Monday, April 4, 2011

Homeschooling Series Comes to an End

I've now posted all the interviews I have from my homeschooling project. Soon, I'll start talking about my own feelings towards homeschooling and what I have learned from these amazing women. In the meantime, any of my readers who are not homeschoolers (or not yet, if you're like me and have young babies), what have you learned? What stands out? Have you changed your view on homeschooling? As always, be respectful of varied opinions, please. :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Amy

Amy is a fabulous woman and mother of two.

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

Ages 4.5 and 10 months.

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

As a believer in life long learning I suppose I could say we've been unschooling since my daughter's birth in 2006. It's just in the past year that we've started to look closer into curriculum and began to formulate some idea of how we'll be sure our children have well rounded educations.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

A combination of factors motivated us to choose homeschooling.

In college I majored in early elementary education. I learned several eye opening things. It turns out teachers are just regular people, not super geniuses. Anyone can be a teacher! My fellow classmates included all kinds of people, and to be honest the majority of them were not someone I would trust to babysit my children, let alone educate them. I also got a good look of how schools work behind the scenes. Yes, there are caring and dedicated teachers. However, the majority of them seemed so frustrated and burned out once the students weren't looking. I began to question whether this was a career I wanted for myself. It seemed like teachers were constantly running into walls. Not enough one-on-one attention to go around, pressure to be sure their students performed well on standardized testing yearly, the same test performance expectations with less funding and larger class sizes, difficulties getting students to sit still for long enough, and on top of everything else they get to answer to disgruntled parents. Not only did it seem like a frustrating career, it also began to seem like a situation I wouldn't want to put my children into.

When I found myself pregnant a few months later I knew that I didn't want to trust institutionalized schooling with my child's education. Seeing how mainstream schools work was a pretty convincing case for homeschooling. Aside from the behind the scenes glimpse, I remember how much time I wasted in school as a kid. I was always reading books under the table. The classes were way below my learning level most of the time. I was bored out of my mind. I know I can give my children so much better than that, and most importantly I can give them freedom to learn what interests them rather than being bogged down by everything involved in mainstream school. In school classrooms it works one of two ways: Either the teacher moves at the pace of the slowest student, or the teacher leaves the slowest student behind. Neither option seems very good, whether my child is the brightest or the slowest.

Someone once told me that no one cares about your child's education more than you do. Whenever I feel a bit of self doubt in our ability to homeschool I always remind myself of that.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

We are very open minded when it comes to learning methods. I guess that makes us eclectic homeschoolers! We take a little from every type of schooling, use what works, and leave behind what doesn't. I think each child is unique. My 4 year old loves worksheets and being "taught" different things. My 10 month old is already clearly the type who likes to forge ahead on her own. One thing I love about homeschooling is the freedom to choose a different method for each child based on their learning style.

I particularly like the ideas behind unschooling, especially for younger children. I've also read all of Maria Montessori's books. I'm currently working on slogging through Charlotte Mason's works, but finding them a little too difficult to read with a busy non-sleeping baby. We have a Charlotte Mason based science book that we absolutely love, which has encouraged me to look more into Charlotte Mason schooling.

In addition to learning at home, I plan to supplement as much as I can with classes and activities. At high school age homeschoolers in our area can take entry level classes in subjects like chemistry and English if they are interested. Right now we attend a homeschool co-op where my four year old has taken art class and music class so far. The co-op also puts on a play every year. They offer classes in a wide range of subjects including algebra, electronics, anatomy, and philosophy.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

We intend to homeschool until high school graduation, unless our children choose differently. If they choose to try public high school then we won't stop them, but I doubt that will happen!

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

Where in the real world do you find a concentrated number of people who are all exact same age forced by law to spend day after day in a few rooms with the same people for twelve years? Where in the real world do you have to beg permission before you use the bathroom, get a drink, or leave the building to step outside? I don't see how an institution can prepare children for the "real" world. Homeschoolers live everyday out in the real world!

I think socialization issues are caused by forcing children to be grouped together by age and locked in a building. They turn on each other. Look at the increase in school violence and bullying. Think back to your own middle school experience! My children will be well socialized out in the real world dealing with all different types of people as they go through their daily lives. They will be able to learn manners, and see how to treat people with respect rather than pick at their peers all day long.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

My biggest worry? Maybe that I will not be able to do it all. It's proving difficult to balance my different roles as a wife, photographer, mother, maid, and teacher. (Though I like to think of myself as an education facilitator rather than "teacher" since I simply provide learning opportunities for my children to explore, rather than forcing them to memorize facts.) I lay awake at night sometimes and worry about how I will be able to organize a full, well rounded education for my children while still making sure we have clean underwear and healthy food. It's a big responsibility to be a stay at home mom and homeschool your children!

8. Briefly, what are your state's guidelines for homeschooling families? (If you feel comfortable saying it, feel free to indicate what state you're in)

I live in Kentucky. We're lucky here, our guidelines are very simple. At the beginning of the school year you must send a letter of intent to homeschool to the department of education in your county stating the name and residence of all of the students in attendance at your homeschool. And...that's it! So simple. The guidelines also state that we should keep a record of attendance in case of inquiry, and to teach students subjects that will help them become intelligent citizens. I think I can handle that. :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Johanna

Johanna is one of the wittiest and smartest women I've encountered in a very long time. She's the mother of 5 children and is new to homeschooling as of this year.

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

8, 6, 4, 2, 10 months.

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

We are homeschooling effective April vacation 2011. :-)

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

We have chosen to educate our children at home after a lot of prayer, discernment and research. We are in the unique position of having our oldest two children in what I truly believe is one of the nicest small town public school settings one could imagine, but my children are not flourishing the way I thought they would in this environment. While I love their teachers, I am deeply disappointed in the curriculum being used to educate them. I want more for my children than spending the time-- when they need most of all to learn to how to learn, and why to learn-- in an environment where the classes simply are not advanced enough intellectually for where my children's development is. Academically, I have no question whatsoever that my children will learn more at home with a well planned curriculum than they would in even very strong public school gifted and talented programs.

Beyond that, I want them to have more time with each other, more time with their friends whom are also being homeschooled, and more time to enjoy childhood. I want for my children the knowledge, not just the facts written in a textbook, that the woods sound different at 8am than they do at 3pm. I want them to be able to build a Vesuvius out of papier-mâché and build a miniature Pompeii waiting to be destroyed, to have a jar on top of the piano filled with questions to be answered, to look into microscopes to see whose toothbrush has the most germs, and to not be beholden to someone else's schedule overriding a teachable moment. That's what I hope to offer them, and I anticipate that it will be not only a serious responsibility but also a joy.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

We will be using a hybrid of the Well Trained Mind texts, Mother of Divine Grace's curriculum (modified and augmented), Minimus for Latin starting in 3rd grade, and a secular science program. In addition to this, we will be participating in a co-op of other Catholic homeschooling families where other parents include former nuclear engineers as well as certified teachers who have chosen home education for their children.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

This is a decision that we will choose to make on a yearly basis. I don't believe that there is one best way of education, not for all children, and not even for all children in the same family. We are open to what works best at any given time.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

I would ask what aspect of the "real world" one suggests is missing from a well designed homeschooling environment, and whether "real school" even simply in the abstract is actually conducive towards preparation for the "real world." This is one of the key things about homeschooling that many people miss: homeschooling is what you make of it.

There are bad ways to homeschool, absolutely. But there are excellent ones. If my kids are learning to grow food, to care for animals, to volunteer at soup kitchens... how are they disadvantaged with regards to the "real world" compared to children educated in a more conventional environment? I can't see how that would be the case. The world is an awfully big place, and no setting is going to prepare a child to see all of it. I would simply rather have those choices be mine to make, not being bound by the choices belonging to an administrator I have never met who may not share my values when it comes to how I want to raise my child, and the "real world" I want my children to see and be ready to embrace and change.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

Honestly? Burn out. I'm naturally introverted and I do worry that I am going to burn out unless I can carve out time specifically to have quiet.

8. Briefly, what are your state's guidelines for homeschooling families? (If you feel comfortable saying it, feel free to indicate what state you're in)

I file a letter of intention to homeschool with my district, followed by an individual home education plan, quarterly report cards and end of year reports. Starting in 4th grade we do standardized testing.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts regarding homeschooling, Aimee!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

YOP #11 - Dorky cats

We have four of them. These cats are complete dorks. It's so funny to watch full grown adult cats act like kittens. My oldest is 9, almost 10, and he still tears through the house like mad and plays with invisible toys.

The youngest is 2, and she is very much still in the asshole adolescent stage. She's the one we have to watch out for, as she's the one who's responsible for the scratches Cecilia has. I am hoping that the two of them will learn sooner rather than later how to play near each other without pain (and spray bottles) being involved.



Cecilia and Kitten, the one cat who actually likes her



Catpile! From left to right, that's Luna, Kitten and Lucy



Rowan doesn't show up in many photos. Black cats are hard to photograph!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Christine

Christine is the mama of two, and has recently begun to homeschool her older daughter.

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

I have two girls, one's 9 years old, one's 9 months old.

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

I've only been homeschooling for a little over 3 months.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

I chose to homeschool because of the possibilities it provides. My daughter can do a research paper at any time on any subject she fancies. We can do huge messy art projects, visit museums, etc. We can learn conversions of units or division of fractions while working with recipes, making lessons more tangible than words on a page. If there's a random subject my daughter wants to learn about it, we can jump in with both feet and focus on it for a while.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

We have a few books full of worksheets that provide a complete curriculum for her "grade". We work from these to make sure we're covering everything we need to cover, but they are not the only resource we use, and we expand upon the lessons within.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

I can't say for sure. It will depend on a lot of factors, and be based largely on what's available at the time and what she wants to do.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

I point out that homeschooling encompasses the real world moreso than a classroom setting does, and that it's not like we never leave our home! We go to events at the zoo, at local museums, to playgroups, library events, not to mention socializing in places like the park, the grocery store, coffee houses, etc.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

I worry that she might have difficulties getting into college, but the more I look into it, the more I realize that fear is unfounded.

8. Briefly, what are your state's guidelines for homeschooling families? (If you feel comfortable saying it, feel free to indicate what state you're in)

1000 hours of instruction are required during the year. 600 of those hours must focus on reading, writing, math, social studies and/or science. 400 of those hours must take place within the home location.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

YOP #10 - The perfection that is Miss Cecilia Ivy



And really, if I am being honest, she is my pleasure every moment of every day.

I never knew how much my heart could expand to encompass such a being as my daughter. She is light, she is happiness, she is the embodiment of a joyful spirit in motion. She is perfection.




She is an extension of me-- the best parts of me in one small package.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Ann

This week's spotlight is really interesting to me, because Ann is a mama in the UK. I was very curious to hear her responses, and how homeschooling is handled in England!

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

5 years (born in September 05) and 10 months (you know that one! hehe)

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

Since birth really. Though my oldest was 2 when I decided we would home educate.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

We chose to home educate for a variety of reasons. I started thinking about it when most of my sons friends were starting preschool. Most of his friends are a year older than him and in this country they call it 'free for three' - which means, the term after your child turns three, they can go to nursery for free (up to 15 hours a week). I think they are actually changing that - starting at 2 and for more hours. This is to prepare them to school - apparently.

Well Duncan is lucky in that he is born in September so he would be 5 (just) when he started school (Hamish not so lucky - as he would only be four!)...but that is one reason we decided to home ed ...the start age is far TOO young. Which leads to a whole other group of reasons why we choose to home ed...I also did not want to send him to preschool. I saw how they treated children and it just did not fit in with my own parental practices. School would be just the same.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

We are pretty 'autonomous'. In America you call this 'unschooling'. This is because I think children know best what they 'need' to learn. I want learning to always be fun for my children. I believe they are naturally curious - and like most things I do - I let them be child led and am stood by to help nurture them/guide/help them on their path.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

I will home educate them unless they ask to go to school.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

I always get asked this when my son is running off and playing with other children - so I don't get it! I personally think home educated children are more well rounded when it comes to socialisation. At least more 'realistic' and 'practical'?... My son is not stuck in a class with 30 other children the same age as himself (blind leading the blind?) or restricted to a strict time-table that has been made up for them. In a typical day he socialises just fine with many different children AND adults of all ages...just as you or I do! As tempting as it might be...we don't actually lock our children in a loft/basement all day long! hehe

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

I guess my biggest worry is that he won't be able to get a good job?...(as we unschool it all)...but then I think I would be worried about that regardless! So many people are coming out of university these days with a degree and no job for it!

8. Briefly, what are your state's (or in this case, country's) guidelines for homeschooling families?

There are no guidelines here in the UK. Home ed is legal. Anyone can do it. You don't have to tell anyone - you don't have to follow a curriculum and your child does not have to get tested. The only 'rule' is, if your child is ALREADY in school - and you take them out - then you have to inform the LEA (local education authority). This is just so they know (perhaps they also want to know why you took them out - was the school bad, etc...as that would reflect on their reports of the school). They may want to stop by your house and see how you are getting on - but they are in no way in control of the situation and what you choose to do/how you choose to home ed. You don't have to let them in either (they can be a bit like leaches if you do!).

I have to say - I am always amazed to hear the laws in the US regarding home ed because I always thought of America as 'the land of the free' and I get the impression that if I were to live there, I would feel far from 'free' (especially compared to the UK). Of course there was - and probably always will be - some recent stunts of crap flown about (like claims that they need to do more checks on children that are being home educated because it could be used as a cover for abuse - load of crap!) where they try to pass laws that make such things legal requirements ...but they have so far always got knocked down fast and furious.