Those “Crazy” Unschoolers

I realize I am probably one of maybe 100,000+ people who are going to blog about this today, but what can I say?…OCCASIONALLY I fit in with the crowd. 

If you even vaguely keep your ear to the grindstone of the homeschooling world, you probably heard about the Good Morning America story this morning on unschoolers.  I actually watched it in real time because a friend called to let me know it was coming on.  So I got ready to watch.  I even called in Uber to watch with me.

And we sat there excitedly waiting – – in awe that they were doing a feature piece on unschooling on morning television! Then, our awe slowly turned to confusion, and then basically to disgust as we realized that not only were they profiling the two most radically “unschooled” families in the universe, but that they were actually generalizing that all unschoolers looked like that.  Even worse, the commentators decided to drop out honey-soaked judgmental condescensions every chance they got.  (“well-meaning”, “crazy” (thanks George!), “playing hooky”)

What bugged me the most was that the piece really had very little to do with unschooling at all.  I’m guessing GMA edited out all the parts where the parents outlined the benefits of this form of education, the parts where they quoted liberally from Holt, and the parts where they show the children actually able to put two sentences together that make some semblance of intelligent sense.  At least I HOPE they edited out those parts.

Instead, they decided to focus on the ridiculousness of parents who don’t really make their children do chores, or have house rules, or even attend to personal hygiene.  If that’s the case, then I don’t know what the big deal is.  It’s basically just natural selection at that point, right?  The universe is bound to weed out those whose teeth fall out before they are 12 anyway, and leave behind the strong, publicly educated children who eat the healthy foods from the school cafeteria and ALWAYS follow the rules.  It will all work out in the end.

GMA is doing a follow-up on this story tomorrow where all the crazed teachers whose egos this story threatens can call in and ask questions of these model parents.  I’m going to sleep well tonight knowing that these two will be speaking for me and all my unschooling friends as they field questions about the legal and societal implications of their decisions. 

You know those teachers who have been out of work since the economic downturn?  The ones who have been struggling to find some meaning in their life since their time in the classroom?  The ones who have time to sit around and watch GMA in the mornings while they scan the want-ads. Whatcha wanna bet they may have just found a cause they can all rally around and start campaigning against in their spare time??

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Maybe I Can Practice While I Vacuum

Believe me, I understand how vomitous it is to read yet another blog post by someone saying how busy they are.

But I am seriously, no-holds-barred, barely-can-find-time-to-take-a-shower, ready-to-run-screaming-down-the-street kind of busy right now. 

So please forgive me for my bloggy neglect. 

j0283975 And to ADD to the busyness I am seriously thinking of taking up the harmonica.  I have no idea why.  I just want to.  My dad played a little, and maybe I’m just having missing-my-daddy issues.  But the harmonica looks like so much dang fun to play. 

On the downside, I’ve never really been able to get proficient in playing any other instrument.  Five years of piano lessons gave me the ability to plunk through a few elementary-age songs fairly well.  That is the height of my expertise.

To make it even worse, I have several family members who can pick up any musical instrument and make it bend to their will immediately. 

Stupid gene selection!! 

We have a neighbor who sits out on her back deck every night and plays the Native American flute.  Won’t it be cool when I just chime in with my harmonica out of the blue one evening???!!!  It’s almost worth it to learn just for that moment alone.

But the most positive side effect of all?  My boys will see that you are NEVER too old to let your interests lead you toward learning.  Golly, I love unschooling!!

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Keyboarding

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

I have to think back a bit to remember my beginning keyboarding days.  It was called “typing” back in the day, and there were about eight of us in the back of a classroom listening to our instructor over the whir of the electric typewriters.  “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” A-a-a-S-s-s-;-;-;-L-l-l 

(zzzzzzz…)

But it worked, I suppose.  I took to typing quite well, and can easily break 90wmp when I’m on a roll.  My kids, however, learned typing QUITE differently.  And yet, even their techie keyboarding tools are quickly becoming outdated.  So I’m going to share with you a mixture of my favorite tried-and-true programs, along with some cutting edge tools that are in store for THIS generation’s typists.

  • Read, Write, and Type – – my absolute fave multisensory, multi-learning-style phonics program for kids!  By combining hearing sounds, typing keys, and writing words, in my opinion this is one of the best programs out there for young readers and keyboarders.  It’s also now available online!
  • If you are REALLY serious about having you or or child learn to type, you might consider a device made just for this purpose.  Both my boys perfected their keyboarding skills by using  The Writer
  • Another no-nonsense program I’ve heard great things about is TypingWeb.  You can even be “certified” by the Typing Institute of America (hey, sometimes those things matter to people!!)
  • If you have a dedicated typing program, but just want some fun practice, I highly recommend the keyboarding games at LearningGamesForKids.
  • If you, like me, aren’t sure keyboards are going to look very much like they do now in the next ten years, then you might want to have your child also focus on some skills for the very near future…touchscreen typing.  Think I’m kidding?  Check out this technology that could leave us key-tappers in the dust:
    My other question is…can accurate voice-directed typing be far behind??  In fact, maybe this whole POST is basically obsolete!! (((sigh))) I’ve never felt so useless in all my life…

 

To view ALL the Fridays’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints posts, click here.

April Giveaway at SecularHomeschool.com

cooltext454244746 Just launched the April giveaway at SHS.com today, so head over and enter if you have (or will have) a child in 2nd-5th grade and would be interested in winning a secular-based homeschool chemistry curriculum from Pandia Press.

Putting Real Life on Hold

This is the week.  The week of the school year that always makes me cringe and make scrunchy faces and feel like taking more than one shower a day.

This week is STANDARDIZED TEST week.

Hmph!j0439533

Our state is BIG on the standardized testing.  I mean it’s REALLY  important here, for some reason.  I’m pretty sure that if every other child in America got “left behind” the ones in our state would stick their tongues out at them and deride them for not being able to fill in those little circles correctly. 

In our public schools here, they start teaching “Testing Skills” in kindergarten.  I’m not exaggerating even a little when I tell you that recesses were shortened so that kindergarteners could get in their Testing Skills practice daily! (And our state legislature can’t for the life of them figure out why there is so much growth in homeschooling here in the last five years.  I guess standardized testing doesn’t necessarily guarantee brilliant politicians??)

But sadly, homeschoolers are not immune to the testing fetish here either.  Our state homeschooling regulations include a requirement that homeschoolers take a nationally standardized test annually.  As much as I have always detested high stakes testing and all that it represents, I admit that this year it has bugged me more than ever.

Probably because we are in such a terrific relaxed-learning groove.  In fact, neither Uber nor H-T has taken anything close to a “test” this entire school year.  And yet now, they are supposed to stop what they are doing, halt their enthusiasm for whatever it is they are learning at the moment, and prove their knowledge by sitting at a desk for two hours at a stretch and filling in little circles with a specifically numbered pencil. 

I remember back in my public school days when we would have a half day of testing-prep followed by a whole day of testing.  And I’ll never forget one of my science teachers getting up the next day and opening up our text book and saying…”well, let’s get back to real life, shall we?”  The teachers knew better than anyone that what we had been doing for two days was completely ridiculous, highly political, and a huge waste of time.  They knew, and yet they were required to do it anyway.

I feel so helplessly in the same shoes today.  Heaven only knows how anxiously I await “real life” to resume again.

Why We Homeschool…The Sequel

So.

Where were we?

Oh yeah.  Deciding whether or not to send my little guy back into the world of mass-market learning.  Well…I spent the whole summer before Uber’s 1st grade year studying my options…

  • Private school?  Not even an possibility.  Therapies and doctors visits had already put our rears in arrears.
  • Public school? Scary.  I’d heard horror stories from local moms about how their kids with special needs were mercilessly teased and how services for kids with IEP’s or even worse – – giftedness – – were basically non-existent.
  • Charter school?  Hey, there’s an option. So we went for it!

But no one told me that the brand new charter school which was getting such rave reviews had a waiting list about three miles long. (and btw, Uber could’ve probably done the unit conversion for that to kilometers in his head at that age!)

So we homeschooled again the next year.  And the next.  And it was a rousing success. But when H-T’s time came along, would you believe I STILL couldn’t quite give up the dream?  That’s right, H-T’s cute little five-year-old tushie was marched right into kindergarten. 

And yes, I got to be a homeroom helper.  And wait in the drop-off/pick-up line.  And even bring cupcakes for his birthday.  The whole kit-n-kaboodle!!  Yet when his teachers sat down with me for his first conference and told me they suspected he might have a learning disability, the very first thought that came to my mind was…

“Well, I’ll just homeschool him then.”

So I did.

And except for a short bout of Uber wanting to try his wings in school during sixth grade and part of seventh, that is exactly what we have done. 

Not because I didn’t believe in the public school system – – far from it.  But because I believed it was the best choice for my individual kiddos.  And I still believe it…so much so that this year I’ve even trusted my kids enough to put the bulk of the responsibility for their education into their own hands. 

And when they sit in their therapist’s office twenty years from now, and regale her with tales of how they are in the crappy mess they are in because their mother didn’t “socialize” them properly, I will STILL believe I made the right choice.  (and probably also that my latest facelift makes me looks a little too much like Charo)

But those are the breaks, kids.  All I can do is what I think is best for my boys, who I say I “love” when “love” doesn’t even begin to cut it. 

Here’s hoping they’ll think so too someday…

Beyond the Ditto…Why We Homeschool

The other day I wimped out and lazed my way through the topic of why we homeschool by basically just “ditto”-ing Pioneer Woman’s terrific post on the subject.  But today, I’m feeling a slight pinch more wordy and thought I would follow up with an actual post for those of you who just might be wondering.

I certainly didn’t start out as a slighty-tech-crazed, work-at-home, mom with a pseudo-unschooling bent.  Far from it.  That has all been a LONG and convoluted process.  In fact, as the child of two former classroom teachers I had nothing but chalkboard fantasies for my offspring.

I pictured myself attending PTA meetings (do they still HAVE those??), being a homeroom volunteer, and bringing cupcakes to all my kids friends on their birthdays (I KNOW they don’t still have that!!)  I was ready to embrace the 180 day routine – – lock, stock and barrel.  UNTIL…

The spring before Uber started kindergarten he began having tics – – just mild ones like sniffing too much and scrunching his shoulders up, and chewing on his shirt collar.  And then the day after his five year vaccinations (don’t get me started!!!!) the tics became suddenly violent, and were joined by dystonia and choreiform movements.  Suddenly our little guy was unable to eat by himself, walk in a straight line, or even talk intelligibly. 

Our pediatrician sent us to the state childrens hospital where Uber was diagnosed with “Sydenham’s Chorea,” an autoimmune disorder.  He was in the hospital for about five days, and then in occupational, speech, and physical therapy for a full two years after.  It left him permanently with both motor and vocal tics, and a later diagnosis of “Tourette Syndrome.” 

His kindergarten year was spent mostly in therapists office, so homeschooling was sort of a “given.”  But as I worked one on one with him – – despite all the incredible physical challenges he was having to overcome daily – – the kid was eating up knowledge as fast as I could dish it out. (like I said, this was long before my understanding of “interest-led learning, when I thought you still had to spoon-feed education to children).  By the end of what would have been his kindergarten year, he was reading on a fourth grade level, was doing second grade math, and writing full paragraphs. 

The next year, I was quite hesitant about sending my ticcing little brainiac back to a regular classroom.  I had to think long and hard about what we would do for first grade. You would think that I would have been completely convinced about homeschooling and its benefits by this time, but socialized education was in the very fiber of my upbringing and it was going to take some more convincing before I was ready to completely chuck my yellow bus fantasies…

STAY TUNED FOR THE CONTINUED SAGA OF THE TOPSY’S FORAY INTO HOME EDUCATION…