Thursday, June 24, 2010

Homeschooling 2.0

Here are a few of my expanded thoughts on homeschooling in light of some of my new thoughts and discoveries. Please bear with me (or feel free to stop reading here). This is just a little sneak peek at the conversations I have been having with myself.

Where do you get your curriculum? - The joy of the internet is the amazing connections and access to resources you may not be able to find otherwise. I have a great curriculum package that I currently love marked with a big circle in my mind.

What if I don't like everything in it or the kids aren't in to it like I am? - First of all, they can get excited about just about anything. This is all brand new and can be a really great experience. My attitude will go a long way in making that so, and if I'm excited I think they will be too. As for specific resources, there's nothing that says a package deal MUST always be used. I think it's a good place to start and something that can easily be reassessed and tweaked as needed. And As for learning styles, that is something that can also be assessed later and changes can be made.

Isn't that a bit of an unfair advantage to give the child so much control over learning? - No, not unfair at all. If anything, the notion that all children must learn the same things in the same way at the same pace is very UNfair and a huge DISadvantage to everyone. Those that struggle are dragged along or left behind and those that excel are left bored and unchallenged. How is that fair to anyone but the few in the middle and the teacher? Education shouldn't be about the teacher. It should be about the student. (No offense to any teachers, I know you do the best you can with what you're given!)

What about the stuff you can't teach? - No, I'm not confident in my ability to teach math over about Algebra 1 without some help. Science I have very little desire to even try to do much more than physical science/physics. But I'm a quick learner, and I can re-learn it with my child and help him/her learn it. And if I can't teach it adequately, there are lots of groups and classes that can help. I am amazed at the things community organizations are able and willing to provide for home schoolers. It's very encouraging.

A few examples locally are science classes and labs through the McWane Center and the Birmingham Zoo, "dual enrollment" classes through community colleges and a few private schools, career exploration programs that cover everything from medicine to cosmetology and law enforcement to photography. For the little ones there are field trips and classes and play groups and all kinds of great things to explore.

Another thing I am definitely skeptical about is my ability to lead or enforce any sort of physical education on my own. Thankfully, there are lots of great things I've found like dance, gymnastics, team sports, swimming, yoga, and even kids fitness and training at local gyms. I feel like, with this, I won't have to force my child into any one thing long enough to make them terribly resentful, but just provide a few options and say "I don't care which one you pick, but you have to pick one and at least try it for a few months!"

I think the best part to me is that so much of this can start at such an early age. Not the academic side specifically, but the creation of an environment that fosters learning and exploration and can help to blur that line between "school" and "play" just enough to keep life interesting. The curriculum I really like starts with a 3K set. No lesson plans or work sheets or flash cards here. Just time spent reading and learning and making that an important part of your daily routine. Throw in some mom and me classes with the local park and rec, gym, or pool and the pre-school play group at the zoo or the McWane Center and you've got school going! When you are able to do these things with a little bit of deliberate attention, suddenly when you get the "real" school stuff for kindergarten or first grade it's not such a strange and new transition into something scary, it's just what you do every day!

This also opens doors for deliberate learning in fun and interesting ways away from "home base". You can GO and DO and SEE the places and things you're learning about. Even Disney World has classes specifically designed for school groups (including homeschool groups.) And life experience really can make stuff (especially the "boring" stuff) come to life.

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