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Home Education Magazine

March-April 2001 - Articles and Columns

Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon

Family Difficulties and Doubting Husband

Family Difficulties

"We have had some family difficulties this last year--- a grandparent's final illnesses, a new baby and then a move. Everyone is telling me that I have had enough to deal with and I should put the children back in school. I agree they haven't been on field trips or to museums in too long. I don't want to harm their education, but I don't want to send them back either. Any suggestions?" - Karen, just coping

? "In the past three years we have moved six times in three different countries and added two babies to our family. It's my belief that I managed all of that because we are a homeschooling family. It has not always been easy and there have been times (and there still are days) when I feel that I'm only just coping. So much in life happens only for a season and I need to adapt to the way things are for that time. The beautiful things about homeschooling is that it gives us the freedom to live life as we need to. The children help with the chores and play with the little ones so we can spend time reading, learning and creating together. Some days I feel like a homeschool supermum, able to organize brilliant lessons, spend time with each child, clean the house and divulge humorous anecdotes whilst nursing the baby and baking bread. Other days leave me feeling as though boarding school is a valid option.

Now I don't know who your 'everyone' is but I am one person who humbly suggests that putting the children in school won't ease the load all that much. The baby will still be a baby, the boxes will still need unpacking and the grandparent still will be missed. Kick back, don't worry about 'school' for a while and let the kids learn informally. Anyway, who says that field trips are essential to a good education? - Janelle Hulin

? "The difficulties that this mom has gone through with her family would have happened anyway if the kids were in school. What the family goes through together will help to bond them....and is ALL part of a homeschool environment. Better that the kids get to express themselves at home about what is happening then to 'act out' in school because of what is happening at home. There are too many other distracters that affect kids in school, too much to deal with. More comforting to know that your kids and you have each other with no other outside peer pressures." - Marion

? "In the midst of life's changes, challenges, and upheavals I have found homeschooling to be THE consistent grounding for myself, my kids and our family as a whole. I would bet that 'putting the kids back in school' would create yet ONE more difficult situation to deal with. Homeschooling doesn't have to be days filled with activities, structure, and demands. Sometimes just "being" with my kids is enough. Walking around your new neighborhood looking for tracks, bugs, and flowers. Reading on the couch or in the backyard for hours on end, playing all day long. Learning about the care of an infant,a grandparent's illness, and settling into a new home are all homeschooling experiences. Getting support for yourself and for the kids through the local homeschool group, La League league, library, or other organization could prove valuable. Listen to your mother heart and take 6 months "off homeschooling" and simply adjust to all the new changes." - Heleen, Montana

? "Twelve years ago I came to the end of a terrible two years. When I was seven months pregnant with my third son and my other sons were aged 5 and 3 years, my husband lost his job, and embarked on retraining. At the same time, my father became ill and was diagnosed with cancer. He spent two months in hospital having surgery and other treatment to relieve the symptoms but we were told he had only 6 months to live at the most. My baby was born, a week late, as soon as my dad was discharged from hospital. We decided to spend my husband's severance pay on lifting our house up and building a basement underneath, with my husband doing all the work himself.

My father proved his stubborn nature for one last time, and lived for 15 months, instead of the six, but then my mother became ill and died, also of cancer, nine months later on New Year's Eve.

All this is just to let you know that I really do understand the pressures you are under, Karen. The bottom line is that you know in your heart what is best for you and your children. No one else can know. But here are some of the ways in which I think I, and my children, benefited from them staying at home -in no particular order of significance.

* Unschooling was forced upon us - I just didn't have the emotional resources to do anything else - which, considering I was homeschooling because I had a very active, dyslexic little boy, was a great advantage.

* Having the children with me, gave me the strength I needed to help my parents - I had to hold myself together.

* The children didn't learn much in the way of math or reading skills, but they sure learned a lot about birth (a home birth, at that, in which they participated), death and life. They learned about responsibility and caring, about how sometimes people have to put other's needs before their own. They learned that mothers and fathers cry and hurt too. They learned about the joys of being together - even that there is joy in grieving together. They learned about fathers adjusting to new jobs. They learned about building.

* No field trips? Mine had visits to hospitals, baby nurses, and funeral directors. They had a field trip every day to a building site, with work experience thrown in.

* Homeschooling offered them the chance to be with their grandparents so much more than would have been the case if they had been at school.

* Finally, staying at home gave them a continuity that I think was very important. They already had so much change and disruption in their lives.

Museums are always there. They don't change much. There will be time for things like that. What is important now is keeping your family strong and giving your children a sense of strength and stability within the family. Those are 'lessons' far more valuable than any math, reading or history lesson. - Carol Brown

? "We have homeschooled for 8 years now. We had major changes, including a relative's death and a cross-country move when the oldest was in traditional school. We had more major changes, (adopting an older child, moving to a new part of the country, and more) in the midst of home educating. Since we can compare both "crisis and stress years" in the same family, I can state firmly that home- educating has been best. The children can participate in the problems, help and be included, as well as have time to grief and express anger. It isn't the field trips or museums that make a "good" education, but learning to live real life and fit in math/English/etc around it. If all you have given up is outings to 'educational' places, that sounds minor.

I went to teaching only math and language arts and reading aloud and discussing science, history and award-winning books in alternate months. The kids corrected their own papers with a red pencil and the answer key. Bible? Well, we prayed about the ongoing situations and tried to have family devotions at dinnertime two to three times weekly. At times the schedule was so hectic that the paperwork and drill activities got done in waiting rooms and the car. The kids enjoy learning so they willingly read historical fiction, nonfiction, and biographies(from the local library), work through science kits and more. They have learned to clean, cook and do laundry alongside us. They have learned to serve alongside us. They enjoy getting mail and eagerly read kid's magazines to which we subscribe. In fact, now that our schedule and life have calmed down to a predictable routine, my husband and I have decided to continue this style of learning and teaching!

The children in our household who were in traditional school during our major problems and changes, took longer to adjust and felt left out. They also displayed strong reactions for a longer time, since they were required to act "normal" during the school day." - Martha, San Antonio

Doubting Husband

"We are a 'mixed' family. My husband has two children from his first marriage. Both are teens in parochial school. The girl is a driven type 'A' who gets good grades but also has a dangerous eating disorder; the boy is sullen and failing most classes. Mostly due to their examples I began researching homeschooling when my twins were babies. They are now five years old and I will consider no options but homeschooling. My husband says that I'm making a big mistake. How can I convince him I'm right?" - Angry Mom/Step-Mom

? "While I think homeschooling is ideally the best way to school, it is not the only good way to school. Beginning homeschooling with significant family problems and lack of parental agreement is like having a baby to save a marriage. Trying to convince your husband that your way is the only way is a set-up for failure. Pray. Keep an open mind. Work on your flexibility. If the Lord brings you both to agreement you'll be much better prepared to deal with the fluctuating needs and attitudes of your students. I would recommend individual and family counseling if you haven't already considered this." - Elaine Z.

? "I think some of your husband's reaction is that he may feel protective and/or defensive of the older children. Homeschooling may have saved them from their difficulties, but research shows that parents divorcing may more likely have been a stronger influence than their school situation.  I would suggest approaching this as an issue separate from his children, your stepchildren. If you believe homeschooling is what is best for your children, maybe he would agree to one year. Once he sees how it goes, hopefully he'll agree to the next year. You really need him on board and in support.

My husband was not sold on homeschooling, so I started teaching my son when he was nearly three, thinking maybe I could teach him enough before kindergarten that my husband would allow me to continue through kindergarten. He was reading when he was three and in first grade he tested at fifth grade level in language-oriented subjects. In fifth grade, he tested post-high school. We did try him in a private school for fifth grade and part of sixth. It did not work well for him, so we pulled him out and don't intend to consider anything but homeschool now, but until that point, it was a year by year decision." - D. Werner

? "I homeschooled my daughter despite my husband's objections. Originally I kept her home because she had a chronic illness, but as her health improved I saw that she loved to learn on her own, in her own way, and didn't want that altered by the structure of school. I did medical transcribing from home in the evening, but he wanted me to work an additional job to pay off our debts, even though they were mostly incurred from his gambling. We fought about homeschooling, among other things, but I held my ground. Eventually we divorced. His lack of concern about anyone but himself was evident in all his actions and I realized he was unable to really care about what was best for our daughter. She is a teen now, and we have wonderful days together. She still is an eager learner, a tireless volunteer and a testament to the benefits of homeschooling." - Lynn Walters

? "You said that you want to convince your husband that you are 'right.' It sounds like you are in a competition, where someone has to lose. You also signed off as 'Angry.' You certainly care about your children and stepchildren, and want to do what is best, but in my experience little can be accomplished from positions of negativity. Look again at your stepchildren, see their potential, even the difficult things they must be learning right now from the troubles they are going through. What good, hopeful, strong attributes can they share with your little ones? What wonderful qualities have they gotten from their father? Spend time every day thinking about their positive qualities and share your observations with your husband. Don't ignore the possibility that they may need help, the girl certainly with her eating problem, and the boy may be depressed, but again approach that with loving intent.

The decision to homeschool is clearly important, but you almost sound like you want to do it to prove something to your husband, to make "your" kids more successful than "his" kids? Discuss with your husband only the good reasons to homeschool, not the reasons to avoid traditional school. Also, remember that keeping education in the family gives you more time to do things together like family trips, one on one special activities with each child, even encouraging the older siblings to share their talents with the younger ones. Build, don't knock down, and the family foundations will become stronger." - Lauren W., Puerto Rico

(c) 2001 Home Education Magazine

March-April 2001 Issue

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