Monday, August 08, 2011

Why Homeschool?

"What is the point of education? 

Is it to socialize young people so they can fit into the fabric of society? Is it to train a workforce? Is it to introduce young people to the greater possibilities that life has to offer?

These are all legitimate and, therefore, correct answers. 

But they leave out the most profound purpose that education might have: 
helping young people learn how to create the lives they truly want to create."

- Peter Senge, from Schools That Learn -

How Can Homeschooling Help A Child Learn To Create The Lives They Truly Want?

Homeschooling provides more:

1.      TIME:
            - there is more time for the child to focus on his/her interests
                        - academic
                        - extra-curricular activities
            - there is no unnecessary waiting time because there is only 1 student
            - there is more time to accomplish... well, more!

What's my son interested in?  STAR WARS!  So, we have done A LOT of  Star Wars Phonics, Math, Science and Art.  (see below under How To Homeschool)


            - curricula can be individually tailored to the student's learning style and interest
            - student can set the pace of studies (student can spend longer periods of time studying interest areas)

3. ONE ON ONE INSTRUCTION with an involved parent or parents:

            - an involved adult is available 24-7 to listen to the needs and wants of the child
            - the involved adult is available to guide the student accordingly

Homeschooling: A Viable Option?

Today, in the US, homeschooling is fast becoming a mainstream educational option.  In 2003, there were 1.1 million K to 12 homeschooled students in the US.  By 2010, homeschoolers have doubled to around 2.04 million - although this number is very conservative and some studies have shown as many as 2.35 million. 

More and more people are turning to homeschooling as a viable educational option as homeschoolers' achievements are gaining more attention and as the benefits of homeschooling become more well-known.

According to the president of the National Home Education Research Institute,
- academically, home schooled kids test 15 to 30 percentile points higher than public school students on standardized academic achievement tests, regardless of their parent's level of formal education or household income. 

- socially, emotionally and psychologically, homeschooled kids show that they are above average in "peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem."

If you are worried about socialization, just know that because homeschooling is becoming more popular, there are more activities with other kids than we can get to each week! In our city, there are homeschool days at the library, museums and zoo!

Reasons To Homeschool

“Education commences at the mother's knee...” 

~ Hosea Ballou ~

Besides the educational benefits cited above (having more time, flexibility and one-on-one instruction), homeschooling can also create an environment that:

1. builds better family ties because of time spent together, which 

            - allows parents the time to teach their children their own values, beliefs and worldview (i.e. children don't learn these from another adult with different belief systems)

            - provides a safer environment guided by involved parents which reduces peer pressure related issues, such as sex and violence, and drug, alcohol and psychological abuse (i.e. children are not brought up by other children)

2. provides a variety of social interactions and experiences for the homeschooler because

            - the homeschooled child does not interact mostly with other children his age for hours everyday

            - the homeschooled child is therefore able to meet and interact with people of all ages on a daily basis through activities.
How To Homeschool

There are many methods out there. Here are our favorite methods:

Charlotte Mason

Our son's 'tree house': we are outdoors at least 30 minutes to a few hours a day

Narration (instead of Q&A): creating his own characters to act out scenes from a story
We love the Charlotte Mason method for 5 main reasons:

1. NATURE WALKS and being in nature
2. reading LIVING BOOKS that make subjects come alive
3. NARRATION instead of tests (child can relate to what he/she has learned by acting out, retelling a story, through art, etc.)
4. SHORT LESSONS 10 - 15 minutes each (alternating between easy/difficult, passive/active subjects) in the morning
5. PLAY TIME in the afternoon.

This method also emphasizes art and music appreciation, arts and crafts and real-life experiences.  Lastly, I love that the Charlotte Mason method believes in teaching young children habits first before anything else.

Click here for more information on the Charlotte Mason Method.

Unit Studies

We have linked everything back to Star Wars
A topic is chosen according to the child's or children's interest and all subjects are related back to it. Very simplistically, for example, my son loves Star Wars, so we created a Fun Star Wars curriculum for him at home.  There is no other way to motivate a child to learn but through his or her passions.  What did/do we do?

4 year old learning to write: "For Mama From Luke I need help finding Captain Rex"
read all the Star Wars books we could get, copy work with Star Wars names, phonics with Star Wars characters, watch Star wars movies (except III for violence) with subtitles
Star Wars Math CD Rom game, Star Wars Leapfrog Math Didj game, learn addition and subtraction by using Star Wars characters

Darth Vadar Arts and Crafts: learning about Samurais and how the character of Darth Vadar developed and eat Japanese food while you're at it for Geography too!
study Samurais and how Darth Vadar's character came into being, study swords, knights, ninjas...

discuss meditation, yoga, martial arts, Buddhism

Learning about Planets
learn about planets (read Lucy Hawking's books see below under resources), Star Wars Leapfrog Science Didj game

learn to play Star Wars theme on the keyboard, learn music themes for Luke and Darth Vadar, learn which piece of music comes at certain scenes in the movie

Fencing Demo
Field trips
Star Wars exhibit, fencing demonstration
Physical Education
lightsaber fighting (get a MAN to do this! I find it exhausting.)

Classical Method

If you are serious about homeschooling, I would suggest getting The Well Trained Mind, which describes in detail how and what to teach a child from preschool to high school. There are 3 stages of education: preparing stage (basic reading, writing, maths), grammar stage (compositions and collections) and dialectic stage (serious reading, study, research).  This approach is very structured and stresses that children be taught how to learn for themselves by using the 5 tools: reason, record, research, related and rhetoric.  I love that they include daily schedule samples, which we have mimicked in our homeschool.

Not All Homeschools Are Created Equal

Like all things, not all homeschools are created equal.  A very recent study entitled “The Impact of Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Homeschooled and Traditionally Schooled Students,” found that there are 2 distinct types of homeschoolers: 'structured' and 'unstructured'.  Structured Homeschoolers have a curriculum they follow and have a daily set schedule for formal learning.  Unstructured Homeschoolers, on the other hand, do not follow a curriculum and do not have a daily set schedule for formal learning.  Unschooling is the most unstructured method of homeschooling. It is also known as natural, interest-led and child-led learning.  Instead of formal lessons, children learn simply by living.

The study compared test scores of students ages 5 to 10 from traditional schooling, unstructured home schools and structured home schools. While the 'structured' homeshoolers tested better than students from traditional schooling, the 'unstructured' homeschoolers tested below the average.

Interestingly, a public school study called Project Follow Through conducted in the 1960s and 70s also shows that a method rich in structure, drilling and content is far more effective than other teaching methods.

A Mama's Point of View: I Love Homeschooling!

I'm such a homebody and there's nobody else I love being with than with my family.  I get to cuddle and read a book with my son in leisure first thing every morning and my son can expect and rely on his daily sacred Mama and Daddy time. We get to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks together as a family everyday, we can travel throughout the year without being bogged down by certain holidays and we are able to enjoy museums and other educational facilities when they aren't crowded.  I love being a homeschool 'mama/teacher'.  If you've ever made a homemade toy that your child just loved, then you'll know the feeling of joy that comes when you homeschool your own child.
Curricula Suggestions/Resources for Young Kids

I use a lot of curricula suggested in The Well-Trained Mind, but here are some that my visual son really really loves.

For Preschoolers:

Core Knowledge Pre-K Book and Activity Books 1 and 2 - my son loved these because of the bright colours, the stories, the stickers and activities.  I loved it because I didn't have to do any work, it is all done for you!

Tools of the Mind - a must read for preschooler and kindergarten educators who want to teach while at play!

For Kindergarteners on:

Core Knowledge Series: What Your "x" Grader Needs To Know - basic need-to-know stuff

Hooked on Phonics - My son loves these!  It makes learning phonics fun for kids. 

Little Passports - a fun way to learn Geography, complete with your own passport and suitcase!

Magic School Bus series - for science fun!  Also check out Lucy and Stephen Hawking's books on the Universe

Magic Tree House series - for geography, history and culture

Math-U-See - we started out with Singapore Maths, but for a visual kid, these come with videos which makes it more engaging.

Favourite Ipad Apps:

Art: Art Authority
Chinese: Piggy Picnic, loveChinese
Language: Montessori Intro to Letters, Word Wagon, Lunchbox
Math: Montessori Intro to Math, Math Train, Rocket Math
Music: Young Genius, Garage Band
Reference: BrainPop

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