Friday, August 15, 2008

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.

"Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light."

Lately I have been absorbed in post about “mommy-hood” and the tasks of staying at home. I will soon be quitting work (yippee) to pursue this role. Though I am not a mother yet, I hope to be one in the not too distant future. And lately my mind has been on Homeschooling; if, when the time comes, I should pursue this option with my children. My heart says yes, “it would be wonderful”; but my mind says: “what are you thinking?!…are you nuts!!! You don’t have the abilities needed for that…things like patience and intelligence…you really shouldn’t.” Alas, I am hoping that when the time comes my heart and mind will be on the same page.

I wrote on my homeschooling experience a little while back and decided to post my views. Hopefully, the words will encourage those who choose to teach at home; and give insight to those who don’t. I know it is a huge decision and I want people to understand why I might choose this route some day. God give me the grace when the time is needed to choose the option that will produce children whose sole purpose is to glorify You!

Southern Bell
Dixie land, the Bible belt, this is where I grew up. My home town of Covington lies forty-five minutes south east of Atlanta, which gives some people the idea that I am from a the big city; however, this is far from the truth. The little square in Covington which contains Claudia’s Flowers, Ace Hardware, and the Court House, is the heart of the town. We do have a Kroger’s and a Wal-Mart, but there are not any malls or fancy restaurants. The town is growing fast because of its close proximity to Atlanta and I suppose one day it will just be part of the urban sprawl, but I will always remember it as the “one horse town” in which I spent my childhood. Nevertheless, my childhood was slightly different than some of my friends. Like many southern children I grew up playing in red Georgia clay and going to visit our grazing cows on sunny afternoons. However, my education did not start in a preschool with ten other children.

My Mother is from Alabama and my Father is from Dalton, Georgia. They met at school in Vanderbilt and eventually moved to Covington where my father started his medical practice. Going against the tide, my mother decided to home-school my two older brothers and I because she was unhappy with the public school systems in the town. Two of her close friends also decided that home-schooling was the best option for their children. Soon several families had started to home-school and agreed to start a group. They named the group Excel as a reminder of their goals for their children: to excel in school, and in the knowledge of God. Excel met weekly for group activities and frequent field trips. The rest of the week my brothers and I would eagerly get up at dawn with the aim of finishing our school work early.

History and literature were normally the first classes of the day. A Child’s History of the World told us who Zeus was, how pyramids were made, where Columbus landed, and why the North and South raged against one another in the Civil War. My mother strived to make events of the past interesting to us by incorporating skits, art projects, and anything else that would help us learn. Henry, my middle brother, and I ate pomegranate as we played kings and queens of long ago empires. A time line stretched across the kitchen counter where I was able to display my artistic talents by adding pictures to note historic events. I can remember drawing the pyramids of Egypt and Moses as he parted the Red Sea. My brothers and I also built miniature teepees while learning about the Native Americans. We often spun the globe and where it stopped was the next country to visit. Home-schooling allowed my brothers and I to learn through interaction instead of merely sitting in a class room and listening to a teacher drone on about history. I had an appreciation of the world and all its many wonders which stimulated my yearning to travel, and to taste the foods in their countries of origin.

Soon the aroma of foreign foods was a distant memory and I had to learn mathematics. My mother tried her best to make the subject interesting but my art-oriented brain rebelled. Flash cards and videos were only a part of my mother’s effort. It seemed we owned every “learn math in no time” book, game, or pamphlet. I have numerous memories of sitting at the “little table,” a miniature table that still holds its place of prominence in our kitchen, and trying to memorize eight times seven. My mother taught me all the tricks, such as using your fingers to multiply by nine and many other ploys. Eventually multiplication tables engraved themselves on my brain and long-hand division started to come naturally. Before long “Nock-out,” a math game, did not seem such a daunting task and became enjoyable. Math still is not a subject I enjoy but thanks to my mom’s persistence I can now add and subtract without too much trouble.

I preferred science to math because my father came home everyday at lunch to teach me the unexplained mysteries of the universe. Roy G Biv was the anachronism my father taught me for the colors of the rainbow. Sitting around our table Dad taught me how I was made up of little tiny things called atoms that worked together to form my fingers and toes. He showed me how I and all things were unique and had our own special traits. Learning the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates always seemed a struggle but my father frequently reminded me that it would take diligence and hard work to progress. On sunny days cumulus and sires clouds were prevalent as my father explained precipitation and condensation. Mount Saint Helen was recreated in the backyard as chemicals flowed out of our paper Mache volcano. My father was a hard teacher and expected much from me but he also loved science and his teaching glowed with his enthusiasm. He believed that God’s handiwork displayed itself throughout the wonders of science, and showed how His fingertips touch all of creation. A butterfly was the artistic expression of God.

God seemed to be prevalent in science but He was no where to be seen when it came to my ability to read. English was difficult because, try as I might, I could not learn to read. My mother was my source of encouragement because she believed that children learned at their own time, and she had no doubt that I would accomplish the task. Poster saying “Never Give Up!” and “Every Expert was Once a Beginner” littered our walls in my mother’s hope to encourage me. However, I thought I was truly stupid and could never learn. In a public school my ideas about myself would have been reinforce because they would have held me back or put me in special classes. But I was doing well in all my other courses and my mother knew that I would catch on. I learned through Phonics like many children; it merely took me longer to catch on. Finally, with time and much practice, my reading improved. Because of my mothers faith in me I was able to learn to read and enjoy it as well. I was captivated as a new world of adventure opened to me. Books now became an escape in which I could lose myself; traveling to distant lands, meeting Kings and Queens. I sat at the Round Table with Arthur’s men and heard tales of Arabia through my journey in books.

Our course material was made by Calvert, a school in Baltimore, Maryland. They had set reading assignments everyday, but I always read ahead and finished books early. Writing was never as much fun as reading but it was a large requirement in Calvert. I had a journal that I kept daily, which still makes me laugh when I read the entries. Short papers were also required, along with special outlines. Calvert had one outline that was called the spider because there was a bubble for the main idea and then multiple circles branching off. I learn to brain storm and write in a somewhat orderly fashion, but to my mother’s dismay I never liked outlines. I prefer to write as things came to me and hope the words were had some semblance of coherency.

I visited many places through books, but I was also able to go on trips with Excel. Soda sprayed out of the ceiling as our home-school group tasted all the different flavored soft drinks at the World of Coke. I discovered Norman Rockwell was my favorite painter at a trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Panda bears from Japan and a prowling tiger were just a few of the animals I was able to see on frequent trips to the zoo. While Native American mounds were intriguing at the Indian reservation; Six Flags was even more exciting and a group favorite because the lines were so short on home-school days. We tasted delicious cookie dough as batter swirled in industrial size mixtures on a Jacquelyn’s bakery outing. Although we did not go to Gettysburg, we watched as soldiers shot cannons and brothers fought each other in battle reenactments. Field trips with Excel are some of the best memories I have of home-schooling. The trips open a whole new world to me and exposed me to things and ideas that I probably would not have experienced had I been at a public school.

Leisure time was spent painting flowers in Ms. V’s art class or tumbling in gymnastics. My brothers and I also enjoyed going to the library as often as possible to hear story book readers or watch Curious George on an old slide projector. The Library was three stories with the bottom as the children’s area. The stairway down was painted with scenes from different children’s stories. Wilber, Corduroy, and Winnie the Pooh greeted us as we rushed down the steps to find our choice of ten books; a rule which my mom imposed to keep us from trying to carry forty books back to the house. My mother often took away our television when she thought we were watching it too much; hence, being a coach potato was never part of my day. Many Saturday mornings were spent in the back yard jumping into piles of leafs we had just racked, while our friends watched Saturday morning cartoons. We just recently acquired a satellite because my parents hold to the idea that television only hinders the imagination. When I got a little older our church started a girls group that met on Wednesday nights to try our hand at quilting. It seemed to take a life time to finish my log cabin quilt but I also had a wonderful time talking and laughing with friends as we poked ourselves with needles.

I have never regretted my years spent learning with my brother’s about arithmetic and writing. My mother exemplified everything a teacher should: she believed in hard work, strong discipline, and also the idea that learning could be fun. But most of all, she loved us and always had our welfare at heart. Home-schooling gave me the opportunity to be educated in an environment which allowed me to learn at my own pace and encouraged me to use my imagination. I also was able to develop a close relationship with my parents since they were such an integral part of my learning. But most importantly, it grounded me in my faith in Christ. Everyday the importance of Christ was reaffirmed and absolute truth was taught. I sometimes wonder at the person I would be had my younger, most impressionable years not been spent in the care of a mother, whose chief purpose was to raise children who loved the lord.

While home-schooling was a wonderful time in my life, I would soon decide to go off to school because I wanted to be in a class with children my own age. I would start a Piedmont academy my seventh grade year, which was very difficult for me but soon turned into a great experience. Yet, home-schooling would always be my fondest memories: my brother’s, my mother, and I all together learning about the world and all that God had endowed it with.


LB said...

thanks for sharing your experience!! I am like you, I want to homeschool so badly, but I think I may be nuts. I am not a very organized person--AT ALL--so I am praying that God can change that in me if he truly wants me to homeschool:) Do you think you are closer to your brothers because you were homeschooled? If I do homeschool, I will use a classical curriculum, and there is a group here in McDonough (not very far from Covington:)) that homeschools together. Anyway, super long quote, to say that once again I enjoyed your post.

ESS the MESS said...

in answer to LB..thanks for all the very sweet and thoughtful comments, they make my day! AND I do feel super close to my brothers, though, like most children, it came in stages. We fought like nobody's business but now we are all best friends. And I would say to this day my mother is not only a wonderful Mom but truly my best bud. SHe rocks :) ANd as far as curriculum I would definetly take a look at Calvert. It's exceedingly strong though we did use A-becka (SP???) for awhile. Hope that helps.