Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What Homeschooling Means to Us...

Karen at Leaping From The Box is playing along with this awesome homeschooling meme so I thought I'd join in too.

Why do you homeschool?

Honestly? Because if I didn't, I'd already be in jail for assault. I don't do well with rules(especially those I see as stupid). Having my kids home is natural, unlike families who only see each other an hour a day or less. The school-dictated schedule might be the societal norm but it is definitely not "natural". We enjoy being free to do what we want, when we want.

What technique or curriculum do you use?

We are life-based learners. This means that if Ryan wants to spend all week looking up catfish bait recipes, or the best weather conditions for catching crappie, or view instructional videos for guitar on youtube all day long, he can. The fishing stuff alone would cover earth science, zoology, chemistry, reading, and probably many other "subjects". This is how real life works, it rarely resembles a classroom setting so there is no need to duplicate that at home.

(several years ago at park day)

Do your kids work above or below grade level (or both!)?

I'm not sure, probably both! I know Amy isn't up to speed in math but she can read and reason very well. She understands a lot about genetics and breeding, from her love of studying dog, cat, guinea pig, and cattle breeds. The math will come to her when she needs it so I'm not worried. This question reminds me of "way back when". Ryan was learning his letters at a young age(maybe 3.5 or so) and Mark's dad made a comment about him not knowing the alphabet song. What? Who cares? He knows his letters because they are letters, not from a song! Anyway, now Ryan can read whatever he wants to but his spelling isn't the greatest. Having read some things his myspace peers have written(both the girls and guys), he is right on par with them. Maybe it is just the way things are done online with that age group.

What is your educational level?

Lets just say I quit while I was ahead. I had no idea what I wanted to do but majored in a subject that was interesting at the time(Native American Studies). It got real political and I ended up coming home, getting married and never really getting focused on college again. Mark has a BBA in Marketing.

Do you feel that your education level has an effect on your teaching (both limits and abilities?)

None at all. I am perfectly capable of learning and providing an atmosphere in which my children can learn.

(Amy and Basil)

What does your daily schedule look like?

Our schedule varies widely. Once a week we have to be at Park Day at 9am and sometimes I have to leave the kids at home while I run errands. We have major clean-up days and goofing off days, artsy days and movie-watching days. Days we are extremely busy and days we can't seem to get going.

(37 kids came to our group's field trip to Longview Museum of Fine Arts)

Are your kids always polite and ready to learn?

If my kids are rude it is always unintentional, they never want to hurt anyone's feelings. They are always learning, but not always at a fast pace or a tangible subject.

(Ryan's Summer 2007 Pool Party)

Do the kids (or you!) get frustrated?

I think Ryan is frustrated that he can't have everyone come to our house 24/7. He is very social where Amy and I are not. We enjoy a slower, quieter day. It is hard to work out an agreement on this, one that he doesn't try to alter at least twice a week.

I get frustrated with how they do chores occasionally. Ryan cuts corners with some things. Mostly I am NOT frustrated with their performance but now and then it gets on my nerves.

(homeschool group halloween party, 2006)

How has this affected your parenting?

I don't think it has, if this question is referring to the previous question. If it refers to how homeschooling has affected my parenting, I'll say that it has made it Infinitely Easier! I don't have to defend "our way" to my kids when they come up with what "everyone else" is doing(well, not very often anyway). They are not ruled by a crowd of kids, they can make decisions based on how they feel, not to go along with the group.

(Sarah and Buddy)

How much free time do they have?

All day long most days. They(we) have chores that have to be done every day since we have so many animals. The girls feed and water the cats and guinea pigs every day, and change piggie bedding as often as twice a week in each of two cages(this is hard work). Ryan feeds and waters the dogs once a day, loads and unloads the dishwasher daily and mows the lawn less than once a week. The girls gather dishes and put them in the sink so Ryan doesn't have to search for them. They all help with laundry(gathering, folding sometimes, and putting away) and even do their own loads occasionally.

(kids with Buttercup)

What do they do during their free time?

The girls play games with the dogs, draw in notebooks or on the computer, jump on the trampoline, mess with craft stuff, read, watch television, listen to music, play in the water hose(our pool is being repaired), study things online, email their friends, take pictures, play with the guinea pigs or cats... and lots of other things.

Ryan pretty much stays online, either on myspace or looking up fishing stuff or guitar things(how to play and videos of his favorite rock bands mainly). He also plays with the girls outside and spends lots of time messing with his fishing equipment or on the phone with his friends. He sometimes fishes at a stock pond in a pasture near our house but not by himself. His friends are usually here, we don't go too many nights without having an extra boy or two staying with us.

What hobbies do they have?

I hope I've explained them in the previous question! I realize that free time is viewed very differently by public schooled kids. In our case, Hobbies = interests. We don't look at the things we enjoy as hobbies, but as a part of how we express ourselves, grow, learn, and relax.

(Ryan and Friends)

What difficulties and challenges do you have with homeschooling?

In east Texas it is hard to find homeschoolers who are not doing it for religious reasons. This isn't a bad thing, it just means that there are usually major differences in general homeschooling philosophy. Mostly, religious homeschoolers are also "school-at-homers" and use a curriculum and schedule. There are very few unschoolers around and most of "them" tend to be very different from "us". We are a mainstream family, we shop at Walmart, watch SpongeBob, and other typical things. We aren't trying to live off the grid or be ultra-greenies or politically correct.

What makes homeschooling enjoyable?

Being with my kids all day. Knowing they aren't in the false rat race of school. Watching them learning and ejoying what they are doing, and that its for them, what THEY want to do.

How do you get involved in the community?

We typically don't. No offense, but we kind of enjoy being apart from the crowds. We occasionally donate supplies to the local animal shelter and we donate to food pantries and that sort of thing.

When do you have opportunities to interact with public or privately schooled children?

About half of their friends are public schooled kids. Ryan attends church where he is the only homeschooled kid in the large youth group. He's also one of the most popular among them. Amy is content to have some long-distance homeschooled friends and one close friend who goes to public school(her mom is a friend of mine and a high school Spanish teacher). Sarah is also friends with this girl and has some friends who attend our homeschool group's park day.

(kids with Amy and Sarah's friends)

Would you like more of these opportunities?

No thank you. I'm an introvert and the going we do is plenty for me. Amy is the same way. Ryan, as I wrote earlier, would rather have a pool/guitar/fishing party going on at all times. The wilder the better as far as he is concerned. Sarah is in the middle, she's social but not stupid and enjoys her downtime.

How can they be created?

This implies that socializing with non-homeschooled kids is desirable(it is neutral in my opinion). Or that it is somehow not easily obtained, which is the case during "school hours" but definitely workable in summers and after school, or on weekends.

What is your least favorite homeschool stereotype?

That we go around winning spelling bees and reciting geographical facts.

Or, on a more serious note, that homeschool families are hiding some sort of abuse of their children. Abuse happens to kids no matter what their educational status is. Yes, it is possibly easier for parents to get away with it if the kids aren't in the public eye every day. It also happens that tens of thousands of kids go through public school being beaten or starved or whatever, and never get "rescued".

A funny stereotype story:

I run a group of about 60 homeschooling moms but I can assure you, even though most of them are conservative Christians, few, if any, of them approach the Duggars as far as stereotypical appearances. You would not know we were homeschoolers by looking at us. We appear to be a typical moms' group with a mix of fashion-forwardness and regular, comfy, mom attire.

Several weeks ago we were at our regular homeschool park day. We watched a young "mom" in a denim jumper with long hair leading a group of several kids down to the play area. All the girls had on long skirts with long hair, all the boys were nicely dressed as well. We just "knew" this was a homeschooling family(perhaps the "mom" was actually an older sister because she looked kind of young to have that many kids). Finally, I got up to ask if she was a homeschooler and it turns out she's a teacher at one of the local Christian schools. She baby-sits some of her students during the summers at her home(she still lives with her parents and *was* too young to have all those kids for her own) and does lots of fun activities with them. We all got a big chuckle over how we stereotyped this poor girl!


Anet said...

Oh, I wish we lived close by. We would make the prefect unschooler pals! It all about trusting yourself and your kids. Giving them the supplies and opportunities and getting the heck out of their way! That's how I've pretty much done it. It must work, I have two in college, oh... that sounds weird to me. OK breathe... Thank God I still have Noah!:)
Sound like your children are very lucky to have parents like you and Mark!

Chickenbells said...

My mother has been homeschooling my 11 year old niece since day one (well, after an awful half semester stint in Kindergarten) and they're doing great! Homeschoolers are more mature and able to entertain themselves quite well, as well as seem to be comfortable around any age group...I hate the stereotype that they're not "socialized" I mean, let's face it...most of us would not have hung out with a lot of the kids from school if we hadn't been forced to..and I think it is wonderful to actually spend time together since this is the only family you got...

And my spelling isn't that great, and I went to a very good private school...I mean, that's why there's spell check right??

Kris said...

i live just west of houston. i am also a homeschool mom with 2 boys. i do not 'unschool' but it sounds interesting. i have more of a schedule. i am trying to get less uptight about that schedule as the yrs go by (i will be starting my 4th yr next fall)

i look forward to checking in again.


Susan @ Blackberry Creek said...

I homeschooled my grandson for two years. Our main reason for doing this was to catch him up--he had falled behind a grade. He is dyslexic and the schools refuse to really give dyslexic kids any help, at least here they do. I worked on a more-or-less traditional schedule with board of ed approved curriculum because we knew we'd have to put him back in public school at some point. He did really well in homeschool and caught up. Then I came down with fibromyalgia and he had to go back to school, where he fell behind again. He spent his last year in a private, church-based school, where he did much better. But I wish I could have homeschooled him all 12 years. I am a true believe in homeschool if parents are grandparents are able to do it.

Susan @ Blackberry Creek said...

P.S. Did I really says "he had FALLED behind?" Guess you're wondering about my teaching capabilities.