Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More on Homeschooling

It's always difficult to know where to start educating yourself about homeschooling. There's almost too much information out there! But to get an idea of what is possible these three books are an excellent place to start.

I confess I haven't read Susan Schaeffer MacCauley's book. (Yes, she is one of those Schaeffer's). It wasn't in our library system back when I started. It is now, and I have it on request.

From this book, I learned that homeschooling is first and foremost about relationships: the relationship you have with your Creator, the relationships you have with your children and the relationships they have with each other. Protecting, nuturing, developing and growing these relationships is of paramount importance--and a good reason to homeschool no matter what curriculum or method you choose.

It goes beyond just this, of course, laying out an excellent way to approach one's academics. A way that doesn't let them take over your life. A way, I might add, diametrically opposed to the next one.

In this one, a mother and daughter team up to provide not only a vision for what educating your children with rigour and high standards may be like, but they offer specific curriculum suggestions that enable you to teach your children to think in the "classical" way. It is my "go to" book for planning the goals of our homeschool: but it tends to create "school at home" which is highly structured and very demanding.

That's why I'm looking forward to reading this book.

This book sets out the Charlotte Mason method. CM, as it is known in homeschooling circles is also quite rigorous academically, based on learning from "living books" and Nature. From the testimonies of all who follow it, it is more relaxed and the day's work flows from one thing to the next.

One part of me is scared to let go the reins and let things happen "naturally." Yes, partly I'm a control freak, but partly I tend to fall apart without a set structure in front of me and a clear plan to follow. Nothing gets done unless I know exactly what I'm doing. So, we'll have to see if this book will help me figure out what I need to know to relax things around here just a tad. School really doesn't have to look like school, and I'd like to figure out how to do that.

Homeschooling is always a journey, no matter which path you take.


CQ in DC said...

I've been reluctant to comment on any of this homeschooling stuff because I don't have kids and therefore believe that my thoughts won't have much relevance. Regardless, I wonder if you plan to homeschool through college, or if this is a more temporary measure?

Your comment that "school really doesn't have to look like school" threw me for a loop, because to me, it should and it does. As someone who always loved school, I would have hated to be separated from that enviroment. I am still close to my core groups of friends from grade school and high school, and wonder if you are concerned that your children will miss out on those relationships? Is there a larger group of homeschooled kids that you share sports and field trips etc with?

Do foresee a point at which the children themselves might want to participate in a more structured and formal educational program? What if one wants to attend school and the other wants to remain at home?

I'm truly interested in the process that brought you and your family to this point because it is quite outside of my experience. Thanks for reading!

Alana in Canada said...

I appreciate you speaking out and telling me what you're thinking.

You have very valid concerns. I'll just answer your questions one by one:

1) I intend to homeschool to at least high school, and I hope, through High school too. We shall see closer to the time what my kids' plans are. For example, if either of my children wants to be an Engineer, we may have to look into HS because Engineering departments at Univeristies may prefer the traditional High school diploma and transcript. (They may not, though. It may just depend on some "tests") If either of them want to go into fine arts, then I'd be comfortable homeschooling high school. If either want to be a plumber--same deal. We may even be able to begin an apprenticeship early!

As for relationships, that is something of a concern. My daughter is a social butterfly. She is also highly influenced by her peers--and extremely resistent to discipline. I just felt that if she went to school a) she'd get so caught up in the social aspect she wouldn't do well at all (she's also quite bright and would not be challenged sufficiently to keep her interested) and b) heaven help us if she ever got into the "wrong" sort of crowd! I'm glad you had a positive experience. I think that's rare.
We did have a group of homeschooling kids we socialized with--but without a car this year, it's been difficult to get out and about. My daughter does still see two of her friends from pre-school on a regular basis.

My son is awkward in social situations and often gets himself into trouble with folks by saying and doing the inappropriate thing. He was bullied a bit in school and developed a terrible complex about himself and his ability to be friends with people.

My son loves to be homeschooled, my daughter does not. Too bad.

We have excellent schools here, we really do. We have tons of choices, too, about the environment in which they could learn--there's even a school close by that offers pretty much the same curriculum I do! But the problem with school is the school system. My kids just learn better at home, one on one, or, one on two, hands down. I can push them ahead, I can slow them down--whatever they need. My son fell apart over division today, so we backed right up and went to the beginning. I couldn't see that happening at school without a lot of shame attached to it.

My daughter is very good at giving superficial answers--good enough in a class of 30 (or more) --but it doesn't work when she's the only pupil!

They are very different children--so there are a different set of reasons for homeschooling each of them.

Here are the seven lessons children learn in school--any school from John Taylor Gatto:
"The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong."

"The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch."

"The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command."

"The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study."

"In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth."

"In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched."

"The seventh lesson I teach is that you can't hide."

The difference with homeschooling is that those "lessons" are learned when they are younger--in a family environment--I'm a person, not an institution--and as they get older, they will assume responsibility for their own learning.

scb said...

Ack! I typed a whole long comment, and I accidentally hit the wrong key, and it's gone!!!!!

I don't have time to re-create it now. I'll be back. Rats -- I liked the way I'd worded it.

scb said...

Okay, I'm going to try again...

When I first heard about homeschooling, several years ago, I had some of the same concerns and reservations as CQ has expressed.

As you know, my interest has been piqued by your blogging about the homeschooling process, and I'm seeing the whole idea in quite a different light.

Reading "How to Home School" by Gayle Graham, which I *will* write a review of, soon, has really made me see home schooling as an exciting alternative. She shows how the oft-expressed concern about socialization is usually dealt with by the groups a homeschooled child belongs to, and points out that homeschooled children through service opportunities, etc., socialize with a wider range of ages and backgrounds than children in school-school. And she also points out that socialization in school is just with one's own age group and isn't always a positive experience...

Looking at school from my own personal perspective, I, like CQ, loved school -- in the early years. But grades 7 through 10 were different. a) I was bored, and there wasn't enough to challenge me and b) I was bullied, not physically, but psychologically, because I didn't "fit in". I had a group of friends, but we were sort of the misfits from two grades. One of those school friends has remained one of my closest friends to this day, I haven't seen any of the others for years. I did a lot better in school when we moved to the city when I was in Grade Eleven, and I got to have a fresh start with lots of people who shared my outlook and interests...

I think that I could have benefited from homeschooling from Grades 7 to 10, but I would have missed things, too (like my fabulous French teacher, who also created a drama class for one year). I think it would have been hard to keep me on track -- I'd be more inclined to just read and read, and to just do the "fun stuff". My mother concurs...

I can really see some exciting possibilities with home schooling, and the more I read about it, the more I wish I had someone to home school!

(Sorry for writing a book in this comment, I maybe should have turned it into a post!)

Alana in Canada said...

Thanks scb. You've mounted a great defence!

drwende said...

Related to the "letting go of control issue" -- take a look at Paulo Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It's about adult education, not grammar school, but it deals extensively with the issue of controlling the curriculum versus going with the flow.

The more free-flowing method is a LOT harder than using an extensively planned curriculum. (I speak as someone who has rarely used more than a list of reminder words as lecture notes in the past 20 years.) You have to know your stuff backwards and forwards, have it at the tip of your tongue, and be very comfortable with admitting ignorance on specific questions and looking things up.

Don't beat yourself up if that's just not your comfort zone on some subjects.

drwende said...

Damn -- Freire! I always spell his name wrong on the first try!

scb said...

I was hoping our public library would have all three books. They only have the third one, and it's checked out until Feb 29. Unless the person who has it likes it as much as I like "Cooking for Madam", in which case, who knows when it will get back to the library? I'll put my name down for it, and hope for the best.

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