"Mom, are you going to check my paper?" Sam, my youngest, is sitting next to me doing math right now, but because I'm attempting to write a blog, I ask him to hold on a minute. Don't worry, he'll ask again in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
"Ok...let's look..." I answer, swinging away from my keyboard.
Obviously, I did not choose to homeschool my children so that I could get more done for ROPE. I'm sure homeschooling and peace and quiet can be synonymous, but I don't find that often in the White house anymore.
It's not always been this way. My kids haven't always been homeschooled.
In fact, when my husband David and I had our first son, Coleman (we also have a married daughter, Bryna, 31) he and I left our little self-remodeled 50's bungalow for a bigger house in the neighborhood where I grew up - so he could attend a 'Blue Ribbon' public school - we never even considered anything else.
Coleman - and our adopted daughter Betty - started half-day kindergarten at that little school in 2007 and I was irritated they were only going a half day. It made no sense to me that other schools had full day kindergarten and mine had only half. I joined PTA, went to every Kindergarten presentation, helped them with their reading every evening and enjoyed both kids' teachers tremendously.
In 2008, the school offered full year kindergarten and by 2009, I was standing in line so Sam, could be in half-day pre-k.
During the end of 2008, something began to change in me. Until this time, I was a pretty typical stay-at-home mom; cleaning house, making meals, doing laundry and very involved in my church. I did have a home business I began in 2003 named for the son we lost between Coleman and Sam (MarshallsMemories), and I scrap-booked and made jewelry in my 'off' hours, selling my wares mainly on Etsy.com, but other than that, nothing remarkable.
Though I had voted in nearly every election since I was 18, I had never really been involved in 'politics'.
I registered Republican at 18 (I adored Ronald Reagan) and, excepting a fall from the wagon with Clinton's first term, I found Republican ideals more suited to my own. Voting was one thing; researching a candidate's voting record or background, another. That had never been on my radar screen, yet toward the middle of '08, I began researching then-presidential candidate Barrack Obama and became concerned about what I found. Never before much interested in America's form of government, civics or history, I suddenly wanted to know as much as I could about as much as I could. The more I found out about Communism, Marxism and America's Republican form of government, the more I became convinced public schools had, by and large, simply quit teaching the fundamentals of American history and government.
One thing led to another with my research and by 2010, a friend (Julie McKenzie) and I had started ROPE as a way to shed light on the fact that American students were graduating high school with little to no education in the founding of our country and the science of civics. In fact, ROPE's first stab at legislation was to make sure kids were reading American foundational documents. From there, we began studying public school funding and many, many other topics relating to the education of our youth across Oklahoma and America.
Interestingly, I spent the first several years of my career as ROPE president, researching and writing about public school issues after dutifully seeing my kids off to school. In fact, I remember complaining bitterly when school was canceled for snow or cold, or there was an assembly. My property taxes were going to pay for this school to be open, why wasn't it? My kids needed to be in school, not sitting around home watching TV.
I knew there were parents out there who schooled their kids at home yet I thought them only slightly sane. Why would anyone bring their kids home for school? How were they going to get a good education? Parents weren't teachers for Pete's sake, what parent thought they could adequately educate a child for college by keeping him home? Even having been a teacher - even with a Master's Degree in Biology - this thought was anathema. I was fairly certain homeschooled kids did little but run around their neighborhoods during regular school hours, driving their scooters in front of cars like a homeschool family that moved (briefly) into our neighborhood. How in the world did these kids make friends? Who was around to hang out with during the day? None of this made any sense to me.
As a Christian, I had also come to believe that my Christian children could be salt and light to nonbelievers at their school. Why would I even think of removing my kids from public school when they could be leading others to Jesus within the confines of the school room walls?*
Throughout the years, I was active in PTA at the school. I tried to attend every meeting I could and did what I could to help out with PTA functions. One day at a PTA meeting, I spoke up and asked why we were raising so much money for the school (we had 10's of thousands in the school PTA account). I was told it was for the school's computer lab and to pay for a new gymnasium that we could use during the week and rent out for basketball games/practice on the weekends. Once, when I opined that elementary kids didn't really need to learn how to operate computers, I had the immediate and distinct notion I had broached the unbroachable. It was clear these kids MUST have computer time or they would fall behind their peers at other schools - did I want our kids to be computer illiterate? I had just read research indicating that electronics for elementary-aged kids can prevent them from focusing by shortening their attention span, so I shared this. Clearly, no one in the room was interested.
After studying traditional math (in comparison to the Common Core) I shared - at another meeting - that our school should NOT be using Everyday math, but instead adopt Saxon or Singapore texts. This revelation was met with disinterest in the least and consternation at worst. For a number of months I tried to get other parents/teachers on board with the idea, but our Principal finally put the hex on the idea by reporting that the school couldn't afford the textbooks. PTA, of course, needed their money for a computer lab and gymnasium. It was then I realized that even math illiterate kids can get on the computer and play roundball, and maybe my ideals about education weren't those of my fellow parents or school.
No matter how many children you have, no two will be alike. I have four, and while none of them are carbon copies of one another, I managed to get a more introverted boy and a girl and a boy and a girl who love going and doing and being right in the middle of everything. Coleman is one of my introverts. From a young age that kid would sit by himself, perfectly content building Lego's or drawing, so I shouldn't have been surprised when during the middle of a VERY TOUGH 3rd grade year (lots of bullying and an overbearing teacher who didn't like my son much), he came to me crying and begging me to homeschool him.
What? He was just having a reaction to the year, I was sure, yet even after he was moved to another class to try and make it easier for him to learn, he would regularly beg me to keep him home for fourth grade. Two things happened fairly quickly near the end of that year; a homeschooling mom joined the ROPE board and she began sharing personal experiences about her homeschooling, and Coleman fell face first off the swings, and was made to sit in the office with his face so swollen he could barely open his eyes until they finally got around to calling me. That was it. Though I wasn't sure how the whole schooling the kid at home would work, I decided to take on the challenge and my husband reluctantly agreed.
If I hadn't been seen as the bizarre white-haired White lady at that school before, I was by the first day of school 2010-2011. I enrolled Sam and Betty in 1st and 4th grades respectively, while submitting a letter to the office that I would be schooling Coleman at home and signing up for another year of PTA - this time with the intention of running for President.**
I began Coleman in Classical Conversations that year. One day a week I went to an Edmond church 'campus' where kids of all ages and stages came together to learn all sorts of facts about all sorts of things. In the morning, Coleman had Foundations (the facts portion of the curriculum) and in the afternoon he had Essentials of the English Language where he learned to diagram sentences and write essays. At home during the week while his siblings were in school, Coleman would study his facts, practice his English assignments and write a paper on a different topic each week. I added Saxon math and had him read and outline a junior classic book every couple of weeks. Though I suspect both David and I thought he would soon tire of the self-paced work and lack of friendship, he blossomed, and I learned more about traditional (classical) education vs the progressive education taught in most public schools today.
ROPE had just taken on Common Core and I was speaking and writing and lobbying frequently at this point. Disinterested with the idea of hanging with Mimi or Grandmama during many of my outings, he chose to come along to the Capitol, to meetings - wherever I was headed - and he had a blast (most times!).
Meanwhile, I was still following what the other two were doing in public school, but by now my eyes had fully opened and I was beginning to see the light. The assignments Betty brought home from school made my new blog (begun in July of 2011) several times, as did school newsletters and other items. Her fourth grade teacher and I did not see eye-to-eye and her deeply progressive, rude, student teacher nearly caused my husband apoplexy after a meeting scheduled to discuss some of her more interesting worksheets on Global Warming and Native Americans.
First grade wasn't treating Sam any better. His teacher should never have been responsible for an elementary classroom. She was, if anything, more equipped to muscle around teen children - she had absolutely no empathy and seemed to have cared less for little ones in general. Certainly a Common Core apologist, she was proud to tell me that our school was an early adopter of the standards, knowing the state would force the issue the following school year. During his tenure in her first grade class, he learned to spell words like Kapok Tree (thanks to the chapter on rain forest deforestation) while learning nearly zero English grammar mechanics for spelling (i before e except after c, etc.). Even today, that kid can spell very, very little no matter how hard I have tried to teach him by phonemes. Then there was the math. Oh my word. Though my child could easily be classified ADD, I have no doubt in my mind that his math experiences in first grade are what set him back at least two grades and made him absolutely detest the subject. The fact that he can't sit still and concentrate doesn't make him hate math, it just makes him hate sitting down for any length of time.
By the end of 4th and 1st grades in public school while homeschooling one simultaneously, I had simply gotten to the point where I had zero compunction about removing the other two kids lock stock and barrel from public school and pulling them onto the CC campus with Coleman. I'm sure the school was absolutely ecstatic to see me go, and we were just as pleased to leave.
And there you have it. The genesis of the White family homeschool experience.
Today, we're still with Classical, but we're now at a campus well outside the city, near the little town where we've moved to start a farm. Apparently, once you jump off one conveyor belt, it's becomes easier to jump off the rest (packaged food vs fresh food, internet news vs Big Media news, classic shows on Netflix vs commercial television - we've jumped off them all). Sadly, as I look back, I see how brainwashed Americans - especially mothers - have become. We women bought into that 'bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan' mentality back in the '70's and now we have no qualms dropping off even our youngest children to be raised by someone other than ourselves during the day while we are at work.
I did the math one day. Did you know that each year your child/children are in school, you are allowing someone other than yourself to influence your children 1,190 hours = 50 days = 14% of a year? Did you know that every year our state/federal government want your children to be in school MORE hours and MORE days? How many can you lose and expect your child to graduate high school (let alone college) comfortable with your set of values?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that homeschooling is the panacea for producing 'perfect' people (how about that for alliteration!?) - there is no formula for perfection and there is only One that was - I'm simply saying that the more you influence your child, the less someone else is influencing your child.
Neither am I saying that all homeschools produce excellent results, or are done for the right reasons or should be held up as education models for all to see. I am saying, however, that more parents are equipped to homeschool than are. I'm saying that more parents can homeschool than think they can. I'm saying many parents don't even entertain the option because they think themselves ill-equipped.
Over twenty years ago when people like my friends, former state representative George Faught and his wife Becky, began homeschooling their children - in the days when people in IGA would call the truant officer because Becky had her kids in the store while she shopped - there were very few resources for parents that wanted to homeschool. This isn't the case today. Today there are wonderful online resources (not K12 or other online schools associated with state public schools) such as Freedom Project Education, and others such as Sonlight and A Beka that can provide excellent road maps to an excellent education for ANY parent, regardless of educational background.
As I've said many times in many different venues, God blessed you with your children. He gave them to you to raise, not to a school or a teacher. We are admonished to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6), and that admonition is for parents directly, not through teachers or schools indirectly. Though I in no way mean to embarrass or anger parents who choose to send their children to public schools, or the many teachers who bring their wonderful values with them into the classroom to provide the best education they can for each child, I think it is important to think on these things and listen to our hearts. Could God be calling you to homeschool? If He is, step out and follow His lead - He will bless you in your efforts. If God is not calling you to homeschool, make sure to take time with your children when they are at home - indoctrinate them in your worldview - watch carefully the items that come home - stay in contact with your child/children's teacher/s - make public education work for your family.
No matter what, be sensitive to your kids and keep them under your wing as long as possible. They are only little a short while and after that, your influence wanes. Although I will continue to fight for public education (and so should we all), until parents can return to the position of authority in their child's education within the system, as many of us as can, should be out of it. The system won't change on its own, and a wheel deprived of cogs won't work and must be re-built, or demolished back to step one. Let's stay engaged and committed to restoring public education, but let's not throw our kids in the deep end of the pool to dog paddle as we do.
*I learned subsequently (through an experience with my daughter), that few young children can withstand the pressure of their peers or put aside their desire to please their teacher with enough force or consistency to keep the worldview imparted to them by their parents. As strong as we like to think our children are in the Lord, until they've been able to understand and articulate their Christian worldview well enough to attain apologist status, kids will more than likely adapt to the worldview espoused by their peers/teachers. Children should never be sacrificed on the altar of evangelism and sadly, this is often the case when Christian children are left to defend their faiths inside secular schools.
** I was told I would not be allowed to run for PTA president because I was "too political". Yes, it's true. There you have it. If PTA weren't an arm of NEA and the ultimate in everything political, I wouldn't have laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants, yet that's exactly what I did.