Thursday, August 04, 2011

Homeschooling 2.0

A year ago, I embarked on a journey to unfamiliar territory.  I became a homeschooler.  I knew that it was the path chosen for me and my middle one, but the map was out of focus and the destination unknown.  I could only see Day 1, but not any farther.  Now, I type this entry heading into year 2.  I will homeschool my middle one again, but this year, I will add the youngest one into the mix.  Homeschooling 2.0 for 2.  More uncharted territory, but definitely not as overwhelming or daunting.

I enjoy answering questions about homeschooling.  Why do we do it?  How do we do it?  It is fun to talk about something that you are enthusiastic about and something you truly feel called to do.  I have had the privilege of guiding a couple of families who are new to homeschooling this year.  I pass the credit along to my mentor and great friend, Angela, who supported me throughout my first year.  I know her experiences and knowledge were a huge part of the success of this first year.  I feel I need to pay it forward as more families decide to join the adventure.  I have answered more than my share of phone calls this year of families just toying with the idea.  Often, I share the same information and thoughtt I could finally put it on paper, or screen, or blog, or post, or whatever.

Here is my "Top 5 Advantages to Homeschooling" list:

1.  FREEDOM.  I can't say this enough.  There is so much freedom in homeschooling.  Freedom to work at your own pace, freedom to experience hands-on learning, freedom to explore more areas of interest, freedom with scheduling.  When we were in a traditional school setting, the kids would be in school from 8 - 2:30.  We would leave school for an after school activity - swimming or piano or guitar or whatever.  We would head home, eat dinner, get homework/projects/tests done, get showers, get ready for the next day and then go to bed. I found the time to interact with my kids on a meaningful, impactful level to be in short supply.  Scheduling in shopping trips, hair cuts, doctor's visits, etc., just ate away at what little time I had. The time for them to just "be" was almost non-existent. 

2.  THE EXTRAS:  For the fact that our school day is usually over by 11:30 or noon, we can participate in more areas of interests  This year, my daughters will take the following courses with our local homeschool group, High Point Home Educators:  Dance, Drama, Music Maestros, Lego Physics, Marvels of Nature and Cake Decorating.  They go every Monday from noon - 4.  By the way, there are over 175 kids signed up for the various courses they are offering this year.  They put on a fantastic end of the semester program to showcase what they have learned. I would stack up Sadie's dance routine to "Fabulous" against any local dance studio.  It was simply, well, fabulous. We are also exploring the option of joining our local 4H club, which will be exploring Astronomy this fall.  The girls will take piano from 1-2 on Thursday this year, which meant we didn't have to fight for an after school spot. Sadie will take Latin on Thursday mornings during the lunch hour with my mom, a certified Latin teacher for 20 + years.  The girls will also swim two afternoons a week and possibly continue to participate in our local rec soccer league.  All the while, we aren't panicked about school work, projects, juggling school paperwork and they get to bed on time, by 8 or 8:30.

3.  COURSE CHOICES.  Anyone that has ever tinkered with the idea of homeschooling knows that the selection of textbooks and curriculum is overwhelming.  Actually, that is an understatement.  It is ridiculous.  If it weren't for books like Cathy Duffey's "Top 100 Picks for Homeschool Curriculum," navigating would be a nightmare.  Some books have the lesson scripted out word for word for the teacher, while some allow the instructor to have a free hand.  Some are project driven; some are workbook driven; some are all-inclusive, meaning you buy one set and they learn all their subjects around a chosen topic.  It is simply unlimited what you can do.  The North Carolina Home Educators' (over 45,000 students strong!) have a fantastic conference every year which includes a book fair. I spent 4 hours looking through books, materials, classroom guides, etc.AND, I had most of my subjects already picked out prior to going!  However, all these choices mean that you can customized your child's education to fit their learning style.  Here's a shocker, not everyone learned effectively by working through a textbook and workbook!  Last year, Sadie was all about birds.  I found a science textbook called, Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th Day by Apologia. Naturally, this is was what she looked forward to every day. It is a comprehensive look at birds, bats, insects and even the flying creatures of the dinosaur times.  It is jammed packed with true scientific experiments and a journal in which to record your notes, too. 

Sadie is chronologically a 4th grader.  However, she does 5th grade grammar and spelling, 4th-5th grade math, did a history course designed for 5th - 8th graders last year, and reads books on the latter middle school level, yet we still can and do choose books for her grade level, not ability, at times.  Some days we return to some basics when I think she is struggling. Other times we sail through some lessons because they are too elementary.  We don't have to spend a month on one particular topic when she catches on in a week. Customizing and flexible learning equates to effective learning.

4.  TIME.  I touched briefly on this in my first point, freedom.  I have time with my children - time to enjoy them, teach them life lessons, address discipline issues in a deliberate and calm manner.  I am not frantically shouting at my kids as we race to the next destination. Ok, who am I kidding?  That still happens sometimes.  I, too, am a work in progress.  This yea, Sadie learned how to cook eggs, make all sorts of baked goods (much to the chagrin of my waistline), and how to use most kitchen appliances.  She has time to complete chores, pack her bags for her classes, manage her own school schedule each day, train her dog, and explore nature (her passion).  I have time to immediately correct her work ethic (or lack thereof), improve her accuracy and attention to detail, teach goal setting and understanding the satisfaction when achieved.  There can be no slackness or laissez-faire attitude in our homeschool because it is one-on-one. You can't get away with anything, a positive for the child who has the propensity to be a little sneaky.

Continuing along this thread, I'll tackled the most common statement I hear from other parents.  "I could never homeschool my kids because....  (insert one of the following) 1. I need time away from children 2. We would kill each other 3.  I don't have enough patience  4. My child would never learn from me.  Not everyone is called in this season to homeschool.  However, everyone is able.  Trust me.  I would put Sadie Dumoulin against any strong-willed (spirited, tenacious, intelligent, curious, amazing) child and feel 99% sure she would come out the winner.  Kids like Sadie need more time with their parents.  They need more personal instruction and they need more love.  Sure, we butt heads and it has not all been smelling like roses, but the changes in her behavior and the growth in her maturity have been tenfold. I discovered that shuffling Sadie off to let someone else take care of the discipline problems for a while didn't solve anything.  It is my responsibility to teach and train her, not my local educational system.  The more I am around Sadie, the more I appreciate and am in awe of her.  That would have gone unrecognized and undiscovered had we continued down the path we were previously.

5.  LOVE OF LEARNING This is one of two general goals I set for our homeschool.  To instill the virtue of a thirst for knowledge will always benefit my children.  In my adulthood, I have forgotten how much fun it is to learn!  The history course Sadie took was better than any I took prior to college.  Amazing stuff. I learned more about birds than I thought I could.  I am now a "birder." For example, did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards?  Pretty cool when you see them in action.  I also watched eaglets being born in Iowa on an internet camera.  Unbelievable.  I never want to be satisfied with my current state of knowledge again!  Hopefully, this year, my grammar and writing skills will be polished as I am reminded of the proper use of commas, semi-colons, dangling participles and the difference between "lay and lie" as I navigate through Sadie's 5th grade grammar course.

Lest anyone think that I am completely against traditional school, my eldest will return to our school of choice for his 6th grade year.  His education has been superb and he is very content there.  We decide everything on a year-to-year basis, even leaving open the option of putting one of ours back in mid-year.  We are flexible, just like our educational choices.

I didn't delve into our biblical teaching, but it is central to every school day in the Dumoulin house.  The hows, whys, and the impact of this type of targeted teaching really deserves it own post.

There you have it. My personal (meaning not everyone feels this way, nor do I think it should be adopted by everyone) thoughts on the benefits of homeschooling.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Great post! I completely agree with you, especially about the second paragraph of #4. We're in the same boat with that one. Thanks for the shout-out.