Friday, October 14, 2005

Children and school

Ever since my oldest, Kelsey Anna was about 3 I have debated in my mind and heart the issue of education. I started out homeschooling her in preschool, but by the time we were half-way through her 1st grade year I was completely overwhelmed about life. At that point I had Kelsey, just turned 7, Charissa- 4 1/2, Nicholas- just turning 3, and Joseph 1- 1/2. Boy was it crazy. And as you've read in previous posts I'm not the most organized person in the world. So we went to public school half-way through 1st grade. We've been there ever since and now Kelsey is in 3rd grade and Charissa is in 1st. Everyday I question whether or not this is really the best thing for them. I see them struggle with things and I know it's normal, but society does not support in any way, shape or form the way we as Orthodox Christians are to learn to handle life. Charissa especially, is always so worried (and has been for far too long in her short little life) about what people think, about making sure things "look" right. (I'm wondering if this isn't a side-effect of the amblyopia and her bad vision---if you haven't heard James wrote about it here.)
I just read an article from the Orthodox Christian Information Center titled "Young Children in the Orthodox Church". My husband has always told me that this website is quite conservative and that I need to be careful what I read, but it is an Orthodox site and has really great articles to read. This is a very conservative article to a certain degree but I think it has some great advice to consider. One small part of it has grabbed my attention and has really made me ponder education even more. I have a tendency to believe that what it says is so true. But it is hard for me to really see it as my children are only beginning their public school adventure. Please tell me what you think....not about YOUR education that took place 20+ years ago, there has been way too many changes in our society for this to be of equal comparison, but if you have children in public school NOW and they are late elementary and older. What have you seen? Do you agree, disagree, indifferent? If you homeschool...why? And how? I really could use some input! I know people read my blog sometimes...I know you are out there. What do you think? Pass this on to others to answer....I'd love it!
Quote from Presbyter Julianna Cownie:
To be honest, the atmosphere which prevails in the average public school is not exactly conducive to promoting civilized behavior, much less Christian conduct. The greater part of what the Orthodox parent tries to convey to the child at home will be quickly unlearned at school because of the child's desire to fit in with the herd. Hypocrisy and shame will often have the child leading a double life if the parents are not extremely vigilant and careful.

You can email me personally as well if you'd like.

Thank you so much for you input!
In Christ,
Susan Sophia


Mimi said...

Well, since I work full time and can't imagine my personality teaching my son's personality things, I have chosen to put them in public school.

However, they both question God and Faith quite a lot, so I just cover them with prayer to the best of my ability.


Mimi said...

Well, I see that I'm the only one so far who's offered (not very much)help, but Happy Birthday and many, many years!

Laura said...

Sophia...I want to read the article and give you my input as someone who has worked in the public school system (albeit with special ed students) and has also chosen to begin homeschooling with the caveat that I take it one year at a time! LOL!

BUT...I need to finish working on our church's me some time! I'll try and look at it tonight.

Anonymous said...

You know my/our struggles...back and forth and back again re public vs homeschool. I know my kid is in the right place this year...after that, who knows. Re private, just keep praying (like I struggle to do).


Many, many years, dear friend!!!

Liz the forgetful

Joel said...

We homeschool (my wife does I should say). We have 3 kids: 9-6-4. Personally, we hold the conviction that nothing is neutral, you cannot 'neutrally' teach science, history, or anything else. So I believe the public schools whole purpose is to brainwash kids into being 'good citizens' with anti-Christian views of everything. Add to that sex, profanity, violence, etc. and the public schools horrify me. Kids are not missionaries, they are not meant to be, they are kids, who are learning. And check out John Dewey, the instrumental cause in starting public schools, his whole goal was to wipe out Christianity and he has largely suceeded.
I am not Orthodox, but I think you would share my POV on this.
Anyway, we would gladly do private school if we could afford it but we can't. And we take a big hit on money with Rachel not working, but it's not worth it to us to sacrifice our kids to the system for financial gain. This is the first generation in history where it is abnormal for a mom to stay home and raise her kids. It is insane!
With all of that said, I don't know how we will keep doing it. We moved to a very expensive area and can barely afford it. I am trusting that God will honor our commitment and provide a means to keep going.
Perhaps you could have someone else school your kids who is a vet of homeschooling and pay them a bit or work something out?
One big thing that should happen but that would require a culture shift is I think every church should start a school, and an education fund to pay for people who cannot afford to send their kids legitimately to private school. We could overthrow the evil public system within a generation if Christians got serious about this. Sadly I think most are content to just go with the flow.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to my dearly loved friend, Susan.


Laura said...

Well...I can't find the article you referenced. I'm sure it's there...but I am just too bleary eyed to see it right now!

Jim and I have decided to homeschool. The reality is that I "do" the teaching. Jim does do some "incidental teaching," but nothing as structured as I. Ana is only four years old, but I felt it time she was challenged intellectually a little more than she has been thus far. Like you, we can't afford private school and I definitely did not want to start "indoctrinating her," as Jim would say, by putting her into a public "head start" program.

It's not easy, especially as we couldn't really afford to get a "real" curriculum just yet. I'm not sure that we really needed to as we're just talking "pre-school" at this point. Luckily, my back ground as a speech-therapist makes lesson planning and goal setting a little easier since I already have experience. Ana likes "school" and I'm finding I like it too as it adds structure to our day. It also feels good to be able to speak to her strengths/weaknesses on an individual basis and also to be able to teach her about Orthodoxy as part of our lessons, which of course is possible within or without the context of homeschooling.

The downsides are that I have even less time to myself as I have to now plan lessons and do some prep work. Also, Ana isn't always cooperative! This of course leads to tension...David, my younger son, also can be a bit of a distraction and I sometimes feel guilty "ignoring" him as I work with Ana. However, he is picking up on some things by "osmosis." I think I may begin to work with him a bit after Christmas, once Ana and I have a firm pattern set.

I also fully realize that I may not continue to homeschool Ana and/or David forever. There may come a time when it will be better to put one or both of them in school. For the time being, it does seem to be the right way to go for us.

I am not the most organized of people either. I just make myself do the organization it takes to pull this off right now because we have no other choice. The public schools here are not stellar and we can't afford private school. I would love to see our parish begin a school but it's likely I'd end up being one of the teachers so not much would really change for me except there would be a few other kids in my "class.'. I like "teaching" and the interaction with children, which suited me in my former career as well as in homeschooling. There are many curriculums out there which do the organizing for you so it's not nearly as hard as it seems.

I survived public school and a good friend of mine down the street is sending her kids to public school and is generally happy. The public school I worked in was a good one, with teachers who, for the most part, really cared about the kids and tried their best to reach and teach them. I know this isn't always the case, though, and I was in a bit of a "bubble" working in a school for special ed kids.

The fact is, the culture of America (if you can call it that) is all around us. Homeschooling will not keep them from it, but may lessen or delay it's impact a bit. I hope that by keeping the kids home, at least for a while, that I am giving them a good barometer by which to judge the culture at hand by. That's all one can really hope to accomplish in this day and age whether one homeschools or not.

I think it really is an individual choice that can vary from family to family and even between children in the same family. I know of children in the same family that have some at home and some at school. I would really pray and seek the Lord's wisdom in this and try not to second guess yourself (Ha...the bane of parenthood!).

Well....that was a lot of rambling...hope it is helpful!

Elizabeth said...

Happy Birthday and Many Years from across the Pond :-)

alana said...

I started out homeschooling our kids and plannning to do so for the long haul but have since put them im public schools. Currently I have a sixth grader, fourth grader, second grader and first grader. They are all learning well, and always get compliments about their stellar behavior from their teachers. They seem to be a "cut above".

My reasons for putting them in school: I was having health problems, and my oldest daughter was not getting what she needed. Our personalities did NOT go well together, and quite frankly, I think my kids need other influences besides ME all the time. All their teachers have been very good, and many of them I know have been Christian people. My second daughter also needs speech therapy, and the public schools are our best resource for that. So far, here in KY, I have not even seen anything objectionable in the curriculum. Ky state law has it that the only type of sex ed allowed to be taught here is abstinence based. Yay for living in a conservative backwater!

I look at my children's spiritual development, and their learning their faith and morals, and I think they are just where they need to be. I don't see them as being in any way inferior to where they would be in a situation where I was educating them myself.

I think my husband and I are still the main/major influence in our kid's lives. We live a bit differently from the rest of the universe, and I can tell my kids are turning out much the same.

Sometimes homeschool just does not work out.

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Deborah and I have never commented on a blog before, but I will try my hand at this. I feel like I have possibly a few "life experiences" that may be a little helpful.
First of all, I have six children ages 15-4. Currently they are in a public charter school. For most of the last 10 years I have homeschooled my children with one year off. I have done little co-ops and some tutoring. There is not easy solution to your question, but here are some things that I have pondered recently. One of the main reasons that we decided to put the kids in school is that my oldest boys have resisted me for quite a few years now and it has actually damaged our relationship. There was a lot of bickering and fighting (and I mean A LOT!!) which really detracted from having a good homeschooling environment. OUr big boys just choose to quarrel with the younger girls (they have some part in it too: )) There are many other reasons, my husband really felt that I needed a break to reevaluate whether homeschooling is right for our family or not. The oldest has some slight learning disabilities and is getting some help at school from a great special ed teacher. My oldest two will probably continue to be in school because they seem to need the structure. I too am a very disorganized person, but am working on it every day. I think it just is hard having so many dear children.(to keep things organized I mean) Anyway-I am sorry to sound so disjointed here. I am going to mainly speak of my "little ones" Three Girls and one 4 year old. They are doing fine in school, One of them pretty much hates school and it is heart wrenching to hear her say these things. I try not to let her see that it effects me. Ok. Let me back up a bit. We are recent converts to Orthodoxy (last November )Although our boys were not Chrismated. They were not ready and actually have had a very hard time with the whole switching thing from protestant to Orthodox, but that is another very long story.
I really feel that it is much easier to live out and teach to our kids the Orthodox way of life. Or even simply the Christian way of life. Especially, the fasting, praying, works of service, reading the lives of the saints, scripture reading etc All of these have seemed to be pushed to the side. I am not saying that this happens to every Orthodox Christian family, but I have seen a big shift in ours. Last year though we were really studying a lot and trying to implement all of it to show our kids that we really were serious about this move. Of course time constraints are not always a good excuse, but some days it seems that they have so much homework etc.
I think that if your husband is very, very supportive and you have a group of Christian homeschoolers to connect with and even Orthodox homeschoolers (there are at least 5 or 6 homeschooling families at our church)that if the desire is there and you think that your kids would not resist you too much then I say go for it! My heart is totally leaning towards homeschooling next year. Ultimately I want what God wants and so I need to be open. There is such a wealth of help to homeschoolers out there. I would say that when they are young like yours, they need to read a lot and be read to a lot, keep them up on grammar and writing, read good novels out loud to them (this is the part we miss the most!!) and keep them doing math, Saxon is a good curriculum, very straight forward. Start your day out of course with prayer and bible and off you go.. There is not any "right or wrong way" to homeschool, but just that you actually DO IT!! My problem for the last 2 years is that we had so many little crisis' that we ended up unschooling by default. You can do science and history,but I do not think as much time needs to be spent on it as the other subjects.(at least not in elementary school). History is best taught by using really good "living books" or look into the Sonlight curriculum.
Pray, and ask God and He will lead you. I feel like I just blabbed and blabbed, if you want to email me or call me personally I would love to chat more about this subject. My email is

Elizabeth said...

Hi, Susan,

I just found your blog through Dawn's blog. I have a Carissa too! At least that's what I named her....she changed her name to Hibiscus. If you're interested, we had an icon commissioned from the Holy Transfiguration monastery in Boston for St. Charissa, and they're now selling prints of it.

We homeschool. Oh, and thanks, Joel, now I don't have to explain why we decided to homeschool in the first place--my husband talked me into it before we were married, when we were still Baptists and very, very conservative. Joel's explanation of why he homeschools is exactly where we were back then. But we've changed, a lot.....

I've posted our conversion story on my blog, and that goes into our philosophical changes, too. But I'll say that our reason for homeschooling now is freedom. My kids are free to learn in the way that suits them best. They're free from all the restrictions of school. They don't have to sit through boring stuff they know already or be made to feel dumb because perhaps they can't quite read yet. They are free to work at their own pace, to keep working on what they're into right now instead of heeding the bell that happened to ring at the moment they were in the middle of something, to learn quickly when they are interested in the subject matter.

We unschool. (Gasp!) Yes, we unschool, and I would suggest that if you want to homeschool, but get overwhelmed "teaching" four children, that you give it a try! Kids know how to learn. They may not learn everything "they're supposed to" on the school's schedule. But who said those schedules were sacrosanct, anyway? I've rarely had a need for the high school geometry I took, but when I do, I can figure out how to do what I need to do. So can they.

If you'd like to chat, you can email me. I'd encourage you to use whatever method works for your family, whether that be homeschooling (and whatever stripe of homeschooling works for you) or school.