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My homeschool goals

October 6, 2010 3 comments

I just came across something I wrote back in May 2005 about my homeschooling goals in response to a question of “what keeps you motivated; what are your goals & philosophies?”  It was it was really interesting to read over five years later; I was surprised to see how similar what I wrote then was to what I would write now.  So I thought I’d share it here with you.

“My philosophy could be summarized as follows:  no one knows, loves, understands, and cares about my children and their successful development the way that I do.  I want to be directly involved in their lives, and want us all to share significant experiences as a family.  I want learning to be a lifelong pursuit that is filled with joy, and feel that it can be when children are treated as the individuals that they are, and taught when their minds are developmentally ready for the material presented.
Goals:
I’m not sure if you are asking about academic goals or what I consider the more important substantive goals.
  1. Firstly, for me, would be helping them build good character, including a strong internal moral compass and the willingness to do what is right( even when it isn’t popular), kindness, and respect for others;
  2. a healthy sense of self-worth and value, to be responsible members of family and society, to be hard working, responsible, independent and able to be interdependent;
  3. to be able to think critically, have strong basic academic skills (which for me means, fluency in reading, writing, math, and the ability to navigate Torah texts) which are precursors to more advanced learning;
  4. to have strong bonds with their parents and siblings, to imbue them with a strong sense of our values as pertains to Torah philosophy and behavior, and to have the interpersonal skills necessary to form healthy relationships as adults which result in a healthy marriage and family;
There are many more things I could write, but I think most of them would fall somewhere into the above goals.  For example, they have time to develop their interests and have more relaxed and balanced lives. They avoid a bunch of negatives, such as peer dependency from a young age, unhealthy competition, etc.  They learn to navigate the world more effectively from a young age (eg, managing money and interacting with people of different ages).
I don’t think it is necessary to be able to pin down exactly what your reasons and goals are, just to have a strong feeling for what they are.  As your kids get older, your goals will become more specific.  So much of why we do what we do comes from an instinctive sense of what is right, that it often can’t easily be defined.
I formed my goals based on who I am, what is important to me and feel will be important skills for my children in the future, and by doing lots and lots of reading and thinking.  I read many things I disagreed with, but forced myself to think through why I disagreed with those positions.  Many, many, many hours of thought have gone into my philosophy as it developed, and into the specific decisions I have made as a result.  I have adapted along the way, finding that what I sometimes thought the best way to do things changed depending on my children’s personalities and their ages.
As far as staying motivated, I personally haven’t found that a challenge.  When you continually see your goals being achieved, and there so many validations of your approach (both internal and external), there is nothing more motivating than that.  I love who I see my children becoming, and am incredibly grateful for the quality of life we have.  I am far from perfect, but am raising kids who are better than those I ever could have raised if they were in school for most of their waking hours.  I love seeing how they don’t make distinctions between learning and fun; for example, doing mind benders (deductive reasoning exercises) for fun late at night, begging me to read more of our historical read aloud, doing lots of lessons at a time in math or grammar, just because they enjoy it.  I appreciate having a positive, stimulating, and loving home environment. And I really, really love having a very strong relationship with them, which gets us through many situations that I don’t know how parents navigate without that relationship.
Avivah
Categories: Goals, home education

Do the values behind homeschooling matter?

May 26, 2010 10 comments

I wrote the following as part of my recent post on homeschooling, then decided to take it out because it was going off track regarding my main point, which was just talking about how nice it was to speak to minded homeschooling parents, and to express my appreciative feeling that homeschoolers are incredibly nice people.  Instead I put it to the side as a material for a future post, but will share it now before responding to some questions on my last post because I think it’s relevant for readers to realize this was written as part of the original post and before any questions.  (It was an oversight on my part that I removed the following without significantly editing the only paragraph remaining, which would have made my intent more clear.)

(My statements) >>A homeschooling friend in a recent email said that we can’t make it harder for people to homeschool by talking about ideals, but I disagree.  Is there really a value in promoting home education without talking about the values behind the choice?  I guess some people would say that values don’t matter much, that the only difference is the location where the schooling takes place, but I really can’t get on board with that way of thinking.  My way and your way to home educate won’t – and shouldn’t – look alike.  I don’t think there’s one right way to do things, just the way that is right for your family.

But  I don’t believe that making things easy for people is necessarily being kind to them – parents today tend to be disempowered and fearful of their abilities to meet the needs of their child/ren.  That gives rise to the constant comparisons of their children to their schooled peers, focus on if the kids are ‘up to par, and their focus on curriculum as if it’s the curriculum that will give them guaranteed results.

Sure, it’s easy to provide curriculum and lists and classes for these homeschoolers – that’s what they’re asking for because that’s what they think they need, and they’ll be very grateful for it.  But isn’t it just as valuable – more valuable, actually – to take the time to help them think about what their educational philosophy is?  Or to help them develop it?  To talk about a deeper and more meaningful way to approach learning and living than recreating school in your dining room?<<

Okay, end of those thoughts, which I had planned to flesh out in more detail before sharing here as its own post.  Read the past post with these comments added in between the second and third paragraphs if you’re inclined to see how it was originally written.  Now on to some comments from the post.

(Binah said)>> I don’t know if I would call homeschooling a “parallel academic choice”, but I not sure I see much value in promoting homeschooling or a particular way of homeschooling dogmatically. Hate to be so relativistic, but I can only do what works for me, and others should do what works for them. If that involves sending their children to school, signing up for a cyber academy charter school, or using school-in-a-box type curriculum, I don’t see the need to bemoan that state of affairs.<<

Agreed.  I believe that home education is at the core about individualizing the process to meet your needs.  But I want to address what I think is a common response to those expressing their belief that there is a better or worse way to do something, the assumption that they’re judgmental (as seen in the choice of words ‘dogmatically’ and ‘bemoan).

I’ve often noticed that those who have standards that are different than the collective norm are accused of being judgmental, regardless of how cautiously and respectfully they express themselves.  To be accurate, only if the standards are perceived as being higher is it viewed as a problem, because we don’t refer to those who push their values on us who lower the standard as judgmental.  Somehow, that’s okay.

There are a number of precepts and principles that I believe to be worthy of emulation and try to integrate them into my life, as a spouse, parent, friend, and individual.  Even though I’m  frequently not successful in integrating them to the degree I would like, I still find inspiration in having ideals and something more to strive for. If those from whom I learned about these ideas hadn’t written or discussed them, I would unquestionably have set the bar in my life much lower and experienced significantly less happiness as a result.

To refrain from sharing one’s ideas and to remove ideals from discussion is to remove any striving, to prevent people from knowing about other options that they may want to explore.  So many parents begin homeschooling knowing very little about it, basically superimposing a school structure on their home lives.  Wouldn’t it be a kindness to share the exciting possibilities and options with them, to let them know that there might be other ways that would bring more joy and delight into their lives, rather than just smile and nod, and let them think that there’s nothing better out there than what they’re doing – because we don’t want to be seen as judgmental??

We easily forget that often people are making choices without knowing that there are options to what they’ve chosen.  This is true of homeschooling, and of many other areas as well.  An approach to marriage, work, parenting, money management – all of these are often determined by our past experience.  And when our experience is unhealthy or simply limited, we don’t grow beyond that without getting a glimpse that there’s something more, something that could make our life better.

(Binah said)>>Are you concerned with potential future affects on all homeschoolers’ freedoms as cyber schooling and other one-size-fits-all approaches become more popular? I think that is a very valid concern.<<

Yes, I am.  Attendees of some cyber schools don’t realize their programs aren’t homeschooling; they are registered as public school school students learning at home.  This is a legal definition, not my personal opinion.  (This isn’t true of all cyber schools, however.)  Those who are enrolled in cyber schools tend to be comfortable with the school system and its demands, and their values and goals often conflict with many homeschoolers.  (The reasons for that are material for a long discussion.)  Further complicating matters is that many of these cyberschoolers will refer to themselves as homeschoolers, which is inaccurate and misleading, and they don’t even realize that they’re misrepresenting themselves. Home educators have worked hard to establish the legal rights we now have, which could easily be jeopardized by cyberschoolers.  Much has been written about this concern in home education magazines (for those who are interested in learning more, the columns of Larry and Susan Kaseman in Home Education Magazine are worth reading – I believe you can find past columns online).

(Malkie said)>>As for this new trend of people taking the “homeschool” label when their kids just need a year off from school. Obviously I mind people using the term “homeschool” to mean “neglect” (or recently in the news here, abuse). But something else that really troubles me is that those kids then go back into the school world with the label “homeschooler” on them, and are NOTHING like homeschoolers. Half the time they haven’t even detoxed! Especially here in Israel, where there aren’t that many of us, and the first one you meet, or believe you meet, makes a lasting impression. They make things harder for those of us who do put in the effort for our kids, and I resent it.<<

This is unfortunately something I’m all too familiar with, and this was reflected in my comments in the last post.  People tend to think if you’re in an area with a number of other homeschoolers, that’s a clear advantage.  But there are disadvantages, too.  When homeschooling becomes more common, some people use this as an excuse for not educating their children.  In my community, the religious schools (which previously would have thought long and hard before telling a student to leave) now tell problem students and their parents to ‘homeschool’.   But many of these kids and parents have no inclination to homeschool, don’t want to homeschool, and have no plans to change the dynamic they’ve enacted until this point.  This leads to a problem of truancy.  And that leads to a problem that these kids, who call themselves ‘homeschoolers’ but are actually nothing of the sort, negatively impact the positive image that homeschoolers have worked hard to earn.

Fortunately one local program that previously catered to ‘homeschooled’ kids has now decided to officially call itself a school, a move I’m personally very happy with.  Now the kids who go there won’t be considered homeschoolers by the community, which the majority of them never were to start with (the parents and the kids would agree with that).

A person doesn’t become a homeschooler soley by being out of school for a year (this was in part what was referred by the comment in my last post that there are differences between those who are homeschooling and homeschoolers).  I don’t appreciate hearing people claim that homeschooling doesn’t work because they tried it for a short period and were miserable, particularly when it’s clear that important steps weren’t taken or there were outside contributing factors that badly influenced the experience which were independent of/not caused by homeschooling.

That’s not because I demand that everyone love homeschooling – I’ve said again and again that it’s not for everyone (though I do believe that when we individualize our approach for each child, then it can work for each child).  But when someone goes back into the system as if they’re a representative of homeschooling, but they aren’t, then again, homeschoolers as a group/homeschooling as a concept end up unfairly tarnished.

(Binah said)>>Anytime something becomes popularized and mainstream, the newer proponents of that thing, whether that thing is homeschooling or punk rock, may not share the same values and experiences as the older ones. I am not sure this is a process that can be avoided. Is there any value in getting concerned about this normal process? I don’t know. It reminds me a little of my angst as a teenager over some obscure band that became popular, leading me to claim that they had “sold out”.<<

That’s a good point.  But yes, I believe there’s a purpose to holding on to a clear view of what your principles are, regardless of what those around you do or don’t do.  And I think the dumbing down of our society both morally and intellectually has in part been aided by those who don’t want to judge and don’t want to set any standards because it will make people uncomfortable.

Avivah

Categories: Goals, home education

Developing belief in yourself

January 6, 2009 Leave a comment

I often speak to/correspond with parents who are considering homeschooling, and I’ve found that the main thing that they express are their worries about doing something so different from the mainstream.  There are worries about short term academic achievement, social skill development, emotional development.  Practical worries, like how to get their kids to listen to them, how to juggle all the demands of homeschooling and running a home, which curriculum to buy and at what point.  And then there are the long term worries, about how they’ll transition to school at a later date, get married, function in society, or have long term scars as a result of the choice their parents made to homeschool.  (There are lots more specifics, but you get the idea!)

It’s interesting that very few parents agonize over these questions before sending their child to school, or even consider them at all.  By virtue of everyone else doing it, there’s a certain comfort and assurance that it’s going to all work out just fine.  But these are questions inherent to the process of raising your children, regardless of what venue you choose. Every parent needs to think about their child’s emotional, social, and academic needs, and assess if they are best served in the environment they’re choosing to place them in.  Educating your child in whatever manner should involve thought and consideration.

I was thinking tonight that it would be nice if there was a magic pill to give these parents, to help them put their concerns into perspective – I often feel that they’re hoping talking to me will be the magic pill.  I’ve regularly been asked how I had the confidence to homeschool my kids, how I dealt with that nagging doubt that is constantly at the back of a parent’s mind whenever they make a choice that differs from the mainstream.  When I think of my own experience, it reminds me once again that there is no magic pill, and that a magic pill would only keep us from developing confidence in ourselves.  Confidence is built on a foundation of grappling with our fears and doubts and resolving them. 

As for me, I really believed in the principles of educating one’s children as individuals, according to their needs and internal timelines.  Whenever I would worry that someone wasn’t progressing fast enough, or I wasn’t doing enough, I’d go back to my core principles and think about them.  This meant a lot of thinking over the years!  But it was through this process of thinking and thinking and thinking (and talking to my husband about it), constantly evaluating my experience along with the feedback of others, that my belief in what I was doing for my family was constantly strengthened.

And I think that’s what every parent benefits from – not just talking to someone who seems to have it all together, who’s worked out their issues in this area and is happy with their results. That can be helpful, but true strength isn’t borrowed from others.  That inner confidence can only come from deep inside you.  And as I told someone tonight, sometimes you have to fake it until you make it.  You have to believe in your principles even before you get the results, but increasingly with time, your results will begin to show up for you.  Once you start to see those positive results, that will continue to give support to all that you’re doing.  The longer you stick with your principles, the better your results will be and the more you have to reassure yourself with. 

It’s like gardening – you plant the seed in good soil, water and fertilize it regularly, and you have to trust that something is happening and it will bloom when it’s meant to.  You can’t be constantly digging up the seed to see what’s happening to it.  Just because you don’t see growth doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  Growth in our children (as well as ourselves) is organic, and takes time.  We have to learn to trust the process, and trust is something that we’re lacking nowadays.  We grow up trusting the authorities, the professionals, those with letters after their names, but to believe in ourselves?  It’s something we need to learn to do.  And it takes time.  But it’s so worthwhile!

Avivah

Creating a vision for homeschooling

September 5, 2008 Leave a comment

I felt it was relevant to share my thoughts in my last post on creating a vision of what you want for your life because of yet another person who called me about homeschooling a couple of days ago.  Well, to be more accurate, he didn’t want to know about homeschooling, but about an alternative to dump his child into since school wasn’t working (ie, wanted to know about paid group opportunities and a homeschooling family who his son could be left with).  This is a question I hear much too often, far less than questions from sincere parents interested in truly homeschooling, and I always stress to parents that homeschooling is first and foremost about a relationship with your child, and taking personal responsibility for their educational needs.   

I asked this parent (in this case the father, usually it’s the mother), what he wanted for his family, the kind of life he wanted them to have, the relationships he wanted to build, and what success would look like.  He didn’t know.  I asked him why his 12 yo son didn’t want to continue going to school.  He didn’t know.  I asked why his wife didn’t want to homeschool his son.  He didn’t know. 

After spending 40 minutes speaking to him, I told him that there were a lot of important questions he didn’t have the answers to, and that I couldn’t help him until he sat down with his wife and discussed what kind of plan they want to have for their family.  I told him that homeschooling isn’t about where to teach the same subjects as school, but is a totally different paradigm of life that begins with the parents having the same goals and values.  He asked if he could schedule a time for his wife to speak to me, and I told him that my conversations with people who aren’t willing to do what’s best for their children (whatever that may be, I don’t define that) are very short, and that it would be a waste of time for all of us unless she created a vision. 

So….if you haven’t thought about why you’re homeschooling, or what kind of results you want to see, you’re shortchanging yourself.  You’ll still probably end up far ahead of the curve in terms of family development, but if you know what you want, you can focus your energy on that goal.  Your chances of success of any kind are much higher if you begin with a plan in mind. 

For me, that wasn’t the specifics of academic accomplishment, though for some that would be included.  I want my children to develop certain competencies that I feel are crucial for success in life – it includes reading, writing, and mathematic competency.  But more than that, is about the kind of family I want to have.  I want my kids to grow up with strong and healthy emotional selves, with confidence in their abilities, to know how to speak to and relate to all kinds of people.  I want them to feel a connection to G-d and to have a meaningful religious life.  I want them to be able to have healthy relationships with their friends, spouses, and children.  And there are other things.

These are some of my basic goals, and I sometimes tweak or change my approach if I feel that will help me reach the goal better.  The focus is on the goal, however, not on what to teach when.

By the way, if you aren’t homeschooling, creating a vision for your family is still critical.  Part of your vision will include using the schools to help you further your goals, and you can determine when schools are working for you by how much closer they bring you to your goals.

Avivah