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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Is Homeschooling?

What Does It Look Like?


Homeschooling is no longer conducted in the shadows, behind closed curtains, with the fear of 'whispers' from the neighbors.  I know there are those who still 'speak out' against homeschooling, buying into the old, and might I point out disproved, myths that can still swirl about regarding homeschooling and more pointedly homeschoolers.  The homeschooling community itself will 'poke fun' at itself by talking about being weird and unsocialized because we know it is, more often than not, untrue.  Either that or we embrace our 'weirdness' as being unique individuals raising free thinkers who will change their world.  Regardless though homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and so we can walk in the sun during school hours without fear of serious, legal retribution.

Now that homeschooling is more and more spoken of in the 'mainstream' media, studies have been done showing the academic and socialization success stories of those who were homeschooled.  There are 1st and 2nd generation homeschoolers who are now homeschooling their children.  The mystery of homeschooling is not much of a mystery anymore. 

Or is it?  

 In every homeschooling group I used to be a member of, real life or on-line (and there are A LOT of online support groups for homeschoolers), or homeschool blogs I read, the conversations and support generally, and most often, circled around such topics as curriculum choices, how to motivate children to learn, children's learning styles, creative 'work' system, hands-on activities, and field trips for 'extended learning'. 

I got caught up in all that too.  As a new homeschooler, 5 year ago, living where I did, and just discovering 'facebook', the only homeschoolers I knew/met were religious homeschoolers.  So I paid attention to curriculum (I didn't want religious dogma or myth in my curriculum as a basis of facts), and 'work systems' for setting up and executing our homeschooling curriculum.  I made the room look like 'school' and set on the path of providing my child with her education myself at home.  The very definition of homeschooling!

Fast forward four and half years and if you were to have peaked behind my curtain I do believe the scene would have looked very similar to when Dorothy finally glimpsed 'the man behind the curtain'.  It looked good, for the most part, but the struggles, failures, and unhappiness were what was real.  I do not lament too much on how things were then because I did not know better.  I was doing the best I knew how at that time.  That is all any of us can do.  However, once we know better we can do better.  Doing better will look different for each family.  Five years later I am convinced of one thing, homeschooling would be better served if it were called something else.  I am not sure what, but other names that spring to mind include:  Living School, Life Learning, and even unschooling.  There are those in the unschooling community who would "Pffft" at what I think unschooling looks like, but that matters not.  Even in the homeschooling community there are always going to be those who think they are doing it 'right' and that their 'right' is what everyone's 'right' is.  Sad, actually, given the fact that homeschooling is supposed to be about providing your children with life experience, living skills, and educational opportunities based out of the home.


That is what homeschooling is.  Plain and simple, right?  Speaking for myself, it is easy to say but hard to know 'how to do', especially at the start.  There are as many books on how to homeschool as there are 'methods'.  There are other branches of the  homeschooling tree that include topics such as learning styles and curriculum choice.  It goes even deeper into subsets:  Unit Studies, lapbooking, notebooking, and more.  They all seem like crucial choices to most in the beginning and for others their entire homeschooling experience.  To a point it is valid to say that these are worth exploring.  A child will do their best work when they are engaged and interested not only in WHAT they are learning but in HOW they are learning it.  A fish seems very stupid if you ask him to learn to fly but shows his genius when he's placed in the stream.  This exploration, or trial and error, is part of the journey not merely 'tools' for the journey.  Learning is happening with all the misses as much as with the hits, both for the parent and the child.  Yet we worry, yes I worry too.  However, I do not think we should worry so much that it cripples us from enjoying the journey of life. 

Therein lies the difference.  Homeschooling is not just a means of educating your child, it is a lifestyle choice.  It is as much who your family is as anything else with which you identify.  You are vegans, gardeners, gamers, documentary watchers, runners, swimmers, dancers, performers, liberals, conservatives, believers, atheists and on and on...homeschooling is that, just like that.  Homeschooling is who you are, a real and natural extension of your philosophy on life, love, family, worship, and values.  That is what homeschooling is and once you embrace that definition you will become as comfortable with having homeschooling be what it is for your family as any other lifestyle choice you make for your life.  When that sense of confidence fills you you will no longer bother with the nay-sayers, critics, or even so-called experts.  You will be living the life you build and teaching your children to do the same.  In that life, when we need to learn something we seek it out and learn it, in the way that works best for us.  That is life-long learning and that is what we all want for our children. 

To find the real support you need I strongly recommend you find a group, even if only online, that welcomes you for who you are and lets you be who you are on your life journey that includes homeschooling.  One of my greatest joys has come in the last six months when I started The Inappropriate Homeschoolers facebook group and it has made a real difference for me and, according to them, the other members.  They are as a part of my journey as homeschooling itself is.


My sincerest thanks to fellow IH group members for allowing me the use of their pictures to show what homeschooling looks like.........LIFE!
~Mari B.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bill Nye Insults Homeschooling?

I had the chance to actually be in the moment when a homeschooler asked Bill Nye on his facebook page if he would ever consider creating a science curriculum for homeschoolers.  This was on a thread where Bill Nye asked his fans to submit questions he would answer:

"Bill Nye (the Science Guy) here, sitting by ready to take your questions (your good questions)..."

THE question:  "The homeschool community is severely lacking in real science curricula. Will you give thought to creating a science curriculum for the ever-growing number of secular homeschoolers?"

His response was less than stellar, in my opinion:

Bill Nye The Science Guy:  "Use your judgment. The rest of us out here, want your kids to appreciate society and the importance of working together in school and in life. A person working alone will probably not build the future 797 airplane, for example. It takes people who can work with and around people. Carry on."

I will admit, his answer disappointed me.  The homeschooler who asked the question is a member of my Inappropriate Homeschoolers group and we are secular homeschoolers.  She brought this to our attention and several other members, including me, went back and commented.  There were a lot of good responses to Bill's apparent position on homeschooling.:

The original asker:  "Wow. Did Bill Nye just insult homeschoolers? I thought you were smarter than that. A very narrow-minded view if you think homeschoolers don't work well together. How unfortunate."

Another respondent:  "Come on Bill, surely you don't buy into that anti-social homeschooling myth...we want our kids to appreciate society and learn to work together as much as any other parent...there are many reasons parents choose to homeschool, and isolating our kids is not one of them."

The Inappropriate Homeschooler's comment:  "It's not a question of IF socialization occurs in the schools or home it's a question of WHAT socialization occurs in the schools and the homes. Homeschoolers are living in the real world with a myriad of ages, races, etc and they are more socially mature and capable than their 'peers' in the institutionalized setting of public school."

After pondering this for a day and reading several responses, some of which were ah, anti-homeschooling, I have come to a conclusion that I've actually spoken of before:  Secular homeschoolers, those who are not homeschooling for religious reasons, need a stronger presence in the homeschooling spotlight.  I am NOT saying that religious homeschoolers children are not socialized or taught well.  Clearly the majority are socialized and taught well because they were the pioneers of homeschooling, whose children were the first subjects of the studies showing the success of homeschooling.  However, there is a growing number (frighteningly so, in my opinion) of very conservative, fundamentalist, young earth Christians in the homeschooling community.  It's a trend that I suspect follows the curve of the growing trend in the Christian community period.  Secular homeschoolers need to bring attention to homeschooling so that everyone is not painted with the same brush as that growing and very vocal group - the Ken Ham groupies, if you will.

Having just come from his 'debate' with Ken Ham, perhaps he's more sensitive than usual to the fact that the majority of attention given to homeschoolers involves religious ones, in particular Creationists.  I can understand that.  However, his comments seem directed at the ever present 'socialization' issue.  I, along with all homeschoolers (religious or secular) are so OVER that topic.  How many years will it take for the studies to be in existence to rid our society of that stereotype?  Yes, there are some 'odd' folks homeschooling, but HELLO - there are 'odd' folks in public school and subsequently in real world jobs!

Nonetheless, I accept that the burden of proof is on us, the homeschoolers, in particular Secular homeschoolers.  I do not make this argument with the mind thought of disparaging the rights of Christians, or other religious persons, to homeschool for those reasons.  I make this argument so that secular homeschoolers will have equal voice and presence in our society and in the media regarding who is homeschooling, why they are homeschooling, and how they are homeschooling.  Clearly, secular homeschoolers need resources with which to homeschool and to create a 'demand' for secular curriculum and resources is necessary.

Bill Nye's remarks just brought it all the more to light for me, how needed the National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers (N.A.S.H.) is and I, along with the other homeschoolers wishing to see it come to fruition, will continue to make that organization a reality.

So, thanks Bill, for the extra push!  The day will come when you will wish you had created a science curriculum for secular homeschoolers if for no other reason than how well it would have lined your pocket.

~Mari B.

Here's a link to the IH members own post about her experience:http://sweethoneyicedtea.blogspot.com/2014/02/bill-nye-insults-homeschoolers.html

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Homeschooling, Like Motherhood, Is Not a Sprint

As I mentioned, I get questions here and there from readers of my blog, fans of the IH facebook page, or posted in the IH support group.  Every now and then I get a question from someone that I think is a concern that is worth answering as a blog post on the chance that it may help others.  The topic for inappropriate discussion today is multi-faceted.  How can we know as homeschoolers that we are doing enough to teach our kids?  How can we know that they are learning what they need to learn?  How much worry is too much worry about whether it is going 'right'?

The first part of my answer is that we need to remember that homeschooling, just like motherhood, is not a sprint; it is more like a marathon.  It is a bit of a long road from start to finish.  There really is no way to know in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc... year how far you have come until you are in the 4th, 5th, 6th, etc... year looking back.  I know that this is not the answer we would all like.  We want to be comforted and given assurances that we are doing the right thing, the right way, for our children.  The hard truth is that there is no handbook for living and despite what the book stores might lead you to believe, there really is no handbook for parenting or homeschooling.  Which, I know, kinda sucks.

Homeschooling is uncharted territory.  Period.  That is not to say that there are not books you can read, support groups you can join, advice and help to be acquired on the journey; because there are.  What is not available is that which we crave the most; assurances.  Just like life, there are no guarantees for homeschooling.  Again, I know, that sucks.  Homeschooling, despite its rising trend, is still an 'alternative' educational choice and as such, it is a scarier road to travel being void of the worn, comfortable path of more traditional education routes.  There are not nearly as many road signs on this journey or available road side services.  When you get a flat on this road, more often than not, you have to change it yourself.  If you are lucky you have a friend, or two, that you can call that can help walk you through it, but in the end it is you staring at the tire wondering how to get it fixed so you can get your car back on the road again moving along down the path.

The first step in acquiring peace of mind is acceptance.  Ironically that is the first step of a lot of life experiences.  Accept that this journey is not a sprint, but a marathon.  Allow yourself to breathe and relax.  Seriously, take a breath.  Next, create two lists.  First is a list of all the reasons you choose to homeschool.  Keep that list close, you'll need it more often than you think as a reminder on those days where you want to have the kids dressed and ready to catch the bus for public school.  Second, create a list of all the goals you want to accomplish on your homeschooling journey.  I am not referring to educational goals, as in "This year Sally will learn fractions."  I am referring to the BIG, over-arching goals that might include:  Spending quality time as a family.  Influencing and guiding my child through the pre-teens years.  Allowing my child to grow and bloom at his own pace.  Traveling as a family more.  Using real world experiences to guide our educational goals.  Things of this nature are what you want to have on your second list.  Then, keep that list handy too, for the same reason you have list one close.

After you have these two lists, you now have all the answers you need for when the doubt creeps in and you ask yourself, "How can we know as homeschoolers that we are doing enough to teach our kids?"  If you are homeschooling for reasons that are important and valid to you and your family and you are meeting your homeschooling goals, then you are doing enough in teaching your children.  Period.  Let that become a mantra you use when ever you need to.  Just as we are 'enough' as the mother of our children we are 'enough' as their educators too.

Next, think back on your own educational experiences.  Talk with your spouse, other family members, and friends about their educational experiences.  Did everyone learn everything they ever needed by the 3rd grade?  What about the 6th grade?  What about after graduating high school?  College?  The answer is no.  In fact, for a lot of us who were the product of a public education, we learned about as much as we needed to pass the test and anything else that stayed with us was because it happened to be something of interest to us at the time.  None of us left high school having learned all we NEEDED to learn, let alone learning all there was to learn.  The most we can hope for, for our children, is that we give them a solid foundation - which to me means being able to read well, communicate well (verbally and in written form) and have basic, living, math skills.  Furthermore, if we teach our children HOW to think, HOW to learn, HOW to problem solve then they have a better foundation than a lot of graduating seniors from P/S systems.

Not only does it not matter if there are holes in their education, for there will always be gaps (Hell, I still have gaps, but that's okay because learning is life-long) it does not matter *when* they learn what they learn.  There is that old expression, one must learn to crawl before one can walk.  Not true.  Many children never crawl but jump right to walking.  Of course, their parents were scared because their child was not crawling at the 'developmentally appropriate age' so they feared there was something wrong with them and then BHAM, one day at 9 months they stood up and walked across the floor.  It can and often is the same with all the other sorts of learning a child can do.  Your child does not read and by age 8 mom and dad are freaking out.  Then one day, they pick up a book and start to read and two years later are reading on a high school level.  These are true examples from folks I know personally.  What children do *not* need is unnecessary pressure to learn because that kills the love of learning that is instilled in them from the very beginning.  There is no point to 'what if-ing' yourself to distraction.  What if I forgot to tell them 'this'?  What if they never learn 'that'?  At some point you have to have faith in your children and yourself.


A homeschooling veteran told me the story of her 9th grader coming home from high school complaining that she had never taught the child all the states and their capitals.  This veteran, who had homeschooled all of her children until high school, looked at her child and said, "Are you capable of learning them?"  "Yes, of course", says the child.  "So go do it", said the veteran.  And the child did.  See?  If a child knows how to learn, they can easily learn something that they need to learn.  So, when you are haunted by the question of " How can we know that they are learning what they need to learn?" remind yourself that even you are still learning that which you need to learn to live and it is a never-ending process.

As far as the question I was asked, "How much worry is too much worry about whether it is going right?", my answer would be, when it interferes with your ability to enjoy your children, live in the moment, and be confident in your choice.  When that starts to happen, pull out your two lists and review them.  Read uplifting stories about homeschoolers who, like you and me, struggle daily but still get it done knowing they are ultimately doing the best thing for their children and above all else remember:

We are preparing our children for a future that we, ourselves, will never know.  That is a mighty task, but again, this journey is a marathon not a sprint.  Every year you can look back and if you see progress, not compared to anyone else's child just progress in your child, you should call that past year successful.  Then, before you know it, the marathon will be over and you will look back on the culmination of all those years and see the wonderful journey you took with your child, the meaningful time together, and the person they have grown into and all will be well in your heart.

~Mari B.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How To Homeschool Your Little Ones

I receive questions or inquiries for advice.  Yeah, I know....it surprises me too.  Who am I to give advice?  I am just another homeschool mom schlepping her way through the journey one step at a time.  Nonetheless, I get questions.  There's one I get a lot.  I'm going to address it here.  "How should I homeschool my 2, 3, 4, 5 year old?"  They are looking for curriculum I recommend, structure to implement, etc.  So, here's my advice.

  • Snuggle, cuddle, and hug your toddler often, every day.
  • Read to your toddler, often, every day.
  • Play *with* your toddler often, every day.
  • Let your toddler play independently, often, every day.
  • Explore *with* your toddler often, every day.
  • Let your toddler explore independently, often, every day.
  • Take walks with your toddler, often.
  • Let your toddler 'help' you with your chores and errands as much as they are capable.
  • Make sure your toddler has items to bang on, color on, glue on, create and build with.
  • Make sure you pay attention to HOW your toddler engages during these years.  Read up on the various learning styles of children and become familiar with the cues of each style so as your child ages you'll understand best how s/he learns so you can facilitate their learning.
That is it.  That is all you need to do.  That and learning to follow their lead, their interests.

After your child turns about 6 or so, you can begin to introduce a little formal/structured learning time if you really feel you have to or need to.  I would say no more than 30 or so minutes.  Each year you can add a few more minutes.  When your child is 10-12 they will be ready for a more structured, formal educational process but the chances are very good that if you've followed the list of 10 items, they'll be off and running on their own with their education!

Until then, don't waste your money on curriculum or your time with building elaborate lesson plans until your child is between 8-12 years of age.  Do not let them get burnt out on learning.  Keep their natural, built-in love of learning alive.  Trust that you child will learn what they need to know when they need to know when they are ready; just as they learned to sit-up, crawl, walk, talk, etc.  You are there to give encouragement and guidance.  Don't worry about getting them into Harvard.....yet.

One last thing, do not refer to what you are doing at home (items 1-10 on the list) as homeschooling.  Most homeschoolers will tell you it is called 'parenting' and we all did it.  We started homeschooling our children when the state told us it was now the time we were legally required to turn their daily care and education over to a government or private institution.  THAT is when we started homeschooling.

For those that do not agree with my advice, continue to search out for information on 'schooling' your little one.  There is a ton on the internet for you to find, given how 'early education' obsessed we are as a society despite all the research that shows it is a detriment.  If my advice offends you, I would offer that you are not as strong in your conviction that 'schooling' your baby is right and recommend you spend time reflecting on that rather than writing me an angry letter.

~Mari B.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What I Would Have Told Myself 13 Years Ago

If I could go back thirteen years, to when I was pregnant with Punky, I would tell myself these things.

1. The less you strive to get her to submit to you, the more influence you will have in her life.

2. The less you talk, the more she will listen.

3. For every criticism she needs to hear at least 10 praises.

 4. Most of the fights you will have will be because of your baggage, not her misbehavior.

5. When she's little and you don't manage her environment and she melts down, that's on you.

6. In terms of learning, trust that she will learn what she needs to learn when she needs to learn it;  you can't force a child to absorb knowledge.

7. Put away the curriculum. Really.

8. Trust that she will show you what she needs, it's your job to pay attention.

9. Spend more time playing with her.

10. Go on more walks.

11. Spend time with her while you cook and clean. She will want your time.

12. Give more of yourself to that which really matters.

13.  Slow down and be less busy.

14. Criticize less. She will absorb every word of it.

15. Remember it will be better to be silent than speak in anger or impatience.

16. Her relationship with you is what keeps her safe. Don't mess it up by demanding  she bends to your will.

16.  She will learn what she lives.


17.  Respect that she is a person, unto herself, and she deserves respect.

I wonder if I would have been too bull-headed to listen.

~Mari B.