Friday, August 19, 2005

Back to School with Suzanne

I'm a unschooler at heart -- I see how much my kids learn just by living and by my providing them with books and toys to stimulate their interests and guide them in their learning.

Suzanne,5, has been very interested in writing recently -- I should say, in printing capital letters. We've got magnadoodles and paper and pens/crayons/pencils. We've got workbooks scattered around the house. She is doing a great job all by herself and is very motivated.

A friend was cleaning her closet and recently gave me several handwriting workbooks which I gladly took and handed over to Suzanne. The idea is she can work in them whenever she likes, however she likes.

Suzanne is not an unschooler at the moment. She wants school-at-home. "Teach me, mama!" Is her refrain. She wants me to walk her through the workbook. Egads! I HATE it. As a former honor roll student, I'm great at following directions. I could use a bit of work on free-thinking, but I'm a great direction follower. So, if the book says 'start at the top of the letter and make a downward stroke,' I'm going to get annoyed if Suzanne goes from bottom to top. I know I should work flexibility in, but I'm most flexible when I'm completely removed -- hence, my love of unschooling.

We'll work it out somehow, but right now, Suzanne has dictated to me a schedule as follows:

Morning: letters
Noon: numbers (printing numbers, I assume)
Afternoon: workbooks
Evening: encyclopedia and dictionary (I have NO idea what she means by this, maybe that she'll be reading them)

I'm worn out already.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Homeschooling Apologetics

I was just e-mailing a former work colleague of mine about my plans to homeschool. I thought I'd share my response to his questions.

>>>Are there any requirements that you have to have to qualify to home teach?

In Virginia, you have to give notice and provide evidence of ability to teach as well as a description of your program of study. Evidence is satisfied by a college degree or a statement of why you think you can provide adequate instruction [i.e. prove you are literate], a teacher's certificate or using a specified curriculum with a teaching service. The description can be brief, just something to show that you've thought about it.

>>>Are there guidelines/requirements of content/curriculum for home schooling?

You don't have to follow them, but there are plenty of places you can look -- at the Virginia Standards of Learning [SOLs], the Core Knowledge series [What your first grader should know, etc], the World Book encyclopedia scope and sequence, there are lots of places on the internet you can find suggestions about what kids should be learning and when.

I just looked at the SOLs and found that she's already learned nearly all of what is supposed to be covered for kindergarten and has surpassed a lot of it. Which is why I like homeschooling, she doesn't have to slow down or speed up just in order to keep pace with the class. If she's getting something quickly, she can move through it fast; if she's not ready for something else, we can wait until she is rather than stress her out by pushing her.

>>>How do you deal with the socialization issues?

Ah, this is always a big worry but it doesn't really hold up on examination. I can't tell you how many times I was yelled at in school for socializing -- you're not supposed to be talking to your classmates. What is school socialization? Learning to wait in line? Go to the bank or a fast food restaurant or the grocery store, library, etc. Taking turns? Go to a playground and try to get on a swing or play with a popular toy at a playgroup. Raising your hand to speak? Go to a library storytime or museum program. And things that aren't learned in real life can be learned very quickly when the need arises.

As to playing with other kids -- we go to ballet class and we have playdates and go to park days and on field trips; when they're older they can volunteer. The problem quickly becomes limiting the social outings; its easy to get overextended. Another nice aspect of homeschooling is that socializing is not limited to the child's same-age peers, you can socialize by visiting nursing homes; you meet people at the grocery store and the library.

>>>Since you live in an area considered to have good public schools, what made you decide to home school?

Not only that, I was educated by the county's public school system! Just 3 years ago I was asking DH why would anyone live here and homeschool? Well, its mostly about freedom for me -- freedom from the school schedule and calendar. We don't have to have our daily lives controlled by school -- when we get up and when we get time together and when we can take a vacation.

We also get freedom from standardized curriculum. Like I said, Suzanne can move at her own pace in her learning -- she can advance far ahead of her age-mates without becoming intellectually arrogant [a real problem; I was in the GT system and looked down on those who weren't], or she can take longer in other parts of her learning without feeling like she's stupid. She can also learn what she wants to when she wants -- she's not told she has to wait until the subject is covered.

There are lots of other reasons why I like homeschooling, but freedom was what drew me to it in the first place. Plus, I don't think school is necessary for learning to occur -- I think it occurs better outside of it, really. You'll see with baby daughter how much she grows and learns and she doesn't need outside interference or the bribery of rewards to do it.