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Homeschooling After Two Years

I know, I'd promised more homeschooling articles, and I haven't written a darn thing for the site on this since 2000.

Well, Happy Halfway Through 2002. I've finally gotten around to it!

This is what I have learned so far:

  1. Kids really do like to learn.

    I know this sounds awfully basic. You hear it all the time, but it's been strongly reinforced with my children. They don't know they're "learning". They're just pursuing their interests -- mostly. The Bird has a serious fascination with human anatomy. No, I don't mean that as a four year old, she has learned the parts of the body. I mean she likes to study anatomy books that show cut-away drawings of internal organs and find out what they do. This was not a Course of Study. It was just my daughter following her interests.

  2. Document, Document, Document

    In most states in the US, kids who are homeschooled do have to register with the state and submit some proof of progress -- be it through standardized testing, a portfolio of work, or a teacher evaluation. I had not kept particularly careful track of what Baby Thor had done last year, but fortunately, The Prince did.

    It's a good idea to have a folder or box with examples of the kids' work that you will collect throughout the year. That way, come evaluation time, you've got everything you need right there.

  3. Don't try to be perfect

    I know a lot of homeschoolers feel like they have something to "prove". It's understandable. Anytime you step outside of the so called normal way of doing things, people will blame every last little thing they do not like on their pet annoyance with your deviation from normality. You are under no responsibility to turn your child into the next Albert Einstien, for heaven's sake. You just need to make sure your child gets a good education and can cope with being an adult sometime around the time he's in his late teens. While it's impressive as all get out if your child is reading by three and doing Calculus by ten, if she's not, it's not a failure of homeschooling.

  4. Be willing to change

    One of the great joys of being a homeschooler is its flexibility. You don't have to do things a certain way. You can change your approach when you feel that something else will work better.

    For the last couple of years, we've darn near unschooled. Baby Thor more or less taught himself to read, and the kids have been picking up a lot from the books we read to them, or in Baby Thor's case books he's read. However, as we've reviewed what the kids are doing and compared it to the curriculum that we'd planned, we realized that they're ahead in some areas, but not quite where we want them to be in others.

    So, slight alteration of approach. We're going with Oak Meadow this year and a prepackaged curriculum. We've been really impressed with their materials and sample curriculums.

  5. Make learning fun

    When a child has a question, instead of just answering the question flat out, go on the Web, find pictures about it. Go to the library and find books. Let them see the process of discovering things, so that they will learn to look things up on their own. The Prince, especially, does this with the children. Looking at pictures of skeletons was a special father/daughter time between The Bird and The Prince.

  6. Apply what you're doing to real life

    While I was not homeschooled, I never really did get the point of arithmatic with fractions until I was cooking with my mother. We had to alter a recipe (the whole clan was coming over and I have a big extended family), and in the process, I finally got the idea. This sort of thing can be applied to all kinds of areas of study -- arithmatic is simply one of the more obvious and useful methods. The kids are probably soaking up a fair amount of music theory just wandering through the dining room and listening to the adults rehearse for pub sings.

    Have the kids write letters to family to practice their penmanship. Grandparents eat that kind of thing up and it teaches the kids a lot. Encourage them to keep a journal. When I was a kid, I soaked up not only history but a love of it from family outings all over Virginia to different places of historical interest. Many of these places have guides that will dress in period costume and play a character from that era. You get a lot that way, and it is a lot more fun than a textbook, even to a bookworm like myself.

  7. The computer is your friend

    There's a glut of educational software out there. Use it. 'Nuff said. The Learning Company and Jump Start put out some of the best stuff. You can often find good deals for this software on Ebay . We often buy used software of this sort.

  8. Keep water ballons filled with rotting lettuce sludge to throw at people who ask about socialization.

    Okay. Not really. But I can dream, dammit!

    There are homeschoolers for whom socialization is the "S-word" and rightfully so. No, my children are not especially skilled in staying in a straight line or asking permission to go to the bathroom, or only associating with their own age group, but they can handle bullies calmly, are compassionate with children who are hurting, and are friendly and know how to talk to anyone. What the heck more do you want?

A portrait of the Goddess of Java rendered by the Goddess of Giggle

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