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I've been all over the board when it comes to homeschooling.  Well, maybe not all over the board, but pretty close to it.

We started homeschooling  way back in , gosh, what year was that?  My daughter was in 5th grade when we pulled her out.  She's now a senior in college (doing really well, thank you!) Wow.  What an adventure it has been!  When we first took her out, we spent the remaining months of the school year (it was March) in a rather relaxed state.  Not as relaxed as I would have liked it to have been knowing what I know now about all the different styles of homeschooling, but relaxed for what I knew.  Her emotional and physical health were my priority.  They were definitely more important than academics so since math and science totally stressed her out, we didn't do much with it at all.  Oh, I got raised eyebrows on that one all right.  Especially from family members and others that just don't get the concept of homeschooling or that education does NOT have to look like what it does in public schools.  I have to admit I allowed it to unnerve me a bit and I really wish  I hadn't.  I wish I would have read more about Charlotte Mason and more about unschooling back then.  If I had, we would have dumped ALL academics the rest of that year and just focused on nature study and art study. Oh well, I can't change the past.  But I can learn from it and from the experiences of others.

The following year we added my son to our homeschool (he finished out 1st grade but wanted to be home with us) and it was more of a school at home setup.  We did okay, used Sonlight for most things and Abeka Math.  We enjoyed the Sonlight materials but threw out a lot of the fluff by the end of the year.  The rest of the years was me piecing together this and that- but still looking for 'curriculum' for most subjects-  other than science the year we still lived in York and the kids did Envirothon with the homeschool group there.  Oh , THAT was grand!  I think they still look back as one of their best homeschooling experiences.

Time went by and now I have my senior in college, a senior in high school (yes, still at home!) AND an almost 7 year old.

My schooling style with THIS young man is completely different.  It's even progressed during the last year.  I started out completely on board with the Charlotte Mason approach but quickly decided, that while I love her philosophy,  a mixture of her methods and unschooling methods may be more along our lines of educational philosophy at this time in our lives.  And it's definitely more in line with my son's needs and learning style.

I'm looking forward to sharing with you the things we are doing - the reading, the memory work, the nature walks, the timeline, the US map, Life of Fred, and, most importantly, the amount of FREE PLAY he is allowed.  Oh yes, and the JOY.  🙂

In the meantime, I have dinner to cook, a Lemongrass Spa event to plan, a 6 year old to read to, and lots of things to catch up on from the week before driving my oldest son off to his girlfriend's grandmother's home where he will be leaving for a trip to Florida to see his girlfriend.  So while you are waiting for the next Homeschool Update Segment,  WHAT KIND OF CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE ON YOUR HOMESCHOOL JOURNEY?

 

 

 

Book Title:  Free to Learn:  Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier,More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

Author:  Peter Gray

Genre: Psychology

Publisher:  Basic Books (A Member of the Perseus Books Group)

Why Did I Choose It?  I chose this book after asking a friend to give me her favorite resources on unschooling as I have become more and more interested in this type of education for my youngest son.  She recommended any book by Peter Gray or John Holt.  This was the book title that intrigued me the most in my brief search of the authors.

A Bit From The Back Cover:  In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that to foster children who will thrive in today's constant changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, he demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient...

Review:  This book was amazing.  Absolutely amazing and I'm sooo sorry I didn't read it 12 years ago when we first pulled out daughter out of the public schools to homeschool.  I think I was in the right mindset then, to let her be and learn in a less structured way but let the years of public education and judgments of others cloud my thinking and raise my self-doubt and anxiety to the point of basically doing 'school at home' for a several years with only a bit of freedom here and there.  But enough about my failings...  here's the thing about this book!

Free to Learn is the most comprehensive and convincing book on how children (naturally) learn that I’ve ever read, and being a dedicated homeschool mom and former public educator, I have certainly read quite a few books on how children learn!  Gray includes an extensive amount of research in this book. Actually, the beginning which focused on hunter-gatherer cultures drove me a little batty...but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.  Really , I totally get why he included it all and it is relevant and very important to his overall message. Dr. Gray also included an abundant amount of other research as well as well as  his personal experience as a parent and experiences with Sudbury Valley - a highly unconventional school but one with idealistic standards! Free to Learn explains, and includes the research that proves it, how we can work with a child's natural drives to learn and not using the compulsory education system which forces lessons, standardized tests, and activities that crush a child's innate drives to learn.

The overall message of this book is that children must play and explore to learn (and that the way children are taught in most schools today denies that to a harmful effect). He presents overwhelming scientific evidence that play and exploration, self-directed learning, and being in mixed age groups (something most public schools restrict)  permit children  come to their full potentials and enable them to grow, learn and develop positively and naturally. “Children need freedom in order to be happy, to learn how to be responsible, and to develop the character traits needed to deal with life’s inevitable dangers and setbacks.”

“Nothing that we do, no amount of toys we buy or ‘quality time’ or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways.”

If you want an understanding of why schools today are failing and we are not finding the results we seek from our standard system, or simply why 'schooling at home' (mimicking the public school system at home)  is still  not the most beneficial answer and  what can actually be done differently with success, I  strongly urge you  to read this book. I sincerely believe that the overall message of Free to Learn has the potential to direct our culture toward a better system- whether public or private or at home.

"...self-directed learning and free play permit children to realize their optimum abilities to learn, grow, and develop naturally and positively..."

Notes About The Author:  Peter Gray, Ph.D.,  is a research professor in the Department of Psychology at Boston College and author of the college textbook, Psychology, now in its seventh edition.  He writes the Freedom to Learn Blog for Psychology Today.  Peter Gray is a well-known critic of the  standard educational systems. He speaks often to groups of parents and educators about children’s needs for free play and the detrimental effects of the current methods of schooling, Mr. Gray, along with other concerned citizens, has created a website titled AlternativesToSchool.com.

I know I haven’t written much lately. Part of my time has been spent  reading more about various aspects of Charlotte Mason homeschooling, Teaching from Rest – a VALUABLE book by Sarah Mackenzie – if you homeschool and you haven’t read this book you absolutely MUST!, observing my youngest child and, of course, being overwhelmed by the other

Pixabay had no matches for the term "Teaching from Rest"- but I liked this one for 'rest'.
Pixabay had no matches for the term "Teaching from Rest"- but I liked this one for 'rest'.

aspects of life: changes brought about by the holiday season and the season of winter upon us, maintaining a home with all the boring details that go with it (you know – cleaning, laundry, cooking, cleaning, laundry, cooking, over and over again!), and with all of this, basically reevaluating where I am on our homeschool journey.

As most of you know, I have two kids that I am now homeschooling (my third is a junior in college!); I have a 5 year old and a seventeen year old. The seventeen year old is in his junior year of high school. The 5 year old is my extrovert….quite the challenge to this introverted mother and while I don’t have to label him as anything at this point according to our Pennsylvania homeschool laws, I’m calling him a kindergartener.

For this post, let’s start with the highschooler. While I thought I had a great year planned- sort of laid back but still getting the academics necessary in and also allowing him to explore his interests- having coffee with a friend made me realize I could have done so much better. UGH. Face Palm. But….. relax….take a deep breath, Carol…. We’re all learning, here, right? That’s really what life is about I think…..loving others, and keep on learning - keep improving- finding ways to be at peace and closer to God….

So….. the friend I had coffee with is a unschooler…and it took me being enthralled with Charlotte Mason and really listening to this unschooling friend and her outlook on education that made me really see how bent out of shape I get on ‘meeting those academic requirements’. Yes, absolutely, the requirements must be met. BUT… I must get out of my public school mindset on HOW those requirements must be met and that the bottom line is I need to educate my son in the way that best suits HIM.

SO…… what to do now? Well, I have all sorts of ideas on what to do next year….but how to tweak this year so that I don’t drive him crazy asking him daily if he’s caught up and we can relax about the other activities that have cropped up since I planned the year (like his trip to Florida over the holiday break and the guest we will have in March and scouting activities, and time away from school to get to the weight room at the high school to work out with the football team, etc. ).

Well, first let’s look at what he’s doing this year:

English 11 - that’s not much of a problem as I really made this to be more relaxed this year already.

The only requirements I gave him this year was to read at least 15-20   quality books with a figure of about 3200 pages total(one book was allowed to be twaddle as I knew there was a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book coming out and my son has always LOVED that series and , let’s face it, reading should be fun and why not read a book JUST for fun?) and to give oral narrations as well as a bi-weekly written narration of each book.   In addition to the reading, he was to complete 2 research papers via a online research class.

Anatomy & Physiology - this is taken with a local homeschool co-op.

This was the class we knew would be challenging, not so much as the material is hard but as it’s set up to be a college prep course, we knew it would be a LOT of material, fast paced, and would require a lot of time.

Consumer Math & Finance - This fulfills his third math requirement as he has already fulfilled the algebra and geometry requirements.

I set this class up quite similar to my daughter’s class from years ago. He is completing various chapters I assigned in a consumer math book (I chose the Abeka curriculum) as well as Dave Ramsey’s high school curriculum on finance. To me, the most important part of this class is what he learns from the Dave Ramsey program. This, in addition to him participating in our family monthly budget meetings, will give him a sound understanding of money (making it, saving it, spending it) that he will truly need throughout his life, regardless of anything else he does as a career or family man.

Economics – Economics fullfils a requirement under social sciences. (1/2 credit course)

I attempted to make this course as interesting as possible and refused to use the typical textbook but used a popular book in the homeschool world – Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard J. Maybury as well as various parts of A Bluestocking Guide: Economics and The Money Mystery.

Home Economics - I had to make up this course on my own.

While there are numerous homeschool home-ec courses out there, there isn’t a single one that I could find that really tailored to a boy. There was soooooo much emphasis placed on girly things. I know (don’t get me wrong) that men do cook, sew, and take care of babies. And yes, that’s all part of his home ec course too. But I don’t feel that the home ec courses that I saw emphasized the male role in the household. What about home maintenance? What about general repair? What about the automotive aspect? Most curriculums offer these things as separate courses but I know, having been the second half of a household now for 23 years now, it all comes together. So I tailored the course to include these things as well as cooking, sewing and the general topics that are usually included in home-ec courses. But, rather than sewing and cooking taking up the bulk of the course, they are not emphasized as being the end all and be all of home-ec.

Introduction to Christianity - To know and teach our faith to others, one must be aware of what others believe. (1/2 credit course)

I knew right away that I was including Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick’s book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. To me, being an Orthodox Christian and creating this course for my homeschooler just automatically led to the use of this book. I just wasn’t sure what to use in addition to that. But in my research of college courses offering an introductory course, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bishop Ware’s book – The Orthodox Way- was used in a few that I came upon. Thus this book became the second book to be used.

Study Skills - A must course for anyone that is considering college in their future. (1/2 credit course)

I kept this course the same as I did for my daughter several years ago, using the same books and very similar requirements for both. (If you’re wondering about the books, we use “College Study: the Essential Ingredients by Sally Lipsky and How to Study in College by Walter Pauk”)

So that’s the gist of what he’s been doing this year. Being that I’m using narration for a lot of the courses, not just English, and that I’ve strayed from the common textbook, I’m already on the right track for using better education strategies. But coffee with my friend made me realize, I wasn’t using my son to truly gear my decisions on his education. I wasn’t really focused on his interests, his GOALS, his input. Of course, when I ask him, he doesn’t know what to say. After all, I’ve been the one taking the lead for all of these years. Yes, I ask for input- but not a lot of it – sad to say.

So in listening to my friend talk about unschooling and what she has accomplished and how she has done so (and the struggles), my gears started working….and I have already formulated ideas (just ideas- need to sit and actually PLAN with my son) for next year. So what about now? How can I lessen our stress load NOW?

Well- it shouldn’t be terribly hard. The set up of English with narrations is easy. Obviously I need to ditch the idea that there needs to be a set number of books. What I need to focus on his discussing the quality books he reads, whether it be 5 or 15 or 50. I’m relying heavily on gems of information I’m gleaning from the Read Aloud Revival – another great source offered by Sarah Mackenzie- on how to gear these discussions. He’s completed one research paper and has also given a speech (a surprise in the Anatomy & Physiology course) and will be giving another presentation in the spring so I am dumping the second research paper and will do the online course next year. Anatomy & Physiolgy isn’t controlled by me but I do need to step up my participation and make sure I’m helping him study. I could kick myself in that I allowed him to choose whether to start with that course or the Christianity course at the beginning of the year and realize now, that shouldn’t have been an option since he was taking a college prep course and NEEDED to know how to study. Aw, well…. he isn’t doing poorly- but it has been a bigger challenge than expected and I think his father and I guiding him on how to apply the study skills he’s starting to learn to the class he’s taking is a necessary step. Next is Consumer Math & Finance- this isn’t going too badly but I’m wondering what I can do to eliminate some of the textbook stuff in the consumer math book. I’m thinking more participation in our budget meetings and some general computation at the grocery store, etc. I’m really thinking there can be more overlap for some of his home ec course that we haven’t gotten to yet that can be applied to both courses. I’m still thinking on this one. As for home ec itself, my only problem has been the logging of the hours. I’ll need to check with my friend (who will also be the evaluator since I’m filed under the homeschool law this year rather than home tutoring that I usually select). His economics course is almost completed. I think just reading the last book and giving a few narrations will suffice. And the same thing to complete the second book for the Christianity class- just read and give oral narrations- forget the written narrations- they are not truly necessary- unless perhaps one at the end to show a general summary for his portfolio? And there’s the Study Skill Course. I’ll need to reread the requirements I gave him. I still want to use both books- though I may shorten the second one and pick what I feel to be the best chapters and tweak some of the requirements. The goal there is he has lots of tools to use to succeed. Obviously what’s most important is he read the material, understand it and be able to use what works best for him- NOT whether he does personal action statements or fills out tables and charts….so….

I’m looking forward to him getting back from Chicago with his dad (yeah, another event to divert away from the academic curriculum- though an absolute positive experience) so we can sit down and look things over together- yes, even dad because he’s the principal afterall J . I’ll have to post more later, but if you have any ideas- please fill free to share!

As for the kindergartner? Well, that’s to be continued on another post, another day!

And REALLY, if you haven't read this book yet- order it TODAY! And check out Sarah's website too! AmongsLovelyThings.com

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HOMESCHOOLING IS AWESOME!!! (just in case you were wondering)

There are actually a number of methods to homeschooling.  Each family has its own style they are most comfortable with and choose as the best method for their homeschooler.  As an evaluator for other homeschoolers (Pennsylvania is a state which requires each homeschooler to be evaluated by either a licensed psychologist, school psychologist, certified teacher, or other persons meeting qualifications and approved by the school district in which the student resides), I am able to see the results of all of these methods over time.  They are all wonderful methods.  But not all methods suit all children or all parents for that matter.

I am only offering a simple overview here.  It is by no means an overall account of each one I mention. If you are looking into homeschooling, I suggest you pick a couple that resonate with you and read more about them.  In time, I will try to add a list of sources with each one.

There is always what is sometimes called the 'Public School at Home Method' which just means the parent uses standard textbooks (sometimes even borrowed from the public school) and the child uses these texts and standard paper and pencil tests for evaluation.  Some parents use Cyber Schools (the student has textbooks at home and attends 'class' via computer at home) to incorporate this style.  Most would not call Cyber Schools true homeschooling and I would be inclined to agree, but if your goal is to simply have them at home away from the influence of youngsters in the public schools, then this might work for you.

The ones I heard about the most when starting out were the Classical Method and the Charlotte Mason Method.  The Classical Method is based on a philosophy which is built  on a three-part process to train the mind. This is known as the Trivium.  In the first step, the child learns and memorizes facts.  In the second step, connections are made between those memorized facts .  The third step is when the student forms opinions of his own about those connections he or she has made with the known facts.   The Classical Method generally involves the use of the Socratic method and the classic books of the Western tradition, extensive learning of Latin as well as Grammar, logic and rhetoric. There is a LOT of reading and writing involved with this method.   The homeschooling families that I have witnessed using this system thrive on the structure involved!  So if you don't like structure, this is definitely NOT the method for you.  And if your child is not a strong reader or writer, it may be difficult to manage.

Sources:  The Well Trained Mind

1000 Good Books List

Circe Institute

Classical Homeschooling Curriculum

 

The Charlotte Mason Method is based on the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason, a British educator who lived in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  The Charlotte Mason focuses heavy on LIVING BOOKS, books that pull the reader into the subject and touches upon your emotions usually written by one individual (vs. a textbook written by a group of authors) who is obviously passionate about the subject.  This method also heavily uses the tool of narration (verbal and written), short lessons, the study of art, nature and poetry and focuses on the importance of teaching good habits.   Parents who choose this method enjoy being heavily involved in the process of the child's education discussing books, listening and reading narrations, enjoying art, music, and nature together  and does not feel the need to have their child take formal tests.

Sources:  Who Was Charlotte Mason?

Simply Charlotte Mason

Ambleside

The Unit Study Method has the student focus on one specific topic and incorporates as many of the academic areas around it as possible.  For example, a student may be intensely interested in the Civil War.  So besides the obvious readings good historical fiction books and biographies (history, literature) about people of that time period, the student will study the geography(geography) of the areas the battles were fought in.  They may research what scientific discoveries(science) were made at the time and make graphs (math) of death tolls for various battles.  All of this while listening to music (music appreciation)composed or enjoyed at that time and study paintings of the war (art).  A lot of people using these methods love making scale models of various things or some sort of final project to demonstrate what they have learned.  This method really helps parents who are teaching children at various levels and enjoy doing hands-on-projects and do not worry about following the traditional scope and sequence of subjects.

Sources:  Five In A Row

Unit Study Resource List

The Unschooling Method allows the child to lead the way in learning.  The parent will offer resources based on the interests of the child at that time.  This method does not in any way follow the traditional textbook, sit at a desk, formal test method of public schools.  The child determines, based on their motivations and interests, what they want to study at a given time and the parent provides books, materials, possibly even online or local classes on the given subject at hand.  This may mean that the student may be 'behind' in certain areas in comparison to a public school child but may be well advanced in others.  He or she may quickly catch up in those areas of lesser skill as soon as they move on to other interests.  I have seen this method work very well with friends and colleagues who have taken part in it and the knowledge that these children acquire can be astounding but I would strongly advise preparing in advance and understand the method before proceeding with it as I would hope anyone would with any homeschooling.

Sources:

Unschooling.com

Unschoolersg.org

The Eclectic Home Schooling Method tends to be what I see the most of and what I have used myself in the past and currently with my high schooler (I am researching another method extensively to use with my toddler).  In this method, a variety of home school methods are used depending on the learning style and interests of the child.  Instead of choosing just one method, the parent may use various methods and various sources depending on the subject.  For example, one child may use a classical approach for history, a Charlotte Mason approach for science and literature, a 'school at home' type method for math and other subjects with an occasional unit study thrown in.

Sources?  See all of the above 🙂

There are certainly other approaches as well but these seem to be the most common.  If you are new to homeschooling, I'd advise starting with researching these methods a bit more and see where that takes you.  There's a huge world out there!  I recall being absolutely awestruck at our first CHAP convention in Harrisburg, PA. I had NO idea how big homeschooling was! I had NO idea how many people were involved. I had NO idea how much curriculum was available.  I had NO idea how many options there were and I had NO idea how much support there was or how much I would fall in love with it all!

Feel free to ask me questions about homeschooling if you'd like.  I can't promise to have all the answers and I only know the homeschooling laws of Pennsylvania, but I can share with you what I do know and what my experiences have been.  And if I don't know the answer, I might know of a source to get you the answer.  My FAVORITE homeschooling source is HSLDA, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.  They are more than just lawyers and I always recommend to my clients that they join.  They have been a tremendous wealth of information to me over the years.

I will try to add more sources for the above methods listed as time goes on.  If there is one that interests you, in particular, let me know.  If there is another method I haven't covered here and you think I should, send me a note and I'll try to address it in the future!