Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Indeed, you say!



             
I had a thought today.

My 13 year old daughter and I were talking about a myriad of subjects and it occurred to me, that thought that I often had when I was a teen:  enlightened educators should heavily focus attempts to teach to the years from 1-12 and then again from 25+.  AVOID trying to teach the teen!
Why?
Do you remember those years?!  By her own admission, even when working on fractions or decimals or pre-Alg, listening to Swing music, reading Shakespeare, learning about arteries, or watching Louis Leakey videos this child is thinking about three things:  boys, books, and her BFFs.  Yes, she has that uncanny ability to have her pencil moving, her eyes roving the page, and to STILL be thinking about her friends.
It’s the hormones, remember!?
My secret for keeping her focused?
She follows her own bliss.
No, we are not the ubiquitous and unconventional unschoolers.  She wishes to write, so she writes!  And writes, and writes.  And she reads and reads and reads.  Attempts to actually teach her have failed for the past few months, and yet, somehow, she continues to blossom!  She is thinking, talking, debating, exploring ideas, questioning, and being true to herself.
Truly, this is the moment of REAL homeschooling for me.  I am thrilled to be witness to the fact that she is teaching herself!
One more thing...it occurs to me that I am learning again too...

Monday, September 27, 2010

I MEME IT! It's SCIENCE!

 

Dale McGowan at the awesome and excellent Parenting Beyond Belief blog is recounting the ongoing saga (well, perhaps ongoing, perhaps as resolved as it’s going to get) of his efforts to handle what appears to be a creationist science teacher at his son’s school. I can’t strongly enough urge you to read the entire saga, starting with the first post and continuing via the links at the bottom of his blog page.  (Be sure to follow his hyperlinks!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

NINJA FREAK!



My son and I were at the public park the other day.  He was "dressed out", as he says.  Wearing some concoction of a costume, including a red scarf around his head and hanging down his back, ninja style.  He was feeling fine, hip, cool, happy, and energized!
Now, imagine him running up to the swings, pushing off, soaring as high as possible with a smile as wide as the sky.  Next to him, the child on the swing asks him, "What's that thing on your head for?"
My son replies, "I'm a ninja".

The boy jumps off of the swing, runs over to the climbing structure to converse with his pals.  Suddenly, from the play structure, we start hearing kids snickering, laughing, pointing, and, finally, we hear several of them saying under their breath "Ninja FREAK!"  Again and again these boys taunted and teased while my son swings slower and slower, finally coming to a stop.  Looking at me.
"You know, Mom, those kids are calling me names.  But I don't feel bad.  In fact, I feel stronger."
So he gets off of the swing and goes to the large structure to hang and climb.  A boy asks him just how he can be a ninja and my son replies, "In my imagination."  The boys start laughing again and we hear "How are you a ninja in your imagination?"

My son looks at me while hanging upside down from a cross bar and asks, "What?  Don't these kids know what imagination is?"

Well, eventually we noticed a boy that we knew some years ago when he and his sister used to homeschool.  We say, "Hi, Ryan, remember us from when you and your sister Shay used to homeschool?"  He looks at the "lead" teaser and says, "No".
If you guessed that my son was now the "Homeschool Freak", you're right.  It wasn't sixty seconds before several of the boys were snickering and taunting again.
My son looks at me and says, "Mom, is this what a bully looks like?  I've never seen one in real life."
*SWOON*
Leave it to my wonderful son to take a situation such as this and turn it into a learning experience!
On the way home he says, "Mom, I hope the kids who go to school with him aren't teased every day by him..."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why are they SO HAPPY the kids are back in school?



I've heard dozens of mothers across the area sigh, saying "Yay!  School started!"
I'm kind of baffled, honestly.
I honestly don't mean to sound snooty or superior or holier-than-thou.
I simply don't understand why these mothers and fathers are so happy and relieved to be separated from their children for 35 hours a week...or for 20 hours a week...

Listen, I understand the need to have a few minutes or hours to yourself where the kids aren't knocking on your bathroom door, picking up the telephone while you are on it, expecting regular infusions of food constantly.  I haven't even been in the tub alone without interruption for over two weeks!  (ASK YOUR DAD!  He's the other adult in the house!)  Surely the ability to complete a thought (or a magazine article!) has it's appeal.  Certainly I can appreciate the total and utter appeal of silence.  Silence, aaaahhhh.  (And, here, I am referring to the silence that doesn't leave you running around the house looking for children sneaking Ding Dongs or whispering snotty stuff to a sister or brother so I don't hear.)

But WHY would I want to be away from these kids for HOURS for days and days?  Why?  Are we, as a society so brainwashed into thinking that their lives should be over....HERE and my life should be over..........HERE?  Are you buying that? 
From the time my kids were born, my mom has always teased me that they are so attached to me.  She'll tease me, insinuate that this makes them weird, and then wistfully hug them.  She is convinced that me being with the kids is a BAD THING and that I am constantly in need of TIME ALONE.  She seems to think that there is something wrong with me, with us because we don't long to be away from each other.

It is difficult for her to see that we love this arrangement!  We enjoy one another.  We actually want to be together!  What, exactly, does she think I am missing by not being "ALONE"?
My friend down the street went to a "MOMS LUNCH", all caps, the second day the kids were back in school.  WOO HOO.  Now, for the next 178 days of school...?

Look, I can see celebrating a free day or two, but 178?  Who needs it?
Why is she so happy???  Will these MOMS LUNCHES keep up all year?  No, of course not.  The moms will go back to their own homes or places of work or other employment and spend them alone or busy.

Is it possible that they have just bought the idea that they "should"?
Is it the "new shoes", "new clothes", "new friends"?  Let's face it, new shoes are expensive, new clothes are "old" the second time wearing them, and there are, genuinely, few new friends from year to year.  I'm convinced that these contrivances entirely to persuade the masses what they "need" to do.  It is rather shocking to hear the moms cheering and cartwheeling across the lawns...
Who enjoys the PTA meetings?  Who enjoys the SELLING CANDY and other crap?  Who enjoys having someone else tell you your schedule daily?  Who enjoys early nights, early mornings, two days to relax, and dreading Sunday night?  Have you forgotten homework battles?  Late night headaches of work?  How about a thousand illnesses?  Have you forgotten the required parental activities?  Day care?  Car pools?  Fire drills?  The need for emergency and "stranger danger" drills?  Getting out of the house on time?  Hungry and tired children in the mornings?  Meeting the expectations of the school at all times?

Is it a matter of habit?
Well, I for one, am THRILLED that we are celebrating NOT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!
WOO Hoo!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keeping the "Home" in Homeschool




Choosing to be at home: A crucial step in creating a better homeschool environment is to be...at home! We need the long stretches of time that go uninterrupted by doctors, trips to piano lessons, vet appointments for the pet, post office, and grocery shopping are essential to create a feeling of time and space to learn. Just because you are at home, does not mean that you are “available”. Schedule “at home” days that are inviolable, fixed, and respected.

Pick up your calendar and mark large “X”s through one day each week. This is the day that you are not available! This is the day that you and your children will be at home. Being at home.
Oh, you will find many, many reasons why you can’t keep this little sacrosanct day. We’re not used to putting ourselves first! But keep yourself disciplined! Keep this once-a-week schedule firm. Be together at home. Cook. Lessons. Chores. Movies. Games. Hang out. Talk! After those first few times you keep this little promise to yourself, you will find that it becomes easier to say “no” to all of the outside activities and to put this family time first! You and your children will look forward to the “home” in homeschool again!

Eventually, you will be surprised at how carefully you protect that day!

Be smart about outside activities. There is no doubt that homeschooling families can find many, many opportunities outside of the home. Lessons, play dates, classes with friends, field trips, museums, et al. I am sure we can all point to dates on our calendars from this month that have all seven days FULL of fun and great activities outside in the community.

We all feel the pressure to do more! Go more! Participate more! Schedule more!
It’s not that I don’t appreciate what prodigies our children are! I know how important these events can be. I also know how important lunch at the kitchen table is. Food that didn’t come through the car window. Juice boxes scattered in the car. Movies and music collections strewn about the vehicle as you drive, frenzied, from here to there. Schlepping! Yes, we have all been SCHLEPPING!

Remember the free time we promised ourselves? Remember the dream of allowing our children to fill those hours with activities of their choice? Remember playing for the sake of playing? Remember the fun of just “hanging out”? We promised ourselves that we would provide a happy childhood to our children. Let’s keep that promise!

Gratitude

 

I want to be grateful.
I want to remember to set down the "issues", the little annoyances, the things that "they" do that makes my days more cumbersome and complicated, or the sights and sounds that are noisy.
I want to pick up the mantle of love, appreciation, awareness, remembrance more regularly, NOT just when it is easy or comfortable.
I want to remember that being grateful is not the result of being happy, but being happy is the result of being grateful.

Here is my song, my poem of gratitude for today. Were I to add music to the words, they would sound like bird song, gentle breezes, silence.

I am grateful to this earth. To the sustainable soils, the richness and sweetness of the seasons. To the "always-ness" of the earth. For its deep and hidden places. For its changeability and its constancy. For those things that are buried within, calling it their home. For temporary things. For the core, the energy within. To it's mass that keeps our feet firmly on its surface.

I am grateful to the plants. To their ability to reflect the weather, the seasons. To their cleansing and gentle ways. To their oxygen chemical reaction, to their nutritious and life-giving grains. To the fine root hairs for gathering up the wealth of the soil and sky. To the flowering and blooming things that give our senses sight, smell, touch, taste, and sounds found in no other place. For the many ways they touch us. For the many ways that they move through their life cycles that have nothing to do with us.

I am grateful to the air and atmosphere. The soaring, swift, silent breath of our atmosphere. To our gravity, our weather, our colorful dawn and dusk. To the cleansing breezes and to the lift of birds all around us.

I am grateful for the animals and all living things. To their wildness, to their tameness, to their secret ways, to their way of moving along in the midst of our pain, reminding us that nature always moves forward, the true model for healing. For their friendships and gentleness and beauty at living in freedom.

I am grateful to water. For the cycle of release, storage, movement, revitalization, release again. For that that is so much a part of us, of which we are so much a part. For the elemental foundation of our existence, that which allows life on this planet. For it's cleansing, healing, connection, life-giving, infinity.

I am grateful for the sun. For that hydrogen-pulsing life giver. For the energy stored within it's mass, for the stored energy beneath our own crust from the sun's past energy transfer. For it's warmth, for it's light, for it's healthy energy to our bodies. For it's cycles that lengthen, shorten, lengthen again and bring the patterns of the seasons. For being our home, our parent in the cosmos. For being the closest and most necessary life-giving source.

I am grateful for the sky and beyond. For it's mystery. For it's beauty. For being a part of each of us, within us. For the uncountable stars and objects that make us all that is. For being beyond our comprehension, our know ability. For being that which is greater than us.

My Homeschool Thoughts for the day

 

Schooling confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.
~ Wendy Priesnitz

I have been talking to several parents this week who are all considering homeschooling their children. In every single case, the school's failure to meet the needs of their children is their main impetus to explore the homeschool lifestyle. I am angry and horrified at some of the stories that I have heard. The next problem these parents will face, though, once they move to a homeschooling lifestyle is to absorb the ethos of homeschooling. That "book learning" is not the same as getting a great education.

That, alone, took me a few years to grasp. How can I pass it on to these loving, angry, desperate, and wounded parents? The answer is that I'm not so sure I can do that in a few sentences. That truth, for me, was a truth that revealed itself to me as my research went on and on.

In the meantime, I am grateful to have the opportunity to offer my support and assistance to these new parents about to take the leap into the homeschool lifestyle!
Le Chiam!

Defending Homeschool




The "usual" criticism of homeschooling stacks up like this:

* Socialization
* Poor Curriculum
* Lack of Multiculturalism
* Lack of testing
* Homeschoolers have fewer resources
* Poor quality of teacher
* Homeschoolers are ideologically-driven
* Homeschooled children are ill-equipped to function in society
* and keeping funding from the public schools.

I am delighted to take each of these issues separately. I have researched and read thousands of pages of materials AS WELL AS being a parent who homeschools. Additionally, at my disposal, a huge group of families with whom I am familiar that homeschool.

Each and every child in the world is unique. Homeschool, public school, private school, other learning arrangement, no learning arrangement. Each child reacts to events in their own unique way. I mention this because, while writing this piece to "defend" or support homeschool as a choice, I feel compelled to say that there is no single perfect choice for bringing up one's children. Each choice, as is normal in life, requires making decisions in which one gains things and one loses things. So, I feel it is necessary to point out that any point I make either "for" or "against" homeschooling can also be made for public or other educational school or learning system. There is not a school in the world that does not have as a part of it's system the poorly-socialized, learning-disabled, or generally "outside-of-the-box" students and families. Some learning environments make these students feel comfortable, confident, and successful, however, while others make these students feel ostracized, hopeless, and left out.

I also feel no need to "defend" homeschooling. It needs no defense! My sincere effort is to be honest and supportive of families who seek to educate their children. I'm sure my enthusiastic tendencies supporting homeschooling will be obvious. I think that is goes without saying, too, that an issue of this kind can only be brushed with broad generalities by people who have not homeschooled.

I have always wondered about the agenda of those folks who get online or go public with these negative and blasting messages of anti-homeschool. Why are they so vociferously negative about a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to them? How can these folks judge an entire lifestyle choice through one or two struggling families or children? Homeschoolers are typically in the minority and there are few statistics on homeschoolers as a population. Honestly, for every negative story about homeschooling you can point at for me I can point out one hundred negative stories about the public schooling system, or any other educational system available to the public. Also, for each negative story of homeschooling you can point out, I can point to a hundred quietly successful homeschool families who are raising remarkable, caring, productive, and thinking children.

  • Let's start, ta dah!, with Socialization and socializing opportunities. Nearly every single article or argument of this sort begins with "socialization" or socializing opportunities. Those on the "con" to homeschooling side say the homeschoolers have few opportunities to hang out with other kids, peers, and people in general. They say the students benefit from the amount of peer interaction available at most schooling options that meet in a building together. I would say that there is quantity and there is quality.
  • I don't deny that my children don't see and interact with other children their own age each day. No. They interact with people of all ages each day. They are actually in the real world! In fact, many homeschooling parents report that "socialization" is the PERFECT reason to homeschool.  But, don't misunderstand.   They do interact with friends as often as all parties can swing it.
  • As for curriculum, there are so many different lines of curriculum for homeschoolers out there that I can see no criticism on this point. I am in the unique position to have seen MANY fantastic sets of materials.  My homeschool supply store carries some; some, I do not carry at this point. (Usually for financial reasons and not because of the merit of materials!)  It is my own personal bias that Christian-based materials tend to be too focused on indoctrination and religious issues rather than on academics.  I am also put off by the focus of these materials being to make evolution and other scientific topic looks disreputable. 
  • Suggesting that homeschool children are not living their lives in a multicultural environment is, again, the claim of a person who does not homeschool. Without pointing out the homogeneous nature of most school districts, it nearly goes without saying that the world contains all ethnic groups...and that is the school that homeschoolers attend. The school of the world.  Our homeschool group has Indian families, Southeast Asian families, Eastern European families, Greek families, African families, ...
  • In fact, it is on this point that I can promise, a homeschooler has wonderful and enriching opportunities to learn more about various cultures and lifestyles. Even without including families associated with homeschool groups, the world in which we life is vastly diverse and colorful. If you do not currently have people of other races and creeds as a part of your "friend list", please work harder!
  • Homeschool styles vary from family to family. I wouldn't even try to assure a reader that all homeschoolers are tested regularly. In fact, many homeschoolers are pleased to report that passing a test is the least and worst reason for learning. As my young son of nine years said to me just the other day, "Learning is it's own reward".
  • Also, many institutions and groups offer a variety of testing opportunities. If a family is interested in having their children's levels tested, those options are available to them with very little research or cost. In our home, achievement test results are not the main goal why we homeschool. It is simply one of the many tools we use to guide us in educating our children. Some states require testing for their homeschooling families and some do not. If a family seeks to test their children, public and private resources abound.
  • For the critic who suggests that homeschoolers have fewer resources available to them, I, again, would insist that we have more! Homeschoolers are not limited by the number of books in the school library, we have the huge city library system as our resource! Homeschoolers are not limited by the faculty on staff at the local school. Every adult and child we come in contact with is a potential instructor. Homeschoolers are not limited by the school's lab, sports, theater, extra curricular opportunities available through a school. All of these options in our community-at-large are available to us!
  • Further, these community and other resources are not available to our children for fifty minute blocks, for as long as the lab is open! The resources available to any individual homeschool family is limited only by their ingenuity and resourcefulness. Resources aren't doled out to children in lines waiting to use them and they aren't available only for the duration of a "unit". Children who homeschool have the wonderful opportunity to stay with learning units until they are ready to move on!
  • Through our local homeschool group, our family has had at our disposal university lab facilities, university library and theater facilities, community theater and sports, ranches, gardens, telescopes, ponds, small businesses, quarries, cave systems, airports and other public transportation... The list is endless. In the end, our children are given one-on-one learning opportunities as well as individualized strategies. I fear the children in the school system are truly suffering from fewer resources than homeschooled children.
  • The claim that our children have a poor quality of teacher is rude as well as inaccurate. It may be true, I couldn't say, but it's hard to prove one way or the other. There is no need to point out that every school on the planet has wonderful, innovative teachers as well as teachers that are ineffective or unmotivated. So, without putting our various school systems on trial, it is not going too far to say that the vast majority of homeschooling parents that I have ever met are highly-educated, strongly-motivated, and generally effective. I have read that homeschooling parents trend to be higher socioeconomic families, though I have known incredible homeschooling parents who operate on a shoestring. It is just not possible to suggest that the quality of the parents teaching and the children teaching themselves is "poor" in any way as a general rule.
  • In every group that has ever existed, there have always been the slackers and the poorly-motivated. I'm certain that this exists within the ranks of homeschooling parents as well. But for the most part, the parents that I have known have taken the time to teach themselves the psychology of learning, learning styles, schools of learning, special needs education, and other issues related to being effective teachers for their children. We, as parents, are always learning and improving our approaches. Why would anyone assume that parents don't research and learn as much as possible about what works when teaching children? Aren't these the children that mean the most to us?
  • It is true that many homeschoolers are ideologically driven.  I, personally, am driven by the ideology that emphasizes the belief that human beings are fundamentally good and that they try their best at any given moment. Even the critics.
  • It is also true that some families have chosen to homeschool for ideological reasons. And why not?  Don't most schools operate under certain ideologies as well?  Human beings all operate with their own sets of ideological frameworks. The wonderful bonus of homeschooling is that it allows us to operate under ideologies that our children seek for themselves as well. Add to this, the ideology of being "outside of the box" as most homeschoolers are, is not well-supported in the school systems. Come to think of it, the schooling systems in the world are far too ideologically-driven for my comfort.
  • Homeschool and public or private school systems have extremists as part of the population. This doesn't allow us to single out any group as being more troubled by these radical ideologies.
  • Lastly, is it true that homeschool families are keeping funding from the public schools? Well, I am certainly paying my taxes! And how absurd to suggest that my child is a mere means to an end for the school system! I do pay my taxes AND we don't use the resources that they purchase. If the schools are struggling with resources, it isn't because I haven't done my civic duty.

Our country celebrates it's liberty and choice. I celebrate liberty too whenever we homeschool. Besides, I dislike putting the public and private schools on the defensive. Not everyone can or should homeschool!

BEING a homeschooling Mother




I was thinking about what I wanted to write about and what I know about. HOMESCHOOLING MOTHER is the thing that I know the best!

I am a good homeschooling mom and I'm going to muse on why I am good. What do I do that makes me certain, confident, comfortable, and effective as a mother homeschooling the two more important people on earth? I have honestly never adequately put this into words. I've tried, but I have never been satisfied with it. I'll try again now.

I'm not perfect and I have made many mistakes. I'm not always patient. I'm not always encouraging. I'm not always tuned in to their needs. I'm not always open and ready for the next teachable moment. I could freely list my iniquities...but I think you get the idea!

But I love them enough to allow them to make their own mistakes. I love them enough to tailor each and every lesson to each of my children. I love them enough to include character-building into each and every lesson. I love them enough to allow each of my children to struggle in the ways that strengthen them. I love them enough to let them know when they have not done their best and to encourage them to do it for the sake of having done it. I love them enough to not sweat the small stuff. I love them enough to let them "disappoint me". I love them enough to know when they need time away, time back to lessons, time to follow their own bliss. I love them enough to let them know that their abilities and strengths are not diminished by those things that are difficult for them.

I truly enjoy being with them. I enjoy seeing their comradeship with one another. I enjoy seeing them handle their own conflicts with respect. I enjoy seeing them support and encourage each other through difficult times, performances, moody days, boredom, busy days, day in, and day out. I enjoy seeing them take the leap to understand things that are "above their level". I enjoy seeing them as they struggle with those things that are "below their level" and still know that they are trying their hardest. I enjoy seeing them instigate a field of study for the day through their own interests and zeal for learning. I enjoy being there when one of them says or does something so very wonderful that even /they/ are aware of the significance of that moment.

A child's thirst for knowledge is so very unique to that child. As a homeschooling mother, I am uniquely aware of those interests and I enjoy showing them just how very 'NOW' and 'today' and RELEVANT learning is and can be for them.

I know when internal pressure, frustration, energy, and other factors have just gotten in the way of their learning. I can see it immediately and I can and do point it out and help my kids to find their way back to focus on the work.

And, you know, as I've been writing, it has occurred to me that the single best thing that I bring to the table is my own enthusiasm for learning. I have many varied interests and experiences that make me an admirable teacher! I enjoy learning and I have taken the time to follow my own bliss. I think that THIS is what makes me a wonderful teacher to my own children!