Distractions on a Roller Coaster

The past two weeks have found us in a slump, once again. It seems that just as we get on a roll and are engaged in a variety of learning activities, something will come about that pulls us off track. I can’t really pin point any one thing in particular… sometimes it is just my own enthusiasm or lack thereof. I feel I should work on that but then again, it is nice to relax once in a while, too. To let everyone have a chance to absorb everything and rejuvenate themselves for the next ride up.

Theresa at La Paz Farm recently wrote about an article she read in regards to inspiration and reassurance. Her post was very timely and I immediately ventured forth to read the article in its entirety. The following excerpt really spoke to me and helped me to accept that what I am doing is the right thing for us.

4. Consider everything educational. We must stop dividing the world into activities that we deem educational and activities we deem not. Everything we do – whether we call it work, play, veg time, or study – has value. Their minds are growing and processing information, each at a particular and unique rate and process. Don’t panic when all they do is play. Look intensely at that play and know that there is value in it.

When I first declared my intent to homeschool my children, my friends and family would comment, “You’ll do so well. After all, you are a teacher.” Alternatively, they would say, “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I don’t have the skill or the patience.” I have to admit that I always feel a little twinge of uneasiness when I hear this. Being a teacher isn’t a guarantee for success. There are many successful homeschooling families that do not have a teacher leading the way. In fact, I don’t feel that I am leading the way at all. I want the kids to take the helm.

5. Let them lead, but don’t be afraid to offer some direction. Just because we have decided not to set the agenda, doesn’t mean we, as parents, are without good ideas. It’s okay to introduce new topics and ideas for daily activities, but also be prepared to change course and let go when our ideas are not well received. If it was a really good idea (in your mind) go ahead and do it yourself, without the kids.

A Standards Based Education tells everyone—students, parents, teachers, and administrators—what all students are expected to know and be able to do at specified grade levels. Oregon has developed academic content standards in English/ language arts, English language proficiency, mathematics, science, social sciences, physical education, health education, second language, and the arts. As a former teacher, I am very familiar with these standards. On the other hand, I don’t feel that the cookie-cutter educational system is what is right for my children.

Here is another post by Theresa at La Paz Farm that puts my thoughts into a historical perspective. I couldn’t agree more. As the world becomes smaller, it is becoming increasingly apparent that my own education was lacking, particularly in the areas of the classics and world history. I think we covered the American Revolution in fifth grade but we didn’t touch upon it again.

The current trend of environmental education is lacking the truth that in order for one to feel compelled to protect the environment, one must first have first-hand experiences in nature. A love for the outdoors. With our societal fears of lawsuits and stranger-danger, children are less often exposed to the world at large and more frequently their entertainment is largely based on technology (television, portable DVDs, game systems, etc.). This is one of the biggest reasons why I desperately want to continue to provide my children with the experiences we have doing living history… but that is subject for a future post.

For more on this topic, read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv or my previous post on the same topic.

Our Approach to Learning

Hello. I am the mother to two energetic children and wife to an incredibly supportive husband. I have always loved watching the kiddos learn and grow as we experience life together. So much so, that in the fall of 2007, we began our homeschooling journey. I am having a blast homeschooling Sweetie (5) and Buddy (almost 3) in beautiful Central Oregon.

I am a National Board Certified Teacher and taught for 6 years in a public school (4 years as a middle level science specialist and 2 years in a self-contained 5th grade). Let me state for the record that when I decided to homeschool my children, I was honestly intimidated. All my teacher education had brainwashed me. I was convinced that parents couldn’t possibly teach their own children. It had to be done in an institutional setting… professionals with specialized training and expertise.

I happen to have a teacher’s certificate. But even now, as we have just begun our homeschooling journey, I have learned more academic material, more about how to manage individual relationships with children, and more about how to teach than I did in any of my teacher-education courses. Teacher-education courses gave me a great deal of good information on how to manage large groups of children. I needed that in schools, but a parent doesn’t need it to teach at home.

In our homeschool, we have a nature-centered “curriculum” and use a unique blend of materials and methods suited to our lifestyle of learning. We take our cues from the rhythm of nature and the children’s many and varied interests. We read a lot! As well as do lap/notebooking and many craft projects. We also enjoy photography, scrapbooking, cooking and traveling. We enjoy sports and participate in a variety of athletic endeavors (Taekwondo, dance, running, kayaking, swimming, etc.) depending on the season and what is happening in life.

Our approach to education is largely based on the classics with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing. It is structured around the trivium which comprises grammar, logic, and rhetoric as the tools by which a student can then analyze and master every other subject. Loosely, logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known; grammar is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-symbolized; and rhetoric is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-communicated.

It is largely literature-based, a little Montessori, a little unschoolish, a little unit-study, a little Thomas Jefferson, a little Charlotte Mason, but mostly just us! We call is us-schooling and it suits us just fine. We hope that you’ll join us on our journey. Feel free to join in on discussions, share your experiences or simply wish us well

Why I Want to Homeschool

I originally posted this list on my ‘personal’ blog a few weeks ago as I was considering homeschooling. Now that it is ‘official’ – I thought I might re-cycle the post here for those who visit our homeschool blog exclusively.

The greatest thing about homeschooling is that my husband and his parents, as well as my own parents, are behind me 100%. My MIL even said, “That is great! I know they would learn so much from you.” It was certainly a morale-booster. 🙂

I’ve thus decided to post 13 reasons why I want to homeschool.

1. Spend more time together as a family. Children will bond more with siblings and parents since they will spend more time together playing, working, and helping each other.

2. Allow children time to learn subjects not usually taught in their school. Time is available for more nonacademic pursuits such as art or music. Children do not have to wait until they are grown to begin to seriously explore their passions; they can start living now. Children’s education can be more complete than what schools offer. This leads to a richer, happier life.

3. Allow children to have time for more in-depth study than what is allowed in school. Allow children to learn at their own pace, not too slow or too fast. Allow children to work at a level that is appropriate to their own developmental stage. Skills and concepts can be introduced at the right time for that child. Learning can be more efficient since methods can be used that suit a child’s particular learning style.

4. Spend a lot of time out-of-doors. Spending more time out-of-doors results in feeling more in touch with the changing of the seasons and with the small and often overlooked miracles of nature.

5. Children learn to help more with household chores, developing a sense of personal responsibility. Children learn life skills, such as cooking, in a natural way, by spending time with adults who are engaged in those activities. More time spent on household responsibilities strengthens family bonds because people become more committed to things they have invested in (in this case, by working for the family).

6. Children will avoid being forced to work in “cooperative learning groups” which may include children who have very uncooperative attitudes. Children will be more willing to take risks and be creative since they do not have to worry about being embarrassed in front of peers.

7. Peer pressure will be reduced. There will be less pressure to grow up as quickly in terms of clothing styles, music, language, interest in the opposite sex. Social interactions will be by choice and based on common interests. Friends can be more varied, not just with the child’s chronological age peer group who happen to go to the same school. Children will not learn to “fit into society,” but will, instead, value morality and love more than status and money. Children who are “different” in any way can avoid being subjected to the constant and merciless teasing, taunting, and bullying which so often occurs in school.

8. Field trips can be taken on a much more frequent basis. Field trips can be much more enjoyable and more productive when not done with a large school group which usually involves moving too quickly and dealing with too many distractions. Field trips can be directly tied into the child’s own curriculum.

9. Volunteer service activities can be included in the family’s regular schedule. Community service can be of tremendous importance in a child’s development and can be a great learning experience.

10. Scheduling can be flexible, allowing travel during less expensive and less crowded off-peak times. This can allow for more travel than otherwise, which is a wonderful learning experience.

11. Testing is optional. Time doesn’t have to be spent on testing or preparing for testing unless the parent and/or child desires it. Observation and discussion are ongoing at home and additional assessment methods are often redundant. Testing, if used, is best used to indicate areas for further work. Grading is usually unnecessary and learning is seen as motivating in and of itself. Understanding and knowledge are the rewards for studying, rather than grades (or stickers, or teacher’s approval, etc.).

12. Family will not be forced to work within school’s traditional hours if it does not fit well with their job schedules and sleep needs. A more relaxed, less hectic lifestyle is possible when families do not feel the necessity to supplement school during after-school and week-end hours.

13. I enjoy learning alongside my children. Seeing their eyes light up with excitement. Most definitely, it is fun.

As I proceed, you can be assured that I’ll share our activities and endeavors with those interested. 🙂