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January 03, 2006


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Oh, Jamie, please, please, please keep these coming. My 5 kids are aged 11 to 1 and we've been unschooling, with the two oldest boys being late readers. The 11 yr old now reads on grade level and the 9 yr old is picking it up like a rolling snowball (sort of).

We are all itching for more structure and "real accomplishments" or learning or whatever. And I am pretty clueless as to how to go about it.

At the root is my intense laziness. (A Mother's Rule of Life is in the mail to me...thanks!) The other problem is that I'm not really sure how to schedule it all. And then the baby is sick and the girls are fighting (or worse...playing nicely by trying on EVERY PIECE of clothing that they own) and, and, and.

So, please write away on your homeschooling days. There is a lot in my life that needs changing right now and I need a practical guide. You're hired, even if you don't want the job.

Some questions: How do you keep the kids on topic? Mine are forever going off on tangents. On the one hand, the tangents can be very educational, but on the other, they can be very frustrating!

What about reading aloud? How many interruptions are ok? Someone always seems to have to use the toilet a couple of pages in and they want me to "pause" the story (can you tell we also watch too much tv?).

Do your kids watch any tv?

Do you already know much of the history you teach? I think I pretty much only know about the American Revolution. My husband is the font of information and the kids ask me questions and I say, "Oh, we'll have to look that up" and then we never get around to it.

Ok, I thinkthat's enough for now. THese posts are supposed to be helping you through homeschooling.

As for the parental approval, I don't have much problem because we live thousands of miles away. Mom's all for homeschooling but she thinks I'm an absolute whack for not doing "sit down schooling". Sometimes I agree!

Ok...now that's really enough. Thanks, and please keep 'em coming!!

I'd love to read anything you write on the subject. I'd be particularly interested to hear about your experience of unschooling and the ways in which it didn't work out. (I have no experience whatsoever in this area - just intrigued because I read articles from people saying how wonderful it is, and it would be interesting to hear the other side of the story.)

Hi Jamie,

I'm the person who wrote about my husband being very hostile to the idea of homeschooling. I'm glad to hear that you and your husband overcame that particular hostility, but I don't think it's going to happen with mine.

Specifically, he says that kids who are homeschooled will be unpopular in regular school when we sent them there (I would probably send them to high school, public or private), and that they'll be unable to cope with the way kids interact because they've never been exposed to it.

I say that as long as they have friends outside the family and participate in extracurriculars and watch how our family interacts, they will probably be more sensitive, caring and nurturing than those dorks who go to regular school (I, too, had a terrible school experience and don't want to subject my kids to it).

All in all, it's very frustrating because I am willing to sacrifice my career for their learning and he's saying that it's not good enough. Hmph.

I don't have much to contribute to the homeschooling discussion other than to say that I find your post fascinating and hope you post more - but parents and their approval/issues is something I can appreciate! I have been know to not tell my parents about large decisions I am considering (jobs, etc) because I find that if they express disapproval I find it difficult to follow my own path. That parental guilt is so heavy...

A couple of things. First, it took a year of pretty intensive therapy for me to put some parental issues to bed, so I guess we've flunked emotional kindergarten together. Now that I'm past most of it, I'm amazed at how horribly sad, no, that's not a strong enough word. At how distraught I could get at the thought of spending the day with my family or of broaching certain topics.* Even though I love (most) of them very much.

And I was once like your parents wrt the topic of homeschooling, but your blog and other online discussions have changed my mind completely and if I were fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my kid, I'd seriously consider it. It's an impressive undertaking you're doing, you should be proud.

*Interestingly enough, once I got through therapy, I didn't have to talk over certain things with the parents. I was able to get past it on my own and I think it was the better, if not easier way. There's a reason why we put those conversations off, and cowardice on our part isn't the only one. Usually the inability to communicate goes both ways - the parents themselves bear a lot of the blame.

Ariella, I know that anecdotal exceptions will probably not change your husband's mind, but when I read your comment about him thinking homeschooled kids will be unpopular in high school and immediately thought of two of the only people I know who made the transition from homeschooling to high school. One of them became homecoming queen, the other became president of his class. So clearly unpopularity is not a given there.

Of course, you also have the question of whether popularity in high school is actually a desirable thing. I come from a fairly small town and at five years out of high school, I'm observing that a lot of the kids who were popular aren't doing so well now. Not sure why that is, but it definitely is.

As far as the parent thing goes, Jamie, I can't complain about my own because they're great. But my husband's parents don't seem to have grasped the fact that we're grown up now, and their constant advice (from big things all the way down to "you should really wear a hat") is hard to handle sometimes. We're planning on homeschooling but I haven't even dropped the word in their presence yet. I'm dreading that conversation.

I think it sounds like your kids are getting a stellar education! I like that you get the bulk of lessons done in the morning. When I was in public school it frustrated me that we wasted so much time; it always seemed to me that we could have learned the same amount of stuff in half the time. Your boys are very lucky to have you teaching them.

This is great, keep them coming! I have quoted part of this essay on my blog today.

I like your daily schedule! I'm just wondering when *you* find time to make lessons plans, collect resources, etc.

I have found that it's very difficult for me to defend some of my radical parenting choices, like infant potty training and delaying solid food and my ideas about discipline. I just end up not telling anyone. I haven't gotten to the homeschooling part, yet. But I will soon enough, and I hope that by then I'll have developed some gumption.

You really are doing the best thing for your kids and your family! Be thankful that God has given you the opportunity and stamina and try not to hide it under a bushel basket! :-)

My sister - she of the 4 kids - homeschools and loves it. She's very creative and organized and her kids are thriving (ages 5-12). It gives me something to contribute when I hear people saying negative things about homeschooled kids. Her kids really are a joy and delightful to have around. They spend a lot of time with their co-op (other homeschooling families) and are very well-socialized.

That said, I have no interest in homeschooling. Do you dislike regular (for lack of a better word) schools in general or specifically the schools in your area? I really enjoyed school while I was growing up. I wasn't a huge fan of the social aspect in high school, but I always loved classes and learning. Because of that experience, I assume that my kids will have a great (probably public) education as well. Maybe I'm being naive? I think if my husband stayed home full-time he would be a great homeschooler. Too bad his job isn't that flexible.

Enough babbling. Your homeschooling posts are very interesting.

Questions, I have questions! I'm interested in your home-schooling process and appreciate that you've put more meat in your posts on this topic. On the issue of parents who make you crazy, you're on the right path. One thing maturity has taught me is that I can't change my parents and they have their own baggage and I can just leave the comments I don't like and take the ones I do (not so many it turns out). I'm sure my daughters will have plenty to complain about when they grow up, but hopefully my failures will not be the same as my parents'!

Anyhoo...why 15 minute lessons? Is this an understanding of your sons' attention spans? Is the older boy capable or interested in going longer in some subjects?

What do you do about topics where you are weak? Have you brought in any outside lessons in music or art? Or math?

I was homeschooled as a child (oldest of four, and my mom ran a daycare in the house too). Learning to learn with younger kids around was great prep for going to grad school with kids of my own to take care of! I loved being homeschooled, and I'm going to homeschool my kids too. I don't think I've been consigned to a life of freakdom - anymore than anyone is who has learned that it's okay to think for themselves! Keep it up, in whatever form or method you choose to use. We did everything from canned curriculums or correspondence courses to unschooling, and I don't think the method was the most important thing. The one-on-one nature of it and the responsibility for myself that I learned carried across all methods.

My biggest question, and you probably get this so often you have a stock response to it, is "what do you do about socialization?" I know in my area there are homeschooling groups --one puts on a Shakespeare play every year -- but you haven't mentioned going to one of those. If you don't think that's all that important, why not? and when does it become more so?
How do you compensate for them not learning math? Admittedly I have never used more than basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in my grownup life, but what if one of your boys is a born physicist or engineer or something? How will you find what he needs to let that talent flower? Will you add it in later?

You are clearly well-read and well-educated--do you think that's necessary to successful homeschooling?

Why German and Latin? And can I come to Latin lessons?

I am unlikely to homeschool myself but know that it is likely we'll want to supplement whatever formal school experiences she has, because I think some degree of educating your child is what good parents do. So I am interested in how parents who go full-bore homeschooling do it.

Thanks so much for this. So many times I wanted to ask you for your schedule. I dream of home schooling or at least some variation of it, and this helps me visualize it with multiple kids.

While I understand that you're touchy on the subject of homeschooling, it seems to me that you are doing a fantastic job. I love reading about your homeschooling days, so keep it up.

As I have said before, I harbor a secret dream to educate my son at home. I am still trying to work out exactly how I am going t accomplish that... but I'm sure I'll either figure it out or learn to be happy with educating him outside his normal school hours.

As for your parents' reservations - they are just coming at this from a mainstream way of thinking. It's like when I talk about cosleeping to people who are staunchly against it - first their eyes glaze over, then they start to get a little mad, then they shut me down with negative comments. Then I shut up, because I'm not trying to sway them. I'm certainly not saying that everyone should do as I do, but I am comfortable with my choices so I don't feel attacked when people talk to me about their reservations about whatever.

I should add, I very much admire the effort you put into homeschooling. I notice you seem to take a very classical approach--is that what made you want to do it? It seems like it takes such devotion and preparation to homeschool.

Maybe this would be helpful...I homeschooled my children for four years, then put them back in school when the oldest was in 9th grade. They all did just fine. My son is now a cadet at the Air Force Academy, and his roommate is a former homeschooler.
I'd say his education was adequate!

I'm a student at a Catholic university. I was (but am no longer) astonished I discovered one after another of the most articulate, well-read, mature, well-adjusted, all-around coolest people I've met at school were homeschooled for part or all of their pre-college education. I know probably seven or eight people who were home-schooled, and none of them are awkward or unsocial.

And yes, I have issues with my parents. They keep going back and forth between asking why my boyfriend hasn't figured out what he wants to do as a job yet (he's only 20!), and reminding us that it's ok, they didn't know at age 20 what they wanted to do either. Drives me crazy.

I would love to hear more about homeschooling! I wonder how many more redheaded, homeschooling, mother of 4 boys there are?

Just wanted to say -- keep up the good work with the schooling! It sounds like things are going good, and that is a fabulous schedule.

I was homeschooled from 2nd grade, until the day I graduated (and I have a PA. homeschooler's dimplma to prove it!). I don't feel jipped on any social or academic issues, and I've held down jobs with ease, and have done a little college work with ease, as well.

I currently stay home with two beautiful baby boys, and that is my career. I find that the quality time I spent learning with my mother and two siblings, has helped inspire me and shape my parenting skills a lot more than I knew it would. It just seems natural to be sitting down with my two year old, teaching him things -- because that is what we always did.

We never had long, drawn out days of school, like I know some people do. We pretty much went till noon most days (except my brother... as he got older, he would sit and stare at the walls for forever, just to avoid his work. My poor mom!), and we have all turned out just as,if not more, educated than our peers.

My mother was a homeschooling vetran in the community-- as she started doing it long before it was popular, and I've seen a lot of ppl over the years do it the wrong way, which usually just means they are doing it for the wrong reasons, and their hearts are just not in it. They are the ones who give homeschoolers the bad stigma. But for every one of those, there are is at least one more homeschoolin' Momma who breathes the passion of edcuating her children. And I think as those children grow up and attend colleges (Harvard,or not ;) ), hold down jobs, and become all around good and valuable citizens of the community, it will get easier and easier for people to understand why we are doing it, and what the product of homeschooling can be.

Thank you for being one of the people to pave the way, so that it will be easier, for ppl like me, to teach my children the same way.

Hope you don't mind I linked to you in a post because I have gotten so much out of reading what you've written on homeschooling. I hope you'll keep posting on the subject... it's very encouraging and helpful.


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