February 23, 2010

Education at Home: Part Two

“The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”
-John Holt

Interesting Homeschool Tidbit

In Georgia, you don't have to register your child with the state until they are six years old.  Since Robotson's birthday is in December, I waited until September of 2007 - three months before he turned seven.  Our school year runs from September 1 to August 31, a full 365 days.  We are required to keep monthly attendance records.  Students must complete 4.5 hours of schoolwork for 180 days.  I dutifully fill out our attendance sheets until that magical 180th day is checked off, at which point the state doesn't hear from us again until September.  We are currently in our third year of homeschooling and I checked off the box for Third Grade for this year.  The only other requirements in Georgia are that you administer a standardized test at the end of the third grade, and every three years after.  You must also do an annual report on your child's progress and keep it with your files.

Part Two

I left off in Part One basically having a panic attack.  I had no homeschooling friends, no curriculum, a one year old, I was pregnant again, and my son wasn't in the least bit interested in school in a traditional sense.  Best to just dive right in, right?!

The Reader's Digest version is that I sent an email out on one of the homeschooling lists looking for playmates and met Mo.  We hit it off immediately.  Kitmama started a playgroup, which we joined.  The playgroup grew and next thing you know we had the greatest friends in the world. Homeschool friend and support - check!

So of course the first thing I wanted to know every time I met another homeschooler was: "What curriculum are you using?"  There are as many answers to that question as people using them.  I'm going out on a limb and say that it's the worst question for anyone who is considering homeschooling to ask.  Why?  Because no one uses the same thing, and even if they do, they mix it up with other things.  I've never talked to anyone that doesn't personalize their educational model in some way.  I'm not saying that it's not an important question to ask, especially when you don't know what your options are.  And I think every person who is or will homeschool should ask as many people as they can, but it will confuse you beyond your wildest imagination.  I lost sleep over it all.  Maybe that's just me.

Mo had introduced me to Thomas Jefferson Education.  I've blogged about it before.  I read all of the books and tried to implement many of the ideas.  I guess I still use a lot of what I learned from that approach, but I don't call myself a TJEd'er anymore.  I was also reading books on the topics I blog about here most:  EI Parenting, manners, mindsets.  Then there were books on happiness, education, children's learning and personality, and mindfulness.  All of these books seemed to connect for me.  As I've written about them, I try to describe how they fit together in my mind.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone else sees the links the way that I do.  (I am considering a separate, ever-evolving, post of all of these books that I think fit together for future reference.)  These books, and a number of blogs, articles, and conversations with other homeschoolers eventually brought me to my aha! moment.  I can't really say exactly when it was.  It just became increasingly clear to me that we were unschoolers through and through.

I don't think this is exactly a revelation to anyone who's been reading this blog.  My Homeschool Day's posts are a pretty obvious giveaway that we aren't curriculum based.  It's a "fly by the seat of our pants" sort of schooling.  After looking up that idiom, perhaps that's not the best description.  True, I have no training in childhood education, but I would quibble with the word "required."  Not to downplay the importance of educated teachers, but there are plenty of homeschooling parents with no formal training that are doing at least as good at college educated teachers.  O.k. moving on.

Unschooling is a scary word.  Actually, homeschooling is a scary word.  Unschooling is bone-chilling, blood curdling, petrifying - you are totally going to die - kind of scary.  Most homeschoolers I know wouldn't ever dream of unschooling their kids.  Unschoolers are either completely irresponsible or incredibly brave, depending on who you ask.  Either way, they would never do it.  Let's get a definition.

Unschooling refers to a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including child directed play, game play, household responsibilities, and social interaction, rather than through the confines of a conventional school. Exploration of activities is often led by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child. (via Wikipedia)

Read this one and see if it doesn't totally sound like me, or at least what I keep trying to be.

Unschooling will look different in different families, and "radical unschooling" simply means extending the philosophy of unschooling (that children will learn what they need to know when they are ready and want to learn it) into every other aspect of life (i.e. children will go to sleep when they are tired, eat when they are hungry, and will learn to be a functioning, helpful member of a family/household without being forced/required to do things like chores, given punishments, limited on tv/videogames, etc.) Radical unschooling could also be called Mindful Parenting, or respectful parenting (although one could be parenting mindfully, and their children attend school). (via Sandra Dodd)

As with anything else, there are plenty of unschoolers out there that would say we aren't truly doing it since I do put limits on things like computer and t.v. time.  I also go back and forth over if I should tie schoolwork to computer time; currently I do.  Strewing is another unschooling thing, and while that does happen, both B and I will sometimes require that attention be paid to something we find important that the kids don't seem interested in on their own. 


  1. Just wanted to let you know that I'm really enjoying these posts and that I'm looking forward to the next one.

    I expect to be HSing next year although I'm still dealing with the "eek, can I really do this" feeling of it. Looking into curriculum is confusing and overwhelming. I'm glad I gave myself lots of time to warm up to the idea first.

  2. I admit that I am reading it and thinking, "No way on Earth I'd be able to do that". I was always a planner, and I thrived in the situations when I knew what comes next. My husband is even more that way, and our daughter follows suit. But I am very fascinated to see how unschooling works in the families different from ours and will come back to read more.

  3. Thanks for sticking with me and my long-winded story :)

  4. It's a good story, maybe you'll turn it into a book some day :) I've worked in several schools, both public and private, as a special ed para, a Montessori preschool teacher, and most recently a Speech Language Pathologist. My observation about "professional" teachers is that either you have it or you don't. And you don't have to be a professional teacher to "have it" as an educator. My son has had some good teachers, a GREAT teacher, and some terrific mentors from the community - the greatest being his drawing teacher who is not a "professional" in any sense of the word, but is just a fantastic person to be around and G learns so much. But I still see myself and my husband as my child's first, current and most important teachers, and I think that I always will.

  5. Yeah, S, you're pretty much RA :) I like that you're sharing your process so others can see it's not all cut-and-dried, but more of an ongoing exploration and journey. I'm looking forward to Part Three. - Mo, the Relaxed Eclectic Homelearner with a TJEd Twist ;)

  6. Mo what is RA? I'm probably having a brain fart, but I can't think of it.