Friday, November 25, 2011

A Homeschool Perk for which I am Thankful

Seeing how the holidays are times for families to get together, that also means an unexpected bonus -- grandparents who are willing and eager to babysit.  So my husband and I have had a rare gift of quiet time for just the two of us. While the kids dragged their grandparents off to a jumpy place, we spent some time having a few of those conversations that never seem to occur when children are present.  It is often difficult to discuss real world matters (or even household matters) while enduring the constant barrage of "Mommy, Mommy... Daddy, Daddy" followed by a need for assistance, arbitration or refereeing.    This was followed by a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant with white tablecloths and excellent service.  It is amazing the dining experience one can have when there is not a french fry or chicken nugget to be had on the menu... but alas that is a topic for another blog entry.

Now we are indulging in the luxury of relaxing in a quiet, local coffee shop. This may very well be bliss.  I understand that Black Friday to many means elbowing through the masses at unholy, early hours fighting for a great deal. Personally, I would rather have every strand of hair on my head pulled out one by one until I was bald.  There is nothing that I either wanted or needed so badly that would justify getting up at "O' Dark Early" and standing in a line waiting for a store to open.  Give me a laptop and an Amazon Lightning Deal any day, if I need to feel a part of the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

So while I am lounging on a comfy sofa, sipping a Salted Carmel Mocha Latte, I got a little contemplative.  Ahh, this is the life.  We have so very much to be thankful for and are truly blessed.  But those of you who have been following my blog, know better than to expect a list of true, actual blessings.  There has to be some sarcasm or something less "touchy-feely" somewhere, right?

Well, thanks for your indulgence.  I do have a "lesser" blessing which is a real perk of homeschooling to be thankful for this season.  One of the most spectacularly wonderful perks of homeschooling is not being intimately tied to an alarm clock.  Having most days begun by the horrendous screech of an alarm clock since I was about eleven years old, this is pretty revolutionary. We still have alarm clocks and I even use them (especially for early morning basketball games), but my life does not revolve around the alarm clock. Hallelujah!

If we are up late for a good reason, for no reason or for any reason at all, we simply start our school day when we wake up.  Georgia does not have a homeschool police that will haul you off to the local public school if you don't start your school work by 8:00 a.m..  You've gotta love that!

Tuesday, my daughter was taking a children's cooking class on pies and pastries at Whole Foods.  This did necessitate the use of an alarm clock to ensure that we were there by 9:15.  We passed by the kids' old private school on the way to Whole Foods.  We could see all the extra cars in the parking lot for Grandparents' Day.  While it is a lovely tradition, I always resented having to get the kids up at 6:30 to be at school for such a short day.  We were usually in the car on our way home by 10:00 a.m. from the early dismissal. It hardly seemed worth the gas and fighting Atlanta traffic to get there before 8:00.  Well, not this year!

Another euphoric moment surrounding not being tied to the alarm clock occurs every week at my seven year old's basketball practice.  His practice starts at 7:30.  After practice, we walk in the door just a little before 9:00 p.m. with a dirty, sweaty, little boy who is wound-up, hungry (again) and in need of a bath.  If he had to be up the next morning by 6:30, I would be a stressed, frantic mom, foaming at the mouth while screaming, "Get to bed!" about every twelve seconds.  Not this year!  I don't resent the program or coach, I don't complain to everyone within ear shot that this is simply too late for little kids on a school night.  My son gets to bed when he gets to bed -- clean and fed (yet again).  I just let him sleep until he wakes up the next morning.

This is a revolutionary lifestyle for me!  Homeschoolers, by the very nature of what they are doing are bucking "the system."  They are stepping outside the norm and doing things in a whole new way.  But little did I know that homeschooling was going to be such a radical change of the way we had always lived our lives up til now.  I am truly grateful to step away from the necessity of a daily alarm clock.

Be honest, how many of your children are grumpy and miserable when they have to be awoken by an alarm clock???  We made jokes all last year about how my daughter could appear on a new Nick show called "iSnarly" because she was so very grumpy in the mornings after the alarm when off.  Last year, she left for school grumpy and returned home exhausted.  It is a true perk to see my child at times when she is not tired and grumpy.

I am only sorry that my husband is still forced to begin the majority of his days with an alarm clock.  The good news is that it does go off later now than when we had to get the kids to school.  But sadly, he still has to use it.  I feel guilty when he is forced to get up and hop in the shower while I am still dozing or giving our dog the attention she constantly craves while I am still warm and snug under the covers.  I genuinely feel guilty, but not so guilty as to set my own alarm clock.  After all, having been raised Catholic, I can live with some guilt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Myth of Socialization

Before committing to homeschooling my children, I thoroughly researched both the pros and cons of homeschooling.  While there were various "cons" mentioned throughout my research, there was one overriding concern expressed by those who were opposed to homeschooling... (prior to reading the word, I do so hope that you have the proper mental picture and actually hear the sound effects of dun, dun, dun, duh from Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in your mind) "SOCIALIZATION."

For those who are convinced that "socialization" is the preeminent goal and achievement of brick and mortar schooling, nothing will ever sway them from their position.  Which is fine, to each their own.  For me, however, education is my predominant concern and focus.  Actual understanding, obtaining knowledge and truly learning is my uppermost priority.  Socialization is an important part of development, but I do not believe that it is the "end all, be all," nor is there is only one "proper" method to obtain said "socialization."

It is my opinion that homeschooling is as unique to each individual family as our own homes are to each of us.  Who has ever walked into someone's home and found it decorated exactly the same as your own?  What kind of a crazy experience would that be?  Every sofa, throw-pillow, drape, picture, and chotchkies all identical??? It would be very creepy.  What about our individual taste and style?  I could never move into a house completely decorated by someone else and feel as if I was "at home."

So why is it that we not only accept, but expect total conformity and uniformity in education?

"Socialization" is a myth when it comes to homeschooling.  Homeschooling is not an "institution" that can be pegged into neat little categories.  Homeschooling is a choice made by individual parents to treat the education of their own children individually.

Will some people choose in their individualized education plans for their own unique family to isolate their children?  Perhaps.  Might some people choose to overcompensate out of a fear of a lack of socialization and over-schedule their children?  Maybe.  In life, people choose all sorts of different things. How many times have we wandered into the mall or Wal-Mart and wondered how on Earth someone could ever choose to wear that?   Your choice does not have to be mine, or vice versa.  Thank goodness!

I don't worry about socialization.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, "socialization" is the ability to mix socially with others or to behave in a way that is acceptable to their society.  My children are "socialized."  They are not isolated.  They are respectively a Girl Scout and Boy Scout in troops/dens comprised of children who are in traditional schools.  They both play sports.  They are also in a homeschool co-op group.  They play outside with the kids in the neighborhood.  They go to birthday parties and spend the night with friends.  They laugh.  They cry.  They skin their knees.  I would never allow them to become isolated.  It is not my style.  I am personally way too social for that.

The New York Times ran an article the other day inviting kids to comment on whether or not they would want to be homeschooled.  The comments are extremely interesting.  Many children were adamantly opposed to the idea of homeschool for socialization issues and rarely cited any educational concerns.  There were stark contrasts between the writing skills between traditionally schooled children and homeschooled children.  I found them fascinating.  Brick and mortar schools did not fare well when one looked at the child's ability to write a cohesive, grammatically correct comment.

"I think homeschooling is dumb. I think homeschooling doesn’t prepare kids for the real world. they don’t learn how to socialize with other people. Some parents may sugar code the kids. So they might not know everything there suppose to know. no i do not agree."— Leslie R
"Being homeschooled you can miss out on makeing friends and you might not have that well of an education. you would be missing out on alot. you need to be socaila and confident about talking in front of peopl and being around everyone and when your homeschooled it doesnt prepare you for that."
— Chelsea 

I think I will continue to "sugar code" my kids and I won't worry about their being "socaila."  I will, however, continue to worry about the state of education in our country.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is Homeschooling Working?

I haven't had a chance to post a new blog in quite a while.  Some of my friends have been very delicately asking, "So is everything still going okay?"  Since they haven't seen any of my ramblings or tirades posted, they are getting a bit worried.  Have no fear!  We are just busy... really, really busy.

Academically, things are rocking along.  Science and history are the kids' favorite subjects.  They love it and more importantly, they actually understand what they are learning!  Our experience at a STEM exposition which we attended at the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology several weeks ago illustrates this understanding.

One of the instructors gave my youngest a one-on-one demonstration of a scientific principle in which a fluorescent lightbulb lit up without actually be connected to a power source.  Here is a recap of their conversation.  It did not go the way the instructor expected.  I believe she was expecting a comment from him along the lines of, "Cool!" or "Neat!"  That is not quite what she got.  Of course, I will be unable to refrain from little editorial comments here and there.  Sorry!

After watching the light bulb light up:
My Son:  "It is kind of  like a covalent bond, they are sharing electrons, right?"

Instructor: (flabbergasted) "Uhh, (large pause) yes!  How old are you?" [Apparently she is thinking he is must be extremely short.]

My Son: "Seven."

Instructor: (completely shocked look) "Where do you go to school?"

My Son: "I don't."

[This worries me a bit when I first hear his answer. No school?  Are you kidding me?  What about all that work we do?  Remember math, language arts, spelling, science, history etc.???  We "do school!" Hmm, perhaps I am getting a tad defensive here.  Might he mean something else?  Duh! He is quite concrete and very literal.  He does not, in fact, "go" to a "school." Note to self:  Switch to decaf.]

Instructor looks at me a bit bewildered at this point.  I explain to her that we have just begun homeschooling and in all fairness, we are studying chemistry.

Instructor:  "Well it is certainly working."

Yes, yes it is!