Friday, January 7, 2011

Home's Cool...

      I suppose the best way to start a homeschooling blog is to address some of the most common questions about homeschooling.  You know the ones..."What about socialization?", "Are you qualified to teach your own kids?", and "How do you know they're getting what they need?".   Honestly, after 8 years of homeschooling, these seem a little silly to me, but I get how they could be something that someone who knows nothing about homeschooling would wonder.  If for no other reason than because these are the media driven questions and we all know the media is honest, trustworthy and non-biased.  (sorry, couldn't resist a little sarcasm there...)
      First, let me say that the Wife Swap characters aren't indicative of any homeschooling mom that I've ever known, met or seen in passing on the street.  Just sayin...   I have never met a homeschooling mother who got up at 10, dressed in PJ's all day and didn't actually own a single curriculum.  I'm not saying they don't exist...just that, perhaps, they are much more rare than the ratings of Wife Swap would have the general public believe.  And before anyone thinks that maybe I just don't know that many homeschoolers, I'm also the director of the largest co-op in the Upstate of South Carolina, as well as the leader of our local chapter of the National Homeschool Honor Society.  I've met a lot of homeschoolers.

     For those of you unfamiliar with a homeschool co-op, I'll give a brief synopsis of what that is:   A co-op is when local parents come together and plan activities and classes for their homeschoolers.  The one that I direct meets weekly,  has a nominal fee to join, as well as basic class fees.  We offer everything from art, Geometry, Driver's Education, debate and science labs.  We pool our money and offer whatever classes are the most wanted.  For Geometry, Driver's Education and art, we had either certified teachers and instructors or retired teachers who were willing to come and teach our kids.  There are also classes that are taught by parents.  Things like elementary grammar, drama, middle school science and high school English Lit.  It's a group effort, and the kids spend all day together, once a week.  I'm sure you've already connected the socialization dots.
      Many parents who've only experienced institutionalized learning also question the parents ability to teach their kids.  Well, aside from the obvious statistics that say homeschoolers are academically more successful than their counterparts, I can only assume that most non-home educators are unaware of curriculum choices to homeschoolers.  We have access to anything that public/private schools have, and then some.  We purchase the same teachers manuals, the same lesson planners and the same student texts.
     The biggest difference is that we have a much broader range of curriculums to choose from simply because we don't have a governmental agency telling us what our kids should learn and how they should be "standardized".  As a side note, who WANTS to be standardized?  And yes, homeschoolers also take the IOWA and Stanford tests, if they choose to do so.  Some don't, and that's their prerogative.  Some do, and that's theirs.
     I'll write more about athletics, the arts, etc...later, but here's a short list of what we have available for all you sport and art nuts out there who are thinking of home education.  We have a well-known local college who offers music lessons, music appreciation classes and band. Converse College is not alone in its efforts to provide homeschoolers with great art opportunities, either.  The Tryon, NC art center provides  art, drama and video production classes once a week, specifically for homeschoolers ages K4-9th grade.   We have a very successful Varsity basketball team, JV and Varsity baseball teams and Upwards soccer for younger kids.
    There's dance, gymnastics (very popular in the homeschooling community), Lego clubs and horse riding lessons.  If you don't have equestrian trails in your area, I'm sure some other common local activity could replace that.
      I'll probably devote an entire post to this next activity, so I won't include much here, but the NCFCA national homeschool debate teams are another huge bonus to homeschooling families with high schoolers.  You can Google that name and get more info than you probably care to see.  :)
     Aside from all that, the biggest boon for homeschoolers is, ironically, also the one that we get the most questions about:  Are you qualified to teach your own kid?  Now, don't get me wrong.  I actually don't think that every family should homeschool.  I don't think it's for everyone and many parents simply aren't disciplined enough to take on something as large as your children's education.  However, most of them are.  Even the ones who simply don't want to.  I love my kids in a way no one else ever will.  I WANT the best for them.  Why in the world would anyone question a parent, who has chosen to dedicate their lives to raising and educating their children, as being unable to do so?  It actually makes no sense, but there you have it.
     To put it bluntly, most of the people you knew in school have no impact on your life in any way if you're a grown adult with a life.  Most of the people you know are family or work  related. Education's entire purpose is to prepare you to be a productive citizen who has something to contribute. Education has never been, nor should it ever be, about hanging out with your buddies.  There's a time and place for that. Obviously, the mentality toward education isn't working.  Why continue to pretend that it is?  No one but our kids are suffering for those efforts.  Let's drop the pretenses and at least try to see that homeschooling can be a better alternative in many cases. Not to mention it actually wasn't the original "alternative". Homeschooling has been around MUCH longer than any other form of education.
     Finally, I'll cover another one of OUR reasons for homeschooling.  Travel.  Plain and simple.  We love to travel and wanted our kids to see that the world is a big place, filled with unique people and different cultures.  They've been to Mexico, Belize, Roatan, all over the Caribbean and we're currently planning a 2 week trip to Yellowstone and Teton National parks.  Alaska is also on our radar within the next 2 years, possibly Italy if we can get the funds without breaking the savings account.
     They've swam with dolphins, snorkeled with stingrays, seen Mayan ruins and cruised the River Wallace.  They didn't just look at it on a map or read about it in a science book.  They DID it.  They loved it and want more of it.  Let's face it people...home's cool!

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