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I've been thinking about this lately... (regarding my dc's education)


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I've researched, read about and dabbled in various education methods and resources that are out there. I tend to be a relaxed/CM-ish/3 R's homeschooler with a mix of being somewhat rigorous at times and use enrichment when the opportunity arises. I've often wondered (and worried) about our educational route and that what I think is a "good, alternative education" will actually result in an uneducated person when it's all said and done. How can a person know the difference between relaxed and uneducated? Am I making sense? I like our way and really can't break out of that mold, but I do tend to worry it's not "good enough" and that my children will be uneducated at the end of all this. How do you combat those insecurities and/or how do you evaluate that you are doing "good enough"? And, finally, how do you know it's time for a change in your method? Thanks for your input.

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I understand where you are coming from... BTDT. And I'm a former schoolteacher! LOL

What I do is annually do a standardized test to get confirmation or a wake up call of areas that need remediation. My son is an Aspie and very bright -- but has some mild learning disabilities and he will score in the 55th percentile in the weaker area -- while the areas he excels in (i.e. math/reading/science) are in the 80-88th percentile. Of course, this is a touchy area for MANY hsers --some test & some do not. To each his own.

 

As for the changing methods -- we fall into this trap as my son is special needs. I hate being forced into a "box" to teach from -- there are a wide variety of methods out there and so much to choose from. It kills me to buy brand new curriculum only to discover it doesn't work. It happens to all of us. You have to know where your child is at academically and his learning style. My son is relaxed and electic. (My style of teaching as a former schoolteacher was rigourous classical to gifted students -- with my beloved son, I backed off my style and found his LD niche he learns best with. Not easy -- we butted heads a lot in the first year of hsing. lol) Hopefully, others will post and offer more ideas? HTH :)

Edited by tex-mex
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I understand where you are coming from... BTDT. And I'm a former schoolteacher! LOL

What I do is annually do a standardized test to get confirmation or a wake up call of areas that need remediation. My son is an Aspie and very bright -- but has some mild learning disabilities and he will score in the 55th percentile in the weaker area -- while the areas he excels in (i.e. math/reading/science) are in the 80-88th percentile. Of course, this is a touchy area for MANY hsers --some test & some do not. To each his own.

 

As for the changing methods -- we fall into this trap as my son is special needs. I hate being forced into a "box" to teach from -- there are a wide variety of methods out there and so much to choose from. It kills me to buy brand new curriculum only to discover it doesn't work. It happens to all of us. You have to know where your child is at academically and his learning style. My son is relaxed and electic. (My style of teaching as a former schoolteacher was rigourous classical to gifted students -- with my beloved son, I backed off my style and found his LD niche he learns best with. Not easy -- we butted heads a lot in the first year of hsing. lol) Hopefully, others will post and offer more ideas? HTH :)

 

Thanks so much for your response. It really helped to read it. I've thought about doing the test in the spring just out of curiosity and to see how he would do. I wouldn't box myself into just focusing on the weak areas, though, it would just be good to know how he scores and if I'm right about my insecurities and needing to step it up a little.

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DS9 (tomorrow!) and DD6. What type of method or resources do you use or have you used that you feel you are seeing fruits from?

 

I did more CM stuff for 1st and 2nd grade (narration, short lessons, nature study, lots of hands on stuff). I saw that writing started to come naturally to my son around that age - not the physical handwriting part, that only started to come together for him this year at age 12 - but the fluency of thought. I think all the narrating and listening to good books brought that about.

 

In math, it was about 5th grade that my son who detested math drill and thus didn't do well at them at all - suddenly knew his math facts!

 

Around this time all the stuff we had read about in history and science started to come together and he started to talk about stuff he had learned that I had never realized he'd really retained.

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I feel like I have recently experienced a shift in my educational philosophy. I used to say that I didn't have the nerves to handle unschooling, but lately I think we are doing more and more of it. I still am clinging to the basic reading and math curricula, but for other subjects I have noticed a definite shift in dd's long term retention if the material is acquired in a more self-led, personal journey rather than from a scheduled outline.

 

And to be honest, this scares me a little. Will my dd be "well educated" if she can't name the major battles of WWII but has done such indepth work on prehistoric Indians that at the ripe old age of 11, she is being invited to do freqent demos at state historical sites and museums? She does know the basics of WWII--main countries, leaders, causes, general locations, but it is not one of her passions. And unless I spend time reviewing this material over the next several years, I really doubt she will retain much of it. Should I take the time to do so?

 

She is enthusiastic about immersing herself in geology to the extent of going on frequent specimen collecting trips, joining the local lapidary club, and has found an elderly mentor who has volunteered to teach her to cut and polish the stones she collects and fashion them into valuable jewelry. But other than knowing that there is an atomic chart that deals with the nature of atoms and how they can combine, she doesn't really care a fig about what is on it and where. Can she be considered well educated if she has these gaps and uneven spots in her education?

 

Now that her work is getting more complex, I am having to face how very much of this material that I once learned, knew, was tested on, and have completely forgotten. And somehow managed to live a full and mostly successful life in spite of that. The fact is that as an adult, if I want to know something outside my normal knowledge base, I consult modern reference materials and experts rather than relying on information I learned thirty years ago.

 

While I am trying to keep some balance and to teach the basics of most of the subjects, I keep getting this niggling feeling at the back of my mind that reminds me of the saying, a jack of all trades and master of none. Would my dd be better served by being permitted to master one narrow scope of knowledge than to be required to be exposed to many disciplines and to memorize the basics, only to forget them in later life?

 

I hope that she will some day choose to attend college and I know that she will need a general knowledge base in order to do well there. I guess I am having difficulty determining what that base should be in order for her to derive the utmost benefit. And where to draw the line limiting the amount of general knowledge in order to allow ample time for her to focus on those areas in which she has enough interest to go well beyond her grade level standard for that subject.

 

I'd love to hear more from those of you who have children who have grown up already. Do you recommend more coverage across all disciplines or a minimal overview with exceptional depth in a few chosen areas of interest?

Edited by hillfarm
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Have you set goals(short and long term) for your children? I've found that having clear and concise goals helps me access our curriculum.

I agree with this. I would suggest that you set out both specific goals and general principles. Goals are specific and measurable (eg a 90% test score, mastery of certain curricula, or gaining entrance to desired university). Principles are the guiding lights that encompass and inform both your goals and your methods, your ideas of what education is all about (eg to give my child more options in life, to foster character development, to instill a deep love of learning). So that, instead of judging your effectiveness against what others do, say or expect, you can measure your progress against your goals and principles. Also remind yourself that you can't do everything! You will always be able to find something that your child has missed out on; that is OK, as long as you're always keeping your objectives and beliefs about education in mind when you make decisions.

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This is a good question, and I think more homeschoolers should honestly ask it of themselves. With the overwhelming amount of homeschool rhetoric out there that "anything is better than school" and "just relax, they will learn what they need," few are talking about what it really takes to do this successfully. I know quite a few families who were surprised to learn that their dc were not prepared when they went to outside classes, high school, or college. A few were beyond-unschoolers, but many just bought the homeschool world's dismal view of what is achieved in public school and assumed their dc would be miles ahead.

 

So, a few things:

 

(1.) The fact that you are even asking the question means you are ahead of the game.

 

(2.) I agree with a PP that it is helpful to have concrete goals and to check your progress against them. We have them for dc in all areas, including acadmics. They help us make thoughtful decisions, so that we are not wandering around following the "flavor of the month" homeschooling club and getting nothing accomplished.

 

(3.) It is helpful to be familiar with state or local standards, as long as you have an understanding of what they are and are not. They are not the best way to educate a child; they are a glimpse at what dc's peers are learning.

 

(4.) I believe dc should do standardized testing for other reasons (less test anxiety if they are used to taking them,) but it is also helpful to get a view of how they are doing. You have to be ready to understand its limitations, though. You have to be prepared to see that low social studies score, because your elementary dc know all about Ancient Greece and Rome while school kids are expected to know minutiae about "community."

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While I am trying to keep some balance and to teach the basics of most of the subjects, I keep getting this niggling feeling at the back of my mind that reminds me of the saying, a jack of all trades and master of none. Would my dd be better served by being permitted to master one narrow scope of knowledge than to be required to be exposed to many disciplines and to memorize the basics, only to forget them in later life?

 

I hope that she will some day choose to attend college and I know that she will need a general knowledge base in order to do well there. I guess I am having difficulty determining what that base should be in order for her to derive the utmost benefit. And where to draw the line limiting the amount of general knowledge in order to allow ample time for her to focus on those areas in which she has enough interest to go well beyond her grade level standard for that subject.

 

We are going for a broad education in skills (reading, math, writing, logic, rhetoric) and allowing special interests to come out in content areas. All of the things you mention are content, and I think that is the difference. If you memorize a million broad facts about history and science, you will forget those, but if you learn 3R-type skills, you will continue to use them and build on them.

 

We have come to a nice balance of mastery and specialization. I believe dc need a broad base in order to make them truly free to choose what they want, as well as to make them educated adults who understand and can thrive in the world around them. I also want them to have the skill set to learn about a subject in depth, so I have taught them to do that with subjects they are interested in. Those are more like hobbies, and I hope it develops a lifelong passion for them: that no matter what they are learning "officially," they always have an interest (or interests) of their own that they are learning about.

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To me it is also a matter of effort.

 

I'd like my boys to have a good general education, but I also put quite an emphasis on their, and our, work ethic: consistency, persistency, diligence. Trying to balance my idea of work ethic with my idea of relaxed and fun can be challenging; and I want both.

 

So, I frequently ask myself several questions:

 

1. Are they working consistently on material(curriculum) that is relevant and challenging?

 

2. Are they using their time well?

 

3. Are they putting forth their best effort?

 

4. Are they taking responsibility for their own learning?

 

Just some musing..:001_smile:

 

 

I hate to sound like a NIKE commercial, but sometimes it comes down to "just do it".

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How can a person know the difference between relaxed and uneducated?

 

How do you combat those insecurities and/or how do you evaluate that you are doing "good enough"?

 

And, finally, how do you know it's time for a change in your method?

 

We are going for a broad education in skills (reading, math, writing, logic, rhetoric) and allowing special interests to come out in content areas.

 

This is the route we are taking. I focus things here on skills like math, grammar, writing, logic, (someday) rhetoric, Latin grammar/vocab, reading, spelling. Lots of space in the day for reading, which I have general and very flexible guidelines for (chrono. history/lit., one science per year) and use the library heavily for.

 

I'm starting to feel more relaxed about things the further along we go - as long as I understand how to teach or how to find good instructional materials for teaching skills, and as long as I can figure out the "thread" that progresses through particular skills, I get more relaxed. When I figure things out, I can then figure out how to streamline that teaching, too, which makes things more relaxed. Then there is more time in the day for reading, talking, and other things like playing, crafting, being outside, coming up with their own fun projects, etc..

 

I feel that if I can teach these skills to my kids, they are going to apply them to their reading and to life, and then they will educate themselves in "content." Another thought I've had recently is that I cannot cram a certain amount of content into their heads - I think that different people can absorb different amounts of content - not to mention that different people are *interested* in different *types* of content. Oh, there are certain basic content ideas that I want to expose my kids to, so I make sure to get tons of library books out that go along with "spines" that we use for history/science/literature, and I hand them piles of books each day to browse through. They pick up content info. that way. But other than that I'm not so concerned right now that they memorize or process certain content info. This may matter more in high school, but I think that will also depend on what they might want to do after high school (college/university/appreticeship/job/volunteer/whatever) - we will cross that content bridge when we get to it. But I intend for them to keep learning skills that will help them to learn whatever content they need or want for their life plans.

 

How do I combat the insecurities - by reading these boards and corresponding privately with posters who strike my interest for various reasons. By being able to process through things with people, I've combatted insecurities. Also by asking lots of questions, publicly and privately. These boards have been my home education lifeline!

 

I realized early on it was time to change my method - when my oldest was starting grade 1, I suddenly decided that we needed some more structure - something besides learning to read and doing random math worksheets. I don't know how to explain it, but I felt like there needed to be more. That's when I bought WTM and found concrete details and reasons for what we were missing.

 

hth loved your questions!

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I think that helping my dc develop a consistent work ethic is one of the most important aspects of homeschooling for me. When they were in school, they quickly learned the "do the minimum" approach and I hated it. The most happy and prosperous people I've known all knew how to work, even when it was difficult and unpleasant.

 

I have an acquaintance who homeschooled her son through eighth grade, and he is in college now. She took a very relaxed approach, and allowed him free play time for hours a day until he went to high school. She required little, and she admits, nothing that he didn't want to do. I remember her telling me about him doing "physics experiments" of throwing things out the window with his friends. I can see how it would be a physics experiment, if they then went over some of the principles of gravity and mechanics, but they did not. I suspect she is someone who believed that he would just organically absorb what he needed to know from these experiences.

 

She now says she's sorry she did not have higher expectations. He is an indifferent college student, has never worked (he's a sophmore) at a job, and is generally seeming to just go through the motions without a plan.

 

Long story, but I am trying to encourage my kids to be hard workers. I think it's important.

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I think that helping my dc develop a consistent work ethic is one of the most important aspects of homeschooling for me. When they were in school, they quickly learned the "do the minimum" approach and I hated it. The most happy and prosperous people I've known all knew how to work, even when it was difficult and unpleasant.

 

I have an acquaintance who homeschooled her son through eighth grade, and he is in college now. She took a very relaxed approach, and allowed him free play time for hours a day until he went to high school. She required little, and she admits, nothing that he didn't want to do. I remember her telling me about him doing "physics experiments" of throwing things out the window with his friends. I can see how it would be a physics experiment, if they then went over some of the principles of gravity and mechanics, but they did not. I suspect she is someone who believed that he would just organically absorb what he needed to know from these experiences.

 

She now says she's sorry she did not have higher expectations. He is an indifferent college student, has never worked (he's a sophmore) at a job, and is generally seeming to just go through the motions without a plan.

 

Long story, but I am trying to encourage my kids to be hard workers. I think it's important.

 

I think this very important, too. Not only to be hard workers, but how to learn and how to share with others what you have learned. I do have expectations of my dc. I am currently teaching my 11yo how *not* to simply do the minimum. Seeking excellence in life is important, no matter what the field. He'll need that, whether he ends up as an engineer or a mechanic!

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Having a good education is more than being able to pass a standardized test. And it's about more than having a good work ethic. I find myself constantly weighing the risks of spending too much time on the academics while forgetting to teach my children the things dh and I think they need to know to be successful in their future lives.

I was a good student, I went to several colleges, even graduated from one of them. I'm a professional; I've been doing my job for years. But I'm seriously lacking in real-life skills. A leaky toilet, a broken piece of electronic equipment, grilling, keeping my house plants alive...well, suffice to say, I love my dh for more than just love alone.

 

As for jack of all trades vs master of one- I went to college, learned my profession, practiced it for many years, and I feel like I would be completely lost if someday I were unable to do my job. At one time I thought I would be unable to work and it nearly paralyzed me with fear. Dh on the other hand, has had many jobs and has many skills, though not at anything considered a "master" trade. He isn't afraid of what might happen if he can no longer do the one thing he knows. He has a multitude of skills and isn't afraid to learn more if needed. So, while we encourage the children to follow their interests and passions, we also encourage them to attempt new things and to not set all their expectations on one single thing. IMO, jack of all trades gives one more options in life.

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I should point out (as the person who feels like I started to see things come together at grade 5) that I had a hand in making things come together at that grade.

 

That was the grade that science became more formal and actually used a textbook to guide our study. And I even started to give quizes in science.

 

That was the grade that history became more written and less narrated. I started to ask for written answers in complete sentences or paragraphs.

 

That was year that we started to study English grammar formally.

 

And it was the year the Latin started to become something more than vocabulary study.

 

And when I started to ask for more at this point, all the more relaxed study that we had done before then came together quite nicely to make it not only possible but still fun.

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This is a good question, and I think more homeschoolers should honestly ask it of themselves. With the overwhelming amount of homeschool rhetoric out there that "anything is better than school" and "just relax, they will learn what they need," few are talking about what it really takes to do this successfully. I know quite a few families who were surprised to learn that their dc were not prepared when they went to outside classes, high school, or college. A few were beyond-unschoolers, but many just bought the homeschool world's dismal view of what is achieved in public school and assumed their dc would be miles ahead.

 

So, a few things:

 

(1.) The fact that you are even asking the question means you are ahead of the game.

 

(2.) I agree with a PP that it is helpful to have concrete goals and to check your progress against them. We have them for dc in all areas, including acadmics. They help us make thoughtful decisions, so that we are not wandering around following the "flavor of the month" homeschooling club and getting nothing accomplished.

 

(3.) It is helpful to be familiar with state or local standards, as long as you have an understanding of what they are and are not. They are not the best way to educate a child; they are a glimpse at what dc's peers are learning.

 

(4.) I believe dc should do standardized testing for other reasons (less test anxiety if they are used to taking them,) but it is also helpful to get a view of how they are doing. You have to be ready to understand its limitations, though. You have to be prepared to see that low social studies score, because your elementary dc know all about Ancient Greece and Rome while school kids are expected to know minutiae about "community."

 

:iagree: with all the above.

 

You can stay more relaxed during elementary school, but by late elementary school/middle school, I have followed a route of tightening up. 8th grade is practice year for ramping up to high school, and high school is very rigorous. I strongly recommend at least a couple of traditionally taught, outside classes by 8th grade to get your child used to classroom learning--if your child is college-bound.

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Wow, thanks everyone for your input. I can't respond to every single one or I'd take over the board. :) One poster said exactly what I've been feeling lately, that I need more structure. I tend to get inconsistent, especially when "life" happens, but if I have something set out for me, I can stay accountable instead of winging it. But, then I also agree that there is more to education than just academics. I think the key is what many of you said, set goals and expectations, as well as know your children and set them up for success in the future and do that in every way for their education, not just a workbook. You all have helped me and I will have a lot to think about.

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