Thursday, April 3, 2008

yo ho homeschooling

There is always much interest surrounding the various methods of homeschooling practiced by those of us crazy enough to have chosen that path. I have friends who use Sonlight, Abeka, the Charlotte Mason approach, The Well-Trained Mind, and many many others.

The truth is, I can scarcely even say we homeschool with a straight face. So delinquent are we that even the unschoolers are on their way to my house to issue a misspelled demerit. I have a ready supply of disclaimers, depending on the skeptic with whom I am talking, but they're all bullshit. The truth is, I don't particularly relish doing lessons, and I am really lazy about them. We have spurts of shining productivity, and then droughts that resemble the great potato famine. I console myself with various lies, and some cherished truths, like, my kids are learning all kinds of things each day, whether they're doing drills or depositing money into their savings accounts. (They certainly know how to make withdrawals!) They're excellent readers, which is the most important thing to me, and they're right on target (or a little ahead) in math. Those are kind of my fundamentals, and the rest is gravy. I know, I know, I can't wait to polish my Cop-Out of the Year trophy. (Also, mmmm...gravy...)

If pressed to claim one method over the others, I'd have to go with ... the piracy method, I think. For the first two years, Brandy, goddess of all things homeschooling, tailored a curriculum specifically for my kids, and we adhered to that for dear life. That is, on the days we did anything. Her material was mostly aligned with The Well-Trained Mind, as well as her own seasonings mixed in. It suited us beautifully. My kids learned to read quickly, and the math program (Singapore) couldn't be going better. But I've grown complacent.

Hence having resorted to piracy. Since we roam the homeschooling seas with no place to call home, we dabble in a little bit of everything, and lots of nothing. If I find myself in a group of moms chirping about various successes, I make mental notes and see what of their regimen I might steal. When two of my friends happen to be reading The Secret Garden to their kids, I race to Borders to buy it too. When Brandy is tiring of her military-style routine, and wants to become all artsy in her instruction, I declare an indefinite holiday for my kids, and wait to see what the changing tide will bring. Everything intrigues me, and everything overwhelms me, so each day is a roll of the dice. We're still using B's outline as our trusted standard, though it is subject to my vigilantism. Sometimes, our lessons are folding laundry and learning how to bake biscuits, other days find us learning just how many miles we can eke out of $4.55 worth of gas, while other times we do a unit study on all six seasons of Northern Exposure. (It took 6 weeks!) And yes, for the stickler types, my kids know the parts of speech and their times tables. Reilly can count/divide/save/convert money like nobody's business, and Quinn's penmanship and spelling are virtually error-free. (And as a bonus, his hair is short again, which I know is OT but it makes me so happy to report it!)

While our lackluster attitude may seem unschooly to you, I am pretty fiercely opposed to being called an unschooler. We know and love plenty of them, but I am far too controlling, neurotic, and competitive to have a hands-off approach. But we're no beacons for homeschooling either. We're just a roving band of semi-schoolers. Some days kick our asses and some days we're kicking ass, just depends. I usually issue days off for things like rain, sunshine, wind, definitely hail, and those cozy grey days, but we've also been known to stay up until midnight finishing books, correcting math, and preparing displays for the various fairs for which B is constantly signing us up.

(I can just feel all my libra friends grinning and nodding at the dichotomy that is our education process. Except for Gail, who sets her curriculum in a stone tablet and follows it with careful precision, and by the way, was an actual teacher, so we can all feel just a trifle less inferior, lol.)

There is a modicum of guilt and shame that comes with being unaffiliated, as it were. I definitely know what we're not, I just don't know what we are. Some days it's liberating, while others find us searching for any port in the storm, you know? I assume my little buccaneers will embark upon adulthood with at least one or two marketable skills with which to earn enough doubloons, and they'll always have the warm memories of being wanted and home with me everyday. If it doesn't pan out, I guess I'll be walkin' the plank...


Blimey! We all showed up for school wearing the same thing.

8 comments:

gail said...

first, your socks rock! second, i don't use a stone tablet - i use the 'sam planner' :) third, you're an amazingly talented writer who carried the pirate theme throughout the piece beautifully. fourth, the most important thing, besides reading and math, will be that your kids have warm memories of being wanted at home and of being loved by their devoted mom. good job matey! if you want to do a whole unit on pirates, let me know, lol!

mamakendra said...

At the OHEN conference, I went to the unschooling talk, and the speaker said first off "unschooling, by ORIGINAL definition, was taking your kids out of PS school and schooling at home".

She also said "we do not have to label ourselves", (I know that is easier said that done because we all work better when we "have an idea" or label, of our boundaries).

The other thing she said is unschooling isn't all or nothing, it is truly more a little of this, that and the other, very eclectic actually.

As a LIBRA, I have always been extremly organized & rigid, or the exact opposite! I consider unschooling for me a lesson in letting go of control, because I am so needing to control, everything!

Hope that helps a bit, it really did for me!

Cheyenne said...

Gail--Pirates are sort of B's territory. Did you ever meet her alter ego, Helen? Shiver me timbers! If anyone were to write a piece about it, it ought to be her--you should hear her!

We found the Sam plan extraordinarily helpful too. That is, until mama got too lazy and downgraded to the 'no plan.'

Sam said...

So, why doesn't this Sam Plan work for Sam? HUH?HUH?

:)

Libras RULE!

mental chatter said...

I love Libras! I also have a very special fondness for Leos! OT.

You can call your plan or lack of plan for homeschooling whatever you want. Or, call it nothing at all. I call it brilliant and inspiring!

You go ladies!

Adam said...

the unschoolers are on their way to my house to issue a misspelled demerit

Freaking LOL!!!

a unit study on all six seasons of Northern Exposure

can't... breathe... laughing... too... hard...

B Kinch said...

Ahoy me heartie, shame and guilt be for landlubbers and cowardly swabs! What a mess of bilgewater! Thee's lad and lass be quick as jollyboats seeing as ye's learned them theys three Aaaarrrs! Here be a bit of poem for thee mateys, the best ever writ and whatever lubbers dares disagree be nothing better than bilgerats destined for the briny deep.
A Children's Pirate Shanty
by Mark "Cap'n Slappy" Summers
(sung to the tune of Monty Python's "I'm a Lumberjack and I'm OK" )

Chorus
I'm a pirate! That I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!
I stay up late - till half past three!
And that's a peg below me knee!

Yo Ho, my friends I have a tale
of treasure, plunder, sea and sail
my story's bigger than a whale
it gets so deep, ye'll have to bail.

Chorus
I'm a pirate! That I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!
I stay up late - till half past three!
And that's a peg below me knee!

I like to fish, I like to fight
I like to stay up half the night
When I say "starboard" ye go right!
Me ma, she says, "Ye look a fright!"

Chorus
I'm a pirate! That I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!
I stay up late - till half past three!
And that's a peg below me knee!

I've got no hand but that's me hook!
I pillage stuff but I'm no crook.
Me booty's in this chest I took.
They'll write about me in a book!

Chorus
I'm a pirate! That I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!
I stay up late - till half past three!
And that's a peg below me knee!

And that's all there is to this song.
I hope it hasn't been too long.
A pirate's life might just be wrong
So grow up nice and big and strong!

Chorus
I'm a pirate! That I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!
I stay up late - till half past three!
And that's a peg below me knee!

Cheyenne said...

Helen! So nice to see you. (I don't usually like you.)