Posts Tagged ‘why homeschool?’

You’ve been reading and have been learning a little bit about homeschooling. You’ve learned how to find your state’s laws regarding homeschooling, which, in turn, has given you a basic idea of your options.  You’ve also learned some lingo, which is important as you begin to weigh the variables in approaching homeschooling.  For example, now that you know what your state requires and you have a better understanding of the language, you are better equipped to research the answers to some of those lingering questions.

The particulars of some of these questions we’ll address in the future posts. Today, though, we’re going to tackle one of the first questions a parent asks him/herself when the issue of homeschooling enters his/her minds: Am I qualified to teach my child?

One comment I hear frequently (this is actually one of the most common comments I hear) is, “Oh wow.  I could never teach my kids.” There are lots of ways to respond to this statement. Here are some of my more routine answers:

“Why do you say that?” (I only go here if I have time to talk and have a conversation about this topic.)

“You might be surprised!” (This is another response that is saved for situations when I have time for a conversation.)

“Ya, me neither.” 😆 This is my typical answer, and it usually leaves people wondering.

The short answer to this question is: Children are going to learn, despite our best efforts.  🙂 Our jobs as parents is to provide the right material to learn, because they are going to absorb what is around them. 

Have you ever wondered why it is that a child can hear a swear word once and then start repeating it?  😆  This is part of that rule: They are going to absorb what is around them.  If we offer them the opportunities to learn, they are GOING to (learn).

I admit to being jaded.  There are few situations, I’ve found, where people are genuinely interested in learning about homeschooling.  Usually, they already have formed opinions, and nothing I can say (believe me, I have tried, to no avail) is going to change their minds. It is usually easier for me to make a statement that doesn’t leave the door open to conversation unless they want to walk through it, and one that doesn’t open the door (although it sometimes does anyhow) to people making judgments.

As I have gotten older, I have gotten better with not feeling the need to explain or defend our decision to homeschool. In many ways, this approach is an extension of breastfeeding and other parenting decisions.

I just didn’t know that when we started homeschooling.  🙂

The first two years, we paid to enroll the kids in Clonlara. We were provided a contact teacher and a Comprehensive Skills Guidebook.  In those days, I don’t remember being required to submit progress reports, but it’s possible I did in the form of emails to our contact teacher, who was a friend of the family.

My biggest fear, of course, was teaching the kids and doing what I could to ensure that they didn’t get “behind.”  I chuckle now, because, of course, as part of our overall parenting philosophy, there really is no such term as it applies to productivity and actual well-being of a child.

Without going down the whole rabbit trail, let me just summarize my feelings on the topic:  Children (and people, too) learn and grow at their own pace, in what is the biological norm for the individual. Yes, sometimes kids are ahead of the curve; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes there are issues of actual developmental delays, but I believe, by-in-large, MOST of what gets labeled by others are really just variations of the biological norm. BUT, because we as a society are eager to get all those round pegs into square holes, we label kids (and adults, too) as a means of quantifying them.

With my own kids, crawling and walking was an issue for others.  Only one of my kids actually crawled, and hers was more of a commando crawl than actual crawl, which she did for about a week before she started creeping 90% of the time. The other 3 all scooted, like I had done. I, myself, was a “late” walker, scooting, never crawling, and then finally walking when I was around 2.

For those of you with kids, you know how this goes: when you take your baby into the doctor’s office for all those well-baby visit, you are bombarded with questions.  “Is your baby doing “x, y, z?”  Even if your baby is “on track” according to the checklist, parents come away with a heightened sense of fear that their child may not be doing”x” when “they are supposed to.”

Even as an experienced parent, I dreaded those visits. Finally, with my last 2 kids (although earlier on with the youngest) I put my foot down and refused to answer the questions.  Why?  As a mother who went to those visits with all the other children in tow, they could see that they were alive and obviously not maltreated.

I mean, really?  How many times do I have to answer, “Yes, I have a smoke detector.  Yes, we have door locks on the cabinets.  Yes, we have a toilet lid locks.  Yes, we would have a baby gate for stairs, if we had them. No, I do not chart and keep track of every morsel that passes her lips.” With the last one, it was only a few visits in when I told the nurse, “I will NOT answer any more of these questions.  It is none of your business. You can see with your own eyes that there is nothing wrong with any of my four children, and I’ll not allow you the opportunity to label any one them as being *anything.*”

While that didn’t score me any points at the time, things being as they are, my ped’s office doesn’t even have records on-site for any of my kids, because they haven’t been there in the last 5 years.  Yes, really.  I don’t need to pay money to have a stranger tell me my kids are healthy and “normal.”

So what does this have to do with teaching your kids at home?

People are afraid they are going to mess up their kids by having them home and schooling. We are taught early on, from the time we are in labor and enter the hospital (unless you are lucky enough to have other options) that we need the “help” of professionals; that we are somehow incapable of doing anything right without their direction.

I cry foul.

We’ll talk more about learning styles later, but how many children have been labeled as ADD/ADHD because they don’t want to sit still in class?  Could it be that the child is a kinesthetic learner?  What about a child who is a reluctant reader? Could it be that this child is an auditory learner?

Why are we trying to force children into set- and often unnatural- learning parameters?

The short and easy answer is, of course, that the system (formal school) doesn’t have the means to allow for a variety of learning styles.  There is a method that is applied to all children, and if your child doesn’t fit into that mold, the child is labeled. One thing to understand is that this really is a logistical necessity for formal educational settings, based primarily on class size and student to teacher ratio.

If left to their own devices, children are going to learn from their environment. Instead of wondering “Am I qualified to teach my child?” and “Can I teach my child?” we should be asking, “What kind of learning environment is best for my child?”

This question leads naturally to, “Can I provide that learning environment at home?” In case if you have any doubt, let me just say it out loud: Yes, you can! 😀

Before moving on to learning styles (which will help you identify your child’s learning style), we’re going to answer more of the questions from the Why Homeschool? post.

Do you have a question you want to me write about? Please leave me a comment!

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When we started contemplating homeschooling, we, like many others, had a somewhat formed idea of what homeschooling was. Mostly it looked like this: kids sitting around a table with books spread; pencils in hand, listening to Mom teach and writing when instructed.

Are you nodding your head?  😀

Before we decided to take the plunge, I was warned by an experienced school administrator that, “Most people who try homeschooling only last a year or two, before they come to realize that it’s too much, and the schools are better equipped to teach.” This was couched with an unsaid qualifier of “And take it from me, I’ve had years of experience with this and know this to be fact.”  Or maybe it was actually said out loud. It’s been a long time.  😆

This was one of the reasons we chose Clonlara as our vehicle of support.  After all, we were getting a skills book and a contact teacher.  Surely this would count as having our bases covered?

Now that I had that angle taken care of, I needed to figure out what I was going to teach. While I had heard whispers of other ways of homeschooling (surely, you jest!) my husband and I felt, based on our preconceived notion of “homeschooling,” that curriculum of some sort was required. Well, ok, he felt it more, and I was scared to fail, so it seemed like a some kind of curriculum or learning method was the best route to take; especially, since you know, most people send their kids back to school after the first or second year.  Who was I to argue? 

I knew above all, that should homeschooling not work for us, I didn’t want that time at home to have been detrimental and set them back because I wasn’t capable of teaching them what they needed to know. This first year, my son would have been in 2nd grade, and while my oldest daughter was not old enough to start school yet (she was still 5 and with a winter birthday, she completely missed the cut-off date for kindergarten), I figured kindergarten was going to be an extension of what we were already doing.

In my internet travels, I came across all kinds of articles on transitioning from the school to home environment.  Enter the first bit of jargon: deschooling.

Deschooling. This is not to be confused with unschooling. We’ll get to unschooling later. Nope, deschooling most usually refers to the time when your child is making the adjustment from the confines of the formal school setting to the loosey-goosey home setting whereby he or she can go to the bathroom at will-  without raising a hand and asking for permission and having all classroom eyes on him or her, thereby totally embarrassing him or her. This applies to getting something to eat or drink, stretching the legs, or reading a book or anything else that is strictly controlled or prohibited in the formal classroom setting.

There is no set time frame for deschooling. This mostly depends on the child and the level of trauma suffered by the child in the formal setting.  Lest anyone think I’m joking, this is a very serious topic. 

I know of one child last year whose parents made the decision to remove all three of their kids from our local public school system.  By the time they came to my weekly class, it had been a few weeks out of the formal school setting already.  The older two seemed to be adjusting pretty well; mostly quiet and reserved, but attentive.  The youngest, who was 7/8, literally stayed outside the entire time, sitting by the door.

2 months later, he was still outside the room, sitting in the doorway, but would come into the class and sit on the floor near his mom. He had finally been willing to get outside on the playground with the others, but mostly stuck tight to his older siblings.

If you have never seen a traumatized child resulting from a school setting, it is quite simply heartbreaking. He had nothing to fear from us, but *he* didn’t know that. And it’s going to take a while for him to decompress and learn to trust again.

Deschooling. Decompressing.  It’s an important time. Some people do nothing during this time.  Some do just educational games.  Some do nothing but reading. We took the summer off and it was a normal summer of fun.  In hindsight, I feel really lucky that my oldest was only in the school system for 2 years because there was not a whole lot we had to undo.

While we were deschooling that summer, I was enrolling in Clonlara and attempting to gather information.  It was during this time that my head started to spin with possibilities.  I started learning and understanding the differences between the types of schooling options, and came to a grand realization: Because of my state’s homeschooling laws, the door was wide open for me!!

I had been reading a lot, too (as if that’s any surprise :lol:), and my philosophy on homeschooling really started to line up better with my philosophy on parenting, and life in general. I had suffered through school; studying what was required of me by my parents and by the school, as one who was on the “college track.”  The only thing that made school bearable was the extra curricular stuff I was involved with, and knowing that it couldn’t last forever.  Once I was grown up, I could do what I wanted to do, and set my own schedule.  This is where the irony caught up to me from my Why Homeschool? post.

Along my reading travels, I started noticing more and more terms that I was unfamiliar with.  Terms like unchooling, unit studies, school-at-home, child-led learning, classical curriculum, and pre-packaged curriculum.  Huh?

Some terms, like cyber-school, didn’t really exist, or at least not in the format we have today. Some terms made sense, like unit studies.

Yep, unit studies are just what they sound like- picking a pretty specific topic and then studying it. We’ve done unit studies on all kinds of things; Egypt, mummies (which was kind of part of the Egypt unit study, but there are so many places besides Egypt that have their own mummies that we felt we needed to do more than one study); pirates, gladiators, the Amazonian rainforest, etc etc etc.

Unit studies can be part of a pre-packaged curriculum, or they can be separate.  They can be free, too, using libraries and the internet to supplement your activities. Unit studies typically incorporate all subjects around a central theme.

So, for example, if you pick mummies as your unit study, you could write a story about mummies (language arts). Your science would be learning what has to happen to make a body into a mummy (a good experiment is mummifying an apple, as one example).  Your history and geography would be learning about specific places mummies are found (Egypt, for example).  You could listen to music or study other cultural practices that revolve around the mummy’s country of origin. Your art could be drawing something related to mummies, or making a pyramid out of clay (that could actually be math, too.)  The opportunities are endless!

You can do the same unit study with a variety of ages. Unit studies can be entirely child-led, where the child picks a topic they want to study and then they find the resources and materials.  Unless they are driving age, this generally requires some parental involvement. 😀

Pre-packaged curriculum is pretty self-explanatory, too. You buy stuff that’s already put together.  You can get entire grade levels (which then, imo, puts you in the school-at-home category, which is not quite the same as homeschooling, again, in my opinion), or you can buy subjects/topics ala carte, and use them as unit studies.

Classical education has some debate.  Some will say it’s based on the rigorous Trivium method of instruction; some will consider a Charlotte Mason education to fall into this category.  Others will say that those reading the “classics” fall into this category. Still others will tell you that if you aren’t learning Latin, you don’t fall into this category.  Either way, this was not our cup of tea, so to speak, and thank goodness it isn’t required!  😀 (A future post will delve more deeply into some of these options.)

That first year, we leaned more toward the child-led learning part of the home education curve.  Generally speaking, child-led learning and unschooling often go hand in hand. Unschoolers typically believe that the world is the classroom, and using child-led learning, learning never stops and is an ongoing process.  While I admit to occasionally giving a helping hand and giving learning material :lol:, by in large, this is the approach we have taken with our kids.

Before you go throwing stones at me for using some pre-packaged curriculum for the older kids while still claiming to unschool, let me just say that I’m not big on labels.  😆  I think labels are rarely completely accurate and are usually more confining and detrimental than helpful (can you see my eyebrow raised? :D). Some might consider us relaxed or eclectic, and maybe even teetering on the edge of schooling-at-home with the oldest.

But let there be no mistake: we are homeschooling, even though at this point in some of the kids’ educational careers there is cause to do more school-at-home than in the past. Although there may be some curriculum being used, one could argue (certainly not me, though, because I never argue :lol:) that we’re still unschooling because it was requested by the child, as part of his child-led learning interests.

The important thing to understand here is that labels don’t matter. Your child matters. Understanding your homeschooling laws and understanding how best your child learns can go a long way to finding a learning style that not only can you both live with, but actually enjoy!

There is, of course, more jargon. We haven’t even touched on cover schools, co-ops, portfolios, and umbrella schools. If you want additional terms and perspectives, here are some links to get you started:






Questions?  Need more information?  Feel free to leave me a comment!  😀

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When we moved here nearly 16 years ago, our oldest was a bun in the oven.  We had heard that schools here were not the best, but that was not really a huge consideration for us, because, after all, we were only going to be here for 2 years max.  (snort)  (Really, you can stop laughing now.  :D)

By the time the our son was ready for kindergarten, our oldest daughter was 3, and daughter #2 was baking.  One of the things I’ll never forget was going into my son’s kindergarten class and watching plane hit the World Trade Center’s Tower #2.  We didn’t have a home computer then, and we didn’t watch tv in the morning.  So, that event was news to me.

The terrorist attack wasn’t the reason we ended up homeschooling.

Kindergarten was by-in-large relatively uneventful.  Sure, we had the normal kid stuff and the attempted labeling of our child by the school district.  After all, if they get their hands sticky at that age, they aren’t supposed to want to stop the activity to clean their hands, right?  The desire to have clean hands surely signaled something was wrong with him, of course (can you hear my sarcasm?).

First grade came, along with the playground bullying, and along with a teacher selected with help of the kindergarten teacher, as a means of attempting to match as best as possible a teacher to my child whereby personalities would mesh.  One of the defining criteria was her approach to homework; in that she didn’t believe that 1st graders should have regular homework.

Let me back up a minute.  I grew up in a public school home.  My father started out as an elementary school teacher; worked his way into Elementary School Principal, and eventually Superintendent of Schools.  When he retired a few years ago, he had spent 40 years in the same district; 36 of those (iir) as Superintendent.

As of this writing, my oldest brother is also the Superintendent of Schools in a district, and 3 of my other siblings are certified teachers.

I am no stranger to public schools, and have a lot of knowledge of child development myself. When my dad started teaching, the big debate was over whether or not to introduce pencils in kindergarten (yes, really). Fast forward 30 years, and the debate in my mind was whether or not regular homework was necessary in 1st grade. I clearly fell on the side of homework at this age being ridiculous.

I was pleased, of course, to have found a teacher who had a similar philosophy.  We had zone-exempted to this school (this means that because this school was not the school we were zoned for, we had to get special permission to have our kid(s) enrolled, and there was no bus service available to us), and one of the reasons we chose to pursue this school was because of a more relaxed approach to matching students to teachers.  Or at least that was our understanding.

As a mother who was determined to be involved, I was at school for several hours, several times a week.  I packed up my two girls, snacks and activities for them to do, and off we went.

From the beginning of school, I was watchful.  I was aware of things going on that I wasn’t keen on, but tried to suspend judgment in favor of letting the professionals do their jobs.  I noticed a huge emphasis on testing, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Early on, I was struck by the irony. I had spent the bulk of my youth waiting to grow up and get away from school, so I could be independent and set my own schedule. It didn’t take a rocket scientists to make me aware that here I was, as an adult, being told again by the school what I could do and when I could do it. There was no freedom in anything. There was no freedom to take vacations that actually worked with my husband’s schedule. Sleeping in wasn’t a big deal, but taking naps was pretty essential, first when having babies, and then as chronic illness hit.

Sleep wasn’t the point. Freedom was the point. Ability to have actual parental sovereignty was the point.

Any kind of schedule had to revolve around the school and what it told us we must do. Child is sick? Too bad. Unless you have a doctor’s note (and who needs one for a cold that incapacitates you? I mean, really? You don’t need antibiotics for a virus-it won’t help you anyway. What you do need, though, is rest!), you can’t miss more than 3 days of school (and a regular cold runs at least 7 days) without one, or else you get marked truant for those days. At the time, kids were allowed 10 days of missed school a year. Any more than that, and you would be subject to court, and the possibility that CYFD(Child, Youth, and Family Department) could actually come and take custody of your children. WTH???

We spent both of those years being sick, all of us. Apparently, we hadn’t been exposed to as many germs as we needed to be, and since parents had to send their kids to school sick, every one else got it, too. The threat of having my children removed from the home for missing school too many times ensured that we continued the vicious cycle of sending kids to school sick.

After a lunchroom incident at some point in the year, I was pretty well convinced it was time to start homeschooling.  By this time, we had our own personal home computer, and through my volunteer work, I was in contact with a group of mothers around the country (and even a few in other countries) who were homeschooling.  I signed up for the list several months before the new school year, so I could ask questions and learn. 

I think it helped, too, that my good friend at time (who used to live across the street from us before we moved) had been homeschooling her kids from the beginning, and they were about 5 years older than my kids.  Her youngest daughter and my oldest daughter are just a few months apart, and remain best friends, even though we now live over an hour away from each other.  She loaned me some books, and a friend of my mother’s, actually, mailed me some materials on home education.

The first two years, although my state didn’t require it, we chose to go with Clonlara, a program in Ann Arbor, Mi, that also had a physical campus. This friend had used Clonlara for years and years, and another friend of my mother’s was one of the contact teachers, and was also involved with the same volunteer organization.  We were able to choose her as our contact teacher, and I finally felt comfortable, knowing she would “get” our parenting style and our philosophys, particular as they pertained to child development.

Clonlara offered the kind of support we (well,*I*) needed at the time. They provided us with a contact teacher and a skills guide. The “Why Choose Clonlara” page does a good job of explaining how they support parents. If I recall, we started that first year enrolling one as a second grader and starting our oldest daughter in kindgarten.

As a new homeschooling family, the pressure is immense. There is pressure you have from others (including but not limited to: family, friends, people you know from school, and comments you get while doing your grocery and other shopping with children in tow) and pressure you feel as the weight of the responsibility hits you.

You worry about all kinds of things- you worry about the education they will get- will they be able to keep up?  Can they learn to read without being taught in school?  Will they have the opportunity to learn all the same stuff like they would get in school?  What about socialization (as in, how on earth will they do it if  they aren’t around kids their own ages?)? Am I qualified to teach my kids?

I won’t go into answering those questions now, because I believe they are entitled to their own posts.  Since this will be our 9th year homeschooling, you might even be able to guess the answer to the last question.  😆  Or maybe the post on that topic will surprise you!

Fears and questions aside, for us, the perks faaaaaaaaaaar outweigh any kind of reasoning to send our kids to formal school of any kind. I won’t lie and tell you it’s been a piece of cake.  I won’t tell you there aren’t times when I want to pull my hair out.  I won’t tell you there aren’t times (when, in fact, usually every year around January/February we hit this point) when I wonder why I’m doing it, and whether or not it would be better to have a house that is cleaner and less attitude from the kids (because yes, the house would be cleaner, but the kids are still going to have attitude, and probably more, with the stress of the school environment combined with extra work, etc).

The thing is, as parents, we are going to have these moments regardless.  Well, we will if we’re conscientious.  We’re going to be evaluating and re-evaluating.  At least when you are actually in charge, you have the option to change course if something isn’t working the way you had hoped.

There is nothing better than having the ability to research something and then have the ability to drive the boat; getting to where you want to go, and making course corrections and taking side trips along the way as you see fit.

Check out the Homeschooling page for the upcoming collection of posts and resources!

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