Thursday, December 11, 2008

Home schooling, is it for you?

A friend of mine from BC days (Before Children) is considering homeschooling her daughter and she asked me two of the most common questions about homeschooling: How do you know what to teach and at what pace? Can I be too much of a bitch to homeschool?

While I didn't EXACTLY answer her questions, I did give her my usual 'homeschooling pep talk' which is as follows:

Oh is it EVER an exercise in patience!!!!! Like Steve taught us on Blues Clues "When you get frustrated, just count to ten and take a deep breath"

In the early years there's lots of repetition, you have to try to remember that they really don't know anything so they have to hear it over and over and over and over and over again. But since it's just one student instead of 25, it's a bit easier. And you can teach in 5 minute increments - letters at breakfast, letters at lunch, letters at dinner - so if either one of you gets too frustrated you can go outside for recess.

The biggest problem that I have with homeschooling is that I don't have any free time to take care of the shopping and errands and laundry and house cleaning and working out without including the kids. I don't have those 'free' 6 hours a day when the kids would be off in public school to do all that stuff. So a lot of times they get dragged along with me instead of being able to play with friends. Although if Giselle finishes school on time then she CAN go play at a friend's house while I'm running errands. And we do PE together so I do get some exercise in. Yesterday morning before school we walked the dog together, collected land snails on the way and then did a science lesson on them later in the day for school.

Your kid doesn't necessarily learn things in the same manner that you do - maybe she's a kinetic learner (has to be on the move, aka ADD) and you're a sit-on-your-bottom-and-concentrate learner. You have to be able to change your style of teaching to meet HER needs, not yours.

A good friend of mine just pulled her kids out of PS this summer - just before 3rd and 1st grade. She realized that she was spending about 2 hours every night 'homeschooling' her daughter to teach her what the teacher didn't/couldn't teach her during the school day. My friend is the one that taught her kid to read and to do math while they were at public school, not the 'real' teacher.

There's a group called Smoothing The Way which is a homeschooling group that helps you through that tough first year of homeschooling. They meet up weekly, send emails, and play together at the park. They can be a sanity saver for sure!

School takes 6 hours at public school because the teacher is having to teach something to 25 kids before she can move on to the next thing. At home, school takes barely 2 hours by 3rd grade. If your one student gets it then you can move on to the next level or lesson or subject; you don't have to wait around doing busy-work while waiting for the other 24 kids to 'get it'. If your one student DOESN'T get it then you can spend as many hours or days or weeks on that one thing until they do get it; no one is holding a TAKS test to your throat saying "You're behind schedule and your students aren't going to do well on the test." The days that your kid 'gets it' and does extra work/works ahead because they're proud of themselves buys you all the time that you need/want when they need to take some time to really 'get' a concept. People using the Classical Education model, Charlotte Mason, Well-Trained Mind teaching philosophy believe that preschoolers should only spend 15 min a day on school, kindergartners should only spend 30 minutes a day on school, 1st graders should spend 45 minutes, second graders should spend 1 hour, and so on, adding 15 minutes for each new subject. Not until Jr High should they need to spend more than 30 min per subject. Sometimes that's a reality at our house; other times our school day can stretch out to 5 hours long.

If she's having a bad day you CAN take a break. You CAN explore the local park for 4 hours and go home and Google all kinds of information about the things you found and consider it a school day well spent. You can turn a trip to the grocery store into a school event - you use reading, math and science in every grocery trip you just have to talk aloud about it and let her share in the experience. Teach her that you really DO use this knowledge every day.

It helps if you have access to other homeschooling moms, I can't say that enough! Just knowing that other moms are having a stressful day on the same day that you are REALLY helps. And watching a group of your kids working together (all ages from 4 to teen, boys and girls) to build forts out of branches, sticks and ball moss, without the assistance (physical or mental) of anyone over the age of 13, without a single piece of electronic equipment around is such a wonderful sight to see. Pure imagination at it's best.


homeschooling said...

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Homeschoolin' Julie said...

Ok, I'm the BC friend. Rachael will be finishing out this last week of the semester in public kindergarten and then will start homeschooling in January.

Kinda excited, really nervous and wondering if I have what it takes. I'm looking forward to the adventure.

I was at Barnes and Nobles looking at over-priced materials last night and met a homeschool mom doing the same. We exchanged emails. Maybe it was a sign.

After reading The Alchemist I totally go for SIGNS.

Hakuna Matata!

AtomicLaura said...

Hi.. w/out filling up too much space, I first want to say, I liked this blog entry a lot. I am considering homeschooling, but was taken aback by the group in my area and their religious fervor. (I consider myself 'spiritual' but not really overtly 'religious') Anyway, it's nice to see homeschooling couched in something other than religion. Also, judging from your profile, we have a lot in common.