Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three Years: How I Know It Is Working

We have been homeschooling three years.  It is hard to imagine that three years have passed so quickly.  Three years ago Lilah was just seven years old and in 2nd grade.  I do remember the feelings of anxiety, of trepidation, and of concern I had for her and for our transition.  I remember my challenge to not be too critical of school, which was not a good place for one of my children, but was a fine place for my other.  At times I know I was too critical, but the more I reflected and wrote about my experiences with my daughter’s public school education, the more I realized that perhaps public school is not for every child.  It is not necessarily the best place for those who are not willing or able to give the teacher, and ultimately the system, what it deems necessary to "prove" or evaluate success.  

For our family, the past three years have truly been a journey of self-discovery.  This is my journey.  It is not perfect, but I am proud to own it.  I am blessed to share it.  I know to cherish it.  For us, it is working.

We are Learning:
My girls are not learning the same things at the same pace as their peers who attend school.  I know that in 4th grade children study the earth and topics like erosion.  I remember Grace recreating a stream in a baking pan and pouring water on it to illustrate how the earth is washed away in flooding.  Lilah never experienced this experiment.  She learned about erosion by watching documentaries on Hurricane Katrina and learning how the erosion of Louisiana’s marsh land contributed to the amount of water that was driven onshore by the storm surge.  She learned about this by venturing to the beach as many times as possible (in safe conditions) during Super Storm Sandy and seeing how the water eroded her own town’s shoreline.  Same concept, different methods of instruction.    

I know that my girls may not have learned about the civil war yet.  But this week in Religious Education class we were discussing how many languages were spoken in the region of Jerusalem at the time of Christ (and still today).  I asked Lilah why this was, and what people have held Jerusalem as their holy city, and she was able to tell me that Christians, Jews and Muslims are all connected to this city, have occupied it, and at times have gone to war over it.  

Through our daily interactions, I know my girls are learning.  Not only are they learning factual information, but they are learning why that information is relevant in their lives.  Perhaps Grace will use her love of weather and her concern for the environment to introduce new vegetation to shoreline area to buffer against storm surge....  

We are growing:
Every day the school bus rolls through my neighborhood beginning at 7:35am.  It is rare that my girls are awake to hear it.  This week Grace was woken up by Greg’s alarm at 5:00am.  She came to rest with me in my bed and she told me that when she heard the bus go by her first thought was relief that she does not have to keep a schedule that does not allow her body the rest it needs.  If they are sick, we don’t have to worry about make up work.  If they want to visit a museum, we go.  If they want to read a great book until 10:00pm, they do.  

We are exploring:
It pains me to see Grace lose touch with some of her neighborhood friends because homework takes up after school time.  Weekends are filled with sports and Sundays with church and family.  I hope that by the time summer comes, they will still be as close as they have been over the years.  My girls don’t have “homework” but that does not mean from 4:00 on they are in front of the television or on their computer either.  They use the time to work on things of their choosing.  

Monday night after dinner the girls decided to sew.  Lilah designed a dress for one of her Monster High Dolls and Grace worked on her pajama pants.  While they did this,  I worked on a page in my sketchbook.  Later, Lilah read some of Wonder, and Grace cleaned her room.  Other evenings the girls can be found drawing, blogging, baking, reading, writing, playing music, all things they enjoy doing.  What makes this time special is that it is of their own choosing.  They are developing and furthering their own interests and talents which reminds me of a quote I saw on Pinterest......

We are Loving:
Being home together allows us to share in learning with others in a very intimate way.  Electronics and dress design/sewing are just two examples of my girls learning skills from experts in a small group with their closest friends.  Having two hours of piano lessons and a half hour of guitar every week during the day with virtually unlimited practice time makes for very happy fulfilled children.  Being able to stay up late to spend time with their father, with no worry of a early wake up from an alarm clock makes for a happy family.  

I always said that we would homeschool as long as it was working, for both the girls and for myself.  What began as a six month trial three years ago has evolved into a way of life, and ultimately something that I see continuing for at least another year.  Conversations will happen about high school, about community college and portfolios.  The pros of basketball teams and after school clubs will be weighed against internships and customized learning opportunities. If Grace wants to go to high school we will explore that opportunity for her.  If she wants to stay home, I will make sure she gets what she needs.  I am not going to spend the next year worrying and fretting.  For now, I know that our choice to homeschool was a good choice for our family.  I know that it is working.  As we move into the next phase of our family’s adventure, I will continue to check in and recount the ways it is working.  


aree1997 said...

Your girls are learning through the best way! Self-discovering is the amazing way, I used to get this thing in primary school but now I have to swot up all night. You ought to be proudful :)
Your girls are really not the rest. The good thing that they do crafts and baking . LLC blog is a perfect exmaple :)

Mary Prather said...

It's been a pleasure knowing you these past three years and being inspired by you and the girls. I agree -- homeschool is WORKING!

Jessica said...

You are very sweet. Thank you for your kind words. You can go to school and do many of the same things but I imagine it would be harder because you have to finish your homework first. Keep journaling and practicing your photography. These are both creative skills that you have a talent for!

Jessica said...

Likewise Mary! Enjoying your photos on Instagram. Enjoy the conference. Would love to be there!

Anonymous said...

This is my second year and it is so wonderful to see someone in the path I am taking with my two girls. I will be looking for the book since we are doing SOTW 2 next year. ADG

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