18 in 18 – seriously??

Every once in awhile, things begin to get out of sync in life. And when you are working towards getting everything balanced, you really notice them. We, as a family, have grown tremendously in recent months, even in the past week. We are working towards getting balance in our lives, in all areas of our lives. One area has been fitness, which I detailed in a previous post. Another area is faith, which we work towards consistently. The other areas of focus are family, friends, fun, field, and finances. Those are the seven areas we are targeting. They are all a part of a philosophy called “The Oola Life.”  Oola is defined as “the art or state of being awesome.”  I know that sounds funny, and it is a very recent term that was coined (hence the use of the word, “awesome”).  But don’t let a word turn you away from it.  They are some pretty profound things to be found in an Oola life.

Of those 7 areas, “field” is an interesting one. This refers to your work, your career, things you do outside of the other areas. I put my homeschooling in this category. It is my chosen career, rather than working outside our home. For me, being aligned in a healthy way with God’s will in my life, and for placing my priorities in order, homeschooling is an important area for me to consider. Each family has to choose how they will educate their children. Most of us firmly believe that how we choose to do that should be our choice, as parents and responsible adults. Unfortunately, we are not given blueprints for being parents. There are books galore out there that can help us, but most of us read them AFTER we have kids and are experiencing issues in raising them. Education is something we, as parents, should be in complete control of. We need to keep education close to home, and local. It is one of the reasons we have local elections for School Boards. It is one of the reasons we have local school districts and elementary schools in every neighborhood. Education should be personal, local, and not federal.

For our family, homeschooling was introduced to us as a concept at the same time that calculators were being required in school for our 2nd grader. Calculators were put in place of learning basic math facts; the teacher told me that he didn’t have time to teach them with their curriculum’s schedule and testing each year. Kids would just have to catch up and calculators made that possible. This frightened me so much. The teacher told me he was pulling his kids out of school and between he and his wife (also a teacher) they would school at home (they had vastly different schedules). I had met some people who have remained friends since this time (1991-1992) who homeschooled their children with great success. They homeschooled because they did not like the curriculum choices, especially in regards to family life courses being required; they were morally outraged at what was being taught in elementary school. We opted our child out of these “family life” courses, but like one of the moms said, “You can opt them out all you want.  Guess what they talk about on the playground?”  Ha-Ha. She was right, of course. I chose to homeschool for curriculum choices (and calculators), and then it became about moral choices. We also went up against vaccinating against STDs when our kids did not socialize with others who had them, nor did we expect them to make poor choices. But high school, summer camps, and the military soon over-rode our objections and they were all vaccinated, eventually. Where I did not compromise was in the areas of curriculum or morals. If I felt either was compromised, we pulled ourselves home. In the course of time since 1992, we have homeschooled using religious programs, homeschooled doing “our own thing,” public schooled, private schooled, unschooled, charter schooled, and recently, public schooled at home (our state offers a variety of homeschool options as about 70% of kids are homeschooled here). We are now educating our last child, and only have two more years of schooling left. It makes me sad, but I am also tired and ready to be done with all of it. Because the world is creeping in and it is scary.

The world of Bill Gates and Common Core has stuck their noses into our little world.  And we all need to be duly frightened. It’s not so much that Common Core is mediocre (it is) but rather that once again the federal branch of the government wants to tell state and local entities how to do what they do. In other words, they want to tell us how and what, even when, to teach our children. They have aligned all 50 states and want the same materials taught using the same format and exact same materials, at the same grade levels, across the country. If you take federal money for schooling in your state/district, you are obliged to be in compliance with federal statutes and guidelines on testing. They want each district to use “their” tests when annually testing the kids. One irritant for me is that this is once again a money trail. Where does the money go? How does the money flow? There are publishers involved (who write, publish, and sell textbooks aligned with Common Core), there are testing corporations who write the tests and also control the grading of them. Tests that no one is allowed to see beforehand! Results that are published sometimes 6 months after taking (our tests are done in April/May and results are not provided until October). The tests travel out-of-state for scoring, not within a local district or even same state. Most companies who do the testing are asking for only online testing, so they can track them easier. And I’m not even getting into data mining of our children. The new legislation wants scores and school documentation to begin in pre-school and follow students through to the workforce, up until and when they are 20 years old. They insist they want to track the preparation the students received and their ability to enter the workforce. To me, if you wait from 3 years of age until 20, there are millions of kids who will be poorly educated and not prepared for the workforce (if the curriculum is poor or does not fit workforce requirements.  And how many workforce requirements are rigid for 20 years?) if we review after 17 years of using Common Core. There are specific reviews along the way, I know that. But still and all, it is an excuse to obtain a lot of data on our families. Legislation shows that they (the Feds) want to coordinate census data, tax returns, healthcare choices, loans and financial information and align it all with educational data once protected under FERPA legislation.  (They plan to align Social Security Numbers with Student ID Numbers). One huge, overwhelming and over-reaching grab of information about each one of us.  I’m not a conspiracy nut, nor am I an “off-the-grid” proponent (how could I download books onto my Kindle if I went off-grid?) but I am a concerned citizen. With the age of the computer and how freely and blithely we enter data online, it is no wonder someone smart enough hasn’t figured all this out before. The sad part is – they have. It is just now coming to light. And very few people even realize it, or are paying attention to it.

How do I reconcile this with my balancing act of my 7 areas of the Oola life? How do I responsibly homeschool my child, while keeping to my moral values? How do I protect my son’s right to privacy, and still allow him to receive a good education? Do I hide? Do we fly under the grid and unschool once again? Do I pull out or continue on? We only have two years left!! I am praying like a mad woman, in between bouts of tears of frustration. But, God is good. He never lets us down. We just need to seek Him in all things.  As I started to type this post, God interceded for me and I received an amazing phone call that changed everything. I took some time to actually cry in relief. I took some time to chat with my husband. I feel, once again, like I can balance my life in the area of “field.” I can continue to offer my son a quality education, wherein he is learning and retaining information like he never has before. I can continue to enjoy it as he explores more and more the world at large and becomes ready to strike out on his own. As my oldest son loved pointing out to me yesterday, my baby will be 18 in a mere 18 months. Wow. Time certainly flies when you are balancing life.

This does not change the issues at large: Common Core being forced on all school districts. Tests being written, and scored, by private companies in it for the money. Local districts and states not being allowed to develop curriculum for their own students and make choices and decisions outside of the federal guidelines. Data and information being gathered on everyone in alarming amounts and detail. States’ rights being eroded, not to mention personal privacy being invaded. We all need to be aware. We all can affect a change. We can opt to not play. We can opt to say no to governmental hijacking of our local educational programs. We can say no to programs that do not reflect the local electoral results. When a state chooses, via ballot, to not use Common Core but unelected people somehow make it the norm for the state, we should be contacting all our officials and letting them know this is not right. Some governmental positions are jobs – they are not elected. Those people, even the electeds in my point of view, work for me. They work for the “people.” We people need to take our government back and just say no to some of this. America was not created to be a nation of “sameness.” One of the beauties of this country is it’s diversity. Why would we change that now, after all these years? If we are all the same, where is the creativity we need to explore space, the oceans, medicine? Who is going to take us into the next century, leading the free world in science, math, engineering, the arts, the social sciences? If everyone learns the same exact thing, no one will even know how to think outside the box, because they won’t even realize they are in a box.

Pray, think, vote, contact your local representatives.  We need to be sure our children are educated to be the best they can be.  I do not believe Common Core or national education and testing is the way to go. And I am at peace.  For today.  18 months until 18 – so much can happen.  Teens keep us on our toes!

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