Archive for the ‘Homeschool Advice’ Category

Take It On the Road

Take It On the RoadJacob, Johannah, Caitrin, Liam, and Noah, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy, 2005

The joy in home education is not contained inside four walls. That’s school. And to compensate for the confining nature of classrooms, schools schedule field trips to leave the four walls and novelists write books about those fields trips where the children stay behind to hide in art museums just to avoid going back to that dreary existence (The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler anyone?).

Mobility is one of homechool’s chief incredible features! I know two families who moved to Ireland for a month just to experience a different life. I know a family that uprooted and moved to Australia for a year to spend time away from the busy-ness of northern Virginia and it’s heavy pressured academics. I spoke today with a mom who told me her family has “road-schooled” for 3-4 week stints several times.

Take It On the RoadJulie and Caitrin, Monet’s Garden, Giverny, France

My own family took a cross-country trip to move from California to Ohio and spent 14 days visiting national parks like Pike’s Peak and Mt. Rushmore, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in DeSoto and the American Girl Store in Chicago (to name a few places we got to see). We also took a family trip to Italy for 17 days to see my aunt and her family (they live there).

Some of these excursions may not match your family’s income or flexibility so you may consider day trips from home! Perhaps your “stay-cation” could be day trips to all the sites in your state that you typically ignore because they are so close. I remember when we moved to Ohio, the first thing we did was purchase a tourist’s guide to Ohio!

Take It On the RoadJacob and Johannah, Phi Phi Islands Thailand

Every month, we’d pick a weekend to visit one of the sites. We got to ride a boat while it went through the locks and keys, we got to see the location that marks the arrival site of the Underground Railroad along the Ohio River, we explored fossils in ancient river beds, we hiked through the Red River Gorges in Kentucky, and we went to the Renaissance Faire not an hour from here.

The idea of “road-schooling” doesn’t have to mean packing up for a year in a trailer (though it could!). It means making use of the opportunity to be mobile (more than any time in history) and getting out to see what’s there up close and in person. Sometimes we become complacent with our daily expectations of “work” and forget that we might bust loose from those routines to deepen our appreciation for the big world around us.

Take It On the RoadJohannah, Noah, and Julie, Machu Picchu, Incan Ruins, Peru

If you do have this bent—this penchant for adventure—I should warn you now that your kids may get hooked. Four of five of mine have studied abroad in France, two of them as adults have lived abroad in places like Asia and South America for years at a time. Once bitten by the “world is my oyster” bug, they may be wanderers for good.

That’s okay though! Then YOU get to visit them when you have that much-anticipated and dreaded empty nest. Trust me: it just gets better!

Take that school on the road! Venture forth! You’ll be glad you did (and summer is a GREAT time to do it!).

Take It On the RoadJulie and Liam, Cassis, France

The Peril of Trusting Your Child

The Peril of Trusting Your Child

I get email every day from parents who love their kids, who think they’ve got the most creative, smart, surprising little people living under their roofs. They share stories, their children’s writing, photos, and detailed accounts of what their kids are doing. These parents are wowed, amazed. And they should be! Their children ARE amazing. So are yours.

Yet often, even in the same email, a paragraph of worry inevitably follows.

  • What if this brilliant child isn’t on course to graduate at 18?
  • What if this parent isn’t pushing hard enough to fit in lab sciences or essays?
  • What if the child next door who goes to school is completing more “official” work?
  • What if trusting your child’s natural learning process is a mistake?
  • How can a parent know if he or she is traveling down the wrong road before it’s too late?

It’s like two people live inside our minds: the one that knows our children and the one that doubts we know our children.

To trust means to let go of worry. Yet worry defines us! It’s what allows us to feel important, involved, and prepared. Worry proves we care. Worry shows that we are invested. Worry requires maintenance which involves google searches, online discussions, seeking counsel and advice, and the endless work of revising the plan. Worry feels like we’re doing what we should be. Worry leads to action—busy-ness, activity, lectures, and important new strategies to repair whatever it is we imagine is broken.

To trust means—well, what does it mean?

It looks like letting go—literally dropping the careworn hand-wringing, falling backwards without knowing if you’ll be caught. Trust is relying on today to be enough, not wondering about tomorrow, not forecasting doom for the future.

Trust is a big exhale—believing what you see with your own eyes and imagination. It means discounting the input that contradicts what you know inside.

Trust means you know inside.

Trust takes patience, the long view, time.

Trust feels irresponsible and naive.

Trust may be mistaken for denial.

Trust leads to missed opportunities, to overlooking a problem before it’s too late, to putting a child’s well-being ahead of your need to fix him or her.

You will miss some opportunities if you trust—if you put your child’s peacefulness ahead of your agenda to get it right. Trust means not hurrying to fill, fix, and finagle.

What we don’t always appreciate is that worry also makes us miss opportunities. We fill the time with activity and angst—robbing the present moment of joy or space to create or a chance to mature and develop. We hurry to the “next thing” rather than allowing some fallow time for reflection or puttering or simply enjoying a skill mastered.

Trust says: “I see my child and I am noticing all the ways that child is developing right before my eyes, like a Polaroid picture.”

Worry says: “I see what my child should be and isn’t.”

Because parenting is always new (every day, every year), it’s difficult to let trust take the reins. I know I couldn’t trust all day every day come what may. What I learned to do (and am still learning literally today!) is to see my worry and breathe it away.

I pause to consider: what can I trust now? In the middle of the muddle of worry, I can trust that:

  • The lessons my child needs are happening, even if invisible to me.
  • New ideas come to me more easily when I let go of the vice-grip of control.
  • There are people who’ve faced these same issues and have come to fresh conclusions that can help me.
  • My child has the power to learn and is learning already.
  • I homeschooled for a reason—to get off the treadmill of pressure.
  • There is no law saying ALL learning must be completed by 18.
  • Joy is the best teacher, patience is a close second.
  • Creativity solves problems better than coercion.
  • I am a kinder mother when I trust than when I worry.
  • Pressure may motivate, but it also crushes and reverberates to pain and anxiety.
  • Being alert is not the same as being worried.
  • Life is full of inconveniences, mistakes, wrong paths taken, oversights, missed opportunities, misplaced priorities, and short-sightedness—I cannot stop the flow of painful experiences.
  • My child gets to have a unique life that doesn’t match my vision because my child is not me.
  • Any choice my child makes is my child’s choice, not mine.
  • I have all that I need to be a good parent right now, today.
  • My child has all that s/he needs to learn today.

You can add to that list.

Fundamentally, trust is about your child—trusting that the person you love and live with will become an adult who may not match your ideal vision, but who will nonetheless be the person you will continue to love and know and admire and care for, for the rest of your life.

Your responsibility to the child is to continue to lay a feast of ideas and offer educational opportunities, all while providing love and companionship on the journey. When a problem surfaces, trust handles it better than worry.

Trust says, “I know my child. I will find resources that suit and support my child. We’ll make progress together.”

Worry says, “My child is behind. I feel terrible about it. I better switch what we’re doing ASAP and get him or her caught up.”

Trust allows you to pace yourself—to stay in relationship, to keep the lines of communication open, to avail yourself to being that support when your child needs you.

The peril of trusting your child is this: you have to give up your right to worry as an excuse to coerce your child into actions that make you feel better.

The Homeschool Alliance

It Starts with Us

It Starts with Us

We say we want a more tolerant world—or at least, we want more people to tolerate us. We want to be heard, known, respected, and understood. We want space to have our ideas regarded as logical, important, and relevant to the conversation.

When I say I’m a home educator while I’m spitting sunflower seed shells onto the turf as I watch my 10 year old up to bat, I hope that the public school mom sitting next to me will say, “Oh, tell me about that! I’ve heard of homeschooling but I don’t really know what it’s like. Do you enjoy it?” (Wouldn’t that be awesome?)

I don’t want her to say, “Oh my! You’re amazing. I could NEVER be with my kids 24/7. How do you do it?”

I also don’t want her to say, “Homeschool. That seems really risky. How do your kids ever make friends? Aren’t you worried they won’t be ready for college?”

Worse, I never want to hear: “I oppose homeschool. You are ruining public education and your children. I’ve been told homeschooled kids are not prepared when they finally attend school. All the homeschooled kids I know are weird.” Ouch.

And yet.

I’ve heard all of those, including the cheery first one of genuine warmth and curiosity!

Because you and I are ambassadors for an unconventional educational choice, we’re defensive. I think I can admit that on behalf of the movement. 😀 I feel like I’m supposed to represent homeschooling well. I’m required to defend its importance and success and how it doesn’t harm anyone else’s right to educate how they wish. I defend my kids as ordinary garden-variety human beings who can make friends and are able to learn information.

That defensiveness, however, twists my sensitive soul into a little prune-ish pretzel, shriveled and tight. When I’m safely ensconced within the walls of my homeschool enclave, I’ve attacked public education with snark and flippant language. Behind the backs of my parent-friends who choose traditional school, I’ve made not-tolerant comments—you know, the kind that assign a child’s struggle (whatever it may be) to a “poor” school choice rather than showing empathy for the struggle no matter the origin.

I do this all while I hope that my public school friends will tolerate and respect my choices!

It’s maddening to defend home education. But maybe it’s also maddening to be the person who went along with the usual way of things (school) and suddenly is confronted with all this intentional choice that is about “not-school.” Imagine how that might feel—your own go-along to get-along way of life is being rejected by someone who seems sane and interesting. This poor “school parent” is now also defensive and never expected to have to be!

What could we do in that situation?

Maybe we could try this…

“Oh, tell me about public school for your kids! I don’t really know what it’s like since my kids don’t go. Do your kids enjoy it? What are some of the fun things they get to do?”

If we could drop the feeling of being threatened by school and simply enter into the experience on all sides: home, private, public, religious, boarding…whatever version you are encountering—what would we learn?

Education takes lots of forms. To create space for all of them, it helps to remember we are on the same team—rooting for everyone’s children to become good citizens, kind people, and well educated adults.

Maybe it starts with us.

The Homeschool Alliance

The Key to Academic Achievement: Talking with Your Kids

Big Juicy Conversations

The key to academic achievement, to education, to scholastic growth is: talking with your kids. (And it’s FREE!)

The majority of your children’s education comes via talking—not just any old talking—a specific kind of talking.

These conversations look like:

  • eye contact,
  • focused attention,
  • an exchange lasting more than “Hey, get your shoes, we’re leaving in five minutes.”

Because we marshal so much activity for so many little ones, it’s easy to reduce contact with children to “parenting by command” as opposed to “relating to our children as people.” We issue orders and look over their heads (literally!) to the next item on the agenda.

The joy of conversation is lost in the expediency of moment-by-moment demands: jumping in the car, clearing the breakfast dishes, locating the math book, changing a load of laundry, and answering a text message. We might even start down the road of a real conversation, only to be interrupted in our minds by a sudden urgent thought related to the child in front of us:

“Yes, I do think the Beast seems verbally abusive… wait! Remind me. Did we reschedule your violin lesson? I just remembered we are going to see the dentist on Tuesday and…”

The commitment to staying present and focused on a rambling discussion about a movie or Minecraft or musings on the meaning of life by a 9 year old can easily be sidetracked when an urgent task pops to mind. It’s so difficult to resist the temptation to skip ahead to an urgent matter, rather than drilling down to the slow meandering of conversation.

We expect workbooks, explicit teaching, or reading will accomplish all we want in our children’s lives. Yet even the reading of books benefits from what I call a “big juicy conversation.” When we read in isolation from conversation, good things happen. When we read and discuss, even better things happen! Now we’re hearing the same story refracted through someone else’s experience, which expands how we understand the same story or information!

You may not be able to read every book all five of your children read (I mean, who could?!), but you can certainly contribute to the conversation about the book by

  • asking questions,
  • showing curiosity,
  • making comparisons to books you’ve read,
  • and allowing your child to bounce thoughts and ideas off of you (not that stale narration task of regurgitating information, but the true joy of sharing).

Conversation is an exchange of energy (not just an exchange of words). Conversation brings two or more people together to explore their ideas in community—to benefit from a wider set of insights and experiences than can be had alone.

Why is this important? In a homeschool, we do not naturally facilitate the kind of classroom learning that attempts to engage a variety of perspectives from a variety of students. The temptation in home education is to drive for independence where a student learns “by herself” or where the books are doing all the teaching.

Yet that independence comes at a price—no one to talk to!

What you can do, instead, is to give your kids both an audience and a sounding board. You can involve them in conversation with you, and you get to count that as having accomplished something important that day. Talking with you about their ideas, questions, thoughts, and insights IS the number one way your children get a valuable education. You are such a light of learning! Trust it! Be it! Live it! Value it!

  • Make a note on your calendar each time you get to spend more than 2 minutes talking with one of your kids. Pay attention to who is getting missed (who never surfaces for a big juicy conversation) and then intentionally seek opportunities to connect with the child falling through the cracks.
  • Permit yourself to waste time talking at length when the energy moves in that direction.
  • Set aside the books or the movie or the math pages in favor of an extended discussion about the merits of a sitcom or why every animal poops.

These are (truly) golden moments in your children’s education.

Over time, what you will discover is that your family has curated a kind of educational culture in your home. Some of you will have created natural writers. Others will be great at mechanical exploits. Still others will be naturally inclined to work with numbers or computers. As your family talks, so your areas of expertise surface and your children learn as if by osmosis through conversations—both those they overhear and the ones in which they participate.

Go forth and waste time talking! It’s the best part of your homeschool already.


Listen to the Big Juicy Conversations Podcast

How to Include Poetry Teatime in Your Family

How to Include Poetry Teatime in Your Family

Poetry + Tea + Treats = Enchanted Learning and Magical Family Time!

Want to learn how to include Poetry Teatime in your home?
Watch the recorded broadcast below.

More Resources

Poetry Teatime Website
FREE Poetry Teatime Quick Start Guide
Poetry Teatime Companion