The Gellmans: Raising happy, healthy children
Source: Asbury Park Press
By: Tom Spader
May 10, 2012
Claire Gellman, 44, and husband Gary, owner of Gellman Images Photography, homeschool their children Moira, 10, Kerianne, 9, Aileen, 7, and Grace, 4, in their Plumsted home. Claire Gellman says she focuses not on grades in her children’s education but on raising “happy, healthy and holy children who will contribute to a civil society.”
A journey together
I really never worry about comparing my girls to other children and their educational successes. I try to focus on each of their personal strengths and to give them tools and encouragement for the areas they might struggle in.
God has given each of them a beautiful mission and the talents and situations to complete that goal. My goal is to raise happy, healthy and holy children who will contribute to a civil society. They learn to interact across all social, educational and age barriers that society has placed before them. Stepping out of the peer mentality of the standard classroom, we do community service and learn to help our neighbor in need. Living our faith and extending it to others are the real benchmarks in our home life. If my children are kind and caring I feel that we are successful. I don’t feel the need to compete in the cut-throat world of education. There are enough people out there doing that already.
I have heard several college professors I know state that most students have not learned to think critically by the time they reach the university level. Colleges now offer many remedial classes in the basics just to get the students up to speed.
I don’t worry about actual numbers as in a regular school. I focus on the level the child is at (most all are at or above the levels for their age in most subjects) and to encouraging those areas that need more help and letting them move at a faster pace in those subjects they excel at.
This is a journey together. We grow and learn every day. We limit TV time and strengthen their imaginations by playing outdoors and being kids. They have commitments and deadlines to reach but letter grades and standardized tests are for seeing how a class is learning and how the school is teaching. I provide a comparable education and my kids hit all the rubrics of kids their age. With the added benefit to have a lot more free time to be kids.
What works for us
Claire is the primary educator and head of curriculum and activities for the girls. Gary is more the Principal or overseer. We attend several outside educational opportunities that have additional teachers: Piano/Music Theory; Educational Nature Science Center; and Sewing. Also, they attend outside activities that have moderators: American Girl Club; two Choirs; Literary Writing Club; Theater troupe and various monthly events and trips.
At this time we don’t do actual classes on line but use many, many resources available online to supplement our curriculum: Starfall and Spelling City for Reading and Language Arts; Timez Attack for Math; and PBS and Homeschool Freebie of the Day for various timely resources, just to name a few.
The Internet is a tool and, if used correctly, can provide a host of great materials and programs.
We have joined the local town recreational and travel soccer and softball leagues in the past. But we really have no desire to connect with the actual local school. As a homeschooler we are not (nor really want to be) connected in any way with the school system. There are no tax breaks or curriculums shared as a homeschooler. We are happy to pay our taxes for others to attend the school and be educated. But we don’t ever need to look to the school to gain any materials or sports or clubs. There are so many great things out there you just need to look around to find them.
We know a lot of the school families from church and the neighborhood and we connect that way. But we have a ton of activities and none involve the school.
At the core, our experience is achieving what we hoped it would. In practice, sometimes I get really excited about a certain program or subject, and think it will be great, but for that particular child at that time, it might not work. But there are so many moms and people to go to to ask out there in our circle of friends or even in cyber space when a question may arise. Or even in stating an issue you are trying to figure out, and there is always someone out there who has a pearl of wisdom to help you out. So we try that. Hopefully that will be it. But originally, I thought a one size approach would fit all. It’s interesting to come to the place where you realize your children are all different from you and from each other!
I would say that I thought being able to do everything (Super Mom) would be easier. But when you are juggling all manner of managing a home along with meals and the kids themselves, something has to give. I tell myself I will have all clean, folded laundry and a clean home when the girls are grown. We are content to focus on learning right now and watching them grow and excel. And if anyone drops by for a visit unexpectedly, my house will not be found in House Beautiful, but I will put the pot on for tea.
(When Moira) first started school, she wanted to go to the “real’ school in the worst way. I finally asked her why she wanted to go. And it boiled down to 2 things: the bus ride and the lunch box. So we had a neighbor who was a bus driver and she let Moira sit on the bus at a standstill to see what it was like, and I had ‘lunch box Fridays’…we packed it in the morning and she took it out at lunch time and ate it at the table. She was one happy kid and has never asked to go to the ‘real’ school again. J
My other girls have not expressed an interest. But we talk about what they might be doing at whatever time it is during the day if they were in a school building. Especially when they see what time the bus picks up and what time they drop off. By then my girls have finished all their studies, practiced piano and been playing outside or in the house for several hours already. They see how much time is spent away from home and are glad to be doing what we are doing.
Since right after college, I had heard some research on the effectiveness of homeschooling and how it helped children grow more confident and less susceptible to peer pressures in the early grades. Much of the findings were compelling to the point that I asked my husband how he felt about homeschooling on our first date. I have always thought it was a great model that allowed a lot of freedom for a child to truly learn how to learn and develop a life long love of learning.
The simple fact that I am a parent qualifies me to teach my children. (Government) may provide an option for education but it is only the parents’ God-given right to make the best decision for their children.
Opinions and biases about homeschooling should not be determined through sensational news stories regarding difficult family situations. Knee-jerk reactions to these stories never truly get to the root of the issue and being home-schooled can become the fall guy.