Veteran Homeschoolers

Hold My Hand

 

We are social beings. While I like my privacy, I don’t like to sleep alone. I don’t like to clean alone, and most of the time, I don’t like learning alone either.

It makes me sad when homeschoolers give their child a stack of workbooks and then leave the room or even the house and expect the student to school herself.

It makes me even sadder when parents are off pursuing their hobbies, and they leave an older child in charge of schooling the younger ones. Your kids deserve more.

Homeschooling is rewarding but also very repetitive and sometimes frustrating work. Homeschooling is a job. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask if we are really up to the task.

Maybe we started out enthused about homeschooling and then lost interest over the years. If that is the case, we have to start looking for a better educational placement for our students. Just because our child is not in a brick and mortar school does not mean they are magically getting a superior education. It takes work. It takes planning. It takes consistency and sometimes it takes handholding.

Most people can learn to work independently, and that can be a huge relief, but they still need a teacher of some sort. If we do not have the time or the inclination to be that teacher, we need to find someone who does.

I stay in the room when my kids are doing school. I want to be there for each question they ask, and each teachable moment we encounter.

I’ve had kids who reach the point where they want to learn from someone else. They already know my opinions. That’s when I know they are ready for some outside classes. They are willing to bounce their ideas off of different people with different backgrounds and different points of view. It is my job as a homeschooling mom to find those opportunities for my kids.

Then they become more independent and move on to even larger learning environments.  Guess what? There are still going to be times when I need to hold their hands. Sometimes the textbook seems impenetrable, and I need to read it out loud, explaining as I go, while they take notes. Sometimes the research topic seems too large, and I use my Google-fu to help narrow it down, flooding their email with links to relevant articles. But most often, they just need a sounding board. “Does this wording sound right to you?” “Can you read over this email to my professor?” “I’m at the airport. Where do I pay for parking?” And I hold their hand because there isn’t some magic age when kids can be left alone with a checklist to educate themselves. There isn’t a magic age where they should know how to navigate new situations. There is not a magic age when they no longer need a momma who has got their back.

I’m almost 50. This weekend, I need to paint my closet. Maybe I should call up a friend to hold my hand.

About Genevieve

Genevieve is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past sixteen. In her free time, she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy,

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Dear Miz Socrates,, Veteran Homeschoolers

Dear Miz Socrates- Week 1

Thanks to Stacey and Anna who found my email address and pointed out that asking questions in private is optimal. I’ve passed their questions along to our expert panel of parents, and I’ll give you a link in case you have a question for next week. Ask us any kind of homeschooling related question here. Or join our Facebook Group.

From Stacey:

Dear Miz Socrates,

I find myself checking social media a lot more than I should. What are your thoughts on acceptable social media usage during the school day?

Stacey,

I think social media use can be a negative if you’re worried about missing out, or if you feel bad when you’re done. But, if it uplifts you, and your children are otherwise occupied, why not?-Courtney O.

Homeschooling is very child centered, and I don’t begrudge a mom social media time! Self-care is very important!–Anya W.

I actually agree. I feel guilty that I have never once felt guilty about my media usage.
I give up enough as it is.
Sometimes I knit or spin when the kids are working on their schoolwork. There is so much time when the kids are working on problems. I need something to keep me from being bored, but I need to be right there with them, so my options are limited.
The Internet is a good solution for me. Not going to apologize for it.-Genevieve M

Social media is my lifeline during the day.–Lynne M.

I think social media use can be a negative if you’re worried about missing out, or if you feel bad when you’re done. But, if it uplifts you, and your children are otherwise occupied, why not?–Courtney O.

As an introvert, social media is about as social as I get. I’m glad everyone else chimed in and feel basically the same way.–Jen N

 

From Anna:

Dear Miz Socrates,

I think I want to start homeschooling next year. My husband isn’t on board. What do you say? My 8yo daughter is miserable in school.

Homeschooling was an incredibly difficult decision for me. I come from a long, long line of public school teachers (my great-great grandmother was a schoolteacher in the Laura Ingalls Wilder days), and I believe in public schools.
But, our children are only with us for 936 Sundays. How many of those do we want our children to be miserable? How much misery is “right”? If an adult had a miserable job, they’d look for the first out they could, wouldn’t they? They’d job hunt, move to another city, or even go back to school to get out of a bad situation. Why is our child’s misery less credible than our own? Why should we not assist them in getting out of an intolerable situation?
That said, most spouses are not going to be on board with a parent unilaterally pulling a child out of school–divorce cases are especially nasty in homeschooling situations. Your best bet is to find their objection and help them overcome it in some way.
In my case, I just looked at it as a temporary situation. “Let’s do this for kindergarten. Kindergarten isn’t even required in some states. Even if I totally mess this up, she won’t miss out on much.” That became, “Let’s just do this until the end of the school year.” When the end of the school year came, she was a visibly happier child, and that result made all the spousal difference.–Courtney O.

When my husband and I would argue about homeschooling, he said all the typical things people say- socialization, they’ll be weird, etc. Finally, at one point he said, “I’m never going to agree to homeschool.” And then I said, “You don’t seem to understand that I do not agree to their current public schooling.” He just didn’t realize that I was as opposed to what was happening at the school as he was to the idea of homeschooling. That was a light bulb moment for him. He didn’t become fully on board until an incident happened at school that broke the camel’s back. After that, even he knew that the kids could not go back to our public school.–Lynne M.

When my first grader was unhappy in public school, we tried out homeschooling over Spring Break and homeschooled the entire summer after first grade as a trial period.
My husband was convinced after he saw how enthusiastic she became about learning and how much happier she was in general.
During the first year of homeschooling, I also researched private schools in case it didn’t work out, but after that first year, we all knew that homeschooling is an awesome option for our family!–Genevieve M.

We started our homeschool on a trial basis one Summer, and although my husband knew nothing about it, he saw how happy our boys were and trusted my judgment that this was the right thing for our family. Do some research and order a few things to try this Summer and see how it goes. –Jen N.

 

About Homeschooling, Veteran Homeschoolers

London and Paris

I just read an article about “world schooling,” otherwise known as “travel schooling,” or schooling that involves interaction with the greater world around us.  The article suggested that kids who are left to discover the world on their own will have more self-direction and develop a sense of purpose naturally.  That may be true, but I believe there are many ways to find one’s purpose.  I also believe that no matter which style of schooling, some kids will always have more self-direction than others.

I do think there are some definite benefits to taking time out of your regularly scheduled programming to explore the world a little.  It can be as simple as taking time out of your day to explore your neighborhood, or as extravagant as sailing the world with your kids in your boat.  Some families hop in an RV and take a few months to tour the country, stopping at historical sites and gazing at natural wonders.  Some families make every Friday a day for field trips.  Some families take a magnifying glass out to the backyard to search for bugs and worms.  The point is to take a break from the pencils and workbooks and computer screens and engage in some personal time with the world outside the house.

My family was fortunate to do some world schooling this month.  I took my two middle school age boys to Europe for two weeks.  We spent a week in London and about a week in Paris. I’m not sure I can even tell you all that we learned on this trip, but we definitely came away from it with knowledge and experience that we didn’t previously have.  I don’t think the full impact of the trip will even settle with us for a long while to come.

We did many of the typical tourist things, like watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and riding in the London Eye- the large Ferris wheel that provides an excellent view of the entire city.  We took a double decker tour bus around both cities and listened to the guide explain the various buildings and sites. We rode up to the middle of the Eiffel Tower and gazed out at Paris while the evening lights glowed in the misty rain.

img_2856

We also explored small portions of the British Museum, the Louvre, and the Musée d’Orsay.  I told the boys I was counting this as Art for school, so they read the signs about the items that interested them and came away with knowledge about different cultures and time periods.  My younger son was fascinated by all the different sculpture, particularly in the Musée d’Orsay.  He kept making up stories to go along with the statues.  My older son liked looking at the intricately carved netsukes in the Japanese section of the British Museum.

We saw the theatrical production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well.  It was a brilliant and magical production that we will never forget.  We promised to Keep the Secrets, so I can’t tell you about the show, other than to say that they turned a mediocre script into a magnificent spectacle.  My biggest lesson learned was not to judge something too quickly.

The entire time we were on this trip, I kept thinking of an article I wrote in 2014 called Making Connections.  As I said earlier, I cannot tell you exactly what we learned on this trip, but I’m positive that we were making connections to the past and the future.  I know that if my son is required to read, say, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in college, he will be able to endure those first 2oo pages that describe the cathedral in intimate detail because he will know exactly what the cathedral looks like and will be able to say, “Hey! I know what this author means!”   I know that when my son reads about the princes imprisoned in the Tower of London, he will be able to picture exactly where it happened.  And in the future, when news comes on about either London or Paris, my kids will pay a little closer attention because now these places occupy space in their hearts and minds.  I’m so grateful to be able to have the chance to share these opportunities with my children.

About thescrappyhomeschooler

I’m a secular homeschooler extraordinaire. I have two wonderful sons who make my heart sing. I’m obsessed with all things Harry Potter. I love dancing and eating organic vegetables.

About Classical, Veteran Homeschoolers

Classical Education is Not Elitist, by RCD

A classical education is not elitist because it makes one humble and simultaneously empowers, and builds empathetic curiosity into a tenacious, ethical muscle.

This lovely article was originally posted at Dragons in the Flower Bed by one of our friends in the Sandbox to Socrates Facebook group. She has articulated much of what I’ve wanted to say but have been unable to. Thank you, RCD, for allowing us to share your words with our readers. ~Editor

I enjoyed reading this thoughtful essay at Sandbox to Socrates, and it left me thinking about how work is where infinity really is, and the edifying nature of permanently unfinished things.

That happy thought was tempered by concern for all the many billions of human beings who have toiled at the unfinishable task of keeping themselves fed, never enough margin to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets they worked through. I think about one of my favorite folk songs, a round I taught the boys when they were babies because it makes work go so sweetly: “I believe to my soul I can pick a bale of cotton…” It is a gorgeous, hopeful tune, but it was sung by freed slaves who could never have picked a bale of cotton in a day and had to in order to get paid.

When I worry about whether classical education is elitist, I try to frame it through that social justice lens, as much as I currently can. I have spent many hours in my adulthood, thus far largely lived in a poor city neighborhood, catching myself up on anti-racism movement with the help of many thoughtful bloggers, authors, speakers and activists. I’m learning and there’s so much I still don’t see.

So far, I cling to the classical model of education, anyway. Many times I’ve heard that you can’t disassemble a system with the same tools that built it. I suppose I don’t think it was the formal practice of logical debate, foreign language immersion, and the insistence that everyone read fiction, that built the oppressive, patriarchal system my children will inherit. Those skills are what I put into practice in order to understand the socioeconomically marginalized peers. In order to understand what happened in my own family. Saying classical education is elitist because it has been taught only to rich white straight boys in centuries past is like saying that vegetables are bad for you because pesticides and GMOs cause cancer. It completely skips over the responsibility of the whole society to create an environment in which farmers need not and do not use pesticides or GMOs, and in skipping that over, demonstrates the foundational problem that we all assume an illogical individual non-responsibility to the common good.

As it’s practiced by non-racist, non-sexist educators, classical education is not elitist.

It is not elitist because classical education is like chop-wood-carry-water. It is a task you can never complete, and that very endlessness of it, the hard and tricky endlessness of it, humbles and inspires and keeps one in the moment. This endlessness, and focus on process over product, means that the child chanting enthusiastically and diligently “amo amas amat” is doing the same work in a very real sense as the scholar who has been at it for forty-five years.

It is not elitist because a classical education assumes auto mechanics, pig farmers and the cleaning lady all are living an intellectual life. In classical education, no one is written off as unable to handle something so hard as Latin or Homer, and dissecting bit by bit the ideas inherent in our culture is viewed as irrelevant to no one.

This very dissection is what is changing me and challenging me as I raise three people who are the very picture of The System. Someday my children will be grownup, and then they will be white American men, richer than most of the world’s population across time. But they won’t be imbued with prejudice, because they will have had a liberal — freeing — education that taught them to turn all things over incessantly, to approach something as foundation as the syllables in the words they speak every day with a critical eye of analysis. The whole world needs my boys to be so aware of what silly place, exactly, our mores come from, and how to dig into the heart of a culture — its language — to find the soul of it.

A classical education is not elitist because it makes one humble and simultaneously empowers, and builds empathetic curiosity into a tenacious, ethical muscle. That is my goal for my children, and all children, and if I can seed my white American straight boys with the skill to pass that on, I’ll be taking a step towards a fairer world for everyone.

The original post can be found here.

CF: Veteran Hs'er Series 2014, Veteran Homeschoolers

Making Connections, by Lynne

My friend Lisa called me the other day to talk about lesson planning. It turned into one of those conversations that I’m still ruminating over several days later. We live in state that requires us to tick off a box to say that we will cover certain subjects — reading, spelling, geography, math, etc. So when I’m choosing what we will work on in a year, I definitely choose materials that will cover all those areas.

But covering all those subjects is not my primary goal in home educating my children — not by a long shot. Here’s my goal: Facilitate learning for my children so that they will have an understanding of humanity, in its myriad facets, by the time they graduate high school. What does this mean? Well, as Lisa and I discussed, it has to do with making connections.

We were talking about the differences in how we approach literature study. I attempt to choose some (not all) of our reading selections to roughly line up with our history studies. I choose historical fiction and folk tales, for instance. I was telling her that in doing it this way, without even trying, we are bombarded with identical themes and reinforcement of information. Lisa doesn’t worry about lining up with history and just chooses good, classic literature as the base, with tons of other reading as the topping. Lisa was concerned that her (brilliant and adorable) daughter might not make connections between some aspects of history or other subjects without having them explicitly pointed out to her. I told her that I thought she didn’t need to worry about that at all.

People who read the classics will acquire the ability to make connections just by reading those books. It doesn’t really matter which titles you choose. In my limited experience of reading timeless literature, I have found that an entire education is contained within the pages of these volumes. If you spend your energy on reading books that have endured throughout decades and centuries, you will see the story of man unfold. You will see the path of human history. You will see the references and influences of other great literature. You will experience history in a first-person voice. You will learn geography through rich descriptions of landscape and setting. You will understand that humanity is continually in conflict. You will understand that love and sacrifice are what make life worth living.

I’m not excluding modern literature in that assessment, either. There are some recently published books that I know will stand the test of time and become legend in their own right.

Can you learn math through great books? Maybe; maybe not. Math is important. I’d spend a little time learning the basic functions of math to help you out with your daily life and finances — unless you plan to be an engineer or an architect or an estimator, for example. Then, I’d pursue higher math. But what you can learn from great books is to not be concerned with money over people, not to be a spendthrift, not to count your chickens before they’re hatched. These are valuable lessons, too.

In any case, I assured Lisa that her daughter would be able to make these connections on her own. I’ve never seen a more enthusiastic library patron than Lisa’s daughter. With the amount of information she has absorbed through reading, I think she’ll be just fine.

We also talked about education with a purpose. Lisa and I spend a significant amount of time thinking about how we want our kids to learn, what we want them to learn, where we want them to learn. We aren’t haphazardly throwing materials and information at them. We are carefully planning and voraciously reading in order to provide our kids with a solid base that will get them through college, should they choose to go, and more importantly, through the rest of their lives.

I really don’t care what my children score on some test. It’s meaningless to me. My kids do okay on most standardized tests because they’ve been exposed to a variety of material, but those scores are not my goal. My goal is to have kids that are familiar with the general scope of human history, the path of scientific development, and the everlasting themes of language and literature. Those things will remain with them always and provide them with the groundwork to grow and learn even more.

Photo courtesy of Vickie Mathews at freeimages.com

lynne   

Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

Uncategorized, Veteran Homeschoolers

Follow Your Heart, by Briana Elizabeth

Have you ever talked to a homeschooler who had high school children who were doing amazing things? Not just extra-curricular hobbies, but starting non-profit organizations, running farms, taking outreach classes at universities, performing music on the weekend, or running their own businesses?

I’m privileged to know a few, and they are inspiring. They were so inspiring, they made me start questioning my own children about what they liked to do. Not what they would like to do (future), but what they like to do (present). It was something I had never asked because I had separated classical schooling from hopes and dreams. Education had nothing to do with careers and dreams, did it?

For a while, I sat on that information because truthfully, it overwhelmed me. But I also must admit that they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know before.

My oldest daughter wanted to be a cosmetologist. After my initial trepidation, I worked at getting her into a vocational school as a share time student (meaning she did her academics at home, and went to school for her shop classes).

she passed the state board exams, also

She did have to go back to public school full time for the last year because the state licensing board wouldn’t acknowledge her homeschool diploma, and that wasn’t a fight I was willing to take on at the time.

Doing hair when her sisters were in a school play

She is now working at an amazing organic hair salon and very happy with her decision, even though she had to read The Scarlett Letter three times between her homeschool lit classes and her senior year English class.

My middle son took a completely different route. One of my favorite pictures of my now 15-year-old son is of him as a toddler, asleep with earphones on. We were on our way to Maine, and he was unhappy unless he had those headphones on. That was the start of his intense love of music.

music calming my little savage

We held off on buying him his first guitar, but after we did, he saved his money and bought many more. He then acquired a banjo, a mandolin, and a ukulele. He also plays bari sax, and tenor sax with the school band and marching band as an after school activity. (Our district allows homeschool kids to join certain public school activities.)

first guitar

His other loves were Legos, robotics, and designing things. He now is an amazing musician, and wants to be a luthier and an engineer. We were amazed to find out that perhaps the country’s best luthier lived in our county, and soon my son will be taking classes with him. He’s also making sure he works hard on his other academic courses because he knows he wants to head to college.

if you don’t play every day, you lose your calluses

I also have twin 12-year-old girls, and from the time they were tiny, they were as different as night and day. One loved baby dolls with all of her heart, but the other wanted nothing to do with them and would look at them disdainfully and toss them across the room.

my ladybug queen

The one who loved babies wants to be a teacher and a mother. The other one wants to be a kennel owner, and for a long time wanted to be a vet.

chicken whisperer

We work with animals every chance we get. It would be no surprise to those who know us that when we can, we’ll be hopefully buying a farm.

champion puppy whelping team

My youngest son has always been physical. He is very aware of how his body moves, and the space he takes up. It doesn’t take him long to learn complicated physical things, and he has always been this way.

Yep, he did it.

He is now in football. We are all excited about going to his games, and cheering him on!

practice, practice, practice

Where he goes with his love of physical activities is up to him. I could see him in martial arts competitions, mountain climbing, and even in the armed forces, though lately he’s expressed a desire to be a police officer.

My youngest who is 8 asks me once a week if it’s a good thing to be an artist. Ever since she was a toddler, she’s been drawing and coloring every chance she got. She has free reign of my paints and paper, and of my pastels, and pencils, and she is on her path.

My oldest son that I classically homeschooled through 10th grade is deep in his two loves: cooking, and mechanics.

Here’s the thing: If there is any educational style that befits any child no matter their path, the classical model is it. I want my plumber to know Longfellow. I want my banker to know Faust. Classical education is about the true, the good, and the beautiful. It is about developing virtue, and I honestly can’t think of one profession that doesn’t need both.

So how do we incorporate both? With ample amounts of time, and for this, homeschooling is the best. My son who is a musician was able to learn all of those instruments by my giving him the time to learn them. By truly living multum non multa. By weeding out all of the unnecessary, be that books or co-ops, so that they have time to pursue what they love, and so that they also have time to fruitfully rest. It may not be easy, this path, but it is amazing, and delightful, and deeply gratifying.


Briabrianana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.