know that we made the right decision for our family. Life has thrown a few surprises at us along the way, but in the end, we are standing together, strong, confident and happy.

26 comments:

Wes said...

It is an honor to be the first (I hope) to respond to this :-) It's like ice cream and hot fudge. Red beans and rice. Laurel and Hardy. When two things mesh together, it is indeed a beautiful thing. You, your husband, and your boyz are extremely blessed to be a union on this great race to the finish line. Thanks, Michelle. You inspire us all beyond the glory of the run...

robtherunner said...

You made a tough decision and had the knowledge and education to follow through to the benefit of the entire family. There is no one way to educate children all though sometimes I feel as if in education there are a lot of people who think there is only one way, their way. Thanks for the reflection.

Juls said...

Yes, we give you all of the credit for teaching and being brave enough to want to do it. Of course it should be pointed out that the decision is not made alone and cannot be successful without support. Hurray to ALL of you.

Joe said...

A wonderful, reflective post, Michelle. Well woven together and appropriate as your family moves to a new phase of the path.

I hope you can share this more widely...first with your family, then with others who supported you, the wider home-schooling community and others in education.

A true team effort!!

Mama said...

Appreciation for the support, work, and love are so important. It is so easy to take those closest to us for granted. The more I look for the good in Steve and our families, the more good I see. That is what I feel is important.

You are truly blessed and doubly blessed to recognize it.

Be Free,
Lorri

olga said...

Believe and trust are two important issues that helped you guide through those times. Without them you may have never had enough patience to see the end. It is so wonderful to stay on that other end right now and look back. But I bet you enjoyed the journey even more - and that's what worked.

Makita said...

A wonderful, reflective post. As my children are just beginning reach school age, I constantly question and debate myself - what do I think will be best for them? Should I homeschool? Should I enroll them in publc school? As a former public school teacher, I have strong pulls in both directions.

My daughter will be turning 5 in Sept but her birthday fall past the cut off so she doesn't start K until '08. Yet, she is starting to read and write. She loves art and crafts (very talented in that way). I love teaching her and going with the flow... exploring with her what is of interest at the moment (right now it's butterfly life cycles - she found a caterpillar in the backyard that has now pupated).

Your post renews my enthusiasm for home-schooling. I have many decisions to make. :)

Try@thlete said...

As a former classroom teacher I have to say homeschooling seems the way to go. Based on my experiences I wouldn't trust state schools here to educate a child. Kids that are homeschooled need interaction with other kids, as both of you wisely ensured for your kids. From a financial point of view, homeschooling is tough. But the greatest thing about homeschooling, I think, is the knowledge that you actually have a hand and some degree of control of their education, and yes, they do grow up to be lifelong learners who can think for themselves. Good on you both!

psbowe said...

Nice post. Funny you write this because Lyle and I have been discussing this alot lately being that our little one is 3 now and we've been meeting with our financial advisor over the last few weeks to figure out a plan to make it work. Thanks for the insight.
It's very comforting to know that it's really paid off for your family, congratulations again.

Annette said...

I admire those who choose to homeschool and do it with their whole heart. Even though I teach, I do not believe I would have the patience to homeschool. What a wonderful place for you to be right now - to be able to look back and say, "It was the right decision and it was worth it!" Congratulations to all of you.

Nicole said...

You are a true inspiration. I've dreamed of having kids and having them home schooled not by me but my sister. I'm not near well rounded enough to home school my future children but I think is is awesome that you did and did it successfully.

Sarah said...

Parenting isn't easy, even in the best of situations. I know I'm often second guessing myself. How wonderful for you to be in a spot to know you made the right decisions. Nice! : )

Addy said...

What a wonderful and interesting post. As someone heading into the field of teaching (and raised at all levels in the public school systems) I have to admit I'm fairly ignorant on the points of homeschooling. That said, I really enjoyed hearing about your experience with it and how well it worked for your family. It's nice to gain this small bit of insight :)

Randy said...

If this group were together right now we would first be giving you and Eric a standing ovation....then the same for Web and Riley...as you say....you were the facilitor...you put the tools in front of them and let them choose how they used them....gently guiding when necessary...provoking thought...coaching....but they too were a great part of the process. That was a monumental decision that you and Eric made and a very scary journey you embarked upon all those years ago...your boys are so much better for it though.

With today's schools in so much trouble over teacher competancies, what is right to teach and what they believe is not worthwhile for the classroom....they overlook the fact that due to politics our school systems have been eroded to almost nothing.

It's so sad that a great nation rich with world political leaders has allowed themselves to be the culprit for taking our educational system to what seems an all time low.

My hat is off to you, Eric, Web, and Riley....your success is awesome.

Steve said...

Hey, Eric and I went to public schools and we turned out well, right? Ok, maybe it wasn't the schools system. It was just a rebellious era, man.

Sarah Elaine said...

By the end of reading your post, I had the song "I did it my way" running through my head.

Considering your boys' success(es), I'd say that you got it right.

scott keeps running said...

That's a great story. My four youngest brothers and sisters home schooled and turned out almost as great as me. :)

--

About the east side of the state... We've lived here for 4 years now and it's taken almost that long for us to finally appreciate the landscape. It's definitely not the same beauty as the west side, but there is a bit of magic in these wheat fields. I'm glad you may be changing your mind about it. :)

About Cle Elum... Looking at photos from previous years I am nervous that it may be too cold. Lots of sweatshirts and gloves. The heat may not be an issue. So keep thinking about it!

runliarun said...

There are so many things one could say about how wonderful and intriguing, in all its implications and consequences, that is upon which you reflect.

So many, I could not do them justice in a paragraph or two.

So I will just say I was surprised you did not mention running as a passion. Oh, I know running does seldom make a life. But I was still surprised.

Ryan said...

That’s one BIG decision and one HUGE accomplishment, the one on one attention, the creative way of teaching and the happiness that comes from seeing them learn & grow, job well done! You two are wonderful parents keep up the great work!

Dori said...

What a nice post, Michelle. I'm sure you did take a lot of heat over homeschooling, but I'm happy it worked out. I have a friend who is homeschooling her two youngsters, age 7 and 9, and she struggles with it. But she has two happy, well-adjusted children. I recently found out the my builder in California, a recent college grad, was homeschooled. There are many success stories. There is more than one right way.

PS: Sorry I've been absent for so long. Traveling throws off my routine and it takes a while for me to get back into it.

JustRun said...

Wonderful post, Michelle. That was a brave decision, but you all did it right.

Sunshine said...

What a wonderful thing for you all ...homeschooling!
That became legal in Minnesota in 1987... when our sons were in college.
With a degree in elementary education, it was so difficult for me to send those boys off to an overcrowded school. If I had a choice, I didn't know it.
I rejoice in your story.

Sunshine said...

Oh thank you!!

When our boys were in grades 2&3 I was able to instigate the first gifted program in their school, but it was such a small beginning.
That was in the early 70's.

Lots of things got better... truly it is with JOY that I have read of your success! Thank you for sharing your story. I celebrate you!

Jack said...

You guys all desire a round of applause, well done!

Mama Scarlet said...

Michelle,

Thank you so much for this post! As one who struggles sometimes with confident in my decision to home school my girls, it's so refreshing to read your "take" on the experience. I'm definitely encouraged by your words. thank you for sharing. :o)

Anne said...

You are so right that to succeed in raising and educating children, it takes a team effort. It's nice that you recognize Eric's contributions and are willing to share the glory of both sons turning out so well.