Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Homeschooling Methods: An Overview on a Few

This past month, I spoke at an “Educational Options” night at our local library. It was a great little get together with nine speakers, each taking between 5 and 7 minutes talking about the educational method that has worked for their family. The speakers were followed by half an hour of a “curriculum crawl” where folks displayed their favorite learning tools and people were free to ask questions, look around, and handle curriculum. It was a really inspiring night.

I spoke about All the Wrong Questions and encouraged those considering homeschooling to answer the WHYs of wanting to homeschool before they invested too much into the HOWs.  I also provided an overview list of a few popular homeschooling methods and resources local to the Treasure Valley in Idaho.  There wasn’t time or space to mention ALL the homeschooling/alt school options (I don’t know that I even know ALL that are available!) but wanted to offer what I could—getting into homeschooling can be SO overwhelming, it can be hard to know where to start.

Below is the handout I made available to everyone. I share it here for those looking for a place to start, along with helpful links, as I could find them.

An Overview of some homeschooling ideologies and methods:

Classical: Defined by a three stage approach to learning: Grammar stage (emphasis of memorization of facts), Logic Stage (emphasis on analytical thinking/cause and effect), and Rhetoric Stage (emphasis on expressing oneself clearly and eloquently.)

Books about Classical Education: A Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise and The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of a Classical Education by Leigh Bortins

Websites about Classical Education: www.welltrainedmind.com and www.classicalconversations.com

TJEd: Thomas Jefferson Education, also known as Leadership Education is an educational ideology and methodology that emphasizes learning through classic books in all subjects, family work, family projects, and through parental and mentor examples

Books about TJEd: A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century by Oliver Van DeMille and Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille

Websites about TJEd: www.tjed.org

Charlotte Mason: This ideology emphasizes respecting children as whole persons and offering a broad education through "living books" (not textbooks), nature study, art, and music appreciation

Books about Charlotte Mason Education: The Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte M. Mason, A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola

Websites about Charlotte Mason Education: simplycharlottemason.com, amblesideonline.org

Waldorf: This ideology and method was developed in a more traditional school setting and emphasizes delaying academic studies until about age 7, reasoning that young children learn best through imitation and imaginative play. Heavy emphasis on art and developing autonomy and self expression.

Books on Waldorf Education: Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash, Waldorf Education: A Family Guide by Pamela F. Fenner

Websites about Waldorf: christophorushomeschool.org

Project Based Homeschooling: This ideology centers on combining personal interests with learning through making, doing, sharing, collaborating, and acquiring real-life skills.

Books about PBH: Project Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self Directed Learners by Lori Pickert

Websites for PBH: http://project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog

Unschooling: An ideology that advocates learner-chosen activities and personal interests as the primary learning tool. Unschooling is the most misunderstood homeschooling philosophy. Originally "unschooling" meant "not associated with public/traditional schools" and encompassed all the previously mentioned ideologies and methods. The definition/perception of unschooling has evolved to indicate child-led learning and to imply (falsely) no rigorous academic study. "Radical unschooling" is a term that typically denotes a complete rejection of formal academic curriculum, in favor of real life, hands-on experiences to learn life skills.

Books on Unschooling: Learning All the Time by John Holt, How Children Learn by John Holt, How Children Fail by John Holt, Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education by Clark Aldrich

Websites about Unschooling: http://sandradodd.com/unschooling  and http://unschoolers.com/

Local Online Public/Private, and part time schools and co-operatives:

Online Charter/Public: Public school curriculum online and facilitated through your local school district--different programs are available IDEA, IDVA, Connections Academy, Harmony Educational Services

Websites for Online Charter/Public schools: http://www.idahoidea.org/about-us, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/idaho-online-school/home.aspx, K12 Idaho 

Online Private School/Distance Learning: Liahona Academy (LDS Education) www.liahonaeducation.com

Part Time Private Schools and co-ops: Local part time private schools in the Treasure Valley are available to help supplement your child's learning at home. A few options are: Aaron Academy: www.theaaronacademy.com, Glen J. Kimber Academy: google kimber.academy, Vineyard Christian Home School Co-op: www.vineyardboise.org (families must sign a statement of faith to enroll--in which case,Vineyard may not be appropriate for Catholic, LDS, and non-Christian students.) Treasure Valley Commonwealth (A TJEd co-op that meets once a week): www.treasurevalleytjed.blogspot.com,

This list is not exhaustive---Google is your friend!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

All the Wrong Questions

All the Wrong Questions

As I’ve mentioned before, we are huge Lemony Snicket fans—and today, Calvin brought this lovely volume home from the library.  I’m laughing already and I haven’t even read the thing yet.

But this post is not about delightfully droll books, dripping with sardonic humor.

This is a post about being asked about homeschooling.  I have had a few people approach me lately wanting to know what curriculum to use and how expensive it is to homeschool.  These aren’t BAD questions, but for folks just beginning to look into homeschooling, these are the WRONG questions to start with.  Of course, they don’t know that, and it’s no fun being told you’re asking the wrong questions, but these really aren’t the best first questions to ask when considering homeschooling.

It’s natural enough to jump from “I think I want to homeschool my child” to “What curriculum should I use? And “How much does homeschooling cost?” but the answers to these questions depend entirely on a different set of questions, which are much more important, but may not be easy to answer without a lot of thought about them.

I remember when I first began researching homeschooling—I asked every homeschool parent I could find “What curriculum do you use?” and “How much does it cost?” and “How do you schedule your class time?” and EVERYONE answered “It depends.” I would press for details and I usually came away with some variation of “Well, we did this one thing, and it worked for awhile, and then we did this other thing, but now we do something else.”

Okay….frustrating!

Turns out, I was asking the wrong questions—but I only learned that after I fumbled through a few months of homeschooling, myself.  THEN, I knew why I felt I was only getting non-answers.  The homeschoolers weren’t trying to be vague—they were being honest.  Their mindset and mine were very, very different—and I was asking them questions from a public school mindset—when homeschooling is altogether a different one. I was coming from a public school lifestyle.  Their answers were coming from a completely different lifestyle. And, regardless of method or schedule or curriculum, homeschooling IS a lifestyle.  I needed a paradigm shift.

So---what are the right questions for the homeschool-curious to ask?

Before you ask ANYONE else about homeschooling—you need to ask yourself:

Why am I considering homeschooling?

How do I define a good education?

What do I value?

What do I want my children to value?

What experiences knowledge do I want my children to have?

What am I willing to do or sacrifice to make that happen?

These are not simple questions—in fact, they can be kind of loaded—but they are absolutely necessary to answer for yourself.  Once you’ve done that (and it takes some time---it’s a good idea to write it all down on paper---and write everything that comes to mind, no matter how silly or wacky your answers may sound) it’s a good idea to ask your spouse these questions—Have your partner answer the questions for him/herself—then compare your answers. 

You may find you have similar definitions, values, and ideas (this is, of course, ideal) but you may find that you have wildly disparate answers to these questions.  If that’s the case, before you can seriously consider ANY form of homeschooling, you need to work together to get on the same page—to have the same ideals and goals for your kids’ education.

These are not “sexy” questions—they require some real thought and effort—and might even require some deep discussions with your partner.  If you have older kids you are thinking about homeschooling, it might be wise to ask them these questions and find out what their answers are.

When you have a pretty solid idea of what you, your spouse, and possibly your children think—you’re almost ready to ask about curriculum, cost, and schedules, but not quite—you need to do a bit of research first—your answers to the above questions will lead you to the KIND of homeschooling that will fit your family’s needs best.

More on that next time!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Never stop learning, even on “spring break!”

My three oldest kids sing with Cantus Youth Choirs, a phenomenal community choir that serves the Treasure Valley of Idaho, and this year, they got to go on tour to Anaheim, California. The Cantus tours are always a blast and this one was no exception.  Julio tagged along with the kids on a couple of them before and since this year’s tour included Disneyland, we decided we’d ALL tag along and turn it into a family vacation.

We packed up and left a few days ahead of the Cantus tour buses, so we could squeeze in some extra time in California and see some friends and family.  We threw the kids in the mini-van and drove to Anaheim in a single day. Yes, we are insane.

Prior to the trip, Julio had told me about a TED talk by Navi Radjou about the concept of jugaad—a Hindi word for creative problem solving within extreme limitations, and how the corporate world in the West can benefit from this principle of doing more and creative things with less. After watching the talk myself, I really wanted to buy Mr. Radjou’s book.  It arrived the day before we left, so I brought it along and read it aloud to Julio as we went.  It’s funny how when something is on your mind, you find it everywhere. 

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As we were reading this book, we had a couple of opportunities to come up with some jugaad of our own—first, the sun was glaring down into the car, making Neenie very hot and uncomfortable. We used a blanket pinched between the car head rests (and later, a different blanket pinched between the windows and doors) to make a sunshade. Jugaad!

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Then, the rubber gasket for the windshield came loose on the driver’s side and started flapping.  Julio tried first to fix it with electrical tape, but the tape was no match for flying down the freeway.  Since we were in the middle of nowhere, Julio had to roll down the window and hold the windshield in place until we could find somewhere to stop and fix the stupid thing.  Since it was coming onto evening and we were only halfway to California, Julio stopped in at a truck stop and bought some yellow duct tape. It held!  Jugaad!

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Our first couple of days in California involved a trip to the beach and a day at Knott’s Berry Farm.  The kids and I had never been and Julio had told us it was full of roller coasters, but I wondered how much fun it would be for the little kids because they were too small for most of the rides.  I was kind of grumpy about going at first, because I was afraid I’d get stuck having to sit with the little ones all the time while Julio and the big kids got to go have fun on all the crazy rides. I’m so immature and selfish, I know. But, of course, Julio had already scouted the place and made sure we did a lot of swapping kid duties—and it turns out KBF has some fun rides for the smaller set, too. So everyone got their roller coaster fix!

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We expected the place to be packed, as it is “spring break season” but the crowds were thin—enabling us to go on our favorite roller coasters again and again.

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This was Neenie’s first time at the beach.

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The kids had a ton of fun splashing around and playing in the sand. We brought most of the sand from this beach home in our clothes.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…*

I love my little punks. They have just (re)discovered the literary drollery of Lemony Snicket’s  A Series of Unfortunate Events. Calvin has even taken to reading it aloud to his siblings in his best Tim Curry impersonation. This makes story time SO much more interesting. The series follows the misadventures of the kind, pleasant looking, wealthy, but terribly unlucky Baudelaire orphans and their evil uncle, Count Olaf, who tries to steal their fortune. It’s absurd and witty, and in my case, beverage-snorting funny.

It always amazes me how quickly and deeply we are affected by what we read—thanks to ASoUE, we have acquired a corn snake, which we named Montgomery Montgomery, after the Baudelaire’s Uncle Monty in “The Reptile Room.”

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Monty is the most low maintenance critter in our entire household and for this, I love him. He eats once a week. Granted, he eats a mouse that has to be defrosted and warmed to room temperature, then wiggled in front of him so he knows it’s feeding time, but that’s why I had children—to make them do such repugnant tasks.

Thanks also to “The Reptile Room,” there has been a resurgence of Dinovember. I admit, during the ACTUAL Dinovember, I had more fun than the kids staging the dinosaurs’ escapades, but now the kids are into it---and well---the dinos are getting into some pretty shady dealings:

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These are not the sauropods you’re looking for.

 

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The dinos’ illegal casino was shut down within hours of opening.

 

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The dinos attempt to rehabilitate through education.

 

After a few days of dinosaur mayhem, we decided to make a trip to the Boise Aquarium, to see—more reptiles? There are a surprising number of them at the aquarium.

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We also managed to crash a preschool field trip---inadvertently disrupting a puppet show about fish and sharks while oohing and ahhing over real, live fish and sharks.  Oops. 

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After a couple hours at the aquarium, I was starting to crave sushi, but the kids vetoed that idea, so we settled on burgers and fries at Red Robin, which is probably my favorite place to not have to cook. Because BOTTOMLESS FRIES.

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Our server wanted to know what was up with the Viking helmet. When Blythe explained that it was Thursday, the poor guy just didn’t seem to understand. Everyone knows that Thursdays are Viking Days. Unless it’s Wednesday, which is also Viking Day. As is every other Saturday, unless Blythe forgets, in which case, both Sunday and Monday are Viking Days.

A highlight of each homeschooling week is the library’s “Fun with Science” class. I have no idea what goes on during these events—because when I go to the library, everything around me drops away except for the shelves and shelves and shelves of glorious books. The kids must fend for themselves. Fortunately, they are cute and have mastered that inquisitive, hopeful puppy dog look that librarians can’t resist, no matter how obnoxious the kids are.  LIFE SKILLZ.

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The kids tell me the theme for the class was “All About Air.” They made bubble sculptures.

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Has anyone figured out how to make square bubbles? Winking smile

Who knew that Lemony Snicket books could inspire such a week of learning and fun?

*The title for this post was inspired by the following quote from ASoUE Book 2: The Reptile Room:

“It is now necessary for me to use the rather hackneyed phrase "meanwhile, back at the ranch." The word "hackneyed" here means "used by so many writers that by the time Lemony Snicket uses it, it is a tiresome cliche." "Meanwhile, back at the ranch" is a phrase used to link what is going on in one part of the story to what is going on in another part of the story, and it has nothing to do with cows or horses or with any people who work in rural areas where ranches are, or even with ranch dressing, which is creamy and put on salads.”

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Taking a Gypsy Term

One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling in Idaho is the utter freedom we have to do whatever we want. This semester, we are taking a free-wheeling, figuring things out as we go along approach.

I call this semester a “gypsy term” because we’re kind of just going where the road takes us, picking things up and learning along the way.  It’s a much looser approach than we’ve previously taken. It’s a little scary--but thrilling, too.

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I told my older kids, who were extremely sad to leave the wonderful co-op we’ve been privileged to attend for the last three years, that they could think of think of this semester as a “study abroad” experience.  My one and only goal is to be out in the world---in the community—and experience all it has to offer.

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Here’s what we did this past week:

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my husband and I had seen the movie Selma over the weekend.  We were blown away by the story and the testament of the struggle of black Americans during the Civil Rights movement. The movie is intense. It is gritty and heartbreaking and hopeful and TRUE. We took our older two kids to see it on Monday in the hope that it would spark some talk about that era in American history and its parallels to the attitudes today about civil rights and race issues.  We are typically very guarded in the movies and TV we let the kids watch—and the tension and violence in the film was a strain on our kids—they are still processing what they saw—but it is a beautiful thing to hear them ask questions, to want to delve deeper into Doctor King’s life and times, and to reflect on issues of race, equality, and social change.

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We had learned over the weekend that President Obama would be in Boise to speak at BSU in the middle of the week. His speech would be open to the public, but tickets would be required to gain entry to the speaking venue. So, after the movie, we gathered the entire family and went to BSU to stand in line for tickets to the President’s speech.  We had seen news reports that morning that BSU faculty and students had first rights to the free tickets and that the line to get tickets had been spotty—not surprising in a solid red state, I suppose, so we figured the same would hold true for the general ticket line.  We were wrong.  We stood in line for about an hour, and the line wrapped halfway around the BSU campus.

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I was surprised that there were so many people in line for tickets, given the vitriolic responses online to the announcement that President Obama would be in town.  Though standing in line was not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon, it was enlightening to see the different people who came. People of all political persuasions were in line—and despite whatever people’s personal opinions and beliefs were, everyone was amiable.

Tuesday, we were feeling kind of under the weather—the flu had been going around our family and while we were mostly recovered by Sunday, the afternoon out in the cold, waiting in line for tickets to the President’s speech put us under.  We needed a recovery day and stayed home. We declared it “Documentary Day” and spent the day cruising Netflix for educational shows. (I am part of a Homeschooling with Netflix group on Facebook—which is totally awesome—what a great resource to supplement learning!) We watched everything from Leap Frog Math Adventures to the Moon to Inside the Lego Corporation to Pets with Jobs. There were some others we watched, but I think I dozed off.

Wednesday, Julio and the big kids got up early and headed out to stand in line for the President’s speech.  We learned that the venue could seat 2500 but that over 5000 tickets had been distributed---it would be standing room only for at least half the ticket holders!  The little kids and I went to our new informal homeschool co-op---a once weekly, laid-back affair.  We learned about St. Francis of Assisi.

I had intended to meet up with Julio and the big kids and attend the President’s speech, but it didn’t work out—and it’s probably a good thing.  Julio and the big kids stood in line from 10 AM until noon, and then once inside the venue, found standing room only, right next to where the local press cameras were set up.  The speech wasn’t scheduled to start until 3:00.  No matter how patriotic we are, I knew the little kids wouldn’t have been able to manage doing NOTHING for that long.  Bags and purses weren’t allowed through security, so bringing entertainment and snacks for the little kids would have been impossible.

So, with that last minute change in plan, I took the kids shopping.  Blythe just started Cub Scouts and I was recruited to be a Cub Scout leader and we both needed uniforms. (I have been hounded by the local Cub Master to get myself a uniform and after a long and valiant battle, finally succumbed and bought the ugly thing---but I refuse to wear it. Tra la la la!) and Gloria needed fabric for a pillow case she was going to make that afternoon with her Activity Days group.

While I was busy buying pink heart-strewn fabric and hideous scouting uniforms, Calvin was being interviewed by the local news about being present for President Obama’s speech.

Calvin on TV

The rest of the week shaped up pretty well—we plundered the library, as we do every week. We have long since given up on tote bags to pack the books home and now bring in the heavy artillery. Yes, that is rolling luggage you see there.

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We also stumbled into a weekly science class held at the library, of which I had been previously unaware. The kids made dry ice cannons. Score!  Calvin now wants to make a larger one out of a garbage can.

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We finished out our week with LOTS of reading.

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I also thought it would be fun to have each kid start an art journal—as a way to explore different art media. We spent a good chunk of an afternoon painting.

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Finally, the kids started learning how to program computers this week. We saw a deal on a learning website for a single board computer kit and snatched one up.  It arrived this week and Calvin and Gloria have spent some time with it—learning how to make computer animations and create games.  Calvin is currently creating a math game to help the little kids with their math facts.  I don’t know who is more excited about it—Calvin or Julio!

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This is my first real foray into unstructured “unschooling” and I have to admit, I am terribly nervous about it.  I decided to write this post to document what all we did this week not to toot my horn, but more than anything to see if we really were accomplishing anything.  I’ve always had this idea that “unschooling” meant “not educating” but after going through the projects and pictures and experiences we’ve had this past week (and over the last month) I’d say we’re learning a LOT! Hmmm…I could get used to this Gypsy Term thing…

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dear Newbie Homeschooling Me

Dear Newbie Homeschooling Me,

Don’t freak out. I’m you, seven seasons into this homeschooling gig.  I have come from your future to tell you a few things.

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First, homeschooling is NOTHING like you think it’s going to be.  Oh, sure, it’s 2009, and you’re forcing your tiny kids that you JUST pulled out of third and first grade to watch the historical inauguration of the first black president of the United States---and you have all these high ideals and expectations about what they should be getting out of it, and how you’re going to start each day with a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, a spiritually enriching devotional, hearty breakfast, and then whip through five or six academic courses before lunch (which will be carefully planned, entirely nutritious, and maybe even served in a bento box, for variety!) You have a VISION. You have a PLAN!

Well, babe, four months in, you’re going to abandon that vision, because out of all the days, your vision was seriously impaired. Your plan happened ZERO TIMES, no matter how hard you tried, and you are going to be so frustrated and full of self-doubt that you want to just give up.

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Except, you won’t. 

You’ll realize that trying to muscle your two school aged kids and your two itty-bitties into a public school-style routine at home is not only stupid, but impossible.  Schools are institutions.  They run like institutions, as they should. But your HOME is not an institution.  It should be run like a home.  The kids have already learned tons of things from you, naturally, organically.  It can be that way with academics, too.

I know you don’t believe me now—but give it a couple of years.  You’ll try variations of the public school routine—each one less like public school—as you find what works for you.  Right now, you’re all concerned about finding the right math curriculum and language arts curriculum.  You’re reading A Well Trained Mind and A Thomas Jefferson Education and you’re all on fire about HOW TO MAKE IT WORK so the kids are learning and outpacing their public school counterparts.  You are determined to show people, yourself included, that homeschooling is WAYYYYY superior to public school. Your standards are so impossibly high you can’t even sleep. You are worried about EVERYTHING. You HAVE to get it RIGHT!

Well, listen close, babe---the RIGHT way to homeschool changes as you go along.  Kids have this uncanny insistence on doing things like growing and maturing, and having preferences and strengths and weaknesses.  And so do you. You’re going to make mistakes. The kids are going to make mistakes.  But, we’re a resilient bunch, and we keep trying and we find what works. And when it quits working, we find something else that works.  The resources available to you are limitless and infinite in variety.

There is no one golden road to homeschooling success.  What works for one kid may not work so well for another.  What works one year, or for two years in a row, may be worn out and dead the next year.  The people in your family like variety, they like to shake things up every now and then. They are kind of funny that way.  There is no such thing as autopilot in learning.

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You’ll start thinking more about educational philosophies instead of curriculum. You’ll start talking to veteran homeschoolers and really LISTENING to their experiences. You’ll cry on people’s shoulders, and borrow their ideas. You’ll clunk and rattle along and you’ll get involved with a great, supportive community. You’ll worry less about socialization as you find community and get out in the world and interact with anyone and everyone. You’ll gain confidence and so will the kids. You’ll make friends, and your kids will make friends. Your universe will expand so much and so fast you won’t believe it.

You’ll learn to love being around your kids. You’ll learn to really like being around them for hours and hours and hours every day. You’re giving me the side eye on that one.  I get it—the older two are bickering at your feet and the toddler is whining for Cheetos, and the baby just took his diaper off and smeared poop across his crib.  You will have sucky, sucky days sometimes, but I promise, the good ones will outnumber the bad, and you WILL find that these little people that you are raising and teaching are a lot of fun, MOST of the time. That said, you’ll also learn that you’ll need regularly scheduled breaks from them. And they’ll need breaks from you, too. You can be a real pain in the arse sometimes. Go put yourself in time out. At a restaurant. With friends. And something chocolate.  Take the breaks. INSIST on the breaks.  Your husband and children will thank you for it. And stop being cagey with Krav Maga and go fall in love with it RIGHT NOW.  (Seriously. Don’t wait on this one.)

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Over time, you’ll discover that the kids are doing fine—they are learning in their own ways and at their own pace.  They will astound you with what they learn, their self-motivation, and their intense drive to create their own educational path. They will delve into courses of study you can’t even fathom for them, and you will be awed by their abilities and their talents and interests.  You’ll wonder how the heck such amazing, interesting, talented people came from little ol’ you. Of course, you’ll always have twinges of doubt, especially when your kids won’t practice the piano or forget that 7 x 6 = 42 or would rather read Calvin and Hobbes and draw Manga than listen to you read Moby Dick. You’ll squirm when your kids commit some social faux pas and some moron blames it on homeschooling, because no public schooled kid EVER did or said anything awkward or inappropriate or didn’t respond appropriately in every social situation.

You are soooo tense and fearful and humorless, 2009-Newbie-Homeschooling Me.  I want to hug you and give you a big happy, triumphant smooch, but I know right now you’re really only open to a pat on the shoulder and a nudge forward. There, there, babe. It’s going to be awesome.

Most of all, I want to tell you that you will learn SO MUCH STUFF about SO MUCH STUFF.  YOUR education is just beginning and there’s no end in sight to what you’ll learn and you will thank God for it every single day. Homeschooling will provide you with an unequaled opportunity to set the tone for learning and discovery for yourself and your family in EVERY ASPECT of life. You’ll blow your own mind with the challenges you take on, the direction you steer your life.  You’ll learn that life isn’t just something to endure and to react to. You’ll learn to hurtle yourself right into it---to laugh and explore and share---to charge into the hard things--to take on impossible challenges--because don’t you tell me what I can’t do!

Babe, it’s going to be epic. 

Love, Me…You…Us

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Insisting that “good kids should go to school to be a light and example to others” is ignorant and insulting to homeschoolers.

…which is probably not what you intended.  Nevertheless…

Despite the uptick in homeschooling in its various forms over the last couple of decades, there are still some myths and stereotypes that just won’t die.  I used to get a little hyper about all of them, but over the years, I’ve developed a thick skin and mostly tune them out... But, the myth that homeschoolers aren’t contributing positively to society by being out in it like the public schoolers are, and the implied judgment that homeschooling is morally inferior to public schooling makes my blood boil.

The idea that homeschooled children can’t possibly be/aren’t good examples and “lights unto the world” is based in the mistaken ideas that homeschoolers don’t ever leave their homes or get involved with the larger community. This simply isn’t true, but few public schoolers know this.. They just don’t have any idea what the homeschoolers are doing or where they are doing it, because they are AT SCHOOL. They assume that because the word “homeschool” has the word “home” in it, that HOME is where the homeschoolers are 24/7.This is as erroneous as assuming public schoolers are ALWAYS IN PUBLIC. But I digress…

Many homeschoolers will immediately defend their lifestyle by saying that before the kids can go out into the world to be a positive influence, their character must have been built and trained at home---and that you shouldn’t throw your children to the wolves, so to speak, while they are still in their tender, moral-development years.

This counter-argument is beside the point, AND insulting to the public schoolers, because you CAN send your kids to public school and they can be a positive influence to those around them. Absolutely. But homeschoolers can be and ARE every bit as much a “light unto the world” as their public schooled counterparts.  Just because a homeschooled student isn’t siting in a classroom with 25 other age-mates doesn’t mean they are not influencing those around them.

When they are home, for whatever amount of time, they are influencing and being influenced by their parents, siblings, and others who are at home with them.  When they are at the store, the gas station, at a community class, a co-op, at church---they are influencing and being influenced.  Their moral light shines just as much in these places as a good kid sitting in public school.

And, who decides who is worthy to be “shined” on? Who determines whether a homeschooled child’s forgiving a sibling, visiting an elderly friend, smiling at the store clerk, or playing with the neighbor kids isn’t as much a light as a public schooled child standing up to a bully, refraining from cheating on a test, or respecting teachers and custodians?

Are we not ALL in need of kindness and compassion and light?  Some who appear to be full of light are hiding anguish of the deepest darkness.  We really have no idea who we truly influence and how we may impact someone’s life, in whatever timeframe and to whatever depth. To assume that a good kid interacting in a public classroom has more positive influence on the world than a homeschooled student interacting with the librarian, or writing a senator, or chatting up the new kid at church, or working in the community garden with refugees, or volunteering at the animal shelter, or performing for veterans at the VA Home, is myopic and narrow-minded.

My homeschooled children’s social sphere may be different than that of public school kids, but that does not mean it is LESS THAN.  Their capacity and opportunities to be loving to the unloved, a joy to the saddened, a friend to the lonely, or compassionate to the anguished are just as great and just as valuable as any other’s. So let’s quit with the argument that it is morally superior to send your kid to public school.

No matter where you are or who you’re with, you will never lack opportunities to show compassion and light.