Tuesday, February 7, 2012

RELAX......it's Homeschooling.

We've been homeschooling for about 3-4 years now. Many reasons brought us to this crossroads and many more reasons have kept us on the path. I love the expression on people's faces when my daughter proudly announces that she is homeschooled. It ranges from shock....disgust....concern....to downright disapproval. I just smile. Needless to say I have always been very unorthodox and this is no different. There are times when I get genuine interest....the look of complete admiration and the "OMG that is so awesome but how do you not kill the little buggers" look. Even tho homeschooling and unschooling are becoming more and more prevalent in our society, it still shocks and amazes so many. I find it humourous that people have such opinions but have never experienced but one side of the equation. Most times I can easily shrug off their opinions and judgments. Other times....not so much. My number one pet peeve of ALL TIME is.......people's need to pop quiz my daughter at any given time or to interrogate her about what she is learning in school. It irritates me because in all the years she was in "regular" school, not once did this ever occur. People are funny.

When I first started our homeschooling journey I scoured the internet looking for the "perfect" curriculum. We downloaded and printed off material for what seemed an eternity. We went thru more paper and ink in a few weeks then we had in the lifetime of our printer. I made schedules reflecting when and what we would be learning and how long we would spend at it. I was so organized that......I HATED ME!! LOL We stayed on that path for about 3 months and I'm certain my daughter hated me too. I had failed miserably.

Funny thing about failure, from it, comes greatness.

So, my part time job turned into a full time job. How on earth could I ever homeschool and carry on a full time job?? Not to mention, keep house, make dinners, be Mommy and Wifey and somehow still keep it all together?? It wasn't easy but it wasn't impossible either. I was overwhelmed by an array of emotions but like I always do, I pulled my socks up....dusted myself off and soldiered on. I took my daughter to work with me. This in itself can be stressful because one never gets 5 minutes ALONE!!! I found myself saying "why don't you go outside and play". And she did. We both needed the break. I stood at the window so often just watching her in awe. She would run to the chicken house....or roll in leaves....or take apples to the horses. She would sit for hours and listen to the elderly people I looked after. (I was a Home Care Provider) Many times if I was busy doing something, she would attend to my patients needs without me even knowing. All my patients loved her and she became attached to them as well.

One night after dinner an amazing thing happened......my daughter EDUCATED me on something. A story one of my War Veterans had shared with her, had stuck, and she was now relaying it to me. With robust enthusiasm and sparkling eyes she told me the story....you could just see her brawny imagination running wild. That was my AH-HA moment. From that moment on I threw away the School Texts Books. Our learning took on a whole new direction. I learned something that day.......THAT, no matter what, a child is going to learn through EXPOSURE!! We still do mini projects but mostly because she is interested in it and NOT because I have it in our curriculum. We learn through living and quite frankly where the wind blows us. Our famous Chicken project is the lesson that keeps on giving. Kayla learned about baby chicks. She learned about how they grow. What they eat. The parts of their body. She learned about egg production. She watched as we built their chicken coop. She also learned how to clean them but oddly.....she wasn't as interested in that part!! LOL And now.....she's learning all about Municipal bylaws and bureaucratic BS. She's learning about LIFE!!

So, I can't say I'm an unschooler but I also can't say I'm just a Homeschooler either. The world is our classroom. So many times I've had adults say to me....."maybe this isn't the best place for a kid to be". Why not?? She went to the Council meetings with us. She has been interviewed by reporters. She sat through Lawyer meetings. She now knows the process in which a court case takes. Of course life isn't always that exciting. We go grocery shopping, to the mail, to the library, and some days we do absolutely nothing. We've taken mini field trips. We've gone to the Reptile Zoo, Pioneer Village and to see King Tut's Tomb. I think she learned more by walking around Down Town Toronto then she did in the Museum. In the Museum she learned about artifacts but on the streets she learned about Homelessness and humility. A lesson that cost nothing but the $2 in her tiny hand and the courage it took to walk up and drop the coin in the homeless man's cup. She also learned that, the power of a smile and kindness is priceless.

We have an ongoing "Geography" project that we do through Postcrossing. She sends postcards off to random addresses all over the world and gets a random one in return. We will then learn about the place it comes from. One of my War Vets gave her oodles of info and books on Germany because he had been there during the War. Those facts stuck with her far longer then any lecture I would have given because it was REAL to her. He had been there. He had pictures. He had cool war stories. When people find out we homeschool, they are so happy and willing to give information about where they live and what they know. People love to talk about themselves and love more that someone cares to listen. It's a win-win situation. We also have a saying in our house that ALWAYS get a good belly laugh from all members. When we don't know something, someone will inevitably announce very boisterous and theatrically....LOOK IT UP!!!!! And we do.

I know many people think that this is just another one of my crazy notions and I've finally lost my mind. They could be right!! LOL People's judgments don't count. I've learned something that confounds most of society.......Everyone learns differently. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. ANNNNNNNND Everyone excels in different areas. If you absolutely detest something, the odds of you excelling at it, is doubtful. BUT if you are interested in something, the odds of you enjoying it and surpassing others in this area is terrific. My husband is one of those people who like to "pop quiz" at any given moment. It drives me insane. If there is something our daughter doesn't know you can see his disapproval. He loves history and therefore thinks EVERYONE should know everything about it. He and I will have a brief disagreement because I don't care much for history but excel at spelling and words. He will try to make me feel bad for not knowing something which quickly ends when I gently remind him.....he can't spell to save his life. Neither one of us is better or worse then the other......just different. It is my hope that she will take a little bit from both of us......actually a little bit from everyone and apply it accordingly.

So, while my husband's pop quizzes annoy me, recently I had a new found appreciation for them. Shhhhhhh.....don't tell him that, or i'll never hear the end of it. Our daughter had a few different public schooled friends over for play dates and sleep overs. As fate would have it, my adoring husband started the "pop quiz" at dinner. To my surprise and delight the public schooled children couldn't answer his questions but our daughter could. He jumped from subject to subject but our daughter answered more questions and answered correctly. While this is not scientific and in no way is bashing our lovely dinner guests, it proved to him once and for all that public schools are not the end all and be all of education. He soon learned that even tho we struggle with Multiplication and division here at home that public schools are opting to just give their students calculators.

I don't think you need a school to learn. I've learned more from my elderly patients and more from living in the real world then I ever learned in school. In the last 3-4 years I had one of my elderly Lovelies teach me to knit. [See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.] I then taught my daughter. That may not seem like any great feat but at one time, it was a grand thing to know and was EXPECTED that you knew it. My elderly Lovely told us stories of how when the men were sent off to war, the women would knit multitudes of socks to save their feet. There was a right and a wrong way to do this....if there was even one knot or bump out of place, it could cause sores on the feet of the soldiers. Sores that could result in infection, rot or possible gangrene. Something so simple but something that could mean life or death on the battlefield. We learn everyday because that's what we do. Life alone, teaches us.

I've had many discussions with friends, family, and naysayers. I ask them all, what do you specifically remember from school? Aside from reading, writing and arithmetic what has stuck with you? I can honestly say without a doubt, that nothing of great importance was taught. It was after I left school that the real learning began!!! My next pet peeve is when someone tries to EDUCATE me on SOCIALIZATION. *insert eye roll* I think homeschooled children are more socialized and are greater equipped to deal with society then public schooled children. Homeschooled kids are NOT set in a room with just people their own age everyday. They as set in the world with people from ages 2 to 92, everyday. They have to adapt quickly to situations that I think leave public schooled children far behind. Public schooled children deal only with kids their own age. For the most part, everything is standard. The same topic of conversation...the same classes...the same people...the same music...the same pressures etc etc....you get the picture. Homeschooled kids have to deal with everyone of varying ages. The homeschooled kids and the public schooled kids at the public pool or library or sporting event. They interact daily with store clerks, the mail person, receptionists at the hospital, the nursing home, doctor's office, and vets. Not to mention in my case, all my elderly patients. A lot of public schooled children wouldn't just strike up a conversation with an older person for the pleasure of it.....because they have nothing to say and nothing in common. Most homeschooled children will because they are not limited to a certain peer group. At what other time in your life are you stuck in situation/room of people just your age??? NEVER.

More times then I can count on both my hands, I've had people seek us out to tell us how brilliant...polite...mature...intelligent....delightful...helpful...and personable our daughter is. Total strangers have come up to me and commended me on a job well done. I am not bragging, I am as shocked and delighted each time it happens, as I was the first time it happened. I think because the homeschooled/unschooled children are given the freedom to learned whatever interests them, in turn, EVERYTHING interests them!!! It's quite exhausting sometimes because the "Why" stage NEVER ENDS!! With my daughter and with most homeschooled children I've met, they have a NEED to know how everything works....why it works....who works it...and more importantly......CAN I DO IT?!?!?! Of course I'm generalizing. Not all homeschooled kids are this way and not all public schooled kids the other way. I was a public schooled kid but I had a need to know how everything worked....many a toy was dissected and put back together for the sheer enjoyment and curiosity of it. I'm also not saying that homeschooling is better then public schooling. One is not better or worse then the other, just different. For us, homeschooling/unschooling was the superior choice.

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