Among the Paleo-Humans: The Rules of Homeschooling

Sharon December 18th, 2009

A small band of ice-age hunter-gatherers is presently in my yard stalking wooly rhinos, and trying to entice a dire wolf into becoming a domesticated dog.  There’s also some issue with predatory smilodons.  The hunters spent part of yesterday flint knapping spearheads out of driveway gravel, tied them with raffia to sticks, and are now crawling around hunting abovementioned rhinos (goats) across the scrublands (the backyard), and around the glaciers (snowy woodpile).  

The dire wolf is being slowly acclimated to human presence with food.  The major issue in the present project of domestication is that the dire wolf tends to respond to the presence of food by acting, well, depressingly domesticated, and has to be regularly reminded that she is fierce and unsure about this human project.  Meanwhile, the saber-toothed cats are just plain mystified about why all this running and screaming when one of them is spotted.  But they do appreciate the increased degree of respect, which they feel is only their due.

As you can probably guess, we’re doing the ice age and paleo-humans right now in homeschool, and it has taken strongly.  Thus we hear Isaiah shriek at his brother, who has done something to irritate him “You aren’t even a Cro-magnon or a Neanderthal, you are just a monkey, Simon!”   There is no official award for best insult by a five year old at our house, but that one is going up there.

This is not what we are actually supposed to be doing.  The Plan (which I had to file with my school district earlier this year) calls for us to have long since put away our spears and mammoth skulls and moved firmly on to ancient Egypt and the African Empires.  My assumption was that two weeks would suffice on early humans and then we could go on to the excitement of pulling dead people’s brains out through their noses – ah the pleasures of Egypt and its Mummies.  But the kids don’t want to do mummies, they want to be ice age hunters, and well, I’m prepared to explain to my district and the state of New York why ran out of steam at the fall of Rome, instead of making it through the Vikings and Meso-America.

We’re also spending an awful lot of time on languages this year, since this is Simon’s present obsession.  My kid taught himself to read Russian, Greek and Hindi – seriously, I am not joking about this.  And he just got workbooks for his birthday for Chinese and Arabic.  We are teaching Spanish and Hebrew, along with English, and Eric speaks Russian and a little Hindi and once upon a time I studied Greek – but  neither of us had planned on getting little messages from our son written in Arabic.  But we are, and we figure we might as well enjoy it.

This is one of the indisputable rules of homeschooling, or at least homeschooling as we do it – that you will not necessarily end up doing things in a linear way, or what you expected.  I’m sure there are parents out there who run a tight ship, but we are not among them.  My feeling is that there is a time and place for tight ships, but it probably isn’t when you are seven – at least in this respect.  It doesn’t seem to matter much to me whether my kids meet the Barbarian Hordes at the fall of Rome now or in a year or two.   

And meditating on this fact – that homeschooling really never seems to work out just the way you think it will, made me think about what the other rules of homeschooling are.  So here I inscribe them, so that other parents taking on this project will be warned that homeschooling is a lot of fun – but it isn’t always perfect. 

Rule #1 – Homeschooling doesn’t always end up as you planned.  Whether you start out with the intention of doing all of first grade math in a month or with the intention of totally unschooling, sometimes your expectations aren’t realistic.  And often, one’s kids take us places we hadn’t expected to go.  My feeling is that for the most part, and absent any major imperative, the best thing to do is go with the flow, at least until it drives you crazy. 

Rule #2  – Everyone will worry that your children are not being adequately socialized.  Whether they know you or not, they will fear deeply for your child’s future ability to get along in the world, without going to school.  You, on the other hand, will often consider your children wildly oversocialized, say, on the day when you have homeschool group, playdate and a museum visit all at once.  And when your 8 year old comes home loudly singing the lyrics of a song about a boy who could belch the alphabet, you may seriously consider the virtue of raising children in isolated caves.  Maybe even isolated from you.

Rule #3 – Homeschooled children reflect the general population.  That means that despite the fact that every kid in your homeschool group seems to be doing calculus at 7 and playing Chopin at 4, the reality is that some homeschooled kids will be struggling to read at 7 or 8 – and some of them will be the Chopin and Calculus kids.  Homeschooling does bring out the overcompensation in some parents – they want to say that not only are their kids getting a good education, but an extra-special-perfect one.  Ok, whatever.  The reality is that some kids will be like that, and some won’t, just like everywhere else in the real world.  Don’t let the woman whose daughter just built a 1/5 scale replica of a gothic cathedral, complete with gargoyles and flying buttresses out of toothpicks get to you – although feel free to make puking noises when she’s out of hearing.

Rule #4 - You may not have time or desire to homeschool, but I’m pretty sure you can handle fourth grade social studies if you want to bad enough.  I don’t know how often someone comes to me and says “I wouldn’t know how to teach my kid all the things he needs to know” or “I’m not educated enough to homeschool.”  And I’m sitting there thinking – are you really sure that you couldn’t maybe look up Niels Bohr, the Louisiana Purchase or subject-verb-predicate?  Because while there are plenty of American not literate enough, good enough English speakers or otherwise seriously challenged, most of them aren’t the ones saying this.  If you passed all your grades you can homeschool without an enormous amount of new learning.  It isn’t that hard.  

Things get tougher in high school, and you have to be prepared to learn stuff you’ve forgotten or sucked at on your own, but you can do it, or find other people to teach your kids trig.  There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to homeschool, or not having the time or being limited by unfamilarity with a language. But if you really wanted to, most people could definitely teach someone the multiplication tables. 

Rule #5 – You don’t have to go everywhere and do everything.  There’s a lot of pressure to be this kind of homeschooler, I think – to constantly be on your way to the museum, or off to the local archaeological dig.  The idea of hands-on learning is very seductive, and for them that like this sort of thing, and live close enough to good stuff not to be driving like crazy, that’s cool.  But you don’t have to be like that to homeschool – you can do smaller-scale hands on learning at home, burying old bones in the sandbox and having the children excavate them.  Or you can read about fossils and focus in on learning to build stuff.  Sure, there’s stuff you’ll miss that way – but that’s the way of education, you always miss some things.  And you miss plenty when you are always in the car.

Rule #6 – If it sucks, and you don’t have to,  don’t do it.  Seriously, teachers in public schools have to do a lot of really crappy, boring things.  They have to have a classroom of people who will stand in line to go to the bathroom and who will return the obvious answer.  They can’t always teach teenagers the dirty funny bits in Shakespeare or say “ok, maybe you aren’t ready for this, we’ll come back to it later.”  They’ve got 30 other kids and an administration on their back (I am not picking on school teachers here – in fact, I think it is astounding, given how many ridiculous hoops they have to jump through, that so many teachers do so very well.) 

You only have your kids, and you don’t have to do that stuff – so there’s no good reason to make yourself and your kids miserable, unless there’s some real pedagogical advantage.  This is not an argument for letting your kids grow up without learning the multiplication tables or about fire safety, but maybe you can skip over the “patriotism” curriculum, and not re-teach the American revolution 9 times the way they do at school.

Rule #7 – Sooner or later, your kid may want to go to school – or you will want/need them to go.  There’s no shame in this, and it isn’t bad – sometimes homeschooling is not a good choice.   This has not happened to me yet, but I fully expect that it will.  We already send autistic Eli to school – we wouldn’t be able to teach him well – I would not voluntarily homeschool him.  I know people who teach their kids with special needs at home, but I don’t aspire to this (although I have a plan in case it becomes necessary).  So far, Simon and Isaiah are both ideal homeschooled kids – Simon because he’s such a self-directed natural learner and Isaiah because he’s domestic and doesn’t really like things like school. I expect Asher to be considerably more challenging, though, and I’m not sure where he’ll end up.

I have a neighbor who found herself in constant power-struggles with her son while homeschooling – and everyone got happier when he went to public school, where he thrived.  Some parents aren’t great at homeschooling, and some kids aren’t great at being homeschooled. Sometimes a new job or a move comes, and the circumstances change.  Sometimes a kid wants to go to school.  Just as subject matter and approach demand flexibility, so does your relationship to school in general.   And make sure you allow yourself permission, periodically on bad days, to mutter under your breath about sending them to school, ideally military school. 

Rule #8 -  The best part of homeschooling is staying home.  Seriously, this is the reason we started – because my school district went to all-day kindergarten with an hour’s bus ride on each end, and my kid wasn’t even five yet, and still took a nap.  Keeping him back wasn’t an option – he’d been reading since he was 3 and had half the multiplication tables memorized.  So we homeschooled, and we’ve been doing it ever since.  We’re having fun – and the best part of it isn’t that we do everything, but that we don’t.  Instead of racing around in the morning to get everyone out, we’re going slower – just one kid is leaving.  

There is a great deal to be said for schools – many teachers know and care a lot about what they teach and the best teachers are wonderful.  But there’s also a lot to be said for home – for being fully integrated into family life. Not everyone can do this – many people work long hours.  But having kids integrated into a fully active home life has real virtues that ought to be explored – that is, the skills you can teach, the relationship to a place you can teach are different, and the kind of education you can get as a homeschooler can be different – and these, at their best are extremely good things.  The truth is we need sense of place and deep knowledge of local environments desperately – so go with your strengths.

Rule #9 – The best thing to teach them is how to learn.  The reality is that I can’t keep up with Simon on languages – Eric probably can, but I’m not sure we have time.  So Simon is learning to learn himself. Critical thinking, research and analytic skills are things that are often taught very poorly by public schools in general – and also by many homeschooling parents.  The truth is that if your kid doesn’t read Romeo and Juliet in high school or learn Russian or whatever, *if they’ve received a good foundation* and if you’ve taught them how to learn they can do a lot of it later. 

Rule #10 – There’s nothing wrong with NOT homeschooling. The thing is, homeschoolers get a lot of shit from non-homeschoolers, assuming that homeschoolers are too ignorant to teach their kids, or are raising weirdoes, and they can be awfully defensive about it.  At the same time, non-homeschoolers feel like homeschoolers spend a lot of time trashing public schools and implying that if they really loved their kids, they’d be home with their kids.  Frankly, both of these attitudes piss me off – it isn’t either/or, and there’s no real reason for parents, struggling to do the best they can by their kids to fight one another.  Let’s just assume that everyone is doing the best they can, can we?

Cheers,

Sharon

24 Responses to “Among the Paleo-Humans: The Rules of Homeschooling”

  1. Wendyon 18 Dec 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I’d like to add an addendum to Rule #4: *YOU*, the parent of your homeschooling children, do not have to teach your children EVERYTHING. Our communities are rich with teachers who are all too eager to impart information and wisdom to our children. I don’t play violin, but my eight year old does. I don’t dance, either, but all three of my girls are dancers, and the two oldest even compete in dance competitions.

    I don’t consider myself my children’s “teacher”, but rather the “educational facilitator”, which is to say that I listen to them and hear their needs, and then, if it’s a topic I cannot, personally, handle, I find someone who can.

    Realizing that we are part of a larger community full of teachers also helps with the “socialization” argument.

    The best part about homeschooling *is* staying home, but there’s also a lot to be said for tapping into the community and touring our water company, the fire department, or a food distribution warehouse for a local supermarket, taking classes on everything from survival skills to LegoRobotics, and just spending time out and about seeing other people at their work.

  2. Denise (Illinois)on 18 Dec 2009 at 1:46 pm

    The most important issue is that the kids get an education, be it at home or school. We all know children who have been sent to school and still cannot read properly in 7th or 8th grade. In our community we know of one home school family who has not done an adequate job and really did not try, but still refused to send the kids to school. The laws of our state do not prevent this type of “abuse”. Homeshooled or not, all children are taught by their parents, each other, and their experiences. Parents need to be involved in their children’s educations regardless of the source for learning. Parental attitude toward learning makes all of the difference

  3. BoysMomon 18 Dec 2009 at 2:14 pm

    The best part of homeschooling is that you can teach in the way your individual child best learns. If that means math is taught on the move, so be it. (I hate math, especially mental math. My boys, apparently, are wired differently.)
    Staying home is nice too. And being able to catch the spark of interest is wonderful. They’re building space ships out of legos right now. I thought we were doing the anchients this year. Hah! We’re doing space ship design instead.
    I see your paleo-humans and offer you Mars missions. Would you like some lego veggies from our lego hydroponic systems?

  4. sglon 18 Dec 2009 at 2:40 pm

    some might be interested in the following:

    ————————————————————
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

    Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

    [....]

    And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct. I’m doing a
    new book at the moment called “Epiphany,” which is based on a series of
    interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. I’m
    fascinated by how people got to be there. It’s really prompted by a
    conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have
    never heard of, she’s called Gillian Lynne, have you heard of her? Some
    have. She’s a choreographer and everybody knows her work. She did
    “Cats,” and “Phantom of the Opera.” She’s wonderful. I used to be on the
    board of the Royal Ballet, in England, as you can see. Anyway, Gillian
    and I had lunch one day and I said, “Gillian, how’d you get to be a
    dancer?” And she said it was interesting, when she was at school, she
    was really hopeless. And the school, in the ’30s, wrote to her parents
    and said, “We think Gillian has a learning disorder.” She couldn’t
    concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they’d say she had ADHD.
    Wouldn’t you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn’t been invented at
    this point. It wasn’t an available condition. (Laughter) People weren’t
    aware they could have that.

    Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and
    she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on a chair at the
    end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to
    her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at
    the end of it — because she was disturbing people, her homework was
    always late, and so on, little kid of eight — in the end, the doctor
    went and sat next to Gillian and said, “Gillian, I’ve listened to all
    these things that your mother’s told me, and I need to speak to her
    privately.” He said, “Wait here, we’ll be back, we won’t be very long.”
    and they went and left her. But as they went out the room, he turned on
    the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out the room,
    he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.” And the minute they
    left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And
    they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said,
    “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick, she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance
    school.”

    I said, “What happened?” She said, “She did. I can’t tell you how
    wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like
    me. People who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to think.” Who
    had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, they did jazz, they
    did modern, they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned for the
    Royal Ballet School, she became a soloist, she had a wonderful career at
    the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School
    and founded her own company — the Gillian Lynne Dance Company — met
    Andrew Lloyd Weber. She’s been responsible for some of the most
    successful musical theater productions in history, she’s given pleasure
    to millions, and she’s a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put
    her on medication and told her to calm down.

    ————————————————————

  5. The Momon 18 Dec 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I love it. Its always amusing to me to pull out the ed plan I filed with the school district and then to look at what we actually did. The 2 are usually quite different, although we still do vastly more content than the schools. When we started I was always looking for field trips and the like, now I’d rather sit home. Today its 2:45 and I’m still in my jammies. The chickens were fed and checked in my robe (despite the 20 degree temps) and all is well.

  6. John Powerson 18 Dec 2009 at 3:34 pm

    You probably already know about Where Are My Keys? A language fluency game. If not, it’s worth checking out. Evan Gardner has developed a system for transmitting knowledge through an approach to gaining language fluency. Even if the main issue is not language learning, it’s cool to look at it because of the keen insights into good ways to transfer knowledge.

  7. Brad K.on 18 Dec 2009 at 10:28 pm

    @ sgl,

    Back in the 1970’s Anne McCaffrey came out with a collection of short stories, most science fiction. I still recall the magic in “A Proper Santa”. The story is about taking away the magic of a little boy, so that his drawings used the right colors, in the right places, and looked – proper. The story gives a little glimpse of the magnitude of what is often thrown away by traditional teaching.

    @ Sharon,

    I think parents should seriously consider whether they dare *not* keep up with all that their children learn, whether in public, private, or home school. Because once you establish that the school is the primary resource for some information – how does the parent reclaim authority in other areas – such as dating, family values, appropriate behavior?

    If you monitor your children’s classes through their homework and discussion of school, and understand the both the lesson and the reason for teaching that lesson, then you have additional information and foundation for bonding with your child, and for communicating well with your child.

    One of my early books was Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit Will Travel” – that starts out with a father discovering his son’s school courses were merely OK – and supplements school work with advanced material in nearly all subjects. That story stayed with me. To me it means that public school establishes the minimum material needed to raise a competent voter and aware citizen of the United States. It is a parent’s responsibility to teach a child what the child needs to know, to meet the parent’s understanding of family, community, faith, and national requirements.

  8. Edward Bryanton 19 Dec 2009 at 12:21 am

    I loved Rule 2:

    “Maybe even isolated from you.” Indeed.

    As for Learning Plans; we don’t have to file them in Washington, but my experience shows that no educational(battle) plan survives first contact with the student(enemy).

    My European medieval history section for my son, centered on changes in weapon technology, was heartlessly catapulted in favor of Heien Japanese history and the Tale of Genji. He swapped estocs and battle axes for haiku? What is it with boys these days anyway? Keeps me on my toes!

  9. Anonon 19 Dec 2009 at 6:04 am

    Thanks for this article. I’m always interested in homeschooling, particularly when it’s pursued by bright, educated people (while I don’t mean to offend, where I am, I see a lot of evangelicals who themselves are not particularly educated).

    I’m still curious about the details though, things like how much time a day you (or other commenters) spend on homeschooling (prepping or directing the kids or even filing paperword) and how much time they spend (with you and learning on their own). It seems like, particularly with independent or quick learners, they could do much on their own and in less time than the standard school day.

    As the native English speaker in my marriage and also with a full-time job (but flexible hours), I envision it would have to be me if my SO and I decide to go this route. I’m wondering how you divide your hours up between your writing/farming and schooling/family obligations.

    I’m also curious about actual resources, e.g. how much money homeschooling families have to put out for books and what not, and where you find these materials.

  10. Laurenon 19 Dec 2009 at 9:13 am

    Bravo. Great piece, Sharon. And I also loved the Gillian Lynne story!

  11. Adinaon 19 Dec 2009 at 10:05 am

    I was referred to your blog by one of the people on a homeschooling discussion board. As a homeschooling mom, I love and can relate to all of this! I thought that #10 was especially important, I fully agree that we don’t need to say that the other system is bad to prove that ours is good, and just because something is right for us does not mean it’s right for someone else. Different people homeschool or don’t for more reasons than any of us may realize and it’s all good as long as the needs of our children and families are the primary focus. Homeschooling is a wonderful, exciting, and often overwhelming journey, it is both different and similar to other forms of education and it takes shape differently in each household as every family and child is different. For someone like me who is relatively new to the concept of homeschooling and was brought up in a traditional schooling system, the hardest part initially was to transform my previous assumptions, expectations and beliefs of what schooling and education are all about, and to adopt a broader view of what it can be and to explore what we (parent and child) want it to be. It is has brought me and my family a wonderful freedom that we had not experienced before!

  12. Debon 19 Dec 2009 at 11:22 am

    Anon, I homeschooled my “learning disabled” daughter for two years–essentially freshman and sophmore year in high school. We decided to keep her home after years of teacher conferences, IEPS, additional help at home and nightly tears of frustration with homework. All the teachers supported it, said it was a great thing for my daughter and gave a big sigh of relief that they wouldnt have me calling them anymore.

    The first 6 months we did no “school” at all except for math. After about 3 weeks of algebra I figured out she couldnt do basic arithematic in her head and we tossed algebra and did 3rd and 4th grade math for 6 weeks. I didnt use textbooks or programs or anything resembling formal schooling materials unless you count the workbooks she bought at the bookstore to practice fractions. I did purchase a good microscope on ebay and a starter microscope kit just in case we needed it. I also took her to an art store and got real art supplies for her to use. We took a trip to the office supply store to stock up on things like paper, pencils, note cards etc.

    With that said, she spent probably 5-6 hours a day in active learning activities. She wrote letters to cousins which I proofed and had her rewrite, she watched documentaries on history that she was interested in, she read books from the library, we messed around with growing pond scum and looking at it under a microscope, she spent time with our vet helping with surgical procedures and horse care, she took riding lessons, etc etc. We even watched TV just for the commercials so we could analyze the logic or fallacies behind the message. She drew, painted and framed her pictures for hours. She did chores which I called home ec and life skills learning. She was bored, wanted “lessons” at first and flipped out when I wouldnt grade her.

    I spent about an hour in direct instruction with her–mostly with drilling the times tables and giving her mental math exercises orally. I reviewed anything she wrote, noted spelling errors, and talked with her about whether the reader will really understand what she’s trying to say and how she could make it a bit easier for them if etc etc. We did some vocabulary work based on words she found in her plearure reading.

    This gave me time to figure out what she knew, what she needed to work on and what she wanted to learn. She set up her own plan of action based on what she wanted to do after high school and we came up with a curriculum together. I bought 2 history books, 3 books on grammar and spelliing, a math curriculum and 2 science texts with lab supplies. Total cost was under $1000 and I could have done it for much less had I needed to. There are tons of free things on the net, at the library and in the community to use if you need to. That didnt include the Netflix subscription, the DSL line or the newpaper subscription.

    Because her difficulties are primarily with language, reading and writing, I couldnt find a formal language arts curriculum I liked so I got a book of simple writing prompts and created my own. She read books, magazines and the newspaper. She read to me while I baked. I read to her while she made me lunch. She wrote stories about pictures we found in magazines, wordless books from the kids part of the library and her horses. She wrote me precis of newpaper articles, outlined articles in magazines for me and wrote me directions on how to do things like saddle a horse or make a salad. During Hurricane Katrina, we compared the Genesis account of the flood and The Epic of Gilgamesh. At Christmas, she researched and wrote short papers on Christmas traditions, foods and carols. She eventually did do formal writing papers for me complete with footnotes and sources because she wanted to go to college and was nervous about it. They were the dullest things she wrote.

    After I figured out how she learned, I spent two hours a week setting up learning goals for her and reviewing her work. I kept files of everything by giving her filing folders and having her put things in there when she did it. I was always available for help if she got stuck on something–a really good solutions manual in math was my best friend! Somedays I spent 2 hours helping her, some days 10 minutes. Some days we had to call my husband because neither of us could figure it out. Some days we sat in our jammies all day and watched movies. I never gave her formal grades. We worked for mastery of a concept or subject rather than excellence on a grade scale.

    Had I to do it all over again, I would homeschool my kids right from the beginning. My son is labeled ADD and had difficulty in school as well but seemed to adjust finally. My gut instincts were screaming that I could do this better at home than the schools can with large class sizes and limited funding. I realize now that he was reading at a college level at 8 and mentally jogging in place most of the time.

    I know people who homeschool for less than $100 per year per child and I know people who spend thousands. I know people who script the childs whole day each week and a couple who provide materials and let the kids learn whatever they want. We found a balance that worked for me, my husband and my daughter, eventually.

    I dont think a college degree is required–I seriously doubt my degree in English with a concentration on British literature in the 18th c helped me much teach my daughter multiplication or science or drawing. Maybe with the writing but I’m not all that good at the mechanics. There are whole sections of books in the bookstores on homeschooling for those who want to know what to teach when and an internet seach will provide you with more curriculum resources that you can wade thru. I personally think, and this is just my opinion, is that for the first few years, some paper, colored pencils, a good eraser, a public library, some art supplies and a nice comfy reading chair with a pile of books and magazines you glean from thrift sales and library giveaway piles are about all you need. What is more important than curriculum and supplies is the willingness to listen to your child, really listen.

    Deb in Wisconsin

  13. Lisa Zon 19 Dec 2009 at 11:41 am

    Sharon, I needed this article so much right now I’m almost crying! I’m trying to decide whether to keep homeschooling my Eli, aged 12 and recently diagnosed with high-functioning autism (as you may recall), or whether to send him to Jr. High and even the thought of sending him part-time just for special ed. services is bringing me daily to tears. I’m so torn, and I don’t know how much your writing will help but at least it gives me more to dwell on…;-)

    (for better or worse, I know not which, as I am a “dweller” of the highest order)

    The silly thing is, we live only 3 blocks from the dang Jr. High but I still can’t decide!

  14. Lisa Zon 19 Dec 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I want to add, for me school or homeschool is not really either/or as well, but that’s almost why this makes it more difficult for me. I don’t feel that only one way is best! In fact, having a daughter in school and a son homeschooling has been nearly perfect for me as each child is where they want to be and I’ve got “one foot in, one foot out”. But here we are the opposite of your family–the “neurotypical” child is in school and the autistic one is home. And his therapist is highly recommending we use the schools for those services, at least. Though considered one of the best in his field, he has almost no experience with autistic kids who are homeschooled, so there I am having to stand up for it and I feel like we’re in some kind of battle right now. Of course, my husband doesn’t feel the therapist is battling with me and doesn’t take it so personally. I think, like you said, homeschoolers get so much crap from non-homeschoolers that my defenses are up, way up.

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  16. Rayaon 20 Dec 2009 at 1:08 am

    I like your rule about not judging other’s choices on it. I have homeschooled, public schooled and private schooled…. what ever works best for the kids. Right not public school is a sanity saver… my autistic boys have 1 on 1 paras all day and lots of therapy support at school…. part of me really wants to homeschool and unschool… but that is what summer is for.

    Although unschooling doesn’t really cut it. We have to stick to schedules to keep them from melting down.

  17. Lori Scotton 20 Dec 2009 at 10:21 pm

    I’m another who has sent my children to public school, private school and home school. They all had good and bad features but we spent a long time home schooling and it was an incredibly relaxed lifestyle. They were so unstressed and positive without the morning rush and having to face the world every day.

    When they got to high school age, they opted to go back to school and reacted to it very well because all the years of home schooling improved their self confidence and independence. They didn’t have the feeling that they needed to be included, popular or peer pressured. Walking away was what they excelled at.

    The whole socialization debate depressed me thoroughly because it was always the first comment people gave you but never stopped to think about it. My answer was “explain to me how having a 7 year old in a class full of 7 year olds all doing 7 year old things at the same time equals society”. I would have thought that socialization by definition meant that the children interacted with all walks of society, not just their age group. Society as a whole is beneficial, not confining like rigid age orientated classrooms.

    We didn’t have to compile or log a study plan – we just slid under the radar and when my children went back to high school, they were both at least 18 months ahead of their age group classes, even the one who had learning difficulties. They pulled back to the normal level eventually but the fun we had at home can never be replaced.

  18. Marianon 21 Dec 2009 at 4:08 pm

    “I think parents should seriously consider whether they dare *not* keep up with all that their children learn, whether in public, private, or home school. Because once you establish that the school is the primary resource for some information – how does the parent reclaim authority in other areas – such as dating, family values, appropriate behavior?”

    Most parents accomplish this by telling their kids, in word, deed, or both, that what is taught in school isn’t really important anyway. And most kids believe it.

  19. shauntaon 22 Dec 2009 at 10:22 am

    I have homeschooled both of my teenage kids off and on. Both were homeschooled for 8th grade. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and has had occassions where the public school scene just became too stressful. We’re there right now, in the tenth grade.

    In Nevada you don’t have to file plans. I did let them talk me into signing him up for a distance learning program which is supposed to be self-paced and has a state diploma at the end. As well as the possibility of a state scholarship that every kid gets if their grades are high enough.

    It’s not working out. They aren’t letting it be self-paced for him. And right now, he wants to spend him time writing. It’s hard to describe what a miracle it is that this kid wants to write at all, so I’m not inclined to pull him away from it and make him do something else. He’s also reading Shakespere (Hamlet.) They want him to do 10 lessons a day in history, English, and biology–we’re putting it off until after the holidays.

    I think the best thing about being open to homeschool is that it takes the ‘compulsory’ out of education, and I’ve found that both of my kids could relax and use school as a resource for learning, rather than a life sentence, when they knew they were making the choice to be there.

  20. Sanaon 26 Dec 2009 at 4:10 pm

    I was homeschooled until the beginning of high school. Although homeschooling made me an avid learner and enabled me to get high excellent marks in high school, the lack of social contact had a bad effect on me. I really have trouble relating to people my own age, I’m hypersensitive to criticism, and I’m clueless in social situations. I realize that this isn’t necessarily true for all homeschooled kids, but it was my experience.

  21. Leslieon 26 Dec 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Sana,
    There are people who have been homeschooled and, like you, blame some of their social awkwardness on homeschooling. However, I went to public school my entire early (schooled) life and I, too, share some of your same social discomforts, as do many other publicly and privately schooled people. In other words, you may be the way you are because of the fact you were homeschooled, but it’s also likely you may have ended up like that no matter how you were schooled. In fact, you will never know. I happen to believe that being forced into social situations in school that I wasn’t ready for and some of the harmful social situations that happen (unavoidably?) in school were part of the reason that social situations were (and are still) difficult for me. School social situations are some of my most painful memories (and some of my best, too, to be fair). I have 3 always-homeschooled children (now young adults, ages 23, 21, and 17) who are all very different socially….as their mother, I believe they were just born that way. Nature vs. nurture….the age-old argument. In this case, I don’t think we should be too quick to dismiss nature and not so quick to blame homeschooling.

  22. Riaon 27 Dec 2009 at 10:25 am

    The best thing to teach them is how to learn… I couldn’t agree with that more. I, alas, didn’t have a teacher who did such a thing until my second-to-last year in high school. And believe me, that’s a bad time to really awaken the learning bug in a person.

    I was always academic. I had to be, since my parents placed a confusing amount of importance on how well I did in school. I was always given the old, “It doesn’t matter what your grades are, it matters what you’ve learned,” spiel. Then as soon as my grades slipped and I got in trouble for it, I’d mention that they said that, and get the retort of, “Your grades tell me how much you’ve learned.” True in a sense, but not always applicable. Just because I’m having a lousy day and make enough mistakes on a test to bring my mark from a B to a C doesn’t mean I didn’t learn enough. It means I had a bad day.

    But I always liked to learn. The problem for me was that nobody encouraged learning until I was 16. They enouraged memorization, good grades, and if I learned something, well, that just meant I’d do well on tests.

    It wasn’t until I had a teacher who sat and had an hour-long debate with the class about the meaning of knowledge and how reality is subjective that I really started to notice how lackluster my education had been. I wish I’d had that particular teacher at an earlier age, or that my parents had encouraged independent education in me.

    But I’m taking advantage of my love for learning even now that I’m older. Just because my formal education period has ended doesn’t mean I have to stop learning. That would be a true failure, I think. Really, I think that teaching your kids to learn, and to like learning, is one of the best lessons a teacher or parent can impart.

  23. Tammy and Parkeron 29 Dec 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Because I home school Parker I can used open ended, discovery techniques that allow him to build line upon line on a subject rather than just cramming in as much as possible and then have him spit it out on a given command.

    I create each unit geared directly to how Parker learns best. And I can go back and review whenever I choose.

    Parker’s need for one on one, hands on and repetition could never be met in a public special needs school setting.

    And this coming from a former public ed teacher and a current public ed administrator!

    Tammy and Parker
    http://www.prayingforparker.com
    @ParkerMama on Twitter

  24. Kassilon 30 Dec 2009 at 1:17 am

    Quite simply, my issue with public education stems from my own experiences; I was, I am told, a natural learner when I was young. However… A bad experience involving an entire school year of a bullying, pushy, vengeful teacher destroyed my enthusiasm, and made school from that point forward a chore, rather than something to be looked forward to.

    The biggest thing to try to avoid, for homeschooling or in public education, is either being or allowing this kind of destructive “teacher” near your children. While they are certainly great at teaching the kind of hunch-brained conformity that corporate society thrives upon, the damage they do to children actually interested in learning is horrific.

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