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About This Blog

This blog is for anyone interested in raising their children in a foreign language--meaning a language which neither of the parents speak natively.
We have used the approach where both parents speak the target foreign language (in our case, German) to the children. Neither of us is a native German speaker, yet we have spoken German in our home for the past 20 years and have 8 German speaking children. In this blog, we hope to share our successes, our lessons learned and a few of the insights that we've gained along the way.

Homeschooling Thoughts?? Me??

I went to public school (and loved it) and so have all my kids. They have done well in public school. My three oldest have already graduated. They got good grades in high school (two of them were 4.0 students).  I still have kids in high school now and they are getting good grades. For the most part, I've liked their teachers and feel like they were academically challenged. All the kids excelled/excel in sports. We love to cheer for our school team and love the sense of community we feel at high school sporting events. The older kids were/are involved in school leadership and have good groups of friends. The public school system has been good for our family.

So, why am I starting to have thoughts about homeschooling? Well, there are several reasons. One of the biggest is that I feel (and have always felt) like the public schools take my young children out of the home for too long. I don't like that they leave at 7:30 in the morning to catch a bus and then don't return home until almost 4:00. When is there enough time to play? And, as a mom, I just want more time with my kids (especially during their younger years)! There just is no need for young children to be pulled out of the home all day, every day.

One of the reasons this bothers me is because I can contrast it with my childhood experience. During the 5 years my family lived in Germany, I attended elementary school in the rural town of Parsberg. I LOVED my elementary school experience!!  We had very small class sizes, wonderful teachers, and best of all, school got out at noon for grades 1-4 and at 1 p.m. for grades 5 and 6. We had a snack during recess, but lunch (or noon-day dinner) was eaten at home. Too me, this is the ideal situation. We had the entire afternoon to play on the farm, do our homework and just be with our family. And our education was every bit as good as the American kids who spent most of the day at school.
Parsberger Grundschule

I have been toying with the homeschooling idea for a few years...I tend to go back and forth on the issue. My older kids are a done deal and they're happy with their schooling situation. But my younger kids' education is still an unwritten book. Well, I had two thoughts that have helped me over my mental hump of accepting the homeschooling idea.

The first thought wasn't mine. It was a friend of mine who explained to me that I didn't have to really choose either homeschooling or public schooling. I could do whatever works best for that child for that year...meaning, I didn't have to commit!! That was a liberating thought. I can choose whatever works for us. If the kids want to do public school one year, they can! If they want to do home school the next year, they can!! This thought is what gave me the guts to seriously consider trying homeschooling. Because, if I (or the kids) didn't like it, we could always go back to public school.

The second thought (and this was the clincher for me) was realizing the potential I have to really teach the kids German. I taught my older kids German, but they weren't really "literate" in German. I didn't teach them grammar rules. They can't write, or spell, or even read that well. I did do some German school work with them when they were very young, but once they started school, we ran out of time for "German homework". It was quite an epiphany for me when I realized that if I pulled my children out of public school for a year or two, the kids could become truly literate in German. We could learn grammar, writing, reading, science, math, etc. all in German. What better use of my college degrees than truly educating the people that mean the most to me? Why else did I get a German teaching degree and a masters in Language Acquisition? Maybe I'll teach someone else's kids someday, but for now, I'm going to focus on the kids who are most important to me: mine! I get excited just thinking about it!!

In the meantime, I have my little Jonathan enrolled in (English speaking) Kindergarten in our local public school and I plan on sending the twins to Kindergarten next year. I think it's important that the kids get a year or two of English schooling. They need to really learn English. They weren't learning it at home (of which I'm quite proud). I want them to learn "Kid-English" and understand how to really interact on a playground, learn what words and phrases are acceptable, and form friendships. I want them to lose their German accents and syntax, so that they can relate better to their peers. Of course, we'll continue speaking and learning German at home during this time.  But, in a year or two, I hope to pull them out and try homeschooling them in German. By that time, they'll be a little older and better able to learn some of the concepts that I'm so excited to teach them. I'm not sure if I'll do it for a year, for two years, or more... It all depends on how it goes (I love that I don't have to commit). But either way, I am so, so, SO excited for our little homeschooling adventure, that I can hardly wait.

Here's a beautiful photo of the town of Parsberg where I attended Kindergarten through 5th grades. You can barely see the school. It's behind the church. The Kindergarten building is behind the Maypole. 

Here I am with my brother and sister, both of whom are holding their Schultueten (a dunce cap full of candy which kids traditionally bring on the first day of first grade). I'm starting 3rd grade and my brother is starting first grade. My sister wanted to walk with us and hold a Tuete, too. but she wasn't really starting school. We caught the bus at the little cluster of houses in the background.


Sandra Ottley said...

Go for it Nina! Homeschooling my own children for 2 years was hard, but well worth it. (And yes, you can go back to public school any time.) I learned just as much as they did and it made it easier for me to help them when they did go back to school. Even when Spencer was in High School I was the one who taught him how to write effectively, not the teachers. If you need any help let me know. I have lots of resources, not German ones, but academic. With the way public schools are going I would probably home school now if my kids were young. There are some good private schools and charter school as well, but nothing is perfect. Have fun!

Nina Shurts said...

Sandra, you are absolutely an inspiration to me. I always admired how you provided each of your kids with the education that best suited them. Thanks for your encouragement.

Michele Cherie said...

Yes, it's freeing to remember that the educational choice you make for your children now doesn't have to be the best choice for twelve years running. I do believe, though, that young children especially need more time at home than American culture acknowledges. I wish you insight and courage for your schooling journey!

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