Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homeschooling advice that bothers me

There are many articles, posts in message boards/forums, blog posts, etc. providing helpful advice for those new to homeschooling. Much of the info in these articles is actually pretty helpful. However, there are a few pieces of advice that really irk me. These are things that fall into the category of "Just because it does/doesn't work for you, that doesn't mean that it will/won't work for everyone else."

1) Don't do 'School-at-Home"
This one bothers me on a few levels. Some people maintain that School-at-Home is NOT homeschooling. This is not always true. If you're talking about a virtual public school, then no it isn't homeschooling. You are still answering to the public school. Your child is being taught by a public school teacher. You are held to their schedule, their rules, their materials, etc. That is not homeschooling, it is public school at home. However, if you are talking about the School-at-Home method of homeschooling, YES IT IS homeschooling. Just because someone chooses to have their kids work at the dining room table or desks, uses textbooks & workbooks, follows the public school schedule, and has a room in their home set up as a classroom, that doesn't mean that they aren't homeschooling. If someone does one (or a few) of these things, nobody accuses them of not truly being a homeschooler. However, if you do all of them, if your homeschool resembles a classroom, many will say that "you are doing school at home, not homeschooling," as if there is some kind of difference. School-at-Home is one of the many methods of homeschooling, not a separate entity.
The other reason this one bothers me is because the School-at-Home method works for some people. Some people learn best in the way that the public schools use most. Not everyone does, but some thrive with that method. So, just because your kids don't learn best with the School-at-Home method, don't automatically discount it as a workable method for others.

2) Don't go it alone; join a group.
Almost every time someone, who is considering homeschooling, asks what they need to do to get started, someone will tell them to join a local support group or co-op. They make it sound like you will fail horribly, burn out in a few months, and cause irreparable damage to your kids if you don't join at least one group or co-op. Yes, groups & co-ops can be great ways to socialize your kids with other homeschoolers. Some people use co-ops to cover electives or classes they don't feel confident teaching. There are good things about groups & co-ops, I'm not arguing that. However, not everyone needs to be part of a group. Some of us are fine without being part of a group or co-op. I have never been part of a co-op and the only groups I'm in are online. I didn't feel the need to surround myself with other homeschoolers when I first started & I still don't. There is a family we are friends with that homeschool. We have penpals in another state that are homeschoolers. That is the extent of our real-life connection with other homeschoolers. The kids were in a homeschool 4-H group for one year, but we decided not to continue the next year. My kids are not harmed by our lack of groups & co-ops. They aren't unsocialized freaks because we don't have regular group meetings to attend (if they were, I wouldn't have the neighborhood kids ringing the doorbell everyday, asking if they can go to play). They aren't improperly educated due to lack of co-op classes. I am not sitting here a nervous wreck, bald from pulling my out, nails bitten off, chain smoking, shaking from the stress & anxiety of homeschooling without a whole group of local homeschoolers to meet with every week. In fact, I have stopped biting my nails & smoking (both were nervous habits for me from long before I started homeschooling). We're about to start our 7th year of homeschooling & there has been no damage, to any of us, caused by going it alone.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't read articles or posts that offer advice to homeschool newbies. Just remember that there is NO one-size-fits-all when it comes to homeschooling. Use the method you think will be best for your family. Join a group or co-op only if you want to. Do what is right for you & your family, not someone else. Read the advice, but only use what seems right for you. Just because someone has been homeschooling longer than you, that doesn't mean that they know everything about homeschooling or that they know what will work for you.

One piece of advice that I would not ignore - Don't compare your homeschool (or your kids) to others. Figure out your educational philosophy, set your own goals, figure out what works for you, and work toward your goals, without concern for what everyone else is doing. When you read about a family where the kids are learning 4 or 5 languages, before you start feeling inferior, ask yourself "How many (and which) languages do I really want my kids to learn?" If your kid has never expressed an interest in playing an instrument, don't force him to just because you read someone's post about their kid playing 3 instruments. Do what's right for you & your family.

Monday, April 26, 2010

1st day of break

Today started our break. We have 4 weeks off before the next school year begins. I spent the morning studying for my Psych course. The kids watched 2 documentaries - one on caves & one on Coral Reefs. Then they spent some time on Quarter Mile Math & played until lunch. They spent the afternoon using one of the Solar Power kits. They couldn't get enough power from the sun (a lesson about reduced energy collection on cloudy days), so they used a lamp in my room.
Dea decided that she doesn't want to create books on the Wars she's covering next year. Of course, she tells me this after I've bought pretty much everything for the year & there's nothing left of the budget. So, her choices were rather limited. She's decided she wants to do Notebooking pages for them. I spent the weekend creating Notebooking pages for Dea's History & Jay's Science. I still need to do the Lab sheets for one of Jay's Science kits. I plan to have all materials, that I need to create for the year, done by the time the new year starts. I'm hoping to also get a decent amount of work done on my Psychology course during our break. I got through a whole chapter in the textbook today. If I can do that 3 or more days a week, I should be at least halfway done with the program by the end of our break.
Between my schoolwork, creating materials for the kids, re-organizing the school stuff, and the regular daily things that need to be done (cooking cleaning, errands, etc.), it won't be much of a break for me - I'll be working the whole time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dino Dig

On Monday, Jay dug up a dinosaur. I bought him one of those dino dig kits. I was expecting it to take us a few days, but he was really into it & just kept going. He dug up the whole dino & we assembled it. We were going to paint it yesterday, but my back started to hurt. We're not sure what I did, but my back is killing me. I'm hoping we can paint his dino tomorrow. He's done with his work for this school year; we're just waiting on Dea to finish her work so we can start our break. The dino dig kit was one of the things I got for him to do over break. I let him do it early, though, since there isn't much else for him to do. He's doing Quarter Mile Math a few days a week, reading daily, and visiting a few other educational websites. Basically, I'm just letting him do fun review stuff. Next week, I'll probably let him tear into the Magic School Bus Dino kit that I got for the break. After dinos, I'll let them (Dea should be done by that point) start on the solar power kits (we've got 2 of those).
So, I've got the rough plan for the year done & detailed plans for the first 5 weeks. I've got everything they need for the first week in their school baskets. I bought myself a school basket, too. It has the teacher manuals & answer keys for the kids' school stuff, the kits & materials we'll need for the first week, and the materials for my schooling (my basket is a little bigger than the kids' baskets). We're all set for the next year. Well, almost set. I still need to pick up the mummification materials for Jay's Ancient Egypt study & the dissection specimens for Dea's Biology.
They're both really looking forward to the break. They'll have a little work to do - Quarter Mile Math, a few other educational sites, a few educational games - just so they don't forget stuff & we don't need to waste time doing review. They'll also still have to do their chores. Most of the day, though, they'll probably be outside playing with neighborhood kids. While they are looking forward to the extra free time, they both know that the sooner the break begins, the sooner the next school year starts. They're both really excited about the upcoming school year. As excited as they are about school, though, I think Dea's looking forward to playing outside during the week more than anything else. We had to make it a rule that she can't play outside on school days. She would rush through her work so that she could go out & play. By rushing, she wasn't putting in any effort, the work was sloppy, and I refuse to accept sloppy, mediocre work. I expect their best effort on every assignment. She wasn't putting in her best effort when she was trying to finish so she could go outside. So, we had to take away the possibility of playing outside on school days. That way, she can focus more on effort & less on speed. When she can prove that she can be responsible & is handing in quality work consistently, I'll consider changing things. However, her education is more important than playtime, and she needs to get her priorities straight.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Next Year's Plan

I have next year figured out. There may still be a few minor details to work out & I've only got detailed plans for the first 5 weeks, but the broad strokes are done. Here's our upcoming year:

Jay (1st):
Math - Continue from where we leave off this year in Mastering Mathematics (he's finished Addition & is in Subtraction), practice & review with games (Quarter Mile Math, Yahtzee, Math Bingo, etc) & flashcards.
Language Arts - Explode the Code books 6-8 for phonics/reading review & spelling and handwriting practice. 30 min per day of quiet reading time. MadLibs, Games, and fun websites for additional practice & review. Vocab program (untitled, made by me, almost done creating it)
Logic - Primarily Logic (workbook) and various logic puzzles (from various books of logic puzzles)
Latin - Song School Latin
Science - Magic School Bus based Science - Going Green (Ecology & Recycling), World of Germs, Human Body, Bugs & Spiders - ranging from approx. 5-10 weeks for each topic & 12-35 activities & experiments (depending on topic & length of study), Notebooking Pages, Lab Sheets, Posterboard Displays
Social Studies - Ancienct Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome - approx 12 weeks & 15-25 activities/projects for each civilization, Notebooking Pages, Posterboard Displays
Art - will mainly consist of projects for Science & Social Studies, but will also explore various types of art & artistic media
Music - main focus on Classical Composers & their works

Dea (7th):
History - Wars: WWI & WWII, also hoping to fit in Vietnam - writing a book on each
Geography - Power Basics World Geography
Latin - Oxford Latin Course
Math (High School) - Life of Fred Beginning & Advanced Algebra
Art - 1 project every week or two, 1 artist bio per week
Music - 1 musician bio per week, main focus on Blues, Country, and Blue Grass
Logic - Analogy workbooks 1-3, Fun With Logic (book)
English (High School) - Easy Grammar, Writint Strands level 5, various writing assignments (essays, creative writing, etc), reading focused on Plays & Poetry (Shakespeare, Ibsen, Poe, Hemingway, Frost, and more)
Science - Biology (High School) - Power Basics Biology plus 15-20 labs, including multiple dissections, microscope work, and more

So, that's the basic plan for the upcoming year. The kids are both looking forward to it & practically drooling over the materials. Dea is done with her History for this year, which means she just needs to finish Science. Once Science is finished, we can take our month break & start the next year.