Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homeschooling just got easier

My husband has been ambivalent about homeschooling our children since we first started discussing the topic. I found that I enjoyed being home with my children, playing with them and educating them more than I thought I would. Considering, I did not have a stay at home parent as a role model and had a tenous relationship with my parent who was an educator, I didn't see my taking naturally to that role. I figured I would rely on the school system to give my children what I couldn't provide for them at home. It was a pleasant surprise where I found myself hoping and even sometimes believing that I could give them better opportunities than the school system.

As the years have gone on, I've begun to consider homeschooling more seriously. Between my husband and I, we still discuss the pros and cons to homeschooling. In particular, his greatest concerns are regarding quality of science instruction, extra curricular opportunities (music and sports) and social interaction.

If we stayed in Seattle, I feel like I can cover most of those concerns. In the Seattle area, there are homeschool resource centers that offer classes for homeschoolers that act like electives. If a family feels like a child has a particular interest or talent in an area and the parents do not feel qualified to teach them at their level in that topic, the child can join other children in that class to learn. They get the classroom experience but its not all or nothing. Instead of committing to 7-8 hours a day, a schedule can be structured to be just a couple of hours a few times a week or one or two longer days a week.

I have been impressed at the communities of families that develop in these settings and find that ample opportunity is available for children to interact. Also, informal homeschooling groups provide those opportunities and many communities have groups of homeschoolers that get together on a regular basis for social activities, field trips, group work and service. There are so many sports and musical ensembles offered to children that those opportunities wouldn't be lacking either.

Science education is one of my husband's biggest concerns. Understandably, he's about to be a PhD in biology. He cares a great deal about science education. My own experience in private school meant that my math and science opportunities were lacking and he believes that its public schools who have the resources to teach students in lab settings. Some public school systems will allow homeschoolers to come into regular classes to pick up a subject. Even though that is an option, it wasn't ideal to us. Homeschool resource centers might be able to handle those classes well, especially if my husband were the parent teacher of the class...

He might be seriously considering that possibility now however. I don't understand what possessed him but last year, he found an old good quality telescope on ebay for a good price. He decided that was a learning opportunity he wanted to bring into our home and share with your children (who are only 5 and 2, mind you). He went all out and got 2 sets of mounted slides--in total 400 slides of various life forms from the plant and animal kingdoms as well as a slide preparation kit so we can mount our own slides with the children.

He kind of undercut his own argument by getting a better biology/telescope set-up than most high school labs have, and having more qualified instruction on hand for one and one interactions. I think he's completely lost that argument since we got on the mailing list for a certain catalog. It is a natural science supply store that basically supplies educators with tools and curriculum for science education. They sell pails of frogs and animal hearts for dissection for goodness sakes!

Especially exciting to us were the AP science curricula, and lab kits for children ages 8 and up. I can completely see my husband and I leading our children through the labs for AP biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science and supporting them as they prepare for the AP tests. That would be the kind of idealized science education where we were sure on the quality of instruction and felt like we had found a way to do it even better than the school system.

Obviously that is many years down the road at this point. For now, my son is a homeschooled kindergartener that is undeclared with the state since he technically does not qualify for state kindergarten. I get very frustrated with the age cut offs and my solution was to celebrate his 5th birthday with beginning kindergarten at home. If at some point we do put him into the school system, he'll go in at his age matched grade level but for now we are doing our own thing.

I'm just happy as the more I learn and discover about what all is out there, the more confident I am that we could homeschool our children and that they would get a good (if not better) education with us as their instructors. I'm especially confident in my children's abilities to seek out learning once they learn to read and write. That to me seems like the biggest challenge but I do believe that when they become motivated and see how much latitude and freedom they get from those skills, they'll be just fine in directing their own learning and getting everything they need from the education resources around them.


mk said...

Hi! I just found your blog through MMB and I'm going to start following. My son is only 2, but we already have been talking about the pros/cons of homeschooling and it's something I'm really interested in. Looking forward to reading more about your path to educate your kids!

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