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Our Homeschooling Triumphs
Some of our own homeschooling success stories
I AM LEAVING THIS ARTICLE THE WAY IT WAS WHEN I ORIGINALLY WROTE IT. THE AGES ATTRIBUTED TO MY CHILDREN ARE FROM 2011.
A friend challenged me to write about my family's successes with homeschooling. Often when people think of homeschooling success stories, they think of the finished story, when the homeschooler is an adult. Their success in adult life is seen as a validation of the homeschooling choice.
But my sons are still elementary and middle-school ages. What are our success stories? Here's my take on it.
First of all, what's that thing in the picture up there?
A triumph in creative thinking
The spokes, which are of different lengths and colors, each represent a number. You twirl the gizmo in the air, and whatever spoke it stops on, that's your number to use in the Munchkin game.
I guess you could make two of them if needed, and twirl one in each hand, for games that require two dice.
Homeschooling success: My kids are learning how to solve problems creatively, and how to create their own math manipulatives.
What's my definition of a homeschooling triumph?
How am I measuring success?
My goal for my boys is that they'll grow up to be happy, functional adults. When I see them developing the abilities and traits that happy, functional adults need, I count that as a homeschooling success.
Sometimes the traits that make for successful adults might not be the same as the traits that bring success in a classroom, but since they're not in a classroom it doesn't matter whether they ever learn how to sit at a desk for six hours doing meaningless work. (Yes, I know that there are some adults who do that very thing every day, but they're not the best examples of happiness and functionality.)
A triumph in doing your own thing
This is an early draft of a map of our house that BT started. BT is very visually-oriented and likes geography and maps. He says that he wants to be a mapmaker when he grows up.
To me, the map represents one of the things I like about the homeschooling environment. While my sons do hang out with other kids, they're not so bombarded with the mob mentality that they fall into the majority's ideals about what are the "cool" things to be interested in.
Homeschooling success: Neither of my boys has ever aspired to be a rapper or play in the NBA. They know their own mind.
One of my favorite homeschooling books!
A perfect example of the unschooling philosophy as Grover goes on an educational field trip.
A triumph in learning both math and confidence
One of the things I love about homeschooling is that we can pick our own ways to explore and learn any subject. This is great when it comes to math because JG is not fond of pencils and paper. In school, almost all math is written. At home, along with watching videos and playing games that involve math, we enjoy just talking about math!
Occasionally, when JG is faced with a particular math question he wants to work out, I will tell him that I think he's going to have to use pencil and paper to figure this one out. But so far he has always proven me wrong, figuring out a way to work it out in his head.
His affection for money gives him lots of opportunities to do mental math, as does his interest in Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh. And best of all, he knows the reasoning behind the math. He understands the meaning of multiplication, rather than just knowing that 3 x 4 = 12 as an abstract fact.
Homeschooling success: My kids have no math anxiety!
A triumph in literacy and in patience
I've talked about this in some of my other homeschooling writings. Learning reading was a struggle for JG. He was a letter-switcher and also, while he understood the principles of phonics, he had a harder time remembering sight words. Some people malign sight-reading as an absolute evil, but in order to read English, a person needs skills in BOTH phonics and sight-reading. There are plenty of words that don't follow the rules of phonics, and JG had more trouble memorizing those words than the average kid does. And even with words that follow the rules, your reading will be a lot slower if you're still sounding out the words instead of recognizing them on sight.
If he had been attending school, being compared to 29 other students his same age, he would have been in the "slow" reading group, which carries the unspoken message that you're one of the dumb kids, regardless of his above-average talents in math and critical thinking.
JG's favorite book series. When he buys a new one, he sets a goal for how few pages he will read each day so that the book will last for a while.
And there were some well-meaning folks in my life who were concerned about his progress early on, but they had the decency not to talk about it in front of my son.
Example: I was talking with some family members once and I said, "JG said that he thinks it would be really cool if there were a nighttime zoo where people could come at night and see all nocturnal animals." A relative looked at me skeptically and said, "JG used the word 'nocturnal'?" I knew what he was getting at, and I got a little smug, "Yes, he did," I said. His muttering retort was, "Can he spell it?" (It wasn't until days later that I realized what I should have replied to that: "Yes, he can. I-T !")
But none of that reached JG's ears. At home, he was able to work on his reading at his own speed without anyone acting like it was a problem. And you know what, he still learned. Without anyone pressuring him or making him feel inferior. He started putting in serious practice time on reading when he had a motivation of his own. He developed an interest in Pokémon and would spend hours reading cards and instruction manuals. The next thing I knew he was fluent.
Homeschooling success: My son reads fine, and he reads for enjoyment.
Another thing that has helped with his literacy
Since JG's visual memory is not that great, spelling is still rough for him. Reading is about decoding, spelling is about encoding, remembering what a word looks like.
He loves playing Super Scribblenauts (it really is an awesome game) and when he plays it he has to type in long words, over and over. The repetition helps drill the spellings into his head. If he ever faces a situation in his adult life where he needs to be able to spell pterodactyl, he'll be ready.
A triumph in socialization
If my sons had gone to school, they would have had two choices, the local public school or the private school where I work. In public school, they would have spent their days surrounded by children who were exactly the same age as them, in a population that was 90% Latino. In the private school, they would have spent their days surrounded by children who were all within 2 or 3 years of their age, in a population that was 99% African-American.
As homeschoolers, their major social influences are their parents, but they also interact with lots of other people as a part of our daily activities. I encourage them to speak for themselves and engage in conversation with people they encounter in libraries, business places, and anywhere else we go.
They socialize with other kids through various homeschool activities and outings. Our favorite park day includes homeschoolers from all over, from working-class neighborhoods like ours all the way to the affluent enclaves of South Orange County. The group includes families that are Anglo-American, African-American, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, and non-Americans as well. There are Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Moslems, Baha'is, Pagans, and atheists. The kids range in age from toddlers to teens and no one shuts anyone out. This offers much better opportunities for socialization than they would get in a school setting.
Homeschooling success: My kids interact in a friendly, comfortable, and respectful way with children and adults of all ages, races, religions, and economic strata.
The biggest triumph of all
Homeschooling success: They're loving their childhood.
© 2011 Joan Hall