Lebanon Reporter

July 24, 2012

Enjoy learning at home and school

By Ginger Truitt
Reporter columnist

— The parenting journey has led me down a number of paths that I never dreamed I would find myself walking. I used to say that when I put my youngest on the big yellow school bus, I would have a good cry, and then sit down and read a book from cover to cover without interruption. She is a sophomore and I have yet to read that book.

As our oldest was nearing kindergarten, my father-in-law, who is a public school teacher, encouraged us to consider home schooling. My mother, a Christian school teacher, encouraged (begged) us to consider home schooling or Christian school.

I grew up in a Christian school, and swore I would never send my children to one. And I had interacted with a number of home-schoolers, and promised I would never do that either. Back in the ’80s, they were even weirder than they are today.

I laughed off my father-in-law, and reassured my mother, but then came Jonesboro, Ark. As hubby and I were discussing the tragic school shooting I asked, “Does it scare you to send our kids to school?”

“Yes.”

“Then what are the options?”

I thought he would say one of us should get a second job to pay for private school. Instead he responded, “We could home-school.”

At that moment, it clicked with me. Yes, home schooling was the answer to all of my fears, except for the fear of skipping kindergarten round-up. Not signing up for kindergarten was a huge public commitment, but I decided to take it a year at a time and see what happened.

What I started in fear, I continued because I really enjoyed it. The kids and I learned so much together, and I soon realized that they were weird. They were weird because they did their schoolwork at the kitchen table, or on the front porch, or in a beanbag chair. They were weird because they could get up at 2 a.m. on a school night to watch a meteor shower and then sleep in the next morning. And it was really weird the week we based all of our science, math and history lessons on my daughter’s interest in the Titanic.

But as much as I enjoyed it, I knew I didn’t want the responsibility of high school. So, as each child approached eighth grade, I registered them in public school. When the day finally came that all three got on the big yellow school bus, I would have read a book, but we had two more little ones underfoot.

Our public school experience has been wonderful! We are blessed with a caring administration, teachers and staff. My kids were not in a traditional setting for the elementary years, so school was new and exciting for them. They are eager to learn, and experience all that high school offers. That love for learning has also served my oldest daughter well in her college career.

When my sophomore graduates, the little ones and I will go on the road with daddy, home schooling while we travel. But right now, I need a few hours each day to work on the business we are building. So, I did something else I said I would never do: enrolled them in Christian preschool. It was much more joyful and relaxed than the school I attended, but like its public school counterparts, kindergarten is an all-day affair. I feel they are too young to have their activities directed for an entire day, plus, I would miss them.

I thought I had exhausted all the educational avenues when something new caught my eye. It is a small school based on the Reggio-inspired approach. Reggio derives its name from a city in Northern Italy, where the educational method originated shortly after World War II. Women entering the workforce wanted an environment where their children would be free to explore their interests and self-guide their day.

The more I researched it, the more I liked the childhood-friendly concept. And the best part is kindergarten only lasts three hours. So, I can accomplish my work, and spend the rest of the day enjoying my babies, continuing their education by simply living life together.

Perhaps this will prove to be the best of both worlds. I know from experience how quickly time will pass. I only have nine more years until they are in high school. Only nine more years until I can read a book without interruption.

Truitt is an author, speaker and mother of five. Email her at ginger@gingertruitt.com.