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. :)

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