Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Home Education

In answer to the questions being lobbed my way by friends and family as to why we have taken up the education of Erin and Isaac at home, I offer the following response:

I had said that I would never again homeschool. I figured that there would be no need. But lately we've been watching way too much of Glenn Beck to be comfortable with what is being taught in school. We were having discussions with the kids concerning the actual facts and trying to fill the gaps that way. But then Erin asked if we'd homeschool her, and we couldn't turn her down. She has been making straight As for years now, but has finally gotten a teacher who expects her to be building upon something that ought to have been taught in past years- which wasn't- and Erin hit a wall. (Besides the fact that she utterly despised this particular teacher. Erin simply can't learn from someone for whom she has no respect, and day one of the school year, with the first words out of his mouth, she lost all respect for this man.)

I was on the cusp of having My Own Time All to Myself and was floored by her request. But God convicted my selfish heart and I'm now in- hook, line, and sinker. If we were withdrawing Erin for reasons concerning teaching correct and full history, teaching from a Christian Worldview, (which is actually a wider worldview than the narrow interpretation required if one is avoiding the whole truth) and concerns over the sinful environment which they have to deal with, (which was not nearly as bad as the Florida schools, but they were becoming sensitive to it here) we needed to also withdraw Isaac in order to remain consistent in our convictions.

There are more families in our church who homeschool than those who don't, so there is a world of support for us already. I tell folks that when Erin first made her request, I dialed 911 and Piper W. answered. She is our closest church neighbor, being only three miles away down our hill, and she is the President of a local homeschool co-op which meets once a week and has classes for the kids (gotta socialize these hermits after all). Erin and Isaac will take their science classes there, so my kitchen won't be exploding with experiments, and we don't have to purchase a bunch of fancy equipment. They have work for the class which they'll complete during the week at home, but a more knowledgeable teacher is at the helm for their science education, which is a relief. Piper and another friend were able to lend us about 80% of the books we'd need and we are chugging right along.

What has come out of this, and I find slightly amusing, is a reaction from the kids' school friends which we didn't anticipate. Erin and Isaac are the first homeschoolers that most of their (non-church) friends know! Isaac's first day at home ended with an evening phone call from one of his Scouting buddies with whom he had a number of classes, asking him what he did all day, what time he woke up, if he has school books, will he get grades... Evidently most of their friends had been peppering Ben with questions all day, and some of the teachers had expressed real dismay that we were taking one of the delightful students away! At last week's Cross Country meet, a dad of one of the boys on the team with whom Erin is friends asked me about our change in "educational arrangements', sincerely interested, if not perplexed. Erin was in the Student Government Assoc., and we sat with this family at every SGA banquet and would hang out during every XC meet, so the conversation was comfortable, but still, to me, amusing. Since we know so many homeschoolers and have even done it before, I didn't realize what a foreign concept it is for so many others.

When we moved from South Florida, we chose our home based in part on the school district. Our kids were, in every measurable respect, thriving in the school. Most teachers loved them- Erin practically had a fan club among the teachers at the Middle School, which Isaac discovered on his first day of 7th grade. ("You're Erin Kelly's brother?!" exclaimed one teacher.) So on one level, it makes no sense for us to have pursued this course. Yet we are pursuing it, and expect our kids to end up knowing more real history and understand the worldviews that have driven events, and see the hand of God behind it all.

That's it in a nutshell. I do not expect to be perfect, nor do I expect every day to be sunshine and roses. But I am taking the full responsibility for these kids as their parent. God entrusted them to Jim and me, not to the PA Department of Education.

And Hey, maybe I'll learn something as well!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Colleges, Cross Country, and More

All of my best intentions to continue with regular posts here have been brushed aside in the past couple of months by the stream of events which have flowed in such a constant fashion that I've not had a chance to catch my breath. My last post was in the middle of Nathaniel's visit here and our trip to the Glenn Beck rally in Washington D.C. Since that time we have delivered Kate to her new home in Lancaster, where she is attending the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, (PCAD) we enjoyed the rest of our month-long visit with Nathaniel at home, Erin and Isaac began their school year, both of them running with the Cross Country teams for Mifflin, we took Rebekah to Hyde Park, NY to begin her education at the Culinary Institute of America, (CIA) and we returned home to yet another adventure- educating Erin and Isaac at home.

I'm sure that there was more in between, but those are the highlights. (I need to catch my breath here, gimme a second.)

Yes, the time has been flying by. Kate is thriving at PCAD. Not only does she love her school and studies, but her church and the RUF group have been a blessing. To hear the excitement and delight in her voice on the phone just makes my heart sing. Art school is no fluff business; she has a lot of studying and homework to do after hours, which she is pursuing with diligence. Being only 30 minutes away means that Kate can come home more easily for a weekend here and there, which was a big help when it came time for us to deliver Rebekah to school.

Meanwhile, Erin had been running with the Cross Country team all summer, training with Coach Jack Heim and the girls at the school and around town, running in Nolde Forest on Saturdays. Erin's strong sense of self-discipline and determination feature prominently in her running. Coach Heim has been training runners for over 20 years, and his girls are often the best teams out there. He has fostered a tightly knit team on the field and off. The girls would have sleep-overs and dinners together and made t-shirts to wear as a team before meets. From local dual meets to invitational meets farther from home, Erin has loved running with the team. An undefeated season was topped off quite nicely last Wednesday with a team win at the County Championship in Kutztown. Not only did the girls' team win, but the undefeated boys also won, and the top runners for boys and girls were also from the Mifflin teams- so they literally "ran away" with every possible victory!

Isaac has also been running with the Jr. High Cross Country team. Attending practices diligently, running at the dual meets, he has been a real trooper, according to his coaches, and has grown stronger and set high goals for himself. I especially appreciate the way the meets are run, with the Jr. High and high school teams going to the same places on the same days for their races, so that I can cheer for both of my kids instead of having to choose between them. The strength of will required for running the distances for cross country has been impressive to watch in Erin, though not unexpected, and almost startling to see in Isaac.

In the midst of this we delivered Rebekah to the CIA in Hyde Park, NY. A dream come true for her and still amazing to me, we packed up the car with her belongings and drove four hours away to the beautiful campus on the shores of the Hudson River. We spent the whole weekend there, orienting ourselves to the area, finding the nearest grocery store, attending a church that we thought might be a possibility for her, (and ruled it out) and getting to know the campus. Sunday afternoon we moved her into her room in the residence hall on campus. Her sweet roommate, Jennifer, told us that she had been praying for a Christian roommate, which answered our prayers as well. Sunday evening Jim and I had a bit of a parent orientation with the Residence Hall advisors before hugging Bekah goodnight and leaving for our hotel. Rebekah had a dinner on campus following her RA orientation, which was a peek into what her meals would be like for the foreseeable future, (and motivated her to check out the workout facilities at the recreation hall!). Jim and I found a fabulous little restaurant not far from the campus and enjoyed a quiet dinner. The next morning was parent orientation for us while Rebekah continued with her freshman orientation. We were able to see her here and there between things, but her schedule was rather tight. In the middle of our lunch in the Apple Pie Bakery and Café, which was magnificent, our sweetie stopped by for a final goodbye hug, having determined that there wouldn't be another chance to see us before we left. Sniff.

Long drive home… in the rain.

Since there is quite a bit of overlap between all of the aforementioned events, it would be fruitless to expect any downtime now. See, a mere three days before we left with Bekah for Hyde Park, Erin asked me if I would withdraw her from school and teach her at home.

(Insert smelling salts here)

All that I will say at this point is that we are now homeschooling both Erin and Isaac. The rest of that story will be a post all its own.

God has blessed this whirlwind of activity and shown grace upon grace to us, more abundantly than we could have asked.