Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Realization That Homeschooling Is Changing My Life

It dawned on me recently that my homeschooling was more than a side issue in my life. It is more than a hobby. It is more than something I can do in my free-time. It is an honest to goodness new lifestyle choice. We are all used to hearing people talk about lifestyle choices. Sometimes I agree that they have a new and different lifestyle and sometimes I think they are trying to make something out to be more grandiose than it actually is. This time I think I've hit on one of these new ways of living.

Let me do a quick historical summary to illustrate what I mean. Until relatively recently in history, people married, had kids, raised their children and made a living as a family unit. The whole family (sometimes a whole tribe or community) all traveled, worked, learned, entertained, ate, slept, did every major life activity together. On occasion one member of the family had to leave (such as going to war or going off to hunt), but even then this was done as a group activity and those left behind were continuing the usual activities as a group. With the industrial revolution, it was more common for member of the family to "go to work" and then come home to the family. The raising of the kids, education and all those other things people do became a separate thing from "work." In recent memory, family sizes have dwindled and more and more women have gone to work in addition to the men who have been in the main workforce longer. You still get people hashing out the "Stay-at-home Mom" vs. "Working Mom" dilemma. There are more options now. You have "Stay-at-home Dad," "Work at home," and "Part-time work." There are extended families that work out the various needs in a family for the division of labor. We currently live in a world that allows for great variety of solutions for how to have, raise, and support a family.

O.K. the history review is over. I started thinking about this recently as I've been homeschooling a preschooler, then a kindergartener, and in the coming year a first-grader. At first, homeschooling was just helping my kids learn (as I've done since they were born). Then it was a little more than that. It was more academic learning than it was before. It took a little more time and a little more need to understand learning styles, methods of teaching, and patience to discover what works best for my kid. Now as I'm starting to look at a new school year where I will be teaching more subjects and spending probably about twice the time we currently spend on "School-work." As I've been making plans and gathering the resources we will need, I've realized that I'm a teacher. Really! I'm not pretending! I'm not a wannabe! I really do the job of a teacher.

This was a bit of a shock to me, you see. I had declared mightily during my college years that I was not going to be a teacher. Every teaching assignment I've had through the years (either volunteer or in my career), I always said that it was temporary. "I'm not a teacher!" I would declare. But, in the past few years, I've been exercising those teaching skills and here I am.

I have found myself in a new lifestyle where I'm a "Stay-at-home Mom", but I'm also a "Working Mom" at the same time. I "Work-at-Home"and also "Take my kids to work." I'm not sure how to answer questions anymore when people ask me what I do without going into more detail than the question intended. Usually people want to know what category do you fit into. Somehow, the former categories no longer contain all that I do.

I suppose the term homeschooler is supposed to cover it, but somehow that doesn't help put me into a specific category for easy communication. After all, there are so many different ways to homeschool. Then of course, there are all the mistaken stereotypes out there. Even among homeschoolers you can't just say "homeschooler" and be completely understood. You have to detail what methods you follow or other details of what your homeschooling experience is like to understand similarities and differences.

So, all that being said, I'm stuck with the idea that maybe this is a new lifestyle for our modern world. A way to get some of those traditional and historical family duties and relationships into our modern world. Our modern world is somehow shaped differently and we needed to find a new way to do those old things.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Miscellany floating about my brain

Between my being busy doing the stuff of life and my husband being a more prolific blogger than myself, I haven't posted much lately. I couldn't quite narrow down a topic this time, so I decided to touch on the various things that have been of interest to me lately.
  1. I think our garden is a success. OK, so we've mainly been harvesting lettuce, spinach and radishes so far. But the carrots and brussel sprouts have been coming along nicely as well. I've recently replanted in our empty areas (where previous plantings didn't take) such lovely things as 7 Zucchini plants, 3 crook-neck squash plants, 6 bell pepper plants, 2 serrano pepper plants, 1 sweet banana pepper plant, and a "baby girl" cherry tomato plant. Several green bean plants are also sprouting in addition to some pumpkins and sunflowers. I think that this group of plantings will be easier plan out drip irrigation lines so I won't have to rush outside to water the garden as frequently. (And, yes I know how prolific squash plants are, I plan to do a lot of preserving for later use).
  2. I have successfully made home-made butter and buttermilk and I am quite proud of myself. I remember seeing my grandmother do it, and it is very satisfying to have done it myself. I think this falls into the category of Tim's survivalist urge, but I just like to think I might be able to pass down some knowledge to my kids of how people used to live, instead of letting the knowledge die out.
  3. The Happy Boy is growing fast. At 15 months old, I'm moving him into his 24 month/2T wardrobe. He can reach most things on the dining room table and has just this week learned to climb up and sit in the chairs. So far he hasn't actually climbed onto the table, but it wouldn't be a huge leap of logic. His sisters are not sure how to handle this new turn of events. He still doesn't say much but he obviously understands a lot. I remember with the girls how the increasing mobility just seemed to keep getting to be more and more of a problem until about 18 months, then it got better. I hope that is how it is going to be with him.
  4. The school year is coming to an end and we have survived it. The Pillowfight Fairy has made progress. We have just a couple more weeks of planned lessons and then we will be reviewing areas she had difficulty with and just doing fun learning games and workbooks. It will give her the variety she craves. The repetitive nature of much of her studies was irritating her lately. She still loves to use creativity whenever possible. She loves to read and has been begging me to let her look at her new books for next school year. She has been prolific with her art and writing. She is definitely ready for next year's challenge. Fortunately, much of the increase in work will be reading and writing about what she read. Both of those things are strong areas for her.
  5. The Adrenaline Junkie will be ready to read soon, so I need to figure out how I'm going to handle her lessons in addition to her sister's. She is about the same age as the Fairy was when the older one started reading. She knows all her letters and the basic sounds that they make. She has a rudimentary idea of how they go together to make words. She likes to look at books and pretend that she is reading them (or rather memory read them as she looks at the pictures). She just has the attention span of a gnat (like most 3 year olds) and doesn't quite have the desire to sit down and work on it yet. Yet, she has got to this point faster than I expected. She just seems to come to it from a different direction from her older sister. So, I need to start getting my ideas together. After all, we can't do it the same way we did for her sister. We have to correct all our mistakes and make new ones. :) I'm thinking a using the Blue back speller as a starting point for lessons. Specifically, using the syllabary to teach the letter sounds in a context she will encounter when putting together words. There is still plenty of planning room to adjust what we need to do for her. I figure that I will let her come over and listen in on the readings we do with her sister whenever she is interested. She has also become very fond of Mother Goose rhymes. We have a very good collection of Mother Goose where she loves to look over the pictures.
  6. I wonder sometimes if I am insane to want a fourth child. Maybe I am. But if so at least I'm willing to put in the extra work that extra child means. So for now, we hope and wait for what God has planned for us.
  7. It has finally dawned on me that I'm a working mother. Yeah, I know a stay-at-home Mom works. I've known that for a long time. But, this revelation is that I am a working mother (putting a certain number of hours in) working as a teacher. I am not paid, but I am definitely putting in the time with planning lessons, teaching, correcting, revising, etc. In all methods of measurement, except pay, I am a working Mom. This is a little ironic, since I kept telling people back in my college days that I was not going to be a teacher. Ah well, we are all entitled to change our minds.
So how do I sum up all of this? Hmmm.... Maybe, I just have kids, homeschooling, and various back-to-basics activities on the brain lately. At least the gardening and butter-making was all my idea. Yeah, it can be useful in teaching our kids, but the truth is that I wanted to do it for me. Isn't it nice when Mommy's hobbies are good for the family, too? I made biscuits today too. Wow, I'm on a roll. Someday, I'll get back to baking homemade bread a couple times a week. And when the kids are older, I'll teach them to bake the bread, make the butter, make clothes, plant and harvest the garden. Then, maybe I'll branch out to spinning and weaving. My college roommate suggested that I should have been Amish. Maybe so....