Thursday, September 8, 2011

Educational Angst

You know, the anxiety never stops when it comes to parenting! Really, it doesn't. It just changes form. I may not be dealing with feeding schedules and potty training (at the moment), but those issues disappear simply to be replaced by new ones. This time it's education!

Yesterday we reached - in our long, long history of homeschooling, that is, the past two weeks - the first point when I got a "But Mommmmm, I don't wanna!" when going through a phonics craft.

Great! Already??

I find myself grinding my teeth (i.e. worrying) over multiple issues with our fledgling homeschool, dragging feet being just one of many. Here are just a few:

(1) There are just so, SO many awesome choices when it comes to curricula! I'm not talking just a few - there are thousands of products out there, of all different styles, speeds and types. It is absolutely mind-boggling. And no one homeschooling family uses the same combination of curricula! (Which is awesome, by the way, though confusing for the novice.) I am having a very hard time choosing.

(2) An even bigger issue is the fact that I really didn't want to start school yet with our 5yo. I wanted to delay school until he was six, for several reasons - both that, statistically, kids often do better with a later start (especially boys), and also that our 5yo has shown less than no interest in academics (more like an active antipathy). The only reason that I am starting now is that he has to be "in kindergarten" to move up with his AWANA class. Otherwise, he'd be left behind with the 3yo class while all of his friends moved up. So we have to do kindergarten, but do we do kindergarten or "kindergarten"?? I do not want either to (1) ruin the joy of learning by introducing hard-core academics too early, or (2) end up with an undisciplined learner by delaying them too late.

Where on earth is the balance?

Our son is 100% opposite of myself, which makes me feel even more at sea. I was the naturally-studious type who taught myself to read at four, who took naturally to school work, worksheets, etc., was self-motivated, naturally organized, never needed reminders, etc. Basically, a teacher's pet. He, on the other hand, while being quite curious and incredibly intelligent - especially in practical and mechanical matters - has never, ever, ever been interested in anything remotely academic. Most kids enjoy coloring books - he has almost never touched one voluntarily. Most kids like crafts - he avoids them like the plague. And any time that I've tried to get him to do things like coloring or crafts, it has turned into a discipline battle - "Sit down and color this picture or you're going to be in BIG TROUBLE!" Great, huh?

So right now, with our homeschool, I'm doing tiny phonics lessons (one letter a week) and other than that, just following an interest-led path with tons and tons of library books - both non-fiction, according to interest, and good quality fiction according to age. Right now he is passionately interested in the solar system and space travel, so I have checked out our library's entire (almost) selection on planets/shuttles/etc. and we are reading masses of books about that, as well as watching Youtube videos, and tomorrow night we're going to go visit a local observatory.

In my heart of hearts, I believe that the above type of education is the best (that is, masses of reading of real books plus real life experiences).... but I don't have the confidence in myself to branch out completely in that sense. I would like the security of following some sort of curricula, at least in math. The question is - do I need to start that right now? Or is waiting okay? I know that homeschooling parents often take a "better late than early" approach with their children, which is just awesome, but again..... I lack the confidence to break away from the crowd. Odd, considering all of my counterculture choices in life (like homebirth, etc.) - but I find my confidence really shaky when it comes to home education.

However, as I said, I'm going to be meeting with my AHF (Amazing Homeschooling Friend) soon to get her perspective, and I daresay that I will have a better direction after that.

Thanks for listening to my wanderings!

1 comment:

  1. Check out the "Robinson Curriculum" for just what you're talking about. [I'm seriously considering buying it in the near future, but may see if I can configure it myself for free.] Basically, you teach your kids reading, and you get a math curriculum (he recommends Saxon), and other than that, you read great works of literature and past history and science. I haven't looked at it in enough depth to know exactly what it is, but my impression is that it would be something like reading Audubon's book(s) about birds for science and possibly also biology; and to read biographies and autibiographies for history, etc. -- he says that you read the masters and read books written by those who are passionate about their chosen field, rather than dry, dull textbooks.

    From what I understand, Mr. Robinson was a husband, homeschooling father of many (6? 7?), and busy rancher, and his wife died. She did most of the home-schooling, so he was left with the choice of putting his kids in public school (which was not an option for him), and continuing to home-school while working at his ranch full time, which was not totally feasible either. So, he developed this curriculum using freely available works (they'd lost their copyrights and were in the public domain), so that kids, once they knew how to read, could educate themselves through reading. So, it seems that basically, parents teach their children to read via a phonics program, and then the kids can teach themselves through self-directed reading.

    Because everything in the CD set (which would cover all 12 grades, and costs over $200) is public domain, you *can* find and download them all for free; so why buy? It saves you the time, energy, and hassle of tracking down all these great works and downloading them; plus, they're already formatted for easy printing, if you wanted to print them out for the children to read, vs. looking at the computer screen. Of course, if you have an e-book reader, that may be the best of both worlds -- you get them for free, and they're formatted for easy reading, and the kids don't have to hog your computer to do their schoolwork.

    Now, sorry for *my* rambling, but I wanted to tell you about that, since that seems to be something you might be interested in.


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