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Archive for the ‘unschooling’ Category

I was talking to a good friend earlier today who inquired as to how Chrystal is handling being homeschooled. This friend is a couple years younger than I am, and to all intents and purposes, a bit of a hippie: until it comes to some of the off-the-wall things I believe in, like midwives, breastfeeding on demand, homeschooling and cloth diapers. I don’t know why she can’t wrap her mind around those concepts, but she can’t: she constantly emails me coupons for paper diapers so I can pass the savings on to my daughter. Meanwhile, I am paying for diaper service for said daughter, so she can enjoy the infinite benefits of cloth and saving the environment.

24 years ago, when I was fast approaching parenthood, I was also considering all of these elements: I’d already chosen a midwife to deliver my baby. I was well read on how to wash my own cloth diapers (I didn’t know there was such a beast as diaper service – that came as a gift when I had my second child. A blessed, blessed, blessed gift). I was well indoctrinated by La Leche League. And I didn’t know a person could homeschool their own children. What a concept!

I fell into homeschooling. It wasn’t on my radar until I found myself in a fight with a school board and the encroachment of “Goals 2000”, part of the premise of which was to remove local control of schools and centralize education away from parents. The fight with the school board was not going well and we were losing our local school in a merger with the rest of the school district. The five minute drive to the grade school would now be a forty-five minute bus ride into town, and the blended class room of 1st-3rd grades and 4-6th grades was turning into block style classes in a junior high setting. Pardon, “middle school” – oh, whatever. It wasn’t my idea and I was rebelling.

I turned to the library for help and I found books on homeschooling. The one that turned my head around was by well known author David Guterson (“Snow Falling on Cedars” and “East of the Mountains”): “Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense.” Guterson was then a public school teacher who was homeschooling his own children. I now had an alternative to what was happening in the school system.

I started on this journey as Arwen entered 7th grade and Levi entered 4th grade. Statistically, most people homeschool the younger years and send the children off to high school, but I have to be different. We’d had a good public school experience up to that point in time, but I didn’t see it improving over the one-room school house and I was very concerned about the quality of education my children would be getting. They’d already studied the Oregon Trail history to death, with barely a mention of the American Revolution, the Civil War, or any history outside of the borders of the State of Oregon. What? There’s a WORLD out there?

I considered, weighed, studied. And I filled out the little form required by the State of Oregon, mailed it to the ESD and effectively removed my children from the tax base of the school district we resided in. Every homeschooler hurts the school tax base in Oregon because that tax money you pay now stays in the General Fund and is not dispersed to the school district because your child’s head isn’t being counted in the class room. It was a pretty effective little protest as well as a way to take things into my own control.

We could not afford a curriculum: I looked at all the Christian classics. Sonlight, Abeka, Bob Jones, ACE – not a chance. I wasn’t into this because of my religious leanings: this was about education. Well-rounded education that includes reading “A Catcher in the Rye” or “Lord of the Flies.” I figured I could do this with the library and a few well chosen book purchases, and maybe a lifetime membership at The Learning Tree. Everyone else I knew who was homeschooling was sold on curriculum, but I was determined to wing it. I picked up a list of The Classics (literature) at the local library, broke down and purchased Saxon math books, and dug out my antique grammar books. We started out with a schedule and charts and a real sit-down quality time together.

That dissolved pretty quickly. I’m not disciplined enough and my children were born rebels. I don’t know where they got that gene. We gradually descended into eclectic homeschooling: a little of this, a little of that, and whatever filled the gaps: field trips, museums, clay art. Somewhere along the line, Arwen discovered the music of artist Selena and set out to teach herself Spanish using Selena music and my college Spanish books. She spent two years on the project. it was the beginning of my somewhat slow path into unschooling. (I’m not all there yet, but I’m leaning!)

Children age. Mine entered that realm of pre-adulthood with collegiate dreams, yet here we were, homeschooling. The community college offered courses that sixteen year olds could enroll in. Arwen jumped in with both feet: history, language arts, and a drawing course (no live model). Levi followed two years later but chose math, writing, swing dance classes, and a drawing course (with live models). Making a long story shorter, Arwen eventually applied to a university using only her community college credits. She was accepted and awarded a small scholarship and grant money. We joke that she never graduated from high school, but she now has a college degree. Levi chose the military and used his community college credits plus a creative homeschool transcript. He happened to score very well on his ASVAB, giving him his choice of military careers. (He’s currently considering his future post-military: he’d like to teach writing. This is my child who shares my love for Edgar Allen Poe and Tolkien.)

Enter Chrystal. She came to live with us just as I was re-entering the workforce full time. We tried homeschooling, public schooling and private schooling. For the past three years, she has attended a public charter school. She did well the first year, but the second year caused her to struggle. By the third year, she was in serious decline. She’s just not cut out to sit in a classroom and take arbitrary instruction on subjects she isn’t interested in. For the past three terms, she has built up the Failing marks. (That’s a GREAT transcript to show prospective employers or schools…)

So I pulled her out. Arbitrary. I’ve been here before: homeschooling a high school aged kid. I think I know how to do this (let the child go). So I find it highly irritating when a new person comes onto the scene and questions my decision with the same skepticism my in-laws held when I first pulled my older children out of public school. (Yeah, my in-laws: the ones who did not graduate from high school. Those ones. They were the ones who had a problem with the concept of homeschooling. If my dad, the college-educated, had a problem, he never said so. And my mother was always my biggest support.)

I love my friend. She’s a lot of fun. She is an actress at heart and a lover of Renaissance Faires and Faerie Faires, a reader, and a strong female role to introduce my children to (I love strong female role models). But she is pretty darn close-minded at concepts like home education.

I will let Chrystal tell her. In the three weeks since I withdrew her formally from public school, I have watched her attitude change. She’s happy. She’s learning. She’s reading for pleasure. She’s remembering facts. She comes down and talks to us. She’s blossoming. She’s reading The Teenage Liberation Handbook. By the time the fall community college classes come around, maybe she will be ready to pick up a course or two. Maybe not. She only needs nine credits to graduate from high school, all very easily reached as a home schooler. I already know where to purchase her diploma and have the template for a transcript. She’s a smart kid: we just had to pull her out of the classroom to find her.

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