Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kindergarten Blues

We are looking into registering M for kindergarten this fall at the private school associated with our church.

I can not stop crying.

A little word of advice to any husbands out there:  If your wife is very, very pregnant, and her first child is also getting ready to start kindergarten – this might be too much for her, especially if she is unsure that this is in his best interests.  Don’t send her out to get info, tour schools, or sign registration papers on her own.  She just might not be able to force herself to do it.  Regardless of how much you might think you are on the same page, there is no guarantee that a mama in this situation is not going to just flip to another page or switch to an entirely different book altogether.  And if she’s pregnant, don’t expect to get many coherent thoughts out of her when she’s in the middle of crying.  She might be the most practical, articulate, logical-thinking woman on the planet, but when you’re talking about taking her heart of our her chest and handing it over to someone else, you are not likely to get the most objective of responses.

I’m just sayin’.

So.  I’m not sure what I want the point of this post to be… maybe it’s just an opportunity to vent (code for: ramble on and on while I indulge in self-pity and defensiveness), or an attempt to think things through on virtual paper so I sound a bit more coherent than the usual “wah, wah, sob, sob… my baby!” that I’ve been doing of late.  If you can stick with me, your comments are welcome!

First of all, I believe with all my heart, that parents have a very serious God-given responsibility when it comes to the education of their children.  It is such a serious responsibility that they need to take time to figure out what their own thoughts, beliefs, and philosophy of education are, and then diligently seek out the best way of giving their child this sort of education.  It’s more than just saying, “Well, he’s six years old now, time to go to school!” and then sending him off.  It’s more than basing the decision of where to send him on something as simple as “do they have half-day or whole-day kindergarten?” or “do the start and end times work for our family and transportation?”.  These things might be important, but really, they shouldn’t be the whole basis of decision. If we are going to be held accountable for the education of a child’s mind, heart, and soul – and we are, I believe – then we’d better be pretty darn serious about the details of it.

(I am talking here, of course, about parents who have a choice in educating their children… unfortunately so many parents do not.  Thankfully we find ourselves in a current situation where we are able to choose to send M to a private school, public school, or home school.  I know the fact that we have a choice is a blessing in itself, but there’s still a responsibility to make the best choice possible.)

So, if and when we have thoughtfully (and prayerfully) made the huge decision to delegate this responsibility of educating our children to someone else, it’s our right to know what that someone else is going to be teaching them, the style of teaching, and various other things. 

I was disappointed to learn that the particular school we are looking at uses computers and other screen technology, quite often, to “teach” 5 and 6 year olds.  I just don’t see how this is the best way for children of such a young age to learn.  Why is everyone impressed with technology in schools?  Does it help the child learn to think or is it simply glorified worksheets and busy-work?  Isn’t it likely that most small children will become so enamoured with the computer itself that the actual learning of the material will take a back seat?  And shouldn’t children be doing more hands-on learning activities anyway? Any technology they learn now will most likely be obsolete by the time they need to prepare for a job.  I just don’t get it, especially given the damage (yes, damage) that this sort of impersonal education can do to someone of such a tender age. 

I’m a big believer in intuition and instinct… and intuitively I have a problem with government telling my family that we must now send our child away for several hours a day for the next 13 years in order to educate him.  (By the way, I’m not crazy for thinking this way – there were many parental protests when schooling first became compulsory in Massachusetts in 1852.  Little by little those voices were ignored and quieted and now society simply sees this as the "way things are”, but compulsory schooling and our current system of schooling in institutions is a pretty recent development.)  Let me be clear – I am pro-learning!  Learning is what childhood is all about.  Learning takes guidance and direction by someone… but ideally that guidance and direction is geared towards the individual child – his abilities, needs, interests, etc.   Individuality – the dignity of each person’s uniqueness – is highly disregarded in today’s society and nowhere more so than in schools where children are lumped together and taught the same thing at the same age - things decided by people who do not even know them.  Teachers do their best to get to know the children and help them learn, but there are so many handicaps blocking their way that it’s difficult for even the best teacher to achieve this for each and every student.

Anyway, back to government being involved… I was happy to learn that our potential school has developed and uses its own curriculum… and then disheartened to learn that this coming year they are switching over to state standard curriculum and will be doing state standardized testing as well.  My heart sunk at this news.  And the person hosting our tour wasn’t able to give me the names of any of the curriculum that will be used (it’s weird, apparently, that a parent might want such precise details of what their child will be learning).  Perhaps the teachers themselves would be able to give me more information, but I’m not sure we’ll have the opportunity to be in touch with them about this before making a decision about registering.

Standardized testing leads so often to “teaching to the test” instead of really focusing on helping each child learn.  I’m not a fan, at all, of such things… or homework or multiple choice questions or a host of other things either, if you really must know. :) 

Learning to think… this is what we need more of today.  Andrew Pudewa makes a beautiful statement in his talk about Freedomship Education (which you can download here), in which he discusses a classical education – developing character, knowledge, and skills - the kind of education men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and other great men early in our country’s history had (before compulsory schooling).  Andrew Pudewa says:

“We want to raise children who know how to think, and who have the knowledge, the wisdom, the character, and the skills to be able to speak the truth in a world of liars during a time of crisis.”

(This is a great talk to listen to, by the way… he also talks about the history of compulsory education, it’s real purpose [which is not teaching our children to think on their own], the problems with standardized testing, multiple choice tests, etc.)

So, where does one find a classical education today?  There are one or two schools around that would provide this for M, but they are e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e!  And at least one of them is for older children only.  Thomas Sowell, an advocate of classical education, points out that parents seem to be more qualified and capable of giving their children a good education than professional teachers:

“It is common for ordinary parents, with no training in education, to homeschool their children and consistently produce better academic results than those of children educated by teachers with Master's degrees and in schools spending upwards of $10,000 a year per student-- which is to say, more than a million dollars to educate ten kids from K through 12.

Nevertheless, we continue to take seriously the pretensions of educators who fail to educate, but who put on airs of having "professional" expertise beyond the understanding of mere parents.” – Thomas Sowell, “Amateurs Outdoing Professionals”

Sowell discusses all sorts of educational problems in early elementary schools in the first part of his book, Inside American Education, if you are interested in a good summer read.

So here I am, where I’ve been a million times before, as you long-time readers know – face to face with my admiration of homeschooling.  It comes down to this… wanting peace for my family.  And the idea of homeschooling brings me more peace than any of the other options I’ve considered.  And I’ve considered them very, very hard – praying that God would either give me peace about sending M to school, lessen my desire to homeschool, or just out and out give me information to prove me wrong.  The opposite of all of these things has been happening – I feel less peace about sending M after learning more about this particular school, my desire to homeschool is growing, and all the information I’m finding is making me more and more certain that conventional schooling is not the road to go down for the best education for M.

The heartbreaking part of this is that with current circumstances (my husband has reservations about this, and I do feel he should have the final say so we can be sure we are doing the right thing) I have to be open to the idea that this is not God’s will for our family at this point in time.  But I feel so conflicted about doing something I don’t believe is the best for my son, thereby not being the best mother I can be and am called to be.  What’s a mama to do in a situation like this? 

Here’s the idealistic little picture in my head of a unified education, where learning is not a separate activity, done somewhere else, among other people, but as part of the whole of a child’s life:  a child in a one-on-one setting, with a nurturing grown-up’s arm around his shoulder, teaching him to read, to solve math problems, to love God, to love his neighbor, to learn about the wonders of nature via science, to learn about the creativity in his heart via art lessons, to learn about history, music, chores, being polite, everything under the sun (!)… along with a lot of affection, firm discipline, encouragement, guidance in all things related to mind, heart, and soul, all in a real-world setting of family and community (versus an artificial environment where everyone is the same age and treated as if they are all at the same developmental stage)… a holistic education of the entire individual, by someone whom God has placed in a position to really know and understand and deeply love that particular child – the way He loves that child – as an individual.

And, to me, that sounds like a mother doing the work God has given her by entrusting these little souls to her and her husband. 

I have to wonder if, when God created families, He thought it would be best to take the children away from their families several hours a day in order to educate them – or did He place them in their particular families with the intention that education would, for the most part, happen there?

And it’s an idealistic picture, yes, I know that.  And I’m pregnant and emotional, and not the best at dealing with reality right now – yes, I know that too, which is why I’m thankful to have a more objective husband.  But I’ve been on this road for 5 years now and looking back I can clearly see how this dream has developed and blossomed in my heart and maybe my current state is just an honest admission of what I’ve wanted to believe and say all along.  Barring any major change in our circumstances, having a baby will keep me at home for another 5 years.  I’d love to have both of my chicks nestled under my wing (I’ve had to let too many of them go too soon – maybe that is part of this too?), all of us learning together… and there are some practical and financial advantages as well.  Taking advantage of homeschool groups would be a large part of this too; I have no desire to suffocate my children or prevent them from being part of a larger community.

Am I being too overprotective?  Too controlling?  Hm.  Perhaps.  But I do know that someone is going to be in control.  If M goes to school, the system will be in control of what is being taught; teachers will be in control of whether he is learning as well as how he learns (so often you hear, “teacher wants us to do it this way, not that way, despite the fact that that way might be correct too, which I’d have to say undermines the intelligence and authority of the parent who might be just as correct); other children will be in control of his socialization (social skills should be taught by mature adults and older children, I firmly believe), and their actions and words will control, at least in part, how his personality develops – monitoring may be done by an adult, but the real learning of social skills will be taught by his peers.  It seems to me that if someone is going to be in control of these things, and we know someone must be, that someone ought to be the parents.

Some quotes that sum up my feeling about this “overprotective” issue:

“If you were going to grow tomatoes in Canada, you do not take the tomato seed and go outside and stick it in the ground, do you?  No.  What you do is get a little cup, maybe several little cups, and you carefully select and control the soil, control the amount of water, light, and heat it gets.  You don’t do all this, then stick it outside in the back of the pickup truck behind the barn.  You keep it inside on the windowsill or in a greenhouse area and you carefully control all the elements around that little seed as it grows.  You know where it needs to go, but when do you do that?  You do it when the plant is tall enough, the trunk is strong enough, the roots are deep enough, and you know the place where you are going to put it is safe enough, you take that seedling and put it outside where conditions are not under your control anymore.  There are going to be variables, but at least that plant has been prepared adequately to handle those variables.  When it all comes together you get a great plant because you did it all when the roots were deep enough and the stem was strong enough.” – Steve Moitozo – from 10 Myths of Socialization (free audio download)


“We are not home educating because we fear the world.  We are not building an impenetrable fortress within which we will shield our children from the onslaught of the enemy.  Rather, our goal as Catholics is to nurture our children, like young plants in a nursery, so that they will stand tall for Christ.” – Kimberly Hahn – Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

There.  Venting done.  For now. ;)

I am simply unsure of where to go from here.  I pray for the strength to trust that all things will work out for the best, despite the possible heartache of.going against my convictions… it’s a tough place to be for this mama.



  1. So why exactly is your husband against it? Have you talked through that? You know when you weren't pregnant and over-emotional :)

    I'll be praying for you my friend.

  2. First off, let me just say I enjoy reading your blog, you help inspire me and keep me motivated! as far as schooling goes, I am starting to have the same thoughts and questions as my first child is getting to the age where I need to make the same choice. I have been praying and pondering over if I should teach her at home or send her to school. I just can not imagine letting her go to public school and being exposed to what is going on in the world today. but on the other hand I question my abilities to teach her and give her the education she deserves. reading your post has giving me more comfort in wanting to teach her at home. My mom taught all 6 of her children at home, everyone told her that we would never succeed in life and would not be able to interact with others. well she proved them wrong! all of us have graduated from university and have gone on to be successful! just trust in the Lord and don't let others force you to do something you don't feel comfortable with! you know your child the best, you know what the Lord wants you to do. I hope you find peace in your choice and are able to move forward with what you know to be right! Good Luck and may the spirit guide you in your choices!

  3. ((hugs)) and prayers as you make this decision!

  4. Aw, hugs to you! I hope you are able to find peace with your family's decision. Maybe it would help to focus on potential positives...new friends, new opportunities, time alone for you with baby, chances to get involved with school, etc. And, if the school doesn't turn out to be good, it's not permanent...you could change things.

    1. Ha,Monica! As my husband says, no one has ever accused me of being an optimist! Thanks for the reminder that "regular" school is not the end of the world... (although it would make my dream life a bit harder to achieve)after all I survived it and look at what a wonderful person I am. :) Never been accused of humility either.

  5. I totally relate to what you're going through! My son started a part-time (two mornings/week) preschool program this past September). This coming September he'll attend three mornings/week, and the following September he'll start half-day kindergarten. I plan to use his year in kindergarten to discern whether or not to homeschool. Having him there half days will give me a chance to get my feet wet and see whether public school will work for us. I cry every time I think about sending him to kindergarten. I can't blame my emotions on pregnancy hormones, but they're real and powerful enough. Since he's my only one, the thought of him leaving the nest is heartbreaking. As is the thought that I will be so removed from how he spends a good chunk of his day (the preschool teachers are pretty good about communicating, but I have a feeling the amount of communication decreases in the elementary years).

  6. Praying for peace as you and your husband make this decision!!

  7. Oh Nicole. First let me say I'm so glad to see you on here, and to hear that the pregnancy is going well. I've thought of you a lot and hoped all was well. Not much longer now!! I hated pregnancy too, and not being able to be Superwoman, but it will be so worth it!
    Second, I can feel your angst on the school issue, and I wish I could make it better. We've talked about this a lot before, and I'm not sure what else I can say. This is definitely not hormones though. You've been thinking this way for years, it just seems to be solidifying more and more. What exactly worries your husband about homeschooling so much? You have clearly thought this all out and researched and truly believe in the path you want to take. What are his arguments? Would he be up for trying it a year at a time - try homeschooling now and revisit the decision next spring? I firmly believe that homeschooling is right for Sam, but I won't say I'll never send him off to school. Maybe it will be right for him later. If you homeschool for kindergarten, and he doesn't seem to be getting enough socialization, or the academics at home aren't good enough (?? is that possible?) you could agree to send him off next year.
    You just seem to know so completely that this is what you believe in. Does Dan believe his position as deeply?
    I wish you the best of luck and some kind of peace with whatever decision you come to. Hugs.

  8. So I am late to comment on this post, and as you know, I am not on the same page regarding this issue. I think Kindergarten has been wonderful experience for Anna and she really blossomed socially there. It did come at a cost - she brings home some of the behaviors that we haven't seen before, but I still think that public education in one of the best schools of California is working out fine so far. Not all kids in her class bloomed socially or academically though, and I think some are better suited for a very individualized approach that you envision. Good luck in whatever road you choose!

    1. Natalie, I know you don't agree with this. ;) I admire your diplomacy though! :) I really think Anna is an exceptional child and will do well wherever she is.


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