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∗ ∗ ∗

Even though the Manroe family thought over their decision to homeschool for a year before they bought their first books, they’re still not sure it’s something they want to do forever.

While the children take a break, Andrea tells me, “We haven’t committed to homeschooling next year, although Chris [her husband] and I go back and forth. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes I want to put them back in school, just to have a break.”

Before homeschooling, she was a housewife who spent mornings at Starbucks with her friends, ran errands, and watched Grey’s Anatomy in the afternoons. She lived most days at a leisurely pace, with only the baby in tow. Still, she dreamed of the day when her youngest, too, would be in school, so she could have time entirely to herself. With the introduction of homeschooling into their lives, Andrea’s time alone diminished, and on some days disappeared entirely. She’s “on” from the time the children wake until she puts them to bed at night. Many days of the week, she does it without her husband, Chris, a fireman who works 24-hour shifts.

“He works every other day for four shifts, then he’ll get six days off. And then again four 24-hour shifts, followed by four days off. So this week, he works, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.”

Not every day off means Chris is going to be home. Though a former captain with the La Mesa Fire Department, he went back down to fireman when he chose to move to the Chula Vista Fire Department in 2008. These days, in addition to studying and testing for a position as engineer, he also sits on the union board, and teaches classes at Southwestern College.

“If we need any materials from the grocery store or Home Depot, I text Chris, and he picks them up,” Andrea says. “When he gets home, the kids are hopping around him like fleas, and he ends up doing the projects with them.”

Recently, he helped the children grow brine shrimp from eggs for science, and build bows and arrows out of pipe, string, and dowels to supplement a history lesson. When he’s not helping out with the schooling directly, “he tends to just help where he sees a need. Washing dishes, preparing lunch, switching out the laundry, or putting Hannah down for her nap.”

Andrea calls Chris the “enrichment-class instructor,” but it is she who maintains the day-to-day school life of their children.

“There are some things that have gotten crazier, and some things that have gotten easier. Crazier? I’m busy all day long,” Andrea says. (She never does tell me what has gotten easier.)

“But from the beginning,” she adds, “I enlisted the children’s help.”

Andrea Manroe says she decided to homeschool in order to “force” herself to spend more time with her children.

Andrea Manroe says she decided to homeschool in order to “force” herself to spend more time with her children.

It’s 10:30, and she leads me to the den wall, where a framed bulletin board hangs, outfitted with pockets holding little squares of paper.

“This is one way that I maintain the house. Both boys have a chore pack. They get it in the morning.” She pulls a stack of two-inch-square cards out of one of the pockets. Each has a clip-art picture on the front.

“These are Noah’s. When he gets up in the morning, the first thing he does is feed and water the dog.”

Andrea flips through the cards, explaining as she goes. There’s a step-by-step guide for Noah’s morning routine, which includes dressing himself, putting his jammies away, and making his bed. Then, he comes downstairs with an empty laundry basket, picks up out-of-place items in the family room, and puts them where they belong. After that, he brushes his hair, brushes his teeth, and cleans up the bathroom after himself.

“Joel’s, you can see, are a little more developmentally appropriate for him.” She shows me another set of cards that bear words instead of pictures. “The green ones are weekly. He sweeps the front porch, brings in cans from the curb, and,” here she groans with relief, “he vacuums! Love it.”

She laughs.

At night, before she goes to bed, Andrea puts the chore packs in the children’s rooms. When they wake up, they can come downstairs to eat, but then it’s back upstairs to get chores completed before they do anything else.

The bulletin board also holds a long receipt from the library in Bonita.

“This is our library-book list. When we go to the library, I take a laundry hamper. Two people have to carry it. We check out a lot of books.”

Hannah comes running into the den. “Mommy, I’m hungry!” Noah’s right behind her. “Mom, did you hear Hannah? She says she’s hungry.”

“It’s not time to eat yet,” Andrea says.

The two groan and then run off together, apparently having decided that complaining further might mean a return to schoolwork. The 15-minute break has already become 25. Andrea takes note. She shouts for the children to reconvene in the kitchen.

∗ ∗ ∗

Five minutes later, Hannah lugs a large Ziploc bag over to the counter and climbs up on a stool. She pulls cans of Play-Doh, a rolling pin, and three cookie cutters from the bag. Then she takes a lump of bright pink dough from one of the cans and uses the rolling pin to flatten it on the granite countertop.

Joel rifles through his schoolwork box, while Andrea and Noah look over a checklist.

“Okay,” Andrea says to Noah, “you have already finished your history reading and your summary. What’s next?” And to Joel, “Please don’t fold up your paper. This is work we have to turn in to your school. We keep it neat, okay?” Then back to Noah. “We have math to do today, and we have your primary phonics, your workbooks, and your flash cards.”

She instructs Noah to get his math workbook out while she retrieves the teacher edition from her own box. Once she has flipped to the right page in her book, she sees she’s made a mistake. Noah needs his practice workbook instead. Yesterday, they took a sick day, so she’s a little off schedule.

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Comments

Ruth Newell Aug. 25, 2011 @ 1:47 p.m.

Wow. I disagree.

Firstly, an "education" is so much more than a degree or credentials, and having had the excellent fortune to have obtained one doesn't--in my opinion-- automatically carte blanche entitled one to assume intellectual superiority over anyone, let alone those who did not have the same academic aspirations or financial privileges.

Case in point would be some of the clowns we've elected to those six figure public offices. And although some of those we've sent on to Washington over the years were homeschooled, not all were idiots taught by idiot parents. And even so, this is America and if idiots want to have kids or teach kids, there's no system in place--including the school system--stopping them. I've come across plenty of teachers who have left me scratching my head...at every level of education. I've also met 'teachers' in the most unorthodox places...within the communities in which we live and raise our kids...go figure.

Which brings me to point two: as with other professions, not everyone teaching --with credentials--is fit to teach because it takes more than an understanding of the subject matter to inspire a child to learn the material. Just because they've got a degree or licence doesn't meant they are the best suited to get the job done in a given situation or environment. Add to that reality the fact that classes are simply too large to be effective, (ask most teachers--they'll tell you so), and that there are numerous other distractions such as high decibels and other sensory stimulants, its almost sheer luck anyone learns anything.

Lastly, our kids are learning a whole lot more than reading and writing in schools, lunchrooms and buses. They are influenced by a slew of people beyond their own parents. Makes sense for parents to care about those influences and to take some responsibility in forming a "learning environment" suitable for their child and their family lifestyles and values. I did; you did. Others will, too.

Homeschooling has been around since the beginning of time and will continue to occur THANK GOODNESS...because options are a good thing. Options are what this country was founded on. So, count me in--I am 100% in favor of homeschooling in all its shapes and flavors--and do note please that I am a college educated person who was also a teacher. And yes, my children were homeschooled and are both highly accomplished, successful and happy adults, one of whom is now homeschooling her own children.

Glad to see the article! Thanks Elizabeth!

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guillermoago Aug. 25, 2011 @ 2:03 p.m.

@mindy1114, it clearly states in the article that Mrs. Monroe holds a teaching credential; that's more than a B.A. If she is dissatisfied with the current school system of fact recalling, memorization and fill in the bubble kind of education, I actually praise her for taking matters to her own hand in educating her children. It seems that, although not perfect, she is teaching them to read the word and the world by providing critical literacy, hands on projects and relevant field trips; all of which are absent from today's public education.

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Aug. 26, 2011 @ 1:18 p.m.

We worry about kids drinking out of plastic containers, eating too much fat and sugar, and riding bikes w/o helmets.

Then, when they're five or six, we send them off for 12 years of:

--verbal and physical bullying --outright violence --anxiety about popularity --ridicule about body type --ridicule about clothing and shoes --hypersexualization, even before puberty --drinking --drugs --pornography --eating disorders and destructive body image --undue emphasis on athletic prowess and beauty --lowest-common-denominator mob mentality

This is not even to mention the fact that the classroom setting favors one type of learner at the expense of all others, and the fact that some kids -- I would say most -- are not ready to sit in a desk and hold still for six hours a day at 7 years old.

What's wrong with us?

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Desert_Fish Aug. 27, 2011 @ 12:06 p.m.

Curriculums? Ouch! Apparently Latin wasn't her strong subject. What next, funguses? Or cactuses, favored by Arizona rednecks? I somehow expected better of California. Yes, I know, all these forms have been eventually grudgingly accepted as "anglicized" forms - which is just the most polite way of saying "rampant and inevitable ignorance."

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Aug. 29, 2011 @ 9:34 a.m.

It's "flagrante" not "flagranti," twister.

Veni, vidi, vici.

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