Friday, June 22, 2007

Different Homeschooling Experiences Occur Due To What State One Lives In

Today I read this article written by a mother who homeschooled first in New York and then later in Texas. I hope you read it. It is short and has enough details to show readers that the homeschooling experience a child (and parent has) is definitely affected by the state laws that govern homeschooling.

Legal issues with homeschooling, specifically about my state of Connecticut have been on my mind lately so this article was timely for me to read.

If I had to live with a lot of oversight by school staff I would not have as good of an attitude as I do right now. I’d not be as happy. I know I would resent oversight by staff who govern the public schools riddled with problems. I know I would focus more energy on being aware of the ‘problems with public schools’. I would resent my children being scrutinized more closely than the school staff does with their own enrolled students. I would probably have a negative attitude and might also be an angry and resentful person.

Here is my experience with homeschooling in Connecticut. Before my oldest was ‘school aged’ I began researching the legality of homeschooling followed by the methods and styles and options. I networked with current homeschooling parents to further understand the issues with Connecticut’s law 10-184 and the C-14 Guideline (suggested procedure). I attended conferences and spoke to those in the know about Connecticut law.

My children did not attend preschool as I felt a child was best raised at home by ones own parents especially if the mother is already at home with the children (not employed outside the home). I researched what ‘typical’ American preschools actually “do in there”. I found out they were not doing anything more or better than I was already doing at home with my children. (We already were doing playdates with friends for “socialization” so by no means were my children isolated within the walls of our house with just me and my husband as the only other human contacts!)

I also researched alternative education theories of Rudolph Steiner (Waldorf schools) and the Montessori Method. I researched developmental stages of children of that age and read psychological theories about the importance of play, imagination and creativity. I came up with a plan and goals for our children for their “preschool at home”.

I did not have to tell anyone in any government position that we were doing “preschool at home”. I was very impressed with what my children each learned and with how they were doing and how full of joy they were. Both were ahead of the curve of what their peers were doing academically and both had learned it with ease, most through normal daily living not by using textbooks or “teacher’s manuals” of any kind!

When my oldest was approaching Kindergarten I chose not to follow Connecticut’s “suggested procedure” and I did not notify anyone in government (school administration) that we would be homeschooling. I researched and pondered and made a plan to homeschool Kindergarten. I read books, websites, and attended conferences to learn different ways to teach children and how children learn. I was a member of homeschool support groups and networked face to face and by email with other local homeschooling parents. I also was active on email discussion lists with others from around the country, discussing homeschooling and educational theories and topics such as how to teach various subjects. We did our Kindergarten year the way we wanted it and did not have to report anything to anyone. It was wonderful! I was able to just concentrate on homeschooling my children, parenting them, and doing my volunteer work.

This cycle has repeated itself for both of my children. At present the oldest is approaching his 10th birthday and the younger son is now seven years old. In the fall the older son will be in fifth grade and the younger son will be in second grade.

In case you have not read other blog posts that I’ve written I’ll quickly share that the method we use to homeschool is a “design your own” classical method, and my main influence is “The Well Trained Mind” by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, which outlines how to teach in the classical style from preschool through the end of high school. I use many of Charlotte Mason’s methods infused into what we do. The bulk of our learning is with real books, “living books” and regular children’s books, fiction and non-fiction, rather than using dry textbooks intended for classroom use.

Content and the lessons are tailored to meet each child’s unique learning style and their aptitude. For example my first grader tested to do fourth grade spelling so that is what he did. I don’t just teach a labeled grade to a child as it is their “labeled grade”, in other words, I teach them “where they are at” not according to their age or grade level. We have time for many outside classes and events. One child has taken three online “distance learning” courses. We have time to pursue personal interested for “learner driven learning” as well.

While Connecticut does say that a child must learn certain subjects they are subjects that we are definitely already teaching. I am not teaching them due to the law; I am teaching them due to the fact that they are very basic and rudimentary and should be a part of every child’s education. (And we teach science which is not required in Connecticut!)

Lucky for us the Connecticut guidelines don’t say what subject must be taught in which grade nor does it state details of exactly what has to be taught so we have more freedom to do what we want to. (Contrast this to Maryland where my husband had applied for a job and I found out the homeschooling student must learn exactly what the public school students are learning in that same exact grade, down to detailed information.)

If my statement worried you, that I am doing things a bit differently than the American public schools, here is one example to explain. I am not forced to teach “social studies” of occupations in Kindergarten. Instead I began the chronological study of world history and we began with early man and dinosaurs and progressed forward into a detailed study of Ancient Egypt, in Kindergarten. We also were studying fine art history as well as doing lots of art and craft projects. That is above and beyond what is going on in Connecticut Kindergarten classrooms for “social studies” and “art”.

I am very happy that I can determine which educational method and style suits each of my children best. I feel so free knowing that I can teach my children how and when I want with NO oversight by school administration or government officials.

If you are like some distant relatives and acquaintances that like to continually ask me, “If the school doesn’t tell you what to do or give you the textbooks then how do you know what to teach?” or if you are at all concerned with exactly how I, a non-teacher, could teach my children please read this blog post which I published in November 2006, in which I explain all the things I do with my time to educate myself, to prepare and to plan our family’s homeschooling.

Some Books I Used for Homeschooling Research

"How Children Fail" is about how schools fails children.

John Holt's book about how to homeschool is "Teach Your Own"

One of my favorite books about the Charlotte Mason method is Karen Andreola's book:

"More Charlotte Mason Education" was the book that made it the clearest to me, how to homeschool with the Charlotte Mason method in a very practical, down to earth way. Until I got the information from Catherine Levison I felt I didn't really 'get' how to do the Charlotte Mason method in our homeschool.

These books also really helped me in the very early stages of learning about homeschooling and unschooling.

Linda Dobson's books are all very clear and easy to read, and inspirational of course. They are secular books. These talk about homeschooling in general.

If you are curious about unschooling I feel this is the best book to read as a first book.

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Shawna said...

Great post!

As someone just starting out with homeschooling all
the information and examples and book recommendations are so helpful!

I have recently read A.S. Neill, Valerie Fitenreiter, about Charlotte Mason, and David Gutterson's thorogh oversight of many educational thinkers and proponents; I am actually writing a post myself about just these perspectives. I plan to add the books you mention to my list!

In California I merely have to register as a private school to avoid oversight. My problem is getting started each morning--there is so much I want to do, need to do, and wish to read. Logistics is where I am at and then I can fine tune the philosophy and appraoch that will work best for us.

christinemm said...

Shawna the best book with the Charlotte Mason method with nitty gritty helpful details on practical matters about HOW to do it on a day to day basis, is, in my opinion, More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison. That is her second book--check that one out.

HomeGrown said...

Thanks for the encouraging and insightful words. I am also a CT homeschooling mother and did not file a NOI for my daughter last year as we began our Kindergarten year. We are now entering Grade 1 and I am using Charlotte Mason's philosophies to approach our homeschool. I have not yet read Levison's book... thank you for the recommendation.

Crimson Wife said...

ITA with you about the Classical approach being so much more substantive than what's taught in the typical public school. We live in California, and I took a look at the state standards for "Social Studies". They are a complete joke! Holidays and occupations while we're going to be covering Ancient History.