Sharing my home school stories with a want-to-home-school mom
Discussions in 2008 with a want-to-home-school mom, answering her questions by looking back to our own home-school experiences. True stories often provide better answers than theoretical discussion!
Hubby doesn’t think I’m capable of home schooling! Sometimes it is hard for one’s spouse to get into the whole home school thing, especially if he doubts that you can teach your child “as well as the school can” – and you don’t want to let it disrupt your good relationship….
That said, you may be able to bring your dh (dear hubby) around to your way of thinking by “home schooling” outside of school hours for the time being… and even during school hours by being as proactive with the school as possible – volunteering in your son’s classroom and/or on the playground, personally communicating with the teacher, administration, secretaries, librarian, etc on a really regular basis (at least once a week)… if you are positive with them, trying to find positive solutions rather than being too negative, and are willing to be part of the solution (as long as your son must be in the school), you will likely find that you can get lots of great ideas and positive help that you can adapt (and improve upon!) to use in order to home school outside of school time now, and in the future when your dh decides to allow you to hs (home school) your son. The thing is to let him see what you are capable of doing, and it may give him the confidence to let you actually home school.
(Suggestion: don’t tell the school what you’re up to, and don’t lay onerous amounts of home school time on your little guy when he comes home from school. Maybe a half hour on school days, and perhaps an hour on other days occasionally – and make the learning more like having fun with mom: a good long-term home school goal anyway!)
I think that a really important thing to remember is that learning is a life-long, 24/7/365 thing. Ideally, home schooling is not school-at-home, but rather learning integrated into every part of life. So if you can see it that way, and really aim toward that, I think that your husband will begin to see the value of home learning (a phrase I prefer over “home-schooling”).
Unhappy already in kindergarten – is my child “different”? Questions: I was planning on homeschooling my son this year after an unhappy year in kindergarten last year. Yesterday he tells me he was left alone outside after lunch when everyone else ran inside (there are only 2 noon hour supervisors). He is also not “ready” for school. We found out he needed glasses less than a year ago so he is behind in a lot of area’s. He has a lot of trouble writing, so he tells me his teacher is always mad at him for scribbling.
I know everyone develops at their own pace, but in schools that doesn’t work so well. He is supposed to get some special ed this year his kindergarten teacher told me. He also has speech difficulties so a lot of people including peers can’t understand him. He is smart in his own way. He is left handed and I have read that they are often good at puzzles and slower to learn how to read and write. Have any of your children had their own difficulties? The only reason I sent him is because my husband was so adamant about it. I have spent the last year reading dozens of books about homeschooling and I really believe it is the best thing…
Answers: starting with a bit of background Let me assure you: your son sounds very normal. In fact, schools only really “suit” about 20 to 30 percent of children, those who happen to learn best in the narrow parameters of how schools teach. And even those children often suffer from socialization and other issues (oddly enough, “socialization” is the trumpet call of the public school system… sadly, it is for the majority of youngsters one of the greatest difficulties they face… but that’s for another rant!).
As a parent who has home-schooled my 5 children, in addition to having taught in both public and independent schools, and having had my children in school at various points as well, I can assure you that there are many good people in the schools who try really, really hard to provide a good “education” for children. Unfortunately, they have to work within the bounds of a system that is huge and unwieldy, and whose priorities, from the start of public schooling, have been less on learning for life, and more on producing pliable citizens (emphasis on pliable!) and on moving large numbers of people through the system as efficiently as possible within limited time and economic constraints (okay, that’s for another rant too…)
Failing at kindergarten? Let me also assure you: the majority of children have their own difficulties! Every line you have written here about your son’s difficulties immediately brought to mind memories of my own children’s situations! Let’s start with that unhappy year in kindergarten. My first daughter was obviously very bright, learning to speak in full sentences etc very early – and yet she “failed” kindergarten!
She was just not socially ready – for the classroom situation, that is (is any child?). She had been very happy at home and in the neighborhood, with her younger siblings and her many friends and cousins, and her parents, grandparents, adult family friends, aunts and uncles, church members, and so on… in other words, well socialized into real society.
She could carry on a happy and interesting and intelligent conversation with people of any age. She loved listening to us read Shakespeare and philosophers, and discuss politics and religion and current events, and would ask intelligent questions, and give interesting and thoughtful commentary on all kinds of topics. This was just from being part of a large family, both nuclear and extended, as well as part of community family in the church and other organizations (for example, she came with me to Girl Guides even when she was a baby – I would only be a leader if I could bring along my baby!).
Then she went to kindergarten – and began being “socialized,” stuck in a room with 25 or so other little people who “just happened to be born in the same year” and being expected to live her life by a clock, doing things that were considered “age-appropriate.” So,for example, even though she had begun, without any coaching, drawing detailed pictures from the age of about 2, suddenly she was expected to use giant crayons and paintbrushes, because supposedly she did not yet have small-motor abilities! (She also was left-handed – and the teacher aide made her sit on her left hand, and use her right hand for printing and cutting! Another rant topic…) Of course this applied to many things she did in Kindergarten. So basically she sat in the corner for the whole year, intensely unhappy.
Her teacher recommended she repeat kindergarten because supposedly she hadn’t learned anything. (Within a year after that, she was reading anything and everything, far, far above grade level… so much for “not learning”… and later, after some years of homeschooling, she was teaching adults at a BC Government Skills Center how to do website design – while her fellow age-appropriate-students were still struggling in grade 11 at school… and she had developed her computer and website design skills without a single hour of classroom instruction – or even parent-instruction: she taught herself. In other words, she had grown up from the start to be interested in all aspects of life and to be a self-motivated learner and participant.
Oh, and by the way, being left outside at the end of lunch… sadly, the school playground does encourage “socialization” alright! But is it the kind of socialization you want your child to encounter? …
When should children start homeschooling? And for how long? As I already mentioned, at various times my children were home-schooled, other times they attended public school. I did not even realize home-school was a legal alternative until my oldest child was about 9 years old, and the only people I knew then who hs’ed were simply having their children sit from 9 to 3 daily, filling in workbooks, which seemed pointless to me…. Of course, we were actually home-learning in our entire lifestyle, but didn’t realize it. So by the time we started the full learning-at-home adventure, my oldest daughter was at the grade 7 age level. Her little brother, our youngest, had just had a year of kindergarten.
When my children got into their teens, some chose to continue with learning-at-home, while some incorporated public school classes into their learning, some used Learning Centers, some went back to school full time (while continuing to constantly learn on their own outside school hours), and so on… but it was their choice, and I gave them great freedom in course choices. And sometimes, school is almost unavoidable… like when I was in hospital for a few months….
Three of my children have ended up with official British Columbia “Dogwood” graduation certificates (and all with honors), while 2 have not officially graduated. Yet they are all very successful in their adult lives, and now that they are having children of their own, they are making sure that their children really experience lifelong learning. Some have gone on to graduate from higher education,others are working in their own businesses, and so on. I mention this, because there are times that you can actually “make use of” school facilities and activities, especially if you have already created a positive relationship with your local schools.
Your home school/ life-long learning adventure can and should be an adventure, using a lot of imagination and methods. You know your child better than anyone else, and you can figure out your child’s needs and take advantage of what works for them. For example, one of my girls was very athletic and very competitive, and I arranged with our local neighborhood school for her to be able to take Phys Ed classes at the school, and to be part of their track and field team. Also, our children have First Nations heritage, and they were able to go over to the school to take part in language and cultural learning activities, even while officially home-schooling (and being involved in all kinds of cultural activities in the community as well!).
Some schools are more open to these things than others, but it never hurts to find out… which is why I also suggest that as long as your child has to attend school, you become very pro-active at the school – emphasizing the “pro”! That is not to say you have to agree with everything – but when you do face problems (and of course you will), if you come across with constructive suggestions and willingness to be involved in creating solutions, you are setting up a good situation for yourself… and even likely learning some useful skills you can use at home! And you will be showing your dh that you are indeed “capable” of being involved in your children’s education – full time!
And back to playground socialization All that to explain my children’s experiences with socialization on the playground the times when they have attended school. One of my daughters (the athletic one) was physically strong, and would not be bullied: when she started at a new school, the very first day the playground bully (who was several years older than her), pushed her onto the ground. She was incensed – and jumped up and confronted him. When he tried to push her down again, she fought back – hard – and instantly earned the respect of every bully on the playground. But her sister, who was only a year difference in age, was a totally different temperament, quiet, gentle… and easily bullied. Fortunately, her sister stood up for her… and then, not long after, we started home-schooling.
The government and schools make a lot of to-do about how they are overcoming bullying – but how can they do it effectively when there are only 2 supervisors on a playground with perhaps 200 children (or more)? Of course it happens in the classroom too, even when there is one adult for “only” 25 or so children. Anyway, yes, you do have a right to be concerned about your child’s playground experiences! And yes – he is normal in this regard… the playground is not a positive experience for MOST children!
What makes a child “ready for school”? Next, you say your child is not ready for school. What makes a child ready for school? What does that mean? If school is really about developing learning skills, then your child’s eye problems perhaps have put him “behind” in that our school system is big on little people reading a lot of small print. But really, eyesight is only a very small part of learning (blind people learn just fine and are very successful…).
Every child has special needs! Of course, in a classroom situation, limited eyesight may become a big problem, because the classroom is set up to serve children with good eyesight, and the teacher does not have time or energy (and very often simply is not able, by constraints of cost, equipment, and even the “curriculum”) to adjust the learning situation to help your child with his “special needs.” It doesn’t matter what a child’s “special needs” are – the truth is, all children have one kind or another, for no child is truly the “average student” for whom the system is designed.
Back to hubby’s doubts It is wise, as you consider home-schooling, to think really, really carefully about what you believe about school/education/learning (and they are not all the same thing!). Talk to your husband about this too… ask him what he thinks constitutes a good education (and listen carefully to his answers; let him know you value his viewpoint). Let this be an on-going topic of discussion, perhaps a bit at a time… and as he comes up with his own thoughts about it, start doing things at home that show him you can offer that to your child… in a better way than the school is doing it, most likely!
Home school learning as part of everyday life If you can find ways to do it without making him feel pushed, involve your husband in the learning activities, too. For example, if hubby thinks “science” is a big deal that you don’t know enough about… start involving your child (and hubby!) in outdoor activities that not only are “playing” in nature… but are “learning” too. Maybe your husband likes fishing… so encourage him to share his knowledge (while fishing together, of course) of not only the skill of fishing, but the life of fish, their environment, what they eat (why they are caught in certain places and with certain kinds of lures). You don’t need to go along every time; guy bonding time is important, and if hubby gains confidence in his own ability to share knowledge and understanding with your son, he may well become more able to trust you. Let him do it his way; don’t hover!
And as you drive places together as a family, talk about the environment you see… and what humankind is doing to the environment… And if your child asks questions, go to the library on the way home, and get books on the topic, and read them together. And maybe set up your own terrarium or aquarium, not just as a “pet” thing, but as a learning thing… a family learning adventure… and your hubby will begin to actually see the excitement of your child’s learning, the depth of it (compared to filling in blanks on a worksheet at school!).
Talk together about what you see/hear on the news every day. Don’t “dumb it down” to a perceived “child’s level.” Just allow your child to listen in as you and your husband, and visiting friends and relatives, talk together, and allow your child to ask questions, and join in the conversation just as he pleases. This is real home-schooling, by the way… integrating learning into every part of life… and you can do it right now, even when your child is still attending public school! In fact, as a concerned mother who values learning, you have doubtless been doing it all along, one way or another – you are a good teacher and/or learning facilitator! Who taught your child to walk, and talk and do the myriad things he has already learned in his short lifetime? But now, if you really want to officially home-school – and get your child into life-long learning rather than 9 to 3 “school education” only — then take all those daily activities and consciously encourage deeper learning, deeper involvement and participation (not just lifting the lid on his little brain and plopping in information).
Scribbling! As for your child’s scribbling… you can provide lots of small-motor activities at home that will help him develop better hand-writing, without actually focusing on hand-writing. Fun activities, like playing Crokinole, or building Legos, or measuring and mixing in the kitchen… and on and on and on. Every activity you do is “educational” (another good thing to point out to your hubby). You just need to stop and think for a moment about all the “subjects” that are involved in any particular ordinary activity!
My son, at five years old, was already really good at fractions, because he loved to help me bake pies – and we had a big family, so recipes had to be increased by 2 or 3 or 4 times. And then the finished product had to be cut up in even parts to serve everyone equally (very important, lol!) And already, when he was just five years old, I could tell him that the recipe called for 1 ½ cups flour – but we need to increase it by 3 times – and he could tell me (and measure, himself) that we needed 4 ½ cups! This, by the way, from a child who by the end of kindergarten had been labeled with a “severe learning disability” by the school – and who did not learn to read until he was 9 years old, or to write (other than copying) till he was 12 years old.
And then he chose to do grades 8 to 12 at school, and was on the honor roll every single report card, with a full academic load (just given extra time to write exams). Yes, I homeschooled him several of his elementary years… and we did endless amounts of hands-on stuff, and I read to him and talked with him about anything and everything he was interested in (he learned to read, finally, because he was into Pokemon in a big way, and wanted to be able to read the Pokemon handbook, which is not a “beginner reading” level by any means), as well as including him in all our “adult” conversations.
(We always invited many people into our home, and discussed whatever their interests were. Our daughter took “Architectural and Building Engineering Technology” at BCIT because of the influence of a friend who was an architect, and who helped us design and build our “ideal home” when she was only about 10 years old).
Our son was a “scribbler” too… but he did end up with good legible printing (handwriting is another story – but print is easier for teachers to read anyway. He has just graduated from high school and possible career choices right now (which his teachers and counselors have recommended) include being a lawyer or a history professor at a university (even though the school re-tested him every year or two, and was convinced to the end that he is “SLD”/ special needs – he laughs and says, “Yep! I’m special!!!”). At any rate, most boys don’t really start to refine their finer motor skills till around ages 9 or 10, so again your son is likely quite “normal” in his scribbling!
What about “special ed”? If you are going to allow the school to do “special ed” with your son, again be very involved. Go to every IEP meeting, and if possible, sit in on sessions with his special ed teacher, so you know exactly what they are teaching him. You can then support this at home, of course, but also educate yourself. Use what you see and discuss with the teacher, to go further and discover more about whatever so-called “special needs” the school claims your son might have.
Some special needs teachers are really excellent, so use whatever useful information you can – and again, work it into many aspects of your daily life, in as natural ways as possible, not as “special ed” activities per se. Again, your child is normal, in that nearly every child varies from the “average”!
Speech difficulties As for speech difficulties, my second daughter had the most unintelligible speech you can imagine. By the time she was 2 years old, she had heard a great deal of English (our first language), French (she was allowed one children’s show on TV for ½ hour a day, every other day, and for some reason she chose Sesame Street in French!), and Inuvialuktun (the language of her babysitter). She loved to talk, but she mixed all the languages up… and she also had trouble with her “r’s” till she was about 8 yo.
We didn’t realizeit was a “problem” until she went to school… all her family and friends understood her just fine, but her teacher and new fellow students were another story. Again, she wasn’t the school’s definition of average. So the school insisted she have speech therapy. I attended her sessions, and learned all I could, and used it with her at home – but again, not in a “formal” way but integrated into all our activities. By the way, if your child does end up having speech therapy, you will be expected to work with him every day… and this will again be an opportunity for your husband to see what you are capable of… and hopefully, he might even get involved!
Left-handed, right-brained, kinesthetic – What’s it all about anyway? About being left-handed and good at doing puzzles… there seems to be some evidence that left-handed people are often principally right-brained learners, who are more likely to learn in ways that are more kinesthetic (tactile) and/or visual (graphic)… so this combination in your son sounds “normal” to me! However, school learning is generally around 80% emphasis on left-brain learning methods. So it is not surprising that your son has been having some difficulties with the learning styles employed by schools.
You may have already encountered, in your research, information on the multiple ways in which people learn… and while good teachers do their best to include a variety of learning styles in their teaching, again the simple realities of the “system” mitigate against a child having much opportunity to learn in his/her most natural learning style. Of course it is good to develop the ability to learn in a variety of ways, but if one’s natural learning style rarely is made available, it can be a major hurdle right from the start.
Again, this is an advantage of home-learning, where you can really help your child make the most of his/her own natural abilities and learning styles. But even if your husband at this time wants your child to attend school, you still have many, many opportunities all day, every day, to involve him in activities that emphasize his own natural abilities and styles, in every aspect of his life. So educate yourself on these things, observe your child, and find “natural” ways to help your child become a great self-learner for life. And again, your husband will see what is happening, and gain confidence in your ability to help your child learn.
Don’t make home school just school at home Finally, one last observation. When I started to home-school, I knew very little about it. But I did know a lot about how to teach school! So the first day of home school, I had my living room outfitted with 5 desks, a whiteboard, a teacher desk, a bell (really!), and a very carefully planned time-table and curriculum. By noon the first day, my five little scholars had informed me that “if we’re just going to do school at home, we might at well go back to school.” So by the end of the first week, the desks and bell were banished, and my careful time-table and curriculum began to crumble away.
Home school – learning at home as part as life – became an adventure of discovery for all of us – sometimes I felt as though I was learning far more than my kids – and a lot of the time, they were my teachers! There were times of seeming chaos, and certainly times when not every one was totally happy, but always it was an adventurous journey together. So don’t be afraid to take time to look around, get ideas, try different things out, be willing to change… And feel free to keep asking your great questions!
I just came back from visiting my third daughter and her husband – and their first baby born on August 26th! They are already planning to home-learn … from the start! Good for them! And good for you!
There are many, many options in home schooling in BC. You can simply “register” your child, and then totally design your own curriculum, or you can purchase commercially available curriculums, or pick and choose from a wide variety of curriculums and approaches; you can sign up with a local school district (many, if not all, have their own home school extension programs, and often provide varying levels of funding and/or field trips and other perks, but you do have to fulfill certain requirements); you can sign up under the umbrella of various independent schools; you can sign up with the BC Open schools; and so on. You are right, it can be quite overwhelming.
I would recommend that you continue to research. You can google “home school British Columbia” and get a lot of good information specific to BC. There are some quite significant variations in home school regulations in different provinces,states, etc.
I would also strongly recommend that you seriously consider why you are interested in home schooling. Are you trying to “avoid” things in schools? Are you wishing to provide things that schools do not offer or offer inadequately? How much time and effort are you willing, personally, to put into home schooling? What are your child’s particular needs? Where do you live? Do you want to start immediately or are you planning to examine the whole home learning situation first? What do you know about home schooling already? What or who got you interested in it? What are your personal goals as a home school parent and family? Where are you located (this can have an effect on your home schooling, depending on what learning route you decide to take, as different locations have different resources, etc)? How will you afford to live on one income? And even, how will your husband’s attitude affect things?
Since you have posted on the bchla list, I am assuming you are aware they have a website. If you go to the “getting started” tab on their site, you can get some good basic information about home school possibilities in BC.
Date: fall 2008