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concerns as we start our hs'ing journey

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi there,

I have 3 boys, 7, 5 and 3.  This fall will be the first year we will be hs'ing.  I'd love feedback on concerns I have if anyone is gracious enough to read through my post and respond!


We've previously been in public school (for the oldest, a preschool pgm for the 5 yr old) up to now.  My eldest did really well there, the majority of the time loved it.  He's outgoing, flexible, and enjoys being part of a "community" in the sense of enjoys seeing the same people every day, enjoys routine, likes having lots of friends.  He's *not* the reason we started down the hs'ing road; my second child is, who got in trouble almost every single day in preschool, he hated school, he's' very bright but is so opposite from my oldest that we've pretty summarized that if something is a good fit for the oldest, its a terrible fit for the middle.  Since the middle was slated to start K this fall, we opened up the notion of hs'ing.  We didn't feel it was fair to only give our middle the option (who jumped at the chance and LOVES it, tells everyone he can that he is hs'ed!, since we started over the summer to get our feet wet and really test it out).  Initially when offered the chance, the oldest didn't even want to at first.  Now I suspect he's a little conflicted, and what 7 yr old wouldn't be!, but he's made it clear he wants to hs also.  I do think he may want to go back at some point though, so I wonder if any of you had this dilemma (different children with vastly different personalities), and how did the transition from school to hs go, and if you ended up sending them back to school, were they behind?, ahead?, did they feel left out when they returned?, etc.  I worry that I am actually making my older son's life harder by giving him this option when school was actually working out for him.  Its quite a mature thought process deciding to school or hs, even I have qualms about both choices as an adult!


Another reason for our decision to hs comes from the notion that we shouldn't standardize children.  We are born with individual talents, weaknesses, desires, etc, why is it that we approach learning in packaged way?  DH (who is a high school AP teacher by the way!) and I don't see how it benefits anyone--either the child, the family, or society--to assume that all children who are 5 should learn x,y,z in 10 months, and only by working next to other 5 yr olds.  We want our children to be able to discover and develop their own talents and passions, and actually have a clue what they may want to spend their career doing since they've been allowed to pursue it their entire lives (and not be stifled by a set curriculum with no opportunity for individuality).  We also want them to have freedom to play and be outside in nature as much as possible, not be kept inside a building for the majority of the day, only to spend another hour at home inside doing homework after that. 


NOW THAT said...I have found myself buying and using a pre-packaged curriculum for the children for the fall--the WTM approach for reading, writing, grammar, spelling, and history; I *am* actually going to work on my own pre-history curriculum (which I'm putting in the science category since we are learning about how the universe formed, the earth, life before humans, etc).  Math will probably be singapore or something else pre-packaged according to their grade level.  The boys don't want to do any music at all, however even our eclectic umbrella group which has many unschoolers etc enrolled, says that while you don't have to do all 8 subject areas every year, you will have to cover them within 2 years time.  Then, I spent some time reading through "real life" accounts of what other families hs days are like (not unschoolers, which I don't plan on being; but families working with some kind of curriculum in one form or another).  And I was struck at how they are literally doing school from 8 or 9 am until 2 or 3 pm, of course with an hour for lunch, and time for snack (just like regular school).  And the balance of juggling different children of different ages was quite a challenge, in that of course in regular school you have many more chances of interruptions among 25 students vying for 1 teachers attention; however, even if you only have 3 children, at any given time one is young and spends time interrupting or needs attention, and if they're not, is it a good idea that while we are spending (lets say) 3 hrs per day with the two older ones doing school, the 3 yr old is basically spending those 3 hrs by themselves, being asked to stop interrupting the older two? 


So great--kids, I pulled you out of school!!!, you don't have to work on what you don't want to!!, you can play more, etc!!  Then wham--we are hs'ing, and I am still using a pre-packaged curricula designed for their exact age; they do actually have to sit still and do "work" for a number of hours per day; and like it or not, they will have to do something with all 8 required subjects at some point and time.  Plus, all this work of school/home/life/social coordination/etc is all on my shoulders.  Intimidating and draining to think about for an entire school year, to say the least.


For the record: I totally realize nothing is perfect.  And no matter my rant above, we are still hs'ing for this coming year.  But in order for me to have sound motivation to do this as best I can the following year, I really have to see how I am creating something better for them by homeschooling, NOT recreating a wheel that is already in existence.  Can anyone help me see the light???!!!


Thank you so much if you gotten through this long thread :)


post #2 of 11

I can't answer to your oldest maybe wanting to go back to school in the future.


What I do see is that even though you say you won't do unschooling, I think that what you are wanting is something further in that direction from the curriculum model you are staring down.  What you have bought into is school-at-home.  This isn't for everybody, just as unschooling isn't for everybody.


Because your reasons for not wanting to send them to school are what they are, I would ask around about curriculums that are more flexible.  Or design your own.  Become a "relaxed" or "eclectic" homeschooler, pulling in bits of unschooling and waldorf some curriculums, classes and whatever until you find the mix that is right for your family.  Though I speak as an unschooler (and so biased!) I would say that young kids don't need much desk time.  My 6.5yo is pretty much operating at grade level and we've done no table time at all!  With 3 kids to homeschool you could burn yourself, your kids, your whole family off of homeschooling.  Follow your heart, it's screaming the truth to you loud enough, I can hear it way over here!

post #3 of 11

Hello! First...the first year is, in my opinion, a bit of a learning curve. Going prepackaged, in my opinion, can make that curve a little bit easier.


My kids are 5.5 (boy) and just turned 7 (girl). We DO NOT spend that long doing "school." I do know people who do that, but they are the "school at home" crowd...which differs from "home school." (Example: It is 9:15am and my kids are outside playing in the rain. As we live in the desert...well...it's a pretty big deal. We'll get to school eventually today.)


My kids have very different personalities, as well. We've said forever that it wouldn't surprise us if our son will want to go to school while our daughter stays home for a lot longer. I've found, through HSing, is that you can't plan for too far in the future. Who knows where you'll be in one, two or three years? I'd go year by year and look at your son. Is he happy? Doing well? Are YOU happy?


As for being ahead or behind...I read on here once that there's no such thing as an educational emergency. If you find he hasn't learned subtraction yet and he wants to go back to school...well, pull out the math books.


Does your state have certain standards you have to do? We don't have any here. In regards to the music/art categories...I'm personally not a huge fan of "learning" about these things....unless that's something the child really wants to do. We focus on reading, writing and math...and the rest is just gravy.


Hang in there. Expect bumpy patches. Enjoy yourself...don't compare to others....and enjoy your children!

post #4 of 11

Would you consider a different approach?  More of a charlotte mason approach?  It sounds to me like that would suit you.



post #5 of 11
I think the decision lies with how strongly you feel about the benefits of hs'ing, especially those listed in your 2nd paragraph. My oldest is almost 8 and he is also a kid who would do great in a school setting. He LOVES playing with the neighborhood kids who all go to school. He seems to grasp concepts quickly and easily. He learned to read with minimal effort, loves math, and lives for science. He also happens to really enjoy timed worksheets and tests, which is funny considering that we use a holistic program that does not include worksheets or tests!

But, like you, the main reason I homeschool my boys is so we don't have to use a standardized curriculum. I strongly feel there are many more quality educational resources out there and that children enjoy learning when they aren't subjected to standardization. There is a great book on this subject titled Einstein Never Used Flashcards: Hpw Children Really Learn and Why they should play more and memorize less. I love experiential and alternative models of education and have seen how well my own children learn using more natural and creative materials and everyday living.

There are many more benefits to homeschooling, and some may only apply to my second son, who I think would not enjoy school at all. But for my first, the ability to give him better learning resources and materials than a standardized school could is reason enough for our family.

After using Waldorf-inspired materials and resources for k and 1st, we are using Enki for both boys this year, for K and 2nd. Enki is a holistic program, combined with a mastery approach, and uses seasonal movement and stories for language arts, math, and science. I am extremely grateful this program exists, as it combines the creativity and natural elements I want to give my boys, but also offers opportunity for mastering areas of study, which greatly appeals to my oldest. I would recommend you look into this program, as there are elements you could easily combine in your day for all 3 children.

HTH! Good luck with your decision.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

Unschooling truly appealed to me at first, way back when my eldest was little.  When my older 2 were young we went to an unschooling playgroup many times each week for a few years, and dh even went to a few board meetings for the opening of a new democratic school nearby.  However when I took my eldest to the school for a visiting week, he hated it so much he cried on the way home on the second day.  I told my son I didn't understand why he was so upset, isn't it great that he could play all day?  To which he replied "playing is fun, but learning is fun too Mom."  I always thought of all my kids my middle son would be the most likely to jive with unschooling; however every day this summer since we started hs'ing, he begs to "do school."  No joke.  So much so we're already quite a few chapters into his language arts and history curriculum for the coming year.  So though I don't want to re-create typical school, to a point we will regardless since they actually enjoy sit down work.


My aim is to find a way for them to spend more time with their interests and less time with one or more of the 8 standard areas that they aren't as interested in.  Or I guess it would be fabulous if I could create my own curriculum where I build all the subject areas around their interests, right?  Since I'm so new to this though I don't feel how in the world I could actually do that! 


With regards to holistic programs, I honestly don't know enough about how exactly they are different in their teaching approach.  If you're learning language arts, what makes the Charlotte Mason method different from the WTM approach?  How can the Enki approach teach writing or math without worksheets?  Doesn't any curriculum need the child to sit and write when they learn cursive, listen while you describe what a noun is?  I'm sorry if these sound like stupid questions.  I honestly don't know.  I've been to all their websites but since I don't have the actual curriculum in front of me, I don't understand how their learning theories are accomplished on a literal level.

post #7 of 11

I got a short 95ish page book from the library that described how Charlotte Mason works.  I also would recommend Creative Homeschooling.  In that the author talks about unit studies, which is just what you describe (designing the cirriculum around their interests).  Creative Homeschooling was really helpful for me to get a good idea of the different philosophies.  IIRC, I also really liked Cathy Dufy's book.  It's much more than just a cirriculum list.



post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by aim4balance View Post

 "playing is fun, but learning is fun too Mom."  I always thought of all my kids my middle son would be the most likely to jive with unschooling; however every day this summer since we started hs'ing, he begs to "do school."  No joke.  So much so we're already quite a few chapters into his language arts and history curriculum for the coming year.  

Ummm...you ARE unschooling. Your son expressed his desire and you acted on it. THAT'S what unschooling is. Some of the most radical unschoolers I know put their kids in school when the kids ask for it. They also search out pea seeds when their 7 year old wants to experiment with genetics and cross-pollination or another helped her daughter who wanted to build a 1:30 miniature dollhouse (talk about a chance to learn math.) And workbooks and texts? If that's what your kid wants, you buy them.


Unschooling is a spectrum. There are those parents that feel it's okay for a child to be 15 and uninterested in learning to read. Then there are people like me and most of my other unschooling friends that feel there are certain skills kids need to learn and it's our responsibility to find ways our kids can learn them in a manner that they like. So, you mentioned nouns. A friend  homeschools her daughter with a curriculum (which the girl seems to hate.) The friend says that when she (the mom) was attending school, she did not learn what nouns, adjectives, etc. were. She learned them by doing Mad Libs with her friends. What a great idea. So my kids will do madlibs when they get older. And then they'll really know what nouns and adverbs are because it will have been fun to learn about them. Or commas. My kids are too little to learn about commas right now, but when they are older, we'll read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Eats-Shoots-Leaves-Commas-Difference/dp/0399244913/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1313471719&sr=1-1 We'll read the rest in the series. I will find a fun way to introduce the concepts to them. (Strewing is when you provide materials that you hope your kids end up using/liking.)


The thing that sold me on unschooling is thinking back on how much I remember from school and how important it is in my life now. I remember huge amount of time learning about weather in 8th grade. We did observations outside. We read texts and watched movies. At this point in time I remember the terms barometric pressure and dew point. I even remember what dew point means. But I remember absolutely nothing else from that entire course. However, I was horse crazy back then. I read everything I could on horses. I can still tell you what a bay or a paint is. I can tell you how much a "hand" is. I can give you physical characteristics of an Arabian. I don't remember everything I learned about horses, but I remember much more than I do about the weather. And all that weather info that was so important that we studied it for a huge part of the year...has done absolutely nothing to help me. I taught nursing at the community college. Clearly my failure to learn about weather did not affect my professional abilities. Neither did my inability to state the names of plant parts, to list the names of the presidents, tell you which pilgrim said what, to tell you anything about the civil war (besides the emancipation proclamation--and even what we were taught in school turned out to be wrong.)


Aside from reading and basic math, what kids learn in school is so arbitrary. One mom said how she hated learning about China. They spent a huge amount of time learning about China. And she learned nothing. Yet she loved Columbia. On her own she learned a lot about Columbia and remembered it. So why is China more important to a young child than Columbia? It's just an arbitrary choice.


All that said, I do think society puts certain expectations on things kids should know. I don't want my kids to be totally out of it (or be a 15 year old that can't read.) So I have taken some steps to prevent that. I refer to the book lists on www.sonlight.com. Their attitude is a child learns more curled in a parent's lap reading quality books than they do from reading textbooks at a desk. The preschool books are already teaching my children physics, history, geology, marine biology, social graces, etc. I look at the lists, read the reviews of the books on amazon and choose the books that work for our family. 


The other thing I've done is buy the Learning is Living Guides by Nancy Plent http://www.fun-books.com/books/living_is_learning_guides.htm If my son had gone to public school, today would have been the first day of K for him. I need to pull out the learning guides and put them on the fridge. Then I can see what the highest standards for his "grade level" are and if I want to introduce anything. He mastered the language skills to be obtained by a K kid years ago. The only thing I remember from math is to be able to count to 18. Probably I should pull out the 1st grade guide as well. I remember it had the goal of kids learning to count by 2's and 5's. I can make a game out of that. If/when I feel it's important for him to learn (and someday I will.)


Our son gets screen time while his little sister naps. He can choose one of our kids' documentaries, computer games like www.starfall.com or www.time4learning.com. Most often he likes to watch How It's Made on youtube. He will randomly share his knowledge with us. He knows how milk is homogenized. He knows what the core of a golfball is. He can tell you what wood wool is and how it's used. He knows how glass in wood stoves is prevented from getting too hot. All because we allowed him to follow his learning passion (and set up a house that is conducive to learning and an enriched social environment. My 2 year old had been on more field trips than most schooled kids will be in their lifetimes.)


So, I think you may be a closet unschooler. I highly recommend checking out the sonlight stuff. If you're not Christian, you can just weed out the religious stuff. There's also a yahoo group for secular sonlight users. And check out Nancy Plent's learning guides.

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

tjej thanks for the book rec's, I got out that 95 page charlotte mason book and read it.  I agree with most of the ideas.  If I could create my perfect hs'ing day, it would definitely have 6 hrs of outside time (rain or shine)!  It would also only include school work from 9 until lunchtime.  But we've been working enough on reading, writing, grammar and history to notice that 4 lessons equals about 2 hrs of our time (though my 2nd grader is not doing reading, instead he's been doing 2 writing assignments).  That doesn't even include math or science...or language.  I haven't tried using a timer for each lesson and stopping when it goes off.  I'd need to work on my boys reducing their "goofing off time" aka laughing at whatever funny word they come across (or something funny the 3 yr old says) in order for a timer to work effectively.  However, having read Holt and Gatto, it seems contradictive to use a timer at all; so much of their writing disagrees with using a bell or timer for anything to disrupt learning.  So I'm confused there.


sundaycrepes, I hear what you are saying, and I agree that by providing work for them when they've asked is unschooling.  But, I would have provided it for them even if they hadn't asked, because I do think some things are important to learn.  And I'm trying to keep what I feel is important by way of schooling much in balance with their interests.  For example, at the local hs'ing co-op, in the fall I am teaching a "invention" class for 5-8 yr olds.  My 7 yr old has always said he'd want to be an inventor, or a spy.  If all goes well with the fall class, I'd like to teach a "spy" class in the spring.  My 5 yr old is obsessed with dinosaurs...so we're doing pre-history as our science (formation of the galaxy, the earth, going on from the first life forms up until humans, of which when we get to it, the age of the dinosaurs will be the biggest part of the curriculum!) 


However again to go back to my original post, even by making certain parts of the curriculum based on their interests, I'm dreading feeling like I'm recreating conventional school when I plan ahead and tackle subjects one at a time, using a timer, following a schedule, etc.  I guess I can't have it both ways...

post #10 of 11

aim - Maybe I need to read that book again!  :)  I just remember it emphasizing short lessons so they don't get bored and dawdle or goof off, and lots of outdoor time.  And with the lessons being so short, a lot of solid, interesting topics get covered.  I don't remember feeling we'd need a timer - I think it would just be to have short lessons planned in the first place - ones that would only take 15 minutes.  But I should probably read it again! :)


I am just starting out at this too.  I've been lurking and asking a few questions on this board for a while, though.  Two things I've caught from my reading that might benefit you are 1) the concept of "de-schooling" after kids have been in school and 2) you won't regret building subjects into your routine slowly, but you might burn out if you try to do everything right away.


I have a tendancy to want to do everything, perfect, right now.  I feel like for me, following a Charlotte Mason ideology (although not exactly the approach) will help me cover a lot of interesting subjects without overwhelming my kid(s) and myself.  I figure for teaching I will have to do some planning ahead, some scheduling, some things individually.  I also figure that things can be flexible, I will combine non-LA/math subjects for the kids (when kid #2 is really "doing" the stuff we do). 





post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

Tjej no I think you got the right ideas from the book.  My boys (whether a lesson is planned for 15 min or not) goof off a good amt together and things do take longer.  I was wondering if I told them we were setting a timer it would reduce the goof offs.  But the timer idea sees diametrically opposed to what drew me to hs'ing in the first place, which were a few of Gatto's books.


Well I went ahead and made an official schedule, trying the Charlotte Mason way of leaving only 15 min for every subject, and I'll show it to the kids, and see how well we can actually get through the lessons in the allotted time.  My kids seem to enjoy going in-depth into history and science, so I'm going to leave those for last so that I don't have to stick to a timed schedule if we want to keep going.  Otherwise we will be done by noon and have the afternoons to play, since dh will be doing history and spelling with them after he comes home from work (and I leave for work!)

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