Thursday, January 17, 2013

Homeschool Ramblings

I just realized that I had a week full of homeschooling discussions with different people.

The first discussion was a week ago with a mom that just began homeschooling her kids this year after they had been in public school for a few years. She is doing the same schooling that I am doing with my oldest right now. Her frustration is that she is hearing of people like me whose child can get a lot of school done in about half the time her child can. Her question was, "What am I doing wrong?" I think this is a common question with new homeschoolers coming out of brick and mortar schools. My question to her was, "Are you trying to do every single thing the curriculum is telling you to do?" One of the beauties of homeschooling--you get to decide and discern what to teach your child. Just because the curriculum wants your child to write 10 geography vocabulary words a week, along with your spelling words, and then some science vocabulary--why do you feel you NEED to do that? She asked me, "How do you know what to pick and choose?" That's when you have to discover through trial and error what works for your child. If what you're doing is making you feel like pulling out your hair and gnashing your teeth on a daily basis, then that is a HUGE clue that something needs to change. TRY something different. Don't worry about not doing every single thing the curriculum is telling you to do. Homeschooling is about tweaking curriculum to help make your child successful. As a homeschooler, you need to learn to use curriculum as a helping, resource tool, not the end all/be all of how you MUST do your schooling. In fact, that's probably why so many homeschoolers like myself, usually find an all around curriculum (meaning one that covers all subjects) they like, but then usually end up using a couple of other curriculums at the same time. For example, we used a curriculum for years that I loved for it's history, reading, and Bible, but then used two different curriculums for science and math, even though my curiculum for history, reading, and Bible included science and math.

The second conversation I had was Saturday when I went to get my hair done. The young lady who was doing my hair was asking me questions to get to know me and when we were discussing kids and she asked where they went to school and I told her we homeschool, the only thing she said was, "Why?" And this was not with a tone of voice of curiosity and generally just wanting to know why we chose homeschooling, it was a tone of dismay and unbelief that we would homeschool when there are perfectly good schools I could send my children to. In fact, just the way she said it kind of took me off guard for a minute and I had to really think about my reply to her. I could tell that she probably wasn't very open minded so instead of telling her it was a calling I felt, I told her that I had learned about it when I went through my college classes to become a teacher and just wanted to try it when I eventually had kids. She has a 3 year old and 1 year old herself and said that she is now considering homeschooling them because of the tragic school shooting that happened last month in Connecticut. To me, this is not a good reason to homeschool. When this tragedy happened, so many of my homeschooling friends commented that they were so thankful they homeschool and they could hug their babies tighter and not have to worry about their kids being in a school where someone could come in and shoot and kill their babies. I simply replied to my hairstylist what I will reply here to my fellow homeschoolers and anybody reading this, "That tragedy can happen anywhere with your kids. It happened at a movie theater and it happened at a mall. You do not have control of your kids all of the time--even if you homeschool."

The third conversation about homeschooling was on Sunday. It actually wasn't a conversation, it was something I overheard and decided not to engage in at the time. We invited some new friends to our church's life group and they accepted. The mom is a former teacher along with a couple of others of us who are educators, and their family is fairly new to town. The topic became how smart her daughter is (which she really is) but the school she goes to is not doing enough to challenge her, and there are becoming difficulties between the family and teacher. One of the people at life group asked if she would ever consider homeschooling her daughter. Her response was, "No, because I want her to be well-rounded." Whoa! This was one of those moments when time slowed down for me. Seriously, in slow motion, I saw my other friends' eyes dart in my direction to see what my reaction would be, then quickly dart away so as not to embarrass me. Then in my mind I was processing so many things: do I respond? Did my new friend forget that we homeschool and doesn't realize what she just said could offend me? Is she just that ignorant when it comes to homeschooling--should I defend homeschooling?" Then, all of a sudden time speeds up again and I decide to just grin and let the conversation continue and I would not say a word. When I got home, though I posted something on facebook that got a lot of positive responses--and not just from homeschoolers, but by those who have public school kids too:
'Was reminded tonight of the misconception people have of homeschooling...when asked if someone would homeschool their child, the response was, "No because I want her to be well rounded." Hmmmm, not sure what her definition of well rounded is, but considering my kids get to take time off school to travel with their dad at any time of the year, get to go with their girl scout troop on a Wednesday morning to help the red cross make fire safety packets and then hand them out to people in apartment buildings, get to enjoy the great outdoors with so many boy scout activities a year, visit 80 year old neighbors at any time of the day, get taught by different adults and take all sorts of different classes each semester at a co-op, participate in YMCA p.e. classes, city soccer leagues, and dance teams, and when they are ready they can move at a faster or slower pace in their schoolwork without worrying about a time table or having to work at the same pace as the rest of the class...I have to ask who the more well rounded child is? We have never advocated homeschooling on anybody, it's what works for us; just wish people had a better understanding of it all.'

The fourth conversation about homeschooling came last night at church. It was a lengthy conversation discussing many aspects of homeschooling that is too long to write about here in this already lengthy post. But, one of the things that stood out to me was when discussing testing at home. When I told my struggling fellow homeschooling mom about the success we are having with my oldest's schooling, one of the first things she asked me was, "What about grades and testing?" Again--more public schooling mentality. She was surprised to hear that grading didn't exist with this curriculum, and that the only testing required was state testing. When I told her that I have NEVER given my kids a test or given them grades her eyebrows literally shot up in disbelief! She was in total shock. I asked her why do I need to give my kids a test? If I can sit down with my children and we can discuss questions and answers together then isn't that like a test? Why in the world do I need to give them a written test if discussion works for us? Now, if you want your kids to do a written test just because you want a record of what they learned, or you feel they need to know how to take written exams because that's what brick and mortar schools do, then by all means do it. But, I don't feel it's necessary for me and my kids. But, guess, what--my kids do know how to take written tests because some of the curriculum we have used have tests for the kids to take after their reading and activities but instead of making my kids do these in writing, we simply discuss them or take them orally. 

I guess to sum up my week:
*homeschooling is a calling that not everybody understands.  
*homeschooling is a freedom that allows you to tweak curriculums to make your child successful--one size does not fit all
*you, the parent, needs to find what works for your child learning-wise, and time-wise. if something is not working, CHANGE  it, and don't feel like you're doing it wrong
*always ask other homeschoolers for advice, but don't be shocked or surprised by what they do differently than what you would

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