To School or Not To School
Finding our way through the homeschooling maze.
Whether you are new to the homeschool scene or you are an old hat, taking complete charge of your child's schooling can seem like a daunting task. If you think ordering a Latte from your local Starbucks is a challenge, you might not be quite ready to homeschool. If the law in your state is pretty straightforward consider yourself lucky, unless you happen to live in a state that requires arduous supervision and endless paperwork (they do exist).
Some states, such as here in California, have no homeschooling laws and newbie's must follow the private school laws, which may seem overwhelming at first but are actually pretty easy to follow, once you understand them. That's where statewide support groups come in. They are a stopgap for parents who find themselves facing laws, regulations and choices they were never prepared to face. Most state organizations offer an 800 number where homeschoolers can call to get help to immediate concerns, some even provide late night and early morning service, not just the regular 9 to 5, business as usual service.
California Homeschool Network provides much more, offering an online group for 24-hour connectivity with other homeschoolers, a monthly "newsletter" shock full of interesting articles, timely news and events. CHNews has evolved from a small newsletter into a full-fledged, color magazine in just a few short years. CHN also provides a legal and legislative team of advisors to notify homeschoolers statewide of important legal matters of concern to the homeschooling community.
If you live in a state, which has several methods under which to home educate your child(ren), it can help to join your state homeschool organization. Old timers can be an invaluable resource in selecting the best homeschool method, to suit the needs of not only your child, but also your families educational philosophy and lifestyle. If your family doesn't prescribe to the "early-to-bed, early-to-rise" concept, joining a charter school, which requires your student attend classes in the early morning, would most likely end up proving to be a disaster for your family.
Just as important is assessing a child's learning style. Some students do well with an organized curriculum, similar to the methods employed by the public school system. John Taylor Gatto has a lot to say about the public school system, on the how's and why's it was created and why it was implemented the way it was. Gatto contends that what the public school system was designed to do is dumb down children and keep them under-control. If your goal were to provide your child with the richest educational experience possible, you would do well to research other methods of instruction and skip replicating the "school-at-home" model.
Most homeschooling families soon discover they are forced to re-evaluate their priorities and values. Everything doesn't seem quite so black and white any more. The boundaries begin to blur and often the family unit begins a complete transformation. As a formerly "school-at-home" family, it amazes me to look back and see the metamorphosis that has taken place in my own family. We have chosen what I like to call "natural learning" method. We don't prescribe to some of the more radical "unschooling" methods, which I associate with "free range" children or "child-led" education.
Child-led education means different things to different families. I have a particular problem allowing my child to make all the decisions, for himself. I happen to believe that children need guidance, they aren't emotionally prepared to make all the decisions in their lives and they aren't ready to accept the consequences of their immature actions. However, home should be the "proving ground" the place where a child can make mistakes and learn from them. Child-led learning, where the child is allowed to study those things of interest to him or her is an excellent way to help a child develop a keen understanding of any topic that strikes his fancy.
As natural-learners, we like to live our life day-to-day and experience it. When we grocery shop, we can do math, matching, reading, spelling and sometimes even history. We often use a road trip to study geography, history, map reading and sometimes-even science; taking in the sights and sounds around us, experiencing our adventures on more than one level. Am I concerned my son will "miss" something? Sure. I think all parents are. However, I can attest first-hand that if you can read, you can learn anything that strikes your interest and since my son has been an avid reader since age four, I worry less than I would if we had not already crossed that hurdle.
I enjoy not being forced to have my son constantly compared with his peers. It affords us the freedom of following our own learning timetable, listening to our own natural clock. While I admit to having my bouts of worry and concern, they are but fleeting thoughts. Our life is simply too full to dwell on such things for very long. Once I got over the initial shock of having to make all the decisions myself, I have learned to enjoy it. Parents have gotten so used to depending on so-called professionals to make all the important decisions in their child's life that they have forgotten how good it can feel when you take matters into your own hands and things come together. You can pat yourself on the back, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Homeschooling parents have earned the right to pat themselves on the back when their child finally becomes an adult and is on his or her path to success. We never know where this journey will take us, but the adventure is ours to take. We are the guides, often learning as we go. Isn't that the way life is though? Learning as we make our way through the maze we call life. Why should homeschooling be any different?
As we meander on our homeschooling way, remember it's the journey that counts, not the path that we take and not the destination. A journey well traveled is one our children will remember fondly for many years to come. Don't be afraid to stop and smell the roses, take a few detours and even to get lost once in awhile. Let life take you where it will and always be ready for a good adventure.