Monday, December 14, 2009

Homeschooling will promote a love of learning in your child (if you have the right books)

…One of the best things about homeschooling is that …iIf you are excited about the opportunity to learn, then your child will be too. From the article, "Educating from a Place of Rest and Peace" by Angelina Stanford

I homeschool two of our three children. Did I ever say that? I don’t think I have ever really talked about my children’s education on this blog. Let me just say now for the record, that I think educating children and equipping them for adult life is THE most difficult thing a person will ever do. And I think the above statement creates the opposite of what the author intended. Instead of peace and rest, it can cause unnecessary guilt.

Our sixteen year old is a sophomore at our local high school. I homeschooled him from fourth grade through eighth grade. We put him into our local public school in ninth grade as a freshman. He is now a sophomore. I still homeschool our daughters, grades 5 and 7, so this is my seventh year of homeschooling.

I am in a unique situation, at least for where I live and whom I am around, as I have a foot in both camps, so to speak.

Back to the quote at the top. I KNOW the author had the very, very best of intentions and really desires to encourage homeschooling parents. And the article did have a lot of good things to say. But unfortunately if any homeschoolers out there have a child like mine (and I know there are some), this article, and others like it, accomplishes exactly opposite in our lives. If I would have read this the last year I homeschooled our son, I would have been very discouraged and almost angry at reading the following quotes:

The first is: …what do you want your child to look like as an adult? Do you want him to be wise and virtuous, able to think and engage in articulate discussion of ideas—both in speech and in writing? Then each year, as you plan out your child’s school year, consider what curriculum choices will move your child closer to you end goal.

Ok, who DOESN’T want his or her child to be wise and virtuous? Who doesn’t want him/her to think and engage in articulate discussion of ideas in speech and writing? Well, according to this author, all you need to do to ensure this happens to your child is to consider the curriculums that will move him/her toward that goal. Yeah, right. That sure didn’t happen for me. Five years of trying every curriculum under the sun NEVER fostered anything articulate or wise or even caused any sort of interest in our son.

Next: … If you want your child to be an articulate adult, then each year, you must fill your child’s mind with very best literature, the very best examples of the English language, and then give him ample opportunity to discuss what he has read---both orally and in writing.

Ok, check, check, AND check. I did what this article suggested. And waited. Nothing. No articulate person. No desire for classic literature. No desire to discuss ANYTHING, let alone read-alouds. And believe me, with parents who love learning like his father and I do, he has had AMPLE opportunity to discuss what he wants! But he doesn’t want!

The next quote: …And what I discovered was that when I thought I was introducing some new and exciting history event or science fact, my children often would jump ahead of me and begin describing---usually in greater detail that I had prepared---the topic I was teaching. How did they do that? They read---a lot! We have an extensive library of the highest quality books on a variety of subjects. Just from reading on their own, my children had managed to learn most of the things that I wanted to teach them.

OK, that is so NOT true for my son. Implying that having good books on hand will not only make you a better parent, but will also make your child educated is ridiculous. Having cool books around and readily available means NOTHING if the child won’t seek the books out and read them. And mine doesn’t. I have always LOVED reading and read in front of my kids all the time. We have LOTS of great books in the house, both fiction and non-fiction, on every subject and every period in history, but my son has no interest in reading any of them. So it doesn’t matter if they are here or not. The implication here is that if those of us who have unmotivated children just got the right books...

Give your children access to books, lots and lots of books, and let the authors of these books teach your children for you. Take the time to discuss the more difficult ideas and concepts with your children, but you can have peace that most of the information that children need to learn, they can learn on their own in books.

Didn’t I address this already? My son has ACCESS, he doesn’t take advantage of that access. So does the access matter? Truly?

(Regarding read-alouds)…We have laughed at Tom Sawyer, and we have cried over the death of Old Yeller, and we have grown closer together as a family. These stories have become part of our family culture. It is not unusual at all to hear one of my children make a joke that is an obscure Shakespearean reference. We all laugh, and I rest in the knowledge that they are learning in a peaceful and enjoyable atmosphere instead of a prison of anxiety.

I have read Old Yeller to my kids. I have read Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer . I have read LOTS of books from all of the homeschool reading lists and the classic literature lists, and although they are good books, they did not automatically inspire a love of great literature or reading in my kids. My son read Romeo and Juliet. He didn’t fall in love…he thought Romeo and Juliet were dumb. Why did they kill themselves? It made no sense. Oh horror! A homeschool boy who doesn’t think Shakespeare is the I Ching!

Then there is: …All of the books and catalogs put such an emphasis on activities and hands-on learning, that I felt guilty because I wasn’t including those activities in our day. But I finally came to understand that learning is its own reward and that it is important for my children to understand that—I want them to be lifelong learners, and I think it is far more likely that they will continue to be curious and desire knowledge if I have nurtured their love of learning rather than relying on gimmicks.

My son was NEVER curious!!!! He never desired knowledge, no matter what I did or didn’t do. I love school. I love learning. But my son couldn’t be more different. Where did he get this attitude? Not from school, since he was homeschooled the majority of his life. Not from his father or I. How did I get a son who has no desire to learn? How did I get a child that always takes the easy road, the road of least resistance, whose philosophy is that learning requires effort, so it should be avoided? These questions swirl around in my head. He didn’t learn that attitude by example, so that trait has to come from inside him.

The article goes on to say…A friend of mind regularly laments to me that her children do not love homeschool. This, of course, produces a great deal of anxiety for her. But what she doesn’t understand is that her children are not the problem. She is. She does not love learning, and so neither do her children. It is impossible to convince our children to value those things that we do not value. If you think of your homeschooling as an unpleasant chore, so will they. However, the converse is also true. When we are excited about learning, our children will be excited as well.

What???? This is perhaps the most offensive statement of them all!
How dare anyone say that if I love learning, my children will, but if they don’t love learning, it is MY fault!?!?!?!? And how is saying that the mother is the problem supposed to alleviate guilt and promote peace and rest????

I LOVE LEARNING AM EXCITED ABOUT IT!!! That has NOTHING to do with how my kids feel about learning! And I WON’T take the blame for it!!!! The statement that if I am excited about learning, my kids will be too is bogus. You hear me???? Bogus!!!!!

Eventually I hated homeschooling my son because he was argumentative, disrespectful, totally unmotivated and fought me at every turn. That is NOT MY FAULT! I love him. He knows it. He has no desire to achieve anything academically. After years of trying and failing with him, my husband and I realize that he, unfortunately, will have to learn the hard way. He doesn’t heed our wisdom--- we have spent hours of time with him, as well as lots of prayer, directly imparting that wisdom to him, but it doesn’t matter. My husband spends time with him every morning studying the Bible and working through biblical books before school. My son knows the truth. What more can we do? Does God expect us to do His job? I don’t think so. It has taken years, but I have finally accepted that I can’t make my son the kind of person I think he should be. He is going to be the way HE is, regardless of me. All my husband and I can do is teach him the truth, but we can’t MAKE him do anything. As a mother, that is hard to accept. I want to think of him as my baby, my child that I can control and teach. But he isn’t. I CAN’T MAKE HIM DO ANYTHING! HE IS NOT MINE, HE IS GOD’S.

So I think homeschooling is great…but it’s not for every child in every circumstance. And God is bigger than anything we humans do anyway. That is comforting to me. And for any homeschooler to imply that if we would just do _______ and ________, then our kids would be great students, I say stop! We all love our kids. We all want them to succeed. Don’t imply that you are better at being a parent than the rest of us and if we would just take all of your tips, our kids will be in love with school and learning. It’s just not the truth.

I hope this is encouraging to others out there who don’t have the “perfect” student!

All your homeshooling parents out there…you rock! And all of the rest of you parents out there, public school or whatever…you rock too!!! I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think being a good parent is the hardest thing you will ever do and I applaud all of you.

You go, people, go!


Big Doofus (Roger) said...

Wow! You came back to bloggyland with a friggin' vengeance! Nicely written post.

I can vouch for all of the stuff she wrote, people, 'cause she's my sweetie!

Karen said...

As a former public school teacher, and a mom who has homeschooled for ten years, I have seen both sides of the coin.

I think as homeschoolers we can do more harm than good when we come off as judgemental.

That "perfect" homeschool family still intimidates me. They certainly don't live at my house.

Me said...

I quit reading homeschooling magazines because I don't believe the ppl in them are honest and I really don't need to feel worse about myself (they always made me feel horrible).

My only thought is that with my punks I just focus on what their God given talent is and make sure that is what is fostered the most. I wouldn't care if that was sports, I would put it ahead of the other stuff. My husband has a very good job and doesn't give a rip about literature but he does read everyday. He just reads what intrests him. I don't enjoy literature but I like mysteries. What is his talent? What is his intrest?

Elephantschild said...

"And for any homeschooler to imply that if we would just do _______ and ________, then our kids would be great students"

It doesn't work that way, not in ordinary life, not in homeschooling and not in our Christian walk, either.

It would be so nice if it all was as simple as "Do these 3 things = great kids, perfect home, sinless life." It would be so much easier!

Instead, we have to just accept that whatever good comes of our children not as a reward for our good parenting (because it's NEVER really "good enough" if truth be told!), but as an undeserved gift from our Heavenly Father!

And that's hard!

:)De said...

First...Great to see you back! Second, YES!!! We can train, teach, impart wisdom in words and with a whack upside the head,(LOL) but some children have to "ride the whale" before going to Nineveh.


My Goodness said...

Hey lady...just sent this to my homeschooling friend...I think she will benefit. Thank you for sharing!!

Sniz said...

Well said, De. And Laura, we've tried everything we can think of to help him pursue something he's interested in. But so far there's nothing he's passionate enough in. :-)

Me said...

You mean Melynda. :0)

Sniz said...

Oh Melynda, have you ever had one of those moments where your heart beats faster in dismay and you just feel so awful because you have truly, and I mean truly, inserted your foot, shoe and all, into your mouth? I'm soooo sorry, girl.

eally said...

Hey friend! Welcome back to Bloggyland! I am soooooooooooo right there with you! I have tried many different ways to entice or interest Dakota in learning or school in general. Last month I took him to be tested because I know he is behind in a couple areas but he makes no attempt in learning (no matter what I purchase, provide in order to try to spark an interest.) We just argue and I am so tired of this! After his tests came back we decided to hire a tutor to work with him. He is not happy about that but I know for now it is the best much as he'll argue with me, he would NEVER do that with anybody else, he is very respectful of other adults so this is the way it is for the time being. :-)

Me said...

I'm easy peasy, no worries!

Barb the Evil Genius said...

My eldest fought me when I was her teacher also. My youngest was just lethargic about homeschool. Both are doing fine in public school this year. At this point, I'm going with what works.

From a full heart... said...

Ok, I am catching up after many weeks away from the computer and OH MY GOSH what a great post. I often think of homeschooling. Would do it in a heartbeat if the hubby said "go"...but my biggest fear has been of my kids not learning and it being "all my fault." THANK YOU for being so real and honest! If I ever do go down that road I will have that posted on my refrigerator. :) You rock!


Life Adapted said...

Hi! Great post. I feel your pain. It upsets me when successful homeschooling parents put down parents who are struggling. We are meant to edify each other and encourage those who need it. It's hard to be encouraged by someone who is putting you or your student down. I have a teenage son - he's a great kid - but I do wish he were a better student. After 7 years of homeschooling he's at the tech school. He has some pretty serious goals for his future and he knows what he needs to do to achieve them, so it's up to him. He owns his successes and his failures, that's what we taught him. We give our kids the tools they need to succeed, whether they use them is entirely up to them.

Be blessed.

Forgetfulone said...

I teach in a public school, and we often get kids who've been homeschooled as new enrollees. I think what makes homeschooling effective is the attitude of the parent, not the materials! I think homeschooling (done by parents who aren't just babysitting their kids, and some do) is a wonderful thing, and I wish I didn't have to work full time so I could home school mine. I really wish I could send them to a very small private school, since I can't stay home with them, but I can't afford that, either.