Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So What (Exactly) is Becca Missing Out On by Not Going to High School? (“You’re Missing all the Fights. And the Dating!!!”)

I posed this question to a few of our “schooled” teen friends. (My friends’ kids who are in public school, and some of Becca’s former public school classmates.)

What is Becca missing?

And I’ve gotten some interesting (and some surprising) responses…

One kid I asked (a neighborhood boy) got all excited when I asked the question. “She’s missing the fights! I got in a fight this week, so-and-so got in a fight last week… And this other guy got arrested…” After we spoke to him, I got the lasting impression that that’s all they do at our local high school…fight.

(And this is supposed to be a “good” school…)

A female public school teen’s status was this, recently: “If your boyfriend wasn’t willing or able to fight, would you still date him?” (I had to ask somebody what this means. Evidently, there’s a lot of respect for a teen boy that’s able to throw a punch???) Surprisingly, some of the answers were no. “He’d have to be able to fight. Or I’d have no respect for him at all…”

But recently I asked another teen (my friend’s son) and he said that the “fight talk” is overrated. Fights do happen, but it’s not an every-week occurrence.

When I posed this question, I don’t know WHAT I was expecting. I guess I was expecting a teen’s perspective on what THEY think homeschoolers are missing out on.

How IS the socialization in high school?

Since we left in fourth grade, we missed out on middle school and now high school. Are there more freedoms? Are they free to hang out with whoever they want during lunch? Do they have “free” periods? Are they allowed to leave campus?

I went to public high school (and have very fond memories of my time there). I loved it. Sure, there were negatives, but all I remember is how much fun I had. And my favorite teachers or advisors. And my friends…

When I posed this question, I was expecting positives and negatives. But I guess I was confused by these answers.

Maybe I asked the wrong people…

So again, I find I must ask: What IS Becca actually missing out on?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Homeschool Kids Going (Back) to Public School (And Public School Kids Becoming Homeschoolers)

I’m not sure what the statistics are, but I do know that it happens. For some students, homeschooling is a way of life. For others, it's a temporary situation (due to medical conditions, special circumstances, etc).

I always found it amusing when people asked me if Becca was going to be homeschooled “forever,” or if I was going to send her back to public school when she reached high school age.

I guess there are people out there who pull their kids for the very volatile “middle school” years, then re-enroll them when they reach high school.

But just like people (like us) pull their kids out of public school and start homeschooling, there are situations where a homeschool child must return to public school.

The situations can be economic (mom or dad has to go back to work), personal (divorce, change in family situation), or the child may just WANT to go to school.

I have friends in each of these situations (not to mention others that I probably haven’t mentioned here).

And the report from each one of them?

“My child is thriving.”

“He/she fits right in.”

“She’s at the top of her class.”

“He tested off the charts, and will be taking classes with the older kids.”

These are kids that have come from structured homeschool environments…and less-structured environments (like unschooling families).

All of the kids in our homeschool community, who’ve gone “back” to school, have THRIVED in their new learning environment.

That’s not to say that some don’t come back to homeschooling. (But it’s not because the child can’t handle the work. Again, like homeschooling, public/private school isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.)

But I’m proud to say that the homeschooling parents I know have done a wonderful job educating their children. And if the time comes when one of these kids must enter the school system, they are well equipped to handle whatever comes their way…

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Informal Teen Dance (See? We’re Not Missing Out on the Social Stuff!)

Last night our teen homeschool group (one of several homeschool groups that we belong to) had their first informal dance. (There was a formal dance a few months ago…same group.) A Great Time Was Had By All.

This group is where Becca gets a lot of her social “interaction” these days. (After all, what more do teens want than hanging out with their peers?)

This particular teen group is a blended mix of several local homeschool groups. When we went to our first event (the first dance), I was surprised and pleased at how lovely the parents were (everybody made me feel so welcome) and the kids were sweet as well. They were all accepting of “newbies” and everybody was treated as an equal.

I am amazed at how many homeschool teens we have in this county. We’re all involved in different educational paths and “main” homeschool support groups, but in the end they’re all teens looking to get out and spend time with peers. I am so thankful for this, and so grateful that there are parents (and kids) out there, working hard to make this possible.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Will Becca Ever be Able to Hold a Job if She Can’t Wake Up Early (and Other Pearls of Wisdom from My Father)

My father honestly confronted me about this. We were taking a drive in Arkansas, during a visit, and he said, “I totally support you homeschooling. I think it’s a great thing. The only thing I have a problem with is Becca getting up so late. How is she ever going to hold a job if she can’t wake up early enough?”

OK, I have several problems with this conversation, and his concern.

First of all, dad (without sounding too overtly hostile), thanks for your approval of my homeschooling efforts. :oP

Secondly, who says you have to be able to be an early riser to have a good job? Maybe Becca and I don’t envision her waking up at 6am every morning, to go to a 9-5 job. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that kind of job. I did it for 10 years when I worked for the Air Force. Bob does it every day, Monday through Friday.)

One thing I discovered about Becca is that some of her most productive times are after 10pm. She’s been known to start her math work after that time. Or bake cookies, or take a practice learners permit exam…

Not everybody works a 9-5 job. There are plenty of people who work other shifts. You just need to be open to other possibilities. Think outside the box, if you will.

Becca doesn’t see herself working as a “cubicle person” for the rest of her life. (Not that there’s anything wrong with cubicle people.)

Neither do I…

Friday, August 27, 2010

How We Spent our Last Free Friday… (Next Week Our Busy “Schedule” Starts Up Again…)

We spent our last “free Friday” sleeping late (I got up at 12:30), making a Starbucks run (White Chocolate Mocha for Becca and a Breve Latte for me) and then a nice, leisurely trip to the Viera Wetlands. We love the wetlands.

Viera Wetlands

No matter what time of year, time of day, or weather condition, the Viera Wetlands is a wonderful place to visit. There are times when you’ll see no less than 30 gators, sunning themselves on the banks, or just peeking out of the water. There are too many different kinds of birds to name. (We’re not bird watchers, ourselves, but I have to say…the birders out there are the NICEST people!)

There are ducks (lately, with swarms of teeny ducklings), coots, cranes, herons and an occasional Caracara.

We’ve seen snakes, water moccasins and even a little fat raccoon bustling along…

But the best part of our trip(s) to the Viera Wetlands? Family time.

It’s quiet out there. You turn off the radio, roll your windows down and listen to the wildlife.

And I’ve discovered an even more invaluable treasure out at the wetlands. My daughter talks to me. Too many times, we’re caught up in electronics (listening to the radio/watching TV/being distracted by the computer)… When we’re “communing with nature” it encourages us to talk...and share.

To me, these times are priceless…

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Games We’re Playing (We’re Hooked!)

Well, one thing we’ve figured out is that homeschoolers like to play games! We’ve had a moms’ game night Yahoo Group for as long as I can remember, and the kids just LOVE getting together for game days! We’ll do it in a park, at someone’s house, or even at our local bookstore. Recently, we taught a bunch of homeschoolers (and friends) how to play Mah Jongg.

Our homeschool teen group had a game day a couple of months ago, and we played a rowdy game of Spoons. We play a pretty serious game…but we have a lot of fun in the process!

Right now we’re hooked on a game called Dominion. It’s not the type of game I’d normally choose, but a friend turned us on to it and now we’ve been sucked in!!!

In the game, you are a monarch, building your kingdom (or dominion). But there are other monarchs competing against you (the other players). You buy, you build, and if you “play your cards right,” you win!

It takes thinking and strategizing…and Becca (who was leery at first) now insists that we play every day. (We were up playing until 3am a few days ago…)

We also like Phase 10, Bohnanza (the bean game) and Apples to Apples.

Whatever your game of choice, sitting down to family game time (or time with friends) is the best. The bond you form (even while competing) is invaluable!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So What’s Becca Reading Now? (More Like; So What Are WE Reading?)

Becca’s an avid reader. I’ve never seen a kid with their nose in a book as much as her. (Though we do know a lots and lots of other book lovers!) She complains about “not having enough reading time” like other kids complain about not having enough friend, TV or video game time.

I learned quite a while ago that if I want to punish Becca, taking away her cell phone, TV or computer time doesn’t work. (She could care less.) NOW, if I want to “threaten” her with punishment (I’ve rarely had to punish her for anything), the only thing that DOES work is taking away her books…

Right now, Becca’s been so busy with her crochet business, she hasn’t had much time to read (book club choices OR recreational reading). But she’s recently had her nose buried in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (by Stieg Larsson).

I’m on the fourth book of the Percy Jackson series. As you can see, we tend to “trade off” books.

We do that, though. We do read what would be considered “age appropriate” books (her: Young Adult, me: Adult Fiction). We get a lot of our ideas from our book club choices (we both belong to our own groups) and some books are recommended by friends. I’ve read the entire Marked series and the Percy Jackson series. I’ve read The Book Thief (one of my top 3 pics) and Unwind (disturbing, but amazing).

Becca’s read the entire Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series, the Sookie Stackhouse series and several other novels that I’ve read (and recommended).

We love trading with each other. We get excited about sharing our “favorites.” Then, we talk and talk about the books (and we even participate in each other’s book club discussions).

Reading helps to take care of Becca’s social needs, academics, and its one more way to make the bond stronger between us. And boy, do we have fun doing it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Daycare, Co-Sleeping, Breastfeeding, Etc… (Maybe You Need to Get Her to a Therapist…)

So it’s no surprise that we do things differently from the “norm.” When Bob and I had Becca, I left my job with the Air Force. I needed an income, so I looked into daycare for her. What I saw made me cry. Kids, sitting in rows of high chairs, being fed food in an assembly line. I actually considered working at one of the facilities, but then I realized that the “cattle call” atmosphere just wasn’t for us. (During the interview, Becca got pushed down aggressively by one of the kids. Then, three days later, she was sick as a dog…  My kid and her compromised immune system would never have survived there.)

It ended up that I started working evenings, as an Assistant Manager at Blockbuster Video. Bob would get home from work at 5:00, and I would head out to work by 5:45. It worked for a while, but when Becca was old enough, I enrolled her in a private preschool, and I was able to work there (for tuition costs).

When Becca started school, I spent a lot of time volunteering there. I became a “second mom” to a lot of the kids, and I could keep an eye on my child’s education. (You can say that I was almost “homeschooling” her there.) Someone once told me that when you volunteer at your child’s school, they dust them off when they see you coming. ;o)

But again, my philosophy was different from a lot of the other parents. Not only did I not drop off and run, I was directly involved with Becca’s schooling. And still very close to her. Someone got wind that we were a “co-sleeping family.” I was told how unnatural (and not normal) that was.

The Family Bed

But you know what? It worked for us. And my child doesn’t seem any worse for the wear. (I knew she wouldn’t be sleeping with us through adulthood. She removed herself from our bed before adolescence and removed herself completely from our room when SHE was ready.) I still miss her…

It was only when we found our homeschool group that we realized that this was considered perfectly acceptable in the homeschool community. Not only was it acceptable, with most of our homeschool friends it was the norm. (People who made their kids sleep in their own rooms were the exception.)

We also encountered people who breastfed their kids in public, in front of everyone! (SHOCKER!!!) And they breastfed their kids until they were good and done, even if that meant they were “older” (like 7).

What I learned is that, within the homeschool community there is less judging, and more accepting. I consider Becca to be a smart, independent, well-adjusted individual. Me being very involved in her life hasn’t hurt her one bit. Co-sleeping (the family bed) didn’t hurt her either. Again, it’s about doing what’s right for your child (and for your family).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unparenting (Taking the “Hands-Off” Approach to Heart…)

So, we unschool. It’s a pretty simple concept…pretty much everything we do is Becca-led learning. But we’ve encountered MANY parents who seem to take the “unparenting” approach to child-rearing. You’ve seen it, I’m sure. You’re in a restaurant. YOUR child is sitting quietly, coloring on the placemat, or playing with the toys that you brought for her. But then there’s the child, running wild, tripping up the waitress, and hanging off the light fixtures… (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit.)

We seem to see some of this in the homeschooling world as well. The parents who are afraid (or just hesitant) to correct their child. I once had a friend tell me, “We don’t like to use the word NO in our house.” Wow. Really?

I’m sure there’s a child psychologist out there, somewhere, rolling in their grave.

In the homeschool world, this approach can be devastating. Even if you’re an unschooler, kids still need attention. And guidance. They need help making the right decisions.

I’m all about letting a child take charge of their lives. But even a teen like Becca, who knows her mind (and speaks it…almost too often), needs supervision and guidance. (AND, that dreaded word, discipline…)

But the word discipline is all too often associated with negative connotations. No, Becca was never spanked…and we’re really not yellers over here (though we ARE loud at times). But discipline (to me, anyway) means reinforcement, correction and guidance.

There are rules out there, that we are all expected to follow. (Traffic rules, local and national policies and laws, etc.) It’s great to let your child know their own mind. But they also have to know that we live in a society of rules that must be followed, no exceptions. And what better place to start learning this, than in the home?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Growing Up in a Homeschool Group (If They’re Getting Older, That Means I Am Too!)

Becca actually came up with today’s topic. She’s just amazed these days, watching the younger kids maturing and changing. And now she knows how I feel!

When you’re involved in a homeschool group, you almost become a parent (or aunt or uncle) to everybody else’s kids too. That whole “it takes a village” comes to mind. We love all of the children as if they’re family. We hug them, correct them, cry for them and cheer for them. We’re directly involved in everyone else’s lives, because we’re around each other so much. For someone who doesn’t have family (like us), our homeschool family became more than just friends… Our lives revolve around them. They ARE our family.

When we started homeschooling, Becca was 9! A little skinny kid with crooked teeth and a sunny attitude. Today, well she looks wayyyy too much like an adult, her teeth are straight (thanks to orthodontics) and she’s still sunny (well, with about a 20 percent chance of clouds and rain). ;oD

Her friends are driving (and she soon will be too). They’re taking more interest in the opposite sex (ack!) and they’re more interested in “hanging out” than going on field trips, doing school work, or just about anything else!

It’s tough to see them change and grow. But we must let them grow up, get out, and need us less and less. And when they suffer a heartbreak (with friends, with “crushes”), they need us more than ever.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go. And we’re constantly reminded that it’s not time…not just yet…

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Couldn’t Spend That Much Time With My Kid (I Need My ME Time)

It always throws me for a loop when I hear this statement. (And I hear it pretty often.) It kind of goes hand-in-hand with “I can’t wait until my kids go back to school!!!” Wow.

Now I know we all need our “me” time. I get plenty of that. I get my me time when my kid is sleeping, I go to moms’ game nights and book club nights, and I go on dates with Bob (especially now that Becca has a busy babysitting “career”). When we go to homeschool events, my kid takes off and finds her friends, and I get much-needed adult time with MY friends.

So what does this statement mean? I’ve actually come out and challenged (asked) the moms outright. I mean, how can any loving, well-meaning parent actually say they don’t like spending time with their children? (Why do you have children if you don’t want to be around them?)

Some of it goes back to, “Well, I could never teach my kid(s).” (I don’t have the patience, we butt heads, I couldn’t teach my child math… I’m not “disciplined” enough…) I actually get this. Some people just can’t do it. And that’s OK.

Some kids actually do better and thrive in the more structured school setting of public or private school. That’s OK too. (Hey, the system didn’t work for US, but it’s obviously working for other people out there!)

So, are there really parents out there that can’t be around their child(ren) that much?

Maybe it’s because I’m the parent of an “only.” That may actually have something to do with it. (I don’t have to worry about children fighting with each other and picking at each other all day during summer break.) But then I think about my homeschooling friends with three and four (and FIVE!) children! Sure they lose patience with their kids at times. (We ALL do!) But how do THEY do it?

“I couldn’t spend that much time with my kid” is probably a catch-all statement. I don’t honestly think that people mean it like it sounds (though who knows, I may be wrong). But for those of use who DO spend “that much time” with our kids, we sometimes feel a little sad when we hear it (and hope that it isn’t true).

Friday, August 20, 2010

So Who DOES She Socialize With These Days? (Besides Mom of Course!)

Well, yesterday was our Funtown day… The kids spent four hours roller skating, playing arcade games, mini-bowling, and playing unlimited laser tag. The nice thing about it is that they all interact well together. (The kids at Funtown today, ranged in age from 4 or 5 to 15 years.) And if there is ever a conflict, it’s easily resolved…

Once we got to Funtown, I saw Becca two or three times, when she came to get some water (or to use the bathroom).

Next month, we’ll have our park day at a local public pool. (It’s still too hot in Florida to spend much time outside—without having water around to cool down.) Some of the kids have just started with a new PE program. We have several wonderful field trips coming up (including a day at the Orlando Science Center and a trip to the Ponce Inlet Marine Center and Lighthouse).

But in addition to the “fun” things, we have group educational opportunities as well. We have several “learning” co-ops that we’ve been involved with during our homeschooling years. Right now, some of the active co-ops are the World Cultures and the Mythical Studies co-op. We have an active Campfire group and we have several girls involved in Girl Scouts.

We also have academic fairs twice a year, where all of the kids are encouraged to share something “educational.” (Think science fair, without the scientific method and without the judging.) The kids are welcome to do their project on anything that interests them...

Our children are not only exposed to other kids of all ages (in our homeschool group, we have newborns all the way up to late teens/early twenties), they’re exposed to other adults on a regular basis.

And what about the times when Becca wants to spend more time with kids her own age? Well, we have a very active teen book club (they read classics as well as current favorites) and a very social teen group. (We have a trip to the planetarium, a teen game night and an informal Fall dance coming up.) Her art and drama classes both cater to teens as well.

So I guess you can say that Becca is very well-rounded with her socialization these days…

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And They Say Homeschool Kids Aren’t Socialized…

Imagine a society where you’re only allowed to hang out with people your own age. (OK, so my only friends were born in 1964…or possibly late 1963, if they didn’t reach the cutoff date.) You have to spend 7 hours a day with them, in a room where you’re not allowed to talk unless you raise your hand. You’re not allowed to use the bathroom, unless it’s the right time of day.

You all go to lunch at the same time, and you’re only allowed to talk to the peers sitting at your table. (This is after walking through the halls silently, in a line.) If you turn around to talk to the people behind you (or if you shout out to a friend who happens to walk into the room), you get pulled out to sit at the “silent” table.

If the lunch room (or restaurant/cafeteria) gets too loud, someone walks up front and shouts over you. If it’s really bad, the lights go out and you’re on “silent lunch.”

If you don’t finish your work, you don’t get to go on break. If someone else doesn’t finish their work, you all lose your break privileges.

You’re given 2-3 hours worth of work to bring home. Your boss spends most of his or her day dealing with disciplinary issues.

Before I make enemies (I do love my friends with kids in public/private school, and I don’t want to alienate anybody), this was just OUR experience. I know that there are wonderful schools out there (with amazing teachers). This is still about finding out what’s right for YOUR child… And not giving in to what society (or anyone else) expects…

These are the experiences that shaped who my child was, in her early years. Can I really blame her for not wanting to continue in this kind of atmosphere?

It’s no wonder that she had meltdowns in fourth grade. She was a loving, smart, well-adjusted child. Her teachers loved her (and she loved them). She had friends. She didn’t struggle with schoolwork. She never complained of bullying.

It took me all these years (remember, I’m a slow learner) to figure out that this wasn’t the right atmosphere for her. Her spirit was slowly being extinguished.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Having “Our World” to Ourselves (Boy are We Spoiled!)

Yeah, we’re spoiled. Imagine going to the mall...and it’s basically empty. Or going to your favorite restaurant (or movie theater), and having the place to yourself. Or even better, imagine going to a theme park (or attraction) and there are no lines.

At first, people would ask why Becca isn’t in school. (Are you sick today, honey?) Then, they started getting used to seeing us on a regular basis.

We love our little world. We kind of get treated differently… Preferential treatment, you may say.

We’re so spoiled, that if we have to go out during the weekend, we’re all freaked out. (What are all these people doing here???) You get used to things being quiet (and deserted). That said, sometimes we like to get out among “normal society.” But most of the time, we like our sheltered little world!

One of our favorite times to go out is during FCAT week. Thankfully, our FCAT days are over. (Becca took them when she was still in school. Homeschoolers don’t have to take them!)

So what’s on the agenda this coming year? Aquatica maybe… Or maybe it’ll be our time to go hang out with Harry Potter at Universal…

Welcome to the life of homeschoolers. Are we spoiled? You bet we are. And we wouldn’t give it up for anything…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And Now the Fun Begins! (So What DO You Do All Day???)

So what’s a typical day like in the T household… Well, we usually rise when we’re ready (I get teased a lot about that) and then, depending on the day, we either have our outside-of-the-house activities, or we have our let’s-spend-the-day-at-home activities…

Last week, we spent a lot of time at home… Becca has been working hard on orders for her crocheted items, and I’ve been planning and organizing our homeschool activities. (Though we don’t following the typical “school year,” we tend to have lighter schedules in the summer, and resume a lot of our activities in the fall.) We’re looking forward to getting back to Becca’s art and drama classes, and maybe even singing lessons (for her).

Last week, we had our “We’re Still Staying Home to School” celebration at a local pool. The kids (and parents) got to spend five hours splashing, sliding, diving and swimming. The July and August birthday kids celebrated with Philly Swirls and other goodies. Our group was so big, when they got out of the pool to sing happy birthday, there were only about 10 people (total) left in the pool. All in all, 48 homeschoolers participated (moms, dads and kids). Everybody went home fried. A great time was had by all!

This week, Becca had a babysitting job (babysitting during the day!), we have our Funtown Fun Day (laser tag, mini-bowling, roller skating and arcade games), and we’ll hold a Mah Jongg game/instructional day with some of our homeschool/non-homeschooling friends.

(My mom was a Mah Jongg fanatic—the tile game, not the computer game. In turn, I became a Mah Jongg player, and I taught it to Bob and Becca. Becca is SO obsessed that if she doesn’t play it on a regular basis, she complains. We have a Yahoo Group comprised of Mah Jongg players and those who want to learn.)

It’s not an easy game to learn, but the rewards are great!

We find ourselves doing fewer and fewer “organized” field trips these days, but we do have many unplanned excursions. (We may take off for a trip to an Orlando mall, a beach day in Daytona, or even a mini field trip to Books-A-Million or a local restaurant.)

We find ourselves taking full advantage of lighter crowds, and fewer people out and about during the week, and tend to “hibernate” evenings, weekends and school holidays…

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Argument for NOT Rushing Into College… (Hey, It’s Not for Everybody…)

Seven Reasons Not to Send Your Kids to College

Previously, I told you about Becca’s campaign to be homeschooled. Well, what I should have learned is that I shouldn’t try to “make” Becca do anything, education-wise. (Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still win some of the arguments. But she definitely has a say in her education choices!)

It started with the “I want to be homeschooled” notes around the house. Then, when she was older, I tried to enroll her in Florida Virtual School.

We know MANY homeschoolers who take advantage of FLVS (and are very happy with the program). But Becca just wasn’t having it. After going several rounds with her about it (“Yes you are.” “NO, I’m not.” “YES, you ARE.” “NO, I’M NOT.”), I gave up. Then some wise friend said, “Why are you arguing with her about it? It’s obviously not her thing. It wasn’t my kid’s thing either. It’s basically public school, but at home. And Becca isn’t cut out for public school.” (Paraphrasing here…)

Again, we’re not knocking school. But, just like homeschooling isn’t for everybody, neither is public school.

What amazes me is that my kid had this figured out before I ever did…

The same thing happened with college. I assumed that Becca would dual enroll when she reached 10th grade. Boy did I assume wrong. (Picture the same conversation we had about FLVS…only a couple of years later.)

Obviously I’m not one to learn lessons easily.

But I’m not the only one who puts pressure on my kid. It seems these days that EVERYBODY assumes that dual enrollment is the next step in education.

But what if you don’t know what you want to do with your life? Do you just go, and hope that you’ll figure it out?

I think Becca should test out the waters, real-time, and see what she wants to do, career-wise. I keep telling her that you should wake up every day, happy that you’re doing something that you love. And who says that college is going to prepare you for that? Maybe she should take advantage of the many invitations she’s received (thank you, foreign exchange student programs) and travel the world…

So, the question is, does a college education really prepare you for your future (or your future career)? How many people finish college and end up working in a job that they hate (or in a totally different field)? How many people end up starting their own business or going in a direction totally opposite from their education?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

But What About College? (Another Question We Always Get…)

What about college? It’s a question we get all the time. Recent (and not-so-recent) research points to the fact that homeschoolers can thrive in college! They are a previously-overlooked untapped well…

And though homeschoolers are not required to have a high school diploma to enter college (side note: there’s always The Mom and Dad Diploma), they may have to take the ACTs and SATs, or at the very least, a CPT (college placement test).

Here in Florida (and I’m sure, in several other states), many homeschoolers do “dual enrollment” (which can start as early as age 15, or 10th grade). Becca has many friends who are dual-enrolled at our local community college.

But then, you may ask, what about the child who doesn’t want to go to college…? Do we automatically assume that EVERY child must attend college to have a successful future?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

But Where Does the Curriculum Come From?

As I said before, we started out with a more structured approach, then eventually eased into more of what we do now…child-led learning. Oh, we still do math in a structured environment (Math-U-See, to be more precise), but everything else we do is Becca-led.

At first, we bought workbooks from places like Books-A-Million, Barnes and Noble (and even Sam’s Club). Becca enjoyed them, because we always made it fun. (Even when Becca was in public school, we supplemented her learning with outside activities. So it was natural for us to ease into this when it came to homeschooling.)

Then we got REALLY busy…socializing. We were literally occupied 5-6 days each week. Between our co-ops, park days, homeschool roller skating days, rock climbing, Girl Scouts and field trips, we found that we didn’t have much time for anything else! But that wasn’t a bad thing. Becca was still learning. And thriving. And growing…

We’re still busy with our homeschool group, but as Becca gets older, her interests are shifting. She does drama now, and she takes art classes. (Both homeschool classes, but not with any specific group.) She will start voice lessons soon and she will be working on Geometry this "semester.” Add her reading and writing time (which comes naturally to her), crochet time (her creations are amazing), and studying for her learner’s permit, and we have a full schedule!

So where DOES the curriculum come from? A good place to start is book stores, online, and getting recommendations from other homeschoolers. (I’m trolling my homeschool group for recommended curriculum. I promise to post links soon, when I have the information amassed!)

And there's always the hands-on approach. For history, take that trip to the historical district, or watch that movie based on historical fiction, then discuss it! For science, get dirty. (We did lots of experiments at home.) Read with your child...read to them or read the books that THEY'RE reading. We've had many discussions about "life issues" after reading the same books...

Right now, Becca's reading about Robert Langdon in The Lost Symbol, and I'm reading about Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

The most important thing is staying involved with your child, paying close attention to their learning style and actively participating in their education.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Different Ways to Homeschool (What Works for Us?)

Just like anything else in life (specifically, anything new), you’ve got to try different things on for size. We tried a more “structured” approach to homeschooling. We bought textbooks and I created spelling lists. But I soon found out that Becca learned best by doing. (And the structured approach was too much like “real school.”)

So if I were to define our style of learning, I’d say that we’re “Eclectic Unschoolers.”

What is an Eclectic Unschooler, you ask?

I would define unschooling as “child-led-learning.” (I must mention here that unschooling does NOT mean un-parenting. We’ll probably end up touching on THAT subject another time.) ;o)

And eclectic, meaning “taking bits and pieces from different sources.”

Our first homeschool activity happened to be “design your own leprechaun catcher” with our new homeschool group. Becca has never been one to jump into new situations easily. I kinda had to talk her into it. But we went and she had a blast. What did she get out of it (or more specifically, what did she learn)? She got some “socialization” (there’s that “S Word”), she got to do some fun arts and crafts, she learned a little bit (or a lot) about design and she opened her mind to something new. All in all a great day.

Since then, we’ve gone on numerous field trips (more than I can ever count), we’ve been in many co-ops (some of our favorites were Circle Round and LIFE Class--where we studied Mysticism and Mythology and World Studies). We were involved with a pretty amazing homeschool Girl Scout troop, and then started our own Juliette (independent Girl Scout) group. We’ve traveled, we’ve read, we’ve created, and most importantly, we’ve learned.

So…What Does it Take to Homeschool? (aka, Wow, I Could NEVER Homeschool…)

Well, fortunately, the state of Florida makes it “easy” to homeschool. I’ve heard some states are pretty tough on homeschoolers. (Some states require a college degree to teach children at home…and some make you have your child “tested” on a regular basis…)

(If you’re interested in homeschooling, please check into YOUR state’s guidelines…)

Here in Florida the PARENT pretty much has the reins (and can make ALL of the decisions) about how to school their child.

Now, you may say, “Well, what good is that? How do you know that your child is up to par (where they’re supposed to be) in their studies?” Again, it’s totally up to the parent in the state of Florida. (And why would anyone in their right mind try to “cheat” their child out of a good education?)

So, the first piece of advice that we got was this: After a child has been in school, and before they start learning at home, it’s a good idea to give them time to “de-school.” And how do you do that? For every year that the child was in school (public or private), give them a month off. For example: Becca was in school for almost five years. So I needed to give her five months off. (I actually ended up giving her about eight months off!) This gets them out of the “school mode.” (And for a child like Becca, there’s not a thing wrong with that!)

And my most amazing discovery during this time of de-schooling? I found that Becca still wanted to learn! But when she had the desire to pick up any kind of school work, it was on her terms (and there wasn’t any pressure).

Again, for someone like Becca, this was an absolutely necessary step. We needed to re-think our ideas on education. (And we’d find, in time, that we’d end up re-thinking them yet again…)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

As We Continue...

So what makes someone decide to homeschool their kid(s)? Like anything else, it can be for any number of reasons. (Why do people send their kids to public school? Or private school?) Education is a top priority for people with kids. Why else would we be so concerned about moving into neighborhoods with “good schools?” Again, I’m not here to bash public school. I think Becca’s time in public school was “a learning experience” (just like everything else in life). But again, Becca knew what she needed. She knew what was “right” for her.

By the time I met Dani, Becca had been asking to be homeschooled for about a year. (Looking back, neither Becca nor I can remember how she even found out about homeschooling.) But this 8 year-old child was determined. She’d leave notes around the house. “Please homeschool me.” And, “I want to be homeschooled.”

I’ve learned since that time that my kid knows what she wants in life. Even back then, she knew what she needed.

So we embarked upon our journey.

And boy was it scary.

The first thing I did was call her school. The receptionist was flabbergasted. She really didn’t know what to say. Basically, her response was, “Are you SURE?” Yep, I was sure.

I wrote our “required” letter to the school board, declaring our intention of homeschooling.

Then we joined a homeschool support group.

Homeschool groups provide the support and guidance that we homeschoolers need. They can help take care of the “socialization” aspect of homeschooling. They can also be a great source of information. We’ve found out about different types of curriculum through our group. And we’ve found out about wonderful learning opportunities.

And the added bonus? Through our homeschool group, I’ve found some of my dearest friends…

And Our Journey Begins...

Here it is, my first attempt at a homeschool blog. (Actually my first real attempt at ANY kind of blog.) ;o)

Many people have asked me over the years, about my homeschool experience. I may not be the homeschooler with the most experience, and I may not be the most structured of homeschoolers (go ahead, ask me what curriculum we use), BUT I do have information (and many fun, educational experiences) to share…

We (I say “we” because homeschooling IS a family affair) started homeschooling when Becca was just about finished with fourth grade. She was a public school student for almost five years. (With three years of private preschool under her belt.) I’m not here to badmouth public school. My spouse and I are both public school-educated. And our experiences with public school aren’t nightmare stories. We just had to take a long, hard look at our child, and see that she learned best in her own way. And that SHE knew all along what she needed…(even if we were far from being clued in)…

When we finally got clued in, we proceeded with caution. (Fear is more like it.) I mean, if you pay attention to the media, they certainly don’t always shed the most positive light on homeschooling. (Don’t your kids miss being with other kids? How do they get socialization? How do you know that you’re keeping up with what they should be learning?) So our first question was where do we start?

Fortunately, I had the great fortune of meeting a homeschool mom in Girl Scout training, several months prior to our start of homeschooling. Dani was one of the first homeschool moms I had close contact with, and she quickly intrigued me. When I told her that Becca had been asking to be homeschooled (like I said, it was all Becca’s idea), she slipped me her number and said, “Call me when you’re ready.” Little did I know that was the beginning of our journey…