Friday, June 20, 2008

Homeschoolers Tell All

Tammy, over at Just Enough, and Nothing More is gathering stories of how homeschoolers all over the world educate their children.

I feel compelled to take part in the project, especially after my post earlier today about that homeschooler who wrote the article that makes us all sound like clones of each other. We're a diverse bunch, let us trumpet this news out loud. The sooner the population at large realizes that we are not all religious fundamentalists or survivalists from Montana, the better.

Tammy suggests that to help show our diversity, we answer the following questions from Alasandra.

Here are my answers.

Why do you homeschool?
This is such a difficult question to answer. My reasons are myriad and depending on the day, different ones may be more important. I'll give it a bash, but remember, what I say today will be slightly different from what I say tomorrow.

  • Educational excellence is probably the overarching reason we homeschool. We want an education that is rigorous and that is taught hierarchically. We could probably get the education we want for our children at one of the local prep schools, but to me, the cost is far too high. Those children live in a pressure cooker environment with values that often are at odds to those of our family. I don't want Ben and Shira to have longer "work" days than their father. I want them to have a slow, gentle childhood. When you homeschool, you can give them the rigorous academic education and a slow gentle childhood at the same time.

  • We're of the opinion that government schools are unconstitutional and as such will never use them

  • I enjoy teaching my children.

  • I love spending time with my children and watching how they change from day to day.

  • Ben and Shira find people extremely tiring. They love them in small doses, but find it exhausting to be around them all day long. I understand this as I am the same. If I can homeschool them and save them a dozen years of having to be surrounded by people all day long, I will.

  • By homeschooling Ben and Shira, I can work at their speed. We don't waste time on crowd control, so all our teaching time doesn't take 6 or 7 hours a day.

  • We have flexibility in so many areas of our lives because of homeschooling. We can change curricula as needed if they aren't working. We can vacation while the other children are in school. We can drive up to DC to visit their grandparents in the middle of the week when traffic is lighter than on the weekends.

  • I don't have to worry about Ben and Shira getting safe food because I make it all myself. No worries about school cafetarias.

What technique or curriculum do you use? Do your kids work above or below grade level (or both!)?
This is a very difficult question to answer. I'd probably have to classify myself as an eclectic homeschooler. We use curricula but I cherry pick ones that work for us.
I don't choose curricula based on grade level. I choose it based on whether I think my children will enjoy it and be slightly challenged by it. I find they become bored very easily and need to be challenged. My memories of school induced boredom are still very vivid and I don't want my children to ever have to experience it.
  • We use Prof B for math. The kids are probably 2 grades ahead of grade level right now (we're working in the 3rd to 5th grade CD and B&S have just theoretically finished 1st grade). I've been holding Ben back so that he and Shira can work at the same speed. This coming year I am going to let Ben work at his own speed because I feel that Shira is now confident in her math abilities. It's such a difficult balancing act, she's well ahead of grade level and he is even stronger in the subject than she is. They both have delicate egos and for a while Shira was insisting that math was "too hard" because Ben was grasping subjects faster than she was. She now realizes that she's good at the subject and that it doesn't matter how she compares to her twin brother. Now the trick is going to be to help Ben come to terms with the fact that Shira is a much better pianist than he is. Oh, the joys of raising competitive twins.

  • For Language Arts we are using Michael Clay Thompson's books from Royal Fireworks Press. The books are supposedly for gifted 3rd and 4th graders. We're also using the third book in Jessie Wise's First Language Lessons.

  • We're doing ancient history with Scott Powell of History at Our House. I'm very excited to be doing his program this year. He's a very gifted and engaging teacher who will do a far better job of teaching history than I ever will. Ben loves anything that allows him to communicate via Skype. We'll call in for the live lecture every day at 1pm. Ben can't wait.

  • Latin will be covered by Latin for Children. This is our first exposure to the program, so I can't comment on how well the kids are doing with it yet.

  • Championship Chess takes care of teaching the kids (and me) chess.

  • We'll build the foundations of scientific understanding together with Dr Bernard Nebel.

  • Let's not forget lots and lots of books for reading pleasure

What is your educational level? Do you feel this has an effect on your teaching (both limits and abilities)?
I have a bachelor's degree and Marc is an MD. All my beliefs about education and the knowledge that I use to teach my kids comes from the past 2 decades of living and reading. They have little to nothing to do with my college education.

What does your daily schedule look like?
We like to start school by 7am at the latest and like to be done by 11am-12pm. We take lots of activity breaks. I find that the children need a fair bit of physical activity interspersed with seat learning. We'll do one seat activity, then we'll do something that requires movement. I try to include movement with as much of our learning as possible. When we learn parts of speech, they like it if I assign actions to the different parts of speech. I'll then call out a word, they'll tell me what part of speech it is while doing the assigned action. We like to learn poetry while swinging or walking. We work on word roots while cycling or doing jumping jacks. I'm sure you get the idea.

Our goal is to keep the afternoons free for extramurals and socializing.

Are your kids always polite and ready to learn? (*snicker*) Do the kids (or you!) get frustrated?
LOL, of course they are not always polite and ready to learn. However, I am getting better at understanding the triggers that cause them to get squirrelly and I try to control for those triggers. My kids need to keep to a whole food diet, Shira needs to stay off soy, they need lots of sleep and exercise and I need to back off when I see them becoming frustrated.

I become very frustrated when Ben becomes even more fidgety than normal, or when he just refuses to shut up. He will stop talking to me and will instead start narrating every single thing that he is doing. It drives me batty.

Shira frustrates me when she shuts down when she hits roadblocks. This last year of homeschooling has been a very enlightening year for me. I never used to have patience with people who shut down like she does, but she's my daughter and I want her to succeed, so I've had to learn how to circumvent her lockdowns. It's been a challenge, but I'm slowly making headway.

How has this affected your parenting?
Homeschooling has made my parenting calmer and more nurturing because being with them every day, all day has allowed me to see how my actions impact their behavior. I'm convinced that there are no unruly kids, just parents who aren't parenting their kids the right way. If I'm stressed, the kids are stressed. If I'm happy, they are happy. They are little mirrors of my emotions. I never, ever, thought I would have the amount of patience I now exhibit with my kids. I still don't have any patience with anyone else, it's all used up by my children.

How much free time do they have? What do they do during their free time? What hobbies do they have?
They had too little free time last year. We're fixing it this coming year. They will have at least 5-7 hours of free time a day. Ben and Shira play a lot. Their play is incredibly creative. They build sanctuaries, caves, skyscrapers, fairy glens, if you can think about it, they have probably built it. They spend hours a day drawing, painting and sculpting. Shira is also starting to do a lot of embroidering. Right now their bikes feature prominently in their lives, as does the pool and their cameras. They love to talk walks and photograph what they see.

What difficulties and challenges do you have with homeschooling? What makes homeschooling enjoyable?
I can't say that I have come across anything difficult or challenging about homeschooling. It's such a pleasure to spend my days with my children and share in their exuberant quest for knowledge.

How do you get involved in the community? When do you have opportunities to interact with public or privately schooled children? Would you like more of these opportunties? How can they be created?
We interact almost exclusively with the homeschooled community. It's just a matter of practicality. Homeschooled kids have time to play whereas institutionally schooled kids don't.

What is your least favorite homeschool stereotype?
The large family, right wing, religious family with the subservient wife and socially maladapted children who never interact with the real world. Let's also not forget the assumption that the HSLDA speaks for all homeschoolers.


Alasandra said...

Thank you for the link.

I enjoyed reading your answers. Homeschooling twins must be such a challenge. Then again having twins period must be a challenge. Sounds like an enjoyable one and one you have under control.

Michele said...

The Why Homeschool question could be a post by itself at least, right? That's why I made it a category on my blog. Food concerns, like you mentioned, were the last straw in my decision.

Despite what I said about curriculum in my blog response to this survey, I'll be checking out your links. I have yet to completely deschool myself and still think maybe we need more structure in our lives. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Our Home Schooler and Jen said...

very interesting post off to that link and i may do this too


Our Home Schooler and Jen said...

you can find mine here

Leah said...

I followed your example, Chez, and posted my answers to my blog too: