Sunday, January 23, 2011

Homeschool Update

Why home education is working for us:

1.  No more anxiety!  By the end of fifth grade, we had two very stressed-out little boys on our hands.  One of them cried at the drop of a hat, nearly washed all the skin off his hands worrying constantly about germs and bacteria, lacked self-confidence, was angry and frustrated and temperamental, and had pretty much given up on math completely.  He wasn't getting it, and he had decided that he never would so why bother trying so hard?

The other twin was medicated for ADHD.  He displayed nervous tics, eye-blinking, throat-clearing, head-jerking and had chewed all of his fingernails down to the quick.  He spent every afternoon at the kitchen table struggling to maintain focus and complete hours of homework while longing to be outside doing anything else.  He couldn't pick up on "social cues" as easily as most kids do, so he was picked on and bullied some and he sort of flew under the radar. 

Fast forward to now, the middle of 7th grade year.  Neither boy is on medication.  No one takes anti-anxiety meds.  No one takes ADHD meds.  No one has headaches and stomach aches and cracked skin from too much washing and bleeding fingertips from chewing them to pieces. They don't agonize over things that don't matter any more.  It's wonderful!

2. Increased Self-Reliance.  I put their assignments on one of the large white boards in our kitchen/school room every night.  I also post a calendar to one side that features every subject and everything that has to be completed for the week.  They know exactly how many math lessons they need to do, how many chapters of their lit. book they need to have read, how far along they should be with their science module before the next co-op class, and how long they have to finish a writing a paper or memorizing their lines for drama.  They are held accountable for getting things done.  If that means one of them is still working at 10 o'clock in the evening, well, who's fault is that?

The rule is that they HAVE to have all of their assignments completed on time for any deadlines, and they HAVE to finished all of the day's work BEFORE they go anywhere Jiu Jitsu, off with Dad, in the woods to hunt, with their sister to Starbucks, or to their grandmother's house. 

They're also responsible for checking on the bacteria they're growing for the latest science module.  And for making sure the bacteria that's in my fridge doesn't slime its way out of the glass and invade my groceries!

3.  No More Cranky, Sleep-Deprived Kids.  OK, I'm admitting it right here:  I gave up on the New Year's Resolution to drag those two out of bed at 7:00 AM every morning.  There. I said it.  I tried it for a whole entire week and it just wasn't working.  Yanking teenagers out of their nice warm beds before the sun has finished rising?  What's the point.  Darling Daughter sure doesn't like it.  Sure, there will come a time in their lives when they may have to get up at the crack of dawn, but right now...not necessary.  On the days we have co-op or PE or whatever, they do have to get up earlier, but otherwise, I let them wake up naturally.  On their own.  I know. GASP!  How will they ever function in the REAL WORLD??

Guess what?  They live in the real world now.  I don't know of any other world out there.  (Maybe there's some fake one I haven't heard of?)  Some people work nights.  Some work afternoon shifts.  Some don't work at all. 

My boys?  One of them generally wakes up by eight or so.  He starts the coffee and grabs some breakfast and sits at the computer reading his email, listening to music and checking his facebook for half an hour.  Then he hits the books.  While his twin brother is still sawing logs. 

The other one gets his lazy carcass up around 9:00 or 9:15.  The coffee's already made.  He sits at the table slurping from his mug, reading his book and then he hits the shower.  He usually isn't finished with school as soon as his brother, but he doesn't really care. 

4.  More TIME to Explore Their Interests.  Because there isn't really any homework (it's all homework, duh!) they DO get to hop in the truck with Dad on his days off and head to the Farmer's Market.  They can browse the second-hand bookstore for a few hours.  They can check out the new Archery Club.  They can hang out with their buddies and talk Legos after PE.  They can help repair the bricks on the front steps.  They can hunt and clean squirrels for a stew. (YUCK!) They can spend three hours creating a Medieval Trebuchet out of popsicle sticks.

5.  We Are Able to PICK Our Curriculum.  Well, mostly.  Because we're under South Carolina's Third Option, as longs as we're teaching the things required by our state (reading, writing, math, science, social studies, composition and literature) we can pretty much go in any direction we please. 

What does that mean?  Well it means that if they would rather learn about Marine Biology than Physics in high school, then that's what they'll study.  If they'd rather read The Red Badge of Courage than Johnny Tremain, we can do that, too.  (Actually, they're reading both, but it's an example.)

What about running into harder subjects that I may not be qualified to teach?  Hmm.  A very good friend is a highly degreed professional who could teach ANY secondary science.  She's certified to teach high school Chemistry, Bio, Physical get the picture.  She's also looking for a job.  Because she's currently in a position at a local middle school...teaching Social Studies and English...placed there by the principal...and the school district told her she cannot continue to teach outside of her field! She isn't comfortable teaching prepositions to seventh graders, but she does it.  Chances are, she isn't as effective as a teacher who is qualified to teach English, but the kids are still learning.  My boys have the opportunity to learn through carefully chosen curriculum, online resources, virtual classrooms, co-op teachers, and friends who teach in public and private schools that are more than willing to lend a hand if one of them gets "stuck."  They'll be fine. 

Oh, and we can mummify chickens and bury them in the snow if we feel like it.

6.  No Sick Days.  Yes, Grandma, (my Grandma, not the kids') we do have to log in 180 days of school in one calendar year.  We really do.  No, we can't just pretend we did school today.  We actually have to learn stuff.  It doesn't matter if there's a raging case of Yellow Flying Pig Flu working its way through the house.  We still have to do 180 days of school.  However, since those 180 days can be done any time between say, September 1st and August 31st, we can take a week off when someone is ill and pick up where we left off later.  By the same token...we don't have to make up SNOW DAYS!  We can either: A.  Play in the snow all morning and do our lessons in the evening.  or B.  Take the entire day off and do it tomorrow.

Flexibility.  It's fabulous!

7.  Freedom To Be Themselves.  They no longer care if everyone else has a cell phone or the latest ugly, lime green Nikes.  They don't care if reading is supposed to be "dorky" or every seventh grader in the county has decided that cowboys boots with jean shorts is the only way to dress.  (That one still gets me.)  They do what makes them happy.  They wear what they like.  They're happy in their own skins.  They seem to have more of a sense of who they are, and they don't feel like they should dress or act to please a group of peers.  Of course they may have moved out of that on their own eventually...some do.  Darling Daughter did.  But it's absolutely wonderful enjoying a couple of thirteen year old boys who aren't copping an attitude or wearing bungee cords around their necks just because someone said it's cool.

8.  They Have Friends That Are Pleasant To BE Around!  Being the new kid is never easy.  Walking into homeschool PE and meeting 40 or 50 kids for the first time, especially as a boy who walks differently, well no one expected it to be easy.  But it was!  Kids came up, offered their hands, and introduced themselves!  At co-op, kids welcomed them!  No one stood off to the side and whispered about the "new kids."  Now that we've been involved for several months, we've gotten to know many of the families on our area that homeschool.  They're a diverse group of people from all walks of life.  Some are strict, some aren't.  Some are crunchy.  Some aren't.  Some are very devoted to their religion.  Others aren't.  Some of the kids are overachievers.  Some are um...not so much.  Pretty much without fail, though, they've all been sweet, warm, open, sharing and kind.  Kids and adults. 

9.  Everything Else.  The math struggler?  Can figure out percentages with ease.  And solve for x.  And balance chemical equations.  (Not because I'm a brilliant math teacher, but because we found a math prgram that works for him...and we have the time to implement it.) The reluctant writer?  Can spit out a paper in no time.  (Again, not because I'm a fabulous writing teacher, but because of curriculum and instruction.) The boys?  Are flourishing.  And we?  We're so happy we made this choice. I realize that it isn't for everyone.  Lots of children do just fine in traditional schools.  Two of mine did.  But if home education is something you've been considering...and you're just reluctant to make that final leap...I just want to say that it's been the best leap our family has ever made.


The Momster said...

Sounds like the boys (and you) are having a great time doing the home school routine. What are you using for Math? I'm teaching math this semester and need all the help I can get - 7th grade -same as the boys!

Also, are you planning on doing this in high school? Just curious. If I weren't going back to be a teacher, I would have probably home schooled the past few years... I hate all the middle school drama!

Great job!

The Source said...

We mainly use Life of Fred for math. (You can google it.) It's an entirely different approach from anything else we've seen. All of the books are written as a story and the math is woven in. The way it's taught is wonderful. In fact, I sold our first LOF book to Sara and I wish I hadn't. I don't plan to sell the rest of them. Fred spans from fractions to Linear Algebra and two years of College Calculus! Check it out.

And yes, we do hope to continue through high school. As long as it's working and the boys are happy.

Chelsea Gour said...

I am so glad it has worked out the way it has for you guys! Of course, we don't know any different since we never even tried the school systems, but I have no regrets!