Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My First Convention

Yesterday and today I attended my first homeschooling convention. Wow. Once I got over my state of awe at the size and busyness of it, I really began to enjoy myself: it was like a giant playground! Admittedly, a playground for nerds. It is like a Lakeshore Learning Center on steroids. Except more progressive, in some ways, and more conservative, in others.

More progressive in that there are SO many alternatives and aspects of teaching and learning available that my mind was spinning. It was really cool to see that many many others think "outside the box" when it comes to education. In my little part of the world, many cannot fathom education being more than a "good school" (be it public or private) and then getting into a "good college." When I mention homeschooling, I get the funniest looks. Like people don't really know what I mean. Or that they think I'm nuts. I wonder if they are thinking: "how could your kids possibly get a good education away from the professionals?," "how will they have a normal childhood?" or "are you being some kind of martyr, giving up my whole life to teach your kids?" These questions pop into my mind because that is how I thought before beginning this journey.

The convention was conservative, also, in that it caters to a very conservative Christian audience. In my area, this part of the population is either ignored, ridiculed, or condescended to. And while I do not consider myself conservative, I have learned in the last few months of reading and reading that the Christian Right has a lot of good things to say about raising children, family life, and, yes, education. Just because I do not agree with their stance on, say, gay rights or feminism does not mean I have to ignore, ridicule, or condescend to them. It was actually neat to be in a totally different culture, so to speak. It was like traveling, something that I have found increasingly difficult as we have more and more kids. Who is to say that Conservative Christian culture is less interesting than Avant-garde Parisian culture? Believe me, each is as foreign to me as the other.

I sat in on 4 different workshops. I chose mostly what some would deem 'fluff' courses about one's feelings surrounding homeschooling (one was overcoming the Supermom motif and one was about homeschooling despite your past - i.e. not being homeschooled yourself, etc.) There were many more hard-core workshops on how to teach a child with autism or how to decide which math curriculum works best for your child. One "how to" workshop I did attend was one run by Jim Weiss, a wonderful storyteller, who has sold many books on cd for kids. He taught us how to read aloud to children and about the basics of any story. It was so wonderful to see and hear this man speak after listening to so many of his cd's with Olivia

I totally bought too many books. It was just so exciting! Since I am starting out, I spent an extra-long time in the used curriculum section -- buying $1 used math books and such so I can check them out and see what style I like, and what style might work for each individual kid. And, I'll admit, I bought quite a few new books about homeschooling in general (can't seem to get enough of those) and quite a large number of Jim Weiss cd's. Some are for gifts, I swear!

I am not overstating it when I say that this weekend was life-changing for me. It was solidifying to finally see in action all of the ideas I have been reading about for so long. And, after a great first week of homeschool-summer camp, I am just on fire.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's that time of year again

Well, it is that time of year again: contracts have been sent out by the kids' schools and we need to decide about school for next year. Back to the same old question: to homeschool or not to homeschool?

Last year, I was so excited about the prospect of homeschooling. I had read the books, researched curricula, even attended a homeschool convention. But, long before the idea had ever really solidified, we had signed contracts for the kids' private schools. Sure, we could have pulled them out and home schooled anyway, but we would be kissing our hefty tuition goodbye. Did I love the idea of homeschooling? Yes. Was my husband on board? Yes. Did we love it enough to eat the full year's school fees? Not quite.

But, here we are again. I love how life is so circular and God gives us so many chances. Our contracts are due in a few weeks, and I am really considering what to do.

One thing that came out of my summer homeschooling experiment was I was able to experience how overwhelming a change homeschooling will be for our family. It is not only about the actual education of our kids (although that is a significant part). But also the daily management of our home, the management of differing personalities and conflict. Managing my own side-tracked self. Finding ways for me to unwind - exercise, quiet time, prayer, reading. It is a lot to tackle all at once. At time, it made me want to give up.

So, I am thinking: why not break off a little piece at a time. Why don't I homeschool one child first? Then, I am eliminating the sibling rivalry quotient. I would then only need to concentrate on one curriculum and one set of academic needs. I will be able to slowly get used to this aspect of homeschooling, while also trying to figure out how it works for me as a whole person.

My dream is that it will be so wonderful that all of the kids would homeschool the following year. But, as I have come to learn, my plans are not always the best. And that is okay. If it is only one year, or only one kid, then so be it. At least I will have tried. At least I will have listened to this relentless voice that won't let me drop this crazy idea despite all of the nay-sayers and really very good arguments against it.