Friday, August 8, 2008

Delighted to be Homeschooling

I retrieved a few old pals from last year and mixed in a few curious new friends from my overcrowded bookshelves, prioritized which subjects to study, thoughtfully listed some favorite want-to-read-alouds, bought some colorful notebooks and pens, found my surprise box of zoology microscope slides that I saved, and I'm rarin' to begin our adventure. I'm excited! Today was our first day to ease back into a homeschool schedule.

I say schedule even though we tend to be very flexible and relaxed. Everyone needs an agenda and I'd be lost without my weekly plan book where I write down every thing we do and plan future projects. I have a well intentioned but forgetful mind so I have to include safeguards here and there that help snap me back where I knew I wanted to be.

I love learning with the boys. It's a favorite activity! If you read this blog long enough you'll find me repeating those statements again and again. Is there anything better than relating to your child about something wonderful that God had made or revealed to you? This is what we deal with every day in our unique learning environment.

I'd love to say that my younger two boys are so independent in their learning, but they are probably pretty typical guys. They like critters, computer games, movies, playing chess, telling jokes and arm wrestling. They do each have their different interests, but they can use a good nudging and a lot of inspiration at times, and I do see time wasters flashing their lights in my direction a bit too often. We haven't "enjoyed" regular TV or even cable for twenty years, but the VCR and computer came into our lives early on. I can't go back and change those things but I feel happiest when schooling is in session.

Jeremiah, 13, also likes photography and I'm very impressed that he has pursued this interest somewhat this summer (the photos are his). I'm trying to figure out a way to have this be a part of his studies also, doing an insect/creature book or writing descriptions with scrapbook pages and to learn more about design and composition.

Benjamin, 16, has been working part time and that is a BIG change in his life where he is learning all manner of responsibility and work ethics. I am impressed with him also. A devotional book I plan to use is Bob Shultz's Created For WORK - Practical Insights for Young Men, and I'm sure Benjamin will have some first hand experiences to share with us. He's a wonderful reader with an auditory learning style and real living books continue to be the gist of our eclectic education. We don't typically use a formal subject textbook, but have found the Apologia sciences quite interesting. Ben will be doing the Exploring Creation with Biology and possibly getting together with a few other students for the experiment labs. I hope it works out.

Every year (for last 17 years) we've been doing things just a tad different. The boys change and I change. Subjects that do bear repeating can be done with a new twist to keep it interesting. I switched Jeremiah to a new math program just this morning. Book collecting has been a long term hobby which I love but I have found that having too many choices can make me craz
y. It's better for me to select fewer options to focus on, but it's always nice to know my friends will be there for me.

I have many writing programs and seem to always be looking for the BEST. Probably any that I use would be fine. I am putting an emphasis on creative writing this year because it's a special interest of my own, I've been reading a lot and writing more myself, and think we need to share our loves & interests with our children. And I know that they have so much inside just waiting to be expressed in a creative writing sort of way. I continue to delight in seeing their written expressions (selves) come to life!

Recently on an email list the members were asked, "What books have most influenced your thinking with homeschooling?" I thought I would share my list here with some highlights I've uncovered that have helped me along our journey.

  • The Relaxed Homeschool and The Joyful Homeschooler by Mary Hood, Ph.D.: So many new homeschoolers think their child has to cover every subject, complete every page in the book, and pass every test with A's - and they attempt to imitate with their children the education that they endured as a child. I found good, practical advice, tips for relaxing and trusting God, and following His individual plan for our family. Reading these were very encouraging to me that it was OK to be my flexible, creative self and apply it to my homeschool. It's also OK to follow a different format based on your child's individuality and needs. The multiplication tables don't have to be taught in third grade and there are going to be gaps in your students' education. I don't have to cover everything. Textbooks that try to cram so much in a small book don't do justice to the topics it shares. Reading a real book on a certain subject allows the child to really grasp a subject and internalize it for later use. I started thinking more along the lines of “What is God wanting us to learn and do?” and listening closely for His guidance.

  • Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto: This past New York State Teacher of the Year showed me why typical, compulsory education is really anti-child education. He confirmed to me what I had already believed, though it was inspiring to hear it from a public educator who dared to radicalize the system and re-engage his students toward natural curiosity, independence, love of learning and community involvement. Each year I reassess if home schooling is the right choice for us at this time and in the back of my mind there is Mr. Gatto shaking his head at me and saying, "Your boys deserve the best you can give them. A collective institution that is designed to produce obediently functioning, intellectually dependent cogs, is contrary to the spirited, individualized expressions of learning that you can provide them at home in your care." I realized that imitating the public school system was out of the question and I appreciated the strong language, openness and kick in the head where I needed it!

  • The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond Moore: Pushing children (especially boys) too hard, too soon into formal learning is a “don't do”! They need those early years for exploration, play and natural growth to maturity. Since my two middle sons were very late readers I identified with this good wisdom. It didn't inhibit them in any way and in their own God given time frame, they caught up and advanced quickly. Homeschooling is more like a stress free family adventure built around your child's needs and interests. There are plenty of worthwhile creative endeavors like games, projects, crafts and work that young children should be involved in. There's a bounty of fabulous ideas, encouraging personal stories and support for everyone that loves the idea of family oriented education.

  • The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola: I own quite a number of books on the Charlotte Mason style of learning and I love them all. This is the one I refer back to the most, however. Ms. Mason's ideas for narration, copywork and dictation stood out for me to include in our education which I have delighted in and continue to use. Having the teacher mind that I do, I used to write up many of my own lessons similar to the ones in the Learning Language Arts Through Literature curriculum. This one book (along with use of a library) is the best and only book someone needs to have to homeschool effectively. Easy read, easy implementation and great results!

  • Teach Your Own by John Holt: Here was an early private school educator and granddaddy homeschool guru who knows all about education and children. His friendly wisdom can persuade like no one else I've read. It's all packed in here. The chapter on dyslexia was an eye opener for me, and taught me that children with labels are smart indeed! Every parent is a facilitator and capable of teaching their own children and "watching the miracle of natural human development take off on its own." (quote from a fan)

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