Cherish over at Faraday's Cage is where you put Schrödinger's Cat is taking an informal survey of homeschoolers and the stereotypes that don't fit them. Here are my answers, for the record:
Why do you homeschool?
I'd been threatening to homeschool Klaus since he was a toddler, but with the Irish twins (Wolfie and Xavier) in diapers, DH in residency and my own lack of self-confidence, I sent him to school. I spent ten years trying to get adequate accomodations for Klaus and for his brothers and finally I was mad as hell and I just couldn't take it anymore!
What technique or curriculum do you use? Do your kids work above or below grade level (or both!)?
We use a virtual charter school because DH like the objective accountability. He thinks I'm too laissez-faire (and he's mostly right). Two of the boys are two or more years above grade level and always have been. Xavier is below, at and above level, depending on the subject. He's catching up to grade level now that we've been homeschooling for two years. I think by the end of next year, he should be advanced in all subjects.
What is your educational level? Do you feel this has an effect on your teaching (both limits and abilities)?
I have a Bachelor's in Elementary Education. I think it has helped me quite a bit in terms of dealing with their learning differences and in realizing there are other ways to teach. I didn't have any training in gifted, though, and I really needed that!
What does your daily schedule look like?
Um, schedule.... What's that again? Oh, right. We get up at nine and I read outloud for an hour. Reading books are a mixture of classics and young adult. (For example, our last two books this year were Swine Not? by Jimmy Buffet and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.) Then Xavier goes for a 30 minute walk and Wolfie sits down to work on something. They chose what they want to work on (and DON'T want to work on). Around 1:30 we watch an hour of educational TV, then we're done for the day. Wednesdays they take music lessons.
Are your kids always polite and ready to learn? (*snicker*) Do the kids (or you!) get frustrated?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You mean like the conversation I had at 9:30 this morning? "I'm done with geometry!"
"Great! That leaves you time to work on some German or social studies."
Sigh. "I was going to..." Motions toward World of Warcraft computer.
"You can do that for awhile if you want to take a break. But you need to finish social studies in order to be finished with this school year. And you have to finish German 1 before you can take German 2 at the high school in the fall."
"Once you finish this stuff you're done with school for the rest of the summer."
Glare. Gets up from the table.
"And Dad said someone needs to mow the lawn today!"
How has this affected your parenting?
I spend a lot less time grilling them about what happened in school that day, what their grades are, and who their friends are. I spend much less time chasing down teachers to find out what's going on in the classroom. And, best of all, we're free to take days off when we need them, not when the school district says we can. So we're able to take advantage of quality time and quantity time.
How much free time do they have? What do they do during their free time? What hobbies do they have?
They have a lot of free time. Most of it is spent playing video games or boffing (it doesn't mean what you think it means). They're also active in 4H and take music lessons. This summer Wolfie's going to video game camp for a week and Xavier is spending a week at a science and technology day camp (through 4H) and spending another week at overnight band camp.
What difficulties and challenges do you have with homeschooling? What makes homeschooling enjoyable?
I think the biggest challenge is that my kids and I are process- rather than product-oriented. We learn stuff, but we don't particularly enjoy proving it through testing, writing reports or making projects. What makes homeschooling enjoyable is doing all the stuff we love to do--take field trips, watch documentaries, read together, try experiments--and count it as learning (because it is). When the boys were in public school, we were all too exhausted to try this kind of after-schooling.
How do you get involved in the community? When do you have opportunities to interact with public or privately schooled children? Would you like more of these opportunities? How can they be created?
We’re very active in 4H. Both Wolfie and Xavier are club officers and I’m the music and drama director for the club. We participate in community service through 4H. Xavier plays in a middle school band for private and homeschoolers. This will be his third year in band. Wolfie participated in the homeschool Track and Field Day this spring. The boys are planning to create a city-wide boffing league or club (haven’t nailed down the particulars for that yet). We also participate in the Western Wisconsin Young Mensa Club outings.
Personally, I’d rather be a little less active outside the house and a little more productive on the academic side of things. We’ve had to nix Scouts and Parks and Rec classes and limit summer camps to one a piece (Xavier’s 4H camp is free, so he got around that rule). I don’t think we’ll be participating in the homeschool classes that take place during the school year, either. We’d lose a whole school day to extracurriculars (choir, handbell choir and gym).
What is your least favorite homeschool stereotype? :-)
Let’s see, “All homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christian.” No, we don’t go to church and we don't homeschool out of fear of corruption, school violence, peer pressure, drugs and alcohol, take your pick. We don’t homeschool out of fear, period.
“Homeschooled kids are locked in the house all day memorizing facts for (insert your favorite National Bee here).” If only they knew. Homeschooled kids are kids first (maybe more kid-like than the public school kids). Some people seem to think they’re robots.
My most recent question was “If your kids are homeschooled, will they go to … college?” Duh. Makes me wonder what “they” think happens to homeschooled kids once they graduate from high school. Do they disappear? Maybe we just leave them in the basement until they’re ready to reproduce?
But my least favorite homeschool stereotype is: “I could never do that.” I work with gifted kids, kids who clearly could soar with the one-on-one attention that homeschoolers get. But the parents are so worn out with their preschoolers’ questions, they assume they couldn’t possibly homeschool. (BTDT) Not true!
Or they assume the teachers at school know more about gifted kids than they do. (BTDT, too) Double not true! Most classroom teachers have had zero training in gifted. The “gifted teacher” may or may not be able to directly supervise your child’s education.
You (yes, you!) know your child best. Hook up with some homeschooling support groups, find the resources (there are thousands), let your child lead the way. Your brilliant child did not spring fully formed from the head of Zeus. He got his smarts from you. You can figure this out, I promise!