29 July 2006


The subject of school has been a difficult one for my household this summer. Our son, who is 10, has been attending a charter school since kindergarten. We initially made the decision for him to attend based on their accelerated curriculum. We have put up with their lack of amenities (lunchroom, gym, etc.) as a sacrifice for the excellent education. We also happened to be lucky that the school was just as close to us as the public school for which we were districted. That changed when we moved this spring. We are now nearly 30 minutes away, and with gas prices as they are, we have somewhat of a dilemma.

I have always had a problem with public schools. I feel like the curriculum is based on making sure enough students get good marks on 'The Test' that is given every couple of years so that the schools will continue to receive adequate funding. I don't feel like enough time is spent on subjects beyond the basics for kids to come out at the end with a true appreciation for the world and a desire for lifelong learning.

Supposedly, the school district that we have moved into has a reputation for being 'good.' I'm not sure, though, what that is supposed to mean. Do they hire better teachers? Do they have more money in the district for cooler equipment? Or do they actually go above and beyond the call of duty? We recently visited the local intermediate school that he would go to, should we so choose. It certainly looks nice, and the people seem nice. We talked extensively with the principal about the gifted/talented program, to see if that could somehow make up for the difference between what the charter school offers and what public school has. I have my doubts. While we were there, I looked through the 5th grade math textbook. I saw everything that he had learned LAST year. And he had begun complaining that he was bored, as he had done some math self-study at home.

This has led us to some radical and dangerous thinking. Some background information may be necessary before I go any further... I am the full-time worker of my household. My husband is the stay-at-home dad who does some work here and there to help supplement. We moved this spring in order to shift everything around so that we could change our situation in life and hopefully get 'ahead.' We puchased a large house with my in-laws, moved in together (but fairly well separated), and I started working only four days a week. The idea is that I can keep our health insurance in place while we start our own business (an online metaphysical shop.) The business has been in the works for a while, but I'll post more on that at another time. Back to the radical ideas. As may have been surmised from the title of this post, the subject of homeschooling came up. Now I know that the Christians have pretty much cornered the market on this idea, but I have seen some things here and there about a pagan homeschooling movement. My husband and I figured that I have the best 'teaching' rapport since we already do other kinds of 'lessons' (see previous post), and would therefore be the main instructor, but would I have enough time to work, start a business, and teach school? I could feasibly drop another day in my workweek and still receive our health insurance, and we would probably be able to scrape by financially.

The main concern, I think, for any homeschooled child, is socialization. I've met many a homeschooled graduate who did not know how to function in the real world. I guess that's a problem here in the bible belt. It's possible that if we did homeschool, we would only do so for a couple of years. But, in the meantime, would karate class and Spiral Scouts be enough? One other factor, my son's best friend from the charter school just happens to be transferring to public school this year so he can participate in sports. You only get one guess which school he's going to. That's right, the same one we would go to. Now, I do need to mention that my son has been begging to be homeschooled for many years. Much the same way I begged to go to private school when I was a kid (no, I never got to go.) I just wanted a better eduaction than what I felt I was getting. I was bored - just like he is now.
So, the question now is, do we try this? We are running out of time to make a decision. School is starting at the charter school week after next, and at the public school one week later. We don't even know whether to buy regular clothes (public), uniforms (charter), or nothing (home)!


Daryl Cobranchi said...

YES! Pagans home educate. And agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Moslems, Jews, and (yes) Christians.

Your kid wants it. The charter school is out. And his "assigned" school appears to be inadequate. Your family situation even sounds ideal. What more could you ask for?

Seriously, Fear & Doubt are holding you back. The homeschooling lifestyle is great. You can go where you want when you want. "Schoolwork" can be done in the evenings or on weekends if need be.

I'm not pagan but more than a few hang out and comment at my blog (http://cobranchi.com) Feel free to drop by and ask any questions you may have.

Unique said...

Try it, you'll like it.

It may seem like the Christians have the majority of homeschoolers but what I think you're noticing is that they have produced the preponderance of Homeschool Curriculum (or whatever the Latin plural is...)

Your child loves to learn - bonus #1. Your child can work independently - Bonus #2. Get yourself a copy of 'What Your XX Grader Needs to Know', make out a course of study *with* your child and let 'er rip.

Kids will find other kids - even at the library. Try it for 6 months to a year. If it isn't working you can reevaluate your options then.

Check out my friend Lioness's blog http://lionesshomeschool.blogspot.com/ Yes, there really are pagan homeschoolers out there.

If you're starting a new business, let your child help. That's a real life education he won't find in school.

Stephanie in TX said...

Besides Lioness, we homeschool and we are pagan.

I'm curious about the homeschool grads you met who couldn't function in the real world. How many? In what ways could they not function?

Homeschooling is not some magic button that will turn your kids into incompetents in "the real world." YOU function in the real world; you know what it's all about, and you're more than capable of teaching your kid how to get along in it. Or even - gasp! - how to be successful in it. The world has very little to do with school, as you'll find.

(Followed the link here from Daryl's blog.)

Nance Confer said...

So you're just going to be naked if you homeschool?? :)

We unschool and un-just about everything else.

And we aren't Christian or any of that. We are good old-fashioned science-loving atheists.

If you must do "schoolwork," work it around your schedule instead of the other way around. Or let your son continue with the studies he has already started and truly learn at his own pace. Why hold him back by following somebody else's workbook?

There is a lot of information online about hsing. Probably too much. But reach out to your local hsers, skip the ones who don't fit your life, find a few people to talk to, and dive in!

What's the worst that could happen? Your son could hate it and beg to go back to public school.

But think of how nice life could be if it wasn't all about "the test" and the school's schedule. :)

But do get some clothes on! Geesh! No wonder everyone thinks hsers are a bunch of nuts! :)


Lynn DeWalt said...

Hmm... plural of Curriculum... that would be Curricula... and that on a Public School Education!
Why is it black and white for most of these blogs? Take your child to the public school, and IF the teacher won't provide extra meaningful Curricula - find a mentor! Our public school, at which I teach, does this with many students who are looking for more than the "standard fare" offered in public schools - where we "teach to the tests". I hate to say it, but I don't even have a test to teach to. I guess that means my area of content is meaningless (just ask the "academic" teachers). It's that type of thinking that has damaged art and music programs all over the country, regardless of the many studies that state our importance!

Nance Confer said...

Thank goodness, we still have time for as much art and music as the kids can stand. . . but that wasn't your point, was it?

Your school sounds very special -- providing mentors. I've never heard of a public school around here that does that.

"Flexibility" here meant allowing my son to read with a slightly older class. . . a completely inadequate response to his needs.

But a lot of parents do work things out with their public school. Or the kids attend school part-time. Or take advantage of online options.

There are a bunch of good choices. Some of us have to try a few things to figure out what works.


COD said...

If school isn't working, and you know it, why waste time hoping it will change? It's a government institution, it's not going to change in time to make any difference to your kid. Take a leap of faith - the worst case is that it doesn't work and you go back to school. You already know your not going to miss much!

My blog and my readers are yet another example of not-so Christian homeschoolers. http://odonnellweb.com

Almost Lazarus said...

Yeah, what everybody else said. It's not just for Christians anymore.

Socialization is no longer an issue - anymore socialization and I wouldn't have time to homeschool.

Check out the many resources here:

Jeanne said...

You might be interested in the Unitarian Universalist Homeschool site at http://www.uuhomeschool.org/ .

Come on in; the water's fine!

Dawn said...

Well heck, I'M a christian. But we aren't christian homeschoolers and I wouldn't touch most of the christian HS curricullum, so often creationist crap, with a ten foot pole. We're unschoolers. Which I think you should check out, esp. with your comment about life learning. An excellent resource in lifelearningmagazne.com which offers free pdf downloads of past issues. But...

Imagine you're standing in a crowd by a pool on a hot, humid, horribly uncomfortable day. You're sticky and irritable and your son is there beside you and all he wants in the world is to jump into the pool. No one else is going in, apparently it's just not the done thing.

Do you let him jump in?

I really think it's that simple. School will be there if homeschooling doesn't work. You don't need to commit to homeschooling forever.

However, your son will only be this age once in his life and do you really want him to spend it sweating on the patio?

Audrey said...

Hey there! I'm one of those pagan homeschoolers who hang out sometimes at Daryl's blog.

You CAN do it. It sounds like you've got a good arrangement lifestyle-wise. I, too, am the main away-from-home wage earner. My dh is a farmer and home almost always. We work it out very well. I am not working 40 a week, but pretty darn close to it. Keep in mind that school does not have to be 8:00-3:00. And, it does not take 7 hours to get in a good day's worth of quality education. One-on-one is amazingly efficient!

We were a little afraid when we first began homeschooling, but we jumped in anyway and we've never regretted it. We have an only, and he is very friendly, out-going and fairly well-mannered. We are in a very rural area and have limited opportunities for sports and activities, but he is always active in at least one group or sport throughout the year. That seem to be plenty for him. He makes friends easily enough, and never lacks of kids asking him to come for playdates.

Go for it. You won't be sorry.

Lynn DeWalt said...

Thanks Nance. I do like to think our school is special. I work in a K-12 building that has 160 students currently enrolled. We have about 20% of those students coming from out-of-district. As you can imagine, we have a little bit more of an opportunity to work with students one-on-one.

We just started a mentoring program for ALL students in grades 6-9. It was based on a successful model in Vermont.

We also offer distance learning - both online and in real time, as an alternative for our students. Many of our students are encouraged to take AP in S.S. and Math; and up until this year, over 90% of our seniors were REQUIRED to take AP English.

As for flexibility, we offer independent educational programs for students who have other pursuits. We've graduated many skiersin the past few years who were able to do their training during the week, yet maintain their full education and earn a NYS Regents diploma. Even this last year, we had a student who wanted to concentrate more on his flute playing, and was able to work that out for 3 hours twice a week. All this and more, is in addition to the aspect that you mentioned - our students from higher grades work with the younger students all the time on reading, math, and science.

Beyond that, we are a full-community school as well. We offer opportunites for adult education - a few years ago, my wife and I took a clas on Thai cooking! We house community sporting events. We even have several community members performing in our concerts and shows.

I mention all this, because I want people to know that there ARE public educators who truly care about education. Thanks for reading!

Lynn DeWalt said...

I need to learn how to type when I'm looking at the screen!

Nance Confer said...

Lynn --

What an amazing place!

Don't you think it is a bit unusual, though? Not what most parents are confronted with when they march up to the school with their 5-year-old?

How is it that your community has a school like this? Are you in a tiny, wealthy community? Is this a charter school?

How'd you get from standard ps to this?

Don't keep the secret all to yourself! :)


Lynn DeWalt said...

We do live in a tiny community. I believe the populations of our towns are less than 1000. As for wealthy, well that is one of the troubles the school faces. We are considered a wealthy school district because of the many summer residents, but most of our population is from the middle class or lower. The state owns 70% of the property of our towns, yet only pays 25% of the taxes in the town.

Don't get me wrong. We still face some of the normal problems seen in most public schools - simply to a lesser degree. Our school has always had a vision of providing a better education IN SPITE of the state's guidelines and rules that make it more difficult.

In recent years, we have been worried about the population demographics of the entire Adirondacks which have led to declining enrollment. The school and community formed a joint task force to address the issue. I must admit that the current progress is probably due in large to our current superintendent (if you only knew how hard that is to admit). She has worked at getting the changes I mentioned above into our school.

Anonymous said...

:::raises hand::: Yet another Pagan homeschooler :)

I could echo others, but I really want to address the socialization question.

First, the joke: I was always told to "quit socializing" at school :D Now, what I get from that very loaded term: Most folks, when they say socialization are really saying "socializing"--e.g.: who are your homeschooled kids going to talk to all day long? You? Well, yes, you. Won't they be hopeless social dweebs? But, as you pointed out, there are a plethora of other activities for homeschoolers, from scouting to dance classes, to sports. In Northern VA, it's possible to never be home because of all of the activities offered. Hook up with the homeschooling community in your area and see what's out there. You might just be surprised.

Socialization, on the other hand, is learning how to get along within a society. Can a child in school really learn how to get along within society when s/he is surrounded by same age-mates all day long, with the only other contacts in the day coming from adults in authority over him/her? What's being taught there? Learning your place, not questioning, pecking order politics? My children learn in an environment with children of different ages (homeschool co-ops, dance classes, etc.), and they see adults as their friends. They have the opportunity to have other adults in authority positions as well, but they learn to get along in society by being out in society. They get to meet colonial re-enactors (and later this year, my eldest will train to be a colonial re-enactor), interact with librarians and shop clerks, go on vacations at odd times of the year, etc. Folks are often surprised that my nice, normal, well-mannered girls are homeschooled. I always joke that today is the day we let them out of the chains in the basement--you should see the looks I get!

Also, I just want to add that, being in Texas, you're in one of the easiest states in the nation in which you can homeschool. No reporting, no oversight, not a single bit of government interference.

Take some detox time (some folks say you should take one month off for every year you were in school, so 4-5 months off would be just right) and look around. Check out some secular curricula. Meet some homeschoolers in your area. See what your son is interested in and look at all the "educational goals" that can be met. I just Googled "yu-gi-oh lesson plan" and got tons of hits. What does your son like to do? I bet you can find math, reading, science, history, etc., in most of his interests.

And as Lynn said, it's not all black-and-white. They'll certainly let you back into school if you don't like homeschooling.

Good luck!

CygKnit said...

Hmmmm, a lot of folks have left a lot of valuable information here, information on topics which I don't know much about. So what do I know? I know the Moderatrix.

I think (I think, anyway) that one of the questions here is one of time and sanity. Do you fear that time at home, as the primary teacher, will be like it was when he was an infant? I know that a concern was time away for you, then. Time to regroup. Are you worried about that now, about being a better parent if you aren't there, always teaching?

Now, you are not a selfish person. I know you would not cheat out on your son's education because you want time for yourself. Rather, I wonder if you fear being "enough" for him. I have thought about homeschooling, too (for all those as-yet-unconceived children of mine), and wonder if a parent can replace a trained professional. And not all public school teachers are slaves. At least, they aren't when the first start teaching. Do you doubt yourself as a educator?

My point, buried here somewhere, is if the question of homeschooling isn't about socialization (just look at our 1st husbands, products of public schools) but rather about the impact it will have on not just his life, but everyone in the household's. That's a decision that only you guys can make. Though its nice to see all this support for you :)

Lioness said...

Another homeschooling Pagan here!

We live in a Southern town of 3000 where dh teaches high school. No brag, he's the best teacher they've got and everybody in town knows it. Nobody questions our commitment to improving the public school. And nobody questions why we choose to homeschool our own children. There's no way any classroom could provide as good an education as tutoring can.

Here's a post on how we got starting: http://lionesshomeschool.blogspot.com/2005/07/our-journey-to-homeschooling-part-1.html and here's a post on why EDUCATION EXPERTS AGREE that homeschooling
outdistances the classroom by 98 PERCENT:

Nance Confer said...

Thanks for sharing all of this, Lynn. It is very encouraging. I don't really see how it can translate to larger, poorer towns but it's something positive!


Lynn DeWalt said...

Nance, the way it can translate to larger and poorer schools (though we ARE a poor school by many standards) is by changing the way people think about public education! It can work in the larger schools if the teachers and admistrators come on board.

For one year, I worked at a nearby school, and there too, I found an effort to make changes. Foundation for Excellent Schools is a great program that both these schools are a part of. They had several ideas for bringing family and community back into the schools.

But these types of programs need acceptance from the entire staff. This superintendent was a phenomal leader in that aspect. He brought a school that was at risk of being closed to one that had unity and a goal. This turn around took place in 2 years! With the commitment of a good leader, and most of your teachers, anything is possible in any school. Grants are available to find money for poorer schools. Other larger schools have larger communities to drawn upon the more resources we have (our mentors are volunteers from the community). These ideas we use HAVE been utilized by larger and poorer school districts.

Lioness said...

And if you don't have good people in key positins willing to make commitments, forget it. Our last two superintendents were only committed to seeing how much money they could steal from the school system. The official tally on the next to last one was $57 million. They're still adding up the last one's swag, but it's more than that.

WhyKnot said...

I apologize if this has already been said, and it certainly isn't meant as inflammatory; of all the poorly socialized non-functioning people you've met in this world, weren't most of them public-schooled?

If you look at any senior class, do you see a uniform "product?" Some of them aren't going to graduate or the equivalent - ever. Some will will go on to lead happy healthy lives. Some will shoot themselves over a christmas holiday. Some will fail at providing for themselves and those they love. Some will be vicious predators on others. Some will be in really annoying info-mercials. Some will be super-stars, at least for a little while.

Public-school does not guarantee that your child will be well socialized. If it did, would there be as many groups of "outcasts" at school? Would there be as many loners, lurking in the fringes, never really fitting in but never telling their parents because they don't want them to worry?

Home-schooling does not guarantee ANYTHING about your child's socialization, other than that YOU set the parameters. Public school does not guarantee ANYTHING about your child's socialization, other than that THEY set the parameters. It's another one of those things that is too easily blamed on one factor, when it's really much more complex than that.

Whatever you decide, it doesn't have to depend on religious concerns. We're a home-schooled family; one parent is an atheist and the other is undecided. Our kids vascilate between excited about learning and counting the hours until 2:30. At 2:30, the doorbell starts ringing and their public-schooled friends are asking, "Can they play?" They make new friends constantly, and I can't keep all of their names straight. They borrow and trade video games. They play sports. Cutting them off from mainstream society is an option in homeschooling, but it certainly is not a requirement. It's just one more thing that YOU get to decide.