For Education, There’s Still No Place Like Home

Homeschooling is legal and thriving in all 50 states.  In Hawaii, any parent can homeschool and no permission is needed.  The parent is responsible for what to teach and how to measure progress.  We need only notify our school principal of our intent to homeschool and send in a report at the end of the year of what we did.  The Department of Education is  very supportive of this alternative, even referring families to us so they can find out more about what it involves.

How one goes about homeschooling depends upon one’s resources, philosophy, interests, and the learning style of the children involved.  Some families buy a ready-made curriculum and school their children at home on a set schedule.  Some use a curriculum but are more flexible about following it and about the hours.  Some develop their own curriculum and others allow life and their interests to provide the next learning experience.  Some parents do virtually all the teaching, some use tutors, some organize small classes in which parents take turns teaching.  Most families participate in community activities: drama, art and music classes, sports, festivals, and such.  This is one of the greatest appeals of homeschooling — you can do it in a way that suits your family.  Most will do a combination of approaches over the years.

Another advantage of homeschooling is the quality it provides — quality of education and quality of family time.  In a family setting, with few students and few distractions, children have time to read, learn math, do art, be outdoors, do hobbies, relax and all the rest and without rushing to bed at night or rushing to school in the morning.  The family works and lives as a unit and this gives the highest quality experiences in socialization, community responsibility and feelings of self-worth. Studies uniformly demonstrate the excellence of homeschooled children both academically and socially.

We homeschoolers find that the more we are with our children, the more we enjoy them.  Just as we thrilled to their first words and first steps, we now take joy in seeing them learning to read, learning more fully the skills of homelife,  and  growing in character traits.  And with their growing ability to help with the running of the family comes more free time for the family to spend enjoying each other and socializing with other homeschoolers.
If school isn’t  providing your child with the education or good influences you wish or if you feel that life might be less hectic and if you’d like more time to enjoy your children and your family life, contact one of these groups and find out how homeschooling might work for you.

So Many Interesting Things

Last year, our son and I used a GED prep book for our homeschooling curriculum, focusing on the reading, social studies and science book.  In it we read a hodgepodge of excerpts from books and poems and covered a wide variety of facts.  He wanted to get a broad background of knowledge that school kids get and we felt this would be a good way to make sure that we didn’t miss anything.
The problem was that it was all excruciatingly boring.  It didn’t seem to have any connection to anything else and while perhaps “nice to know,” we had no use for any of it.  Even the math, which we started and quickly dropped, seemed more like irrelevant trivia than useful tools.  After all, he could already do in his head all the math calculations he needed faster than anyone I know.  No, he can’t do algebra,  and neither can I anymore, having aced it in school and never had any further use for it since.

At the end of the school year, we decided that we wouldn’t mourn over a year wasted on pursuing someone elses idea of a rounded education, but would just chalk the experience up as a lesson learned.  We went back to our serendipitous approach to learning, a method that had worked so well for us in the past.
Now we’re back to reading good literature that piques our interest — The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller right now, Lord of the Flies before that.  We stumble across interesting articles in the news magazines, like Space takes its toll, an article about the physiological effects of lack of gravity,  “Chinese ‘hacktivists’ spin a Web of trouble”  about using the Internet to further the aims of democracy in a country where one could be jailed for such activity or “A blow-by-blow look at impeachment”.   We learn about physiology through doctor’s visits for his various skating injuries (3 fractures, many sprains) and through his training regime.  We’ve found time to play Scrabble and to listen to self-betterment tapes and to learn carpentry by building a 80 foot long skating ramp in our yard.  We are both board members of the Maui Skate Association.

He now has time to work on his journal and his book, both of which he is very involved in. He writes many e-mails to his sponsors and friends who have moved away.   And we don’t worry about “falling behind” when we go bodyboarding or hiking or camping.

The funny thing is, all this effortless learning turns out to produce a quite excellent education.  We spend a good deal of time around school kids and schooled adults and find that  his knowledge and understanding is generally at least as good as theirs, often better.  In fact, they have made comments about his vocabulary and knowledge.  Not to say that he doesn’t have holes in his education or weak points, but don’t we all?  Are we concerned about college?  Not particularly.  Should the time come when that’s his interest, he’ll pursue that as naturally as he’s pursuing his current interests.   The point is that there are so many interesting and useful things to know about and while nobody will ever know but a tiny fraction of them all, we’re glad we’re free to focus on those we choose.

A Curriculum for All Ages

In Hawaii, we are required to have a curriculum (not present it) and at the end of the year, we write a report of what we did. This is mine for an early grade but I believe it works for any age.
From the first report we sent in, we have made it abundantly clear that we are emphasizing character traits and will not be pursuing formal studies to any degree until our son is clearly ready. To quote from my 1989 Year End Report, “We are basing our home-education program on the premise that children eagerly and easily learn those things for which they are developmentally ready.” Our main references for this approach are the works of five authors: John Holt, Raymond Moore, Jean Piaget, David Elkind, and Rudolph Steiner (also see John Dewey, Arthur Gates and E. Thorndike). Each in his own terms urges parents and teachers not to rush children into academic studies. Piaget labels the ages seven to eleven the “concrete-operational” period and finds that this is when academic pursuits can most successfully be begun….Their own research and that of others led Raymond Moore and his associates at the Hewitt Foundation to set an age of at least eight to ten as the point at which to begin academic work. If there’s any doubts, they urge waiting until even later.
David Elkind makes a good case for “growing up slowly” in his well known book, The Hurried Child.
In my 1990 School Year Report, I included 4 more pages of quotations supporting the educational approach of emphasizing character and happiness in the elementary school ages. As A. S. Neill of “Summerhill wrote, “I hold that if your emotions are free your intellect will look after itself.”
I also quoted Daniel Greenberg Free at Last, The Sudbury Valley School, “We felt that the only learning that ever counts in life happens when the learners have thrown themselves into a subject on their own, without coaxing, or bribing, or pressure….In order to be true to ourselves we had to get away from any notion of curriculum, or a school-inspired program. We had to let all the drive come from the students, with the school committed only to responding to this drive…We figured that everyone, with the help they could muster at school, could find out for themselves what was and what wasn’t necessary to know in order to get where they wanted in life.
“This tied in rather closely with the character traits we were hoping to foster. More than anything, we wanted people to experience the full meaning of responsibility. We wanted them to know what it is to be a responsible person — not just from books or lectures, or sermons, but from everyday experience.” Thus it has been clear from the start what our curriculum is and why we are pursuing these goals as the major emphasis of our curriculum:
Cares for the welfare of others and takes responsibility for their welfare; is friendly and kind; has good manners; contributes to the goals of groups to which he belongs; is fair and honest in his dealings with others; cares for plants and animals and helps preserve the environment; contributes to making this a better world especially by engaging in volunteer work without expectation of personal gain.
His natural curiosity, concentration, and love of learning is preserved; has a love of books and a wide vocabulary; understands that the purpose of reading, writing and talking is communication; math ability commensurate with his need; is extroverted and confident of his ability to find answers to his questions; has expanding knowledge of the world at large and of the various laws that govern its functions including political and physical.
Has a high level of integrity; is cooperative yet stands up for his own beliefs; knows he is a loved member of a fully functional family; is learning such important lessons as that strength does not need to mean aggression, that bad actions do not necessarily mean bad people, and that peace begins with each of us; is learning positive lessons from his father and other males what it is to be a male and a father; understands the interrelatedness of life; is free of prejudice and has the courage to stand up to peer pressure; is learning our religious beliefs and is respectful of the religious beliefs of others.
Is physically fit, knows and applies rules of good health such as proper nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep and fresh air. Cares for his body without catering to it unnecessarily, is aware of and can avoid dangers such as drugs, alcohol, and AIDS; enjoys participating in a variety of sports for the fun and exercise, not just because of the competition.
Understands the various machines and appliances in his environment and is achieving competence in their use; contributes to the family by doing chores commensurate with his ability, can take care of his own needs such as making his own meals, cleaning up after himself, entertaining himself without adults or TV or video games, and using his phone book to call up friends; understands from first-hand experience the relationship of work to the accomplishment of ones goals and has observed a wide variety of occupations and possible careers.
Is playful and has a good sense of humor and knows how to have fun without harm to himself a others; has observed and participated in disputes and learned how to negotiate to resolve them to a win-win end; is loved and loving; is learning how to deal with so-called negative emotions such as anger and grief; has his self-trust intact and is aware of the strength of the force for good in the world and energetically engages in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Enjoys numerous types of art, music and dancing both as a spectator and as a participant; enjoys the theater (as in plays, not movies); cares for his possessions, including taking care and pride in his appearance; appreciates the peace and beauty of nature; is creative.