In November I pulled my daughter out of kindergarten.
I’ve never been a fan of public school. I always knew that I wanted Evelyn to go to a private school like Waldorf or, better yet, that I would homeschool her.
But I don’t have a ton of money and I am not a stay at home mom. So in August, off to public school she went.
It was exciting at first. She seemed so grown up and so innocent at the same time. She was ready to take on the world and had no idea what the world was. She adjusted without flinching. She loved her homework. She loved making new friends. She loved her teacher. She’s a very positive kid and virtually nothing phases her.
But it wasn’t long before all of the positives were diminished by the negatives – in my mind anyway.
What I Didn’t Like About Her School
1. The food Each kid, in rotation, was responsible for bringing the class a snack each day. That meant cheetos, cookies, and granola bars. At first, Evelyn did what I told her and ate the snack I packed, but eventually she stopped. Maybe she felt left out. Maybe she just wanted to try the new junk food she’d never seen before. Maybe she was testing her power. Whatever the reason, it was a big change. She went from pretty strict Paleo to some kind of packaged food every day, and it showed in her attitude.
2. The class size One teacher to 30 kids and rarely a teacher’s aid.
3. The other kids and parents My neighborhood is a yuppie-invasion kind of place but all the yuppie kids go to schools outside the neighborhood. The kids at Evelyn’s school barely spoke English (literally) and the ones that did, spoke it very poorly. The same goes for the parents. And English wasn’t the only thing they were lacking. They ate the worst foods. They seemed very unhealthy and disadvantaged in many ways.
4. The teacher While a sweet lady most of the time and really quite intelligent, the teacher had a temper. Maybe this was due to the stress of the large classroom and the trouble the kids had paying attention and following directions. Evelyn told me of an occasion where the teacher got straight up mad at a child and yelled, and another time where she called a kid stupid.
5. Lack of challenge The homework started to get redundant to accommodate the average pace.
6. Quality of staff The school staff barely spoke English and none of them spoke good English. Their Spanish was terrible too.
Every day that I dropped Evelyn off at school I was acting against my values.
I felt like a bad parent. But what could I do? I could move to another neighborhood, and I planned to, but I had to wait a few months. In the meantime then, what? Homeschool? I asked myself. I told Evelyn about the idea and she was thrilled.
She said, “Yes, I will get to hang out with mom ALL DAY LONG!” I had my reservations and debated it in my mind until I finally couldn’t take it anymore and, one day, that was it. I had had enough and we made our last walk back from school.
The Pros of Homeschooling
Homeschooling seemed pretty cool at first. I am of the opinion that kids 6 and under should learn through play more than through books at a desk so I thought this would be ideal for her. I bought some work books for us to do together but mostly she explores her world.
1. Learning She can learn at her own pace. Some days she studies, some days she doesn’t. Plus, I’m really good at math so I can be sure not to confuse her like most teachers of elementary schools inevitable do. Indeed, she is a math whizz.
2. Art Her favorite thing to do is art. She gets to paint, make arts and crafts, draw pictures, make friendship bracelets, and anything else we can think of. There are no boundaries to her creativity here at home. Creativity is very important to me. Creativity is what makes people brilliant.
3. Exercise She can play outside more and get more exercise. Is it really a good idea to keep kids trapped inside all day? Of course not. By homeschooling, I could let her be a kid, get dirty and stay active.
4. Free play By staying home, her imagination is free to soar. Evelyn is a lover of fantasy and gets lost in make believe worlds with her toys and dolls. Since she’s been home and free to play most of the day, she seems truly happier.
5. Food She eats at home. Enough said.
6. Alertness She doesn’t get as tired being at home as she did when she went to school. She often fell asleep right after school. Maybe it was the food or maybe the pace of the day, but anyway, she’s more alert these days.
7. Better influences We’ve eliminated many of the unhealthy influences… for now.
While she loves other kids and loves playing games with them till sundown, she doesn’t mind being alone and playing alone. I imagine this might be difficult for some kids, but it isn’t for her.
It would seem the situation, then, is ideal but when are things ever so simple?
Why Homeschooling Isn’t Working For Us… Yet
Remember I said I’m not a stay at home mom? I have a job and work remotely. While the job is somewhat flexible, there are things I need to do “right now”, no exceptions. A lot of the work I do is writing but I also work with other people online. This is when I tell Evelyn to go away.
Go away. Not now. Please be quiet. I need to work. This is taking me longer than I expected. Just give me another hour. We’ll go to the park soon. I can’t make lunch right now, just go grab something out of the fridge. I want to read to you but I haven’t worked much today and I can’t right now.
I feel so guilty and I am sure, while she understands it’s just my job, she feels rejected. But I don’t have a rich husband. In fact, I don’t have a husband at all. I HAVE to work.
Some days are easier than others. Some days she is able to do art projects right beside me all the time I’m working. Other days she’s sick of art projects. Other days she wants to do reading and writing all day and since she can’t really read, that means I’m helping her the whole time.
Which would be great if I had the time!
Some days she talks incessantly and I just don’t work. Some days I have trouble focusing on work and spend the whole day trying to work and not getting anything done with either her or my job.
And then the first trimester hit and added insult to injury. I need sleep. It’s not as easy now to juggle work and her simultaneously. Sometimes with her demands it isn’t even possible. Unfortunately, there are other, very serious things going on in my life right now that is compounding the difficulties we already face.
Plus, I have confirmed, which I already suspected, that I am not a good teacher, at least, not with my own kin. I don’t get it when she doesn’t get it. Becoming a better teacher is a good challenge for me but, so far, I don’t seem to have the clarity or the peace of mind to improve. I am sure I could do better if only I could focus on the job at hand…
Maybe Public School Isn’t So Bad?
Now that I’ve been doing this a few months and I’ve noted all of my shortcomings and limitations, there are things about schools that I appreciate.
- When Evelyn was at school, she had more interaction with other people, sure some of them were bad but some of them were really good.
- She had a wider variety of people to learn from (which included myself) providing different styles of teaching and different bits of knowledge.
- She played more learning games and sung more learning songs than we play and sing here.
- I think she had more fun with learning in general.
- She seemed to be more receptive to learning than she is now.
- I had more patience, not being with her 24/7 (I don’t have anybody to help me out. I’m very much alone in this endeavor).
- I could work.
- I had more time to write my book so that someday I won’t have to work two jobs.
Of course, none of this matters when the bad outweighs the good, as it did in my situation. These are things that I can strive to improve on, later, when my situation changes.
The choice to homeschool isn’t a no-brainer.
Not all of us parents are cut out for it and not all of us have the situation to accommodate it.
We are moving to a better neighborhood in a couple of weeks where I have found a small private kindergarten. She will attend this school three days a week, giving her contact with different teachers and more children. I will work and have the break I need. For first grade, we will re-evaluate the situation.
Do you homeschool? Why do you or why don’t you? If you do, what difficulties have you faced?