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Posts Tagged ‘homeschooling’

Something that is near and dear to my heart is education. I did consider (very briefly) going into education as a career. I think I was 12. As I said, it was a very brief infatuation with the idea. I lasted longer with my desire to become a veterinarian (hopes to pursue that career were dashed when I flunked high school biology my freshman year. I mean, what tendon connects to what bone? Say, again??).

The thing is: I love to learn. I love to read. I’m fascinated with geography, anthropology, history, literature, English, culture, art, physics. I’m even pretty fair at mathematics and some of the other sciences as well.

The one thing I did not particularly plan for when I was still in school was parenthood. I babysat a lot through high school and I was pretty convinced I would never want children of my own. Of course, I hadn’t reached that point in life where my maternal drive kicked in. When I reached that point, I decided I wanted a house full of boys. Four boys. That sounded so perfect. No daughters, frilly dresses, hormones. Just four rambunctious testosterone driven daredevils.

Thankfully, God intervened. In both counts. Well, He didn’t allow me to become a veterinarian which is just as well. I’ve played vet to enough pets and I cry every time I bury one.

God shot down my four-boy-household dream when my first-born was a girl. Now, I love that girl with all of my heart, and she went on to (nearly) fulfill my dream when she brought four wonderful grandchildren into my life: three boys and one girl. The last one is the girl. But I knew as soon as she was born that I wasn’t going to be mom of four boys (I’m astute like that).

My son weighed 10 pounds 3 ounces at birth. That scratched any idea I had of having more children. Two pregnancies (well, three – the first ended in a miscarriage) was enough for me. I’d settle for two.

Again, God intervened, and I ended up with three children, but the third one came to me when she was 10 and I didn’t have to give birth to her. That’s almost the best kind of childbirth: let your sister do the pushing. (Note: I don’t recommend this. I mourn my sister every day of my life. It’s just I can’t sit around and not acknowledge the fact that humor is a healer.)

I kept putting my dreams on hold for this or that in the formative years of our marriage. Finally, our children were off to public school and I was a stay-at-home mom, involved in PTA and shuttling kids to and from activities.

Enter the 1990’s version of “Common Core.” I love Barbara Bush’s spunk, but I despise her stance on education. Oregon’s version of Goals2000 was written by our current governor (who was governor then) and several other politicians. I brushed up with “Behavior Modification” when I was in college and my first roommate was studying to become a teacher. She loved the concept; it scared me that teachers could think they had the right to modify behavior at will.

Now we had some set of vague “goals” that were supposed to raise the standard of education for our children. MY children. Goals that started with removing parental involvement. Goals that were so vague as to leave out large portions of history, social sciences, geography, and government. Funding for public schools in the State of Oregon was at an all-time low (recommended: Mr. Holland’s Opus. This was filmed in Portland and reflects the low priority the Arts were receiving during that time period).

It is a fact that music is a pre-math skill and children who are exposed to music early in life do better at mathematics than children who are not exposed.

But let me back up to the mom thing. I had (at that time) the two kids. My oldest was a surprising prodigy to all who taught her. She spent one school year in a Christian school where the administrators continued to test her reading skills because they were amazed at how well she read, how fast she read, and how much she comprehended from her reading. She was in First Grade. By the time she was in the 3rd Grade, she had achieved a Johns Hopkins Scholar Award and she was spending half of her time in the fourth/fifth grade classroom doing advanced work. She was labeled “gifted”.

My son was also gifted. Anyone who knew him, knew that. His teachers saw through him. He screwed around in class with his two best friends while the rest of the class struggled to catch up to them. He hated math and he couldn’t read, but he was light years ahead of his classmates in comprehension.

I wasn’t worried about his reading. I’d read the studies. I knew what sort of learner he was. I knew he was bright. Math, now, I worried about that. It turned out that he just needed permission to count on his fingers. Why schools don’t allow kids to add on their fingers befuddles me. I struggled with math for the same reason and I developed strategies to work around that handicap.

Did I mention that I am a fair hand at basic math? There’s no law against counting on your fingers after you leave public school.

I did not intend to homeschool. I did not even know it was a legal option. Or an option at all.

They closed our school. Our PTA fought the school district, Goals2000, and the laws in the State of Oregon to keep “our” little school open. We lost. They won. And many of us withdrew our children (and our designated tax support) from the school district. We were one of those families.

I stumbled into homeschooling because I felt I had no other option given the circumstances. Once again, I set my goals aside (not complaining, just a fact of the matter) and brought my children home full time.

Yes, there was a fight. Yes, there was criticism. No, there was not a lot of support – at first. There was even inner turmoil as I realized that I was giving up my Alone Time (that essential for all introverts) to be a full-time mom and educator. It was overwhelming. We made a lot of mistakes.

We tried the traditional school-at-home approach first. You know, everyone gets up at 8AM, eats breakfast, and then sits down with a workbook and does real school work. I think a lot of would-be homeschoolers quit at this point. My kids didn’t make it easy. They resented school at home. The oldest resented homeschooling. They really rebelled at Bible study. I could do an entire parody of trying to teach my children the Bible at home.

Lesson: Pick your favorite verse from the Bible and memorize it.

Daughter: “Jesus Wept.” John 11:35. The shortest verse in the Bible.

Son: “I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall defend your flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.” (or some such similar verse out of Leviticus or Deuteronomy – does it matter?)

We scrapped Bible lessons early on.

Early on, I discovered the Internet. This was in late 1997. Our first computer arrived in a box from my older brother. My son (age 11) set it up in minutes. I’m pretty sure he was already IMing some pretty girl he’d met at church by the next Sunday.

I fell into an online support group called Christ-Centered Unschoolers (which still exists, by the way, on Yahoo! Groups). They introduced me into a radical new way of thinking about homeschooling called “unschooling”.

More on that tomorrow. Suffice it to say that all three kids have since graduated from some form of homeschooling now and I am a veteran. I loved being a teacher.

 

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This is my third post on deciding what I want to be when I grow up. My mother always told me, “Grandma Moses started painting when she was 70 years old.” I don’t know if she meant she could have started a new career as an artist or if she meant to encourage me, but I do know that 70 years old sounded really, really, really old, and so I was duly impressed.

70 doesn’t sound that old to me now and time is closing in on me.

I decided the best way to go about this was to weigh the things I love doing against each other and to assess the monetary benefits of pursuing an action.

Writing is the most obvious way to make money, but writing is only my second love (I am excluding horses: I couldn’t make money with horses if I knew squat about them, and they cost a lot of money to own).

The first thing I ever did in life that I remember is to take a pencil and draw. I was drawing before I could write. I was in detention in Kindergarten for drawing a pine tree instead of a lollipop tree ( the kid sitting next to me tattled on me and told the teacher I was ‘drawing Christmas trees’. When I defiantly pointed out that it was not a Christmas tree (no decorations) and that it looked more like a tree than the lollipop tree (I probably used that term), the teacher made me stand in the corner. I was crushed, but my sense of defiance was strengthened).

I created my first sculpture in 5th grade. I remember it vividly: it was made out of home-made papier mâchè. Each student  in class made a bird, and the popular kids were very detailed and politically correct. My bird was a fantastical parrot-like creation, green, and funny-shaped. I was embarrassed at the outcome. Later in life, I realized that’s just how my brain translates to sculpture. All my papier mâchè creations since have been grotesque and strange. I’m fine with that.

I love to garden, but I came into that passion as an adult. I hated yard work when I was a child and my father snapped a long black whip over our heads. “Work, ye slaves, work! Ground, ye are! Two weeks’ detention: spend it clearing out the boulevard! I want that salt grass gone!” Other neighborhood kids came and watched us toil in our shackles and striped pajamas. “Those poor Wilcox kids. They’ll never be free…”

Okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. The whip was imaginary. All the rest was real.

I love to read. If I could make as much money reading as I make working a forty-hour-a-week-job, I’d read for forty hours a week. At least. I’d even put in overtime.

I hate math. Herein lies one of the greatest ironies in life: God arranged for me to have a very nice job in a closing department for a real estate company. I spend forty hours a week dealing with numbers. I have a memory for patterns and numbers, and they come very easy for me. I only hate math because I had one good math teacher in my entire public school life (Mr. English in 8th Grade). The worst math teachers were in high school and higher math. I especially despise geometry.

I love science, but I can’t deal with the rote memory of it. You’d think that would be simple, but it isn’t. I had this very lofty dream of becoming a veterinarian when I was a freshman in high school. Enter Mr. Ricketts and his biology class. He was determined that we all understood what college was going to be like and he was hard. I learned to despise fruit flies. But what was driven home more than anything was that I do not have the ability to memorize biology terms. All we had to do was memorize the bones, musculature, and nymph system of the human body.

The final was the weekend after a big conference in Las Vegas for a volunteer group I had gotten involved with. We students screwed around a lot (one night, Tracie, “Rat”, Lance, and I ran around playing “doorbell ditch” on wedding chapels. We were all going to “get married” but we didn’t know to whom we wanted to get married). But I also spent a lot of time cramming for that test, and I remember sitting in the cafe with my biology book and notes. Mr. Ricketts was one of our chaperones and he came down for breakfast at the same time. I was making notes, reading and rereading.

I failed the test. My very first core subject failure. It was a pivotal moment in my life as dreams of becoming a veterinarian were dashed completely. Mr. Ricketts, who was a notorious bad-ass, gave me a D- on my report card. I deserved an F, but he knew how hard I’d studied in Las Vegas.

He did not know I wrote my first novel in biology and passed it around to my fellow students. It was titled, “Hey, Birds.”

Today, I had an interesting conversation with a new coworker. She’s from Iowa. I mentioned that I attended Grinnell College for a year. She replied, “Wow, that’s a rich kids’ college.” Well, yeah, it was then, too. It is also a very diverse college and a wonderful liberal arts education. I was just not prepared for living away from home in the middle of the flat lands. I was not college material at the age of 17 (my father warned me: he wanted me to take a year off and then go to college. I should have listened). I loved Grinnell.

I got to see/hear Ry Cooder. Oh my Gosh – he remains one of my absolute favorite independent musical artists. I had a great design 101 professor. I pulled a B+ average. One of my favorite courses was Humanities. World History was not far behind.

Still, I dropped out. World History, the Greeks, Poetry – those stick with me. I have a very dog-eared copy of Norton’s Anthology of Poetry (1974). John Donne became my favorite sonnet poet. Simone de Beauvoir was inspiring. I hate Freud.

I passed Physics for Dummies with flying colors with a paper on the artist Christo. What can I say? Christo had to understand physics in order to do the things he did with orange drapery.

I dropped out. I was not college-ready. I wanted to be John Steinbeck and write the Great American Novel. I’ve written three or four by now, and burned them all. The only novel I ever sent to a publisher was “Hey Birds” in the 1970’s. It was a truly awful book.

Now I am here: almost 58 and trying to decide which way I want to go. Tonight, I watched a You-Tube tutorial on oil pastels. I felt inspired. I knew that I was on the right track.

The end result of this rambling post is this: I want to be an artist. I buried my Talent for years and years as I worked my way through life: there was making a living to pay the rent, then there was marriage, and then there were children. I chose to homeschool my children which turned into a full-time job (that I will never regret, although their take on homeschooling is yet to be determined*). I was thrust into a full time job working for a real estate company.

And I found every excuse under the sun about why I couldn’t also pursue an artistic career. My bad.

Now, I want to correct that. I am leaning toward art. Really leaning. This is where I need accountability.

(I didn’t even touch on photography. I’ll make that my next post.)

*For Levi. My son. You would NEVER have broken so many laws if you had attended public school. You would NEVER have run as wild as you did if you had been in public school. You NEVER would have taken up Swing Dancing with the cute girls at community college when you were 14 if you had been in public school. I just want you to know that homeschooling worked in your favor.

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Unschooling Math

I have no idea why I just thought of this. It happened around Christmas, when we were all snowed in and cozy. And bored.

I dug out the Yahtzee game and taught my son-in-law how to play.

I keep the Yahtzee pieces in an old Tupperware™ container made to keep your 2# loaf of cheese fresh (how old is that item? Well, Tupperware™ quit making it in the early 1980’s. So, of course, it holds up quite well. All the good Tupperware™ is discontinued). And inside the little container were several old score sheets. Most of which were written on.

Endearing things, with initials or names above the columns for final scores:

Arwen vs. Turd Face.

Levi vs. Butt Head.

The Champion!  vs. Cheater.

Levi vs. Puke Face.

Sam marvelled at the obvious love between Arwen & her brother, Levi. Arwen looked over our shoulders at the score cards and said, “Oh, yes. Mom’s idea of homeschooling math: make the children play Yahtzee. Or Monopoly. We hated playing Yahtzee.”

Hated it so much that she sat down and joined Sam and I. And promptly won all the rest of the games.

“Practice,” she said. “And skill. It’s what homeschooling math does for you.”

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