Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why this blog on homeschooling?

Hi! Welcome to our homeschooling adventures. First a bit about who I am and why I'm here:

I'm the mom of two amazing little boys and for a long time I've been enthusiastic about the opportunities of a nontraditional education in our modern, technological society. For me, school was somewhat stifling. I had a few great teachers whom I still love today, but that's not what it's about. Day after day, I found myself in a boxy room learning boxed in curriculum. I started out with perfect penmanship, eager to please, writing poetry that my kindergarten teacher stole. At the end of the road, my learning had more holes than an insect jar. I'd given up trying to perform perfectly, and felt constantly insufficient despite my good grades and advanced classes.

When I went into a university, on my first day I met two girls from a different high school who'd earned the equivalent of a two-year associate's degree while in high school. They were going straight into their prospective programs without worrying about soul-crushing general electives like economics and history.

To be honest, I felt ripped off. I'd taken every advanced class available, took four AP tests, and did well on the ACT. But even with my new university's generous policy toward AP credit, I wasn't halfway done with college like these other girls. I was barely dipping my toes in. And the thought of those four more looming years of college, even at a university I loved, made me dizzy.

In short, I came out of the public school system ready to be done. I believed education meant having facts drummed into your head, staying up all night reading and BS-ing essays about books you didn't actually have time to read. A good portion of this is my fault: my personality, my work ethic, etc.

But it made me determined to try something different for my own children. See, I wasn't the only person who came out of the public school system feeling ripped off and worn out. There were others like me who knew learning should be invigorating and novel, and were disappointed it had become boring and requisite.

The number of parents choosing to teach their children at home has skyrocketed in the past two decades. Many of these parents are people like me who got a decent education but didn't feel like that was enough for their own children.

Is it hubris that makes me think I can offer them something better? Maybe. But I don't think homeschooling is going to make my kids smarter because I'm somehow a better teacher than all those other master's graduates. I think homeschooling is going to make my kids better prepared for life for the following reasons:

1) The best learning is completely customized to the individual (impossible in public schools)

2) I can already see at least one of my sons has the kinesthetic, visual learning needs I had, and classroom lectures where one is required to sit still and listen would crush his soul (and get him into needless trouble)

3) The real world is out there, and it lives in libraries, parks, museums, city streets, grocery stores, etc., etc. It does not live within the four windowless walls of a classroom.

4) Healthy social interactions begin in the home where parents and siblings teach young children the golden rule, and other social rules for making and keeping friends. You don't even want to know the dysfunctional social rules I picked up as a 6-year-old in school.

5) When kids want to learn, they learn! It's a miracle to watch and I've already watched my older son (4 years old) learn to read because he was excited about it, not because I required it. I want to see that thirst for knowledge and skills follow him through life, and the way to keep that spark is to feed it with time for self-directed learning.

6) (this is where Classical comes in) There are incredible resources available for teaching children by classical methods that encourage retention of a wide breadth of subjects. Homeschoolers can truly become Renaissance men. Latin, comprehensive history of the world, ancient studies, grammar, real spelling, etc.

7) Some of my favorite people have either been homeschooled or partially homeschooled (parent-led education after school and on weekends). I believe the extra care that goes into it truly makes a difference in the way the student sees the world. There are no windowless walls. They see endless possibility, and a clear path to their goals.

I could probably go on much longer, but I just wanted to give a brief introduction to who I am and why I'm doing this.

As to the question of, why this blog right now? Well, because I have three separate binders keeping track of the things my preschooler is doing (though our actual homeschooling day so far is very laid back and student-led). And my two-year-old is beginning to participate on his level, too, bringing me his attempts at letter-writing and sitting in with us during games. I need someplace to chronicle what we're doing. As a writer, I already spend about a half hour every day on blogger keeping up my writing blog and participating in that community, so this is actually a more convenient place to record new developments than in a notebook which will (in mere seconds) be buried under a pile of new drawings my darling kids want to show me.

If you're reading, I hope you find something useful in our experiences. So far, they have been overwhelmingly positive.

I feel ready for the new challenges and opportunities facing us as my oldest prepares for more structured learning.

Any advice from veterans is much appreciated!

For more on our current curriculum, check out Knightly Curriculum. Thanks for stopping by! I hope your school year is a memorable one!

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