Relentless Learning

A while back I worked on writing a book. A book that I had looked for in bookstores and on Amazon, but could not find. I wanted to write a series of answers to questions and concerns voiced by loved ones and nosy ones regarding homeschooling. But I also wanted to bridge a gap between homeschool teachers and non-homeschool teachers. In my research I stumbled upon blogs and threads for institutional school teachers that shed light on their opinion of us. One woman called homeschool moms “dumber than houseplants” and therefore unfit to teach our own children. If it is the public school turning out “dumber than houseplant” mothers, than she just proved the case for homeschooling. If a public school graduate cannot teacher her own child using curriculum, than public schools are in worse shape than I thought.

It began to upset me and so I temporarily quit my research. I started to notice that when I wrote, my answers became defensive as I remembered the awful words typed about my intelligence by women who knew nothing about me. The point of my writing was to share with love why we chose to homeschool. Not to write with hostility, which was beginning to seep through. I wanted to bridge the gap between two types of people… those who homeschool and those who think homeschooling is dangerous/not good enough/or that the moms aren’t qualified to teach.

There is a book at my local library called Rookie Teaching For Dummies. The first piece of advice this author gives to new teachers is this… “very little of what you learned in college applies.” The author goes on to say 90% or some crazy number like that… of what a teacher will do each day is not academic teaching. “Most of what you will be doing is classroom management.” And I imagine having to fight for the right to do anything has to drive teachers crazy. If the kids needs a break (we know when kids need a break) and we want to drop history and science for a week in order to do a unit study around, let’s say, apples, I don’t think a public school teacher can do that. A good unit study will include science, history, art, writing, and vocabulary. Seems like it would be a good “break”, while not breaking from academics. I don’t know how they do it… having to teach under the thumb and direction of those who don’t work with the kids on a daily basis. The one who teaches the children should have the ultimate say in how the material gets covered. What do our days boil down to in regards to learning? At home? At school? I know what my children gain each day as we discuss what we read and we work together in our activities. I know when curriculum needs tweaking and the only authority I need to go through to change our resources is my husband. We need money for a field trip? Ask hubby. We need a new book that would enhance our studies immensely? Hubby.

Now that I am back to frantically scribbling in notebooks as I study Ruth Beechick and Susan Wise Bauer and of course, Charlotte Mason, as well as many others, I am ready to put some work into finishing a small book about homeschooling. Meant to be read by those who are concerned about their homeschooled grandchild or loved one. I am coming at it from a different angle and as I want to share less about the social aspect and more about academics, the words that keep coming to mind are “relentless learning.” We are relentlessly learning. Yes, there is a social issue and I will address it here quickly and move on because I know most homeschoolers are so bored with the question of socialization. In my sarcastic irritation with the over-asked question, if an adult human being can’t figure out why institutional socialization is not superior to real world social situations, that’s proof enough the schools are failing. Kids who go to institutional schools get socialized. I don’t want my kid “socialized.” That comes from my understanding of what it means to be social in the world verses being socialized. My faith is rooted and grounded in Christ. He spoke of love, giving, nowhere is it recorded did he teach about getting “socialized”… I think that may be a term invented to try to scare homeschoolers. Human beings who come out of the schools socialized are no better off than anyone else.

People call us weird… yes, they actually still do. But think about their definition of weird… thought about it? Now do you agree that it doesn’t matter what they think? Yes, I agree that it is weird to love to learn and to be best friends with parents and siblings, but so what? It is weird to know about how the world works, and by “world” I mean banking, doctor appointments and pharmacy practices, drug interactions and dangers, how to care for a home and a yard and garden, and best of all… to know that how you look and the price of your clothes and the interests you have don’t make one a popular winner or a loser. Personal example… my son, who is clearly on the autism spectrum (really, he’s been diagnosed be several different specialists including a close friend who knows the family well), knows he is different, but has no idea that there is anything wrong with him, just different. No remedial classes in our homeschool because he’s not remedial. He’s not “behind”. In fact, when I voiced concern to the public school speech therapist he sees that he may be “behind” in reading she disagreed and suggested that my other children are simply “advanced.” Our standards are a little higher so I was still concerned until I read about how children learn and was once again at peace with his pace.* He learns and he continues to grow in his interests. I think it’s wonderful. If your child is not learning at a pace the almighty teacher manual suggests, stay encouraged. Remember that the One who decides which children are “behind” is the ultimate Authority, not the government funded public school system which was originally designed as a “back-up” education institution for parents unable to teach their children.

*I’ll post the resources that taught me most everything I know about teaching at the bottom. If you’ve homeschooled for more than a minute I am sure you’ve read or heard of some or all of them.

Our specific local public school is great. The staff, including the principal are very kind and non-judgmental of our decision to homeschool while still receiving their help in speech therapy. I know my limits and I am not opposed to public schools or teachers, I am opposed to the suits behind the scenes making decisions for kids they will never meet and failing them with a one-size-fits-all curriculum. I love teachers. I am a teacher. My Dad was a teacher. My MIL was a teacher. I may be a school librarian one day. So… I am NOT opposed to public schools, just the education that the teachers are forced to push on the children. Teaching all year with the goal of testing in the last month of school, instead of the goal being true learning and education, doesn’t sit well with me. Using that systems, the goals are high test scores, which do not prove one has learned anything. Most of all, labeling a child “ahead” or “behind” when 99% of children are learning just how they were created to learn is unfair. That’s my biggest problem with a one-size-fits-all system. Children are not the same across the board and labeling them smart or stupid will not make the system work.

Today, I wish that I had been homeschooled during the elementary years. I was sorta’ homeschooled in high school, through the local college alternative high school system. And I graduated early. Homeschooling works. Very well. Here’s why… relentless learning. The goal of home education is supporting each person in his education so that he can manage his own learning. Rather than focusing on testing or curriculum, my goal is to make it possible for the boys to develop strong thinking and learning habits. The facts and skills we acquire are simply an avenue in which to do this.

How can I make sure I am inspiring my students? How can I encourage them and come alongside them to mentor their education? That’s the point of this. That’s the point of homeschooling and this is what I hope to convey as the overall message as I write my book for people who need to know that we, homeschoolers, are not ruining their grandchildren or loved ones. Finding a way to tell the world that not only are we not trying to imitate school at home, but we are actually trying to do the opposite of what institutions do, is tricky. It goes against the grain of all we are taught. I hope to really trash that whole school of thought.

As noted, here’s a list of my favorite reads. These teachers taught me how to homeschool, as did my children. But these women have been instrumental in teaching my kids how to read and write and become self-guided learners. When I need a refresher or my child is ready to move on from one age range to another, I turn to these resources. There are many more (many, many more), but these are like homeschool bibles to me. I am going to list them by name and author not in any kind of order. Pretty much how they are sitting on my table. Now, I know there are many awesome books written that I don’t have on my list… these are the ones that inspire me the most, but not by any means the only ones that I have learned from. First I list homeschool books, then I list the grammar, reading, and writing books that I read to inspire me and teach me so I can inspire and teach my kids to speak and write well.

Homeschooling:

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Series Volumes; there are 12.

Dr. Ruth Beechick’s Homeschool Answer Book by Ruth Beechick and Debbie Strayer

Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola

The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick

A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison

More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax

50 Veteran Homeschoolers Share: Things We Wish We’d Known compiled by Bill and Diana Waring

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learning by Lori Pickert

Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling by Diana Waring

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto

Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling

Grammar; Reading, Writing Resources I couldn’t homeschool without…

The Bedford Handbook by Diana Hacker

Primary Language Lessons (inspiration when we run dry)

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Writers INC: A Student Handbook for Writing and Learning

Write Source 2000: A Guide to Writing, Thinking, & Learning

Glencoe Language Arts: Grammar and Composition Handbook

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