Tuesday, August 19, 2008

?M; In Which We Talk Home School

A had a smattering of questions about Home Schooling, such as, "Do you home school?", "Is home schooling difficult?" and someone else wanted me to explain some qualities of a good home schooling parent. Oh, and several of you wanted to know how I keep our younger kids occupied?!

Well, yes, I'm a home schooler. A young one, of course, with a fun year of preschool behind me and moving on to kindergarten as well in the fall.

Is it difficult? Of course! But, I can wholeheartedly say the fun, good-challenges, and rewards far outnumber the bad moments. Yes, it's difficult and challenging, but, no, difficult and challenging doesn't always equal bad. Sometimes it does. It's important to never be ashamed to admit that it's a challenging road, because certainly it is, and it's very important to really think that journey and it's possible difficulties through before you jump in to school from home. Otherwise you will get to the thick of it and bail, "This is not what I expected!" and the like. If you count the cost first, as Sally Clarkson encourages parents to do, you will expect those hard times and have a plan for navigating them, and a vision of why it's worth it!

I will say that, in the bad times, I become all too aware of my own faults (lack of patience, for example) and also my children's unique struggles (difficulty focusing, or not always wanting to "try" to search for the answer, or just defiance in general). These don't drive me to say, "Home schooling must not be for me! I can't stand this! Clearly, I'm not the right kind of teacher!" I have a firm conviction that this is best for us. Instead, I want to take it to heart, apologize if I need to, and know all the more that this process is not just about collecting facts and expanding minds, it's about a wholehearted approach to life, growing and exploring the world together, and dealing with our own hearts- growing not just intellectually, and physically, but spiritually as well, as one process. And you see, it's not just about my children growing, I am sorely in need of that growth as well- so the process of bad days can serve to bless us in growth just as much as the good ones, if we let them.

As for qualities of a home school parent, I suppose I could make quite a list, and you may be surprised that you'll fit the mold more than you think. Not every parent will home school, but every parent that loves their children, and cares deeply about every aspect of their lives, is fascinated with the world and the million parts of it and has a desire to embrace their experiences fully and never, never stop learning...that's just a few things that make a great environment for learning together.

Oh, and as for keeping younger children occupied. This hasn't been much of an issue for us. I strategically placed the school spot right off the play room, and so if Lily (2) wants to, she is free to wander off to play without her sisters bugging her and taking toys away! But she's still very close. Usually, she wants to be at the table with the big kids though, because it's such a fun part of their day, so she sits and I have age-appropriate things for her to do if she can't directly participate in what we're doing at the moment. She knows she needs to be respectful and not interrupt us, and if she does it's handled accordingly. She learns quite a bit, though, from being present for these times, or even from hearing from the other room. For instance, she could count to 20 months before she was 2, simply from hearing it and becoming familiar with it as Grace and Pate learned. She could count long before she had any idea what it was! And Hudson will play in the play room as well, roaming around on the floor while we have our first session, then he's napping during the second one, and the third one he is usually occupied with his bottle for a portion, and then is full and happy and ready to play for the first half, then he enjoys much of the books with us for half two. I placed our directed learning times around times of the day when the younger ones would be most happy and compliant.

If you're wondering, though we live a lifestyle of learning everywhere, anywhere, homeschooling doesn't actually take that much "time" directly. An ideal amount of time is about 30 minutes max for my young children, per session, and most appropriately about 15 minutes of involved time in one activity. Many moms gasp that I home school, picturing it taking 8 hours a day! No way! If you try to sit down with your child and work on counting or addition etc, for example, for a solid 15 minutes, you'd be amazed at what you've accomplished. The direct, individual learning is sound and applicable to their own lives, because you can bring it up and talk about it as you live and work and play the rest of the day. A little direct time, plus real application of what you've learned later in real life, cultivates huge results!
If you have any more questions about Home Schooling, or if you just want to share the journey together, go ahead and leave a comment, and if you do have questions, I can tackle them at my home school blog. While you're there you can also find a useful book list and other resources for further reading.


Ashlie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this!! I really think that I would like to home school when Hannah gets old enough, but there are definitely times when seems like it would be completely overwhelming, and I wonder if I could really do it. So thanks for the encouragement and honesty! It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job!

anne said...

Thanks for sharing this! We are still trying to figure out what we want to do with our boys as far as school and getting your imput and experience means a lot to me. I will be keeping up with you and your homeschool blog as we get ready for Max to start school next year. :)

New Girl on Post said...

I just read your comment about your husband growing up in Walnut Grove. That's so neat! I'm very jealous. :)

Kiki said...

I'm starting to think your super woman. Do you wear a cape?

Your husband grew up in Walnut Grove, MN? My husbands dads family is from there. They owned Steffen Electric.

Grammy Staffy said...

As a retired school teacher I can see value in public school but I am in awe of parents that can really do a good job with home schooling. I'm sure that you are one that will do a really good job.

Best of luck.