Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Growing and Changing

These days, Unschooling is certainly a buzzword in the homeschooling circuit as a highly touted and regarded methodology of childhood learning. As is the Christ-centered homeschooling methodology we see heavily employed by a large number of families in our local (Christian) homeschooling association.

That being the case, I'm probably about to make what will NOT be a hugely popular homeschool mom admission, but the MAIN reason I homeschool my kids is from a purely academic standpoint.

I probably err on the hyper-obsessive side, but I care big time about the quality of my children's education. Yeah, you bet that I want them to learn about life and themselves and become good-hearted, God-loving people. Who doesn't want that for their kids? And yeah, I'll completely agree with the fact that a home school lifestyle certainly helps place the pursuit of those things into a high priority position in life.

But, for me, what my children learn, how they learn it, what skills they acquire, are HUGELY important to me. That my children will be ready, able and eligible to attend the college of their choice--should they choose to go to college--is my main goal as a homeschool mom.

What if any of one my children graduates from high school and wants to become an astrophysicist, but then finds out that they have to hit community college first before they can even get into a 4-year university-- not that there is anything wrong with community college! But what if that is their only option, and all because Mom didn't give them enough of a book education to start at university?

Well, that would make me feel like I, as a teacher, failed them. Because I think it's my duty as a parent, a teacher, as a member of society, at minimum, to be willing and able to give my kids the skill set to get into college (I like to think that I'll give them a much greater skill set with life skills, etc., but I'm talking basic education here.)

We started our homeschooling journey out of a realization that our daughter was receiving an education that was faulty at its foundation. I realized that I needed to pull Hatfield out of school and do it myself when she could ace every math test, but at the 'unit review' every 6 weeks, she'd be a puddle of tears, not having remembered/retained any of those skills.

The memorize/pass/forget format of school does not work when it comes to learning the concrete basics of life--addition, subtraction, phonics, reading. Either your children know them, or they don't.

If the 2-week unit on subtraction with regrouping isn't enough to cement it in a child's brain, then that child needs--and should be given--enough time until they can do so.

Because--news flash--if a child is struggling with a faulty understanding of the basics in elementary school, then they are being set up to fail through secondary school.

That shall be the end of my soapbox. :) Back to Hattie.

We use Sonlight for pre-elementary and elementary education. I love, love, LOVE our Sonlight. Great exposure to the world, to people, to viewpoints. Great exposure to excellent writing and literature. Great support in teaching your kids to be critical thinkers.

I'm personally of the belief that to succeed in life, we need to use elementary school to cement the basics of the 3 Rs and teach them to be critical thinkers. This takes time and cannot be rushed.

Sonlight honors those things.

Hatfield is now in 6th grade. Homeschooling through the elementary years has helped Hatfield

* become a critical thinker
* gain confidence as a young woman
* enjoy learning
* not be scared of "looking stupid" at giving wrong answers in the effort to search for the correct answer

While it has taken me nearly the entire academic year to put my finger on it, I realized about a month back that we needed to change things up. Whether I wanted to realize it or not, my "little" girl has been maturing into an intelligent, confident young woman. Hatfield has become ready to move forward and tackle bigger challenges.

Watching the movie Waiting for Superman was a huge catalyst for me in determining the next step in Hatfield's educational path. I realize that we now needed to broaden Hatfield's exposure in math, computers and sciences. We certainly need to intensify her math and science exposure, as those were her least favorites with home school.

After evaluating different programs, we decided to enroll Hatfield in a certified, online middle school. By holding her accountable to someone other than Mom, she has to face her fears, put the pedal to the floor and push through these subjects.

This is a purely egotistical confession: I was quite scared to put her in a 'real' school out of fear that she can't keep up or doesn't have the skills. I was scared that despite my best efforts, maybe I had failed her.

My ego and heart were relieved to see that she has been well-prepared. She is able to do the work. She's able to tackle these new tasks with poise and a good attitude. This new type of school is different, and challenging, but in the good way that true learning is supposed to be.

Surprisingly, but in such a good way, science is her new favorite subject. She is eating that course up, and she knows that if she finishes it early, I'll pay for her to take a summer science course, which is what my girl is aiming to do.

She's learning to use computer programs she has yet been exposed to. She's having to communicate via email and phone with several teachers. She is now accountable to adults other than Mom.
Hatfield hard at work, utilizing her Type-A mother's half of the computer desk.
The forefront is her father's half.

Thankfully, she is loving it. She seems to truly enjoy sitting down at the computer, with her books, notebooks, workbooks, binder and calendar. She must have inherited my type-A love of calendaring, because she has her own little "StudentBoard"--a smaller daughter to the MotherBoard-- and she has the remainder of her year mapped out. Skills which I think will aid her well when she goes off to college and has to self-manage her schooling.

Now if we can just pass her organizational skills onto her father. . . .


Anonymous said...

Hey, why did you take a picture when I was halfway done cleaning the desk? :)

I'm proud of our daughter's progression and development. I'm also proud of your influence and effort as a parent, someone who jockeyed first for private school when your husband had no idea of how bad a school district (which shall remain nameless but rhymes with Silwaukee) can be. Then, when a private school was no longer working out for Hattie, you made a difficult choice to homeschool (not difficult to make, but difficult to research and carry out over time). Now, when you recognize a need for change you don't make the choice for your ego, you decide what makes sense for your daughter's needs.

-Mr. Hot For Teacher

Steph, G's Mom said...

This is really cool Sarah. G is in public school (I am not sure that she would perform for me. She tends to get silly and goofy and with the whiny face, but is a top kid in school so....) but I love the idea of NOT going with that memorize/pass/forget routine. How can we as parents of public school kids work WITH what the kids are learning on a weekly basis and deliberately find ways to put it to use in the "real world" and help them become critical thinkers?

Luke said...

Glad to hear that Hatfield is rocking through her new studies armed with her homeschooling background. And isn't cool to discover new talents and interests? [smile]


Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Sorry, I can't actually see your side of the desk over the, um, accessories in the front. I will assume it is nice though.

Couldn't agree with you more. I see many "homeschooling" families doing a bunch of stuff based on what people feel like doing that day. Which is great, but that is not learning academic lessons. If I hear one more time about some kid counting their change at the store and calling it math I will shriek. Yes that's math. Good job. Now, for the rest of it?

From what I see, home schooling your children, teaching them effectively is REALLY HARD. It is a TON of work and a constant priority. Doubling a cupcake recipe and calling it fractions is yes, learning. But how much further can you take that?


Sarah said...

@ Luke, thanks :) I should let you know that Hatfield was okay with starting online school as long as I would "let her" finish all of the readers for Sonlight Core 5 (I still laugh at her for that one, as if I'd tell her 'no!')

@ Mr. Hot for Teacher: That stellar school district didn't rhyme with Silwaukee. It rhymed with Fest Callus. You just failed Attention to Detail 101. Hence why I da teacher, and you da checkbook.