Saturday, September 08, 2007

Homeschooling 101

The first shipment of schoolbooks for the 2007-08 school year

Several of my blogging friends have expressed interest in homeschooling as practiced here in the U.S. This is much too broad a topic to be addressed in a humble blog entry, but I will try to explain as best I can.

Every homeschooler has their own personal reasons for homeschooling. Some are dissatisfied with the government schools in their area, others do so for religious reasons, while others like the freedom enjoyed in scheduling your own day and learning what you want to learn when you want to learn it, etc. Homeschoolers come from all economic strata, all religious backgrounds, all educational levels, and cannot be pigeonholed as a certain "type".

What originally attracted me was the opportunity to adapt schooling to the ability of each child, particularly in the early grades when learning to read is so important. Not all children are ready to read in kindergarten, 1st grade, or even 2nd or 3rd. Trapping an unready child in a classroom where other children are successful sets up the unready child for failure in school and emotional turmoil. My first child finally learned to read at 7, the second at 5, the third at 6 . . . I have close friends whose children were not reading until age 10.

We also enjoy the freedom to take vacations during off-peak times, or visiting grandparents whenever they are available (my parents were snowbirds, spending the winter months in Arizona), tweaking the school schedule by doing school three or four weeks, then taking a week off, schooling through the summer - whatever fit our family at the time. This was especially nice when my children were young and I was adding another child every three years. :) We had freedom to use a wide variety of curriculum materials, trying out different styles of learning.

Soon after beginning to homeschool, I found it to be a wonderful opportunity to give our children a Christian education. Early on I learned that catechism is an excellent tool for teaching our faith in God, often as a jumping off point for other questions and discussions long after class. Anything that fosters discussion with kids is a good thing! Before homeschooling, I thought that only Roman Catholics used catechism, my own religious education being quite limited. So when I found a Protestant one in a curriculum we were using, I decided to try it out and quickly became an advocate.

Overall I liken homeschooling to a gardener who builds a cold frame to start seedlings in, nurturing them until they are ready to be planted out into the garden. At home I can tailor the curriculum to my child, away from excessive peer pressure, preparing them to further their studies in the public arena at the appropriate time.


O.k. it all sounds really good. How does it play out in real life?

For me, every year is different; family dynamics change as children are added or subtracted from the equation, or circumstances change - like having twins! We have used a lot of different methods of schooling, and have come back to a more traditional approach with textbooks and workbooks. The last few years we have actually installed a satellite dish and record classes that have been produced specifically for homeschoolers by the publisher of the curriculum. The day-to-day teaching is done for me, and I am administrator and collector of papers to be graded.

There are those who "unschool" and the kids are free to learn and explore wherever their interests and strengths take them. Unschooling takes many forms and is a very interesting concept to explore. Personally, I'm too lazy and my kids would probably play computer games all day. Unit studies are very popular, integrating several subjects in the curriculum into one topical study. Co-operatives have sprung up everywhere. Parents come together to teach different skills, subjects, activities sometimes once a week, or several times a week. Do a google search on homeschool and you will quickly become overwhelmed and confused with all the information available.

While I am a proponent of homeschooling, I will be the first to say that not everyone should do it, sometimes not even me. :) If you want to see just how bad a mother you can be - homeschool. Spending almost 24/7 with your kids and being everything to them can send the sanest mother into a padded room - and the kids in another one. Putting a positive spin on the same situation, homeschooling gives you the opportunity to become a better person, mother, and student. Housekeeping may, no, will suffer. It's very difficult to keep an organized home and the clutter contained with all the books, papers, projects, plus the normal clutter that every household with children gathers.

I've been in the adventure of homeschooling for over 20 years now and to be honest, I'm really ready to retire. In trying to teach my kids, I've learned that teaching is not my gift, mothering is, and I'd really like to be just Mom. I want to stitch and sew and garden without the nagging guilt that I should be correcting papers or a hundred other things I should be doing. But I've put my hand to the plow and am determined to see it through. Next year my twins will be 9th graders and they're wanting to go to public h.s. with Brendan - then I'll be down to one child to homeschool. WOW! What a concept! I think I can hang on, God helping me. God's grace has seen all of us through to this point and I know He won't let me down now. :)


Rachael said...

I have always thought you were very brave and admired you for homeschooling. I tutor Emglish for teens and teach English to small children, and know that I would have a difficult time keeping up with an entire curriculum. Do you think Kirsten is going to want to go to public HS ?

Vonna said...

What a very heartfelt wonderful post Von. I've talked to many homeschoolers here in my community. Our church has a really large group of women that homeschool their children and they get together for unit lessons and catechism (We're Roman Catholics as a matter of fact!) Anyway, I thought about it really seriously and I know myself, and I know that I could not see it through and I'm like you, if I start it I would finish it. I do "homeschool" (I say this lightly and laughingly) all summer long, so that my kids if they struggled in an area we can pull them up perhaps or if they did good in everything we focus on what their love subject is. Just doing it for a couple of hours a day in the summer for the last 4 years, I've come to see that in no way could I do it and be true to my husband, kids AND also to myself :)
You wrote it eloquently and I think a whole lot of you for undertaking such a wonderful thing with your family! Now is there retirement benefits? LOL!

Lavender Rose said...

Von, You have my utmost respect. I could never have done what you have and are still doing. It takes more that I have in me, I can tell you!! My hat's off to you, Von.
Love and hugs,

Sharon said...

I think it's wonderful that you are able to homeschool your children. I have thought about it, but though I love my kids-I know that I can't. We have had many other little trials and tribulations over time and I am sure we will have more. I just know that I could not give them what they need. I admire you as I thinking teaching is a very hard job. This was such a neat post-thanks for sharing.

Barbara said...

Bravo, Von! A wonderful - and realistic - summary of homeschooling. I've always been a huge proponent of responsible homeschooling and I think it's a remarkable opportunity for parent and child.

Shelleen said...

You are brave to homeschool. I love my children but one son and I would never had made it together if we were around each other 24/7. He did want me to homeschool him for a couple of years but we would have killed each other LOL. I give you a lot of credit.

Mia said...

I loved your post, Von. You are a brave and courageous woman to be doing this. Homeschooling is not easy by any means. I could never do it. I would probably be in jail by now. LOL But I do make sure that I am very involved in my children's schools. That is enough for all of us. :)

Connie said...

What a great overview of Homeschooling Von!!!

Wendy said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this, Von! No one where we live home schools and its really quite unheard of here, but it certainly sounds like a perfectly reasonable choice in certain circumstances. My hat is off to you!

monique said...

Great post! We tend to be more of the "unschoolers" type over here, but we like workbooks, too :)

I love your schoolroom pic from your last post! We do have a special spot for school books, but no planned study spot... just wherever we wind up LOL

Coral said...

Hi Von, why don't you give the marking to the kids to do? You take the eldest one, and then the eldest takes the next kids', etc, etc, and the marking could be done post haste!

Just an idea, it would work for tests, but not for essays.

Barbeeque4 said...

Excellent breakdown of homeschooling!!!! My hats off to you and yours!!!

Michelle said...

Excellent post. I appreciate all of the information you've presented here - wonderful! Thank you!

Lili said...

Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions. I'm better informed now. I think this solution would have been perfect for my son who is... peculiar. Well, gifted but dyspraxic. Even now, we have to adapt the teachers' lessons and give him the intellectual reasoning and cut the handling approach. Now, let's face it: I think I couldn't have dealt with this on my own: too much implication for me... and not enough nerves... But how I wish I could keep them at home and not have to go to school four times a day and collect my kids... (social phobia).

Take care, Von!


June said...

Von, thanks for this post on homeschooling. It is so insightful for I don't know what homeschool entails. Neither do I know of anyone else who homeschool their children, at least here in Malaysia. I marvel you for having the drive and energy in doing this and how you divide your time being a wife, mother (grandma too) and teacher, and still find the time to stitch and cook. My hats off to you.