3.29.2011

beg bolls

As time goes by, I am slowly learning the hidden social politics to homeschooling.

It used to be all about being the stay-at-home-mom (what does she do all day because her house is a mess?!) but now that we are walking around calling ourselves homeschoolers, my children and the way they use time is under scrutiny.

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What are they doing there all day?  Why is the house a mess?  Shouldn't they be more serious? Are they following a curriculum?  How do you know what to teach them? What makes you think you know what they need? 

I hear the concern in these questions.  The fear. 

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I'm trying not to let the fear take over.  I know what it's all about.  I was raised in this culture too.  I'm worried that if someone doesn't come along and tell me what is important to know, I will somehow miss something fundamental and I will cause my children great harm and anguish.

To be not whole.  To miss out.

How can I take this kind of chance with my children?

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But what is this fear but the fear of thinking for ourselves?  The fear of trusting ourselves.

The fear of trusting our children.

The fear of standing up and getting knocked over.

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Mandatory and government standardized education has been around for only half a century and change, but since that time we've come to believe that a child's mind does not belong to them but The Public.  At least for nine hundred or so hours a year.  Until they are sixteen years old.  Then they can have their minds back.

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And we just hope The Public will be a good steward of our childrens' minds.

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Am I concerned about what my children are learning?  At what rate?  Is it enough, too much, not enough?

You bet ya.

Just like every other parent out there, no matter where a child spends their days.

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Homeschoolers are a minority, one automatically suspicious because of their rejection of the public institution held most dear to the heart of this society.

I don't have very good answers yet for the questions.  I have yet to develop a slick rhetoric, to have snappy comebacks to the slings and arrows.  I don't know how to respond when a near stranger wants to know do I really know what I'm doing?

Because I don't.

We are so new at this. 

The very first thing I learned about homeschooling is that it takes some big cajonas to claim responsibility for the education of the small, vulnerable people you love the most and do it while everyone looks on, gleefully waiting for you to fall on your face. 

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Still, here we are.  Maybe it's because I've fallen so many times already in my life that I've stopped being afraid of hitting the ground.  To pick myself up and carry on.

I hope to teach that to my children too.

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I can't say what will happen beyond today, this summer, or two years from now.  I suspect our education journey will have many detours and unfamiliar paths.  I can't promise that we won't get lost every now and then.  But knowing that it is the chances not taken rather than the failures we've had that we most regret, I think I'd better stay the unbeaten path here and see where it goes.

What are they doing there all day?

Life.

Get ready for it.

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30 comments:

  1. great photos, as long as you are happy with what is going on with your children then that's all that matters. you will never regret spending too much time 'growing' them.

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  2. This rings a lot of bells for me. I ended up sending the big owlette to school, even though I would have liked to try the homeschool approach. Mainly because when I discussed it with my husband he had pretty much the response of 'But she HAS to go to school, it's the social norm.' He didn't want to be seen as weird or freaky in some way by us taking responsibility for our child's education.
    At the moment school seems to be working out for her but if for some reason it wasn't the right fit, I'd pull her out in a heart beat and go for something different.

    Good on you for doing what you believe is best for the development of your kids and they look like they're both doing really well.

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  3. Keep up the great job of teaching your children. I love homeschooling. Sometimes it is difficult to overlook a well meaning but horribly uninformed opinion. The people I've come across seem to take it personally that I chose to educate my children myself. I'm not sure why, but I am glad of all the support I do have for continuing to homeschool. It's great to have like minds around.

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  4. Perfectly stated! My kids aren't homeschooled simply because, even though I'm a teacher I know I haven't got the patience or self discipline to make "Every Day A SChool Day".
    The thoughts on being afraid of not being told what to think really ring true for me as well, from a faith path point of view. I get asked alot by people "How do you Pagans get your rules for living your life? How do you know what's right and wrong?"
    Well. We decide that. Because we trust ourselves to decide what's best, what works, what doesn't and whether the consequences are worth it.

    Really, really well said. You're very erudite you know. :)

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  5. fabulous post!

    I've found over the past few years that the people who question how we educate are quite often a little insecure about their own choices in education. Either that or they are very highly educated types who can't grasp any other way of life apart from their own can possibly work (and that their way of life does not work for all)

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  6. I have an immense amount of admiration for all the homeschooling parents. You take on an awesome amount of responsibility and I think it is amazing that you can be organised. I wish I was more like you. Don't listen to the naysayers. Well done, and I love reading your blog!

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  7. Great post! As someone taking a long break from teaching to be a stay-at-home mom, I support public education and wish it could be everything for everybody, but it's not, and it can't be. It does some things well, but it has a lot of flaws. I thought about homeschooling when my kids reach that age, but I know I can't be disciplined enough. I really admire that you can do this for your children! From my experience (and yours too, I'm sure) children learn best when they are engaged in what they are learning, and when they are playing, not sitting in a desk learning how to take a test. From reading your blog over the years, your kids certainly seem engaged! You'll all do wonderfully!!! I hope it is clear that I have criticisms of the system, not the many wonderful teachers trying to do their best in spite of it. And now you are a wonderful teacher OUTSIDE of the system!

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  8. I think you are ahead of the curve. You are taking the time to think for yourself and to teach your children to do the same for themselves. You're right, by the time kids are 16, so many of them have little practice in critically thinking for themselves. Yes, that's a gross exaggeration, but I see too much of it to take it lightly. In any case, when it comes to early childhood, school can be detrimental: http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/early-instruction-makes-kids-dumb/

    And homeschooling is becoming more mainstream according to some sources: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/16/us-education-homeschooling-idUSTRE72F4WS20110316

    In ay case, know that you are in good company. Trust your instincts. You can give tailored, individualized education to your children, based on what they need and at the pace they need, and that's a good thing that public education can't do for them.

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  9. Ditto!

    I know I can't count on you to remind me that most of us struggle daily with the huge responsibility of educating our kids.

    Thanks!

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  10. My presonal favorite is the suckr punch! Way to go keeping everyone on their toes. Education is not about where you get it but how you get! It's obvious that this system works for you. I wish I had more drive to teach the necessities not just the fun! Our house is all about cause and effect and learning how to enjoy life, too bad we have yet to start focusing on preschool stuff. I guess thats what the preK is for, to pick up where I've missed. Hopefully I can do the same from home, fix the holes they've left in my childrens education.

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  11. I think as moms, we all know by now that you can't win no matter what you do: If you work, you should be staying home with your kids. If you keep them at home, you need to send them to school. If you send them to school, you're not sending them to the right school.

    My kids go to public school and we're happy with that decision. The neighbour sends her kids to Catholic school...she thinks I'm *completely* doing my kids a huge disservice. I like to tell her gossip I hear at pick-up time from the other parents and watch the colour drain from her face.

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  12. Well said. Homeschooling, like so many things in life, can't really be described. The only way to know "what we do all day" is to do it. One commenter said that she couldn't do "Every Day A School Day", and that is what many people imagine, but for most of the families that I know pursuing an education at home, every day is just a day. This is what we do. We spend time together. We seek out learning. We set goals and fail to reach them. We set more goals and far surpass them. We are not teachers at one moment and parents the next. We are just parents teaching our kids the best way that we know how.
    Sure there will be gaps, but anyone who doesn't think that other forms of education create gaps is sadly misinformed. I feel that my job as a parent is to inspire my daughter to learn, show her the joy of it, teach her how, and watch her fill her own gaps when she encounters them.
    Homeschooling gives me much more time to be able to do so.

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  13. I love your posts about your homeschooling decisions. As mothers we are under scrutiny no matter what we do. Stay true to yourself and know that you are doing the best thing for you and your kids. They are very fortunate to be growing up with such a creative and introspective mother.

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  14. The very fact that Smooch does everyday what the grade 6 class I taught yesterday was doing for P.E, tells me you are following a program of some sort! (They were creating dances to favourite songs) after learning all sorts of modern dances. Oh and with Smooches love of dresses at least you won't have to worry about the grade 1 boys glimpsing a site of her panties when she's on the swingset;)

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  15. ok, not to take away from another great post, but i have been distracted by Smootches drawings of the Wipeout course complete with "big balls".
    Who cares what others think. you rock !!!

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  16. I couldn't have said this better myself. I'm with ya! :)

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  17. Amen.
    Trust, is right. Why is it so hard to trust our children to learn what they need to know, just because it's ooohhh... "academics."
    Guess what: my 8 month old started crawling today. All over the place. I didn't even show her how.

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  18. YAY! What a great post! What great "illustrations" for your "story".
    Thank you!

    -Liz
    sometimes confused homeschooling mom to Audrey 6y and Clay 4y

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  19. I'm not a home schooler but am very supportive of those who choose that path. I have a couple of friends on FB who are home schoolers and I would like to know why they are constantly posting articles like this (very interesting with cute photos) is it to justify their choice? Why not just get on with it? No solution is perfect we just make a choice as to what we feel is right at the time! I don't post about my choice because I've got soccer, swimming and ballet to go to and a volcano to help build all of which are more important.

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  20. i'm not against homeschooling- i want to point out!! but homeschooling is always controversial and as a trained school teacher i can understand it...

    to get my degree i had to jump through so many hoops, put in so many hours/years of training and prove over and over again that i am qualified to teach children... then in australia (i'm not sure how it works in the US) you have to become accredited after completing your degree- which is basically like continuing with hardcore paperwork and assignments for another year- all whilst permanently teaching a classroom of students... it is a lot of work, a lot of red tape... then once you are accredited, teachers are constantly scrutinised, they must constantly prove that their students are following a curriculum and keeping up with the syllabus...

    parents constantly question teachers (who are trained to teach) about the job they are doing- so, of course, people who have no training who take on the schooling of their children are going to get questioned about their capabilities as a teacher...

    this doesn't mean that I don't believe a good job can't be done homeschooling... i think some parents do an excellent job, but should they be questioned about their performance in the same way as teachers are? well yes they probably should, because if the parents do a terrible job, they have punished that child for life

    amy

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  21. Jack is two - and I have seriously debated homeschooling him since I found out I was pregnant. I am a little worried that he might "miss out" on the things I remember about school (the good things, that is - the social interaction), but we love church and we go every Sunday. I think he will get social interaction from the kids at church. I know I am much less educated than you and many of the other commenters on this post, but I am glad that you talk openly about your decisions regarding your children's schooling. It makes me feel like if I decide to homeschool, I can. And I think I will.

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  22. Thanks all for the comments!

    Aero, facebook is a pretty big site - perhaps the not so subtle message from your friends there aren't intended for you. They may be feeling a lot of pressure from less supportive friends.

    Amy (anon), absolutely! As it is, I don't know what they do in the US either (I live in Canada, which has a very similar bureacratic structure as Australia), but homeschoolers here have to sign their children with school board and receive numerous in-home visits from facilitors throughout the year. There are questions and standards to uphold. I don't have any problems about that (just becaue I homeschool does not mean that I agree with every other homeschooler out there - there is as much diversity among homeschoolers as there is among all families in public schools.)

    All of that said, I still, when the average I-dont-know-you on the street stops to ask why my six year old isn't in school and then quizzes me about my reasoning, I can't help but feel it's a lot like the grocery clerk telling me I should (or shouldn't) breatfeed.

    Yes, there is public discussions on these topics. Yes, it is in the best interests of society to look after children and to set standards to which every child has the right to. But who is this person on the street to call me to account for very personal and complicated decisions right here and now?

    Ideally, concern for children's welfare should take on the form of SUPPORT from a community, not POLICING those who would undertake such an enormous responsibility. Being accountable does not make either of us available to be randomlly interogated by strangers (or even friends and family).

    I think that we are both very brave to continue to do what we feel we must despite critisms and, face it, outright abuse sometimes from others. If I am totally honest, being a school teacher takes even beggar bolls than homeschooling.

    I just realized how difficult it is to try to put together a cohert discussion in these little comment boxes - I shall to revisit this again sometime soon in a post :)

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  23. at some point the thought of not homeschooling will seem so strange. I couldn't imagine it any other way at this point. we do follow "a curriculum" sorta.
    If asked directly I tend to get a bit snarky and allude to vague ideas of letting them run through the house like wild monkeys all day LOL! Seriously though, I keep my finger on the target skills for the grades they are in and we fit all those things in--but people who don't really know what those skills are think it must be much more work than it actually is.
    I doubt a teacher could keep smooch busy all day-from your pictures and posts she seems like a voracious learner!! its great that she doesn't have to slow down for a classroom of kids.

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  24. Well done you is all I can say! I so with I had the courage to do what you are doing with my oldest two and am considering it strongly for my youngest. I hate losing my children to the state for so long and am sure they all learn everything they need in life at their own pace and doing something they like. For instance I caught my 3 year old cycling around the patio earlier, who taught her that - not me - she learnt all by herself. You are doing a very important and great job by the looks of it.

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  25. Beautiful post, well spoken! I h/s'd my oldest at the beginning, but sent her to an EXCELLENT (in fostering growth of the whole child, not excellent as in my child will be accepted into Harvard with this school on their c.v.) charter school. My twins, however, with their...uncooperative...personalities I've sent out to a different charter public school. Great choice for them, for us, for this time in our lives. But my heart does grieve a bit, b/c fostered unschooling is my dream, what I see as the pinacle of education. So nice to hear your words. When I wonder what is important for them to learn, I realize that that The Public (as you call it) has decided what is important for a 7 year old to learn is based on reaction to things that have already happened, rather than a thoughtfull decision on what might be important to know in the future. WHO knows what will be important to know 30 years from now? But I'll bet SOMEONE will have some info on whatever that is & the rest of us will certainly be able to catch up!

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  26. yay for you! well said. i love homeschooling & wouldnt ever do anything different. i love that you stated that public education is really a new approach to education. my oldest is 16 & has never been to school. my youngest is 5 months & he will never attend a public school either - God willing. it's what is best for my family & my 6 kids are just that - MINE! i want them raised with my values & no one knows them better than i do. we just go with what their bend is towards.......i have a boy that loves airplanes & a girl that loves animals. a daughter that loves computers & a little daugther that loves being naked (well we will try to bend her another way as she gets older! - she's only 2)....but it's fun.
    thanks for sharing.

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  27. Great post. I don't homeschool myself because, well, because honestly it would be a nightmare for myself and my kids with the way each of us is wired. But I have quite a few friends who homeschool and I think it is a great option. I am often amazed at how ignorant many people are about homeschooling - the idea that everyone who is homeschooled will grow up to be socially mal-adjusted is just ridiculous. There are so many venues for homeschoolers these days - our local YMCA has a swim team just for home schooled children, we have several homeschooling co-ops in the area, etc.

    And for Amy, who suggested that parents should be evaluated on performance such as teachers are - most homeschooling families do have to report to the state regarding yearly progress, and here in Ohio most have to take the state standardized tests for progress just like publically educated children. However, parents who choose to homeschool are parents who are going to take an active role in their child's education. In general, I am much more concerned about effectively educating children whose parents don't place a priority on education at all vs. those who have a high enough priority on their child's education to homeschool. Are there some parents who are homeschooling who shouldn't be? I'm sure there are. However I would say they are by far the exception rather than the rule, and the bigger education crisis is parents who don't care about their child's education at all. Just my two cents.

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  28. This is so well said! I love reading about other homeschooling families. :) We are the odd ones in our neighbourhood. The other moms all think that I am crazy and keeping pressuring me to send my children away. Although, there is a place for state schools, I will not be sending my children there. My husband and I will be taking responsibility for their education, for better or worse, because we believe that it will be better. I don't need a degree to know how my child learns and what works well for him. I live with him.

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