Monday, October 3, 2011

Homeschooling The Sparkly Pretty Bright Yellow Sunshine Way

A friend on FB asked me to explain what I meant by 'school at home' versus 'home education'... I wrote so much I figured I should post it here too!

Cut and paste from FB:

Remember - this is just a mix of my readings on the matter, my observations of others and the system and my own experiences. I am by no means an expert but I reckon I can't be too far off the mark. If anyone else wants to jump in and add, feel free!

Unschooling: Easiest to explain as it's so wide open. Strict unschooling involves no expectation of text books. So a student may NEVER use one. I read a few years back of a student who was educated with the 'unschooling' method, had never touched a text book in his life and was, after passing one entrance exam, accepted into university to study medicine! So it does work. Education via this method is all about real life experience and following the passions. Much can be learned through the actual building of a boat versus just studying about it in school, right? It would easily cover 'maths' and 'science' and probably much more that I can't even imagine at this minute.
Pro - if someone wants their children educated via 'unschooling' then it can work. I'm sure there are more pro's, like not correcting maths work LOL but with this not being something I'd ever choose to do, I'm not aware of them.

School at Home: is more like a prescription. Often a complete pre-packaged curriculum like the ACE materials you are using OR a variety of curriculum from different sources but still making up a complete curriculum structure like would be done at school, only it's done at home.
What I see/think (I'm sure there's more I don't know)
Pro's: Little or no planning involved - it's all done for you. The parents trust the source.
Con's: It can be unnecessarily expensive which in itself is not a problem if one has endless cash! If money is spent where it is NOT needed, then it can't be spent where it might be preferred i.e. excursions/experiences or just normal family household things.
There is more knowledge needed by the teaching parent OR you need to pay to have access to the providers telephone or online support program OR the child misses out.
There can be bigger holes in education that you're not aware of till too late - just as it happens in the 'go to school' system, anyway. This happens because "the work that is prescribed, just has to be done" and whatever the child is, or is NOT learning can get lost in just getting things done. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because the child has finished workbook x that they are at that level. The school system experiences this same thing.... I've read that in Australia, 7% of students in the 'go to school' system are considered illiterate when they leave school at the end of year 10. I'd not expect the illiteracy in 'school at home' as the parent should at least be aware of that - but I can imagine it in other areas.

In between those two extremes it's all 'pick n choose' on a sliding scale. There's still a significant degree of 'what suits our family/lifestyle/children' as there is in unschooling but 'some to a reasonable amount' of book work is still a part of the education.
There is soooo much in this middle area that I can't possibly cover everything I know, let alone all that is out there that I do not know. I'll try and give a few examples.

Each 'subject' would be covered in a way that would typically be chosen 'subject. by. subject'. Bookwork for one, real life for another, a blend for most (in ours anyway) Bookwork may be like a packaged school looking curriculum such as Math U See for maths but not necessarily done in a 'school at home' fashion of just do the work because it's there. When we use MUS, the kids don't do more than they need to and they don't move ahead until the know what they need to know. This means that Melinda who is showing a talent for maths isn't going to be bored by having to keep doing work she already knows and if another child in our family struggles with maths, then we can take as long as we need for a concept to stick before moving on. For me maths is a subject I want as few holes in as possible because if you miss out on understanding even just one key concept, it can hold you back from learning others.
English (or as it is now known, Language Arts) can be covered by a variety of styles of text books; read alouds of books that are advanced beyond their own reading abilities; reading of all kinds of literature, conversations about all kinds of things.
Science can be purely text books and experiments etc or can involve gardening, animal raising/breeding, baking and a whole bunch of conversations and finding out about 'what if's' and 'how does' questions.

Cons - initial work can take quite a bit of thinking from the parents. It can take some time and effort to become aware of enough options to satisfy the conscientious parent who wants to know they've picked the best options for their family.

Pros - easy enough to change anything that is not working because you're already open to 'seeing what is out there'.
Those of us that were raised in the system of 99% bookwork + homework (minus the % of classroom shuffling, annoying students needing discipline, days absent by either teacher or student etc ;o) can still feel secure with some bookwork basics in the areas we feel they are best used.
There's no deadlines and there's no being held back. We can have as many terms in a year as we like and just come and go as we need to around real life.
Because kids are not doing much or any work 'just for the sake of getting it done' (aka 'busy work') there is a LOT of time left for learning other things. Real life skills that so many kids are now not taught, time for developing entrepreneurial skills and so on.

This is a way of home educating that can sound scary and overwhelming because there is just sooo much you can know about it. Most homeschoolers I know do it this way though. Must be a reason for that I'm thinking!
It's just about one foot in front of another. There's no pressure to get it all happening in one go.

To someone who had a prep aged child and was feeling they need to get started on doing 'Something!' but didn't know what, I'd say pick some great books and read to the child every day. Find some basic tracing and scissor work, and other activities to develop fine motor skills to help with handwriting down the track. Get a basic maths book or print off some pages from the internet - there are many available and then start to educate yourself on what is out there. google can be great for finding out what is available or better yet, find a bunch of home ed mums and ask ask ask about what they are doing, what they are not doing and WHY WHY WHY. Gradually you will find out all you need to know to give your kids an awesome academic education AND an awesome real life education at the same time.
To someone with older kids, coming out of the school system I'd say get the kids doing some maths and English that you KNOW they can do, while you educate yourself and make choices as above.

When I talk/think about home schooling... I group the 'grey area' and 'unschooling' as Home Education. It's not really about 'school' it's more about education in all areas of life, if that makes any sense. 'School at home' covers things like the whole prepackaged curriculum way of doing things or the gather and create your own complete curriculum. I'd also group with it the other things like 'school of the air' for students in remote locations.
For us and those I know, educating in the 'grey area' way, is actually more a 'sparkly pretty bright yellow sunshine' way of doing things

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