The Possibilities of Homeschooling - Mothering Forums

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Old 08-26-2014, 08:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The Possibilities of Homeschooling

Hey!!

I have started to wonder about homeschooling. My daughter is only eleven months but I want to know as much as I can before she gets to the age where we have to decide. Like many moms, I believe my daughter is going to do wonderful things and I want to give her everything she needs to do them. I just don't think the public schools where I am can do this. There are a couple of private schools that look good but I'm not sure if that's affordable yet. I believe I could make homeschooling work for my family if I knew more about it. I read the government site where I am from and understand there is legal stuff to it, so I'm looking more for stories of experience and advice.

Why did you choose homeschooling? What grades did you use it for? Do you think it was better for your child? Personal pros and cons of? Whatever advice you think may be relevant!

Thanks!!
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Old 08-26-2014, 09:06 AM
 
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I always have said that I wanted to homeschool, and continue to homeschool because of the freedom of it. Our lives are relaxed, not busy and strained. I can work with the girls' idiosyncrasies in development, and they still love all things about learning even at an age where their peers are starting to get burnt out (almost-8 and 9).

My pre-kid readings included years of Home Education Magazine issues through my library, and many unschooling-leaning books. I was more interested in the child-led world, so that's the direction my research took. Recently, I've been interested in Project Based Homeschooling, because I like how malleable it is to every HSng style, even unschooling to some extent, but I'm almost too unschooly to implement some of it-- for me learning can be indistinguishable from everyday life, so, any, hard to describe until you read more about it. Still, I highly recommend it for any one interested in homeschooling. Lori Pickert is thoughtful, and incredibly involved in her site. Great forum support, blogs, online classes for adults. That's the other thing I love about the PBH approach-- it's as much about adult intention as well as kids, if not more. I like that because when we are faced with road blocks, often we look to see what's wrong with the child and not as much what's wrong with our approach.

I do recommend getting very familiar with your state's/province's requirements, not only what is written but how it is put into practice. For example, Washington's rules seem very involved and specific, but in practice they are almost nonexistent. Nobody has come checking in on us, and this will be our 3rd year homeschooling officially. So, get an idea from area homeschoolers and unschoolers for what those laws look like in practice.

Do a lot of reading and researching, talk to every homeschooling family you can for what homeschooling looks like for them, for it *will* be different for evry family, and that is not an exaggeration. Every. Family. Will have it's own version of homeschooling, and you will too.

The cons, not of homeschooling but of doing too much research, is if you start putting too much store in what you read over what you see with your child. Successful homeschoolers (those who are happy doing what they are doing) pay more attention to what their kids need than what a book says they need. So keep that in mind as you learn about it. Your child will teach you more than all of those resources put together, and I feel we should trust that.

Our own personal homeschooling cons? The house is messier because we live in it. Our days are not harmonious and picturesque, there can be a lot of fighting (my house more than most I think) and the relative financial poverty of choosing to homeschool. Academically, I see no cons so far. Sure, we are not entirely peer-leveled. But when their peers are burnt out, and they are still loving to learn, and seeing it as a good thing to want to do with your *entire* life, I'd say that peer-leveled doesn't matter so much to me.

"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
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Old 08-26-2014, 10:27 AM
 
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We chose to homeschool because of asynchronous development in our eldest child. (She was "ahead" academically, but "behind" in her desire to separate from home and family. I put those words in quotes because her development wasn't wrong or disordered, and in a homeschooling context you can't be ahead or behind yourself; she was just different from what schools expected.)

But that was only the reason that got us started. Very quickly we came to see that we loved the flexibility of family life, and the flexibility of learning pace and direction. We loved how learning could be integrated with living, how it didn't become a circumscribed sedentary activity that occurred between certain hours, but encompassed everything we did. We saw how our quirky kids could continue to be their quirky selves and capitalize on everything that made them unique without feeling that their unusual interests and learning trajectories were inconvenient or somehow wrong. We liked how much creativity and physical activity was part of their daily lives, and we liked the strength of their connections to home, family, and community.

I have four kids who are now 11, 15, 17 and 20. The older three have all entered bricks-and-mortar educational institutions. The older two did three years of high school and are now in college. My 15-year-old is doing a combination of 11th and 12th grades at a public high school, having spent the past three years in school. So all the kids were unschooled from the get-go until somewhere around high school age. Was it better for them? Well, we can't live the same life two different ways and compare, but I will say that they are all wonderful, happy, capable people who are succeeding by all sorts of external measures (employability, academic and service awards, scholarships, grades, etc.) and moreover are happy and confident and grateful for what homeschooling gave them. My 11-year-old is continuing as a homeschooler for the foreseeable future, and as always it's totally her choice.

I would spend some the next couple of years reading generally about all the different ways of homeschooling, about educational philosophies, learning theories and such. A few classic books in the homeschooling world: Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense [Guterson], Dumbing Us Down [Gatto], How Children Learn [Holt]. I wouldn't worry about state/provincial regulations at this point. Often they look moderately onerous and intimidating on paper but like SweetSilver says, in practice they're usually no big deal. Unless you're in Germany or some nation that pretty much bans homeschooling, you'll probably find that any method/style of homeschooling is workable where you are -- and in most places Kindergarten isn't compulsory, so you don't even have to worry about the legalities until your child is 1st grade age. As your child gets older and closer to school age, I think meeting some real-life homeschooling families can be quite helpful and reassuring. You get to see how wonderful their kids are, how blasé and confident they are about some of the details that might be worrying you, you can get their read on the legal climate in your jurisdiction and a feel for the type of homeschooling community and support that exists in your area.

HTH!

Miranda

Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
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Old 08-26-2014, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you both so much for your replies! What is 'unschooling'? I saw it mentioned in my search so far but only on forums and none quite explain it. Is it a certain style of home schooling?

My husband and I are both knowledge-seekers. We love learning and would enjoy watching our daughter inherit that same passion. It's always a thrill to discover something I didn't know before. I always felt like public school hindered that.

I think my main concern would be getting her out to socialize. Was that ever a problem for you? Was it easy to find other children for them to play with or no? I don't see a lot of kids in my neighbourhood. Things could change by then though. I have friends with kids similar in age to mine but we always have a hard time arranging anything because we all have such different schedules.

I will definitely have to look into those books. Maybe I'll put them on my Christmas list this year. As for finding families that homeschool, I'm not sure how I would go about doing that.... Where would I start to look?
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Old 08-26-2014, 01:54 PM
 
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"Unschooling" is a term used for the child-led spectrum of homeschooling where, to varying degrees depending on family, learning is weaved into life in ways that pretty much make "learning" as a separate action meaningless. Curriculum is not introduced, though individual children along the way can certainly choose to pick up curriculum, or academic materials that make "learning" very much an active pursuit for itself (ETA: or as a means to a chosen end). Children's interests are facilitated by the parent according to needs and age and ability, and also adult interests and activities are generally open to a child's involvement. There is a natural inclination to trust a child's natural developmental progress, an assumption that kids not only love learning things but are hardwired to pick up skills without undue effort on the parents to present them in a certain way.

This natural trust of children and their individual development leads many families to extend this philosophy far past "education" which, as I have said, is rendered somewhat meaningless anyhow by the integration of learning into the everyday. Thus, you will get to the far spectrum dubbed "radical unschooling". Most of us are somewhere in between. Very few of us are able to segregate learning philosophy from family life. It is a natural progression.

To varying degrees, the particular outcome of a child's education, or how they get "there", is not a large part of a unschooling parent's expectations, and many outcomes and pursuits are valued when they are paired with contentment, purpose and meaning.

While it is a spectrum, most unschoolers can agree that with "educational", or specifically "academic" pursuits, children have full control. Often parents aren't feeling comfortable with not actively teaching, say, reading or math, and you will often hear "We use Right Start for math and then unschool the rest". These folks are not unschoolers, but instead follow an "eclectic" approach. I would say that "eclectic" families are one of the largest groups of homeschoolers. They use what "works" for their family and their kids in a way that balances children's needs and parents' expectations. Eclectic families are still very child led. Most parents feel more comfortable in this range over unschooling.

Another term you will see is "relaxed". In general, these families use curriculum or materials primarily, and are to a large extent parent-led (think "teacher") but are "relaxed" with progress (scheduling, time-off, etc.) and are attentive to children's needs and interests.

Lastly, you'll see "school-at-home", usually a somewhat disdainful term (used by detractors of the style) for families who use curriculum as their base, set school times, follow a school-style calendar. "Learning" happens at a desk or table with parents instructing or supervising while children work on their school work, just like school kids. That term aside, this method can still work well for some families, but a lot of the benefits of homeschooling are lost, aside from a low teacher-student ratio and a focus on family ties and (by no coincidence) will often include, say, religious-based education, and/or exclude on principal certain subjects that their school peers are required to cover.

I hope that wasn't too much information!

"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."

Last edited by SweetSilver; 08-26-2014 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 08-26-2014, 03:52 PM
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Sweetsilver and Miranda covered it pretty well.

My story is a bit different because my kids started out at our public school. My oldest was brough home mid-third grade. She was ahead academically, according to school standards, and was bored most the time. We brought her home, but kept her in the gifted pull-out program and never looked back. For us, it was better for her to be at home. By third grade, we already experience catty girls, playground politics, and a desire to be popular. This caused her a great deal of stress and she wasn't very pleasant at home. Within a few months of homeschool, she was enjoyable to be around! We stumbled around a bit, trying to find out how we would make homeschool work, but it was so much better than school. Eventually, we became part of the "eclectic" groups of homeschoolers. She is now entering 9th grade and will take Spanish, Dance, and Drama at the local high school. If she decides that she hates it, she can drop. If she loves it and wants to become a full-time high school student, that is fine too. I really do think that she will remain a part time student though. She values her free time a lot and she is heavily involved in dance -- she is at the studio about 15-20 hr/week and I think having a pile of homework would really cut into that.

My middle was brought home mid-first grade. I suspected she was dyslexic, the school said she wasn't far enough behind to help. She had intense anxiety regarding school. We were seeing a GI specialist because of a bunch of issues. No cause could be found. Within two weeks of pulling her out, ALL of her symptoms disappeared. I truly believe that the anxiety she felt with school was manifesting in her gut. I feel bad for all the tests she went through, but the Dr. didn't think stress could make this big of an impact. Because I thought she was dyslexic, I researched how to teach a child with dyslexia. This is part of why we are eclectic. She had a great desire to learn to read. I didn't want to wait and see if age would 'fix' this. We tried a combination of things -- some curriculum, some games, some therapies to help her read. I wasn't comfortable waiting (as many unschoolers would). At the same time, perhaps they wouldn't wait since my dd had such an interest. Anyways, reading instruction was deliberate. She hates workbooks, but we have one for math. We don't always use it though. We never used any pages about clocks, measurements, or money--that was always done hands on and/or in real life. She loves science so much that I wasn't able to keep enough on hand. One year, she was totally into dissection. I have a science curriculum that I love. I used it as a guide for me to keep her going. When we do dive into something (like dissection) I will put the curriculum away until we are ready for it again.

My youngest was brought home after first grade. She had no problems with public school. She is very smart, but wasn't yet bored. She learned to read with ease. We didn't care for many of the girls in her grade, but that wasn't the reason either. She finally wanted to come home to learn. For her, and all my kids, homeschool is a choice. She decided to come home because she didn't want to be at school all day and then have homework. She was the youngest in our family and the only one with homework. She knew that they older two were done with school around the time she had lunch. She wanted what they had. With her, she loves workbooks. She likes to see her progress. She was this way before she ever started school--so it isn't a product of public school. I am not a big fan of workbooks, but I do oblige. She has a handwriting workbook, a phonics workbook, and a math workbook. The phonics is completely review for her. The math sometimes has to wait until I explain something. I like to use games, real life, and hands on manipulatives to teach the math. It takes her about 30 min to do her work. The rest of the day for her would look more like an unschooler's day. She builds things, cooks/bakes, plays outside, builds forts, reads, recently she has discovered woodworking. She loves to collect bugs and help in the garden. I try to notice her interests and provide nourishment for them. I do have science curriculum, but I haven't used any for her. She is great at exploring and finding things to do/learn about through life.

Regarding socializing. We haven't ever had a problem with that. It is something people worry about until they actually start homeschooling. Then, you realize that homeschooling naturally provides more opportunities to be social than most schools. We don't live in a secluded area, so that makes it easier. My girls participate in sports, dance, girl scouts, drama, park days with other homeschoolers, field trips with other homeschoolers, swim team in the summer, and more. They interact well with people of ALL ages. They have also encountered many kids with differing needs and have learned to do well in those situations too. My oldest also has a steady income because she can babysit during the day.

Amy

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