Wednesday, September 16, 2009

20 Observations of a Newbie Homeschooler

I have been so busy the past couple of weeks I haven't posted much, so you are getting a lot tonight when I finally have time to sit here in the quiet and regurgitate all my thoughts for you to read.

A week into our homeschooling adventure, and already I have come to a few conclusions and have a few observations, some of which are unexpected and some which do not come as a surprise at all. I thought I would share them with you here and would be interested in hearing your thoughts as well...preconceived notions and all!

1) I will you hear me? NOT ever wear a denim jumper with a white T-Shirt.

2) I am quickly seeing that part of the reason our life is so hectic is that in many ways we have lived life like a homeschooling family all along, but have tried to cram in 8 hours of school in addition to all the unofficial homeschooling we have always done. We try to enrich their lives with outside activities and experiences, we look for ways to create intergenerational interaction, we are a service oriented family right down to Joshie. It was something I would not have perceived until the past week, that we already teach our kids a lot, just not the core subjects, and we feel all those other things are equally important to creating men of character who also have followed their passions which leads to much greater happiness.

3) People just can't help themselves, they have to comment upon seeing a child in a store during school hours. Luckily, we have had good training for this with adoption being part of our lives and everyone feeling the need to comment about our family. I guess now we have at least encouraged variety in the comments...which do they question first, the fact he is not in school or the fact that we don't match?? :-)

4) Matthew loves to read. Matthew loves to read a lot. Matthew gobbles books like the cookie monster when given the time. Did I say Matthew loves to read???

5) I didn't realize that this decision at this time would bring a load of guilt for not having Kenny and Josh home too. It wouldn't be wise to jump into all of them being home yet, but I feel guilty for depriving them of what I think is quickly becoming obvious would be a better path for them as well.

6) School supplies when purchased for use in your own home, and which are always so much fun to buy in the first place, become even MORE fun when you get to see them used in front of your eyes!

7) I didn't realize that homeschooling my kids might mean I too am going back to school to learn HOW to do it...and hopefully do it well.

8) The whole socialization argument is bogus. Totally. Completely. If anything, the socialization more closely mirrors "real life". As adults we have choices of whom we interact with...we just don't always see it that way. We can choose to leave a job, we can choose to leave a relationship, we can choose to walk away from a church that doesn't suit us well or a friendship that turns sour. It is only in public schools where we tell our kids to just "walk away" when they encounter kids that are evil incarnate (hyperbole here, of course!)...then we force them to sit next to them in class for hours on end. How exactly do they have the choice to walk away? How is that like "real life"? Kids are powerless to change their environments, adults aren't. Adults may CHOOSE to remain in a job with people they don't care for, but that is their choice. Instead we thrust our kids into situations where they are powerless and can't act on the choices we want them to make. They are stuck and sometimes they succumb. There are plenty of opportunities for peer interaction if you are not holing up in your compound and actually WANT interaction with the outside world and kids of the same age. Also, where else in life other than in public school are you ever in the situation where you only have people your own age to interact with? OK, 'nuff said...but suffice it to say that my biggest fear is quickly becoming laughable, and that is unexpected.

9) You will justify your decision to others forever, just as you find yourself justifying your decision to adopt internationally versus domestically forever. You can get angry and snotty over it, or you can develop your spiel and let it fly when needed. I just haven't had time to develop this spiel well yet.

10) Homeschooling changes your own thought processes about education completely, it upends them and it takes some getting used to. Sort of like becoming a Christian, you learn to live life in a new way and create a "new normal" which may seem abnormal to everyone else.

11) Being scared of failing drives you to research very, very, very carefully. Fear is a great motivator. I can fail when it is myself, but I can not fail my children. Period.

12) I never thought I would say this, but I think it is possible that Matthew (and maybe all the kids eventually) will get not only a different education, but a better long as #11 above keeps Mom working at it.

13) My son is interesting, very interesting. I knew that before, but I am discovering it on a whole different level now. He has a cool mind.

14) I will never, ever fit in any particular category. I am weird, I am non-conformist without striving to be, I am not going to fit into the homeschool mommy mold any better than I did the public schooling mommy mold, or the Christian mommy mold, or the Betty Crocker mommy mold. In some ways, now that I think about it, NOTHING about me screams "Mommy"!!!

15) Joshie and Kenny are phenomenal and supportive brothers. They are proud of Matthew, there is no jealousy, there is only understanding compassion and encouragement. Every day when they get in the car it is "What did you do today Matthew? What did you learn?" and when looking at his work there are a lot of "ooohs and aaahhhhs". I expected "It's not fair you get to stay home with Mommy!" or "Why can't I?", as that would be normal. My kids somehow also don't seem to fall in the "normal kid mold" either. Maybe THAT is why we all belong together! hahaha!

16) People automatically assume your child was A) A trouble maker or B) Failing in school if you make the decision to pull them from public school and homeschool them. They also look at you like you are lying when you say "Honestly, he was bored and it wasn't working for him.", or they assume you incorrectly think your kid is some kind of genius and that you are arrogant.

17) The term "Special Needs" has a certain connotation. We forget that every single living person has "Special Needs" and deserves to be cared for regardless of what those needs are.

18) I have not yet figured out why it is assumed that an adult who managed to graduate high school with good grades and who has lived in the real world and functioned in jobs for 25+ years is incapable of teaching their children elementary math, reading and writing skills. Like we haven't been keeping our household books, writing letters, reading everything from computer manuals to Reader's Digest. Naw...I can't manage to teach my kid what a synonym is, I can't correct his writing mistakes. But most importantly, why is it assumed that we, as parents, are not only teachers but facilitators of our children's education...meaning that we can figure out how to have others teach our kids what we ourselves can not. Isn't that our job in life anyway? To lead our children to learning experiences in addition to teaching them what we know? I may not know calculus...I'll grant you that...but I DO know where to find a teacher or a class to teach it to my children.

19) Teaching our kids to think and be resourceful is more important than teaching them facts. It is sort of like the old adage about giving a man a fish and you feed him for today, but teach him how to fish and you've fed him for a lifetime. Giving our kids the tools to be able to find information when it is needed is almost as important it not more so than having them memorize facts and dates. There is a place for that, but if my kids can problem solve, have people skills, and can find what they need when they need it, they will do OK in this world.

20) Pulling your child from school is not always a judgment of their current teacher, the school itself, or even a judgment on the system in general. Sometimes it is that your kid is not the norm, and schools teach to the norm. That's all. There are some people who really and truly don't have any blame to lay on anyone, they just want a different environment for their kids.

So there you have it, my first 20 observations surrounding our new homeschooling adventure. Nothing profound, nothing even all that interesting! But I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of them.


Anonymous said...

Good Job Mom!
I was going to try to tell you
#8 but you learned it all on your
own and very quickly too (family life is socialization!)

As far as Calculus the time Matthew gets there, he will be able to teach himself.

You may enjoy reading 'Pocketful of Pinecones' by Karen Andreola. I found it an inspiring and peacful book. And 'Real Learning:Education in the Heart of the Home' by Elizabeth Foss has an awesome book list at the back as well as great information throughout.

Enjoy the adventure..! Also, Matthew created a beautiful cover for his Native American lapbook! Isn't it fun to see his excitement and watch the learning unfold so naturally?

Phil said...

Great post! As before, you prove that you're not going into this lightly and doing more than your share of research.

I can only somewhat agree with #8 though. I believe the argument is there for a reason. I certainly don't agree with the extreme viewpoint that homeschooled children lack social skills but as I look back on my life, I can't help but think about how it was shaped by the kids I knew in school. Some became friends, some were 'evil incarnate' :-), some were like me, and some were totally different.

I think one obstacle in the socialization issue in homeschooling (and certainly nothing that can't be overcome), is a possible tendancy for parents to channel their kid's social opportunities into their own likes / preferences, and their own ideas about the influences of other types of people in their child's life.

Naturally, I'm not talking about intentionally allowing your kids to associate with others who can hurt them (Kids who do drugs, etc...), but I start to wonder how my own life would've been if my parents consciously or unconsciously dictated who my friends were, or dictated what groups I could only choose my friends from. I know that some of the kids I was in school with wouldn't have made the cut, but I also know they influenced my life in almost undefinable ways. It wasn't just 'good' or 'bad'. More like 'different' and 'unique' Some my parents would've liked, some not so much, but I'm guessing most brought things to my life that my mom and dad could've never imagined, and would've never even thought of if they had such a huge say in how I interacted with my peers and others.

In my life now, I watch my own kids with amazement in how they learn and grow with their teachers and with kids whose families we would and wouldn't naturally hang out with outside of the school environment. If their educational needs changed signifigantly, I would absolutely consider homeschooling. I hope I'd have it within me to do the amount of 'homework' you've already done, as well as following my own words above. Good luck with everything!

Maureen said...

As always, you amaze me. What a great list. I've been wanting to ask my fellow homeschooling Mommy friends why they decided to go that route and I think you've just given me a really good insight into some of the reasons.

I loved 17)! Everyone is different. Everyone learns different. Everyone does have their own "special needs."

Number 19) is what I always said was my goal as a teacher... teach children to love to learn. If a child isn't interested in learning, then they won't learn. There are so many things that I re-learned (and re-learned better I think) when I went back to get my Education License. The difference now is that I wanted to learn and remember it. It was important to me now.

Have you heard of "No Child Left Behind"? It is part of the reason there is so much testing pressure in public schools. It basically says that there is a mold that all kids fit into and they can all learn X information by X grade. It just made me sick to try to have to teach to the test instead of exploring topics that interested the students. If you find a topic that interests a child, there are so many ways to integrate the other subjects into that topic.

Matthew will do great and you will do great! Enjoy!

Kim Adams said...

I loved this post. It echoes a lot of what I've heard and thought about homeschooling. I'd rather my children learn in "real life" context - learn about taking turns and standing in line at the grocery store and post office; learn about sitting quietly during church service. I have been heavily influenced by Ivan Illich's book Deschooling Society (a summary of his main points at I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of those points... if you ever have time for more homework :)

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Excellent obervations-my fave+#1. You CRACK ME UP!!

Stephanie and Gary said...

A great and inspiring post from a dedicated and inspiring mom. Kudos to you!!


Fioleta said...

I so much enjoyed reading your posts about your decision to homeschool and the first week of actually doing it. I hope you'll keep on meeting people, who'll understand and support you. As a fellow book-lover, I can just imagine the joy Matthew must feels at being able to read for as long as he wants to.