Friday, February 20, 2009

Things I Never Expected from Homeschooling, Part Two

Did I happen to mention I love homeschooling? The best part of it has been all the things that I didn't even anticipate about our journey. See Things I Never Expected from Homeschooling, Part One ( for the first half of this post.

More Things I Never Expected from Homeschooling:

1. Every bug and virus in the area don't come into our house. When I taught in an elementary school and both my children were in school and day care, any virus or infection in the area immediately made its way into our abode. Between preschool runny noses, first grade stomach viruses, and vomiting fifth graders (Yes, I even had a student throw-up on his State End-of-Grade test once, and we had to save the test book since every scrap of paper had to be accounted for.), we were constantly sick in our house. One year, I actually missed 20 days of school because of mine and my children's illnesses. We were at the doctor's office at least once a week for a while. Being on a first-name basis with all the nurses is not a good sign.

2. I don't have to spend family time dealing with and trying to fix whatever happened at school each day. This part of school-life drove me absolutely crazy. Every day seemed to bring a different crisis. If it wasn't "What color ticket were you on today?", it was "How many AR points do you need this month?" If it wasn't "Polly Perfect wouldn't play with me at recess," it was "The entire class had silent lunch because Bobby Joe talked in line." My personal favorite was the day that my kindergartener told me about a new game Little Suzy Sunshine had enlightened her about at lunch- Spin the Bottle. Let me tell you that I was not a very happy mother that evening.

3. My children have time to be children. Before you get the wrong idea, let me list for you the subjects my are kids are covering this year. First grade Car Guy: reading about ancient history, phonics, spelling, grammar, writing, math, ancient history, earth science/astronomy, and a bit of Latin. Sixth grade Curly Girl: math, reading about ancient history, spelling, grammar, writing essays and outlining 2-3 texts a week, logic, ancient history, earth science/ astronomy, and Latin. I didn't tell you all that to impress you (I do highly recommend Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind for its rigorous, classical curriculum, though.). It was to make my point that there is a lot of wasted time in a classroom. Now my kids sleep until about 7:30 every morning, eat breakfast, and usually start their work about 9am. Car Guy is usually finished by noon, and Curly Girl wraps up somewhere between 1 and 2. They do a lot of work, and it is honestly more than my students in a classroom ever covered. After the school day, Car Guy and Curly Girl frequently go outside and play, read whatever they want to read, draw, play with Legos, or do whatever it is kids do. Since my kids keep doing "school" until their work is done, their nights aren't spent pouring over hours of homework. After dinner we read together as a family (Right now, Car Guy and his dad are reading Eldest, and Curly Girl and I are reading The Hobbit), then the kids usually draw, write, listen to music or books on CD, or read in their rooms until lights out.

4. My kids are able to participate in more outside activities. I know, I've heard the rap about homeschoolers not getting enough socialization, yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm hear to tell you that it's just not true. Because we finish school earlier in the day and don't have to worry about homework, our family has much more discretionary time than when we did after the end-of-the-school-day dash, dinner, homework, and fall-into-bed routine. This school year, Car Guy has played on soccer and basketball teams, takes piano lessons, attends a weekly art class, is in Cub Scouts, and sings in a choir. Curly Girl swims competitively year-round, takes piano lessons, volunteers as a history interpreter at our local museum, attends a weekly art class, plays in a handbell choir, and participates in a youth group two nights a week. She has also performed in community theatre plays in the past and would like to audition for another one this spring, along with maybe playing on a soccer team. I'll also tell you that our family's activity level is comparable to most other homeschool families we know. Please don't ever again think that homeschoolers stay home and isolate their children from other people because it's not true. (By the way, this is Curly Girl in her costume when she appeared as an orphan in "Annie." No, I do not really make her scrub the floors.)

5. My children are learning to think independently. I do not and will not spoon feed my children. I tell them that the person whose brain is thinking is the one whose brain is learning. In other words, they won't learn a thing if I coddle and do everything for them. When Car Guy picked up a rock out of our yard the other day, he pulled a rock identification book of the shelf when he wanted to know what it was. Curly Girl is learning to manage her own schedule. She likes to include a project week once a month when she researches and creates a product to complement what she is currently learning (Right now, she is learning about ancient Greece.) Last week, she did a majority of her Wednesday school work on Tuesday night so she could sleep an hour or two later on Wednesday morning. Time management is such a crucial skill for students to learn before they go to college, and they won't learn it if their days are completely micro-managed for them.

6. I am learning so much more than I ever have before. With the exception of my four years of college, my brain is growing more now than it ever has before (and I am including all of high school). I am learning Latin, and soon Spanish, with my daughter. I figure out multi-step math problems, refresh my memory on predicate nominatives, and create moon maps. Without reservation, I will confess to you that I have learned more about history reading Bauer's The Story of the World and Hakim's A History of US than I gained in all my high school history courses. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why I was never taught about fallacies of relevance, presumption, and clarity when I debated in high school. Knowing informal logic then would have made those debates so much easier to win. Now, I admit, I am a bit tired of reading versions of the Iliad, Odyssey, and the Aeneid, but I had never read those before, and I am ashamed to say that my children know more about those works of literature now than I did as a college graduate. See, homeschooling is great for the entire family.

So, there you are. You have heard in a nutshell how our homeschooling lifestyle completely took me by surprise. I'm not saying every day is perfect. It isn't. Some days I just imagine what it would be like to spend the day in my house by myself, and there have been days when my children looked longingly at the school bus as it drove past our house at 7:30 in the morning. But, all in all, I think that we are pleased with our homeschooling life and the opportunities it affords us.

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