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All interviews are presented to stimulate thought and assist Christian families in homeschooling their children. Interviews may or may not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the management of

Home-schooling Gives One A Grade "A" Feeling

By Eileen Spatz

Orange County Register, May 5, 1998

My job as a home-school teacher would probably not appeal to many. The pay is, well, zero, and my benefits do not include a paid vacation or medical coverage. The perks come in a different type of "package," far different from my days as a wage-earning professional. Instead of a company car and a dental plan, my perks include the incredible sense of pride I felt as my kindergartner began to read, or the beaming grin on my sixth-grader's face when she blew through her math assignments with confidence and accuracy. In fact, as crummy as the financial compensation is, this has been the most rewarding job I've ever had.

When my neighbor started home schooling her four children a few years ago, I would look at them thinking how odd it was. I'd see her kids playing outside during their mid-morning break and assume that the poor things were lonely and bored to death. I wondered if they were being taught adequately or if they were going to turn out OK. On the contrary, they were enrolled in private schools this year where they are all cruising right along at or above grade level. They also happen to be some of the nicest, best-behaved kids I know. My concerns were completely unfounded.

Now I know what my neighbor knew all along. There is simply nothing like the experience of home schooling. I have never felt so fulfilled, so needed or so challenged in my life. I am closer to my children than ever before, something I never thought possible. I have watched them flourish before my eyes in areas that I couldn't have predicted. We share our dreams, we discuss politics, we conjure up business ventures. We bounce ideas off each other, donate to charity, share our musical tastes and play the piano.

What about the schooling part, you ask? Since my displeasure with our public school was due to the lack of academic rigor coupled with only minimal direct instruction of the basics, I have made it my quest to give my children the skills and knowledge which will equip them to succeed in life. This means I'm kind of a mean teacher; I make them work pretty hard. Of course, being a reasonable person, I can sense when we need a goof-off day, and we take one. Plenty of fun crafts and baking and shooting hoops on the driveway are mixed into our school hours. Dad, of course, assigns the P.E. via fax from work.

I have discovered, these past eight months, how much my kids respond to challenges. They seem to thrive on them. I thought I'd drop my teeth when my fourth-grade son asked me, after taking a history exam, to hurry up and grade it "cause I want to know how I did." One day when he was reading aloud to me, he stopped and said, "I'm really getting faster, huh?" My kindergartner proudly displays her double-digit subtraction ability with no fingers, and my sixth-grader, puffed with pride, recites poetry like Longfellow himself. All of my kids are becoming enthusiastic readers, all they needed was some direct instruction and for the bar to be raised a couple of notches.

It was pretty appalling, early in the school year, realizing how much they hadn't been taught in school. My sixth-grader cried during a grammar assignment on dictionary use and was totally lost. My son was unable to compose a proper sentence, his writing skills being at low second-grade level. I could go on but, suffice it to say, I learned to just sigh and got on with filling in those learning gaps.

Between basketball, horseback lessons, Little League and theater, they are also developing those important passions that round out a child and pave the way for exciting life experiences like making the playoffs or placing best in show or receiving an ovation. Because of the balance they provide, these non-academic interests will continue to be nurtured and fed, and because we have more time on our hands the kids can really excel in their area of interest. Home schooling is not for everyone, to be sure. It works for us because I am not working outside the home now, I have a passion for education, they have lots of friends for after-school socialization and we honestly enjoy spending time together. It also works because my kids (usually) mind me.

By far the most enduring memories I'll have of our first year of homeschooling will be sitting on the couch with my kindergartner snuggled up against me reading her first words; whale watching on a beautiful, sunny January day, and having random chats about life, providing me with opportunities to actively parent, to help shape their minds. I won't forget our excursions through museums and our cool trip to Griffith Park Observatory or our weekly lunch outings. Even our family trip to Hawaii was preceded by reports on volcanoes and became one big, exciting field trip.

When I had to close my business last year, I truly thought my world was crashing in. I cried and grieved for my lost little store, and it still hurts. But I will be forever grateful for that loss because it forced me to make a choice that I will always feel has led to my greatest accomplishment, becoming a better mother -- and teaching my kids something to boot. Success can be defined by something other than gross margin, believe it or not. But I'll warn anyone considering this occupation that it takes discipline, organization and lots of energy -- and the pay is lousy. But oh those perks!

About the author: Eileen Spatz is the mother of three children whom she now home schools. Because of extreme disappointment in her children's public school, she was motivated to became active in researching and writing about educational issues (since 1994). Although Spatz identifies problems such as questionable teaching philosophies (outcome based education) and faddish pedagogy (new new math and whole language) as serious problems in today's public schools, her emphasis these past four years has been on exposing the disturbing federal education bills (Goals 2000 and School-to-Work) which were signed into law in March 1994.

By informing the public through her writings, which appear in The Orange County Register, the LA Times, The Washington Post, and Investor's Business Daily, she is hoping to encourage other parents to take control of their childrens' education. In addition to newspaper columns, she has appeared on cable television specials regarding education, and is currently contributing to a book on the subject.

Eileen lives with her husband, Mark, and kids (Chelsea, 12; Christopher, 10; and Sammi, 6) in San Clemente, CA .

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