Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seven Generations

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am dedicating this year to investigating educational alternatives for Jesse in preparing for kindergarten come Fall 2009. I have always intended to home school but want to make sure I research all my options and evaluate whether it is the right thing for our family. I do know that IF we add a third child to our family in the near future (that is IF) I do not think that I could handle homeschooling and a newborn. So, I have had my eyes open to alternatives to public school. I saw a sign yesterday for a new charter school that will open in Fall 2009 in Emmaus, the town where our church meets. I looked up the website and liked alot of what I saw but had some reservations about some things. I had a chance to talk to someone at the Emmaus farmer's market this morning and was impressed with her and the ideas of the school. So, I thought I would blog about my thoughts and have some of my educated-minded friends weigh in so that I don't miss any angle to think about!

Here's the website, please read through, especially question #3 in the FAQ section.

Here are some of my thoughts:
1- I love the educational approach and I think that it fits Jesse's personality. It is exactly what I loved about homeschooling:
* student-driven learning that teaches children how to think critically
* hands on- less emphasis on worksheets and standardized testing
2- I love the community aspect:
* I think it is neat how our church and school would be in the same community- that we can intertwine both visions we have for our family
* one thing I liked about homeschooling was that I could have my children be an active part of their community as children, that they would grow up around adults and children and learn to converse and work with both
* that my children would have an opportunity to serve their community at a young age
3- One concern I have is that, if you know me at all, I am not a hippie, granola person. I do try, where I can, to be a good steward of the earth but I do so because I feel that is an act of worship to the God who created this earth for HIS glory. So, I would love for my children to learn how to take care of the earth in their education, but I would want them to do so as an act of worship not in order to "be one with the earth" (whatever that really means!). I like the idea that i can learn and be challenged about those things more through my child's education as well. I guess my concern is: does the emphasis the school places on those things overshadow our Biblical principles of stewardship or do they differ but not enough that it matters? I do know that this is one area of my life that needs constant thought and attention, so that I think, would be good thing!
4- When I read the mission statement and vision I can say that I agree with those principles of education and learning and community- that's good!

I am planning on attending some information sessions they arehaving to find out more but in the meantime I would lve your feedback!

I think I will try to use my blog over the next year as a way to process my discoveries and thoughts and appreciate the input of friends!


Sullivan's Mom said...

As you know, I've worked in a couple of different charter schools and have moved into a public school system, but here's what I think.
I wholeheartedly support the notion that there's not One way children learn. I worked for 2 1/2 years in a Project Based Learning school, actually, and that experience has really shaped me as an educator - I have carried many of those ideals with me into my subsequent classrooms.
I also think that learning doesn't stop and start in a classroom, as you know. Public, private, etc... if learning isn't supported at home, it's a fairly futile effort.
That all being said, I think that school looks awesome, and if Sullivan were old enough and it were closer to us, you can bet I'd be trying to get him in.
On the negative side, I think that it's a challenge for a charter school to excell based soley on its ideals, and I have had experience with schools that claim to steer away from standardized tests, but then realize that's kind of impossible these days. There's something to be said for data-driven instruction, and charter schools have to be able to show progress - usually by using data from testing. Unfortunately, in reality, the state of PA doesn't allow an indefinite period for a public school to try and figure out alternatives.
I always encourage people to find charter schools. I think they're a great alternative to a more traditional classroom. (although there are plenty of traditional charter schools out there...)
And I think you should try to be a founding member - what better way to be a part of the community? Go and help shape the vision of the school!

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

I think Sullivan's Mom has some great points. I can see your reservations, but if you can be a part of the planning of the school, you can let your voice be heard. It seems at least worthwhile to think about having Jesse start K there. If it seems too "crunchy," you could always take him out later!

Sharon S. said...

Hmmm.... I appreciate your desire to think through this issue. It's a huge issue to get your "arms around" so to speak. Lots of things to consider.

And although homeschooling is NOT a biblical mandate (or even close!), I'll immediately add that I'm biased simply because I really have come to love homeschooling.

So specifically regarding the 7 Generations school -- I looked over the website, including FAQ#3. My initial feeling is that you will learn more about the "how the ideals are carried out" by attending their meetings. And that even then, since the school is in the process of being founded, it's probably going to morph a bit over time, as it finds its own rhythm. It makes it much harder, I think, to evaluate, because of that.

But backing up a bit, as you pray about the whole decision, I would encourage you to pray about a few things. (And perhaps you're already thinking about these things!)

What are the unique things about homeschooling that would make you want to make that sacrifice / investment in your kids? What strengths & weaknesses do you bring to the table as a mom? What are your strengths / weaknesses as a family -- both in general, in the short term (infant?), and in the long term. Where do you want your kids to be (not just academically, but overall) when they leave the nest?

And then as you think through the various options, and you think about how God has made your family, I think you can consider 7 Generations in that light. When we were last picking a church, a wise friend told me to look at the strengths & weaknesses of the churches, and think about which weaknesses God had best equipped us as a family to compensate for, and which weaknesses might be harder to battle, more insidious or spiritually dangerous. I guess I'd apply the same principle here.

So one one to apply that principle is to say it might be easier to help your child identify blatant untruths, rather than subtleties. I know you & Matt had a good experience at Gordon -- but that principle is a huge reason I strongly urge parents to at least consider sending their teens to secular college campuses that have a strong Christian fellowship, rather than lukewarm Christian schools where it's possible to blend in / not think through what you believe. But I digress!

So I'll end with something contradictory.

You will have complete freedom, no matter what you choose, to change your mind as time goes on, to make adjustments. No decision is final.


I think it's easier to start homeschooling (and then put them in school) than to put them in school (and then try homeschooling).

Keep in mind the first couple years are also pretty low-pressure in terms of academics. Mostly reading & a basic math. It's more about setting expectations about learning.

A little about my experience -- I struggled during our first couple years of homeschooling, but it's hard to say how much was because of what we were going through as a family (Matthew being diagnosed, Anna almost dying, etc!). But now, not only do I love having a front row seat to watch them grow & learn, I have SO many opportunities to teach them about the Lord, to mold their characters, teach them HOW the gospel applies to daily life. So even though they get a double dose of my sin (and they do!), I am still compelled to keep investing in them. I feel really, really privileged & rewarded.

The Holy Spirit is faithful to guide you & Matt as you consider it all. :) Love you guys!

Lisa said...

Whoa, Sharon has some wise words there! If I were in your shoes, looking for a school, one of my main questions would be: what kind of worldview will be imparted to my child? Because intentionally or not, the worldview of the teacher, curriculum writer, or whoever's steering the ship is going to be learned alongside abc's and 123's.
I do have more to say but my brain is working as slowly as dial-up :)

Sullivan's Mom said...

I was wondering if you'd had experience putting kids into classrooms from homeschooling. I found, in the charter school in PA where I taught, that a large number of homeschooling families were drawn to the school and I had several students who had come from homeschooling backgrounds. I think, depending on the values of the school, that a charter school allows for and encourages parent involvement in a way that a more traditional public school can't. That was just my observation as a teacher in a charter school. Again, it was my experience that a charter school allows for sort of a village feel - where families are involved in both the shaping of the school and in daily routines. Just a thought.

Melissa F-B said...

Janers - I'm interested in any further reflections on Jesse's extreme extraversion and what that looks like for homeschooling. Last time we talked you had talked about supplementing with group activities. But I was thinking, most of the time, maybe 8 hours a day, it's you and him. It seems like every time you write about school, playground or whatever place there are lots of other kids, Jesse is super excited. Do some kids just have a personality that is better fit for a classroom full of kids?