Homeschool vs. public school, the great debate

I’ve been a stay at home mom for the past four years, before that I was a full-time working mom and before that, I wasn’t a mom at all. For the better part of five years I have been an educator, nurturer, mother and friend. As a parent, you get to determine what activities you’ll expose your child to; what influences you want to have on your child’s life: will you be regulars at the local library? will you spend lots of time outdoors? will you sign her up for music classes? art? gymnastics? will he have structure and early exposure to a school setting by participating in a toddler program? will she gain social skills by regularly attending a playgroup? When she’s old enough, will you enroll her in preschool? In essence, until a child goes away to kindergarten, every mom homeschools.

I’ve mentioned before that while my calling may not be motherhood, my two kids are. This is my only shot, they’re my legacy and how I prepare them for the world is the best I can give. I am the product of an entirely private school education (lest one trial year of public school in 5th grade, resulting in a more extreme swing back by heading away for school from 6th grade on). After seven years of boarding school and four years of college, I also attained a two-year Master’s Degree. My parents both hold multiple degrees and my mother and step-father are both educators. So naturally, the matter of how my children are educated is a major topic for me.

My husband, on the other hand, started out in private school but finished in public school followed by four years at a state university. He’s bright, well-rounded and certainly (by his claims) more humble for the experience. He argues that, if you live in a good school district, there’s no reason you shouldn’t send your children to public school.

So why would I ever consider homeschooling? Because I’m also fiercely independent and the idea of sending my offspring to any institution that threatens of conformity scares the pants off me!

Two days a week, my four-year-old attends an amazing, nature-based preschool called Forest Gnomes at the organic farm in my town. It’s an outdoor program for kids ages 3-6. There are only 20 kids in the program (10 each day) and one-quarter to a third of them will either be or are already being homeschooled. If I could keep my daughter in this program for one more year without jeopardizing her (or my) future/sanity, I would, but it would mean forking out another year of private tuition, only four half-days of school and missing the milestone of going off to kindergarten.

So far, the research I’ve done on homeschooling indicates that it requires discipline, structure and lots of preparation. You become a one-woman school. You set the curriculum (though there are many resources and methods available to guide you), you come up with the lesson plans, you schedule, orchestrate and chaperon all field trips, you identify, supplement with and register for extracurricular activities like sports, music, art and languages, you provide outlets for your “students” to socialize with other kids their age and finally, the biggest red-flag in my opinion, you get very little down time.

I am a creature that thrives on down time. It’s how I stay plugged in to the adult I once was, before I became a mom. I’m one of those over-active moms who can’t stay put when I’m with my kids. We’re nearly always out doing something or visiting someone, returning home only for meals and sleep. It’s just the way I’m wired so the prospect of staying home, of homeschooling, makes me shiver. YET, I am not quite ready to give up the joy of molding my children’s every day.

Twice a week, my daughter gets out of school before 1 o’clock. While my two-year-old naps, my four-year-old and I do a variety of things together, sometimes we do puzzles, sometimes we read books, often we do craft projects and once in a while–when I have a writing deadline or we’ve had too many snow days or sick days or days butting heads–we do something apart (she gets to watch a movie while I close myself in a padded room).

But on Fridays, both kids are home with me and this is the day I most look forward to all week. We linger in our pajamas, we have a hearty breakfast and then we do something together, just the three of us. We go to museums or parks or playgrounds or to story hours or run errands (that always end up with some sort of special treat). But whatever we do, it’s almost always fun. And perhaps it’s fun because it’s novel and not the norm.

Whatever the reason, I sit here staring at the kindergarten registration forms that arrived in the mail today and I just can’t bring myself to fill them out.

What do you think? Do you homeschool? Have you ever thought about it? How do you spend quality time with your kids? What’s your experience with public school? Please let me know because, on the good days, I think I’m still on the fence.

Butterscotch: the 21st century pet

For Christmas, my four-year-old asked Santa to bring her two white mice and a purple cage. Santa, being the omniscient and clever old elf he is, brought just the purple cage.

(He also thoughtfully left a note explaining that he was pretty sure mom and dad weren’t as keen on the mice as our daughter but had fulfilled the purple cage wish in hopes that we could all decide upon the perfect inhabitant together). Nice work, Santa.


The purple cage is super cool. I’m pretty sure if the Jetsons had owned a hamster instead of Astro, this is what his cage would have looked like.:

(Note that this is the Extreme Challenge edition–clearly targeting 21st Century parents aiming to cultivate Mensa-level rodents for their above-average offspring.)

Here’s the 360°, external hamster wheel (of which our non-Mensa quality rodent only goes 90º back and forth in hopes of accessing nearby wall, thus ensuring escape from tormenting captors).Here’s the snazzy, spiral access ramp to the wheel:

Next stop, pet shop!

We made sure the parameters were clear in advance, she had two choices: 1. a large hamster, 2. a small hamster. NO mice, NO  gerbils, NO guinea pigs.

Here she is checking out the large hamster (note look of complete indifference on child’s face)






Clearly option 1. wasn’t cutting it. On to option 2: the Robo.












Since acquiring Butterscotch, we have taken him out for handling and observation on a regular basis. He also has been exercising diligently on his external hamster wheel.

Since beginning this blog entry, I have learned that Robos are not only the smallest but also the fastest breed of hamster.

Now taking bets on how long before Butterscotch’s cage renders him bright enough to find his freedom…

Dear Santa…I need another week!

Though my DH would beg to differ, I’m really not that organized. Sure, I have some great ideas way in advance–and sometimes I am even savvy enough to share them with people who might actually put them into action–and I have great visions about how things should look in my life: where they should be stored, how they should be hung, when they should be sent; it’s just the execution of all these swimmingly great ideas is slow to happen.

Take thank you notes for example. When someone gives me a gift or does something really nice for me, almost immediately, I compose a heartfelt thank you note…in my head. Somehow, the mere act of thinking about what I want to say to them creates an artificial grace period that considerably postpones my actual writing and mailing of said note.

I think you’re starting to get the picture.

This past summer, my mom gave us the extremely generous Christmas gift of a week together (DH, the kids, me, my mom and her husband) in Mexico. Since my kids aren’t really in school yet (preschool and playschool don’t count), we immediately began making plans to maximize her offer by traveling outside of the peak holiday periods.

It is with both joy and dread that I inform you, we leave this Saturday.

And regardless of the fact that–since having our first child 4-and-a-half years ago–we have made a “year in review” wall calendar every Christmas, I still wait until AFTER Thanksgiving to begin reviewing and editing the 4,000+ pictures from the past year. And regardless of the fact that–since getting engaged seven years ago–we have composed and compiled holiday cards every year, I still wait until AFTER Thanksgiving to start “thinking” about them. And regardless of the fact that I have two small children and 12 other family members to buy gifts for, I still wait until AFTER Thanksgiving to start buying them (though in some cases, at least I thought about their gifts way in advance).

I’ve known about our trip for the better part of 4 months but 18 days just isn’t enough time to get everything done! At this point, even if Santa’s elves figured out a way to give me another week to get it all done, I don’t think it would help me much but it’s sure nice thinking about it. Maybe I’ll just get everyone a pinata…


To Market, to market: grocery shopping with kids

OK, so I once thought I was going to be the kind of mom that would make cardboard caterpillars out of egg cartons and all sorts of other crafty, fun stuff with my kids but alas, it hasn’t turned out that way. In fact, I often go to great lengths NOT to do craft projects with my kids (hey, they’re already tiny tornadoes, who needs to add paint, glitter and glue to the mix?). Instead, I opt for creative “learning excursions” instead. I look at life as a mobile classroom, rarely visiting the same place twice (I don’t recommend this lifestyle to others unless, like me, you have a hard time sitting still). But today, I had a rare stroke of Genius. Two coincidences occured simultaneously and the result was magnificent!

The coincidences were: 1. I needed to go grocery shopping 2. I happened to have a pen and paper in my car.

I’ve read about “professional” moms who make shopping lists for their little charges, complete with pasted on pictures of the items to search for and other fun tricks but who has time for that, I mean REALLY!? What I did have time for was a quick jotting down of a few items my 4 year-old wanted from the fruit, veggie and dairy sections. The result looked like this

I also selected a store that happens to have kid size shopping carts and away we went.  It may not have been a nifty googly-eyed insect but in the end, I think she gained a lot of pretty valuable life lessons: she felt empowered, she was able to read the items on her list and she learned a lot about how to select items from the grocery store, including a carton of eggs. Now all I need to do is figure out what I should do with the leftover cardboard container…

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