Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Homeschool


"I just like to know," said Pooh humbly.

Have you ever had a quote that really resonated with you? This line from "Winnie the Pooh" by A.A. Milne has always stuck with me because it summarizes how I approach life. For me, the knowing involves a constant state of learning. And even in the busier phases of my life, I find myself itching to learn more about everything. So I devour more books than most adults (mostly of the non-fiction variety), I scour the internet, I read blogs and listen to podcasts, and I constantly stretch myself to learn all manner of subjects. It's what I do. It's what I've always done.

I hadn't planned on homeschooling. One of the reasons we moved to where we live is the excellent school system. But, here we are, on the brink of homeschool.


Last year I experimented with getting my kids outside daily and I also happened to read a book called "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. This book got my wheels turning. Why are kids expected to start spending so much time inside at an early age? Why were we in such a hurry to speed childhood along? Why this diversion from play-based learning and more of an emphasis on medicating kids that have trouble sitting still in school? I couldn't shake the thoughts.

Then all of a sudden we were in the middle of kindergarten readiness activities (it creeps up on you!). These activities included attending a parent-teacher conference with Jack's preschool teacher, going to a kindergarten readiness meeting, and taking a tour of the school we are zoned for. While we checked these items off our list of things to do to prepare for kindergarten, I happened to read the book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" by Diane Ravitch.


If you don't want to question how school is being done in America, don't read this book. But I did read it, and my doubts about public school, especially in regards to kindergarten, grew.

I was torn because we have excellent schools without having to pay for private, but I have strong feelings about the requirement of a seven-hour school day for kindergarten. Can Jack attend school for that long each day? Sure, he's capable. But what would he actually gain from that amount of time in a classroom? When I look at my child and his capabilities and the things he loves, I don't know that a classroom setting with 20+ kids and one teacher is the right fit.


Am I worried about his socialization? Nope. Jack does not meet a stranger and we have constant exposure to other families and kids that I think will provide enough so-called socialization.

Do I want to homeschool for religious reasons? Sure, we can instill our family values and beliefs in our children through homeschool, but we would do that regardless of where they attended school.

What if he gets behind? Based on the things Jack has already learned from us (with minimal effort), I am confident that formal education at home will allow him to blossom further with the added benefit of us being able to tailor his studies to topics he loves.


A third book that I recently finished was "Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education" by is an internationally recognized leader in the development of innovation and human resources who shared a TED talk about education in 2006. He inspired so many people, he has gone on to share his knowledge and inspire even more through books he has written. 

I have not watched his TED talk, but his book Creative Schools is chock full of observations and recommendations from professionals that emphasize rethinking how education is currently done. I could have highlighted the entire book! The book is engaging and informative and gave me a lot to think about in regards to how homeschooling will look for our family (in light of the ways it needs to change in the public school sector). Here are a few of the passages that especially resonated with me:

When standardized tests are the primary factor in accountability, the temptation is to use tests to define curriculum and focus instruction.


In my view, a balanced curriculum should give equal status and resources to the following: the arts, humanities, language arts, mathematics, physical education, and science. Each addresses major areas of intelligence, cultural knowledge, and personal development.

"Failure is an important part of the process... This critical part of the learning experience– the learning that comes from failure– is far too often programmed out of the academic curriculum." – Larry Rosenstock, High Tech High

"The world economy no longer pays for what you know, Google knows everything. The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know." – Andreas Schleicher, Secretary General, OECO

In national and global surveys, employers don't complain about applicants lacking specific knowledge or technical skills, which are easy to test and express in a letter grade; they want employees who can analyze critically, collaborate, communicate, solve problems, and think critically." – Joe Bower, science/language teacher in Alberta, Canada


...in most respects, individuals are most like themselves with their own temperatures, interests, talents and dispositions. You can help your children by treating them as individuals and not by assuming that they should follow the same paths or be judged by the same criteria at school.

...the greatest argument for homeschooling: that it allows you to push your children where your child needs pushing... while also letting you give your child enormous room for improvisation and discovery.

Effective education is always a balance between rigor and freedom, tradition and innovation, the individual and the group, theory and practice, the inner and the outer world.


It has always been my belief that no matter where our kids attended school, we would supplement their education at home. I still believe this, but for the time being, supplementing will actually be teaching. I don't believe it is possible to teach everything there is to know, but I can teach them how to learn and equip them with the desire to learn. With that ability and desire, the world will be at their fingertips.

Here are a few podcast series about homeschooling that have really resonated with me and shaped how I think our homeschool will work:
The Homeschool Sisters
Wild and Free Children
Brave Writer

4 comments:

  1. I'm so excited for you!!! I encourage you to read about unschooling. I didn't think I was an unschooler, but I'm realizing, just in this last month or so, that I lean more towards unschooling than I thought. And it sounds like you do, too.

    It's not about avoiding books, but about learning because we are interested in things. Want to keep chickens? You'll need read about it. And learn how to do some Math along the way. Do you like fixing things? You'll end up checking out a few library books and tinkering with your tools. And the fun just goes on and on!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unschooling/hackschooling is definitely the direction we are headed 🙂 and I can't wait to start the journey!

      Delete
  2. Cheree, I just want to say a couple of things. First of all, I read your blog occasionally when you post them to facebook, and it is so well-written. Your care for your family and the intention you take in making your big decisions is obvious, and it's an honor to have such an awesome cousin-in-law. :)

    On this one, I just wanted to say that I agree with so many of your points. I know the American education system is struggling right now. I also know that 5 is so young to start sitting in a chair for hours and hours a day. I think holding Jack at home is the right decision, most of all because his parents are the ones who made it.

    But as he gets older, I urge you to continue to consider the issue, not just for Jack, but for the young ones he would go to school with. Part of the reason the American school system suffers is because of lack of investment. It is wonderful that you made the choice to homeschool, but not all families have the choice. The public school system was created, in theory at least, to be an equalizer, and the more people who take their kids out of school, pay for private, or create an exclusive and expensive school district, the more this mission is lost.

    I am a big believer in public education, really on idealistic grounds. That may be naive of me, but it's understandable as the daughter of a public school teacher, and someone who has attended public schools, even at the university level. Public schools do so much more than educate, and if the pattern of disinvestment continues, I worry about what will happen when the time comes to put my own children through school.

    If you do decide to keep your boys at home all the way through high school, I completely understand. I know you and Daniel are smart and thoughtful, and Jack and Isaac will no doubt benefit from your attentions. It works for a lot of people, and maybe having that environment of love and freedom will make them into the sort of people who will change the world.

    But I think even one family choosing public school freely, with not only the education and welfare of their child in mind (I know this is always going to come first for parents), but also the benefit of society and their community, could change the world as well.

    I hope you, Daniel, and the boys are all well. I really enjoy checking in on the blog, and I admire your dedication to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for weighing in Pearl. I really appreciate your thoughts. I too believe in public school education (my dad is also a teacher). We will be homeschooling on a year-by-year basis. In theory I would like to tie back in with our local schools around third grade, however, if standardized testing continues on the trajectory that it is currently on, I would be hard pressed to want my kids to be a part of that system. I think there are amazing teachers out there, but they are too tied to the bureaucracy and money that follows these tests.

      Delete

Recipe for a Happy Birthday │Jack's 6th Birthday Party

Over the course of the last six years, my idea for what is a good kid's party has evolved. And by evolved, I mean relaxed. ...