Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another Senior

Bryce's girlfriend Haleigh, who is a great photographer, just did Gunnar's senior photos.

Yes, this guy... now a senior. Sigh. So fast...

As Haleigh has learned since she and Bryce started dating, we do very little in the normal way around here. Gunnar humored me and Haleigh by allowing a few normal, every day, senior photos. The ones like these...

But this is what he was really after... 

Gunnar on his motorcycle, in his cap and gown, doing a wheelie. 

I guess that's the measure of a really good photographer. Capturing the essence of ones subject. 

I believe she captured Gunnar's essence perfectly.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Homeschooling Exposé

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head, trying to get organized, trying to get voiced. To put these thoughts out there makes me feel a little bit like a Whistle-blower  I’m ratting out my people. But the truth is the truth, and in my little corner of the internet, this is the truth as I see it.

Years ago, before electricity and the invention of the wheel, I began homeschooling. It was a very serious and frightening undertaking. I, who owns no diploma of higher education, was saying to the world, “I think I can do a better job educating my child than a trained diploma-ed teacher!” That’s pretty bold, and some would say, arrogant.

We began. We dug in. We bought all the texts, and took all the tests, and read all the books. I had all the scope and sequences and I followed them to the letter. I was not going to screw this up!

The years passed and I became a little more relaxed. I figured out how my children learned best and we went with it. I tailored the education to the child. As they got older and the subject matter more frightening, (Hello dissections and algebra!) we began to take classes here and there outside of our home at home school co ops and community colleges. But never, in all those years, did I fail to take seriously this undertaking called Homeschooling.  Sure, we had failures. Kids forgot homework for co op classes, things were let slide, things got pushed to the back burner during times of stress, but the nagging, brutal, understanding that ‘This was their education!’ was never far from my mind.

Over the years I’ve seen a very concerning trend among my people. The only thing I can think to call it is a lack of seriousness, of weightiness put on this thing called homeschooling.

When I first started there was really one main way a child was homeschooled. You got the books from the publishers, those publishers who sold to Christian schools too, and you used them. One textbook for each subject, just like in a classroom. This became rapidly overwhelming to accomplish. 8 textbooks x 3 or 4 kids? With only one teacher?

So we told ourselves to relax, to combine. That they would learn. It would be okay. And it was. Turns out, there really is more than one way to skin a cat (just ask my kids who’ve taken Anatomy and actually skinned a cat!) You can teach multiple ages history at one time. You can do science experiments together. You can have the older child read to the younger. You can teach grammar in one year, intensively, in Jr. High instead of a little every year.  So we all took a deep breath and relaxed a little.

But I think maybe, as it often happens, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. I am seeing homeschooling families where both parents work an 8 to 5 outside of the home. How does that work? I mean, if you have someone else (grandma, a friend, etc) doing the schooling, great. But there really are Jr. High/High School kids at home doing their school alone. Really? I have a Jr. High Student. I’m not seeing it.  I have seen parents who sign up their children for classes at our local home school co op and then don’t oversee anything and their kids don’t do the work. But I bet that class is still showing up on their transcript as completed.

I’m seeing elementary age children who, frankly, are never taught to sit down and stop talking! I know, I know, it sounds awful. But there it is. There are places in this world that are not a child’s playground or classroom. Sometimes they share space with others; adults and children alike, and they need to know their place. I have seen a lack of respect for places and people among my homeschooling compatriots that makes me shudder. Yes, children are learning all the time but that does not mean it’s perfectly okay to let little Suzy climb all over the seats while the rest of us are trying to listen to the presentation.

I’m all for exploration, but let’s be respectful! There is a time to listen. To not talk. To not voice ones opinion. To not ask questions. There is a time for children to be quiet and let the adults talk. Why are our children not learning this anymore? Because I’m telling you, their public/private school counterparts sure are. They have to take turns, and line up, and be quiet. They have to learn that there is a time to explore and be inquisitive, and a time to be still.

This is not a public vs. private vs. home school commentary. I am no longer in the camp, ‘There is only one right way.’ I see benefits and drawbacks to all educating choices. But Homeschooling Parents? It’s time to take a long, hard look at what kind of children we’re putting out into the world.

We seem to have swung from those homeschooling kids who win all the Spelling Bees and Geography Bees, and can recite all the Presidents in order, and who graduate at 12 because they never take summer break, to kids who simply don’t know how to behave in public and have a ‘B’ listed on their high school transcript for a class they didn't turn in any homework for.

Perhaps we should aim for something a little more in the middle. A little healthier. We don’t all have to be rocket scientists, but it would be great if we could all at least learn how to behave.

~ A Concerned Homeschooling Parent
(Who will now be moving, and changing her name.)