The boys drinking sparkling grape juice at one of our favorite local wineries.I have been homeschooling both boys from the time they started "school", around 5-6 years old. I decided to homeschool because I personally love to learn but never enjoyed school until I started college. I grew up in a "free range" time where my parents never forced me to study and just expected me to do my own work/projects and pass classes. They would glance over my grades each report card period and make sure I wasn't failing anything, but other than that they were pretty much hands-off in my education.
You did then what you knew how to do. When you knew better, you did better.
My mom did have to go to see my teachers and even my principal a few times every year because I apparently had undiagnosed ADHD and some dyslexia and had trouble sitting still in class. My mom says that if I had gone to school these days they would have suggested medicating me..
I personally think I was fortunate that back then they didn't know much about those things and instead of being told I had a disorder and was disabled, I just realized that I had to work a bit harder than the other students. Those days they wouldn't label us (other than "Rita is annoying") and they didn't put us in special classes, so my teachers would simply give me extra work to keep me occupied. I would grade papers, help organize things, and over-perform on projects. My leaf collection in middle school only needed 25 leaves and mine had 40...
I personally think that having some ADHD as an adult has been beneficial for me and made me a better person. How else could I run this blog, homeschool, do blog designs, run a house, and have time evenings to drink a glass of wine and read for fun? The dyslexia never held me back once I realized that I just have a unique way of learning things. I am not disabled, I just don't fit in the "normal" mold.
I graduated 11th in my class of almost 300 in high school without even trying, and managed to get in Texas A&M because of the "Top 10% Rule". I figured I was pretty smart and would do great, but unfortunately I found out that first semester I had retained nothing from high school. I was brilliant; brilliant in memorizing for tests and getting good grades. I had been so bored all of those years that nothing "stuck".
I really liked college because I finally had a choice of what I wanted to study. I felt like the years I spent in school before college were similar to being imprisoned. I was forced to go, and I had no control over anything. Sounds like prison to me...
At A&M I could finally concentrate on taking classes that actually interested me (advanced science) and take amazing electives taught by people who had worked in the field they were teaching and were excited about the subject (like Nautical Archaeology taught by Dr. Bass). Sure, there were some boring filler courses, but I was finally having fun and things were "sticking".
I graduated with a BS (I laugh every time I type this) degree in Genetics and decided to work in the field a while to see if I wanted to continue with graduate school. This was a brilliant decision for me because I found out that as much as I loved research, I had absolutely no interest in getting a PhD in my field. I loved planning and doing experiments and analyzing the results, but despised reading and writing technical papers and had no interest at all in begging anyone (including the government) for funding.
So after over a decade of working in labs I decided that I wanted to start my next career of "baby-raising" and I left the lab permanently two days before having Duke. I was terrified at the time because I was entering the great unknown. Would being a mom be enough? Would my brain atrophy? Was being a Mom really as overwhelming and stressful as portrayed by the media and many of my friends? Would I ever be able to get another job after taking time off? What in the world would I do next? No one wants to see "Full-Time Mom" on a resume.
Like most anxieties, what you worry about the most never happens and I loved staying at home and being a full-time mom. I was often exhausted and sometimes bored (what, you pooped AGAIN?), but most of the time I was just in awe of my kids. I knew I was blessed to experience such an amazing biological and spiritual "experiment".
Evenings when the boys were in bed and my husband was working I would read up on things that interested me. Besides the many baby/child books I studied, I taught myself to sew and designed my own cloth diaper pattern (the Rita's Rump Pocket). I learned how to embroidery, took up chicken farming, learned how to make homemade bread, painted the entire interior of the house, installed laminate flooring, and fixed the valve on the water well pump. I taught myself photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and web design and started this blog. There was never a time that I wasn't learning something new, so my fears of brain atrophy were never realized. ;-)
I did all of this without taking any classes, and I never had any school anxiety. I learned by reading books, talking to people, googling, and sitting down and actually "doing it". Best of all, I was never bored.
It seems that our society tries to portray learning as something tedious but necessary we have to do as kids in schools. But in reality we were created with a passion for learning, throughout our lives. My 90 year-old grandmother just started using Facebook. My mother took piano lessons for the first time in her 50's. My husband is never without a pleasure-reading book on science theory. I learned some HTML in my 30's. I don't think my family and I are brilliant or especially motivated. We are normal people with normal intelligence doing what normal humans are meant to do to be happy.
When I started homeschooling I was using the The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home as our homeschooling resource. It is a great book but incredibly detailed and overwhelming. Last year we entered a Classical Conversation community because I decided the boys needed to be in a class interacting with other students and I wanted to meet other homeschool mothers. This once a week co-op had pros and cons for our family (which I will discuss in a future post), but again the boys and I sometimes found homeschooling overwhelming, stressful, and boring.
This summer I decided to read everything I could about school and homeschooling and educate myself further to determine our plans for the new school year. Homeschooling parents usually do this all of the time; we are willing to switch things up that aren't working for us or our kids. We can't blame schools or teachers if our kids turn out stupid, end up in prison, beat up their friends, or live at home until they are 50; it is all on our shoulders. ;-)
I read some wonderful books like Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education, Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything, Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners, Radical Unschooling - A Revolution Has Begun-Revised Edition , and Free to Live: Create a Thriving Unschooling Home. I also googled unschooling and and read many unschooling blogs that were really inspiring. I realized that I myself thrived in an unschooling environment (even with all of my "disabilities"), and that my kids learned best when they were doing what they loved.
After all of my research and some soul-searching, I have decided that I am a "creative homeschooler" parent. I will continue to teach the three R's using some traditional curriculum (especially for math) and the rest of the time we will "unschool" and have fun going on field-trips, reading, visiting with family/friends, watching videos/googling, and DOING. I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I want. I am very independent-minded and don't like being told how to raise my own kids. Thank goodness I live in the great state of Texas where parents are allowed school (or "unschool") choice.
One beauty of homeschooling is that your "students" never have disabilities or disorders. Duke (8) is rushing through math with ease, but took quite a bit of time to learn how to read. If he were in public or private school he would have been labeled "slow". However, we took our time and now that he can read I can't keep him away from books. He sneaks up to his room to escape his brother and I have caught him reading everything from comic books to novels to science/technical books. He taught himself how to make pom pom animals, complex marble slides, and now has moved on to origami and crazy-difficult paper airplanes.
Imp (6) refuses to read and says that it is not important, but yesterday he told me that "boomerangs worked because of lift and gyroscopes" and then asked me what was a gyroscope. We pulled up some YouTube videos and learned all about gyroscopes. Then Dad, who is a personal pilot (who never flies anymore...), explained about lift and how it works on planes. Then Duke chimed in and they had a discussion about things we use daily that have gyroscopes. They moved on to how they were going to build a high tree house in our backyard without hurting the tree and were trying to decide how much wood they would need. That was our math and physics lesson for the day, and they didn't even realize they were in "school".
Homeschooling is not for everyone and my husband and I were public school kids and I get to work at home and my husband is an optometrist with a MS in Biochemistry and his own clinic. So we turned out fine. :-) All parents should have school choice for their children and be able to do what is best for their family. But as long as both the kids and I are having fun in our homeschooling adventures and I feel that we are all learning then we will continue on our path of creative homeschooling!
Now, if you are still reading I wanted to talk about the photo I posted above. A few weekends ago we went to Messina Hoff Winery. My husband and I enjoyed a nice red wine on the patio overlooking a beautiful little pond while the boys had a bottle of sparking grape juice. After they ate most of the cheese off our two cheese plates, they spent the next hour at the base of the pond trying to feed/catch the turtles and minnows. Then they got a bit muddy trying to catch baby frogs. Imp, who is a big fan of Man Vs. Wild, tried to construct a minnow net out of grasses (it failed) and then started bringing me leaves from various trees and testing me on their identity. The boys then walked around the pond and studied the grapevine irrigation system and discussed the I Love Lucy where she stomped grapes, wondering out loud if she got toe jam in the wine. Then they discussed the time we made homemade muscadine wine (later blog post) and how cool it was that yeast ate sugar and pooped out carbon dioxide and alcohol.
While the boys were "doing school", my husband and I drank our wine and had a quiet romantic date. Life can be grand for this homeschooling family.
If you are a homeschooling parent or child, I would love to hear about your adventures! Write about it in my comments and/or link your personal homeschooling blogs. I would love to hear what methods you use and what methods you found to be a disaster. :-)
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