As the holidays approach and traditions and family time are often the topic of discussion, I am so excited to be able to introduce my very first guest blogger. This blogger is particularly close to my heart. As a homeschooling wife and mom and loving daughter to two beautiful people (including one with multiple health issues,) this woman juggled various responsibilities with aplomb for many years in her homeschooling days. These days, she keeps up her busy schedule with a full time ‘day job’ as she works overtime to make her latest business venture successful. The truth is that this pioneering homeschooling mom taught me pretty much everything I know about how to homeschool successfully. You may have guessed by now that I am talking about my own dear Mama! Now, without further ado, here is the blog by Yvonne Root:
Somewhere around here we probably have the video supplied to us by the television station that sent a reporter into our home to discuss the then new idea of home school. We were in our first year of playing school at home. Notice the wording – playing school – I’ll get back to that.
We were in the news!
What an exciting day that was for us. We had answered yes to the reporter’s request to come see our school, to see the one and only student and to see the teacher. The room that had once been our family room had morphed (seemingly overnight) into the school room. The student’s desk and the teacher’s desk, the shelves filled with books, the bric-a-brac of a well stocked school room were all there awaiting the reporter. The one and only student and the teacher were dressed for school. The principle had been called away (poor guy had to work his day job) and was unavailable.
The reporter asked the usual questions concerning – hum, I don’t remember most of what she asked. The only thing I do remember with certainty was the question concerning how we went from being at home as a family to being at school. I could have shown her the door frame and said, “That way is the kitchen and that is home, this way is the school room and this is school.” Instead I offered an even more disgustingly silly answer. I told her that I changed hats. In one hat I was the mom and in the other hat I was the teacher.
This is one of those moments I look back on and think, “Could I have really been that naive? Could I have really been so clueless?”
The education begins
Because I absolutely love the process of learning, (there is a bit of irony here) I borrowed or purchased every book I could get my hands on concerning home school. Not only the why of home school but the how of home school, the what, where and when of home school became my major focus, became the one concept about which I was determined to learn. (Remember this was before the internet was available to the likes of me and mine – books were where I turned.) Also we were blessed to find a home school support group within a few months of our adventure into playing school and I began to get an education.
But the school sputters
Perhaps because I had only one student I wasn’t as bad as a friend of mine who confessed that in her early days of home school her children students, all 3 of them, were required to raise their hands if they desired to ask a question or add a comment. Yet, in so many other ways I brought my experience of public school into the setting which would be our home school.
Bulletin boards prepared by the teacher for other adults to ogle, gold stars, hushed reading and writing time, insistence on completing workbooks which repeated the same concept so many times both student and teacher were often in tears at the end of a tear-your-hair-out-in-boredom-day were all ways I found to play school.
The teacher gets it!
Little by little, friend by friend, book by book, article by article I began to understand the concept of learning at HOME.
Here are a few of the things which my mentors and friends taught me:
1. Learning takes place during all waking hours. If you set hours for school you teach your children that learning outside those set hours is not likely and probably inappropriate or unacceptable. On the flip side there is another more insidious portion to this concept and one much more difficult to overcome – your kiddos are learning all sorts of things from you, good or bad, as long as they are awake. Chilling?
2. Learning is fun, but not when it is forced, coerced or out of step with the God given skills, talents and desires of the student. Someone once explained to me that there is an actual release of endorphins into our systems when we learn something new. You can watch it happen. Watch your children’s faces light up when they grasp a new concept. You can feel it happen. Notice how you feel the next time you discover what was once an unknown notion or a difficult abstraction which you suddenly “get.” If your children haven’t had their learning joy stifled (by public school or by you) you will find it is more difficult to stop them from learning then it is to “make” them learn.
3. Learning is an excellent way to fill a day, but not the only way. Sometimes just goofing off and enjoying one another’s company is all that is required. If you are worried about “wasting time” see number 1 above. 🙂 One of the most grand things you can teach your children is that enjoying each other in their differences and commonalities, at play or at work is a God given gift we call family.
4. Learning takes place best if the teacher is wearing a denim jumper or skirt. Oh wait, that has changed now; hasn’t it? Learning takes place best if the teacher is comfortably wearing her pajamas. Truth is, other home school parents can teach you things about home schooling but you know your children, you know which tactics and strategies work with your children. You don’t have to look a certain way, use a particular curriculum, or purchase the latest and greatest in order to educate your children. A model isn’t beautiful because of the outfit – she is often beautiful in spite of the outfit. I’ve seen children learn in spite of their curriculum too.
5. Learning is best done by the student who is educating himself. Think about this, when a baby decides to walk he begins to practice. He steps, stumbles, falls and starts again. You can hold his hand, cheer him on and show him what the process of walking looks like. But, a child learns to walk by trying to walk. Our daughter learned to read before we thought to teach her to read. At age 4 she was reading – quite well. On the other hand, her daughter has been given many opportunities to learn to read and at the age of 6 has finally asked for help to learn how to read. I’ve known other children who didn’t learn to read until they were 10. When your child needs a skill or some type of knowledge he will tell you or show you that he is ready to acquire that skill, to understand that concept. Show him how, cheer him on, hold his hand and let him learn.
Oh no, not high school
Early on in our journey of home school I learned that Real Books not text books were what made both me and our daughter soar and sing with delight. By this time we knew and understood that most of what she was learning was because she was autodidactic. Yet, the day came when the words, “high school” crossed my mind. And I panicked big time. What if we had gotten it all wrong? What if and what if and what if?
Here are the things which our daughter did during those last 4 years of not so formal, formal education. She took a few college courses and aced them. She worked on a ranch near our home. At first she did menial work then was promoted by the manager to an office position. She later worked as the office manager for a local architect. She became an Anglophile. She became adept with the processes associated with bookkeeping. She wrote articles for magazines and was paid for her submissions. She took a rocket making class. She learned that she loved the study of history. She found a good tutor to help her understand math skills she was missing. She spent tons of time with her friends. She also spent lots of time with her grandparents. She was politically active. She participated in the functions of our church often and regularly. She honed her cooking skills. She learned a couple of computer languages, Visual Basic and HTML. She learned to crochet from her grandmother. She learned that she can learn whatever she wants when she wants because she knows how to learn. Witness: a few weeks ago she decided to learn to knit and she is busy practicing that skill. Perhaps she will show you the results one day. Who taught her to knit? She found instructions on the internet.
At the end of 12 years of formal then not so formal educating we learned:
- Learn to read so you can learn anything else you care to learn
- Learn to ask for help when you need it
- Learn who to ask for help
- Try again if you don’t get it the first time
- Do it.