Monday, August 31, 2009

Not Your Typical School

I am on vacation this week, but I wanted to leave you with a few posts to report on our first week of home schooling this year. If you are a veteran home schooler, you'll see lots of room for growth and improvement. However, many of my readers don't really understand home schooling. No, I'm not talking down to you at all! I just know because of the questions I get. Like the most recent from a friend, "Do you ever take your kids on field trips?" It turned out to be a veiled attempt to ask the old "socialization" question. I don't mind questions at all, and I certainly don't think homeschooling is for everyone, but may I explain a few things that non-homeschoolers might not know (because I didn't when I was anti-homeschooling)? I guess I can since this is my blog, and since you can always click off the page if you're not interested. :-)

1. By homeschooling, I am not part of a radical, new movement. Back in the Bible times, God encouraged homeschooling and gave us our curriculum in Deuteronomy. That doesn't mean that no one should send their kids to a "traditional" school, but it also doesn't mean that homeschoolers are weird, different and following some fad. (Our weirdness has nothing to do with the fact that we homeschool and neither do our children's quirks! ;-) Home schooling and one-room school houses have been around longer than the type of schools available today.

2. If I school at home, I will not pretend I'm not at home. You might worry about my children being warped, but I do not line up the two children in my home that are able to walk for bathroom breaks and lunch. (Can you imagine the fights over who got to be the line leader?) I also do not require them to raise their hand every time they answer a question. ("O.K. I think I'll have Jessica answer this one." "Oh, and Jessica has her hand up again." "Jessica, would you please answer the next question for me?") I don't pack a lunch for them because that would be an unnecessary waste of paper bags, nor do I worry about having the most fashionable school clothes and supplies because we are the only ones to see them. If the baby needs a nap in his bed (which is in our schoolroom), we move to the dining room table.

3. Socialization doesn't concern me at all. How would you feel if your boss separated all of the workers in the office or factory into age groups: all the 20 somethings in this room, all the 30 somethings at this post of duty and all the 40 somethings on this project? How much work would get done? What if you went to a social event and were told not to talk to one another, but to "look up front and listen to the teacher"? What if your church separated everyone into their own IQ groups: all the dumb ones here, all the average ones here and the really intelligent ones here--oh, and there's also a class for the gifted ones: looks like it'll be just you and the preacher. Sarcasm aside, I think my baby has much to learn from my 4-year-old and my 7-year-old gains much socialization experience by learning to interact with both smaller children and adults. When she is a teenager, she will have to know more than slang lingo to communicate because she will be socializing with other age groups besides her peers.

4. Life is a field trip. No, I didn't say "life is a trip", though it can feel like that sometimes! :-) I've found my children learning in the most unlikely situations. If I structured a visit to the science museum they wouldn't learn as much about bugs as they do making their own ant farm in the backyard or observing the different ways to put out a candle. (Yes, I supervised them!) When I go to the grocery store, they learn to compare prices and apply math skills and reading skills. They also get to be with their peers at a time when it really matters--when they can actually interact. We've gone to the fire station and the chocolate factory with a group of homeschooling kids. We've got together with kids from church, the neighborhood or friends and made our own "field trips". I (gasp) let my children play in the grocery store play area and the park, and they are able to talk to and play with the other kids quite well.

5. I am more coach than teacher. The best teacher in the world isn't an expert on every subject there is to learn. The top basketball coach would probably be horrible at coaching a hockey team or football (could you imagine the injuries from shooting hockey pucks in the air or trying to win a football game without contact?). My job as a teacher at home (or parent for that matter) is to give them the information, and let them explore it on their own. I can easily delegate the things I don't know. My daughter attends art classes (since I can't draw a straight line) and zoo classes (since the closest I like animals to me is on a magazine page or computer screen) and she will be starting piano lessons this fall (since a mom that teaches her child 9 subjects could easily miss some important parts of music education). I expect to need help with higher maths like calculus and foreign languages like French. There are so many different resources available in so many different formats, that I'm not worried much about how I'm going to teach all the academics. By the way, if a parent can't do second grade math or read a book, she might consider some help anyway even if her child goes to school! :-)

Again, please don't take this as my saying that homeschooling is right for everyone. It wasn't right for me and it wasn't right for my husband. It may not even be right for my children later on down the road, but it is working well for now. I will rejoice in your child's winning first place in a school science fair if you will rejoice with me when my child teaches herself to read on the swingset. Regardless of your schooling preference, don't miss out on teaching something to your child. You might just find it's a lot of fun!

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