Apology to the Masses

I thought I would post some of our activities over the past couple of weeks in an attempt to assuage the guilt I feel that comes from knowing that my children lead such isolated; uneducated lives. I have listened to the naysayers out there that believe homeschoolers are not only thinking outside of the box…a dangerous perspective, to be sure…but that we are also dooming our children to a life of isolation, keeping them from those valuable experiences that school brings.

Oh, I hear you great mob of society.  I type this here, now, in a fit of anxiety, with a fair dose of hand-wringing, knowing that you must be correct. How in the world can I teach my children anything of value if I am not a certified teacher? I only went through the entire educational system myself, but that clearly can’t account for any learning or knowledge to pass on, though I completely understand how it is an adequate, nay…superior educational foundation for my children over anything I could possibly teach them.  Naturally a sterile environment that shows a picture of, say, the life cycle of a butterfly is by far a better method to reach understanding of the process than actually watching a butterfly go from egg, to larva, to pupa and ultimately bursting out in all it’s glory into full-grown flight.

How will my children ever LEARN?!

And lets not forget about the socialization!  Oh…the socialization. I hang my head in shame. My children are terribly alone, with no way to learn how to interact in an environment with children of their own age all doing the same thing at the same time. Alas, I have only been able to provide them with a strong family bond, friends of all ages that they must learn to cooperate with, and a gamut of real-life instructors that not only do, but teach, as well.

Sigh.

I truly lament how sheltered they have become and it is high time I take some responsibility for this fact.  I now admit to you all that my children have learned to take life into their own hands and mold it and shape it to be what works best for them, rarely resembling anything mainstream. I plead forgiveness and understanding from the mainstream not to judge too harshly that my children have not learned to blindly follow the pack like so many other automatons have done.

How could I raise free-thinkers like these? Have I no shame?!! Surely, we must be doing it all wrong. After all, the masses usually know what’s best, right?  It can’t possibly be education if kids are, gasp…enjoying it, right?  Right?

Hmmm….maybe the proverbial “they” are correct, after all.  Oh, how could I have let this happen?

 

IMG_8487Apple picking at the orchard.  I’m sure there is no educational value in this whatsoever.  What a waste of our time!

IMG_8485Just look at those poor, sad, unsocialized faces.

IMG_8529All in at Devil’s Lake.  No suits needed, apparently.  I now see how “weird” my kids are.  That is totally unacceptable and I’m sure this sort of free-spirited attitude will have long-standing repercussions well into adulthood.

IMG_8513Learning how to row…not as easy as it looks, but I’m sure they could have figured that out from watching someone else do it instead…in a picture…in a textbook.

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IMG_8490Apple orchard bounty.  This can only lead to no good.

 

IMG_8541Better start making some apple things!  Sigh…see what I mean about “no good”?  Just more time-consuming stuff getting in the way of “education”.

 

IMG_8556Putting the final touches on the card they made together (to give to a non-existent friend for his birthday party, since, you know, homeschoolers don’t have friends.)

 

IMG_8596Trip to a llama farm where we received instruction from a veterinarian on all manner of farm life and llama care.  (It’s certainly too bad we only had the experience of the veterinarian; farm owner to teach the kids at the site, rather than a textbook.  That would have been so much better.)

 

IMG_8595Oops.  Missing those opportunities to make friends again.  My poor awkward children.

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IMG_8707Field trip to Norskadelen, a Norwegian settlement site, as part of our hands-on learning of pioneer life.  I know.  I know.  What could they possibly gain from this?  Is she frolicking?!!

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IMG_8690Look closely.  We’ll see this again later…in miniature.

 

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IMG_8708Oh, and one mustn’t forget about all that free time my kids get to do things that are fun, creative and just plain interesting to them.  Goodness knows there isn’t a lick of research to show that kids need that!  Ugh.  Those should be workbooks.

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Avatar 4 elementsAnd because my kids got into a spurt watching Avatar: The Last Airbender…terrible parent that I am…I took the opportunity to impart a little fantasy-to-reality by letting them draw, talk about elements, write, spell and read…all while skipping that stuffy indoor classroom.  What will become of these kids?  I think the damage I’ve done must surely be irreparable.

 

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IMG_8722Ah, and here we go with that creativity run amok again!  Oh, and violence.  I’ve allowed the promotion of violence as my daughter studiously gathered “ingredients” and wrapped them up in homemade leaf-bombs to prepare for a war with those imaginary friends of hers that were visiting later.

 

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IMG_8737And another sad attempt at haphazard “learning”:  making nature inspired owls, after we tried our hand at baking up some yummy cinnamon-sugar owls that morning.  We even read a few books on owls and had some writing practice…”O is for owl”.  Alas, this didn’t come as part of a full unit of directed study, so I’m sure it doesn’t count.

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IMG_8756In a timely fashion, going along with our pioneer theme, we were lucky enough to get genuine buggy rides from a friend’s family.  The kids got to run on the farm with a variety of animals and even saddle up and ride a horse, but I’m sure none of that compares with riding on a school bus every day.

 

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Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding (1)

Horseback Riding (2)

Horseback Riding (3)

 

And with all that pesky free-time I allow them…

IMG_8422A pioneer covered wagon,

 

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IMG_8807some lovely llama pictures,

 

Homemade ice cream (1)

Homemade ice creamenjoying pioneer-style homemade ice-cream that they vigorously made (shook) themselves,

 

Lincoln Log Pioneer Homestead (11)

Lincoln Log Pioneer Homestead (10)Look familiar?

 

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Lincoln Log Pioneer Homestead (7)and creation of a pioneer village.

How dull and uneducational.  There must be better ways to gauge whether or not my girls have gleaned anything from all these trips and things they’ve been taking.  I know…standardized testing!

Yes, my poor, unsocialized, uneducated, friendless kids taught by their ignorant, free-spirited mother and an even more layman group of educators in their fields.  I can clearly see now that I must really be doing them severe harm by choosing this homeschooling lifestyle.   😉

High School Homeschool?

So, I came across an article recently from a woman who was pointing out why she could “never” homeschool her child…her teen, specifically.  You can see the full article here:  7 Reasons I’d Never Homeschool My Teen.

I would first like to point out that the author is not putting down homeschoolers, only pointing out why she, herself, could not do it.  Also, I recognize that a child that has been in compulsory school his entire life, as hers may have been, might have a more difficult time transitioning to homeschooling…a fact conceded in my own home with my oldest.  However, her points still seemed worth addressing, so here they are with my comments following.

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  1. I could probably get him through algebra and geometry, but we’d both need a tutor when it came to calculus. Sure, I took it in high school but it was in one ear and out the other as soon as the final was finished.  I have a couple of comments on this one.  First, you’d be amazed at what you “get” when you are studying it as an adult for the sake of your children, rather than being forced to learn it when you are younger.  (I also use the term “learn” very loosely in this context as the author unwittingly makes a perfect point.  Schools no longer teach, they force-feed for short-term regurgitation.  That, and a sense of subject irrelevance, is most likely why you only retained information for finals)  Secondly, by avoiding this factory assembly-line-style education altogether, your child will begin to truly learn.  He could then essentially teach himself, by that point.  With the additional benefit of all the resources now available online, as well, it’s not as big of a stumbling block as you might think.  And third, how often do you use calculus as an adult now?  I would argue that college is not the only path for children and if your child is passionate with a direction that doesn’t include calculus, then why force it on him?  If college is the only way for your family, then I refer to my second point.  If he needs it, he will be able to learn it, because you will have already taught him how to learn anything.
  2. I can’t imagine his first intense classroom setting being a college lecture. Talk about intimidating.  I never had any classroom setting in high school that was “intense” like those in college.  College and high school are two different worlds and one does not necessarily prepare a person for the other.  Was your first college course not intimidating just because you sat in a dull classroom 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, nearly your entire life leading up to that?  I think it just goes with the territory of all things unfamiliar.  You quickly get used to it as long as you are mentally prepared, which I believe a homeschooled child is likely to be.  And, if you are still worried about being unprepared for the level of work, guess what?  You can teach from the college books once they are old enough to understand them…long before the magical age of 18.  Your homeschooled teen would be well-versed in the nuances of an upper-level class by then and might even get some credit for it.  After all, if you have to take, say…that dreaded calculus, why not get college credit for it and get a jump start on those years of upper education?
  3. We’d get sick of each other by week four two.  So, I understand this concern.  I really do.  I wondered about it myself when I first contemplated homeschooling.  I can also admit that there are still (and will likely always be) times when I wish I could get more breaks than I do.  However, that being said.  I am never “sick” of my kids and I don’t believe they get “sick” of me.  This is due, in part, to the fact that we stay busy.  I am not their sole means of socialization and they are not mine.  Your kid would still be socializing outside the home with the activities and extracurriculars you would be sure to provide.  He would be less of an irritant and more of a help as he would be more involved in the process of keeping the home running smoothly…and yes, it is a process.  You and he would find that you both grow by recognizing and (hopefully) participating in each others interests.  You will each need space, of course.  We all do, but sick of each other?  No.  You would actually become closer in a way you might never become otherwise…initial speedbumps, notwithstanding. 
  4. When he complains about his bitchy teacher, he’ll be talking about me.  I’m not sure that he would have cause to complain about you like he might with some other teacher.  Will you be bitchy at times?  Probably.  Aren’t we all?  I promise you, your teen is already complaining about that…even if it’s just to himself.  But, a luxury you have as a teacher that a school system does not is knowing when to push and when to give some space.  When things just aren’t clicking and frustrations seem high, that’s a good day to take off on a field trip or just have a “downtime” day.  You might find yourself pleasantly surprised by the learning and bonding that takes place in those “unproductive” days.
  5. When I complain about my crappy job, I’ll be talking about him.  No, you will be talking about your own frustrations, not him.  I get frustrated, of course.  Not everything can go exactly as I want; when I want it (sadly), so frustration naturally comes.  This is not to say that I don’t like my “job”.  In fact, I don’t really see it as such in the sense that this is just what we do.  We are being a family in a way that includes education…not so much doing school at home. 
  6. I can’t teach him the same survival instincts you learn navigating your way though mean girls, jocks, geeks, or whichever else cliques exist these days.  This one actually makes me snort a little in that “really?” sort of way.  Though I am aware that cliques continue to exist in minor form as we enter adulthood, I don’t feel they are a mirror of what a child endures in school.  Adult life and the cliquey life inherent in high school are worlds apart.  These cliques you speak of haven’t really come into my world since I left high school and if there is some sort of “mean” person that my kids will run into, I will certainly know how to prepare them to deal with it.  Don’t.  Our lives are our own and in no other situation are we forced to endure the exclusion, grouping, and self-esteem bashing that often goes hand-in-hand with middle and high school.  So, the survival skills become simple:  avoid those who would not enhance your life, treat all as you wish to be treated, and recognize that all people are individuals and, as such, generally want the same thing:  to be content in a world full of diversity.  Bottom line:  no compulsory schooling = no cliques = nothing to “navigate”. 
  7. I’m not a trained educator. Parents love to complain about their kids’ teachers but it’s a tough job. Probably one of the toughest. It’s a combo of instructor, counselor, soother, conflict resolution expert, and motivator. How exhausting is that?!  No, you may not be a trained educator, with a degree in secondary education, but you are an educator…and an instructor, and a counselor, and a soother, and a conflict resolver, and a motivator.  You are a mother, which, by my definition, encompasses all this and much, much more.  You are prepared better than any trained educator ever could be.  After all, who knows your child more than you?  Who could possibly bolster him and praise him and guide him and prepare him better than the one person in the world that wants the best for him?  But, yes, it is exhausting.  Motherhood just is.

What can you take from all this?  Every family must decide what is best for them and there are many paths to take.  No one way is the “right” way.  Homeschooling your teen might not be for you, or even me, for that matter…time will tell.  But what I can say is that it is probably not what you think it is and this will become more clear as you learn to rethink education and what it is for.   Step away from the failing model of education we have all become so accustomed to with traditional schooling.  Read more about the alternatives.  Research the many different ways that have worked for other families out there.  Then, give it a try.  You just might find that it is the best thing you ever do for you and your family.