Sunday, February 21, 2016

Adventures in Homeschooling

I meant to write this blog weeks ago but as life would have it, delays occurred resulting in an entirely different perspective. 

It was the Well-Trained Mind that sealed the deal for me. Lisa Rivero and Steam Powered Classroom gave me that final push. After a year or two of contemplating, reading, researching, and pondering, we went ahead and forged our homeschool path. All I knew beforehand was that it was a lifestyle reserved for alternative families and the religious devout, certainly not for families like us. 

The thing is we had tried it all. Private felt awkward, like trying to fit in but not quite getting it right. We found tribes in the public system, but the curriculums, the report cards, the standardized tests, they pointed us to seek something else. Across 2 states and 3 additional school changes, from mainstream to a gifted program, we finally realized that we needed to create what we were seeking.

Apparently there is an art to homeschooling and I am still trying to get there. 6 months later and I’d like to think we’re rocking it. Yes, we’ve had our tears, tantrums, and many moments of trepidation, doubt. But as I looked at how far we’ve come, I can’t deny it’s the best step we could have ever taken as a family. 

Google why you should homeschool and you’ll come up with a hundred different reasons. From freedom to live anywhere in the world, travel whenever you want, and more valuable time together as a family, the list goes on and on. However, what I am most amazed by is the amount of academic progress one can accomplish in such a short amount of time. 

We studied the Big Bang, analyzed a complete list of writing genres, poetry types and terms, read about the great ancient civilizations, learned a dozen Italian songs, read  a couple of junior Spanish novels, progressed through scores of cello music, and completed 1 year’s math in less than 6 months. And that was just one kid. 

With my 4 year old we accomplished what I found simply unimaginable. She learned to read. 

This kind of education cannot be found in any school, because the ability to tailor and be as creative, scientific, or methodical as we like is one of the most appealing benefits of homeschooling. Yes!

But, then I made a dreaded mistake. I COMPARED my child to another. I COMPARED my child to her peer; her best friend from last year’s public school gifted class. And what did I find out? That what we felt so proud to be getting through, so swiftly, was done ages ago in their class, and they were way ahead of us. After some quick mental calculations, 2-3 months ahead to be exact.
I proceeded to do what any parent of like sanity would do and that is Freak-the-F-out.  What was I doing? Delaying my children, they will surely be marred for life, they will enter university and be utterly incapable of any mathematical or language arts problem posed by their peers let alone their professors. How could I do this to them? 

Actually, this was entirely THEIR fault, constantly distracted as kids are by the arts & crafts that are far too easily accessible, disturbed by each other’s relentless antics, extreme busybodies they are, always wanting to know what their parents are up to. 

Yet, I had to stop. Stop and recover my senses. 

Faster doesn’t necessarily mean better. Isn’t there something to be said for slow and steady too? 

Simply because a child is excelling in school, making honor roll, and moving at light speed through school material doesn’t necessarily translate to advancement. While I don’t consider that the education a school provides is mediocre or not good enough for us personally, I do question the value testing and racing through course work takes over actual, profound learning. (Let us not even speak of love of learning!) Do we teach the child to memorize and regurgitate information in a multiple choice format but not appreciate the knowledge she stores in her brain? Do we teach the child to move quickly and if unable to do so, inculcate her with feelings of shame and inferiority? 

In fact this was one of the biggest qualms I had as a parent to a high achieving but stressed out child. Mental health takes precedence over grades any day of the week. And as a person who places high value on the LOVE of learning, the LOVE of books, and a seeker of all things that incite my curiosity (of which there are many) I wanted to instill in my children that very sense of Love. Slow and steady.
So we took our time with factors and multiples. We analyzed patterns more than the book said. And we kept attempting new rhyming couplets and played at different onomatopoeias. 

I’m not going to say that my kids come out screaming with excitement to homeschool every morning. Rather, I am saying that one of the most incredible things you could ever do for a child is to get involved in their education and I am incredibly grateful to have this adventure.  

*By the way, if you help with homework, school projects, and such – you are technically homeschooling! Just thought you should know.


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