Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ask not for whom the homeschool bell tolls....


This morning it tolled for our household.

Today was the first day back to formal studies. All summer the kids have learned a great deal through osmosis and observation. Lucas has declared every spider in the yard his best friend and watches them with rapt fascination.

I know unschoolers who don't give the kids an iota of guidance. Some are friends of mine and I just tell them we'll just have to agree to disagree when they say curriculums and guidance are both unnecessary for homeschooling.

We aren't dictatorial; the kids have always been allowed to do their subject by order of personal preference, and to spend as long on what they like with the understanding that covering everything is still a requirement. I've noticed that as they mature and their self-discipline increases, they spend as much time or more on the subjects that challenge them without being told to do so. In that respect, I suppose we do "unschool" a bit.

But curriculum isn't evil, and doesn't constrain kids unless you limit their learning to the book in their hands. There's nothing wrong with learning beyond what you read by exploring elsewhere or seeking verification elsewhere if you doubt what you've been told. Larry's taught the kids that already; when we're watching some on reptiles he'll point out misidentifications when he sees them, and there are plenty.

Homeschooling does require a time committment both at home and in the community. Our homeschool group is very active and meets twice a week - once for history club and enrichment activities and other for general educational activities. Friday is the kids' favorite day. We have homeschooling enrichment in the early afernoon and after picking John up from his autistic program head to either the bookstore, aquarium or movie.

This year, Alex is taking creative writing, Saxon math, biology, typing, history, geography, art and photograhy. Lucas is especially excited because he's now oficially a "student," complete with his own little curriculum. It's Pre-K and kindegarten level stuff, most of which he already knows, but he just beams with pride when he colors shapes or correctly identifies numbers. I purchased a good reading readiness program for him, as he's not quite ready for intensive phonics yet and there's no need to push. I also found a great game I'd recommend for anyone looking to teach number identification and early addition. It's the Thomas Number Game based on Thomas the Tank Engine. There are four train boards with a number at the end of the car. The child fills the empty space in between with numbered pieces that add up to total the end-of-car number. Lucas caught on right away and has been enjoying filling the cars with various combinations of numbers it takes to get the correct total. It really is a brilliant design.

For me, being a homeschooling, working mom has meant telling my news editor that I'll only be available two nights a week to edit copy at the newspaper, and switching my daily freelance writing schedule to late afternoons and evenings and weekends so days will be available for the kids.

It's a bit of a juggling act to homeschool and earn a living, but it can be done. And we wouldn't have it any other way. Educating the kids ourselves isn't some religious calling for us, but an option that works best and is most rewarding for our family. And it's a team effort.

21 comments:

JohnR said...

7th paragraph.

4th sentence.

'purchased' spelled wrong.

That is all.

JohnR

Morgan said...

Posted quickly

Did not proofread

Will correct.

Thank you, John.

Andy Looney said...

johnr...

3rd line.

3rd word.

'wrongly' spelled wrongly.

get a life.

THAT IS ALL.

Morgan said...

Now, now, Andy.

JohnR doesn't lack a life, it just appears that way. He's just such a fan that he tirely devotes himself to perusing each and every post I write, alerting me instantly if they are marred by some imperfection, such as transposed letters. For that I am grateful, and his catching my error was only the second biggest highlight of my day. The biggest was checking in to see you have showed up. It is *good* to see you, if for no other reasons than to tell you that the jokes on your blog made me feel right queasy. They were truly horrific. Well done!

Lord Omar said...

Omar died September 4.

Rose.

Renamed "Lord", by Andy Looney.

THAT is all.

Lord Omar

Morgan said...

Omar rose. I had always
suspected he had
a bit of Jesus in him.

(There's a haiku of a response for you, Canadian savior-boy. Oh, and thanks for gracing my blog again. What took you so long?)

Andy Looney said...

Down to de coast we proninces it "Lard".

JohnR said...

Andy:

3rd line.

3rd word.

didn't use 'wrongly.'

Should have used 'incorrectly'.

Get a grip.

That is all.

JohnR

Doctor Phull said...

Andy

'proninces'

should be 'prinoinces'

thimscool said...

Uhhhh.

Thanks for the tip on the Thomas Number Game, Morg.


My main concern, as I ponder how to school my son in a couple of years, is a variation on the discredited 'socilization' critique of homeschooling...

I accept that an active social schedule can be incorporated, through church, sports, hobbies, clubs, etc. But I wonder about something that, for lack of a better expression, I will call the "Town mouse/country mouse effect".

Now please, don't any homeschoolers get overly defensive about this, and ask me if I really want my son exposed to crack pipes at age 6. Of course not. Please understand that I'm very open to the idea of homeschooling.

But what I'm talking about is the school of hard knocks that goes on between (and sometimes during) class in a public school or private school setting. To put it bluntly, I worry about overly sheltering my son from the world, only to release him to the wolves when he goes to college a long time from now.

Now, if anyone has a plan to deal with that concern it's you, Morgan. You've spoken persuasively about how you want your kids to become independent and strong adults... and JohnR, I'll bet you've put some thought into this one, too. Could you spare some wisdom?

Here's another pass, although it might be superfluous at this point. We make the excuse for our less-than-antisceptic housekeeping, that we want Atticus exposed to plenty of germs, so that his imune system will kick ass. I'm thinking the same effect may apply to memes, as well as germs. Just as long as no permanent injuries are sustained...

Little help?

Morgan said...

Thimscool,

Those are excellent questions, and no, you don't have to worry about my feeling defensive over what you've asked.

Teasing, bullying, crushes, peer pressure, dealing with cliques - these are all rights of passage that come with public schooling.
However, my thinking on this is that just because it's the norm doesn't mean it's healthy or necessary.

Years ago, when I was just a schoolgirl, my parents put me in a private school. It was rather strict, and a lot of what I would have encountered in a public school environment, I didn't encounter at the private school. They worked out asses off there; we didn't have time to make trouble and those who did find time were booted out.

The kids that left this private school left with good study habits and a lot of self-discipline that had been drilled into them. When they entered college, it was as focused adults, not young adults with peer issues as Priority One.
When I started homeschooling, I asked myself the very question you asked me. But I found the answer in my own educational experience. Yes, my private school experience sheltered me, but it didn't deprive me of anything I need.
I was in school to be academically educated, not to learn what clothes I should wear or how to gossip about the kids who had less than I did.

A wide variety of kids enter college, but only the most focused will excel. My thinking is that homeschool kids will have an advantage.

My oldest daughter is an education major. She was a little worried that her professors would take a dim view of her homeschooling past, but they've all told her that homeschooled kids are just what the university want because of the reasons I've described here.
Of course, even though homeschooled kids aren't exposed to an eight-hour daily stint with their peers doesn't mean they're completely sheltered.

We do see snobbery, cliquishness and other negativity in our own group. But since most kids have such a strong home foundation - and because their group includes older kids they can look up to - they're don't feel they have to jump through hoops to fit in.
I don't know if this answers your questions. It's probably discombobulated given that it's late, and I'm tired from staying up to play with my new camera.
I hope this will suffice, but if you need more clarification let me know.

thimscool said...

Hmmm. Well, there are many reasons for education, including preparation for higher education. But also, preparation for life…

I went to a variety of schools, public and private, in Europe and the US. I was sort of a geek/jock, which means that I didn’t fit into any clicks, but I got to learn a lot by observing others (especially my crazy older sis).

I’m sure that the best education depends on the school, the kid, the parents, the community, and the water supply. But I’d say that the thing that mattered most in my case was that my parents regarded each of my schools as the starting point for my education, and my home schooling began when I got off the bus. My mom was constantly creating opportunities for me to learn/create, and my Dad was infinitely patient about learning and teaching me math, science, and civics.

However, I can certainly see that in my sister’s case, she bought into the idea that what she wore and who she hung out with. She rejected my parent’s efforts, and became a college drop out. But fast forward fifteen years, and she makes about as much as I do by cutting hair. True, I have much greater future earning potential, but the reason I’m not rolling in dough is that I had to get the wind knocked out of me by not recognizing some basic facts about people and relationships that are as obvious as breathing to her. And if I were even more sheltered than the cocoon I built around myself, I’d be even more specialized and I would not have the potential to do what I hope to do in the coming years (aka, I’d always work for someone else, rather than being the boss).

I don’t know. My business lets me observe the interactions of all kinds of people, and it seems that some of the most successful and productive folks I know were public school educated, without college degrees. They struggled in their twenties, but they have basic street smarts that enable them to secure their perimeter and work hard to build a real network of trust and power in their thirties. I’m doing the same thing, albeit with a better education, and slower recognition of the most important variables.

My friends from grad school that were private or home schooled have done alright, but they are increasingly specialized, and when the corporate/government wind changes direction they end up flat on their ass for a while. They don’t own anything that wasn’t bought with money already taxed. And they have no realistic shot at what I (or they) would consider true happiness. There is always some asshole boss from a public school education that will make much more than they do off their efforts. But that’s all anecdotal, and I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

I’m just saying that clicks and hairdos may seem like poor preparation for college, but the soft skills learned in the jungle can make a real difference in the real world.

thimscool said...

Hmmm. Well, there are many reasons for education, including preparation for higher education. But also, preparation for life…

I went to a variety of schools, public and private, in Europe and the US. I was sort of a geek/jock, which means that I didn’t fit into any clicks, but I got to learn a lot by observing others (especially my crazy older sis).

I’m sure that the best education depends on the school, the kid, the parents, the community, and the water supply. But I’d say that the thing that mattered most in my case was that my parents regarded each of my schools as the starting point for my education, and my home schooling began when I got off the bus. My mom was constantly creating opportunities for me to learn/create, and my Dad was infinitely patient about learning and teaching me math, science, and civics.

However, I can certainly see that in my sister’s case, she bought into the idea that what she wore and who she hung out with. She rejected my parent’s efforts, and became a college drop out. But fast forward fifteen years, and she makes about as much as I do by cutting hair. True, I have much greater future earning potential, but the reason I’m not rolling in dough is that I had to get the wind knocked out of me by not recognizing some basic facts about people and relationships that are as obvious as breathing to her. And if I were even more sheltered than the cocoon I built around myself, I’d be even more specialized and I would not have the potential to do what I hope to do in the coming years (aka, I’d always work for someone else, rather than being the boss).

I don’t know. My business lets me observe the interactions of all kinds of people, and it seems that some of the most successful and productive folks I know were public school educated, without college degrees. They struggled in their twenties, but they have basic street smarts that enable them to secure their perimeter and work hard to build a real network of trust and power in their thirties. I’m doing the same thing, albeit with a better education, and slower recognition of the most important variables.

My friends from grad school that were private or home schooled have done alright, but they are increasingly specialized, and when the corporate/government wind changes direction they end up flat on their ass for a while. They don’t own anything that wasn’t bought with money already taxed. And they have no realistic shot at what I (or they) would consider true happiness. There is always some asshole boss from a public school education that will make much more than they do off their efforts. But that’s all anecdotal, and I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

I’m just saying that clicks and hairdos may seem like poor preparation for college, but the soft skills learned in the jungle can make a real difference in the real world.

thimscool said...

Feel free to delete the second identical post...

thimscool said...

I guess my public schooling is manifest. My sis cuts hair, at an upscale salon that she owns. I build computer networks and internet presences. She started with a small loan; my EIN is debt free, although my SSN has taken a bit of a beating to make it happen.

thimscool said...

I woke up this morning thinking about what I had written here. There is a big point missing, which is that for every town mouse public schooled kid that grows into a savvy player, there are a lot of damaged adults.

I think the flip side of what I'm saying is that homeschooling, and private schooling are surer ways to avoid some big problems.

Again, I guess it depends on a lot of factors.

Morgan said...

Hey, Luke. Sorry for the delayed response but between homeschooling and continued work on this project - and another I got today -I'm pretty swamped.

I get what you're saying and can tell you right now that I'm not one of those militant homeschoolers who will sit here and tell you that homeschooled kids always turn out better.

I know homeschooled kids whose parents are so overbearing and paranoid of the outside world that their sheltered kids will likely face a very difficult time coping with anyone different than they are. By the same token, I know public school kids whose parents and peer group are guaranteeing them an equally difficult time, in a different way.

What it all comes down to is parental involvement.

An eye to proper socialization is as important as academic work; whether kids are homeschooled or publicly schooled, parents need to be sure they have contact with a positive peer group.

People who complain about social isolation of homeschoolers miss an important point: Go into any public school cafeteria at lunch time and have a good look around. You'll see black kids sitting with black kids, poor kids sitting with poor kids and rich kids setting with rich kids, nerds sitting with nerds, etc.

Just because kids are thrown together in a class for eight hours a day doesn't mean they are going to form relationships; they;ll interact if they have to, but because it's forced, not encouraged.

A large homeschooling group encompasses a lot of different kinds of people, and because homeschoolers usually are independent thinkers, what kind of shoes you wear or wear you live doesn't matter.

We live in the country, in a rather small house. But a week back when Alex hosted her homeschool group book club, the kids were all impressed by the ponies, chickens, geese, etc. No one seemed to care that she didn't have a ton of toys or a two-story house - even the kids who have those things.

I've been thinking a lot about what you were saying about how school gives kids a chance to learn about human nature. But some aspects I think they can better handle as adults, especially given how todays youth have hit the accelarator on sexuality.

So basically, I agree with your last statement which you arrived at - of course - with no help from me.

Private/homeschools do give kids an edge. That's not to say they're always superior. But if you're a dedicated parent they're generally better than the average public school.

thimscool said...

Yeah. The sexuality angle is very disturbing indeed.

A walk around the shopping mall is an eye opening experience these days, as young ladies flaunt what they should not have. Part of it is BGH, I'm convinced...

But really, the problem stems from the power trip they get by provoking slobbering, lecherous old farts to drop their jaws and ignore their families... where is the shame (and yes, I mean for the old farts more than the young exhibitionists)?

And why is everyone in such a hurry to grow up? Adult problems are not fun.

Morgan said...

"And why is everyone in such a hurry to grow up? Adult problems are not fun."

Oh, I tell the kids that all the time. A prematurely abandoned childhood is like a rapidly squandered fortune; once it's gone you'll not regret not hanging on to it as long as you could.
That's why we put a huge premium on play, make-up games and fanciful childhood things. The tooth fairy came last night and left a note in the place of my nine-year-old's tooth, explaining that the tooth would be used as the cornerstone for the future Tooth Fairy Training Academy (there's more than one tooth fairy, you know, and the head one needs a day off from time to time).
The fact that that my daughter delights in a visit from the tooth fairy while being disinterested in hip hop videos and the latest fashions makes me quite proud, really.

Kids today are too savvy, too jaded. And it really pisses me off that society is turning them into mini-adults before they are ready - from the scaled down adult clothing to the early academic pressure. Some schools have even done away with recess and burden second-graders with hours of homework.

Kids need to have fun; that's their job.

As for the scantily dressed mall rats, I've seen them, too. And yes, they do enjoy the attention of older men. This makes me wonder if some of these girls have dads at home or if they're just looking for affirmation from older men.
My brother-in-law's stepdaughter put a profile of herself on MySpace that included a photo of herself in a bikini. The profile said she was 24. She's not 24. She's 12. In the photo, she looked like she was maybe 14 or 14 at the max, but that didn't stop a 43 year old man from sending her naked pictures of himself.

When my brother-in-law found out about the MySpace account, he took the computer out of her room. Her mom lets her have free rein, watch rap vidoos, R-rated movies, etc. He doesn't approve of this and swears she's going to be trouble. I agree.

It's sad, really. Parenting is continually outsourced these days; TV, computers and strangers are raising the kids and turning what should be a slow, beautiful road to adulthood into a race. It makes me heartsick,Luke.

JohnR said...

Morgan: I wonder how much guilt your BILs wife has. She and her ex broke up their home and I would bet she tries to be her daughter's friend and not her mom.

I had some friends who had a difficult marriage(adultery and drug abuse. There now 24-year-old son was an angry, sullen kid. Mom couldn't figure out why. She whines, "I think I'm a cool mom."

I didn't have the heart to tell her that that is the problem. She should have been less cool and more parental.

JohnR

Morgan said...

JohnR, that could be a factor; I don't know. I do know that the problem of parents wanting to be "cool" isn't confined to the divorced. I know quite a few families where there's been no divorce but the same problem of lax parents who want to be their kids' "pals."
You just can't do that.