August 30, 2012


So, a month or so ago a friend of mine with younger children asked me about how we actually homeschool.  She wanted to know a little bit about curricula, but more about how I actually "teach".

Well, I rarely feel like I teach.  Yes, I choose workbooks and math curricula, and choose what subjects I think Hannah should study through the year (she loves geography, reading and math, and anything that involves games--in fact she's playing the Game of Life right now with Kate and working on counting BIG money).  But I don't spend that much time teaching.  It's more like coaching.  Or cooking.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I lay out a healthy menu of academic options and we choose what "tastes" the best.   Our long term goal for our children is for them to be independent learners.  We don't want to fill them up with facts, but rather make sure they have the skills to learn what they need or want to know.

We describe our homeschool as "very relaxed".  We usually "do" formal sit-down-at-the-table for a couple/three hours a few times a week.  Hannah needs a bit more supervision with her work than her siblings did.  But that doesn't mean that I don't give her enough space and time to figure things out on her own.    When Kate was in college she had to give a "response paper" after a discussion in class.   Here's a bit of her take on education:

As I mentioned in class, I think education should be towards the goal of self-reliance and self-teaching. I think it is important that young adults are able to read instructions, directions, etc., and complete tasks independently, without having to have it explained to them. I feel that the public school system in this country falls short of that goal: every little nuance of a problem is explained, sometimes several times over, which leads children to believe that they require help to do something. In my family, no one is offered help with schoolwork, because, like the old saying “God helps those who help themselves,” if we did not try, we would not be assisted. Only after we had exhausted all other possible options (reading back in the textbook, trying a new way) would our parents show us what was wrong-- and it usually never came to that.

So, while I was chatting with my friend about "how" our family home schools, I received a text from Kate.   She was home with Hannah, who offered to teach Kate how to make Jello.

Hannah:  Kate, I can teach you how to make Jello.  It's really easy.

Kate: How do you make it?

Hannah:   Here.  Read the instructions.

Ha!  A perfect example of our school philosophy!

P.S.  We'll be easing in to 8th Grade some time next week.  Don't think that we're going to be doing 8th grade work...Hannah's skills range from 2nd-6th grade.  She's making progress, and that's all that matters to us.  She'll get where she needs to be when she's finished.

An aside for those who are curious about homeschooling:

Every state has their own compulsory school attendance laws.  Here in Virginia there are two paths of homeschooling.  The usual track requires submission of curricula and an end of year assessment (testing or evaluation by a certified teacher).  Homeschooled children are able to receive speech therapy from their neighborhood school if they need it.  In our county all homeschoolers are allowed to take up to three courses at their local public school if they so choose (geometry, choir, German, etc).  This is fairly unusual for Virginia.  It's a nice option for families who want to have a foot in the public school at the same time as they teach the bulk of the academics at home.  It's a pretty relaxed situation here in our town.

The road less taken is Religious Exemption (RE), which is what we do.  The "Religious" part doesn't necessarily mean just Judeo-Christian religions--there are pagan and Native American families who believe that the parents have the authority are to teach their children.  We are a Christian family, and we fall on the far religious left.  Using the Religious Exemption law we are not required to submit any information about our children.  We are not required to test our children or have any kind of evaluation.  By choosing the RE law we cannot receive any support services through the county school system.   That's fine with us.  We love the freedom we have with schooling under the RE law.  No testing, no deadlines, no interference.

If you have questions, email me

August 3, 2012

Yep. I'm back!

Okay, I don't have any excuses other than I wasn't motivated.   And I'm not promising that I am motivated now either, but at least I'm breaking the ice!

We are all doing pretty well--months flying by, 7th grade completed, many many trips to fun places (Mexico, Key West, Beach, a friend's wedding, Camp PALS, the NDSC convention in D.C., a tour through New England...).   We've been home one weekend since the middle of April.   But now we're settling in with no real agenda until September.   It feels good!

Hannah's been doing well.  She's up to her usual funny stuff, cooking, joking, creating.

Here's Hannah's description of the picture:
The Fire Brigade is there to put out the fire in the volcano before it burns the Brachiosaurus while the Pterosaur escapes the poisonous steam.

When we were in Vermont (family reunion) we took a little trip up to the Ben and Jerry's factory!  It was a lot of fun. 

 These are HUGE tanks! Three storeys tall!

 This is the graveyard of ice cream flavors that were eliminated over the years.  
Hannah is playing the role of the ghastly host of the graveyard.

 This was my favorite.

We also had the chance to go to Haverhill, MA to visit the Hannah Duston statue. (Click to read the backstory)

She was really excited about this!  A dozen years ago my mom went to Haverhill and bought some Hannah Duston postcards and a t-shirt.   I remember Hannah being two years old, looking at the "Adult Large" T-shirt, having a hard time imagining Hannah ever being that big.  I stuffed the shirt in a ziplock bag and left it on the top shelf of her closet.  Look at her now!  She's wearing that very t-shirt (a bit baggy still), and at 5'4" she's definitely taller than the original Hannah Duston.  She's more than I ever could have fathomed--delightful, moody, sensitive, silly, thoughtful, frustrating, playful, ridiculous, funny, creative, loving, obstinate, crazy, goofy--it's a whole package.  I love that girl.