Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What to Learn?

In the past two days, I've read posts from an 80 year old grandpa and a 40 year old mom, each lamenting that their skills and knowledge have become obsolete.

Being a housewife in the 21st century, I've been obsolete for a long time.  You kinda get used to it.  Being also a home educating mama, the posts make me wonder again what is the purpose of education?  What am I to be hungering for in our home school journey?  What is essential?

I have no way of knowing the specific skill set needed for the future for my kids.  But there are a few things I do know.

Respect of authority is foundational.  I'm at that time of life--solidly middle aged--where I see a lot of folks dear to me missing the mark.  Without exception, those veering off course are doing so because they are substituting their desire to be their own god for a submission to the authority of the one true God.

That tells me, and our pastor recently reminded us all (May 9), that respect for parents is essential in kids.  I need to teach my children to respect our authority or they never stand a chance of respecting God's authority in their lives.  Moreover, I need to link their respect for our authority to God's word--"because I said so" doesn't cut it most of the time (darn).

I have a whole 'nother set of folks dear to us who are being buffeted by life's storms through no fault of their own.  Cancer comes.  Spouses stray.  Children die before their time.  That tells me that faith is essential for my own children.  Only by knowing and trusting that God is good, all the time and with us even in the darkest and most hopeless moments can one endure.

While we live in a district with wonderful schools, I know the schools can't be about teaching this to my kids.  Only my husband and I can.  And we can't cram it into the 15 minutes a day left over after school and activities.  It's a Deuteronomy about it when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I need to remember this because, have I mentioned we live in a district with wonderful schools?  The lure and pull of their wonderfulness becomes powerfully strong at times and usually in direct proportion to the hold I give the doubt monster.  Any parent knows the doubt monster and those of us charting an unconventional path know him even better.

My children need to learn that they are of infinite worth to God.  Everything else in life, all our skills and knowledge, our job, our looks, our health, even those around us, will fade and pass away.  Only God's love endures.  I don't want my children to be lonely, so I need to encourage their relationship with the One who assures us NEVER will I leave you, NEVER will I forsake you.

If I did nothing else for my children but help them succeed in these three areas of respect, reliance and relationship, their homeschooling would be a rousing success.  (And to all my friends who have been given other paths, please don't read this to say that homeschooling is the only path to success in these three areas.  God uses many means to the same end.  I am only certain that this is the means he intends right now for our family.  You may be equally convicted on different means for your own.  God may change the means for us in the future.  He's God after all; He can do what he likes.)

My children need good habits.  Even if I fail in the academic department, a good portion of life is showing up on time, being organized and being able to break down a task into sensible parts.  Chores form habits.  We do a lot of chores.

Yet I obsess over their academics.  Not that academics are unimportant, but the very nature of a one on one (or even a five on one) educational environment covers most deficiencies in that regard.  I could obsess a lot less.  The aforementioned laments over obsolete skills comfort me and reaffirms my basic philosophy of education.  My kids need to know how to recognize what they don't know and how to go about teaching themselves.  They need to think, write, compute and create clearly, elegantly and artfully.

This post is nothing more than a reminder to myself.  How often I put the academics above the others and if we're being completely honest, how often I do so to reassure myself of my own worth.  I guess even us obsolete housewives feel a bit better about ourselves when we can brag but my eight year old knows X and my 14 year old is doing Y.

I'm wrapping up our 10th year of formal home education. 15th if you count it from when a kid is born.  God willing, I have 18 more years in front of me.  It's a marathon and a sprint...a lot of years and not nearly enough time, both together.  But what a privilege and Galatians 6:9 tells me that my work in this regard will never grow obsolete.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tidbits About Those Between Diapers and Driver's Ed

I am embarking on round four of teaching a kid to read.  Hello, Bob books, my old friends, how are you?

Each and every time I am struck anew at how blending sounds appears an intuitive step to adults.

And how completely not so to kids.

If you approach it with fresh ears, Muh.....Aah.....Tuh truly sounds nothing like Mat.  Even if you encourage the holding out of one sound til the next begins, MuhhhhhAahhhhTuh, it still doesn't sound like Mat.  And even if you do it quickly, at some point you will make an unfounded leap from MuhAhTuh to Mat.

Try it yourself.


"Driver's Ed"

Hi, my name is Holly and I don't use a textbook to teach high school science.

If you want to make yourself a pariah, particularly after the recent hit piece on Good Morning America about radical unschoolers, go about saying that sentence in public.

Rest easy, though, the radical unschoolers would never have me.  The tough part is, many traditional home educators won't either.  Neither group voices it much, but it hangs in the air in the polite silence that is then followed by a rush to change the subject.  To the rad undies, I am way too Type A and structured.  To my traditional Christian homeschool pals, I am slightly weird and definitely suspect.

Both groups are correct but all I can say is, it works for us.  Stealth schooling, serendipitous schooling, call it what you will.

This year, here's what science looked like for our 14 year old.  Those who like a scope and sequence, prepare to go bananas:

Science Olympiad weekly class and competition including designing and building a load-carrying bridge to precise specifications and academic quizzing on "disease detectives" as well as potpourri of other topics.

9 weeks of a four hour Electronics class taught at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry followed by 12 volunteer hours demonstrating what he learned to museum visitors.

Saturday Morning Physics at Fermilab.  Nine two hour lectures and tours by a different physicist each week covering different topics in particle physics.

Fermilab Open House with demonstrations and lectures.

Subscription to Acts and Facts, National Geographic, Muse, Odyssey.  NOVA, Nature, MythBusters TV shows.

Free experiment kit all about lasers from PhysicsQuest.

Research paper discussing how human anatomy and physiology reflects the biblical account of creation.

Interestingly, in addition to scouring many articles on human anatomy, my kid picked up a textbook to help him in that last endeavor.

Who woulda thunk it?



I am a bit ashamed to admit this as, well, I have done this four other times.  Presumably, I am an experienced mom.

Somehow, with miracle #5, I allowed the beguiling toothless one to seduce me into thinking he was different and that he really required either being nursed to sleep or being held and rocked until solidly out and then gingerly placed into the crib.  Transfer a moment too soon and you had to go back to Go without collecting your $200 and begin again.  8-10:30 each night was spent in some variation of this loop until we all collapsed in exhaustion.  He also trained me well into getting up a couple of times a night to feed him and soothe him back to sleep.  Naps?  Fuhgeddaboutit.

At our six month well check, the pediatrician confirmed what I knew in my gut but hadn't wanted to face:  the kid was playing me.  It's interesting, isn't it, how we often do know what we don't want to know?

Furthermore, the prescription for remedy--put him down awake and don't pick him up again--proved no surprise.  The fact that my beloved chubster really hated for me to put him down awake and really cried earnest tears lulled me into doing what was easy, natural and seemed compassionate.  In the long run, though, I was doing him no favors.  Learning to self-soothe to sleep is important for babies and they sleep longer and better once they master this.

Day 1 was a solid hour of crying, but still down for the night an hour earlier than by the old method.  Day 2 20 minutes of crying.  Tonight, barely a peep.  He woke not once on night one and only once last night.  I did give him his paccy then, but he got himself back to sleep.

So, yes, he's different.  Fearfully and wonderfully made.  But, as the wisecracking email tag line puts it, "Of course you're unique.  Just like everyone else."

Seems we creatures, whether baby or grown form, get into the most trouble when we think we are the exception to the rule, don't we?