Our Homeschooling Journey ~ Chapter 2

Continued from Chapter 1 ~

Taylor demonstrated the pully she made the other day using things around the house. The first attempt failed, but she eventually figured it out!
Have I sheltered them? Protected them? I hope so. When they were young this was actually one of the most compelling reasons to keep them at home. Do I think a third grader needs to be exposed to sex and drugs in order to 'grow'? Ummmmm, hmmmm, no. Drugs, sex, alcohol; the girls know about them all, and have since they were old enough to understand. To me protecting doesn’t mean withholding information, but sharing it in a way that invites questions and exploration without having to live it to know it. They’ve learned about these ‘facts of life’ in a much different way than I did. My 'healthy, normal' way? Adolescent children whispering “facts” in the bathroom before lunch or during recess. Or how about one of my first introductions to sex from a fellow 8th grader that was already having sex in the living room with the foreign exchange student living in their home while her parents slept unstairs? Yup. I’ve protected them, thank God.

Do I think the girls behave differently than most teens? I have to give that a yes. Not all teens, but most I've known. Whether or not it has to do with the fact that they are homeschooled or simply the expectations I’ve put on them, I don’t know. Most likely a combination of the two, I have developed quite "the look", it is enough to silence children, dogs and cats alike. I wish it worked as well on husbands. ;) Do they talk back? Not really. Are they rude and disrespectful? Not often. Do we have bad days? Yup. Do we have good days? All the stinkin’ time. Do they experience low moods and righteous teenage indignation? Some more than others. Do we laugh? Every day, hysterically at least once.  Do we enjoy each others’ company? Absolutely, and I know not everyone can say this about their teenage kids. I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t enjoy my company one bit when I was 15. ;) Am I accessible for questions, worries, concerns? Yup, bring it on, I love to figure things out.  Truly, homeschooling them has been as much about teaching them as it has been about teaching me. I am much more patient. I am much smarter. I am much wiser than when I began. 

Friday has become 'Experiment Day'. While I prep next weeks work (this usually takes me hours!) the girls each prepare and work on their own experiments. Once everyone is done they demonstrate their success, or sometimes failure! Here Riley plays us some musical notes...
As for the learning? I love it. I love it. I love it. Despite getting very good grades back when I was in school, there was something missing. That love and hunger for knowledge just didn’t compare to…hmmm...boys. Teaching the girls has made me rabid to learn. I really can’t get enough and every new thing we uncover leads to another, and yet another bit of knowledge. I can only hope that my fervor reaches the girls and shows them that being smart and knowing ‘stuff’ is a pretty cool thing. In all areas of my life I’ve learned that knowledge is indeed power. Learning doesn’t stop (or begin) in the “classroom” (otherwise known as the kitchen or living room or dining room...), but comes at us from all angles and directions, kind of a non-stop barrage. This past school year we wrapped up our study of the Civil War, and quite frankly I was dismayed at how very much I hadn’t known concerning such an important time in our history. Consequently,our vacation last fall  took us south ~ Antietam in Maryland, and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania were two of our destinations. We walked the soil of these battlefields, saw the landscape as these soldiers did, and studied amazing artifacts left behind. We grimaced over the 'medical' equipment used to amputate thousands and thousands of limbs, spending time imaging the extreme pain of amputation without drugs. We marveled over the cannons, situated in exactly the same place, perhaps the very same cannon that fired shot upon shot upon the 'enemy'. I grew sad and thoughtful gazing across the field where Pickett's men made their desperate, brave and futile charge. I love having the freedom to make it all so vivid and real.

You may be wondering whether or not I feel there are any drawbacks to homeschooling. Well, certainly some things have been more challenging than others. Teaching them how to read was probably the hardest thing we’ve tackled. The English language is a very tricky thing, I wasn’t aware of all that I took for granted until I tried to teach it! But drawbacks? Honestly, none that I can think of. It’s true that for someone like me who loves quiet and silence it could be a challenge to have kids around 24/7. I don’t send them off each morning with a bag lunch and a smile, and then relish the hours of peace before me. Instead, our day begins together, plays out together, and ends together. But I’ve arranged the house so that we each have space. I have my own studio and the girls have theirs. This means that all three girls share a bedroom, but they enjoy each other’s company and so this isn’t a problem. Often whole afternoons will pass where I don’t see or hear from them. (Except for the occasional belting out of song lyrics… ;) So even in a house full of people we each get time to enjoy our own company, thankfully.

I definitely fall into the category of homeschoolers that loves a schedule. I use (and adore) workbooks (definitely not a favorite of all homeschoolers) and textbooks. There is another avenue open to parents for whom public school isn’t an option, but neither is homeschooling. It is commonly referred to as unschooling. It’s an approach to life and school that lets kids learn at their own pace, in their own time. They choose to ‘study’ things that interest them and mainly learn from living. Before you rush to judge this (and many, many do) perhaps you should take a peek at this post  written by the eloquent Suzy Q over at A Soulful Life.  It was written so beautifully by this unschooling, blogging mom, that I won’t pretend to try and do it better. It may not be a perfect fit for you, or me, but so what? Much of my entire life isn’t a fit, perfect or otherwise, for the general population, but it works for me. Everyone has their own unique path to follow, and just because something tests (and often crosses) the boundaries of what we accept as the norm, doesn’t make it wrong. While I personally find education to be important, there are several things that rank much, much higher ~ happiness, peace and a genuine sense of self all easily trump a high SAT score. You may have 8 years of college under your belt, but how much is your life worth without happiness? Zip, in my humble opinion. J

Jordan's experiment was a miserable failure.. but she had fun trying...

And then... the attack of the killer apple. A little bit of humor makes for a much better day!

Having just spent two longs posts raving about our homeschooling experience, you might think I'd recommend it to everyone. I emphatically would not. In fact, I think that there are quite a few parents who would do their children much more harm than good keeping them home. But I do offer it as an option, perhaps one that hasn't even crossed your mind. Especially if you have a child in school and it just isn't working, they aren't thriving, and you're not finding the help or answers that you need. I often hear "I'm not smart enough." I really have trouble believing that one. If you have a genuine desire to do this whole learning at home thing, then the answers will come, from here, there, anywhere. The Internet has been a lifesaver, especially once we hit Algebra. Spouses, friends, grandparents, other homeschoolers ~ they can all prove invaluable as you find your way. I have some awesome books that have been flipped through over and over again. The answers are all out there, and I've never yet met a person who I thought was "too stupid" to teach their child at home.
To be continued in the last chapter of our homeschooling journey...

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda