Posts tagged " homeschooling "

Maps, Graphs and Charts: Yes, They Still Matter

October 6th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Over the course of the festival of Sukkot, Jews who follow a Torah path make every effort to eat outdoors in a Sukkah (a temporary “hut” built to certain Biblical specifications). This year, my husband and I did not build a Sukkah of our own as we do most years. Instead, we are relying on sharing the Sukkot of our gracious children and neighbors. In that way, we found ourselves this morning having breakfast with a 20-something young man, son of one of our host families.

This charming and accomplished youth asked us a question about our beloved boat trips in the Pacific Northwest. As my husband replied, he realized that our young neighbor, an east coaster,  wasn’t familiar with the area. From experience, I knew what was coming.

“When you are going on a journey or to a new place, do you look at a map to get the lay of the land?” my husband asked.

“No, I use my GPS,” came the expected reply.

Even today, our home is stocked with maps. We do not set out on a long trip without a paper record of the areas through which we will be going. The above conversation is one that my husband frequently has, especially with those under the age of 35. Each time, he is amazed at the answer. While GPS has its highly respected place in our lives, my husband cannot imagine not having a mental overall picture against which the GPS voice can be measured. Leaving oneself open to befuddlement if the directions mess up, as they certainly sometimes do, is anathema to him.

As the discussion continued, I remembered a homeschooling resource that I valued and enjoyed. It is possible that my children enjoyed it as well, but whether they did or did not, it bore its fruit. The series, Maps, Charts and Graphs by Modern Curriculum Press began with a first volume geared to second grade and then increased in complexity for quite a number of years. It taught how to read maps, graphs and charts, explained different types and uses of each of these tools, and imparted interesting information along the way.

I did a quick search and found that this series is still available. In all honesty, I last saw it many years ago so I cannot guarantee that the product hasn’t changed. I’m sure there are many newer competing products available now as well. But I do think there is value in practicing this material on paper rather than only via a computer or an app. This recurring conversation with young men and women who have little or no familiarity with maps led me to want to share this resource with you.

Keep It New and Exciting

September 15th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Two weeks ago was our grandson’s first day of school. He isn’t a five-year-old starting kindergarten, but rather a fourteen-year-old beginning high school. As a homeschooler, he learned a great deal, but he never set foot in a formal school environment.

His parents were not compelled to send him; one of his older brothers is homeschooling high school and he could have taken that path as well. However, our daughter and son-in-law, in agreement with their son, thought that this school would be a perfect match and offer him a great deal.  It has been thrilling hearing his reactions. His excitement as he leaves for school each day (a day that runs from 7:45 am to 9:30 pm as it includes a great deal of Torah study) is a joy to behold. We laughed with delight at his exclamation, “Math teachers are awesome!” when an obviously talented teacher explained a difficult concept.

He is confused by one thing. While some of his classmates—none of whom were homeschooled—are eager learners, others slump into their seats as class begins and prepare for a nap. He cannot understand their lack of interest.

As adults, parents and teachers have the awesome opportunity of introducing so much of life to innocent children. One of our gravest responsibilities is making sure not to diminish the wonder of life and learning for the next generation.

A talented parent or teacher can peel open a book revealing depths not necessarily evident on a first reading. A mentor can point a child towards an understanding of history that will help the youth become a greater person. A science teacher can reveal the wonders of the universe and God’s creation to thirsty minds and hearts. Those same educators can crush a love of learning, impoverishing and harming a child.

Maybe your children are going back to school, either in person or online. Maybe you are taking those first exciting, scary and momentous steps and homeschooling for the first time. Let’s hope, and what’s more take steps to ensure, that whatever teachers our children have, we and they are not among the Grinches stealing the pleasure from education.

  

The Socialization Trap

July 28th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

During this pandemic, many parents have been surprised to discover just how valuable family time is. Some discovered that their children made more academic progress by not going to traditional school. No matter what the benefits, however, many had to cope with kids who desperately missed their friends.

This last problem might lead some parents who are thinking, “Wow, could homeschooling be for us?” to dismiss it out of hand. After all, no matter what the benefits of being home, friendship and social interactions are important.

Three of my daughters—all homeschooling moms—and I were each asked to film a short video about socialization and homeschooling. We’re actually not sure where the final product will be seen, but we know the person collecting the videos so we were willing to participate. As things developed, our eldest was helping facilitate the COVID-19 wedding of a friend so she didn’t manage to contribute. My other daughters and I ended up approaching the topic from different directions and I thought you might enjoy getting a composite view.

DD3 and her husband took advantage of the changes wrought by the virus to load their three children onto an RV and set off to discover America. She made the point that her children are meeting all sorts of people at each RV park they frequent. They are becoming less diffident and shy as they meet both kids and adults from different backgrounds and areas. Since everyone might move out at any moment, there is no time for slowly warming up to each other. This has made her realize that, in schools, kids are often with basically the same group of friends for many years. Certainly, some social skills are practiced, but breaking out of the school bubble is valuable as well.

DD2 spoke about the many social opportunities her children usually have ranging from homeschool coop scenarios to homeschool activities run by the local science center or other organizations. The picture of children sitting at home and seeing no one may be applicable to a pandemic situation, but it certainly does not represent most families and their normal homeschooling experiences. After initially being excited at how very many social activities are available, many homeschooling moms end up realizing that they need to choose carefully so that they do not find their entire week taken up with running between amazing options. The challenge is often too much socialization rather than too little.

The point I made was to question what the word socialization means in the first place. During my 16-year homeschooling journey, my children made friends based more on interest than on age. Isn’t that how life works? As adults, we don’t restrict our friendships to those born within the same year as us nor to those who live in the same neighborhood. As the only Jewish family within a once-a-week Christian coop, my children learned to clearly define and be proud of their unique family and religious heritage at the same time as they learned that we can be friends with those who are different from us. They took classes at the coop based on their interests rather than their age and learned to function in a group with those both older and younger than they were.

It isn’t uncommon for those parents whose children face social difficulties in school to decide to homeschool. In many cases, parents find it easier to work on these difficulties, with or without professional help, while their children aren’t having daily negative experiences in school. Outsiders may see a struggling child and attribute their awkwardness to homeschooling while the reality is that the cause and effect are reversed. The child is homeschooling because he had challenges; the challenges aren’t the result of the homeschooling.

Most kids who would socially do well in school are perfectly fine making friends through the homeschooling community as well as at their neighborhoods and synagogues or churches. Those of my children who transitioned to school during their high school or college years had no difficulty whatsoever in making friends and I hear the same from others.

If you have found that having your children home has brought blessing into your family, I hope you won’t take homeschooling off the table because of the false narrative that the need for  “socialization”  can only take place in traditional school settings. You may not have a choice next year—when and how schools will open is up for debate. However, if your school opens in a way that isolates each child and “socialization” is no longer even a goal of schooling, I hope you know that having friends and getting along with others is extremely important, but something that parents are perfectly capable of facilitating.

Time to Outlaw Homeschooling?

April 23rd, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 37 comments

Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, an esteemed mentor of my husband’s and a revered teacher of thousands, once gave my husband an unusual blessing. He said, “May God protect you from those who believe they are acting for the sake of Heaven.” His eyes twinkled as he spoke, but there was deep sincerity behind his words.

Those who believe that their motives are entirely pure, selfless and represent the only truth are dangerous indeed. Those who deliberately use the language of morality, selflessness and idealism to bamboozle others are likely even more dangerous.

I do not know Professor Elizabeth Bartholet or whether she believes that she is acting only for the public good, but having read her essay in the Arizona Law Review warning about the potential abuses of homeschooling and recommending judicial action to counter parental authority, I do know that her thinking is dangerous indeed. As the Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, she is in a position to do great harm.

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School at Home vs. Homeschooling

April 20th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 2 comments

Now that families are settling into an isolation routine, I thought it worthwhile to distinguish between schooling at home and homeschooling.

When my mother was small, she contracted polio. Over the course of her childhood, she spent many months at home recuperating from operations. During that time, the school district regularly sent a teacher to her apartment. I believe the teacher came once or twice a week though I am not sure; my mother rarely spoke of those years. Those sessions, coupled with a sharp intellect and parents who valued learning, seemed to have been most successful. Missing classes, facing poverty during the Depression and immigrant parents for whom English was not their first language didn’t hold my mother back. She joined her classmates when she could and eventually graduated college at a time when that was quite an achievement.

My grandparents had never heard of the term homeschooling. Rather, circumstance dictated that my mother was often schooled at home. I assume that her parents made sure that she finished her assignments, but they trusted the visiting teacher to supervise what she was learning. Today, when many schools are closed, circumstances are leading many children to similarly be schooled at home.

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Your Children, Their Values?

February 23rd, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

During the almost two decades that I homeschooled, I tried hard to let my friends whose children were in school know that I wasn’t judging them. And, I usually wasn’t. I was too busy being hard on myself and wondering if I was making the right decision. When mothers would say to me, “I wish I could do homeschool, but…” I responded that it wasn’t for everyone and that there were many good educational paths.

In hindsight, my husband and I are thrilled that we homeschooled. Of course, our children missed out on certain positive experiences, but that is part of real life. Since no children are always in the perfect class in the perfect school with the perfect teacher, everyone misses out on certain positive experiences.

However, hindsight has also revealed how too many of my peers didn’t realize that the messages their children were receiving in school frequently ran counter to the family’s values and beliefs. They thought their children were learning math, literature, history and science; they didn’t realize that these were being packaged in an anti-faith, anti-patriotic and anti-family container. Even if the early years’ teachers were neutral, their children were ill-equipped to counter the hard-sell propaganda on college campuses.

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Caveat Parente!

December 30th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

If your five-year-old cannot translate the above title or write an essay about the play on words with the better know phrase ‘caveat emptor,’ perhaps you should hold off sending him or her to kindergarten.

Ok. I’m exaggerating. But if an article in Psychology Today reflects current trends, I am not off by much. The article focuses on the anguish of kindergarten teachers as they are instructed to treat their young students in ways that they, especially those teachers with years of experience, feel damages the little ones psychologically and educationally.

These teachers speak of pressure from the government (Common Core) via the administration insisting that they do age-inappropriate activities in their classrooms. They find themselves needing to ignore the tears, frustrations and growing hatred towards learning that they are seeing. The teachers’ other option is to quit their jobs.

There are many reasons why too many of America’s schools drastically fail those they are supposed to be serving, whether we are speaking of elementary, middle, high school or college. At the same time, as a society we are encouraging parents to put their children into organized, structured groups at earlier and earlier ages. It is not unusual today for kindergarten to be a youngster’s third, fourth of even fifth year of day care or schooling.

We can certainly get involved and try to solve society’s ills. However, as parents, our first responsibility is to those lives we brought into the world. We cannot afford for our motto to be, “See no evil; hear no evil.” Our eyes must be open and we need to be ready to act.  The onus is on us to know whether those teaching our children nod in agreement to the horrific comments below the article. Are we harming or helping our children by sending them off to school? Isn’t that an important question to ask?

What about Socialization

September 5th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 31 comments

Today’s Musing is actually a triple-header. It was inspired by an Ask the Rabbi question. In order not to make that answer too long, I intended to follow up with a Practical Parenting column. Finally, I decided to bundle all my (our) reflections  into one Susan’s Musing.

Here is Dave’s Ask the Rabbi question and our answer:

Greetings Rabbi and Susan,

I’m a long-time listener and grateful beneficiary of Ancient Jewish Wisdom, the Podcast, Thought Tools, Susan’s Musings and your books.

My question is in regards to the most recent podcast on “Dealing with Death.” In it, Rabbi, you mention that most mass-shooters are basically lonely men; unmarried, childless, disconnected, involuntarily celibate, etc. I completely agree. However, you mention that if these men were more connected to family, friends, sexual relationships, etc., the problem would be virtually resolved.

When I heard this, I couldn’t help but think about homeschooling. As a homeschooler (which as I understand your family did also), I often find myself defending our decision to homeschool against naysayers who argue that my children will not receive the necessary social skills they’ll need to function in society. Usually, it goes something like this: “You’re sheltering your children; they’ll never make any friends being cooped-up in your house all day.” Surely they’d receive all their “necessary social skills” in public school. I was the product of a GIC [Government Indoctrination Camp] (one of my favorite acronyms or yours, I must tell you) and will never be an apologist for them. In retrospect, it seems that being forced to go to a place with thousands of my peers every weekday provided harmful “over-socialization” if there is such a thing.

I remember from my school experience is that there wasn’t much learning going on. Instead it was an utter fashion show. I spent every day being hopelessly obsessed with girls, the latest loud music and my own popularity. Now twenty-five years removed from high school, I can’t think of even one life-affirming or life-enhancing connection that remains.

Still, it seems that homeschooling is antithetical to your point about mass-shooters needing more connections. Is this a legitimate disparity, or one of life’s many paradoxes? Furthermore, I’m sure you and Susan heard the same objection to homeschooling. How did you defend your decision?

Thank you again for all you and Susan do. It is more valuable to Christians like me than you might ever realize.

Dave

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Summer Homework – for Mothers

July 17th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

I loved our family’s summer boating trips for many reasons. Among them was, that as long as my husband and son were willing to heave and ho, I could bring along as much stuff as I wanted. This meant boxes and boxes of books and supplies that I used to plan the coming year’s homeschool.

Doing this in the lazy days of summer was so much fun. I could be swept away by a period of history and spend more hours reading about it than I would ever share with a ten-year-old. I could explore craft ideas and experiments without any pressure to have them ready by the next morning. Most of all, I could imagine that our children would be engaged by everything I was excitedly choosing for us to do. Of course they would want to dissect a cow’s eyeball—who wouldn’t? (That would be each and every one of my children including the future doctor and the future nurse.)

If you are a homeschooling mom who takes things easier in the summer you, too, probably use this time for planning, ordering and organizing. If you are not homeschooling, this time is valuable for you as well. A September reset button allows us to review what worked well and what didn’t over the previous year.

Maybe there were just too many activities and we became chauffeurs more than moms. Maybe our kids’ lives were so structured and busy that they had no time to be creative. Maybe we turned into grumpy crones every afternoon when a hungry family and tired mother faced each other.

Perhaps we read some books out loud and we still hear our children referencing them. Or we might have cut back on screen time, endured grumbles and whines for a few days or weeks and then found that our children were quite able to entertain themselves. Maybe we need to take the time to notice that a child we worried and worried about matured and is in a new and much more pleasant space.

Make some time this summer to think through the past year and plan for the next one. Turn off your auto-pilot and figure out what will work best for each of your children and your family as a whole. Enjoy these precious days before ads for school supplies set you back on a treadmill that may not be the one you want to ride.

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Helicopter Mom – Me?

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 5 comments

If there is one thing that, until now, I have never been accused of, it is being a helicopter parent. If anything, more than a few of our children’s friends’ parents thought that my husband and I allowed our children too much independence. One of our daughters was incredibly upset that we did not sign her up for SAT review classes or care enough about her grades once she attended a ‘real’ high school.

Yet, as homeschooling increases in the United Kingdom, one British columnist has labeled me, by association and after the fact,  a “militant,” “arrogant,” and “controlling” mother who homeschooled to “dominate and diminish” my children. Wow!

To be fair, the author, Janet Street-Porter is willing to debate home-schooling mothers she knows and works with. Her strong language seems to more headline-grabbing than actually insulting. However, I think it is worth analyzing and rebutting her arguments.

While homeschooling has become rather mainstream in the United States, that isn’t so for much of the rest of the world. It is highly regulated in some countries and illegal in others, most notably Germany. When I was teaching my children, the most frequent accusation hurled at us was that we were hampering their socialization skills. That was laughable If you knew our outgoing children and the many friendships and relationships they had, but that tired allegation didn’t even make it into this article.

Instead, the article’s slant is the damage caused to British society in general and their  children in particular by parents take them out of the system. Ms. Street-Porter contends that those who don’t feel the school system is satisfactory from an educational point of view are  selfish to care only for our children rather than working within the system to improve academics for all. I admittedly am not familiar with British bureaucracy, but if it is anything like America, we’re not talking a fix that will be accomplished within the schooling lifetime of any student today.  Things are that bad and the status quo is too entrenched. I know many homeschooling parents who actively work to improve education on a community and national level. Doing the best for one’s own child doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else’s.

Another accusation hurled at homeschooling parents in this article was a reluctance to embrace the necessity of discipline. Again, unless British schools are complete opposites from American ones, most homeschooling families are far more disciplined than classrooms, not less. Parents who are disorganized wimps can scrape by when their kids are out of the house for many hours a day. When the kids are always home, structure and routine usually co-exist with learning and play.

As for the recommendation that children must learn to handle bullying and that homeschooling to avoid it will reduce children’s resilience and ability to get along with others, I think that is completely misguided. Most parents that I know who homeschool in response to classroom, school bus and schoolyard bullying start out as reluctant homeschoolers.  They have worked with their children, the teachers and administration to try to solve the problem, all to no avail. They are making a difficult decision not to sacrifice their children’s emotional health.

The article closes with this paragraph: “Sadly, too many modern parents want to control every aspect of their children’s lives – monitoring their movements via special apps, calling them every few hours to make sure they are “safe”. Home-schooling is just another form of insidious control.”

One of the easiest ways to monitor your child is to put them in a controlled environment for most of their waking hours. In other words, send them to school. My children and many of their homeschooling peers were far more independent and had a wider variety of activities than their friends who marched in lock-step with twenty or so other children of precisely their own age. Dominating and diminishing my children? I prefer to think of homeschooling as assisting my children in reaching their full potential; propelling them aloft rather than helicoptering over them.

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