Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Some of What I Didn't Say About Homeschooling

Someone just asked me about homeschooling, like how you do it legally, who checks up on you, and whatnot.  I sometimes get a bit defensive in those situations and just present the facts--about how we are indeed complying with the law and not neglecting to prepare our kids for life in the "real world."

I also had not mentioned in my last post how great homeschooling can be. So here are some of the things I like about it. I don't think everyone should homeschool, and I don't ever try to talk anyone into it.

Homeschooling is cool partly because I get to learn right alongside my kids and, not being a kid anymore, I actually like to learn things.  For instance, I never really learned grammar in school and think it's important, so we are learning grammar.  That is my idea of fun, which proves I am a real teacher.  We also read poetry aloud and sing hymns together, which the boys like too, believe it or not.  I do afflict them with writing assignments, but often they get off easy with letters to relatives.

History is one of my favorite subjects.  Included in that is a lot of geography, because you have to know where you are talking about to understand what is going on.  My kids know basic world geography better in elementary school than I did as a college grad. We started world history three years ago, from the beginning of human civilization. We have worked our way chronologically to where we are now, at the American Revolution.  I think it makes sense to do it this way.  When we reach the present, we will start back at the beginning again and see what we've forgotten!

All my sons are good at math.  Because we homeschool, I can keep them right where they are pushing their limits.  John is two years ahead in math, but not in other subjects.  In fact we are still finishing last year's grammar book (it's hard).  I love that flexibility.  For science, we plowed through a couple of textbooks already this year and are now checking out library books on subjects of interest.  I don't know if it's true of everyone, but one thing we've learned about science experiments is that they frequently don't work!  Which is a part of real research, I'm guessing.

We touch on some foreign language.  For Spanish, I read a daily page out of a story Bible en espanol, and John tries to translate it into English.  John & I are also learning Greek, very very slowly.  I want us to be able to read the New Testament in its original language.  For art I mostly torture them with making them draw what they see, but we do the obligatory clay pots, tempera paintings... For music I teach them piano, which is the hugest test on my patience. 

P.E. is essential when you have boys.  I always make sure they get that in!  They get some of that "social interaction with their peers" people are always freaking out about on sports teams, and at church.  And though I do count church as part of their school, we also do Bible as a subject at home.

I read them a good story Bible.  It is pretty thorough and has gone along well with our chronological study of history.  We also memorize sections of Scripture together, like Psalms 23 and 100.  That is a great thing to do. I highly recommend it.  And John is reading through the Bible on his own now.  He is in Joshua, and insisted on reading right through all the genealogies, etc. in the previous books, though I told him he could skim.  

Aside from all the academics, it is enjoyable just being together.  We are never rushed or hurried with our schoolwork, unless I am out of my mind, which sometimes I am.  It's nice now to have the internet whenever we have a question.  And there are many other homeschoolers doing different interesting things, pursuing them in ways that homeschooling especially allows.

Being around other homeschoolers keeps us challenged and encouraged. We are some of the most laid-back homeschoolers I know, and we probably need to work on that.  But I know what for me is the main thing.  And I'm keeping that the focus.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Homeschooling is better than a poke in the eye.

When we first began to homeschool I was so motivated, so excited--so young.  I guess I had to be pretty driven to even get started with homeschooling.  To find out about it I had to go to the library and seek out an old article I had once seen in the Tribune on microfiche.  We had no internet then.  And homeschoolers were not so common. 

We were broke in those days. I used to make my own worksheets.  I mean I wrote them out by hand --no copy machine, no computer even.  I can recall hand-drawing enlarged pictures of ants, copied from a library book, with lines pointing to their various body parts, connected to blanks for the kids to fill in. 

We went on nature walks, collected leaves, pressed them in waxed paper--all that good stuff.  We did "hands-on" learning, made sugar-cube castles, mobiles, staged plays, took lots of field trips.  We went to hippie-homeschool conventions and camp-outs...  Those were our pre-Christian homeschooler days.  Our comrades were unschoolers and all sorts of creative types with widely varied approaches.  By and large that group was pretty laid-back, and a lot of fun. 

How did we even get into homeschooling?  Well, we had managed to buy our first house in a pretty bad neighborhood, and the school was kind of rough, I mean, it was an elementary school. My oldest son went through kindergarten there and had a pretty good teacher (although I got called many days to come get him because he had "headaches," which I think were from boredom).

But the next year that teacher left, and my second son got the new young teacher, who had no patience for little kids.  And all the cool stuff--the artwork, rice table, books, puzzles, colorful learning stations that my oldest son had enjoyed--had all gone with the old teacher.  The room seriously looked like the Whos' house after the Grinch had stolen Christmas.  Like with a wire hanging from a nail on the bare wall.  And it was gray.

There was also the first day of school that year, when I looked at my little first-grade son, and he was SO small...and it just freaked me out that he was going to have to sit at a desk all day...like a little man going off to work...and he was just SO young.  And then my second son going too, my baby, to that dismal place, leaving me...alone.  I felt like the government was stealing my children.  And after I dropped them off I went home, sat on my couch, and cried.

I had other reasons for pulling them out.  For one thing, there wasn't even any playground equipment at the school.  At least we had a swingset.  Also, my oldest son's headaches and boredom continued.  I was sure my younger son had very high intelligence but his teacher just noticed that he was "not very good with scissors," which turned out rather ironically if you know my Tim.

Anyway, there was no use trying to get them into a private school--they were all booked up.  So, off to the library I went, and the journey began--which was supposed to be a temporary solution, by the way.  We put our house on the market 11 months after moving in, not appreciating the bullets and stray dogs bouncing around the neighborhood.  Not to mention the robberies, prostitution, murders... Let's just say we bought an education.  But the plan was to homeschool until we got out of there and moved to a "decent" neighborhood.

Well, you know how that goes... It took us 2 1/2 years to sell and by that time we were so into homeschooling that we could never go back.  Both of my oldest sons homeschooled through highschool, have graduated college, and are off living their lives.  I wouldn't trade one second I had with them. 

My husband and I became Christians in 1995, and decided that we had made a mistake not having more kids.  So, it took a while, but here we are twenty-three years later (after starting homeschooling) and I have a fifth-grader and another first-grader.  The only school they've ever known is at home.  I started out this post feeling really burnt-out and old and tired.  But remembering all that has made me glad.  It's all worth it in the end.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Carpetman

 The Carpetman

T'was a friend of a friend
that once we had hired,
to replace some old carpet
which was greatly expired.

He did a good job
and he did it real fast
so we never forgot him,
though many years passed.

When we found once again
the need to replace
some tattered old carpet
which had no more face,

We called for this man,
so skilled at his craft,
and hired him again
to tackle the task.

But soon we would learn
how times had changed,
as our good carpet man
had grown very strange.

He took our down payment,
Well, I payed him in full,
remembering him worthy
and so on-the-ball.

So he took all that money
to buy carpet we'd dug, 
but when he came back
he brought the wrong rug!

"So sorry," he said,
"But it can't be returned--
you'll just have to take it."
Then we knew we'd been burned.

The stuff was inferior,
not at all what we'd picked,
but now what to do with it
since we were sticked.

We came up with a plan
that was better than none,
and gave that new carpet
away to someone

Whose basement had flooded
and cost them a lot
so at least we could help a wee bit
in their spot.

Then off to Menard's
we went to procure
some carpet we liked
and of which we'd be sure.

The Carpetman came
and installed the new stuff
although we'd paid double
we were happy enough.

The stuff looked so good
we decided to do
the hall and the stairs
with the same carpet too.

Being not-too-bright,
we asked for a quote
on installing the rest.
"Hey," said the bloke,

"I owe you guys one
so I'll do it for free,
you buy the carpet
and then just call me."

So back to Menard's
and another truck rental--
by now you can see
how we're just kind of mental.

Of course Carpetman
would never show up,
for months now
the carpet rolls gathering dust

Wait in vain here and there
for the guy to arrive
something always comes up
as we enter month five.

'Tis very sad
how he's strung us along
but my consolation
is writing this song.