Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Break Offers Time to Reflect

Easter break came at just the right time. We've been at this for five weeks now and while we are falling into a routine, that's just it--we are falling into a routine.

When we started this venture, I had ideals of helping my son rediscover his interests and love of learning through less structured days and unhurried explorations. I reluctantly accepted textbooks knowing that they would fall short but figured I would use them as my springboard to subject immersion. How quickly one falls into rote academia. The thing is, textbooks (and teacher's manuals) make it easy to deliver a lesson and one can feel that, at the end of the day, each subject has at least been touched. But I'm not sure our homeschool is looking that much different than the middle school classroom, save for the couch and kitchen table.

A weekend of decompression has, for  me, allowed some time to return to blog boards and the infinite wisdom of ones who have gone before me. (Total side note: I've encountered some of the coolest "thinkers" and "writers" among homeschool moms. What an insightful group.) My head is aswim with thoughts of purpose, curriculum, learning styles, and teaching methods. It's enough to overwhelm but one message repeatedly makes its way to the top of the pile: Trust yourself. Know your child and do what you know. Life presents learning opportunities at every turn.

What I am struggling with right now is missing the two-way conversation with someone who can answer some of my questions. Another blogger mom recently expressed frustration at trying to explain the merits of homeschooling. I get what she is saying in that trying to discuss what I am learning with my "school" friends and discussing solutions is difficult because they aren't doing the research I am doing and are not facing the unique journey I am taking. While supportive, they cannot offer the insight I crave in this area. Here are some of my ponderings.

  • I've forgotten my commitment to "deschooling." At A to Z Home's Cool site, several articles reminded me that kids who exit the public school system need time to decompress, nearly a month per year in school. Do the math. For SJ, that would fully seven months! What does that look like? I fear days of endless (and non-educational) computer surfing and I, Carly on Nick if left unchecked. Would he really find his way to rich and educational topics? I'm not so sure, but then, he is still a traditionally trained student and learning still looks like school to him. I love the idea of this concept but struggle with the "how" and truth be told, the worry that nothing will be added to my son's brain (which is exactly what proponents say the deschooling will counter).
  • The Charlotte Mason Method. Again, love the idea of this method that, in a nutshell (and from my limited understanding), suggests using real books to study subjects. By doing so, students will connect with the depth and emotion of a topic instead of simply glossing over the main points. This appeals to me and I totally get how it could work, especially in history and literature, but I wonder how one does math once kids reach pre-algebra. I understand counting pennies by fives, but I don't see myself finding algebraic equations in everyday life.
Finally, I found this review while reviewing the book, Homeschooling: The Teen Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 13- to 18- Year-Old. I had to check the author to see if I had somehow written it. Nope. It turns out this was from a mom in 2000. It seems the issues we have faced are not new ones:
Two weeks ago I pulled my 12 year old, seventh grade student from public school on basically what was a spur of the moment, desperation move. Long story short, he has... never enjoyed even one day of school (including kindergarten), and [had] writing/processing problems. I was tired of trying to get the teachers to cooperate, my son to do his homework after school, tears, low self-esteem and failing grades. I just knew there had to be a better way to help my son receive the education he deserves.
Again, let me say how grateful I am to have accepted this journey and to have the opportunity to do it. I know I am headed in the right direction but as with anything new, there is a learning curve and if I have learned anything so far, it is that every homeschool journey is unique. 


  1. Hang in there Carrie! We all have moments of "What the heck am I doing?" The comments you posted ring true - go with your gut. You know instinctively what amount of structure or formal guidelines your family needs to achieve your academic and personal objectives.

    I recently switched 2 of my 3 kids to "my curriculum" instead of the boxed one we used last year. I found it useful to document my objectives for each subject, noting what I expected to use each resource to accomplish. This will help me pace myself and make adjustments as needed.

    Know that you have made the right decision in taking control of the situation. The details can all be worked out over time. The important thing is that you have made the commitment to make sure that education will now be a positive journey, taken by people who care deeply about each other and the end results.

    Natalie L. Komitsky, Wordsmith

  2. Thanks so much for that perspective, Natalie. I like the idea of documenting objectives, especially as they pertain to a particular resource.

  3. Two-way conversation is the best, whether you're just starting homeschooling or have been at it for years. If you ever want to chat, drop me a line.

    Jennifer Fink
    Twitter: @jlwf