Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Are You Really Homeschooling?

Someone on our local homeschooling message board sent out a link to this article.

The article discusses the use of the K12 curriculum and how they are calling it homeschool. The person on my list went on to describe how she felt that online classes, distance schools, parttime public or private school aren't really homeschooling. She also went on to discuss how such companies are now exploiting the homeschoolers and calling their programs "homeschooling." This person also went on to say that none of these methods should be considered homeschooling and that she was concerned about parent's defering their child's education to someone else.

I have no comments on K12 because I've never used them or researched their methods but after reviewing them online-most say their curriculum is very advanced. The article describes some objections to kids sitting in front of a computer all day and parents being hands off in their kids education. There may be a few parents who, in the course of their kids education are hands off and find an online program perhaps an easier solution. My guess, is that most of the parents, even if their kids are on a computer in their home, is that they have some involvement with their kids. Choosing an online curriculum is simply another choice. Without looking into each families diverse style, we have no way of knowing what their home education is like. Some choose to supplement field trips or projects. Assuming that our own definition of homeschooling should apply to everyone is detrimental and undermines the very freedom of choice that homeschoolers strive for. Choosing homeschooling also doesn't mean we are against public school. All it means is that as parents we made the best educational decision for our family, that fits our family and its needs.

This person did say that homeschooling is a diverse lifestyle. I would agree. What concerned me was the continued use of labels in trying to define what homeschool is. We've been homeschooling for a few years now. I've learned a lot-mostly from my kids. We've tried tons of curriculum from packaged deals, to an eclectic blend, to expensive publishers to cheap workbooks to unschooling and probably everywhere in between. Right now we are at a place where we use text books, online classes, lots of field trips, artwork and some days we unschool. There are days that we spend all day outside working in the garden and other days we just spend with friends. Nothing is written in stone despite our "school" schedule being posted on the wall. Some days it just doesn't work. Most days, we are filled with the joy of learning.

I'm not sure that it matters what we choose. Doesn't it matter more that it works for you, your family and your children?

Since September, Patrick has been working on highschool Biology even though he's in seventh grade. His frustration reached a breaking point this morning when it became too hard for him. So we moved back a grade level and reassessed the situation and made changes. It worked out fine. Homeschooling allowed us to do that, to do what was appropriate for his needs. Homeschooling is a constant reassessment of my kids and what we're learning. It's brought a whole new intimacy to our family and the way we function.
My five year old is learning to read. He has computer games that teach him his letters, shapes and numbers but it's not all he does. He loves listening to stories and loves workbooks. It's a great joy to watch my kids discover learning. It's also a great joy to watch them struggle and either figure out the problem for themselves or to feel safe enough to come and ask for help.
Last night I had a conversation with a friend while I was at a church meeting. He was asking about homeschooling and how his wife, who is a music teacher, was impressed with homeschoolers. He asked many questions, "How does our day work, do they have to be tested, what else do we do?" He was intrigued at the conversation and said it reminded him of the one room school house days. I think so too. The one room school house was about the basics of what is important, all ages sharing their knowledge, teamwork and at the same time it was about honoring family.
Maybe homeschooling isn't about curriculum choices at all. Maybe it's about the intimacy and family ties that it creates. Maybe it's about providing a safe environment where your kids explore and create and learn to love learning again. The method to the learning isn't important. The joy is.


Kate in NJ said...

I really agree, labels don't work, because
homeschooling is unique to each is each home. ;-)

Julie said...

What a great post! I really agree with you - our homeschooling ebbs and flows - and what works for us one day won't work the next. I recently read Homeschooling Odyssey by Matthew James and they sometimes sent a child to school as part of their homeschooling when appropriate - he called it a Mix and Match approach!
Anyway - I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

homeschool mamma said...

Thanks-I haven't heard of that book but will be sure to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post. One point worth mentioning is that not all K12 users go through a state sponsored school. Some are independent users, meaning they buy the curriculum and use it without state assistance, the same way other folks use Abeka or Saxon or Sonlight.

homeschool mamma said...

Excellent point. Failed to mention that.