Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Introducing Miss Scarlet, Rusty, and Princess Persimmon

Ever since I found out last summer we were expecting another girl, I've been thinking that I really need to come up with some blog nicknames for my kids.

My nom de plume was chosen back several years ago when I joined the Babycenter.com website. I'd originally wanted "Cardinal Girl" after my college's mascot, but it was already taken so I settled on "Crimson Girl" in honor of the university where my DH was doing his graduate work at the time. I later changed it to "Crimson Wife" after I got accused of falsely pretending to be an alumna of that school during a BBS thread that got rather heated. I wasn't but decided to change my username just to clarify things.

When I started this blog, I decided to keep it anonymous to protect my family's privacy. Since I'd been using the CW username on Babycenter for so long, I thought it made sense to blog under the same one.

For my kids' noms de blog I've decided to stick with the shades of red theme. Perhaps a bit on the cutesy side but I really couldn't come up with anything I liked better.

My oldest is going to be Miss Scarlet. She shares a number of personality traits with Scarlett O'Hara- vivaciousness, stubbornness, spunkiness -so it seemed appropriate.

My DS is going to be Rusty. His hair is rust-colored plus he's really into mechanical stuff.

My new baby girl is going to be Princess Persimmon or Princess P for short. DH's nickname for her IRL is Princess Poop-n-stuff. But persimmon is so much nicer, don't you agree? The ancient Greeks considered it the "fruit of the gods".

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Re-visiting My Educational Philosophy

I'm approaching my 2 year blogiversary, and a recent post by an Australian homeschooling blogger linking to my very first post (thanks for the link love and all the kind words!) got me thinking.

My inaugural post was entitled "Our Educational Philosophy". It was written seven months into our trial year homeschooling our oldest for pre-k and a few months after we made the decision not to enroll her in a traditional school for kindergarten. This first year was spent mostly on figuring out if homeschooling was right for our family and once we decided it was, figuring out how we were going to do it. It was heavy on the planning, and relatively light on the actual teaching part.

Fortunately, 4 year olds don't need that much in the way of formal academic instruction in general, and mine already knew most of the traditional pre-k stuff like the alphabet, counting, shapes, colors, etc. I did do formal phonics with her based on Romalda Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading (adapted to be less reliant on fine motor skills) but the other subjects were done informally.

My point in relating all this is that when I wrote up my educational philosophy, it was based primarily on my ideas about education rather than actual experience. Not that it was done lightly- I had read extensively on the subject and carefully considered a wide variety of viewpoints before trying to formulate my own philosophy. But the $64,000 question is how do I feel about it now that we're halfway through our second year of formal homeschooling?

Back then, I wrote:

"Our primary goal in homeschooling is to teach our children to love God and to serve Him in everything they do. We teach science as the study of His creation; mathematics as His order for the universe; literature, art, and music as the fruits of His inspiration; history as His plan for humanity; health and physical education as taking care of His precious gift of our bodies; and religion as His instructions for how we should live our lives here on Earth. We strive to provide our children with the tools (spiritual, academic, and practical) that they will need in their future vocations."

I still agree with everything here. However, I have been more successful in integrating our faith with certain subjects than with others. History and math in particular I need to do a better job expressing how they are part of God's design.

"We seek to foster in our children a true love of learning so that they will continually seek out new challenges and avenues for growth. We wish to encourage creativity, thinking 'outside the box', and approaching problem-solving in innovative ways. We believe this is best accomplished through integration across subjects; hands-on experiences; exposure to great literature, art, and music; discussing topics in-depth; applying what has been learned to novel situations; lots of variety and freedom to explore; and a balance of teacher-guided and child-directed activities."

Again, I still agree with all this. I've found the integration across subjects to be more difficult than I'd imagined. I got all these promising-looking materials to teach the history of math, science, art, music, etc. but my DD has not really been all that interested. Ditto for trying to do arts & crafts projects related to what we're studying. This is where the "encouraging creativity and thinking outside the box" has come back to bite me in the rear because she wants to do it her way (cue Frank Sinatra) rather than following the directions.

"We believe in tailoring the curriculum to the student's individual abilities, interests, and learning styles while still providing rigorous academic instruction. Our goals include the ability to read, write, and speak fluently and persuasively in English using proper grammar and spelling; strong quantitative skills and the ability to analyze data; familiarity with science, world and U.S. history, geography, and civics to be an informed citizen; computer literacy; and a thorough understanding of Scripture and Church doctrine in order to lead a moral life."

I definitely still agree with this. However, I realize now that I neglected to include some important goals. A big one is a thorough knowledge of economics and personal finance. Our country is in turmoil right now because too few of its citizens have a strong understanding of those key topics. Another important area is home economics and other practical skills. I'm not necessarily buying into the whole "training our daughters to be keepers of the home" thing (though certainly I'm not knocking women who've embraced the traditional female role and would have no problem if my girls decide to spend some time as homemakers when they grow up). I'd just like all my kids (including my son) to be able to cook, do basic sewing, and other household tasks.

"We draw upon the wisdom of many educators including pioneers like Charlotte Mason, Dorothy Sayers, and Maria Montessori as well as contemporary ones like Raymond Moore, Susan Wise Bauer, and Laura Berquist."

I am definitely still an eclectic homeschooler, with strong Classical and Charlotte Mason leanings. In addition to the above names, I've also found helpful information from Catherine Levison, Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn, and even some books geared at "unschoolers" by Mary Griffith and Mary Hood (these are full of ideas for experiential learning).

Overall, I think my original educational philosophy has held up relatively well. We've definitely made progress towards our goals. We could be doing better in some areas such as ensuring our family's faith is integrated across the whole curriculum rather than just certain subjects. It's been a learning process for me as well as my kids, and I'm sure that it will continue to be so in the future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Don't Have to be a Rocket Scientist to Homeschool (Really!)

Don't y'all just love it when someone who has no clue about what homeschooling is really like tries to convince an individual considering it that he/she absolutely, positively, should never in a million years do it?

Yeah, me too! (insert eye-rolling smiley here)

This particular ignorant comment comes courtesy of the reader feedback to an article in yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution entitled "Is Home School a Good Option for Middle School?" The author is unhappy with the lack of academic challenge for his oldest daughter and his family's budget precludes private school tuition. He is also attracted to the flexibility and individualization homeschooling offers. All of these are good reasons to homeschool, and there are many more additional ones.

Commenter "motherjanegoose" then spouts forth her ignorant tirade against homeschooling (her words are in italic, with my responses in bold):

"I am thoroughly opposed to home schooling with the exception of a few circumstances.

WHY? One reason is because of the enormity of the task and the fact that I have met several folks who have tried it and then decided it was way too hard.

I know several people who dropped out of college because it was too hard for them, but I did not let that deter me from enrolling. And guess what? I ended up graduating with a very respectable GPA.

Is this why we require formal education to teach?

No, that has to do with the political influence teachers' unions have had. Private schools typically don't require teaching credentials, and their students on average outperform those in government-run schools.

DUH…I train teachers all over the country.

You know that old cliche about those who teach the teachers...

I am considered an expert in early literacy. I do not know enough about science, math, social studies and foreign languages to begin.

Any subject a home educator feels unable to competently teach can be easily outsourced. There are co-ops, tutors, online classes, community college classes, museum workshops, and so much more out there these days.

This is kind of like: I can cook…I should open a restaurant. I will order a kit to show me how and then VOILA I am on my way.

Bad analogy. Teaching in a homeschool is more like being a personal chef than running a restaurant.

COULD it happen…YES but the chances are slim. I love to work with wood, I will build my own house…get me the kit and I am on my way!

Ever hear of Habitat for Humanity? Those houses are mostly built by amateurs. Also, there are log cabin kits one can purchase.

You are practicing on your child

It's called "parenting". Even those who have worked as childcare professionals find it's completely different raising one's own children.

who needs social skills and to understand how to mesh into a routine that perhaps is not his/her favorite ( at school and with teachers who may not be on his/her top ten list) BUT THAT IS LIFE.

Homeschoolers are not hermits. They learn socialization through their interactions with others, out in the real world (unlike the highly artificial world of the classroom).

I have heard ( from teachers) that the transition back to the classroom is hard....

Did it ever occur to her that unsuccessful homeschoolers are overrepresented in the population of those returning to a traditional school? Those for whom homeschooling is working well are significantly less likely to make the switch,

Next, she discusses the two "acceptable" situations to homeschool. #1 is if the family can afford to jet all around the world. #2 is if a boy is going to have a homosexual male teacher (I'm not making this up!)

If you live in any metro area, me thinks that you could find a suitable school for your child.

Really? I spent quite a bit of time looking for one for my oldest when she was going to be entering kindergarten and could not find a single one that met our needs. The one we liked best costs a whopping $24k per child per year, way out of our budget.

By the time you spend 40 hours per week preparing and teaching, anyone could work a job and pay the tuition of most schools."

And just how much would I need to earn to have $72k left per year after factoring in taxes and the costs associated with me going back to work (second car, professional wardrobe, etc.)? More than I'm likely to get in this economy, that's for sure!

Not to mention that homeschooling is so much more time efficient that I don't spend anywhere near 40 hours per week on it.

I hope the author of the AJC article doesn't get scared off by ignorant nay-sayers like "motherjanegoose" and actually gets to know some real homeschooling families. Homeschooling may well be the perfect solution to his dilemma over his daughter's education :-)