Sunday, September 16, 2007

School is going well.

We have finished our second week of homeschool kindergarten and I actually feel like I am on top of things and know what I'm doing. I don't know why, but I was terrified before the first week. The whole reason we did the home preschool thing was to see how it would work, but for some reason this seemed more real and made me pretty anxious. I suppose part of it was that I feared Dori would be tearing the place apart while we tried to do school. So far so good. She does tear things up, but we've been able to at least direct it a bit — her applying stickers to her arms and markers to her legs has kept her fairly busy. Oh, and Cheerios. Yes, I'm bribing her with food.

Addy is an amazing learner. Seriously, my mind wanders so much that when we get to the end of a page that I have read aloud to her, I sometimes realize that I forgot to pay attention. So I ask Addy what happened and she always knows.

I'm not one for schedules, so I forced myself into a routine the first week and it paid off. We typically eat breakfast, do school, then are done by lunchtime. That leaves the afternoons for things like playing, dancing, doing crafts and reading for fun.

Then when Bob gets home, we can eat dinner, hang out and do chores. Oh, we've had lots of church and library meeting lately. So when am I supposed to clean the house? I suppose that's why I'm up at all hours of the night.

It's a crazy life, but it's just the one I asked for.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Poopy. And pizza.

We are all so proud that Dori's language skills have grown by leaps and bounds in the last several weeks. I could do without a couple of her phrases.

Like when she pokes at my butt — in public — with her index finger and says — in public — "Mommy poopy? Mommy poopy?"

Yesterday afternoon I asked Addy if homemade pizza sounded like a good choice for dinner. "Mmm, pizza!" she responded. Dori echoed the clearest sentence she has said in all her 18 months: "Mmm, pizza!"


Addy's blog

As we sat down at the dinner table tonight, Bob asked Addy, "So what did you learn in school today?"

Addy's response as she rolled her eyes: "Read my blog."

She is 5 years old.

Addy has her own blog now where she'll dictate posts to me about her homeschool adventures. Check out We hope she'll also continue to interact with humans.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Everything you wanted to know about our homeschooling, but were afraid to ask.

Sue, have you turned weird?

(My brother actually asked.) I mean, homeschooling is either for women with long, straight hair who refuse to let their ankles show or women with long, wild hair who strap Birkenstocks around their ankles. Right?

While I hate to place myself into a box, there’s a rapidly growing segment of the population who homeschool their children because they know it is best for their children. Free love and Bible thumping aside.

So why do you homeschool?

This is probably the hardest question to answer, simply because the reasons are numerous and I could drone on about it for hours. But since you asked:
  1. I can give my children one-on-one attention. Classroom teachers perform amazing work and I don’t discount their efforts. What they cannot do is focus their efforts on my child and only my child — all day, every day. One-on-one tutoring is simply more effective.
  2. No one loves my children as much as I do. Again, classroom teachers each have gifts, and I know they count a love for children among them. However, only my husband and I share the same deep and abiding love for our girls that drives us to educate them as entire little persons every day. I’m not attempting to raise children who are good at math, good at reading, good with science, good at music. While all those would be nice and we work hard at each every day, we are raising our children to be good people. Period.
  3. I’m selfish. I was there when each of my girls took their first steps and said their first words. I will continue to be there as each reads her first book, counts to 100, learns to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. I’d hate to miss it.
  4. It’s my responsibility. I didn’t send my girls off to day care for someone else to raise part of the day. I will not send them off for someone else to educate when I am able to do it myself. I’m the first to admit that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. Not everyone could do it. Not everyone is living in the right situation to make it feasible. I am. So I will.
  5. My children deserve normal socialization. Every single homeschooler I have ever met is sick of the whole socialization question. Let me explain. Many people see my super-outgoing 5-year-old (who wanted to invite 26 of her closest friends to her birthday party) and say that while she won’t have a problem with socialization, those other homeschoolers will have trouble. They’re wrong. Sure, there are a few people who live secluded in the deep woods and like it that way, but all the homeschoolers I know are normal people, active in their communities. Their kids play soccer. They join 4-H clubs. They swim. They play at the park. They use the library. They play with other kids. They have normal conversations with adults and other children nearly every day as they go about their business. That’s what I call socialization. What I don’t need is for my 5-year-old to be socialized a great part of the day primarily by two dozen other 5-year-olds. And if I were going to force socialization upon my child, it certainly wouldn't be to assimilate and maintain the status quo.

Are you qualified to homeschool?

I don’t have a teaching degree. So sorry, I know nothing about classroom management. I couldn’t gain order in a classroom full of kids for anything. Nor could I teach much to two dozen children at a time.

But I do have the skills, desire and resources to teach my own children. If I end up with more than 24 of them, that may change. For now, I’m good.

My husband points out that he and I have each fully mastered the skills typically learned in Kindergarten. And 1st grade, and 2nd grade, probably with 100% competency up to at least 6th grade.

I’m a doer. Give me a challenge and I can probably find a way to meet it. I have never been so motivated to do anything as to teach my own children.

Won’t they miss out on the normal school opportunities?

Yes, that is why I plan to do what this couple proposed. This piece called “Homeschooling Family Finds Ways to Adapt to a Public School ‘Socialization’ Program” was in the fall 2005 Kolbe Little Home Journal:

“When my wife and I mention we are strongly considering homeschooling our children, we are without fail asked, ‘But what about socialization?’ Fortunately, we found a way our kids can receive the same socialization that government schools provide. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie and take his lunch money. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease our children for not being in the ‘in’ crowd, taking special care to poke fun at any physical abnormalities. Fridays will be ‘Fad and Peer Pressure Day.’ We will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, the most expensive clothes, and the loudest, fastest, and most dangerous car. Every day, my wife and I will adhere to a routine of cursing and swearing in the hall and mentioning our weekend exploits with alcohol and immorality ... . And we have asked them to report us to the authorities in the event we mention faith, religion, or try to bring up morals and values.”

Really, won’t they miss some of the things that public school children get to do?

The prom and varsity sports are the least of our family’s concerns. Our children are still little and, seriously, our priorities are something entirely different at this point. Our girls get so many opportunities that some other children do not. If their priorities change over time, their schooling will change, as well.

You suck at math. How are you going to teach Addy and Dori trigonometry if you can’t even define it?

You’re right. I could never give a lecture about advanced math concepts. That’s why I’m working so hard now to raise independent learners. Rather than squash their desire to learn, our brand of homeschooling is all about fostering a love of learning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Patience of Job? I don't think so.

Apparently my mother-in-law thinks I have the patience of Job. (Siblings and husband: Stop laughing. Now.) Twice this has come up when we have discussed homeschooling. Fact is, I have the patience of any other harried mother of a spirited child and active toddler who has managed to overbook herself with far too many activities. (Low to nil, in chase you need the translation.)

The topic of patience came up at the grocery store this afternoon, too. A mother with two carts full of little boys (!) commended me on my decision to homeschool. I could never do it, she told me. I don't have the patience. I wonder if she believed me when I told her that I don't either.

I wish I could sit down and explain this to every single parent who has seriously contemplated homeschooling, but thinks they couldn't hack it. I work hard at displaying what looks like patience. In my life B.K. (before kids) I had a full-time career in public relations. I liked the writing, forming the messages, working with reporters on deadline, touting my organization. But the schmoozing with executives, budget reports and a whole host of other stuff was not so fun for me. I really had to work at it. It was work, right?

That's what mothering and homeschooling are for me now. They're my work, so I work at them.

The first day of school

Today was our first day of school. Addy is officially a homeschooled kindergartener. It went very well. We finished everything we hoped to this morning. She loved everything, though admitted to being not so fond of the reading lessons. That's OK; we're almost done with those (93 down out of 100).

We spent the afternoon running errands and getting groceries. Addy was a walking billboard for homeschooling everywhere we went. People saw her little 5-year-old self and asked if she started school today, if she was in kindergarten, etc. She gave her little speech at least half a dozen times.

I even took a first-day-of-school photo of her this morning. I thought about dressing her in her pink fuzzy bathrobe and slippers and sending that photo to the naysayers in our family: "Addy's first day of school, still in her pajamas. Isn't homeschooling great?" But that might induce heart attacks so I decided against it.

We decided to keep Dori in the official first-day-of-homeschool photo because, after all, isn't that part of the point?

Gone batty

Last night I got the family to bed early so I could lay out the breaskfast dishes and Addy's books for her first day of homeschool kindergarten. I was also attempting to get myself to bed at a decent hour. I was just about finished in the kitchen when a large bat flew across the table. After ducking, shrieking and swinging (in that order), I decided that this was worth waking up Bob.

I had a laundry basket on my head and a yardstick in my hand. We (and by we I mean he) finally got it to fly out the sliding door after it circled the other downstairs rooms several times.

This afternoon I opened my e-mail to read that rabid bats have been found in our area of the state. Great.