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This post was inspired by this article: A Controversial Chapter in Education: Unschooling. (The article says a ‘new chapter’, but the headlines say ‘A controversial chapter’).

It’s only controversial because of our culture’s misconceptions about education. All parents have a legal right to chose the form of education that we feel is best for our children, and (this is important) each child will learn best in his or her own way. My choice may be different from your choice, but that doesn’t make it wrong or, worse, negligent.

I am homeschooling my girls. I say ‘am’ because learning should start at home, from birth (or before!). According to my state’s law, I do not file as a homeschool until my child turns seven, but we've been homeschooling since birth. Before, if you count all the talking, reading, explaining, rubbing, dancing, dreaming, reiki-ing, and listening to music that I did with my babies when I was pregnant.

Right now, I think we mostly do unschooling, but my plan has always been to do a mixture of unschooling and
unit studies
. I researched all of the options while I was pregnant, and this is what Josh and I decided would work best for our family. I’m pretty sure this is the exact kind of environment Eden needs to thrive and be passionate about life-long learning, but we’re definitely willing to incorporate bits and pieces of many methods, and if Ivy’s learning style is different, then we will do something different for her.

As practically every resource says, the definition of unschooling is different for each family that uses it. What does that mean for us?

It means that we allow our children’s passion and interest to decide the route our ‘schooling’ will take. I feel that for my kids, it's best if we focus on whatever their passion of the moment is (hence the unit studies).

It means that since Eden has been into dinosaurs, we rent a lot of dinosaur books and videos from the library (reading, science, math [how many books, how many dinosaurs are there, etc.], history, colors [what color is that dinosaur?], responsibility [take care of library books and return them], calendar [mark the day and be sure they’re back on time], daily skills [discussing the route to the library in the car, using the library, learning how to look up books], that all-important socialization [interacting with librarians, other kids, toddler-time if they’re having it]). It means we look up fossils online and learn about skeletons and how the earth was made (biology, earth science, computers, and momma-time all rolled into one). It means we planned our vacation to include a museum with a real dinosaur exhibit (daily skills, more socialization and all that other stuff I mentioned again). It means we draw dinosaurs (art, motor skills), and buy dinosaur stickers (math, money, daily skills, socialization), and chase each other around the house growling like dinosaurs (P.E., creativity, and just plain fun).

It means that she’s been asking about telling time and reading, so now I’ve started teaching her. If it ends up being too hard for her, I’ll back off and return to something else she’s excited about, like American Flags and learning about different states. And Ivy’s been excited about dance, so we have several dance breaks every day with different types of music.

It means that I stay home with my kids and incorporate them into real-world daily life. I take them shopping, and they help me find what I need and put it in the cart. I teach them about healthy foods and junk foods. I try to teach them to listen and quit grabbing things. Eden *loves* to pay, although we’re still working on fully grasping the money concept. We socialize with all sorts of people.

I read something in one of the homeschooling books, and I wish I could remember which one, but it said basically, “When in life, outside of school, are you ever surrounded by 20-30 people your own age? Homeschooled kids interact with people of all ages all day long. A homeschool parent who is truly responsible for their child’s education and including them in daily life will have a child who is more ‘socialized’ than most of the children in a classroom.”

Personally, the schools in our district don’t meet our standards. Josh had a pretty traumatizing experience in those exact schools, and he refuses to send his children there. We can’t afford the Montessori school I like, and honestly, I think I could provide the best education for my children. And when the time comes when they want to learn something that I can’t teach them, like dance, basketball, Russian, or flute, then I will enroll them in classes or hire a tutor. I’ll continue to make local friends and join homeschooling groups. Many groups have sports teams, dances, proms, and graduation ceremonies, if my children feel they need that.

Will I ever use text books? Probably, but I’d prefer to use my local library and bookstores. Workbooks? Yes indeed-y, because I can totally see Eden needing to learn how to sit down and complete a task like that. Tests? Undoubtedly, since the law requires it every year. What I won’t do, however, is cram information down their throat for weeks prior to be sure they get a certain score. Obviously tests are great tools for seeing where each child’s personal weaknesses are, and that’s how I intend to use them. I’m not going to push them before they’re ready, and I’m going to be sure they’re always enjoying the way we learn.

That’s what our personal goal is for our children – feeling passion about learning. And, you know, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I have some smart kids who seem to learn quickly, and I have little doubt that this will work, leaving them brilliant kids with a future in any field they desire. If I didn’t think it was the right choice for them, I wouldn’t do it, no matter how much of an advocate I am.

Comments

( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
kali_kali
Apr. 14th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
That sounds awesome :) I definitely want to hear more about your activities in homeschooling, because I know that's what I want to do with my future children, so hearing stories helps give me ideas :)
ahavah
Apr. 14th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! We've definitely started getting into it a bit more, especially now that Josh is actually driving himself to work and me and the kids have a pretty set schedule during the day now. We've started a 'Star Chart' where the girls can earn star stickers for doing well throughout the day, and when we get ten we'll have a special fieldtrip. We're working our way towards our first ten, but there will definitely be pictures. :D
jenny_evergreen
Apr. 14th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
*much nodding*
ahavah
Apr. 14th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Some of the responses to the article I read were just...not informed at all. I guess I needed a soapbox moment. lol
(no subject) - jenny_evergreen - Apr. 14th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 14th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jenny_evergreen - Apr. 14th, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
cheekymama
Apr. 14th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
I love your soap box moments :) I also love that you're incorporating some of the Unschooling ideas into your homeschooling. Child led learning can be very interesting, fun, a little bit tricky, and totally worth it. :) Theres nothing better than learning about what you love.:)
ahavah
Apr. 14th, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, thank you so much! That's a relief to hear. I think it's working great so far, and these kids are nothing if not passionate. :D
lanternlady
Apr. 14th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC)
*bows to you*

I wish I'd had the courage to do that with my own children. Good on you both.... how truly wonderful for your girls. :o)
ahavah
Apr. 14th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
hearthand
Apr. 14th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
I do agree with your methods of teaching, and while it may be different in the USA, here when you hit the grand age of 16 you have to do exams called Standard Grades. Most employers here look for SG's (although some like retail, cleaners and some IT jobs are experience based too.) To do a Higher course (for a more "up market" job, apparently) you need certain SG grades (a 1 or 2.) and to get into university or some colleges you have to get certain Higher grades in different subjects.

How, out of curiosity not criticism, will you provide specialised education in things like Biology, Chemistry, Math at various levels? And how do you assess your kids? In homeschooling, I think part that concerns me in learning about the possibility of homeschooling kids I have is that I could be biased toward scores (not like at teacher may not be.) Or that I teach something "incorrectly" like screwing up a pythagoras equation.

ahavah
Apr. 14th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
Well so far in our learning, we're doing mostly books, documentaries, and hands-on or fieldtrip experiences. And the thing about homeschooling is that it's really family schooling - we, as her 'teachers', would me learning the materials right along with her. If I did order her a textbook or unit study on Chemistry (an example I use because I sucked at it - I was in honors, but I squeaked by Chemistry with a C), then the curriculum usually comes with teaching guides and answers. Also, as I said, I have no qualms about outside classes or tutors if I don't think I'm qualified enough to teach a subject, but that's generally an unfounded fear if you start young with the children. Now, someone trying to teach their 17 year old right after pulling them out of school - they might have considerable more trouble.

Many homeschooling groups also have teaching cooperatives, where kids can take classes a few times a week. Or, like, each parent will teach a class in something their proficient in. I don't think I'm worried about teaching our children 'incorrectly', because we'd definitely be learning it together. And if I don't get it, I can always turn to many of the support groups and resources that are available for homeschooling families.

I don't think I would be biased, except that I'm not even sure if I'm going to follow a 'grading' system. I mean I can easily look at the answer sheets and mark incorrect questions on tests and worksheets, but I think we're going to lean more heavily on keeping homeschooling portfolios and emphasizing personal improvement over number or letter grades. But...I mean I was a perfectionist in school. I cried when I got less than As, you know? I'd like them to focus more on understanding the material, and I think they're both bright enough that they'll both push themselves to do their very best. I think Eden - at least at this age - would do better with hands-on learning experiences, anyway, so that's more our focus than scores.

The thing is, NC requires yearly testing and the kids have to make certain scores. If the kids aren't 'up to par' in all areas, so to speak, they will monitor your homeschool. This is my understanding, at least (and I haven't explored the legalities *too* much, since I don't register for three more years and the laws are often changing, anyway). I certainly don't want my kids to be dumbies, or to score poorly on standardized tests. But the problem is that the schools used to cram us for six weeks before hand, and we never really *learned*. I'll teach what's necessary for them to know, and for us to legally continue homeschooling, but I plan to incorporate it into their individual daily learning experiences and teach it in the time and manner that's most rewarding for them.
(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 14th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lanternlady - Apr. 14th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hearthand - Apr. 14th, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hearthand - Apr. 14th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 14th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hearthand - Apr. 15th, 2007 01:00 am (UTC) - Expand
aimingforpeace
Apr. 14th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
I wish I had the confidence to homeschool Sophia. I really admire people who do. I'm so unorganized and such a procrastinator that I fear she'd actually suffer more at my hands than in the school system. I am planning on being active in her learning though and supplementing what they teach her with hands on fun exploration of whatever subject is at hand.
ahavah
Apr. 14th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
That's awesome, too! Whatever works. I'm not so good at the organized thing, either, but I guess it pushes me to improve. :D
lahermite
Apr. 14th, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC)
good soap box, darlin'!!!

this is one of the few posts i've read all the way through in ages hahaha.

see you tommorrow.

xoxo
ahavah
Apr. 15th, 2007 01:43 am (UTC)
Well thank you so much! I'm honored. And the girls are excited about tomorrow. I'm sending out sunny vibes. :D
intrepidrayne
Apr. 15th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
I've definitely thought about the differences home schooling can have on a child. I don't think I would be able to do it though. I would love to be a stay at home mom in the early years (infant to five-ish), but after that I would worry that I wasn't able to teach them properly. Perhaps if my hubby hasn't found something he would love to do, he could take over their education around that age. I think he would be a much better teacher than I would. :)

That being said, I didn't have any truly bad experiences in my public schooling. I will admit that I would have done much better in a smaller classroom where a teacher might have noticed that I was to shy to ask certain questions or embarrass myself.

I haven't read all of the links in your post yet because I was feeling lazy. I will later. :P
ahavah
Apr. 15th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
I talked to hearthand a bit about that above. I think a lot of the fears of not being able to do it well enough are magnified more than necessary. But then again, not everyone is comfortable being a teacher. I think Josh and I both plan to do it together, since he seems to excel at everything I lack in. lol

Don't feel obligated to read the links if you don't want. They're just some general info about the subject in case anyone was interested in learning further.
times_suspended
Apr. 15th, 2007 03:17 am (UTC)
Every time I've read about your children and your family, I think about how lucky your kids are to have you there, to be home schooled. And I know that is a generalization, 'every time,' but it's true. I do, each and every time - even when they are asking for tats or when you are getting your nipple bit and reacting in an understandable [though not how you had wished] manner. And when I say that you are there, I mean on a level more than just physical placement. You truly -are there- in your children's lives, in their days, and they are going to be all the better for it.

Now. I can be there in a week. How soon can you arrange to adopt me? I want to go to the museum and have dance time, and I want stars!! ;)
ahavah
Apr. 15th, 2007 03:26 am (UTC)
;)
Thank you so much! And that's really something I needed to hear. I was all proud of my unschooling post, and then Eden comes up saying, "Mommy, can you get off your puter?" Ha! That's what I get for feeling prideful! lol I guess I'm not always there. :P

But yeah, I can adopt you no problem. You do, like, dishes or anything?
lessthan90sheep
Apr. 15th, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
lol. wow, I wrote a reply in word and tried to post it, and LJ told me I'd exceeded my max character allotment. LOL. Fine. lol. this is part ONE:


Well, I hate to be the only negative-Nancy on this thread. You know I am your beautiful-blodyn-blossom and I usually have your back on everything you do, and you're still mah' number one lady, but I am personally against home-schooling children. Please re-think with a more pragmatic rather than idealistic mind set.

Now what do I have, experience-wise, to actually add to this thread besides speculation? Plenty, actually. See, Scott (my bf, for those who don't know me) was home-schooled until he was in high school. So I have had the chance to intimately experience and observe the long-term effects this sort of thing has on a person. I think most studies that get put out there only look at the short term, and not what sort of affects it can still have on a 31-year-old man.

The short of it is, I frankly don't think he's any better off. He's not any smarter, any more successful, any more responsible, or any better-educated than anybody else. I suffered through 12 years of public school, and yes, a majority of what I know today I probably taught myself. But, so what? lol. Because of his parrents' personalities, he knows more about American history than I do, but again, so what? I'm still smarter than he is.

But that's part of the problem, a problem I think got addressed earlier in this thread. He knows a lot about American history, but arguably very little about world history, and frankly a lot of what he DOES know is in error, because he had one of those fantastic "Christ-centered educations." His Mom taught him what SHE knew, what SHE thought, and that’s not necessarily the holistic education one hopes for. He was flabbergasted to learn that Canada has a Thanksgiving, for example. He's still emphatic that Judaism is the oldest living religion in the world. pfft. (and my inner Hindu goes: CHHAA????!!! . . . lol)

But more than that, what it's done is separate him in a lot of ways from the rest of his generation. He doesn't think Family Guy and South Park are funny, for example, and we're both fairly sure this is because his mom never let him watch the Simpsons or Ren and Stimpy, and since he never had classmates to teach him to laugh at that sort of unbridled silliness, he never learned it. He doesn't remember five-billion other things that help people of the same age bond with each other. Like, you remember red ribbon week? (Drug free is the way to be!!) You remember the useless sex-ed course? You remember those bracelets that you had to slap onto your wrist, and sneakers with three different colored laces? You remember playing "hot lava", or TV-tag, or having "opposite day"? I chuckle, as Scott looks at me blankly. I mean, he missed-out on Opposite Day for Christ’s sake. That’s just cruel.
lessthan90sheep
Apr. 15th, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC)
part two:

I also think always having 100% of his Mom's attention has messed with him, too. He has difficulty telling when people aren't interested in what he has to say; he seems unconsciously convinced that everything he has to say is important. Frankly speaking, he really needed some kids to give him a wedgie. He really needed a teacher to ignore him, to tell him to put his hand down, wait his turn to speak, and to make him sit in the corner for not using his 'inside voice.' I mean, I realize he's a Leo, but I don't think anyone has actually ever told him that the world doesn't revolve around him. LOL.

He is also firmly of the opinion that he doesn’t have to even fake respect for authority figures he doesn’t like. Why? Because his Mom taught him that he only had to answer to her, he never had to listen to a bunch of teachers that no one cared for. And god that hurt him in college. And we’re not even going to touch how difficult it was for him to actually jump into high school when he had never been to school before. What? The lessons aren’t individually tailored to my specific educational needs? I’m an auditory-learner, if I just read this supplementary text book I won’t remember any of it. What? What do you mean, “So what?” If a public school education teaches us anything, it’s how to function in college, which is the important bit, is it not?

The thing is, I think parents in the US just get frustrated because our public schools have just become so bad. And they see a lot of literature that shows a very rosy-colored idealistic picture of home-schooling, like it will somehow solve all of our problems and help our children rise above all the scum floating in the pond and really shine. But that's just not the case. I end up filing it in the back of my mind with things like communism or eating vegan—yeah, sounds great on paper, but what do these writers really know about anything in the real world? It’s arm-chair science. Get off your butt and live it and we’ll talk again.

What children need are involved parents, parents who follow intimately what their children are doing in school and help them expand on it, like mine did. Not for their parents to totally remove them from the real world, their peers, and the life-lessons they will need to fit-in and prosper as adults.

Really, what are you teaching your children when you let them study whatever interests them on a whim, and don't hold them to tests and arbitrary deadlines? Frankly speaking, that's a life skill. I may not have learned a damn thing about long division from all the useless busy-worksheets I did in school, but I DID learn that often in life I will have to do tasks that I find flat boring and that truly ARE pointless-- but that's how jobs work, that's how life works. I just did such a task; it was called "filing income taxes." That's pointless grown-up homework. It sucked and it wasn't interesting in the slightest, but I did it. “I don’t feel like it today” isn’t a valid excuse. Don’t do that to your children.



(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 15th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 15th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lessthan90sheep - Apr. 16th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 16th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
simplydorei
Apr. 16th, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)
As always, we think alike...i was a TA & substitute for a few years & tried similar approaches within the classroom, to the extent possible! TC & i are definitely planning on this direction with our own, if it suits their needs.
ahavah
Apr. 16th, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
That's awesome! I know that not everyone has the desire or ability to homeschool, but I think that for the folks who *do* want to make that sacrifice to see the best for their children, then the entire community should be as supportive of that as they are public schooling. Who knows? I may have to go back to work someday, but whatever we do, we're going to try to make this a priority.
(no subject) - simplydorei - Apr. 16th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 16th, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - simplydorei - Apr. 16th, 2007 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ahavah - Apr. 16th, 2007 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 39 comments — Leave a comment )

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