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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thoughts of Homeschooling

I've been writing this post in my mind for several months now, and have finally worked up the courage to put it on paper....

My thoughts lately have been full of thoughts of home schooling Nora for kindergarten. When I told my sister, Ella, this I could hear her gasp through the phone, in disbelief. She, like many others, asked me how could I teach my child better than a trained educator? I am glad for her honest response. It is good to have a devils advocate in my life-and that person is often Ella.

Nora turns 5 this coming August 19th-she'll be a VERY new 5 and not ready for kindergarten (both her speech therapist and director of the preschool have noted this as well). Everyone in her life believes that waiting a year before kindergarten would give her better footing. So I figure, why not try to do a little homeschooling next year? From what I've learned, such a large part of preschool and kindergarten is free play and learning how to read. That part is intimidating to me. I looked at a few homeschool phonics programs online and was freaked out by the intense phonics lessons. A conversation with a client who homeschools assured me that the beginnings of teaching reading is reading a lot to kids, working on letters then progressing gradually. She put me at ease that I didn't have to necessarily follow a regimented phonics curriculum for the kids to succeed. Recently when I read books, I make letter recognition a fun game and say, "in this book, when you see a W, point it out to me!". The kids LOVE this and start getting excited about pointing out the letters.

Recently, in doing activities with Nora and Stuey, I"ve noticed that Stuey loves doing whatever Nora is doing. If Nora is writing her name, Stuey writes his version of his name. If Nora is reading books, Stuey will sit down and flip through books. They are so close in age, that I don't think it'd be a far stretch to teach to both of them at the same time. And they are able to sit and do an activity fov 20-30 minutes, which has been such a relief for me-to have larger chunks of activity time.

The thing I've learned in my basic home school research is that it can be done on a continuum of highly structured to less structured. I think I'd be somewhere in the middle. And as many of my friends and clients who homeschool have reminded me, learning occurs best when kids don't realize they're learning. And that some of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is the 1:1 teacher, child ratio. In a classroom, it can be anywhere from 15:1 or 20:1. And much of the time can be spent re-directing, regrouping kids.

My reasons for wanting to investigate home school further include a desire to be with my kids, to cook, go on walks, read, do fun things together. Yes, you can do those things with kids in school, but the reality is that after a long day at school, they are going to be tired, hungry and ready for a break. I"ve read several books on homeschool and have leaned so much from friends (and friends who are educators). Everyone offers a different perspective and it has been a fun topic to ponder. It just seems like it would be fun. I like being with Nora and Stuey and they like learning from me (and Patrick and other adults!). I know it wouldn't be fun and roses all the time, but I think I at least want to give it a try.

The biggest concern people have about homeschooling is socialization. I'm not concerned about this with our kids. We have plenty of people around our house and if they are involved in a few activities, that will be plenty. Not to mention a home schooling group sometime during the week where they could learn from another adult. Nora's first long time babysitter was home schooled and Patrick and I were always impressed by her maturity, intelligence and work ethic. Plus, she had friends of all ages-from 8-18. Not just friends exactly her age.

So where does Patrick stand on this, you may ask? He doesn't have rose-tinted glasses. He knows there will be difficult days for me, and doesn't want me saying, "I'm busy this week, can you do the homeschooling?" Patrick is Mr. Science/Math guy, which will be really fun to tap into as we start learning all about the world together. Take home message is he supports me in the endeavor. Patrick's the best.

My family will largely disapprove-I'm prepared for this. And thats ok. I've done things with my parenting which I'm sure they haven't always agreed with (co-sleeping and breastfeeding a toddler, to name a few). But when you feel something deep inside---I can't ignore that feeling of at least exploring this option with the kids. At least I'll be able to look back and know that I tried it. Plus, its a decision which can be taken one semester at at time. Its not as if once you decide to try homeschooling, you sign a dotted line for 18 years of homeschooling. You can change your mind along the way if its not working.

I'll start the journey and see where it takes us....



gpc said...

I don't think there is a 'right' answer. I wanted to homeschool my first child and he heard me talking about it. He came to me and said quietly, 'mom, I think it would be better if I went somewhere where I could be with other children.' I still think I would have been a better teacher than many he had but, for him, school was a happy choice and one he handled with grace. My life circumstances had changed when my daughter went to school and homeschooling wasn't an option. The school system ate her alive, and hurt her way more than it benefited her. Listen to your heart, and listen to your child's needs. The answer will be different at different times, for different children, I think. Good luck.

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Wow. Thank you so much for those thoughtful words. I like how you said that "the answer will be different at different times, for different children." So true! Zoya

Teaque said...

Zoya - i have been following your blog now for about a year, but have not commented. my husband had put in for a job on the base there in kodiak so i searched for blogs to help me learn more about the community and people. since then, we were not able to accept the job b/c our house here in kentucky had not sold.... anyway long story short, i have fallen in love with your family and continue to read your posts. i always tell my husband that you all would have been our friends if we moved there ha ha - he thinks i'm crazy by the way. ok so, your homeschooling post totally prompted me to finally comment. i have been homeschooling my 6 year old son for 2 years now and love it! the funny thing is i have always said you all seem like a homeschool family from what i've seen from the interaction with the kids. i would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. feel free to email
also don't forget that the relationships your children form with each other is a HUGE benefit. And one more quick thing check out it's all FREE lessons based on either themes or age levels and they are all literature based. There are preschool lessons on up! I love this site and it covers all the bases as far as subjects. Feel free to email with questions, I love chatting about school and suporting those who make the not so popular decision to homeschool! Oh and HS has come a long way since we were kids and even before. There are tons of resources now as you have already mentioned along with groups and various activities. It's not what many people think it is as far as just you and the kids at home alone day in and day out and no interaction! I can tell you more about what we have here in KY too if you are interested in starting your own co-op etc. I wish you all the best! You are making a great decision! Go for it! We take it one year at a time and then there is no pressure to continue! - Teaque

Sue and Brian said...

Great post Zoya! As we've talked about before I think that homeschooling will offer the kids (and you!) many rich experiences that just aren't possible in a full classroom. Even though we are quite a ways away from this decision with Fiona, Brian and I think its likely that we'll homeschool her. It will be fun to pick your brain as that time comes closer and learn from your experience. Have fun with it! Sue

Marnie said...

I look forward to Abby going to school - an actual regimented day. I am not sure home school would work simply because Abby knows who's boss, and it's not me!

Nemmer said...

I'd be surprised if you remember me, but we have a mutual friend from high school (LuVonne) who sent me a link to your blog. She suggested that I might be able to provide some helpful comments, since I also homeschool. So, I hope you don't mind the "intrusion" and will offer a few thoughts I had while reading your post.

I would totally agree with keeping a young 5yo home for a year to help her be ready. I had my oldest in preschool (for some speech and other SN issues) at 4.5-5, and then started kindergarten through the same program. The preschool was great, but the kindergarten was NOT a good fit, and so we made the decision to pull him out and homeschool after two months of kindergarten. It was the best decision ever! His stress immediately decreased, and he became pleasant and easy-going once again. Like you, I see myself as mid-way along the spectrum of structured vs. unstructured home educators, so we got some basic curriculum and got started. We do a very literature-based program, which has been great for helping his attention span (he has had to learn to be able to listen to and follow stories with few pictures). We found a great program for both math and handwriting, that are quite well-suited to his particular learning style. That's one of the benefits -- you can tailor your child's education to fit how they best learn, so they get the most out of it.

For phonics, I had to go very slowly with my son since it was such a struggle. I watched for signs of interest in reading before I even started any phonics (aside from simply learning letter sounds), and he started showing interest in reading things around him around age 5.5. I noticed that when I was being bombarded with "Mom, what does that say?" repeatedly, hehe. So, I acutally used 2-3 different phonics "programs" simultaneously, since he would get burned out with the pace of any one by itself. One of these was simply the BOB books... once a week I'd have him read through one. I think I had him read the same one for two weeks in a row before moving on to the next one. I also used "The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading" doing one lesson, or even 1/2 lesson per week. I hear that "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" is pretty similar to that book, and a lot of other parents like that one. Like your friend said, though, lots of reading to them and simply pointing out sounds, making it a fun game, is the best way to get started. If you put too much stress on them, you just kill the love of learning that is naturally present in kids.

Nemmer said...

The other benefits you mentioned are also many of my favorite things about homeschooling. I love that we can take school outside if we feel like it, or that we can take a few days off if we feel sick. We can plan vacations during the fall or spring when things are less crowded. We can go to the zoo during the week when all the school kids are not there. We don't have to try to fit in extracurricular activities after hours, when we should be having dinner (we find similar activities with other homeschoolers during the day instead). We have no "homework" to do during the evening hours when the kids want to spend time with Daddy.

And no, don't worry about socialization. If your kids are around other people at all, they are socialized. I was concerned that my son would get enough of a chance to form friendships with other kids at first, so I made sure we had 2-3 playgroups a week to attend. We still do 1-2 of those, and sometimes more during the summer months. Since his younger brother is 5 years younger than he is, I was concerned about him being at home alone all the time! But, he is totally comfortable conversing with adults, and his current friends range from ages 4-10 (he's 7). He's not any more socially awkward than he would be if he were in public school (he has mild ASD, so is quirky to begin with). I have known both socially awkward and "normal, cool" homeschoolers, as well as socially awkward and "normal, cool" public school kids. Neither form of education has a monopoly on the social castes. :)

There are definitely difficult days, and days where I want to throw up my hands and just ship them all off to public school. But when I calm down and get over my own temper tantrum, I always come back to the fact that the benefits outweigh the hard days, and that deep down, I know this is right for us. I too have done "different" parenting techniques (co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding our adopted kids, etc), so I know what you mean by family disapproval. But you are right, when you know what is right for your family, deep down inside, nothing else matters.

Best of luck to you! I could talk homeschool for hours, but I'll stop there, and just wish you the best of luck!