31 Days: Day 4: The Reluctant Home Schooler

31 Days of Tying Up Loose Ends Oct 2011When I decided on “tying up loose ends” as the topic for my 31 Day series, many thoughts were in the back of my head as to what constitutes a “loose end”; as it turns out, lots of varied things. From giving up on projects that have waited too long to be finished to simple reinventions that benefit the household. Then there are loose ends of other sorts. I’m calling this post a virtual loose end.

I’m giving myself a platform for future posts and simultaneously tying up another loose end that has bothered me, but probably none of you since you don’t know about it anyway. ;)

I occasionally encounter people who somehow think that my family’s sarcasm is merely a high-gloss polyurethane coating on top of reality. This would mean that somehow sarcasm = truth with shiny, indestructible, highly endangering to the environment and small animals, non-yellowing coating. Sometimes it is just that, other times, it’s just a simple BS statement that has no real reflection on reality. It’s not that sarcasm is a lie and it’s not that all sarcasm doesn’t have a kernel of truth in it. It’s just that it is what it is and isn’t what it isn’t.

Sort of like when I’m on my blackberry in bed checking facebook and Mike walks in and says, “What are you doing?” and I not-so cleverly respond, “Knitting.” I used to say, “Shopping for… (insert cars, houses, flooring, small islands in the south Pacific)” but the truth is you really CAN shop for those things from a Blackberry so the sarcasm was completely lost on both of us.

Are we all completely lost yet? Truth is, I knit in bed quite often, but if I have my blackberry in my hand I’m either texting or facebooking and either way it’s pretty obvious thus the sarcastic response that usually garners a rude gesture from my husband.

OR… like my husband joking that we home school our youngest daughter, Maggie (age 7) because she said she didn’t want to go to school. He also jokes that we named her “Oops” because of the age difference between our kids (19, 16 and 7) – my husband is quite the comedian.

That brings me to my virtual loose end. You see, Maggie is in the second grade and is happily homeschooled through an extremely successful and wonderfully well-rounded virtual academy. My close friends know this already but I’ve always kept it somewhat quiet around here.

(Note: see that whole sarcasm thing and then wait for future, hilarious but easily misinterpreted by stupid people posts)

I find it amusing that most people assume (incorrectly) that I homeschool for religious purposes. Which makes me want to say, “Is my last name Duggar? Does my uterus look like a clown car to you?” Not that there is anything wrong with that (or the Duggars), it just isn’t why we do what we do around here. I actually homeschool so that my daughter can study things that are not being taught at this age level in the traditional brick and mortar school setting.

Recently a 15+ year teaching veteran turned home school mom told me:

“In my opinion, we’ve been nannied by the state government for so long that people are beginning to not trust themselves to make decisions for their own children’s education and are instead relying upon the so-called “experts.” Knowledge and information collecting is changing due to the internet and our method of delivering that information to our children therefore should change too…

I found that schools are institutionalizing the students and are training them from day one to obey authority and survive the institution. The better trained the kids are from day one, the more compliant they’ll be as they get older and have to face these large class sizes. School isn’t about the joy of learning as much as it’s become about molding the kids into adults that will fit into our society without too much fuss.”

Our days consist of Math, History, Science, Language Arts, Art and Spanish.

In her first year of kindergarten Maggs had memorized all seven continents and can correctly find them on the globe according to cardinal direction (north, east, south and west) in addition to explaining what animals are indigenous, the type of climate and major features/countries of each continent.

I don’t know about you, but we didn’t get around to that sort of thing until close to 6th grade and it was a struggle for many of us as up until that point geography consisted of grinding our address, hometown and state into our brains with little thought to their global relationship to the rest of the planet. I think that was probably to keep us from being lost at the mall. Fortunately, Maggie’s kindergarten geography consisted of global to local and she has an amazing grasp of that.

History has covered the origins of numerous cultures and religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. Everything is covered from a factual standpoint and without judgment or opinions.

At this point Maggs functions at a 3rd to 4th grade math level and has already been introduced to numerous algebraic concepts that I didn’t dip my toe into until close to 7th grade.

Language Arts is a challenge simply because Maggie isn’t interested in reading, but her father was much the same and that really came in full-swing around 2nd grade for him. This has been a source of frustration for me because Kate and Ethan were both reading well above their grade level as early as kindergarten.

Clearly, Maggie got the short-end of the DNA stick. I’m mostly saying my DNA is only superior in the reading department… probably. (Does that semi-retraction make you feel better, Mike?) ;) Still, no one can breakdown a sentence like Maggie; she has a clear understanding of subject, predicates, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc.

Maggie is in her second year of Spanish, we elected to go with a foreign language instead of music since Mike also gives Maggie guitar lessons. I wasn’t thrilled with our music course in kindergarten and was absolutely stoked when they brought on the foreign language program and Maggie was allowed to start it in first grade when most kids in the program didn’t get the opportunity to begin until second or third grade. We live in California so Spanish is a practical choice. Latin or French… not so much.

Our art lessons consist of studying and occasionally duplicating the works of Monet, Manet, and Matisse to name only a few. Last year she studied architecture and ancient Chinese sculpture. In short, no finger painting, no big blurry jack-o-lanterns at Halloween and no disfigured Christmas trees with glitter that is still found in the carpet around Easter.

Mike and I are constantly amazed and impressed with how the concepts are taught and we can see where it makes mastering the concepts so much easier than when we were in school. I am considered her “learning coach” and we meet with her teacher via computer conferencing and in face-to-face meetings twice a quarter.

For the most part, I enjoy home schooling simply because I know from my experiences with both Ethan and Kate that Maggie is getting a far richer academic experience than she would being shuffled from class to playground. Unfortunately, too much time in traditional brick and mortar education is spent teaching children to conform, stand in lines and worry about their behavior charts.

We’ve never been concerned about Maggie’s behavior and she doesn’t eat like a wolf in public so we figured why worry about it now. Oops… there goes that sarcasm again.

Truthfully, in terms of “socializing” – the entire point of socializing a child is so that they can conduct themselves appropriately and interact with other people responsibly. To that end we have community days with other students and field trips. Eventually we plan to put her in a Tae Kwan Do or other self defense course but all in all, she’s quite confident, happily orders for herself in restaurants, has no problem talking to anyone and is always polite and well behaved.

I’d hate to send her to traditional school and have all that ruined.
Again with the sarcasm… don’t shoot, it’s a joke.

It was never really my plan to do it this way, but when we first enrolled Maggie in kindergarten we had planned to walk her to school every morning and the school (due to an overflow of students) wanted to then put her on a bus and send her 5 miles away to another school. We weren’t comfortable with that and when I came across the program we are using, I knew we had found an excellent match.

Turns out, we made the right choice for us (clearly, not everyone can do this and I’m not bashing those who don’t) and we’re all happier for it.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t bumps in the road and that I don’t have days where I’d like to slam my head in a closet door. Most days, it’s just like any other academic environment, except we don’t have to wear shoes and we can chew gum in class. Also? We take breaks to play “Just Dance” on the Wii. Who needs recess? ;)

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Check out all my posts in this “31 Days of Tying Up Loose Ends” series here.

And, you can check out all the other 31 Dayers here!

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