Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Assuaging Concerns About Homeschooling

I posted this as a response to a family member's comments here. But I figured it would be buried there, and this family member's concerns were probably not only hers. Since the central purpose of this blog is to help family and friends (and interested strangers) understand what we do, and why, I'm happy to share my answer with you all.

In this post, I didn't say "regular" school could NOT provide these skills; I said my girls ARE learning them. That's key because I OFTEN have people ask me about HOW in the WORLD kids could EVER learn these skills without going to REGULAR school. Kids do. All over the world, in a variety of educational settings. The last line ("...there are no better tools any teacher can give them.") also may have been read as a blow AGAINST "regular" schools, but I meant ANY teacher - a parent, "regular" school teacher, coach, pastor, family member, stranger or friend. I never mentioned "regular" teachers in that line either.

I agree with that their spelling and rote mathematical skills are weak. But their understanding of math far surpasses the state standards for their grades, and when we sit down and "do spelling" they pass their grade-level lists with flying colors. When FOCUSED on SPELLING, they test well at grade level both on paper and verbally, but it doesn't translate to their personal writing, their recreational writing. We work together to correct their writing assignments (I send E to the dictionary to find the answers herself these days in hopes that the extra effort will help the answer STICK in her mind), but I don't correct their journals or their letters. Those are their personal writings, and they should be able to do whatever they like with them. However, I HAVE talked to both of them about the need to spell correctly so people can UNDERSTAND their correspondence. V takes this to heart much more than E does.

There is some debate in the math world about which is more important - memorization of facts or understanding of the process(es) needed to solve any given problem. To date, we've focused more on UNDERSTANDING HOW to solve a problem more than memorizing the answer. After all, it's GREAT to know that 12 x 12 = 144, but what do you do when it's 5,678,934 x 7,893,425? THEN you need to know HOW to arrive at the answer. STILL... it is SO much easier to find the solution if you KNOW answers to smaller problems (12 x 12, etc.) The girls each have their own math workbooks. Once they wrap them up, we're going to refocus on the basics (through various methods of repetition) in hopes that both schools of thought will meld - HOW to solve a problem, AND JUST KNOWING basic math FACTS.

Will they go to "regular" school? I don't know for sure. We never thought we'd homeschool, but here were are. There may come a time when the public school works better for us all. There ARE some fabulous teachers who I adore, and the girls would, too. Whether=2 0they continue here or take the brick-n-mortar route, they will NOT simply be allowed to pass with a GED. They'll have a diploma and complete the CAHSEE. I HOPE they go to college. They already TALK about going to college, and at ages 6 and 8, I think that puts them on the right (collegiate) track mentally. (V wants to go to Cal Poly and study either art or science or chemistry - with my friend Lara - or equine biology. E wants to go to Hancock College then to an as-of-yet unnamed university to study dance, or art, design, history or maybe writing...depends on the day.)

Will they go to the prom? Possibly. Homeschoolers have proms, too, believe it or not. Play sports? If they so choose, but on club teams if not school teams. Music? There's a tough one - neither our high schools nor the community provide opportunities for musicians interested in strings or piano, so given the girls have chosen violin and piano at this point, the only way they'll get the group performance experience (whether we're homeschooling or in traditional school) is if we join Youth Symphony in San Luis Obispo. That's MORE likely if we're homeschooling because our schedule could be tailored around the symphony schedule. (Rehearsal is too early for Santa Maria kids to make it in time after the typical school day.)

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  1. I guess I took exception because I feel that your homeschooling articles always feel, to me, like you are so anti-school. I feel like you are always saying what can't be done if kids were in regular school programs.

    You once said to me that the girls would not have the opportunity to do ballet, horseback riding lessons and violin if they were in school. As I think I said at the time, they would absolutely be able to do those things just on a different time schedule.

    I have a particular bug up my butt about people putting one thing down in order to strengthen their argument FOR something else. It should stand on it's own merit.

    I don't have anything against home schooling and really wonder why you are so anti regular school. Did you have a particularly bad experience I don't remember? At one time you said the girls would go to regular school ( i keep saying that for lack of a better term) when they were ready, but if you are continually saying what they would not be able to do, or not be learning, or not be participating in, I doubt if they will ever see it as any kind of alternative.

    I'm not saying that I don't think you are doing one hell of a job, because I do think you are amazing and that they are learning like wild! I am glad that I can be totally honest with you too. These are just my concerns (?) musings(?).

  2. EYE said they wouldn't be able to do their extracurricular stuff if they were at regular school?! I can't believe I said that. I must have been talking out of my ass that happens.

    Of all people, EYE know better than that. I raced bikes, swam, played water polo, played in band, played with friends, camped, horseback rode, worked and plenty of other stuff while I was in school maintaining above average grades, so I know firsthand kids in regular school CAN do those things. ABSOLUTELY! What's nice about our schedule is that the girls can do those things EARLIER in the day. Their extracurricular teachers like it because they can fit another student in. We like it because we don't have to compete for the limited after-school spaces in any given after-school program. And it's SUPER easy to take a field trip any time.

    I didn't know I came across as so anti-school. That's not a good thing, and I'm glad you pointed it out. I'll work on that. In fact, I am NOT anti-school. My public school experience was fine. I had some great teachers, some incredibly crappy teachers, some great experiences and some I prefer to put behind me. I believe EVERY school has some greats and some crappy teachers, just like any other job site where some workers rise to the challenges of the day and others choose to cruise along. Public schools do the best they can do given all the parameters thrust upon the system: lots of students each of whom has his/her own personal issues, No Child Left Behind, etc. I think MOST teachers do a FABULOUS job within the confines of that system. But EVERY system has its weak points. How can a teacher provide as much one-on-one time with a class of 30-40 kids as we can with a 1:2 ratio? She can't. A teacher has SO much to juggle in that situation. Private schools around here have the same problems.

    I'll try not to compare our experience with regular school experience in future, but that's tough because when people ASK us about homeschooling, they're always ASKING for comparisons. Plus, that's MY frame of reference as the product of public education.

    As for the girls' future in public school, I suspect that, at some point, they will ask to go. They're on teams on which the majority of members are in REGULAR school, so they'll develop friendships there and eventually those friends will encourage them to attend the same school so they can spend more time together. At least, that's what I suspect will happen, though we come across an amazing array of homeschoolers in every setting here these days. The girls have visited public and private school with me for various activities - me teaching journalism recently at the neighborhood Montessori School, dropping off and picking up materials when I was at St. Joe's, taking part in a friend's class when she invites us at a neighborhood public school. They have some idea of what goes on there - that there are good things there, recess, friendships. There's pressure from Grandpa, from Grandma Martha, from other well-meaning friends. The girls hear it. (Grandma Martha's particularly opposed to what we're doing, but she's also the one who told me I should "make V stop" writing with her left hand "by any means necessary.")

    I DO think about sending them, and I DO think about what they may be missing. Then I think about the FACT that no matter WHAT you do, where you go, you're going to be missing out on something else. If we go to the balloon festival Saturday, for instance, we'll miss out on a relaxing day at home with Steve. When I go to soccer signups for the girls tonight, I'll be missing my singing. If they were at public or private school, they'd be doing things there we aren't doing at home, and vice versa. summary, I'm sorry I came across as anti-public-school. I'm not. We've just taken another path, just as people choose public over private, or private over public, roadschooling over homeschooling, etc.

  3. Don't let the critics get to you. Will W. went to public school, but my mother and father taught him more on the side then he learned.
    And HE QUIT public school in the 6th grade. Just refused to go because "the other kids are stupid, they don't want to learn." So, my father the agnostic paid for him to go to Christian day school through 8th grade. He then went on to public high school. The alternative school worked great for him. I don't know if
    he missed anything from not being in the "public" school. He learned more marine biology from his family of fishermen (worked with his uncle commercial fishing at 15) then he did in biology class, and sailed through other high school classes because of what he learned outside of school.

    Take a BOW from me. I think you are doing great, and E and V will guide you.


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