Category Archives: Confessions of a Former Teacher

Which Homeschool Method is Right for My Child?

right-238370_640There are many methods and philosophies for homeschooling. I can’t condemn any one of them. As long as your method doesn’t include letting your child run wild, while never involving him in discussion that leads to learning, you should be commended for taking on the task that God has given you in the raising of your child. What is key in this education endeavor is finding what works for you and each of your family members. Personalities, talents, and interest vary widely from family to family and person to person. Why would we all homeschool in the same way?

If the method you thought was right hasn’t been working, even though you have given it your best efforts, give yourself permission to change it to suit the needs of your family or the individual child. If the method of homeschooling is working for you, in other words, your kids are learning and your methods don’t cause strife in the home, then don’t let those outside your family shake your resolve. Keep on keeping on.

The truth is there are a lot of great homeschool methods out there, Charlotte Mason, TJEd, unschooling,  basal curriculum and more.  Learning what your children need is not going to happen overnight. It takes time and diligence. So, when you experience some blow-outs don’t freak out. This life affords a lot of do-overs. Forgive yourself. Forgive your kids. Take a day off or whatever you need to collect yourselves. The day is very forgiving.

Whatever you do, don’t spend all your time trying to force learning down your child’s throat. No matter how good the method or curriculum you chose sounds, no matter how logical it seems, you must consider that we are all so diverse. Our learning style is different,  our temperament is different, and our aptitude and abilities are different. And at some point you just may have to face that your child has a limit of understanding, whether it be because of a special need or because Joe is Joe. You might have a mechanic on your hands. He might be bound for vocational school instead of college.  Frankly I love a skilled and honest mechanic. I had a great one through college that kept my jalopy running. On the other hand, you might have a child that excels on his own, who has such focus and determination that he goes through material like the energizer bunny and leaves you and your other children in the dust choking on fumes as he ventures into subjects you did n’t know existed.

If the method you chose is not working and your child is bucking at every task given, consider letting his learning be more self directed and self taught, by taking a guiding role instead of a teaching role. This is especially helpful when a child is not completely trusting of your ability to take on the teaching role (or when you are too scared to). Allow him then, to begin sharing with you what he has learned in casual discussion.

Meanwhile, take on your own learning, perhaps at the same time of day. Something new. Sewing, crochet, making yogurt (whatever really). Watch youtube videos. Read blogs and library books. Produce something from your learning. Show  him that being smart is not about knowing all the answers, but knowing where to find out what you want to know. Learn beside each other.

My oldest is super bright. Truly, if I tell you the details, I would feel I was bragging. It has nothing to do with me it is totally hereditary and she gets it from here father. They are both very annoyingly smart. Hence Jeopardy is never viewed in or home. However my daughter’s weakness lies in the fact that she stops actively listening when she thinks she already knows the information. She tends to miss out on important new details. I still do read-alouds. I do want her to learn to listen, but I have changed her schedule a bit to include a range of specific resources for learning (websites or books), and subtopics(multiplication) under the state required subjects (math)  for her to pick from. We discuss frequently what she is working on, what she has read, what progress she has made. This allows much of her learning to be self directed, though I am right there beside her when she falls into a ditch. It  has been a learning experience for both of us. She still has a listening problem, but here is much more respect for me as her teacher. This does not fit any of the above methods perfectly,  but I cannot argue its effectiveness. She is interested, busy, and learning. I am happy.

empty-314554_640One of the problems in public school is that teachers were not in charge of the classroom, so if the teacher has developed a relationship with a student or simply has a personal teaching style that meets opposition from admin, the teacher has to abandon what she knows to be the best practice for a child in exchange for what outsiders propose to be the “best practices in teaching.”

Here we can enter the discussion of collectivism vs. individualism. Do we really want to adopt a philosophy of  thinking of the group to the suffering of the individual. Sure they have small group teaching in public school. For how long, and how well do they get to know what each child needs? Do the quick learners get the same attention or is time too short? If  they deem one child un-teachable, will he get attention at all? It is almost impossible for individualized curriculum int he public school. Individualism is what is needed no matter your curriculum or method adopted.

How can another person attack your teaching choices without being guilty of leaving out the individual? There is simply not one and only one way to teach your children. One could argue that there is a right and a wrong way to teach your child, but that can only be discovered  by you, when you experience success or failure with a particular child.

My personal approach is to teach my children the basics (a love of reading, writing and math) and then to show them how to use these to research about any topic they want. I want my kids to understand that they are the teachers and learners. Sometimes guidance is needed, but I am not the only authority. In fact sometimes I have to Google the answer. In public school there is way to much dependence on the teacher for the “correct” information.  My last years were spent as a fifth grade teacher. I expected independence on some tasks, after all they had so much more practice thinking than my first graders. However, while my first graders were plunking out five pages during writing, my fifth graders couldn’t think past a paragraph.

Some parents do not agree that you can allow this kind of self guided approach for a bought curriculum, but you can teach your child within a matter of weeks, how to look up a tutorial on whatever subject he is working on in a book, in order to teach himself and complete the page. My daughter thinks this is the coolest thing. She is taking charge of her own education. I am still there in the circumstance that she needs more help or simply wants to share how exciting the information is. She delights in this too.

shoes-291845_640If you are unsure about what curriculum or method to choose, don’t choose one yet. De-school. Have some fun with the local library. Let your kids check out books that they want to read. Encourage a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Enjoy some free outings with other homeschoolers or on your own as a family. Enjoy some movies that teach science, social studies, or theology. Work on life skills like doing the laundry, preparing a meal, or cleaning a bathroom. Oh, you know your child is going to love that one! Or simply put off buying a curriculum and build from from free sources on the internet until you find the one you are in love with (although you could build your own for free until graduation).

Whatever the method or curriculum you choose, don’t let hecklers dissuade you. I know some moms doing the bought curriculum from cover to cover, happy as a lark (and so are their kids). On the other hand, I know moms that are unschooling with the same satisfaction.

New homeschool moms need to read homeschool articles, blog, books, and posts while realizing that all of this advice is subjective.  Sometimes moms read these things and start doubting everything they are doing, others get really defensive and act like someone is questioning them or judging them. Maybe someone is but who cares?  They are  not the ones loving your children, raising them, housing them, feeding them, and they won’t be paying their college bill (not that college has to be the goal). I have one kiddo that  doesn’t care to go. She doesn’t feel like she needs it. Frankly, I have to agree. Her skills will sell themselves. I think she is already a success. There are those that think that college is the goal. Early graduation is the goal. I say that enjoying the learning day in and day out and finding a passion to follow is the goal. If your kids get that, Homeschool is successful. If college is needed for their passion then your little success will probably learn whatever is needed to make that happen.

You are going to find out what fits your kids by learning and gaining understanding your kids day in and day out over the first couple of months of school. When you feel you have a grasp on things, tailor whatever curriculum or method to your findings.



Our Decision to Homeschool

We decided to homeschool for several different reasons that I will elaborate on in other posts. Each has its own set of influences.  The first is the public school lack of individualized 100_1016curriculum. It doesn’t matter whether your state is under Common Core or not, any state with a standardized test is practice a cookie cutter philosophy. Each stage of development had an age range. Children gain mastery in these stages at different times, some faster, some slower than others. How or to what speed a person learns is as diverse  as their interest are. None of these were being addressed in the public school classroom.

Although I was teaching my own class of students with learning obstacles and already had to meet my students at whatever stage they were when they came to me, I was restricted by what the district said to teach because their goal was different than mine. While I wanted them to learn to read and then through reading learn whatever they wanted to learn, whatever their soul desired, the district was interested in scores.

At the same time, my daughter was GT (gifted and talented) tested in kindergarten in the 99th percentile. She was reading on a fourth grade level. Though she was labeled and had a GT, I saw teachers limit these students that were ready to move ahead. They were academically neglected and by the time she was in third grade, the gap in her reading level started closing in. She also dealt with bullying by a teacher. He was a painfully slow talker. And, even though we sometimes wait painstakingly for her to finish her thoughts, her and other quick-minded students would finish his sentences for him. Instead of teaching them manners and empathy, he targeted them. I was already a hands-on-mom and thought I knew what was going on in the class, years later I was still getting stories and tears.

When my son entered kinder, he was dealing with  the left-over of some minor autistic markers. We had already denied further immunizations and began recovery in speech, behavior, and allergies caused by the immunizations. We had overwhelming success. The behaviors he was left with where what you might see in others labeled with ADHD. He had still not made any friends his own age. He still lacked empathy and had difficulty not smiling when being corrected,  and he definitely had issues being still, but he was on the mend. I was thrilled with the progress, but knew that his teachers did not have the background to understand where we were coming from, what we left behind. I explained the situation to his teacher (also a friend) she said she understood and would do what was necessary to help him be successful. Very early on, he began missing out on class for things like pushing someone that cut in front of him in line, a very typical behavior for an egocentric age. It continued and he spent a lot of time being shuffled from classroom to classroom, instead of correcting and teaching inside the classroom. I just kept thinking to myself, “Where do I get to send him at home when he repeats the behavior. I can’t shuffle him around from house to house. Don’t give me the excuse that teaching has to continue, because at home, I still have other things to do, cleaning, parenting other children, serving my husband. At that age, a teacher is still attending to character development, so tend to it already!”

Sometimes, I found that it was because the teacher couldn’t handle him and her head-ache at the same time. I bit my tongue not telling how many times I suffered from migraines and not one of my wannabe gang bangers ever went to the office unless my hand was force. I kept my kids in my class, because I could not teach them the love of reading from any other place. I had students with problems too, but many times that is what cause the lack of attention to learning.

Meanwhile, my son struggled with the writing part of his homework (Really?). I modified it and spent most of our time reading with him. By the end of kinder he was reading on 2nd grade level. Within a couple of months of homeschool he is  reading on 3rd. My strong belief is that wherever your kids are there they are. If they advance, don’t hold them back. If they struggle, don’t push them forward. To be honest, individualized teaching is the philosophy we heard in every college class and every workshop we teachers ever attended, but we were not being asked to teach that way when we got into the classroom. I was disillusioned, but wanted to be there for my students, so I stuck it out for 15 years. I loved my students and didn’t see many others that did. My students were targeted because of their race, their culture, and their socio-economic level. Year after year, I was asked by close colleagues to stay and continue my work with them, but once I saw my own children being affected by the broken system, and my health was beginning to suffer from the stress I was taking on, I had to leave. It was bitterseet. It was the right step and now my children can be on whatever level they’re at. My son still struggles with writing, and we move gradually with it. With reading, the sky is the limit. I will guide, he will lead.

You can read more about why we homeschool on Homeschool Forgiveness.