Posted by: thediygeochemist | March 28, 2010

looking back #1: homeschooling

Long before I started this blog, I had a personal blog elsewhere which was only accessible to friends. I like going back and reading the archived entries every now and then. I thought you might like to read some of these too, to understand the forces that shaped me into the grad student I am.

Thus begins a new series, “looking back.” My first contribution is about two years old, dated March 7, 2008. A bit of background: a week or so before this, an appeals court had ruled that parents in California who homeschooled their children via the private school option were in violation of the law. I began my blog post by questioning the legality of the ruling, with some valid legal arguments. (The governor of California later filed an amicus brief with many of the same arguments!) Below is the part that followed, which gives you an idea of what my life was like at the time.

* * *

It really irks me that people say I’m unfit to teach my children just because I’m not credentialed. As a tutor, I’ve taken kids who were earning C’s and D’s (for some reason, their credentialed teachers couldn’t explain things to them properly) and gotten them to the point of earning A’s & B’s–in a matter of weeks. I might not be able to handle a classroom of 37 children–that is, after all, what a credential equips you for–but four don’t pose a problem for me. Especially now that I’m sharing the teaching with UnlikelyDad.

So, my homeschool is theoretically illegal. I theoretically don’t know how to teach. But my children are still learning.

Right now, on the couch, Al is working on his pre-calculus while “rocking out” to the Rondo from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1. At this point in his educational career, he’s more or less an auto-didact. (I only have to help him with maybe one concept every chapter or so, when it comes to math.) Earlier this week, he did comprehension questions from his (college-level) history text, read Uncle Tom’s Cabin (yes, the whole book) and wrote some paragraphs about interpretations, and analyzed some poetry. (He hates poetry. We’ve assured him that, after this year, we won’t make him do any more.)

Nate is curled up in the recliner with a book that would daunt most adult readers, having to do with life in medieval England. This is part of his research for a historical novel he’s going to write, set in the time of King Alfred. Earlier today we talked about how to do a bibliography; having done that, he’s making notes on trivia such as food, clothing, housing, work, and entertainment–the sorts of details that he’d have to include in a novel to make it realistic. This week, he’s also worked through several lessons in his algebra book, and done a reading/writing assignment from the same college history text Al works from.

Lew is taking a break right now, playing a game of his own creation with his younger brother. Earlier, he was reading a book on state geography; later today, he’ll do some math.

Will is at “recess” right now, but this morning he was reading a Tintin book that would stump Al’s tutor client (a boy in 2nd grade who needs help in reading). Will reads very well for a six year old, with expression and very few pauses or stumbles. He does pretty well with his phonics and math work, too.

All of the boys are very active, helping with work around the house (housework, as well as things like Digging Sewer Trenches), playing basketball and soccer in fairly unofficial settings (church leagues, etc.–other venues can be very Cutthroat Competitive around here), and so on. They all have their own unique interests and hobbies (architecture, investment, origami, farming, construction…) and the older boys have many practical life skills (money management, baking, etc.) that I don’t see in many children who are considerably older than they.

Nor are they social cripples. They are sometimes awkward around their peers, but I think that’s tied to the fact that they find some of their peers’ topics of conversation (popular music, spending lots of money, etc.) downright baffling. Put them in a group of mixed ages, including adults, and they seem to get along fine.

So I’m not a credentialed teacher. I think I do a pretty decent job, thank you very much.


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