Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why we homeschool, for now...

I must begin by saying that 10 years ago, with a degree in education, I never would have thought that I would become a homeschooling mom. Even 5 years ago, after our first child was born, I really didn't consider it. Now, here we are, nearing the end of our first full year of "at home school", as my children call it.

Some people are curious when they find out we homeschool. Some just think it's odd. Some are very excited and encouraging.

There are several reasons we've decided that it's what is best for our family right now. Here are a few (in no particular order):

VALUES-We want our children to know their own value and how to value others. We want them to love God and love others. We want them to act with kindness and honesty. I'm not saying that these things are not taught in schools (public or private), but I know that we can hold our children more accountable to these things when they have more one on one time with an adult that encourages these attitudes and actions.

RELATIONSHIPS-I know that many critics are concerned about a "lack of socialization" for homeschoolers. I also know that family, especially sibling, relationships are some of the longest lasting relationships a person can have. I want these relationships to be healthy. I like that all three of my children play well together. I'm glad that our schedule allows my children to spend time with their grandparents, because they are a wealth of information that simply isn't available in a traditional classroom setting. A walk through the woods with Grandpa pointing out various birds and trees, morning stretches with Halabeoji, Korean children's songs and dances with Halmoni, and stories from Nana are all priceless. These are teachable moments with some of life's best teachers. I don't want the kids to miss out on this time and these people.

ACADEMICS-I've taught in a traditional classroom setting. Ideally, I wanted to provide every student with the opportunity to reach his or her potential. Realistically, it didn't happen. If I knew a student was struggling with a concept, I couldn't slow everyone down to help that student "get it" before we moved on. If I knew a student had mastered a concept, I couldn't move on and leave the rest of the class behind to keep the student engaged and challenged. The reality is, in a class of 20+ students, you have to teach to the middle, and with curriculum "standards" in place, teachers are pressured to cover a certain amount of content within the school year. At home, with one-on-one instruction, when I see that my child is struggling, we can take more time. When he "gets it" quickly, we can move on. The curriculum works for him instead of against him.

TIME-There are plenty of things that demand our time and I want to be more intentional about how we spend our days. If we were sending our kindergartner to the local public school, he'd be getting on a bus at 6:55am. This is my child that requires 12 good hours of sleep each night. If I wanted to put him on the bus fully dressed, fed, and having brushed teeth/washed face, I'd need to wake him around 6:15am. With his sleep needs, that means bedtime would be 6:15pm. This would mean that most days of the week he wouldn't spend any time with Daddy, not even a bedtime story, and we're not okay with that right now. He's a little boy and time with Daddy is more valuable to us than time spent with 18 other 5-6 year old kids.

Another note about time, a lot of the traditional school day is spent in "transition". I taught in a junior high school where the students' school day was from 8am-3pm. This was an academically strong school in a high-ranking system. There were seven, one-hour periods a day. Ten minutes of first period was for homeroom (attendance, announcements, morning news, etc.) There was a 5 minute break between each class for class change/locker break (30 minutes total). One hour a day was for lunch and study hall. Consider that each teacher probably spent 3-5 minutes at the beginning and end of class with an opening and closing transition, maybe attendance, collecting homework, giving homework, etc..(We'll say 5 minutes per class if everyone was concise and efficient=30 minutes for the day.) Also consider that each class may have had one disruption or interruption that required the teacher to stop academic instruction (let's say 2 minutes or less x 6 classes=12 minutes total). At the end of the day there were additional announcements that took about 5 minutes before the final bell. Now if you add all the "transition" time up, it's about 2.5 hours. The kids are at school for 7 hours. About 4.5 hours could be considered academic instructional time. This is why some homeschoolers are finished with school by lunch.

I'm not saying that everyone should homeschool. I'm also not saying that I'm devoted to homeschooling exclusively until my children go to college. I am saying that this is what works for our family now. I think it is what is best for MY children now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Birth Videos

No we don't have videos that show all the graphic details of each child's birth and even if we did there's no way I'd post them for public consumption. We do, however, have footage of each child just moments after birth and this week I've been watching them.


Since our three know that another baby is on the way they've become curious about when they were "in mommy's tummy" and "when I first got out of your tummy". There have recently been many requests for the "Baby Annie" story, or the "Baby Mackenzie" story, or the "Baby Oppa" (Korean word for big brother) story. So this week, with the telling of the stories, we've added evening video clips.

Monday night was Nicholas, with his labored breathing and tiny cries after being delivered at 36 weeks via a C-section. There were expressions of concern at the IV taped to the back of his hand and the sensor on his tummy to monitor his heart rate while in the NICU. The girls furrowed brows during diaper changes and his first bath. There were a lot of questions about why he was crying.

Tuesday night it was Mackenzie, delivered by VBAC just days before her due date. A MUCH louder cry and much more responsive arms and legs moving about during diaper changes and bath. There were still furrowed brows and many of the same questions about why she cried so much. With the second video, there was also the fun of trying to understand what 22-month-old Nicholas was trying to say, which left all three kids laughing.

Tonight was Annie's night. I think she was most excited about seeing her own movie, but quickly became most concerned at her own baby cries. She was glad when all the crying was over and Daddy had her cozy on his chest. Then "little Oppa" and "little Unni" (I know that's an oxymoron for any Korean readers out there) came in and lightened the mood, so all was well again.

As I sit with them they watch with attentive eyes, waiting to see what's next. I watch with memories of what those days and hours and moments were like then and amazement at where we all are now.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pregnant Again

My belly is swollen and I've felt the first few bumps and flutters of another little person growing in my womb. Again I can't help but ask, "How is it that I am so blessed?"

Sure I'm exhausted most of the time. Certainly there are random aches as things stretch out again. Yes, I know I'll endure a crazy hot and humid Atlanta summer with an August due date.

I'm not complaining. I'm truly grateful for all of it (most of the time).

I know ladies that have been sick throughout their entire pregnancies, gaining only a few pounds because they simply couldn't eat much or when they did, it was almost immediately expelled. I know girls that spent weeks or months on bed rest, trying give their children a little more time to develop before entering this world. I know too many people that have tried for years to conceive and continue to be unsuccessful. I know too many women that had a due date, but never a birth date. I know others that delivered a baby that never breathed, or only lived a few hours, or days, or weeks.

Those are experiences I've never had personally. Experiences that hurt me to my core to think about. I don't want to rub salt into the wounds of those that know well the pains of a difficult pregnancy, delivery, or inability to conceive and carry a child to full term.

I am not gloating about my "easy" pregnancies.

I am amazed by the miracle that it is and humbled that I get to experience it again.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dining choices

When I was a kid, restaurants had "smoking" and "non-smoking" sections. When you were seated, the hostess would ask which section you wanted.

Now, most public places are "smoke-free" with small designated smoking areas, usually outside.

Here's my pet peeve.

Why don't restaurants now have "TV" or "non-TV" dining?

Haven't there been studies that show that eating while watching TV leads to a slower metabolic rate and a tendency to overeat?

Why do "family friendly" or "kid friendly" restaurants insist on having televisions with Cartoon Network surrounding the dining area? What is so friendly about mesmerizing my 5-year-old to the point that he can't complete a sentence or finish his pizza while it's warm?

Or how about the places that have the news on so you can stay current on what's going on in the world? At bedtime, when my 3-year-old asks, "Why were those men throwing rocks?" and I'm racking my brain to figure out where she saw men throwing rocks, then realize there was footage of the Israeli conflict playing while we ate lunch, how do I answer her question in a way that can still encourage her to "have sweet dreams" when I walk out of the room and turn out the light?

Maybe other people don't have this problem. Maybe their kids don't even notice what's playing over Mommy's & Daddy's shoulders. Which makes me wonder, by limiting my kids' "screen time" at home, have I made them more susceptible to tuning in to screens in other settings?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Hapa"ly Ever After

Many good stories have "happily ever after" endings.

I don't know how your stories will end, loves, but they all begin "hapa"ly ever after.

Hapa is a Hawaiian word that means half or part. It is most often used to describe someone with a combination of Asian or Pacific Islander and other nationalities in their ancestry. This is why it's a part of where your story begins.

Genetically, you are East meets West. Second generation American-born Korean on Daddy's side and tenth generation from the hills of north Georgia on Mommy's side. There's Korean, Scotch, Irish, German, and Cherokee blood making it's way through your veins.

As you grow people may have questions about your background and the people you come from. They may have guesses about who you are based on what they see, but even their perceptions of what they see will be a little distorted by their own experiences, or lack thereof.

You will be the product of your raising, and then some. You'll carry pieces of your past and plans for your future. You will have dreams realized and dreams deferred.

Wherever you go and whatever you do I pray that you will know that you were created, just the way you are, for a purpose. You don't need to be any more or any less than who you are.