Friday, February 17, 2012

How We Came to Home Education, Pt. 1

 Stay Tuned for the next two posts in this 3 part series!

We love "homeschooling" now, but we didn't always think this would be our education / lifestyle choice as a family. As with many things, there was a time when we were unaware of its benefits or that it was an option for us.

Since I know how much reading others' blogs and stories about homeschooling helped me when I was first starting to be curious about it, and because it will be a great way to record it for my family, I'm including a series of 3 posts about How We Came to Home Education. Enjoy!

Looking back, I now realize that we were building a foundation for our family in those early, early "preschool" years. If you are considering home education, terrific! It's a decision that we have never regretted making and that has opened a whole new world of enjoyment together for our family. If you have any questions about beginning to homeschool or homeschooling during the early years, I invite you to ask via the comments section below or by e-mail.


In the Beginning...

If you (the child) didn't have to go to school at all, how would you learn?
What would you do all day?

If you (the parent) chose to not send your child to school,
what would your life be like?
What do children need to learn? How do children learn?
What environment is best in which to learn? How will a child become a happy, well-adjusted person without a classroom of peers?

Whether school or  no, what is it you want for your child?
What is a parent's role in creating experiences for the child?
What kinds of experiences do you want them to have
and which ones do you think they would benefit from?
What kind of life, as a parent, would you like to have?
Are parents qualified to be their child's teacher?

Preschool?
I started asking myself all of these questions as soon as my oldest son was turning 3 years old. Most parents I knew with children his age were sending their children to preschool. I did not go to any preschool as a child and I figured I turned out fine, so I knew it was not necessary for me to send him. We did interesting things at home together, my son and I, much like my mother did with me. We would take walks or play with paint and water and sand. I read to him often, he liked to watch PBS children's shows and DVD's from the library, he wrestled with his daddy, we would go out hiking together as a family sometimes and we had extended family close by to visit with. Also, we did have friends we met at the park for play dates. I figured this was as good an 'education' as anyone could offer him, if not better. At that point, I was not concerned with beginning academics. Life was about exploration and spending time with people.

                                                        Shaving cream finger paint!

As anyone with a young child at home knows, as soon as you begin an art project...it can easily become a "I want to experience with my whole body" kind of 'sensory' art experience. I figured at least this one would be easy to clean up! We discovered and made a lot of fun together. I have my children to thank for changing me in that way. It was a crash course in creativity and extreme patience!


Of course, I did need a break from time to time during the day while my husband was at work. As anyone knows who parents a small child, it can be exhausting!

My husband's parents, and mine, were still in the midst of raising the children they had left at home, so they were not as available to watch my son so I could get a break, though they did as often as they could.  I struck out to find other people near me to connect with. I enjoyed meeting and visiting with other moms at various mom's groups, La Leche League meetings, and church.

I also wanted our oldest, and only son at the time, to experience having friends and exploring the world in a fun way, beyond Mom and the walls of our home.  I decided to try out a high quality Montessori-style in-home preschool for a few weeks, but my son did not like being dropped off twice a week. I enjoyed the brief hour or two to myself when he was there, but he had trouble wanting to go without me. Some may say that meant I *should* have left him, to toughen him up or something of the sort, but I followed my mother's intuition and didn't want to force him to attend when he was obviously not ready for it.

I learned a bit more about normal child development from the Montessori teacher herself, and knew that I did not want to overly emphasize reading and writing and other "academic-y" things just yet. I knew it might be better to wait until he was mature enough. So, combining a delay of academics, and continuing exploration and being around other people!, I was looking for an alternative to formal preschool....


The First Co-op
As luck would have it, a few friends in the same neighborhood were forming an at-home preschool co-op and needed a fourth family. We joined and I had a break twice weekly for two hours and my son enjoyed going to his friends' homes with their mothers doing small crafts, having snacks and short lesson on an alphabet theme. His personality was quite friendly and he happily went off to his 'friends' homes. I learned to organize and engage four young children when it came my turn to host co-op. It was a learning experience for all of us! (But mostly me!) I also had a new baby at this time as I had just given birth to our second son, so I began learning how to juggle these kinds of days.

Influences
During this time, I came across Diane Flynn Keith's Universal Preschool website ( I really liked the article entitled "Preschool Pressure") and Lillian Jones' website. I read about John Holt and unschooling, but it was still pretty foreign to me. I found The Natural Child Project online and really liked a lot of what I saw there. I read Learning All the Time by John Holt and that book helped me better understand my role as parent in facilitating my child's learning rather than directing it. I also read In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong and that confirmed what I already knew; children, and adults, each have their own unique ways of learning. I was starting to think that schools weren't necessarily the best places for people to learn as they don't, and can't, accommodate the multiple intelligences people use in order to learn. I liked what I was reading, but it took time to read a bit, then think about it, then try things out and sit back and evaluate how it was or wasn't working and how we (my family) felt about the results.

My husband had been homeschooled for the first two years of his elementary education and liked the concept of having our son home. I explained a lot of what I was reading and we had lots of discussions about what we liked and what we wanted to avoid. We wanted our children to be healthy and happy and explore the world around them. We planned to give them the guidelines they would need to be safe and to introduce them to many ideas and experiences. We wanted them to follow their interests and be confident in their abilities. We agreed that we could provide this kind of life for our children better than a school could. We also agreed that home education could not only work for our family educationally, but that it would allow for more freedom and flexibility in our family's daily rhythm. Instead of being locked in a school schedule and having to bend around a school's set of expectations, we could create our own (or just go with the flow).

   
                          Look familiar? Yes, toilet paper has been an accessory since the beginning!




                             This is the very first father-son Lego project! (Cue the 'awe'!) 
                                                The first of many to come....





                  Keepin' cool outside the front door of our condo we lived in at that time.



Stay tuned as our story continues in
How We Came to Home Education, Part 2...




2 comments:

  1. We are currently trying to decide whether or not homeschooling is right for us. This is a great article and I look forward to reading the next part of your post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad to know are reading this series. It was a lot of fun to write. I wish you well in your decision making!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment today! I love reading your thoughts, too. :-)