Friday, October 31, 2014

Reader question...RE: homeschool - PART TWO

I explained our journey toward homeschooling in a post yesterday. I still haven't answered all of grkanga's questions though.
Here or on FBk please write about the reasons why YOU would or would not home school a child. NOT specific to your children but generically. Does the local school district available make a difference? What was your school background? What do YOU most like about home schooling your children and what have you found is harder than you expected?
My first post was really all about MY kids specifically. I had to get that out of the way first. Generically it's hard for me to answer questions about why or why not kids should (or shouldn't) be homeschooled. Doing school at home is radically different than traditional public school. It really is very personal.

I think the local school district definitely played in to things for me the most. Like I said yesterday, if all of the teachers we met had been like the one TT and Bart had for first grade, they'd probably still be in brick and mortar school. She is an amazing teacher who makes the educational process personal for each kid. When I told her that TT has severe anxiety and that wearing gloves helps him when he's on sensory overload, the gloves were welcome in her classroom. When it became apparent that Bart needed extra work to stay busy, and that it wasn't necessary for him to fully participate in all the classroom activities (because he was more advanced), she accommodated him fully! Instead of sitting through calendar time, he was allowed to stay at his desk and write.

But other than our experience with that one single teacher, things haven't been very positive. I was blown away by how far behind TT was - despite receiving terrific grades in K-2. And I knew that Bart was just going to keep getting in more and more trouble at school because of the unrealistic expectations for boys that need to move during the school day. I'm not opposed to ADHD medication in any way. But I didn't want to immediately drug my kid when I knew a different learning environment would probably help more.

I am homeschooling my kids largely because I want my kids to have a passion for learning. There are so many things that have changed since No Child Left Behind was made law. Teachers, at least the ones I've gotten to know personally, tell me that they are so limited to what and how they can teach. Everything is dictated for them. It is difficult to treat each student or class personally. And those tests...those blasted tests. I knew they would destroy TT due to his anxiety.

Homeschooling has really been a journey for us. That first year with TT and Bart was anything but easy. The fighting was daily and I struggled so much. I wanted school at home to look like brick and mortar. The more I let go of those expectations, the easier things got.

I have read that homeschool moms need to be allowed to have a "grace" week...or month...or in our case - year. I let go of the subjects that caused the extreme fighting. Literally - just let go of them. I worked hard on relationships. And I did everything in my power to decrease TT's anxiety toward school. Children just can't learn when they are in a state of high anxiety. The brain prevents it. When you're stuck in fight/flight/freeze you simply can't transfer knowledge from short term to long term memory. I stopped all testing. I said things over and over to remind TT (and Bart) that my goal for school was for them to get the knowledge in their brains. We did a lot of oral work because writing seemed to bother both of them. And spelling...I stopped that altogether.

We did do math. But I got a different curriculum - one that didn't look like or function like public school curriculum. For what it's worth, I've been incredibly pleased with Math-U-See. We managed to do two year's worth of math last year which totally got TT caught up to what kids his age are doing in public school. And because I slowed things down and personalized how we did math, his anxiety dropped away. He can do word problems now without completely freezing and freaking out. He understands things so much better.

Things this year are going so much smoother than last year. It's complicated to describe really. I can't exactly say why things are better. There are so many possible reasons. But, things are better.

I added more work that looks like curriculum and the boys don't freak out when the books get cracked open. That appeases the teacher in me. Part of me still wants my kids to know and be able to do everything the public schools say they should be able to do. But daily I struggle with all that really is expected in a traditional brick and mortar school. It's unrealistic to expect kids to sit in their desks and regurgitate information all day long without being allowed to move and talk. Learning should come alive.

I'll be honest, I never retained a single bit of American history as a kid. Not from what I learned in elementary or high school. It went in one ear and out the other. I puked the names and dates down on paper and got almost straight A's. But the knowledge didn't stick.

We're watching a simple series I bought on Amazon this year called Liberty's Kids. I've checked out books from the library to supplement the content in the series. And now, for the first time ever, I actually know and will probably retain information about my country's forming history.

The kids dictate some of the things they want to learn and I come up with "curriculum" and/or activities to supplement. We read the book The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler last year and then went to visit the art museum in our town last year. Bart announced that we should have donuts on the first day of school this year and that morphed into an entire "unit" (if you will) of learning about donuts. They read about the history of donuts. They made their own homemade donuts. We visited local bakeries and even got a full backstage tour of a Shipley Donuts location. (The owner had homeschooled his children and took time out of a morning to give my boys a hands-on tour of everything.)

Nothing about homeschooling has really been easy. It took a long time to work out the relationships between mom/teacher/son/student. Bart pushed a LOT. He didn't want to obey. I have threatened to send him back to brick and mortar more times than I can count!!!

I don't feel like I identify with most of the other homeschooling families that we've met either. I'm much too liberal for the homeschool co-op we joined last year. Well...maybe liberal isn't exactly the right word. But I'm definitely much more "free range" than any other homeschool family that I've met locally. So we really do this homeschool thing alone. I'm grateful I've got two boys that are close in age though. I think that makes it easier.

Overall, I really do adore homeschooling. I love the flexibility. I love how personal it can be. When my boys understand a math concept, we move on. There's no principal telling me that they have to do three more worksheets as homework and they have to take a pre-test and a final test to prove that they know how to do long division. When they get a concept, we move on.

And my boys have learned things that aren't taught in public school. Granted, these things can all be done in the evenings and weekends with public schooled kids. I'm not saying my kids know more than others!!! But they are comfortable with stuff that their peers, at least the ones in our neighborhood, don't do. Both Bart and TT know how to light the grill and cook a chicken breast from start to finish. Both boys understand consumer math and know how to grocery shop effectively. They can follow a recipe to make a batch of cookies or mix up something for dinner. Those types of skills are going to help my boys when they graduate and do "life" on their own.

This post is crazy long and I don't feel like I've said much. We're still going 'round and 'round with this homeschool journey. Odds are we won't be homeschooling next year. I've got the boys on a waiting list for a small charter school. And if Mr. Amazing gets the opportunity to move us out of Texas because of his job, I will seriously consider public school again wherever we end up. But I'm flexible enough to know that my boys might stay in homeschool through high school too. I want them to receive the best education possible. And if I feel that's in my home, that's where they will go to school.

But I also have to take TT's passions into consideration. And TT absolutely loves football. He lives and breathes football. I let him play flag football for the first time last year and he became totally hooked. Add to that...the kid is pretty good too. He wants to play in the NFL. Yeah...I know that's a pipe dream. But who am I to deny that to my kid?! order for him to play in the NFL he needs to play in college. In order for him to play in college he needs to play in high school. In order for him to play in high school he needs to play in middle school. And next year, TT is in 6th grade. Texas doesn't allow kids to be homeschooled and to participate in public school activities. So, if TT wants to play ball, he's got to go back to public school. I've got Bart and TT on a waiting list at a small charter school yet this year. They'll go if spots open up. I want them to get used to what formal school feels like again before TT gets thrown to the wolves in middle school. And if middle school is too much for TT, he'll come back home. But I have to let him try.

Again, this post is a bunch of rambling but it does sort of explain why we're doing what we're doing. If anyone has questions or comments feel free to fire away. I think homeschool has benefited my kids tremendously. TT's anxiety is diminished on a day-to-day basis and Bart can move at a speed that works for him without being subjected to tons of repetition. But it's fluid and our needs might change. I take every school year and evaluate what will be best for that year. I'm not stuck that one way is the only way.

I'll leave you with a video of TT playing quarterback (and running for a touchdown). Just because it makes me smile....


Anonymous said...

So clarifying! I have heard many homeschooling parents say it takes less time in each day to cover the same material, so it is faster and therefore there is time for more material. Opinion?
I remember what I was taught in public school, how much less was covered, expected and offered to my children....and am now watching my grands get even less. It is discouraging.
Thank you for shedding more light on this difficult topic.
PS: THANK YOU ALSO FOR MAKING ANONYMOUS AN OPTION. The FB guy may think everyone should be publically exposed... but I bet no ever came to kill him or harrassed him for breathing.
Thank you for all the children you have helped...most of whom you have never seen.

Cherub Mamma said...

I would definitely say that "school" takes waaaayyyyy less time doing homeschool. Yes, there would be time for more material in our house. But that's where I guess I toss in some "unschooling". When my kids finish "school" for the day, they are usually allowed to do whatever they want.

For us this year I'm making the kids do reading, writing, literature, history, and math. We watch The Today Show several times a week. That always leads to fantastic conversations about whatever is making the news in current events. Mr. Amazing is a biologist so science conversations and documentaries are frequent in our home. The boys like to do experiments on their own all the time. Right now I have three homemade barometers in my window. They made one and then decided to make two more to see if other sized barometers would measure the air pressure the same way. (Interestingly enough, the largest barometer seems to be the most accurate.)

My boys have chores and help keep the house picked up and clean. We cook together and shop together. The other day I made them go through the whole house to assess what groceries we had. Then they had to look at the menu plan and figure out what side dishes would be appropriate. Then they had to make up a grocery list accordingly.

No, those skills aren't on standardized tests in the way that I'm teaching them. But it requires organization, planning and writing to accomplish it all.

More than anything I want my kids to WANT to learn. I encourage them to look up information online. We talk about where you can find answers to questions. It's my goal for them to think that most of the stuff we do isn't "school" anyway. I want to raise life-long learners.

Suzanne said...

My sister and I were half-homeschooled, turned out fine thankyouverymuch much and think it should be illegal unless the parent is a state-licensed teacher for the grade/subject of their kid(s) (and strongly discouraged even if that is the case).

So very much of what kids learn in "regular" school isn't academic, as a homeschooled kid is denied:

- exposure to people, places, ideas, activities, etc that don't line up with those of their parents (which is, of course, the point)
- no objective testing. Kid may learn nothing but it's cool of mom says they are making progress
- the opportunity to learn to get along with classmates (or not), submit to the authority of an adult who isn't a parent, survive a group project with 2 kids they loathe, survive a year with a teacher who thinks they're a moron (even if they're not), take direction (including from a moron teacher), learn that doing your best is nowhere near enough if you haven't done what's required
- regular access to pesky mandated reporters (goes double if the kids are adopted, as one of yours is - see: Hana Williams & 14 adopted "homeschooled" kids who starved to death in WA in under 2 years)

A kid who misses out on an academic subject of two can make it up later ... a kid who graduates having never developed the resilience to survive a year with a bad teacher, or negotiating disagreements with kids they wouldn't ever have picked to work with or held it together after getting dumped in humilating fashion or getting cut from the volleyball team? Will have a helluva a time catching up.

abrianna said...

Stanford University disagrees with Suzanne's assessment:

"Stanford University (like most serious universities) actively recruits homeschoolers, and they accept a higher percentage of their homeschooled applicants than the rest of their applicant pool. Jonathan Reider, an admissions officer at Stanford university explains why:

The distinguishing factor is intellectual vitality. [Homeschooled] kids have it, and everything they do is responding to it.”

Boston University agrees. They followed their homeschool graduates for several years and found their average GPA was 3.3 out of 4.1 That’s a sold “B.”

It’s not surprising, then, that when other universities examine their homeschooled population, they find real success."

Entire article here:

Cherub Mamma said...

I left off one other "official" subject that we are doing this year. We are going through a spelling curriculum. Again, homeschool has allowed the flexibility to find a curriculum that works with both of my boys' unique learning needs. Spelling-You-See doesn't do traditional memorization and spelling lists. Instead, it presents spelling in a different way called "chunking". So far it has made a huge difference for both my kids.

girlfrog2003 said...

I just started homeschooling my daughter this year. Much like you Cherub Mama it was not a lifestyle choice for us - it was a necessity so that my daughter could receive an appropriate education.

In contrast to Suzanne's implication that homeschoolers just get to slide by, what was happening to my daughter in Special Ed was that she was being moved around from room to room with a bunch of other kids and taught NOTHING. The expectations for these kids was so low it was truly depressing. One example: First period was breakfast. Literally. Do you suppose all the other 7th graders had breakfast for first period? No. Since I fed Kimberly at home, she spent first period in a room with one other student who also ate at home with nothing to do.
I also resent the implication that adoptive parents are somehow more likely to abuse their kids... I do think Texas is maybe a bit too permissive. Seems like someone should be checking that the kids are being taught something or reports to submit or something.

Anyway.. my real question is this. We are also new foster parents and received our first placement about one month into school (a sweet newborn baby girl). How do you juggle having any kind of routine for school and all of the foster care stuff??? My daughter is autistic with a healthy dose of anxiety (and it's been amazing how much of that has gone away and how much more "focus" she has now) and she does so much better with a routine, but routine has been such a foreign concept the last few weeks. Constant requests for meetings appointments tomorrow, and then oh we cancelled it, and I need this paper today, etc. I suppose it doesn't help that due to my daughters disabilities I can't just put something in front of her and let her work on her own. I really have to sit down and work with her. Any wisdom or tips are so much appreciated.

La Mama Loca said...

We are a homeschooling family, so obviously we are supportive of Cherub Mamma's decision to homeschool. Suzanne, while you have your opinion, don't assume that you are the homeschooling expert. There are many people who were homeschooled who are quite happy that they were. There are just as many people who went through public school who wish they'd been homeschooled. Each family can make that decision based on what is best for their family.