Education · Family · Homeschooling · public school

Homeschooling vs. Public School – from a Mom who Loves Both.

Autumn has come and gone and we’re already two full weeks into March! I have now had my all five of my children in school for a little more than six months. After 13 years of having non-stop chaos in my home, I used to wonder how these days would feel… No kids at home for half of the day. Only one around for the other half (he’s in kindergarten).

I had dreams of what this would look like.

Heavenly dreams of slow mornings, hot coffee, settling down with a good book in hand and a bowl of chocolate covered almonds in the other… Or maybe I would go on a run each morning.

Or strike off a few more books on my never-ending “to read” list.

I definitely thought I’d finish editing my book by now. And that it would be published already…

I had grand plans of organizing every single room in the house; touching up the worst of the nicked-up walls with a fresh coat of paint. Plus it was going to look clean all the time as there are no kiddos around to mess it up…am I right??

Even now I’m chuckling to myself because what was I even THINKING?!? Did I actually believe that the moment my kids got on that bus, time would just magically multiply for me? My ideas that moms with kids in public school must have nothing to do… yeah, those are quickly getting squashed.

If anything, this year has been a good reminder about the reasons I decided to homeschool in the first place.

So now that I’ve had a fair chunk of time with my kids in each, I want to give an honest look at homeschooling and public school. Hopefully, with taking a deeper look, the large wall that seems to hang between homeschoolers and those who go to public school will come down.

And we’ll realize how similar we really are. Our differences aren’t so bad either. My hope is that we begin to see that the “other side” isn’t crazy.

Or lazy.

Or bad for your kids.

One isn’t necessarily easier than the other. And honestly, both can be impossibly difficult but amazingly rewarding if done well.

Oh, and I almost forgotaren’t most Canadian’s going to be homeschoolers now for the next three weeks or more?

I had to chuckle to myself about this, because now all the people who have told me they could never homeschool… will actually get the opportunity to test that theory out. I’m willing to pay money, that at the end of the next three weeks, the children in their care will have learnt more under their intentional direction than in a public school setting. 

A Typical Homeschool Day… was not at all what my dream homeschool days looked like.

I had visions creating a curriculum a where science, social studies, ELA projects all worked hand in hand together. I also thought it would look more like the public school setting that I was raised in. And to some point I was able to achieve a bit of this. Don’t see what I mean?

To homeschool, erase much of what you know of public school. Set time schedules, hand raising for help, line ups, waiting for the kids that are ruining it for the rest of the class and subjects that follow a little bit of everything. Only to repeat and go more in depth year after year.

Homeschooling is actually much more freeing then this. And I found that it took considerably less time. Teaching my kids took a third of the time then a school day actually takes. This means I was able to pack more information into my kids before lunch then public school is able to do all day. This isn’t bragging about my teaching abilities, this is just honestly how much faster teaching goes with students who get real discipline when they misbehave and who would rather spend the afternoon playing outside with siblings, then sitting at the table alone working on unfinished assignments.

The most difficult thing was that I actually had to work out character clashes between me and the kids. This not only helped shape them and gave them opportunity to find their place in our family, it sharpened me as well! Impatience and outbursts of anger had to be worked on. It could no longer stay tucked safely away.

What I mean is this… when you only have to “behave” for a couple hours each evening it’s easy to never deal with character issues at all, rather go from “break” to “break”, merely surviving in between. But when you’re always with five children who are testing your patience ALL day long, you actually have to come up with a solution in order to function well.

Pros of homeschooling:

-Students learn at their own pace

-Less distractions

-More one on one teaching

-Flexible Hours

-Flexible curriculum

-Less wasted time

-Closer family connections

-Better values being taught

-Limited exposure to negative influences

-More affordable (You bet, more affordable! At least, it is for having five kids! Even when I spend $500 a year on curriculum, it saves me unnecessary school supplies, indoor/outdoor shoes, School fees, instruments, field trips, mandatory gift exchanges, teacher gifts, lunches, book fairs, etc). Public school is expensive!

Cons of homeschooling:

-Negative sigma- feeling isolated or discouraged from other friends and/or family members

-Lack of support

-Extra sensitive kids with uncontrolled outbursts (Which can also be a positive thing, when children are taught to properly express their emotions.)

-Some children struggle to respect other authority

-Narrow perspective

-Lack of Independence or ability to solve relational problems on their own.

-Difficulty with clashing personalities

-Very little down time or quiet moments

-Bored children

**Notice what ISN’T on this list? Socialization. Quite simply, this is a NON issue. In fact, in this day and age I would argue that most homeschoolers are more socialized than public schoolers. They are able to talk with a variety of ages… (adults, peers AND younger children) most of them aren’t glued to their personal devices, unlike most public school children. Especially those with siblings and support groups, in my opinion are FAR ahead socially. The real argument is do they “fit in”? And my response to that would be… do you want them to? Do you want them to gossip? Show disrespect to teachers? Mock those who are weaker than them? Look up inappropriate YouTube videos?

No, in this sense, my kids do not fit in. And I’m 100% happy with that.

A Typical Public School Day:

So let me just clarify a few things:

– There are no leisurely mornings… I run around like a crazy woman making sure everyone has clean clothes, lunches packed, homework done, books to return for library, gym clothes for class, flute or trumpet for band, clean shoes, washed faces, clipped finger nails, breakfast eaten, and on and on and ON!! My neighbours can probably hear me yelling through the walls, “HURRY UP! YOU’RE GOING TO MISS THE BUS!!”

– There is no extra time….After the kids are gone it looks like all my possessions were thrown into a topless blender and vomited all over the house.

– My days are more chaotic than ever.

So yes, you probably understand the chaos in the mornings and the homework/ extra curricular schedules in the evenings. But what do Mom’s really do between those 7 hours from 9-4pm. That’s a lot of time!!!

First I clean up. Dishes, lunch meats still sitting on the table, breakfast items, socks thrown around on the ground in a panic. Forgotten papers for me to sign.

An hour or two later, the house is finally tidy (not clean, tidy, there’s a HUGE difference).

Then the phone begins to ring…

“Mrs. Bergen, I have your son here in the office with chest pains..”

“Mrs. Bergen, your boy really injured his foot today at recesss…”

“Mom I forgot my…” click.

It is now 10:30 and I have approximately 1 hour left before my youngest son comes home on the kindergarten bus. And yes it’s only one kid, but can we just acknowledge that one child is often harder than having five??? I am his only entertainer ALL afternoon!!

Anyways usually, it’s halfway through the morning before I can even start my “to do” list.

Where is this “Glorious Freedom” I was told about? I have come to realize, it is there. I really just have to stop and notice it.

It’s in the peaceful silence as I work and clean.

It’s in the mornings I decide to push off the cleaning and go for a run.

It’s in the cup of coffee I drank that stayed hot.

It’s in the muffin I did not have to share.

There is a difference to being alone, and it is most refreshing!

I established early on that if I was staying at home while my kids were in school I would not waste my time. The temptation for moms to “Netflix binge” is all too real. To safeguard myself, I established firm rules for the days I do find myself with extra time:

1) I do not watch Netflix while my kids are at school and my husband is at work. I do not turn on the T.V. Period. I do not spend time on social media while they are at school. (WordPress is the only social media that I’m currently on). Wasting time on my phone or other devices would be incredibly unfair to my family.

2) Only one social outing a week while the family is at school/work. Again, how is it fair if my children are working all day and my husband is providing all day for our family and I am lounging around?

3) I get all the housework/cooking done while the family is away so that we can make the most of our family time together in the evenings. Yes I make most of our meals and lunch snacks from scratch. It’s healthier and it saves us A TON of money. The secret to living off of one income: Budget well and eat at home. Seriously.

4) The only shopping I do during the day is for necessities. Therefore, I do not waste time browsing stores for my enjoyment.

You may wonder, why all the rules? Quite simply, because our society sees stay at home moms as lazy, particularly once kids are in school. I know this can be true. But I also know, that if done well, stay at home moms are vital to the family unit and to society.

Who else has the time to volunteer in the school system and help struggling children learn to read?

Who else has the time to visit the sick, give meals to the weary or babysit for those who desperately need?

How about public schooling on the students side of things?

The first thing my kids noticed about public school was the noise. It was so loud and distracting! The kids were constantly interrupting the teacher and showing disrespect. My kids honestly felt terrible for the teacher and found it hard to work.

They did enjoy having weekly activities that we did not get to do at home (for instance: music class, phys ed, science labs, after school sports, track and field, etc.) I just simply could not fit all these things in for them, but the school system can!

They also enjoyed making new friendships, hearing new perspectives on life, having recess and lunch with kids their own age, being able to have friends their ages to relate to their struggles on a new level! This was all very wonderful to see!

I also appreciated that there were areas I never taught because I didn’t know how like French and art. Our kids have grown to love these subjects, and I’m so glad that they’ve had the opportunity to study them!

Pros of public school:

Consistent routine and schedule

-Close friendships

-Unique opportunities

-A larger worldview/different perspective

-Space away from parents (Yes I listed this as a good thing! There are some homeschooled children who are smothered by their parents in an unhealthy way.) They do need space to make their own choices and freedom to grow!

-The variety of subjects/courses

-Independence

Cons of public school:

-Homework

-Less Free time

-Overly busy schedule

-Negative influences

-Costs and pressure to do more outings

-Distractions and noise

-Disrespect to teachers

-Lack of individuality in teaching that is often needed for students, especially ones with minor learning disabilities (Although to be fair I think the school system has improved tons in the last few years in this area).

-Lack of supervision

So there you have it! I know I’ve missed some of the pros and cons and there’s so much more I could write. But this is a starting point to better understanding both sides. I’ve learned to appreciate both public/private school and homeschool and I’m so thankful that I live in a country that allows me to choose!

Faith · Purpose · Wisdom

A Forgotten Grave

I sit at my desk, once again, tapping the keys on my laptop. Trying to form another post. I must’ve started fifty in the past months. Fifty posts unseen to the world. 

There is a largely unseen aspect to my life right now, and for the first time, I’m okay with it. I mean truly okay.

I wake up. Journal. Read. Pray.

Connect with my family. Send them to school.

Clean. Bake. Cook. Shop. Volunteer.

Kids come home. I make supper. Connect with my family some more. And then go to bed so I can repeat it all over again in the morning.

And I feel full.

I think it’s because I’ve finally come to the point where I’m no longer trying to move to the next stage and the next. I’ve become content with the journey itself.

We do that a lot in life, don’t we?

Wake up Monday and just try to make it till the weekend.

 

294qy6.jpg

Start a job and go through the motions… just surviving until the next holiday.

Start parenthood, just waiting until the baby is sleeping through the night… then till they’re potty trained… then just till they’re in school…. finally until they’re out of the house.

And then we still wait! Until retirement. And even then. Fill the schedule so full of social outings and volunteering that we just long until we can go south for the winter.

Is this really what life is about? Waiting for the next good moment?

Now just a caveat: I’ve seen many take this idea to unhealthy places, where people start feeling guilty for even enjoying anything in life. Breaks are fine. Holiday’s are good. Rest is good.

Let’s not get weird.

Yet what I’m saying is this: What if, we actually saw the journey as the purpose; the moment we live in, as the joy of life? And the breaks as just that: A short pause; a rest before the next stanza in the symphony.

Not the only thing to look forward to.

And most certainly not the meaning of it all! For what would a symphony be with no sound?

I’ve decided to homeschool my younger two boys again next year. To finish what I’ve started. Why? Because I’m happy with the results of the older three kids, with the time I’ve put into their lives, with the good relationship we have and I want to provide my younger two children with the same opportunities.

I think, our culture at large has no idea how much time it takes to raise children. To create loving and close bonds with the next generation. That’s why I often chuckle at younger moms or others who are just waiting until the next stage.

Guess what? A teenager needs the same amount of time as a toddler.

HA! I bet you didn’t know THAT! (As most people reading this gasp and shake their heads. Now they know I’m off my rocker!)

How can I make this bold claim? A teenager can do almost everything for themselves!! Yet… Most teens feel so unconnected to their families that they are known to cause trouble, run off, steal, do drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviour. It’s why people dread those teenage years.

My older two are just entering these years now. And I am LOVING it. I love my teens. They are SO much fun! They understand so much. They have a spark that I’ve lost. They are losing that lame elementary school humour and becoming hilarious to be around (sorry to my younger kiddos, it’s just true!!). We spend most evenings together. Chatting. Eating supper. Cleaning up together. Laughing. Playing games.

And my question is this? Where are the other parents of this generation?

At work. Rushing to unimportant outings. And hiding behind screens.

I get asked a lot about my relationship with my children. Why they like church? Why they like our family cell group? How I get them to share their struggles openly with me? How do I manage to have our teens enjoy family times together?

The answer is quite simple, but it isn’t easy: It is quite literally laying down my life daily for my family.

I have no career.

I do not travel.

I have no outside hobbies: my hobbies happen at home. I run at home. I read at home. I bake at home. I write at home.

I have no fame.

I have no degree.

I am nothing, No one to the world.

HA! Feminists HATE this kind of talk. Why am I not doing something for me??

Oh, but I am.

I have no importance to the world, yet I am filled with a profound sense of purpose: I am raising the next generation.

Do you understand the importance of that statement??

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION!

Unseen. Unheard. Probably will never be known or famous. One day, a century or two from now, my graveside will be long forgotten.

But there will be five kids who will live on… and build five more legacies, and their legacies will multiply and their children will have children. And on and on. And perhaps the most profound thing will be this: they will have a legacy of love.

They belonged and they were loved. So they too will love and invite others to belong.

If I could have one wish, it’s that every single person, every single parent, every single mother could see this.

Our purpose isn’t to provide a fancy house, car and clothes for our children. It’s not to give them that dream vacation. It’s not to give them every opportunity with career or extra curricular event. These are usually just our dreams for them anyway.

Our purpose is to be there and listen. To love and connect.

To build a strong legacy, which may never be recorded in the Guinness World Records or history books, but will be written on the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

Our purpose is to let this love overflow to the world. Because the more I love and take time for my family, the more I find myself caring about those around me. Instead of judging, wondering, do they have a place of belonging? Do they have someone to care?Often, the answer is no. So we invite them in: Come, join our family.

No, maybe I won’t end up in the Hall of Fame, and there’s a good chance that my grave will one day be forgotten, like the millions of heroes and saints that have gone before me. People pass away. Memories are forgotten.

But you know what doesn’t pass away? The fruit that comes from a labour of love.

Authenticity · Faith · Wisdom

My Wise Friend

It occurred to me recently that I’m really not that wise.

Profound. I know. But really, this isn’t just another grab at false humility. This is me fully admitting that I often can be quite foolish, as hasty people quite often are.

I like to speak my mind. Act quickly. Think later.

In fact, as I was pondering this this morning I realized that I don’t remember a single time I have had a wise thought on my own. Not once! Isn’t that incredible? I’m full of quick solutions, snap judgements and replies.

But you know what? I spend a lot of time with a very wise person. Why anyone so wise would hang around so constantly with one so foolish, I don’t know. All I know is that He sits patiently with me every morning. He listens carefully as I pour out all my complaints and judgements.

He nods.

He has compassion.

He understands.

And then he speaks. And oh! When he speaks, how he makes me see it all so differently. How he shows me true wisdom. HIS wisdom. And amazingly enough, even though my perception is more often than not wrong, he gently loves me through it all.

Never making me feel stupid.

Never discounting my feelings.

I have so much to learn from this friend of mine, this true friend, who cares AND speaks truth.

Sometimes, I spend enough time with him that I begin to hear his words coming out of my mouth. And I think to myself. “Wow. That sounded really wise!” But that’s the thing about having a wise friend.

The more you hang around with wisdom, the more wise you seem.

And then – of course, being the fool that I am, I begin to kid myself into thinking this wisdom is all actually mine, only to realize all to soon that I’m still just that silly, little presumptuous girl without him.

That happened this last weekend. A few times. I became overconfident in my own ability to read people and situations and I make many wrong assumptions. We so often do that don’t we?

We think: Oh, I know, this is why that person acts that way.

And we assume, mostly wrong things. Then we pass on our false ideas to others, who in turn slander and assume. It’s such a vicious cycle and once started, there’s only one way to stop it.

Spending time with my wise friend.

I dig myself into such enormous pits that you’d think by now, either I would have already learned how to stop digging them, or that my wise friend would’ve LONG given up on pulling me out of them by now.

But, alas, he comes. He stares down at me with a sweet smile on his face.

“Oh Heather. Are you stuck again?”

“Yes, Jesus.”

He chuckles, “This is quite the hole you’ve dug.”

Tears streak my face, my head hangs in shame, “I know Jesus. I’m so very sorry.” The tears spill over into the dust below.

He reaches out his hand. I take it immediately. I’ve been here before, and I know it’s the only way out. No use trying to beat myself up by trying to get out of this on my own. That just prolongs the shame and agony. Still, as I grab his hand, I can’t quite get myself to meet his eyes.

“Can we talk about it Heather?”

“Jesus. I was doing so well! Where did I go wrong?”

He gently lifts my chin with his hand, turning my face towards his. His eyes hold no judgement, only gentle love. “You stopped abiding, dear girl. You thought you knew, but you forgot to ask me.”

“You’re right! I’m so sorry.” I let myself fall into his forgiving arms.

“I know.”

Of course he does.

Writing

Eating My Humble Pie

I’ve always loved a good slice of pie.

As we all know, some pies taste better than others. There’s the premium kind Mom serves at gatherings. It has the perfect crust with that smooth, but slightly flaky texture, so easy to swallow. The filling is sweet, with just the right spices. Then there’s the bakery pies. Delicious, but not quite the same as Mom makes it. And then there’s the pie from the convenience store, which has a shelf life of a decade and tastes like it too.

Humble pie tastes more like the convince store baking. And it’s not sweet, so the sugar can’t hide the flavour… it’s more like a dinner pie made with mixed veggies. Ugh. To top it off, these days I feel like I’m skipping the slice and eating the whole thing at once. And it doesn’t sit well.

Still, there are a few areas where I manage to feel immensely proud.

It just depends where I look.

The source of my pride is and always will be my children. They continually amaze me with their remarkable talents and personalities. Those who lack in “skill” most certainly make up for it in character.

Last week we received their report cards.

My oldest son, Isaiah did fine in his grades… especially after we handed in a couple of late assignments. But what pleased me most is when the teacher talked about the character of my young man. Respectful, thoughtful, always looking to put others first. He said that Isaiah has a good heart, both tender and wise. Trust me, when these words are said about your 13-year-old-boy, you listen.

My daughter got 100% on everything. A perfect report card. I hadn’t known that was possible until last week, but no matter how many times I blinked, there it was. I was more of an 70s/80s kid myself. She got chosen as one of the two girls in her grade at school to attend a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) event.

My next son, stuck right in the middle of five kids, excelled in his grades too. Jonas’ teacher was most astonished at his abilities in Mathematics. She said not only was he a leap ahead of everyone else, but he was brilliant, showing her and the class new methods to figure out problems that she hadn’t ever heard of in over a decade of teaching.

Dallas is also strong in math. He did really good in his other work as well, but he’s also our athletic one. Tells me he’s the fastest boy in his class. Whether this proves to be true, I have yet to see. But I don’t doubt it. He’s always kept me running.

And Emerson, my baby. He amazed me by learning the game of chess when he was four. By the time he was five, he could beat everyone in our family. His teacher was quite stunned when he showed off his skills at school, said that most kindergarteners can’t even grasp the game, never mind master it.

They’re not perfect. No-sir-ree. Sometimes their bickering drives me batty. And when they leave dirty socks on the kitchen counter I want to pull my hair out. But I’m proud of them, because when it comes down to it, they’re amazing people. I feel honored to be called their mother.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for:

HUMBLE PIE.

Because no one wants to hear how everyone else is excelling.

We wait for the grit.

We love the grit.

Especially when things aren’t going too great in our own lives.

I think it’s a social media thing: others successes making us feel like epic failures. If we lived face to face with our friends successes, we would feel along with their joy. Now we just watch from a 6″ window into their lives and feel shame.

And in some ways, we should. For having false expectations.

Social media will never give us true relationships because it is only a snapshot into the lives of those around us. The only way social media can become something more is if we decide to finally open the window further and give others a real look into our lives.

So let me open my window further for you…

I’ve been reading a lot lately and it made me realize something: I’m not very good at writing.

Ouch.

Did I really just say that? On WordPress? Among authors? As the handful of followers I have stampede away in droves…

That’s right.

You’re following an average joe. A stay at home mother, whose best accomplishment will most likely be raising five kids. Which is probably a good thing in a generation of fame seeking narcissists.

Don’t get me wrong… I want to be a bestseller. And for much of my life I believed I would be. But now, as I read my work compared to so many good authors, it’s pretty obvious: The wit, brilliance and effortless beauty that seems to come naturally to so many, has most definitely not been bestowed upon me.

I mean, I’ve had my moments.

I won second place in a local city competition for short stories and got a piece published in the paper. My high school teacher kept my best poems and says she still shows them off once in a while. I’m known to be authentic in my writing, which is what I want most of all. I once got a thousand views on a post I wrote. Must’ve been shared by the right person.

By the way, this isn’t me giving up. This is me getting real and putting an honest word out there to writers everywhere…

We just aren’t as good as we want to be.

Journaling my thoughts is one of the most amazing and effortless things I can think of. This makes me a natural writer. My best pieces come out of journal entries and poetry I’ve written. But writing for an audience is tough, gruelling and painful. This is the difference between a natural writer and a published one.

Writing my story was simple. Ok relatively simple.

But editing it and admitting that almost half of my story needs to get shuffled around or rewritten before it faces the publishers has been daunting. I mean, I thought I already finished the work! Now I read and reread every sentence until the words blur together and seem meaningless. But this work is necessary if I want it to be the best.

Almost makes me feel guilty for the way I’ve read books in the past; skipping over pages to get to the good parts. Those authors deserved more than a quick skim of the words they mulled over and over again.

As a result, I’m now back to 30,000 words on my book. Down from just over 85,000. But they’re a promising 30,000 words. They mark my best work. Worthy to be published.

At least I think they are. Maybe the publishers will feed me more humble pie. In fact, I’m expecting it. But it’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. The worst thing would be for me to stop eating at all for fear of being giving this bitter tasting food.

Humble pie may not taste great, but I’ve found it is the most nourishing food for the soul. It’s nothing, if not filling. And it even teaches me; inspiring me to be honest with myself and to learn from my mistakes.

Given enough time, humble pie actually doesn’t look as bad as it sounds. The fact of the matter is, eating humble pie may be my best chance of becoming that bestseller. It might even end up being the key to my success. So, I’m going to eat my pie and enjoy this meal, knowing that someday, I’m going to get a taste of Mom’s Homemade pie again. Until then, this humble pie will keep me alive, so I will be grateful for it.

I may even ask for seconds.