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Posts Tagged ‘homeshooling’

Hey, it’s the beginning of August, so I guess that means it’s time for Amy to write yet another post on Our Schooling Decisions and Why We Made Them. Sheesh.

amy-welborn

 

For yes, as I have mentioned a couple of times, we are back to some homeschooling around these parts. Here’s the deal:

Older son is staying where he is, in high school. My experience with my kids and my own experience teaching is that the quality of instruction in high school improves in the higher grades, and this looks to be so in this case. A junior, he’ll be taking challenging classes in the areas in which he’s interested and it should be good. Seems to be from what I have seen so far of the course materials (school starts tomorrow) at least. He started working in a grocery store in the spring and should be able to continue through the school year, saving up for…what I’m not sure.  But he’ll have full, busy days and will be learning and will be spending his days with good friends. Worth it.

Brief recap of the younger one: in school PK-1st, homeschooled 2nd-5th, then in school last year for 6th. Very smart, self-directed kid. No learning or behavior issues. Just curious, mostly mature, and (this is important) the youngest kid of a 57-year old mom who is…over your weekly folders and gift-wrap. 

He has strong interests in history and science, and is a fairly talented musician.

So…what happened between then (my post on the first day of school last year) and now?

Actually, not “now” but…about three or four months into the experience?

Nothing huge, and I really don’t want to discuss the particulars in a public forum. There’s no point to it. We’ve shared our experiences with the people to whom it might matter, and that’s all that’s important.

It all really comes down to what Sally Thomas said in a comments section in a post of mine, words I quote in this post:

And largely what motivated us to stop going to school was the feeling that school was largely an annoying middleman that wanted to dictate our schedules for us.

It’s a deal, it’s a contract, it’s an agreement that you, as student and family, make with educational institutions. It’s an agreement in which, for it to be worth it to you, elements must stay balanced.

As in: Not everything the school is going to ask of me is going to great or even valuable. There are going to be irritating aspects of school. But all of that is balanced by what the school experience gives.

Just like the rest of life, right?

So just as in the rest of life, we make constant cost-benefit analyses. Is the good I’m deriving worth the cost I’m paying? 

I’ve written about this many times before. As I put it almost exactly a year ago in a post describing my educational background as it related to my original decision to homeschool back in 2012:

In terms of my own life with my two remaining kids at home in 2011, I was not ecstatic with institutional education, but was fairly comfortable with the agreement I thought we had reached. After all, I only had a decade or so left, but who’s counting. I’d send cooperative kids in every day and support what they were doing in school. School was then going to do its part: teach the basics, enrich, inspire a little. School was going to do no harm. School, because it was called “Catholic,” was going to be holistically, counter-culturally Catholic.  I wasn’t asking school to transform our lives, but I was expecting that school wasn’t going to waste my kids’ time or my money. School would do its thing, and then school would step back and school would get  out of the way.

Deal?

Flash forward to 2016.  Older kid was doing fine in high school. The younger one really wanted to go to school. He was curious, a little concerned that what he was doing at home wasn’t keep him up to where his peers were…

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….and he wanted a more consistent posse of friends. The school his older brother had attended for 8th grade seemed to fit the bill.

And….here we are a year later, with him getting ready for school…at home. No regrets, no bad feelings, and yes, lots of new friends made  – friendships that will be sustained through sports and other activities – but just a sort of been there, done that kind of feeling.

(No predictions for 8th grade being made at this point)

There were some specific issues, but the broad issue that I think might be relevant and helpful to others is this:

The dissatisfaction he experienced was not with any specific school, but with the whole concept of curriculum as it plays out in elementary/middle school, period. Anyone who teaches struggles with this, as well.

Let’s put it this way:

There’s this much stuff to learn about:

billions-and-billions

During the course of  a school class, period or even a lifetime, you have time to learn this much of that:

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So…

Why learn about – or teach – one fragment rather than another? What governs those choices?

This of course, is the core educational question. What shall we learn and how shall we learn it? It’s not an easy question, especially in a huge, diverse society. It’s why we don’t need a single educational system, but countless schools teaching All The Things in any of the myriad ways or for any of the purposes students want to learn them.

Now, we can and should learn about subjects that we don’t think we need or want to learn about. That’s certainly true. This isn’t an argument for pure interest-driven learning. That produces a whole other type of narrowness and is not, in the end, actually educational.

I’m not a science or math person, academically speaking, but when I think about high school and in which classes I learned the most, I don’t think about English or history. I think about the physics class I took when I was a senior, a class I was required to take, but never would have chosen for myself. It was agony, especially for the first semester, but then, as I was studying for the mid-term, something clicked, and I ended up making an A. That experience of working through something that didn’t come naturally to me was very valuable, but I also learned something about myself – I learned that the more abstract a subject is, the more difficulty I have with it, and I experienced physics as very abstract – it wasn’t as concrete as say, biology had been. I learned this in relation to physics, but then it helped me make sense of a lot of other areas of my life, even at the point in which I was moving towards more advanced studies in religion. I knew that history was where I needed to be, not theology.

So no, I’m not saying that we all should just follow our bliss.

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BUT:

Is it absolutely necessary that a “quality” educational system be one in which elementary school students are required to learn, not just how to read and calculate, but the minutiae of all sorts of specific subjects? That they spend an hour a day learning a particular aspect of science or the humanities, are expected to keep learning about it with half an hour of homework almost every day, and are judged, in some sense, on their mastery of this particular way of learning about this particular subject?

When they are 12 years old?

Once you’ve lived and learned in Homeschool Land, particularly if that learning has been facilitated by a loosey-goosey, INFP mother whose favorite thing is rabbit trails of inquiry….you might be able to live with that bargain  for a while (I’ll put up with this if the other parts of school balance it out)…but then you might start wondering about it.

You might start wondering if rising at 6:45 and doing all the other School Things and being super tired at the end of the day because of it – too tired to practice your music in the way you want, too tired to spend much time outside, even too tired to read at night….you might start wondering if it’s worth it.

You’ve had some good teachers – even a great one. You’re glad of it. You’re grateful. You’ve made good friends. But….there’s that photography class through the homeschool co-op. And the classes at the science museum. And that writing program at the art museum – that sounds interesting. And the iron-pouring session at the historic furnace site. And you might even be able to start volunteering at the zoo.

The thing is….you like science and history and literature and even math is okay.  You read and study about all of that on your own. You learned that you’re not “behind” your peers. At all. You will study scientific and historic topics. It might not be what the curriculum committee of your state has determined all 13-year olds should know…but who cares? Is that really important?

You can be trusted to learn.

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And this, I’ve promised.

I’ll trust him to learn.

I wrote before that when I began this homeschool journey…I was convinced I was definitely Hip Unschooling Mom.

Er..no.

First, I had an older son who was very amenable to being taught. As in: “Teach me something. Thanks. Are we done? Can I go now?” He was not an unschooler at that point in his life.

Secondly…well…I’m a teacher. Life is just amazing and fascinating, and I just want to….

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BUT. THIS TIME GUYS I MEAN IT.

I told my son that except for math, this would be unschooling time. It would all be up to him. We are going to have conversations about what the typical 7th and 8th grade curricula are all about and how that feeds into the traditional high school model. He may not – and probably will not – do traditional high school – but he needs to know how that is structured and what is generally required for graduation.

It will be my job to facilitate. To find resources, to take him to the library, and so on.

Of course, much of this is determined by his sense of what he wants to do or be. There are people around him who think that music is in his future, but while he wants to keep studying piano, and enjoys it, he is pretty firm that he’s not interested in music as a profession in any way. His vision of himself in the future involves some combination of archaeology, photography and reptiles.  We’ll see.

So this is my sense of what “school” will be like for the next year for him:

Prayer/saint of the day/Mass readings or Mass

Math: Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra

Aside from his music lessons, homeschool co-op, science center classes, boxing and other activities…what he studies will be up to him, and I’ll help in whatever way I can. The only rule is that he must be engaged in something during the “school day.”  It can be outdoors, it can be reading, writing, drawing, studying, talking to me, whatever. But no screens (unless we are watching an educational video together), and if he can’t use his time….I’ll take over.

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Today he mentioned Spanish, for example. So I’ll get a Spanish I program of some sort – either middle school Spanish or a high school Spanish I program – and he’ll start on that with the wealth of supplementary materials out there and if he wants to, at some point, involve a tutor or an online class.

This will be very interesting. It will require discipline and self-control on both ends – he’ll need it to stay focused, and I’ll need it in order to keep that Sort Of Unschooling Promise.

Paperwork: As I have mentioned, Alabama is a fabulous homeschooling state. The only requirement is attendance records. No testing, no need to submit curriculum.  So our process will be, not planning, but recording.

I have a daily planner, and at the end of every day – or in the course of the day – he will note what he did: what he read, wrote, saw, did. At the end of the week, he’ll write up a summary, and that will be our record-keeping, which I know will be important for future reference, to prove that he actually did things.

So that’s it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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For more homeschool posts with many more Thoughts:

Balancing Equations: The decision-making that led to homeschooling back in 2011/2012

The first stage of our homeschooling…in Europe.

School at Home and Other Places….my family’s background in education. 

An INFP Homeschools

The main resources I used in homeschooling that first go round.

Homeschool Takeaways: What I Learned. 

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At some point – hopefully later today, the blogging repertoire will expand beyond this daily report. But it’s a start, a forces me to write something here. I’ve been so immersed in that other thing for three months – and with another project looming  – it’s really difficult for me to write anything of substance anywhere else.

Today (Actually yesterday..forgot to post) …another late start.  I think I’m still in mental recovery mode from the project, but hopefully today was a reset.

  • Prayer: Readings of the day (as in Epiphany). Talked about the Magi, etc.
  • Read Eliot’s The  Journey of the Magi. I read the first section aloud with great drama, so he would catch the tone, which he did for the rest of it.
  • We talked about what the “old dispensation” and how the experience of this Birth/Death renders the narrator feeling as if he were among foreigners once he returns home. Tied it into the homily we had heard on Sunday, which had much the same theme – so much so that I really expected the priest to pull in Eliot, but he never did.

 

"amy welborn"

This was one of my first purchases on Ebay, back when Ebay was sort of interesting. They were larger than I had expected, but I still love them.

 

 

"amy welborn"

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Random notes from Chichen Itza and other parts:

  • So yes, we made it.  We stayed at Mayaland! A very nice resort-type place that I picked because the hotel property is adjacent to Chichen Itza.
  • My intention was that was be able to get up, eat breakfast, and enter the park through the rear entrance (a minute walk from the hotel) at 8am – a couple of hours before the tour groups arrive, a good bit of time before the vendors set up, and, of course, also a bit before it gets really hot.
  • GREAT IDEA!
  • Except for the cold, hard facts that:   1) When getting money out of the ATM at Cancun airport, I really could not remember the whole pesos/dollars thing,and didn’t get enough.  Clearly.   2)I handed over a bunch in the whole PLEASE GET ME GAS SO I AM NOT STRANDED ON A MEXICAN TOLL ROAD IN THE DARK WITH MY CHILDREN thing   and 3)the Chichen Itza ticket office takes cash only   and 4) the atm at the hotel didn’t open until 9.
  • So there was a bit of disappointment on that score, but we got over it.  We just chilled, then went ahead and checked out of the hotel, stored the luggage and studied the peacocks until 9.
  • It’s an interesting site.  I’ll not have anything to compare it to until we go to Uxmal, so I should probably withhold judgment till then.
  • One thing Chichen Itza is famed for are the souvenir vendors.  They are permitted to be all over the site – the only one of the main archaeological sites in which this is so.  The purveyors of Mayan calendars, huipil, hats, statuary, magnets…jaguar “whistles” which are sounded the minute a child comes in sight…all “almost free!”  AMAZING!

"amy welborn"

  • I must confess, though, that while the place would certainly be more authentic without guys alternating fake jaguar cries and checking their cel phones and telling me it was all “almost free!” it didn’t bother me that much.  The street vendors in Rome and Paris are far more aggressive with their “Un Euro Un Euro Un Euro” for their little Eiffel Towers and light necklaces, their scarves and umbrellas
  • And yes, it was hot.  Everything they say about the hotness of Chichen Itza is true – it is largely unshaded, flat, and by noon, I was ready to go….and I enjoy the heat.
  • Also at the hotel was a large group of French tourists.
  • Dinner last night?  I’m going to trust that you are uninterested in the boys’ dinners, because they are not much different from what they have north of the border. Yet. I’m working on it.  I had a Chiles Rellenos dish, which was okay.  Tonight (in a different place), I had Poc Chuc, which was DELICIOUS.
  • In driving through this part of Mexico (I am careful not to generalize, because I am only in the Yucatan, so I can’t say, “in Mexico”…even though it might be true.  I don’t know.)….speed bumps are a constant feature. Serious speed bumps, forcing you to drastically slow down as you pass through towns.  What impressed me were the enteriprising purveyors of items like roasted corn and tamales who stationed themselves at those speed bumps, knowing that drivers would have to almost stop in order to preserve their undercarriage.  I didn’t get anything today because of the uncertainties of our destination, but I will, I hope, before we leave.
  • "Amy Welborn"

    If he ever becomes a famed archaeologist, date it to this moment. He turned around and exclaimed, “I can’t believe I’m really here!

     

  • The people are lovely.  Don’t be a skinflint with your tips, and they will be even lovelier  Just sayin’.
  • I had warned the boys that there might be police stops on the road, and yes, the police might be carrying machine guns, and to not be alarmed.  Indeed, on our travels today, there were four brief stops (but only once were they sporting machine guns) – we were waved through every time, although every time, a car in front of us was motioned to stop and pull over.  I don’t know what the criterea were.
  • Oh, and for those of you who haven’t followed us for the past few years.  This isn’t our first time in Mexico.  The first substantive time was a few years ago when we went on a parish mission trip led by the Family Missions Company to General Cepeda, Mexico, a bit west of Monterrey and Saltillo.
  • Quote of the day from the middle of the Yucatan:

    Me: “Are you American?”

    Guy I’m asking advice from: “No, I’m Estonian.”

     

 

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