Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Let's Make this Homeschool Email a blog post

I spent an hour writing it, and it's a nice summary of the things that wake me in the night about homeschooling.

Homeschooling is not easy, and I think it's even trickier once you get past the elementary years. Once these guys hit puberty, they have a much stronger urge to be with their peers, and we see their very best (and their very worst) when they are actively engaged with a group. Any parent really looking at their child will know that we actually cannot inspire the same thought and work that a group of motivated peers can.

I know as a homeschooler I am not supposed to say things like that, but I also know that I've struggled with it since Ezra turned seven. I realized I could teach the children pretty much anything but I could never play with them like another seven-year-old. Though I struggled against being a "soccer mom", driving my over-scheduled children from one enrichment to the next, I have not really found another way to balance this genuine desire for peers against my genuine mistrust and dislike of the institutional school system.

My understanding is that the public school available to you completely will not meet (anon 1) academic needs and interests. That the school will not be at all like the program she went to this summer. While you also cannot offer what she experienced this summer, there are many resources available throughout the school year where you could give her spells of that sort intermingled with the best you have to offer. (Check MIT SPARK and SPLASH as well as Brown's programs and the RISD summer programs) I know (anon 2)  is doing a variety of online courses that seem to work well for her and their family situation.

To be completely blunt, I really think the institutional school system is completely dysfunctional, and if education and joy in learning were the only things we wanted for our children, it would be the worst place in the world. But there is other stuff going on, stuff not really covered in a standardized test that has to do with peer relationships and problem solving and coping and engaging with adults besides parents. I also think that a homeschooler CAN offset some of the deficiencies once the parents recognize that it's not some Sophoclean idyll.

These are things I've pondered for 14 or 15 years, because I've known since I taught school that I would be a homeschooler. If I have it right, you have only been in this territory for just over a year. If you are at all the sort of person to reflect, you know you are probably failing (anon 1) in myriad ways, and it mostly sucks to not be able to set our darlings on the bus and check education off our list of things to do. (Sentences like that can sound so condescending in an email, so please read this with a generous heart and know I feel sympathy for your situation, not superiority or disregard.)

So, what are we to do? First, a "good" curriculum is pretty unsatisfying if you and (anon 1) don't like it. I use . There are problems; I am not Christian and the people who provide this curriculum are decidedly so. I actually like the arc that the Waldorf curriculum follows, and this one follows a different philosophy. There is no math, and the science is a little thin. The writing areas are a bit vague for me. However, I really like how heavy the reading component is and I like the variety that it offers. I like that it emphasizes a style of learning that has been long gone in the institutional system. I like that it was developed for people educating children in a home.

It means I spend a fair bit of effort sculpting it into what I want to teach, but this takes less time than completely writing my own curriculum. I did write my own the first 4 years, with a Waldorf flair, and the children and I spent too much of our time arguing about what HAD to be done. Now, I substitute Waldorf type books for some of the Christian books. I've figured out that some books I would have skipped entirely have some important historic significance in our culture. I supplement with this math curriculum: . I have decided that science history combined with a strong focus on natural history was fine until last year, Ezra's 7th grade year; now, I find a science curriculum or text that I feel good about. Last year, I used three different cell biology texts, but this year, I want more follow up. I am looking for a writing course I feel good about that looks interesting. And so on....

My point is that I feel like I have brilliant children who need college prep experiences, but I don't feel they're like (anon 2) and able to do college type courses online yet. I have to have done at least some of the reading I'm asking them to do, so that we can have good discussions about them. I feel like my effort means they have more intellectual engagement with the subject matter. I listen to them when they really hate a particular book (Robinson Crusoe), and sometimes we soldier on and sometimes we completely drop it (Pilgrim's Progress).

I also feel there are many valid paths to an "education", and as the children get older, we have to become partners in what that means. I use that curriculum because it seems inherently flexible and it's free, but I know there are hundreds or thousands of choices out there that are all pretty good in one way or another. Unfortunately (or maybe the opposite), for a homeschooler to have lots of intellectual engagement, the parent has to take up lots of slack and try to find chances for the children to engage with peers both socially and intellectually.

That was long-winded but maybe not more help than just knowing that most homeschoolers who care are facing the same issues you are.

No comments:

Post a Comment