Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Point

When we set out on this endeavor of homeschooling, it was my siblings, and not my own children that I was homeschooling and we had the following goals--

1. To allow each child to learn in a safe, encouraging environment.
2. To allow each child to learn at their own pace and in their own way.
3. To allow each child to develop their own unique interests and abilities.

I was a new homeschooler, and I was still fresh from the college with my teacher's degree, and I know I made mistakes. I also had the notion that I should "spurring" each child on to the potential I knew they had. And my biggest mistake was in "spurring" rather than encouraging.

Then Vaya and Sweetling were added to the mix. For Sweetling, a new goal was added, to provide an integrated Christian perspective through our daily life and through our choice of educational materials. Sounds dry when I say it like that. There's the educational pedagogy coming back out. For Vaya, the goal was to provide a living example of a healthy family and a wholesome environment for her to heal and grow.

Now, it's a decade has gone by since I first dove into this homeschooling ocean. And I'm re-evaluating what our goals are, and whether what we're doing everyday is in line with those goals or not. And I'm soliciting input from Sweetling and Toa to make sure their needs and desires are being met.

This is what I, and I think the Jedi, want to see from our homeschool:

An environment and curriculum that promotes our faith.
An environment and curriculum that promotes being conscientious of the needs of others and of taking specific actions towards those needs.
An environment and curriculum that promotes family unity and good friendships with others.
An environment and curriculum that allows each child to learn and grow at their own pace and in their own way.
An environment and curriculum that allows each child to learn and develop their unique, God-given gifts, abilities, and interests.
An environment and curriculum that is engaging and encourages the joy of exploration, experimentation, creativity, and discovery.

Here is what Sweetling said one evening when I asked her what she thought was most important about homeschooling--
1. That I am her teacher.
2. That she doesn't have to worry about "crazy" classmates. (A good friend is really going through an emotionally devastating time with a group of bullies in her school.)

A few days later, when the kids and I sat down after lunch one day and discussed homeschooling, a made a written list of their responses to the following questions.

What is the most important aspect of homeschooling to you?

1. independent work
2. reading
3. history

Toa of Boy--
1. math
2. reading together
3. seeing his progress bar (tracked on the computer as part of the on-line lessons)

What do you think our goals of homeschooling should be? Why do you think we should choose to do homeschooling rather than be part of a traditional public or private school setting?

Toa of Boy--
1. We learn at our own pace.
2. We can be done with school earlier in the day.
3. For Mommy to be the teacher, "cause I love you."

1. We can be together.
2. We learn at our own pace.
3. We have more control over the lessons.

i was encouraged by how much of what they thought important was also part of my internal, unvocalized homeschooling goals. But I am also challenged because while there are many ways in which our curriculum has served us well over the years, there are now a few too many ways in which it is falling short of what we want from our homeschooling curriculum. The Jedi also agrees that it has some issues, and has given his agreement that other options need to be investigated.

This past year has highlighted the good and the bad for us.

On the one hand, Sweetling is VERY independent. I'm proud of how independent and responsible she is. But I feel that school has ceased to be engaging and a rewarding process for her. Instead, she goes to her room with her to do list and emerges with her to do list complete. Kudos to her for independent completion, shame on the system and the Mommy that has smothered the joy of learning. Similarly, while Sweetling's very first response, when asked what was important to her, was that I was her teacher, in truth I have advocated that role to the computer and an outside, pre-set curriculum.

Likewise, both children expressed the importance of being and doing things together....yet our current curriculum not only does not encourage any family projects or creative fun, but is actually a roadblock to field trips, creative explorations, and co-operative learning. The work load for each child is large, and completely divorced from what each other is doing.

Academically and spiritually, I'm concerned that our curriculum is so rigorous in and of itself, that it doesn't allow for additional pursuits of knowledge. In order to play chess together and to learn chess strategies and solve chess puzzles, we have to try to make up our curriculum time for the time "lost" learning chess. Its another addition to an already long and demanding day. Likewise for learning Spanish, ASL, or studying the Bible in more depth and detail.

Finally, having been through the curriculum with Sweetling once, I knew that as the curriculum progressed, it would suit Toa of Boy's hands-on learning style less and less. To cap that off, we recently received his second grade math book, which he was oh so excited to get. His excitement turned to dismay as we flipped through the book and found the first half of it nearly identical to the first grade book we had just finished. "I already know this," he said, "where's the new stuff?" I had to hunt to find it.

Regrettably, I believe this marks the end of our long and thus far successful association with k-12 and participation in OHVA. Sweetling, when I first told her that I was looking at some new curriculums, tearfully told me that she liked k-12. And I agree. I still like k-12 and would recommend it to others. But it is simply no longer best meeting our needs as a family.

Even more regrettably, this also means that this will likely be our last year at our Cardinal's Nest Co-op, since that co-op is driven by the k-12 curriculum.

BUT, we spend an hour or two looking through the curriculum possibilities I had researched over the week, and had sent to the Jedi for his input. Both children are excited about My Father's World and think it looks like fun. I gave Sweetling a choice between three different math textbooks and we will go with the one she chooses. Likewise, we will go with the science curriculum she picks out for herself. And I'm getting her opinions and selections on literature and language arts as well. (Originally, she said that "Homeschooling gives us control over our lessons," then she ammended it and said, "well, it gives you control over our lessons." I want to give her back some control over her own lessons. She is mature enough and responsible enough to help determine the course of her education.)

The Happily Ever After ending is that tears and sniffles have turned to smiles of excitement. And, because I know the extraverted boy really needs to be around other children as much as possible, I'm already thick in the process of getting us hooked up with another co-op. Sweetling knows and likes several families and young ladies at this new co-op, so that will smooth the transition for her.

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