Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Unschooled and always learning

Reading an article about alternative schooling always gives me a bit of a rise. Well, maybe more along the lines of a spark of hope. In turn, the comments always make me a bit sick. First, read the article and then what I am going to say will make a bit more sense.

NPR - Unschooled: How One Kid is Grateful He Stayed Home

Ok, so I am a bit appalled that Sam didn't learn how to read until he was 10. But, in turn I think that his mom was trying to really 'stick to the program'. So, kudos to her. When I was a wee one I told my mom that "I don't ever want to learn how to read. It's stupid and boring." (This sentiment stemmed from my sister neglecting to play with me 24/7 because her nose was always in a book) My mother was horrified, naturally, but then just chilled out and gave me a little more time to figure out that if I was to keep up with Lydia I would have to learn on my own. So I did. Sure, it was a bit later than some other kids, but it certainly wasn't until I was 10. I think my mom used a great method for home schooling -- a mixture of encouragement, exposure, modeling, and personal choice. With an exceptionally nerdy older sister (by 4 years) to compare myself to, I had no other choice than to keep up. And it NEVER occurred to me that she *should* be better than me at everything. We were the equivalent of a 5th grader keeping up with an 8th grader.

Subjects like math, science, and foreign language were all presented with texts specifically designed for the self-taught. Language Arts was more of an 'immersion' approach. She didn't harp on grammar (which rared it ugly head in college, and still today), but was a huge advocate of reading. We would spend hours and hours in the library. Vocabulary, spelling, and the correct use of words (their & there), were her focus instead of where that pesky little comma is supposed to go. Oh well.

When it came to electives I was allowed to explore at my own pace. After positively hating piano lessons she gave up and let me choose my own musical path. Voice lessons and guitar were my choices and I dove right in. One of her best friends introduced me to the joys of painting and I spent a summer in my room painting skies and mountains. Sports have always eluded me though, and despite multiple soccer camps I am still terrible at all team sports. Determined that we would not be entirely sports-less she enrolled my sister and I in martial arts when I was 12. At 16 I earned my black belt. Oh yeah, and I figure skated for a few years before I realized that I would rather be a ninja instead of develop anorexia on ice. In retrospect I think that all my electives were very unschooled. I would randomly develop an interest in a topic and then immerse myself in it as much as possible. It is still how I tend to learn.

So what did the rest of the family think? I am certain they were horrified. My grandmother dragged us to as many museums, operas, concerts, and historical sites as possible in hopes that my sister and I would not turn out like cave children. After all, she was a school teacher her whole life. In reflection I think I went on more field trips than a regular ed student. But now when I travel I make an effort to hit a few 'points of interest' in every city. Take that, public school!

Enough rambling. I would like to address some of the concerns that people have and provide my own opinions.

I think that social outlets are the responsibility of the parent. Kids that don't have enough interaction with other children are simply being sheltered on purpose. Between martial arts, figure skating, soccer camps, and church, my sister and I had a lot of interaction. I even went to a junior and senior prom.

Language Arts is a huge problem for all home schoolers. It is just isn't a topic that is easily learned. We need feedback, editors, and the rules explained. English is a difficult language to say the least, and it is my biggest regret. I read voraciously and feel as though my vocabulary is quite extensive. But in turn I cried over three page papers in college and am still crap when it comes to the little things -- like commas. Oddly enough, journaling is one of my favorite past times. However, I have two degrees and have written multiple papers 20+ pages. I disagree with letting a child learn to read and write at their own pace. It is by far the most important thing in getting a job and people who have poor vocabulary/spelling/writing skills are often disregarded more quickly.

Contextual learning is simply a way of life for a home schooler. We know how to budget, calculate, and apply pretty much everything we learn -- because we have to. Grocery shopping is math class. Mowing the yard is PE. Spending hours simply being outside and looking at everything up close is science. Why and how? Go read about it. Then go exploring some more.

I am afraid of home schooling my kids. I am afraid of sending them to public school. I don't think there is a perfect solution. I think my sister is doing a fantastic job with her young'uns. They are very bright and inquisitive. She talks to them in a very adult manner, and treats the world as a constant place to learn. They will (and are) attending school, but I would like to see how long that lasts. School can be very confining if the teachers are not equipped to deal with fast-paced learners.

To wrap up this rambling post I have one more link for you to check out. As with most everything in life, don't knock it til you try it.
10 Famous People who were Home Schooled

My final though? With all this innate desire to learn and the realization of where my educational gaps are I think I will do a little homeschooling this summer.


Chris said...

Hear, hear!

Anonymous said...

Very well put!