Tuesday, January 31, 2006
An Idea of What Homeschooling Can Do and Be: Another Personal Story
My grandmother basically raised her ten children on her own. Her husband passed away after the birth of the 10th. She gave her family a very strong Christian upbringing. She raised us – children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren- in the church and she expected us to follow his will. One of the things she looked for was for her children and grandchildren to have an easier life. Nine out of her ten children went to college. She wanted all of her children to be independant, to have their own money. I don’t believe her marriage was as happy as it could have been. Her husband sought her out, but he was not her first choice. He made sure that her first choice was not in the picture, so she wanted her children and grandchildren to find happiness with their mate. She makes sure that we are always nurturing our relationships. She’ll say to me, “You have a really good husband,” or “What are you cooking for your husband,” or “He is a good man.”
My mother is cautious, but she is continually trying to better herself, trying to move up a level. Ten years ago, she decided to pursue real estate part-time. She wanted to give minorities a chance to purchase their own homes. In two years, she had sold more than some of the full-timers. She convinced a broker to give her an advance of $15,000 to leave her government job and put out her real estate shingle. In that first year, she paid the money back. She is now a broker herself and a general manager for a real estate company. After my parents divorced (I was 6), they both remarried. My father worked at a nuclear plant in New Jersey until he was disabled about three years ago. He purchased his own home and has paid that off. He also bought an apartment building and has almost paid that off. Slow and steady wins the race. He thinks everyone should get into some union benefit job and create wise investments along the way so s/he can enjoy when the time comes.
I have one sister, but if you are counting step siblings I also have two sisters and a brother. As a little kid, I was able to pick up on things naturally. When I was younger, my mother had a resume service. My stepfather was in the military, so we lived in Germany. My mother would prepare resumes on this SF-171 form. I would do a lot of the typing. I was involved in many activities that promoted entrepreneurialism. In high school, I was very involved in the “Future Business Leaders of America”, and the student council. I did well in school. When I was applying to college, I sent out a number of applications. Most kids sent out standard applications. My mother made me make portfolios for each school. It included a picture, awards, a writing sample of what I wanted to create and do AFTER I graduated, and a full and complete resume. I told her, “No one else is doing this.” She said, “So what.” I put my foot down at the suggestion of a video. When the letters came in, I was accepted into all the places I applied to.
My aspiration all the way through high school was to be an ambassador for the United States. I graduated from Cornell University, but it was difficult to find a job in advertising in a large marketing company like Coca Cola. The position I wanted was not being offered to someone right out of college. Then I started thinking about being an attorney. I became the first person in the family besides an aunt to go to law school, graduate and pass the bar. It spoke volumes for me and my family about being able to achieve something. My husband and I met in law school. His goal was also to be an ambassador. He went to the same business leader conference in California when we were in high school. Our paths were very similar. My family thought he was meant to be mine, that the stars and moon were aligned. My husband and I soon started a practice together.
As my children got older, I wanted to be with them, and that’s how I became a homeschooling mom. After my daughter was born, I stayed at home for the first year. I wound up going back to work. I would not get comfortable with anyone else watching her. We went through nannies and agencies. My grandmother, my mom, my husband and I were juggling schedules. When my second child came three years later, I tried to work out of an office at home. With two kids, it was futile. After you spend seven years in school, it is not a light decision to stay at home, especially given the financial sacrifice.
It came to me in a dream that I was supposed to homeschool. I had no idea what that entailed. I went down the street to the library, and the first person I bumped into was an African American woman, a homeschooling mother and retired teacher who taught at the high school and college level. (She gave me a curriculum and the process for homeschooling in Virginia.) I was thinking I didn’t have the resources. After that my husband came home with an armory of educational DVDs and games. He said, “A co-worker wanted me to give these to you. Her son is too old for them.” Everything he had was age appropriate for our children. That’s when I started to take homeschooling seriously. I was still uncomfortable leaving my job. After some prompting from a friend, I joined Mocha Moms. The first woman I met was an attorney who decided to stay home with her three kids. She wasn’t homeschooling, but she worked in the home. She was so confident and so sure that this was the right thing to do for her family. She felt the attorney thing could take a back seat. It became clear to me that this was something that I could do, that I could be comfortable with this decision regardless of what others said. My county has great schools, listed among the best in the nation. But with homeschooling, my kids have the freedom and flexibility to go and come and learn as they please. Do I sometimes want to pull my hair out? Sure. We have had to give up a whole lot. But you know what, it’s not that important right now. I’m teaching my kids one-on-one and they are learning a lot faster. I have a second grader who is working at the fourth grade level.
We are close to Washington DC and the Smithsonian museums. Last week we were at the National Gallery of Art. We looked at all of the lines and textures, shapes and colors. The kids really enjoyed that. They asked me, “Mommy can we get our own canvas?” We are working on primary colors and using them to make secondary colors. We went to Michaels and the kids created their masterpieces. My daughter was working with a lot of black. My son was using red and blue and yellow because we talked about primary colors. My daughter kept using black. I suggested that she try some other colors. She was creating an image of a girls face. The hair was black, but there were rectangles. There was red on one side and yellow on the other. I was amazed. It took us five hours. That’s an idea of what homeschooling can do and be.
My children are getting the values that my husband and I want to instill in them. They are getting an opportunity to learn. Everyday starts with a bible devotion. We get to do that together. We go different places, and see different things. My children continue to thirst for knowledge and to apply the things that they are learning. We meet other families on Tuesdays at our science COOP. We have a sister school in Nicaragua. We are studying neotropical migratory birds, birds who in the summer and spring fly south to Central American and South American countries. My son (4 years old) already knows which birds are neotropical migratory birds.
African Americans have been homeschooling successfully for a while in the sense that the kids are coming out with high moral standards, are well educated, getting into excellent positions and careers, starting their own families and contributing to their communities. I just don’t think they got their kids together. The first homeschooling group we joined was primarily white. I thought, “There HAVE to be other African American homeschoolers out there.” Generally, COOPs are run by whites that form leagues for their kids: soccer, etc. Once I got into homeschooling and got a network, I met individual African Americans in various COOPs, so I started to associate myself with a lot of different COOP groups. I also started associating with African American groups. The science COOP we joined is run by a set of moms, fifteen persons large. The oldest child is 13 or14 years old.
What’s unique about the benefit of homeschooling for African Americans? I haven’t been in the school system, but based on what I’ve heard, African American boys are labeled very quickly. Homeschooling is a way to keep their self esteem in tact. Also, it seems to me that because the classes are so large, teachers can become focused on the wrong things, like discipline. I don’t know about where you live, but classes can be as large as 30 kids here. African Americans can get left to the wayside and aren’t given individual attention. In homeschooling, you get attention all the time. I have heard horror stories about teachers who are picking on African American kids. In the last three months, I heard a story about a little African American boy. The teacher said he was wiggling too much during nap time. She took a sheet and tied him to the bed. I heard another story about an African American child in private school. This child is very bright. One day his shoe was untied. The teacher told him “No recess for you. Stay at your desk and work.” He missed science one day because he kept talking about a book he wanted to read. I don’t have time for that. A lot of our kids are very bright and become ‘problems’ if they voice an opinion. Another child said the teacher never called on him. It seems like girls have an easier time. Little things like that over time has an effect. Sometimes I think I’ll check out some schools. My friend says “Stay where you are because look what happened today!”
I hope that my kids will be completely secure in the sense that they know who they are and what their purpose is here. I want them to have financial security, a happy family life and to be able to pursue whatever their passion is. I want them to be well adjusted, educated adults. I want them to enjoy their lives and make a contribution, because without being able to contribute something you will not be whole.
This was very inspiring. Keep your children close to you. I am an educator and the public school system is failing us. Great Job
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