Sunday, June 11, 2006

My Background as it Pertains to Education

I come from a large family of ten with various foster children thrown in from time to time. I attended a public kindergarten in Orangevale, but my mother was displeased with the school and so pulled me and my 3 older siblings out to homeschool when I was in first grade. In second a new school opened in the area and they came to my mom and asked her to be PTA president. She accepted and enrolled us in this school. I still remember her being there almost daily with my youngest brother at the time in tow.

The next year we moved to Wilton and we attended a little country school. I was very shy as a child and so mostly played with my younger sister until they split our recesses, I remember how hard that was on me, but I made a few other friends. In sixth grade I tested at the 99th percentile in what was then the CTBS test, but around the same time I tested for GATE and found that I was not smart enough to get in. I thought about this and began to suspect that perhaps testing did not really tell how smart or not a person was.

For seventh grade I had to be bused in to Elk Grove one hour and fifteen minutes each way. I can honestly say that is the closest I have ever come to feeling what the cruelest torture must be like. As I said I was very shy and all the friends I had had were placed on different tracks and I wore glasses and children of that age when too little watched and directed can be very cruel. But I got all A’s and rejoiced in the days when I was picked up. I can remember one time accidentally missing the bus, and the feeling of relief that swept through me. I was sorely tempted to miss it more, but I knew it was very inconvenient for my mother to come all the way to town and get me. In eighth grade a teacher I had liked very well came up to me in the hall and said she had been talking to the other teachers and found that I was starting to be very disruptive and a trouble maker. For the life of me I could not think of a single instance that she could be referring to. That is when I realized that the teachers must gossip just as much as the students and my respect for the profession lowered dramatically. I no longer viewed them as people who had my best interest in mind, but for the most part just people with a job. The highlight of that year was a PE class where we studied self defense for six weeks, as the final we were all to walk down an ally with the other children lined up on each side and one of the boys would spring out and attack us and we were to defend ourselves. The boy secretly chosen to attack me was one who had earlier in the year pinched my behind and I had turned around and slapped. He sprang out at me rather violently and nearly ripped my shirt off exposing me to most of the class. I could not defend myself well and I remember looking up at the teacher and instead of protecting me he was standing there taking notes.

I had a foster sister move in with us at that time who was my age and very popular. We did not get along at first but after being stuck an entire summer in the country together with no way to go anywhere we became very good friends. That summer also I met a boy at EFY who had a great many friends from the Elk Grove wards-they were mostly boys, the Wilton ward was mostly girls, because of this and because of my connection to my foster sister I found myself suddenly popular. Because of seminary I no longer rode the bus in the morning. I was in honors classes receiving straight A’s going to numerous parties and dances and in general having a very different time than the previous two years. I went to Elk Grove High which was reported to be the best high school in the area. It is still a selling point with Realtors to say that a house is in the Elk Grove district. Yet I can remember thinking that if this was there best I’d hate to see their worst. During that year the art department decided to paint a mural on the wall of the American flag being burned. This set the cowboys in an uproar and fights broke out. I can remember one girls head getting smashed into a locker, knocking her unconscious. I took ag classes where the cowboys were. But ag was also one of the places to buy drugs. I can remember the teacher would be attempting a lecture and a backpack would fly through the air to another student, that student would take out a bag of white powder put some money in and the backpack would fly back across the room. I can remember thinking that there was no way that teacher could have missed that. But of course nothing was ever done.

I have never cussed in my life, but because I constantly was hearing these words they would be the first that would come to my mind when anything happened. I began to tire of the popularity thing and the who is going out with who and the gossiping and in some cases the guess who got pregnant, …well he’s not going on a mission. At this time my older sister asked to homeschool her last year of high school. Before then I had not thought of it. My friends convinced me to go high school again for tenth grade, but I began to get more and more irritated. and finally in October I decided to be homeschooled.

When I went around to each of my teachers to have them sign the final paperwork, my two honors teachers both told me it was wonderful that I would be homeschooled and I would learn so much more. My PE teacher told me that homeschooling was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard of and it was a terrible thing that my parents were doing to me. The others were indifferent or merely looked annoyed. I was not prepared for the reaction I got in the office. I asked at the counter for the necessary signatures the principal must have overheard why because he came out of his office screaming. He grabbed the paper and actually yelled at me I can’t remember everything he said, but I do remember him saying that if I left I would never be able to come back. I knew that to be a complete lie and I remember thinking how silly it was that this man who did not know me and had never spoken to me before should be so upset about my educational choices. I felt that the only thing he could truly be concerned about was the money he would miss. I was perfectly calm though as I again asked for the signatures. He angrily signed and I left.

A new chapter opened up to me and I felt very excited. My mother also took my three younger brothers out of that little elementary school that I had gone to. The one in sixth grade had really been having trouble with pornography that was being passed around. He did not want to look at it, but it was so openly displayed by his friends that he had gone to my mother crying and asking for help.

She enrolled us all in a charter school and had so much fun ordering the supplies. I can remember how excited she was when she got some very good colored pencils for me. I did not understand the difference, but she was an artist and knew. I had passed her in every subject except art and grammar (I’d never had any of the latter) already, but this was no great difficulty as she could learn and I could self teach--except in math. I got stuck there; in Algebra 2. Later I just took it in college, and I actually went on to take trig for the fun of it.

My mother had decided to follow the scope and sequence of the public school so I just took those subjects with the addition of psychology and sociology and art. A friend and I took biology together. We followed a textbook and did a science lab kit dissecting squid, fish, mice and cow eyeballs on her kitchen table. Gross, but fascinating. I also began apprenticing for a local horse trainer and learned to break horses. I helped build a log cabin and milk goats of another homeschooling friend. I went to an LDS coop with about 25 kids where we did projects, herbal tea parties, recitals and put on plays.

I babysat a lot at this time also. I occasionally watched two little boys ages two and three and their behavior and the stuff they knew so shocked me that I knew that I could never send my future children to school with other children who knew and discussed these subjects. And so the decision to homeschool my children was made.

When I was a Junior the overseeing teacher came to me and told me that all I needed was an American Government and an Economics class to graduate so I finished both classes in the remaining two months and graduated on my 17th birthday.

I immediately went to the local college where I attended institute also. By this time I had pretty much figured out how to read most teachers and easily got an A in most classes. I remember the semester I was engaged everyone told me to forget taking classes as I would be so distracted I wouldn’t do well. So I took a full load and was determined to do well in everything. I took an economics class that semester from a teacher who spoke very broken English, it was very hard to understand him, but he had this way of emphasizing what would be on his tests so I memorized those things and got the third highest marks of all of his students. When some econ majors asked me to help them understand it I had to honestly admit that I did not really understand it at all, but I just memorized the answers for the tests. I decided then that the testing and grading thing was really pointless and would not do it to my own children if I could avoid it.

After my first son was born I began studying educational theory. I spent the next five years doing so. I can honestly say I learned more at this time than all of college. I also spent that time refining my goals for my children and researching supplies and resources. This has been a continuing process.

I now have 4 children and will be going into our fourth official homeschooling year, and I love it. But the adventures with my children would make this extremely long so I will have to write about them later.

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