Happy New Year!

OK, so I’m a little late. I’ve got a good reason for that: I’ve been busy!

I’ve been quilting, writing, and reading for pleasure most of the time. Yes, I do still cook and clean and spend time with my family, but now that I’m not homeschooling, I can embrace my freedom, and I do!

So if you’re tired after a long day of working with your children, and you still have all your other tasks waiting for you, please know that your day will come: lesson plans will be just a good memory, and you’ll be able to pursue your interests. There really is light at the end of the tunnel!

P.S. Guess what? My Stages of Homeschooling eBook series can now be read for free at Amazon.com! Learn more HERE.

Child vs. Lesson Plan

My youngest nephew is seven, and a very bright child. He loves science, and keeps busy at home with educational toys that would bore or overwhelm many boys his age.

Up until recently, he did very well in school. But his second-grade teacher expects her students to sit quietly and read; she thinks he has a problem with this so she’s been sending notes home about it, which is upsetting him and his mother.

As I said, he’s seven and he’s a boy. Sitting quietly and reading is not his natural behavior. I’m not saying he shouldn’t learn this, but I’m sad that his current inability in this area is affecting his grades.

But that’s school. The teacher plans a learning experience for the entire class; those who can’t do what she says will be graded down.

Don’t think this only happens in school. When I was homeschooling, especially at the beginning, there were times when I found “the perfect curriculum” at a homeschool convention, brought it home, made lesson plans using it, and watched my children for signs of “delight-directed learning” or whatever the catchphrase was on the cover….but was disappointed to see none of that on their faces. That’s when I realized that they didn’t do well with the curriculum. I had to learn that children learn best when the subject is presented in a way that works for them…..which may not be the way that works best for the teacher.

Ultimately, gearing materials toward the child’s interests, intelligence level and developmental stage is what works. Successful homeschooling parents learn to do that for their children. Teachers, even very good teachers, can try to do that but how do you accommodate the needs of 30 children from a variety of backgrounds? You can’t.

That’s why homeschooling is so successful, especially once we stop trying to be a school and concentrate instead on giving each of our children what they need at a particular point in time.

History, Homeschooling and the Internet

I’ve been addicted to reading since I was three years old. I can’t help it, it’s what I do. 

For many years, well into adulthood, I spent several hours each weekend reading the voluminous Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune. But it’s now a shadow of its former self, thanks to the Internet, which is where I do most of my reading these days.

I love having such a variety of interesting things to read. Once in a while, however, I hit on something really good, something someone has written that is so spot-on that I just have to share it with others. And have I got something good to share today.

Prolific writer and economic historian Gary North has written an awesome piece entitled “Public Education is Going Down” that clearly explains how the rise of the Internet is slowly killing public education. His theory is that, thanks to the growing availability of knowledge online at an increasingly lower cost, we parents are regaining the educational control that was lost centuries ago:

Home schooling is a throwback to the fifteenth century. It lets parents choose the content and structure of their children’s education. But it goes far beyond anything available then. One size does not fit all: all parents or all children. There is enormous diversity today, and it is getting even more diverse.

Read the entire article for yourself, and be sure to catch his last line. It made me smile  :)

Schools and Chicken Legislators

The highway that runs through the town we live in is the one Democratic members of the state legislature took recently when they ran like cowards from the state capitol of Madison to cross the Wisconsin/Illinois border so they wouldn’t have to vote against the teachers’ unions.

That event was still fresh in my mind this morning when I heard on the radio that Indiana legislators are now copying the Wisconsin chickens by crossing the border into Illinois to avoid voting on school vouchers.

How interesting that they’ll go to such lengths because they don’t want parents to be allowed to direct their tax dollars to the educational institutions of their choice.

The reason, of course, is that if all parents were to do that, the already shaky public school system would weaken, private schools would thrive, and homeschoolers would be able to use tax dollars to pay for the cost of homeschooling their children.*

I know many parents would still send tax dollars to the public schools, and that would be their right. It would also force public schools to cut back on the ridiculously high administrative costs they incur; I’m betting that the current $10,000+ per student per year average cost would drop dramatically. And that would be a good thing.

After all, when I was a kid, and we Baby Boomers clogged up schools all over the country, a school could be run with just a principal, a couple of secretaries, a librarian, a gym teacher and a few custodians. Also, there was no huge bloated district office running our school district; just a superintendent with an office staff. Why can’t this happen again? It should happen again, because in this economy, who can afford continually rising property taxes to pay for schools that can’t even teach most kids to read well?

*Personally, I wouldn’t take money from the government to homeschool my kids, because I don’t want them telling me what to teach. But all homeschooling parents should certainly have that option.

The Book of Virtues

There are always certain products that seem to be “in vogue” in the homeschool community. Some are fads, and others are of lasting value.

One book of lasting value that I bought when it was all the rage among homeschooling parents is The Book of Virtues. This anthology of classic character-building stories was assembled by former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett.

It’s a hefty volume, handily organized by virtues, i.e. there are chapters on compassion, faith, loyalty, etc. In each chapter are stories and poems with the appropriate theme. I used to assign certain stories to my children whenever I thought a specific virtue needed to be emphasized (I know, obvious, right?) Reading these stories often led to some really good discussions among us.

This is a great book for reading aloud to your children, or for your own reading when you only have time to read a classic short story as opposed to a novel. Bennett later introduced other versions of this book specifically for younger children. But I think the stories in this book are useful for reading to or by all children.

The success of The Book of Virtues led to Bennett editing another book, The Moral Compass, which is similar to the first book except that the stories are grouped by subject instead of virtue. We kept both books, even though we’re almost done homeschooling, because the contents are so good. Give one of these volumes to your children on a rainy day and I think you’ll find them spending quite a while with it.