Homeschooling for Safety Reasons

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on January 2, 2013.

It troubles me to see a surge of interest in homeschooling after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.  I love homeschooling my family, and I have to admit that after the tragedy, I was glad my children weren’t attending school that following Monday. But is this a reason to homeschool?  Not if it’s the only reason you have for homeschooling.

While only 4% of U.S. children are homeschooled, this is a fast-growing movement. Of course, I am an advocate of homeschooling. I love to talk to people who are thinking about it for their own family.  At the same time, I don’t think everybody has to do it. It should depend on your child’s needs and also the needs and desires of the parents.

People should understand that homeschooling isn’t just “school at home.”  Homeschooling is a lifestyle. Your whole family is in it together, and you are going to be together all the time. If you have extended family or extra resources to help, that’s great, but it’s still a lot of togetherness. Even for the most patient parents, it can be tough.

Friends and family have commented that I have a lot of patience, and I often chuckle and think to myself that they don’t really know me. I suppose I am more patient than some, but I’m also introverted, and I like a lot of time to myself. I try to balance my love of my children and this lifestyle with my needs, but that’s not always possible. I accept that.

I like to tell people that yes, you can homeschool, if you want to, but there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to. The only thing that is wrong is not being heavily involved in your child’s education.  Someone once told me that she was going to supplement homeschool with public school. I wish more parents took that attitude.

Statistics are proving that homeschoolers tend to outscore traditionally schooled children on standardized tests, and most agree that the concern about socialization is unfounded.  But as I read about how more families are choosing homeschooling, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more problems arise with it.  It seems inevitable that as any population grows more challenges will arise within it. I hope I’m wrong.

I read about a family whose mother pulled her children out of school and told a homeschooling friend she didn’t need any advice…she knew exactly what she was going to do. Well, the children were back in school before the year was out. Apparently she was determined that her kids would learn A, B and C by a certain time, much like they were supposed to learn it in school.

Guess what?  Kids all learn differently, and they each have their own time frame.  Most homeschoolers recognize this, and this is why they are homeschooling in the first place.  The biggest benefit of homeschooling is being able to tailor your child’s education to fit his needs and interests. I don’t understand homeschoolers who don’t take advantage of this. This is why I call homeschooling a lifestyle too.

While I do have what I call “school time” with my boys in the mornings, I don’t stress lessons, and I rarely use worksheets. Instead, I have tried to cultivate an atmosphere where all questions are valued and learning is just part of our lives. My son asks to watch nature documentaries, and we watch together as a family. We have conversations, go on field trips, take community classes and make time for playing, creating and exploring.

When I’m trying to teach something specific, I have learned that I might have to try various resources before I find one that works for my son. I have done much research on various homeschooling methods, and my work has only just started.

I don’t blame parents who want to homeschool after the recent tragic events, but I hope they will consider all the variables when they pull their children out of school. Tragic events happen everywhere – not just in schools – but, yes, you do have more control and flexibility while homeschooling.  You get to spend quality time with your children, and you get to make sure they have the kind of childhood you want them to.

Homeschooling can be the best thing that ever happened to you, but if you go into it with a fixed idea on what it should look like for your family, you may be in for a rude awakening. Think about it. Maybe try it. Above all, be flexible.

What do you think about all the interest in homeschooling after the recent tragedy? Do you think it’s a good idea for parents to consider homeschooling for this reason? Or maybe for other reasons?

What Will The New Year Bring?

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on December 26, 2012.

My spirit is dampened by the shootings in Connecticut, and more so by all the vitriol in the news media. There’s a dust storm in the air, and it’s not going to settle any time soon. I hardly know what to make of it all, yet as a mother rearing future men, I can’t help but think about their future.

I have been seeing a lot of anti-gun sentiment, and while I don’t like guns, and I’m not opposed to gun regulations or licensing requirements, this shouldn’t be our only focus. I don’t want to ban all guns because I don’t want to disarm honest, trustworthy people who feel they need the extra protection at home…because, unfortunately, a day might come when they do need it.

People who want to do harm will find a way to do it. On the day of the Connecticut shootings, a man in China entered a school and stabbed several children with a knife. And are we forgetting that the masterminds of 9/11 used box cutters to hijack airplanes?

The reasons why this happened is a huge puzzle with many pieces, but the biggest question is why aren’t we focusing on how people get like this? And what can we do to recognize and prevent it? Maybe restrictions on certain kinds of guns are needed, but maybe we also need more resources for families dealing with mental illness.

Maybe we do need to think about violent video games and television shows and how many hours our children are exposed to these things?  Then again, it’s not so much the video games but the lack of quality family time and conversations between parents and children.

Maybe we need to find a way to give more support to families, and give parents more time to stay home and bond with their children without losing their jobs?  (I have little hope for this because there will always be someone in line at human resources who is willing to work over-time when the mommy or daddy want to go home.)

Maybe we need to focus on turning our schools into places where real learning and engagement happens?  Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about morals and ethics in schools either. Okay, so no one will agree on how to do that because it will bring up religion, but isn’t there a way to talk about religion and morals without insulting the varied belief systems sitting in the classroom?

Probably not. We are a country with many freedoms, and for the most part, we live in harmony with our neighbors who do and believe differently than we do, which is admirable, but we have not yet found a way to respect each other or how to become the village that our children so desperately need.

Maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe I read too many anonymous comments on newspaper websites. I hope that this tragedy might be a turning point where some good things get done, but in the end, I also believe that sometimes bad things just happen, and there’s no answer. We all want an answer. We all shout things, but it doesn’t bring back those precious lives lost. It doesn’t mend our broken hearts.

Sad Tidings, Good Tidings

This is Josh. I told you he was adorable.

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on December 19, 2012.

Last week I wrote a draft of this column and titled it “Good Tidings.”  I wanted to tell you how my children have decked my halls with Christmas decorations and how, during this holiday season, I was basking in the warmth of some close friends’ and family’s good fortunes.

But then the massacre in Connecticut occurred on Friday, and on the same day, a man with a knife injured 22 children at a school in China, which is part of a series of attacks happening in schools in that country.  The warmth I felt from my good tidings turned cool and somber.

As a mother with young children, I can barely stand to read the news. When something horrible happens, I feel a heavy heart, but when it involves children, I get choked up and feel a cloud hang over me all day. I hug my children more, and I thank God for what I have right now.

I can’t imagine what the families are going through in Connecticut. I can’t imagine a lot of things going on this world. All I can do is be grateful for each day that my family lives in relative peace and harmony, and when good things happen, I can rejoice and let it remind me why I chose to get up each morning and continue on with this life.

Good things have happened recently, such as that I became an aunt again – for the sixth time – and my boys acquired a new cousin.  He’s a healthy baby boy who will be welcomed home by two older brothers and a house full of relatives at Christmastime. I only wish we lived closer so that I could personally welcome him into the world.

I also have good news to report about my friends who were seeking to adopt a baby in the U.S. through an open adoption. If you read my column, you may remember that I wrote about them awhile back. Seeking open adoption was a very emotional journey for them because the adoptive parents are never sure whether a birth mother will pick them.

Fortunately, my friends did get picked, and though it was difficult to finalize an out-of-state adoption, they did bring their beautiful baby girl home to California. I haven’t heard much from them since they got home, but I certainly understand how very busy they must be!

Fortunately for me, I was able to participate in a joyous occasion that happened closer to home. On the morning of my nephew’s birth, I accompanied one of my dearest friends, her husband, and their newly adopted son in their final step in the adoption process. I was asked to photograph the occasion.

About two years ago, my friend began the process to adopt a child from Korea, and a year later they were matched with the most adorable boy whom they have named Josh.  Fortunately, they had a good experience adopting from Korea, and Josh spent his infancy with a kind foster family who loved him dearly.

I met them on a chilly morning and waited with them and their lawyer on a bench in a big hallway outside the judge’s office.  Like most two-year-olds, Josh was full of energy, and he enjoyed running up and down the carpeted hallway, giving his parents a good morning workout.

The meeting with the judge was brief and jovial, and as my friends answered questions, I took photos. I even got a short film clip of Josh giving the judge a high five.

It’s that high five that I will meditate on as I celebrate Christmas with my two boys and husband next week.  I hope that for you and your family, you will be sharing good tidings and making new memories this holiday season. Merry Christmas.


Sorrow makes us all children again, destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest knows nothing.  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As a mother with young children similar in age to those who were in today’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, my heart is filled with sorrow for the families touched by this tragedy. Ever since I had children, I can barely keep a dry eye whenever I hear tragic news, but when it involves children, I just can’t make sense of it. My heart is heavy. My thoughts and prayers are with all the people in that town today. I’m so sorry.