Saturday, February 12, 2011

Some quick impressions...

This week, our son spent most of a day at one of the local schools while they hosted a multi-school speech meet.  One of our neighbors, who judges speech, invited our son to attend with her because she knows he does public speaking contests in 4-H.  He had a really good time, although this school isn't at the top of his list if he would attend public school in the fall.  This is the school for which I have a higher comfort level, so...we'll see.

The day after the speech meet, three of my kids and I were invited by one of the elementary teachers to attend a presentation in their class room.  I took the opportunity to speak with the school principal about scheduling a day for our son to spend shadowing his peers.  He was very open and enthusiastic about the possibility of our son attending their school, and he was eager to share the things that make it a good school. I agree with him about several of the points he made, but there's one thing that has stuck with me:  He mentioned several times how this teacher or that teacher really pushes the students and how the students are pushed in this way and pushed in that way.  He never once said anything about encouraging the students to find their passions, to learn a love of learning, or anything about the students pushing themselves.  This bothers me.

I've found that when given the freedom to explore topics that interest them, our children have found different areas they're passionate about.  They push themselves far more than I would ever dream of doing in these areas, and so much learning takes place that wouldn't happen if they were being pushed by me to move on to the next chapter, the next topic, the next test prep.  (My son has learned more algebra from pursuing his love of writing and coding computer games than he has from the spendy algebra course he's been working through this year.)  I MUCH prefer this model of learning to anything else I've encountered.  As the parent/teacher, my goal is to get my children/students to a place where they have the ability to find information they need and a love of learning that propels them to do so.

My son has written out a map of the goals he wants to accomplish over the next two years.  They include becoming a pilot, travelling to Italy, writing a 3D online multi-player RPG game, and performing in public singing and playing guitar.  Completing his education at home, we have the ability to craft an education experience that will provide him with the freedom and opportunity to reach these goals while obtaining a wonderful education.  The goals and dreams become part of the education -- not something to work at in the time left after being "pushed" to meet someone else's goals of what an education should be.

It's going to be interesting to see if my initial impressions of the school remain the same after our son spends time going to classes and after digging deeper into what sort of education experience they can provide.  I'm going to try really hard to be open to what they have to offer despite my initial skepticism.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Exploring our options...

I'll admit right up front that as we look at the options available to us for our oldest son's high school education, I'm strongly leaning towards continuing high school at home.  While it is my husband and I have the final say, our son is definitely a part of the process, and his input is invaluable as we work through our decision.

Our son with his felted wool project that was selected as an alternate for the Robert Hillestad Gallery.  He wet-felted and needle-felted a bowl and dryer balls from wool from his endangered Jacob sheep flock.  We were all pretty pleased to see his exhibit on display!
We don't actually have a lot of viable choices for schooling where we live.  We live in rural, central Nebraska.  It's really rural.  The closest private schools are at least on hour's drive away, so they're not really an option.  There are times in the winter that we simply cannot off of our homestead.  This doesn't always coincide with the weather 60-75 miles away, so they often have school in those towns while our local schools are closed, and the opposite is also true.  Even under ideal driving conditions, we don't feel that over two hours each day spent driving to and from school is a good option.

We live about fifteen miles from the public school in our district and about half that for another public school that he could attend if we opted out of our district.  These are the the two schools we're exploring as alternatives to homeschooling.  I really don't know very much about the school in our district.  I know much more about the school that isn't in our district but is closer to us.  I have many friends among the teachers and staff; I've judged their science fair for several years; and I recently helped out with their speech program (in a very rudimentary way).  We need to learn a lot more about both schools, and we're scheduling a few days for our son to "shadow" classes at each of them.

For homeschooling, we're also looking at options.  We started out as classical homeschoolers, but we've evolved to a more eclectic approach with many elements of Charlotte Mason tossed into the mix.  This has worked pretty well for us, but there's another methodology we're exploring.

I truly never thought "unschooling" was something that I would consider, but I read Blake Bole's book

 College Without High School: A Teenager's Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College 

I got so excited!  I read the book in a single setting and read parts of it aloud to my husband (who's now reading it since our son finished it).  When I put the book down, I thought, "I wish I'd read this book when I was 13 and had convinced my parents to let me do high school this way!"  I'll be discussing this book in future posts as it has made a huge impact on me.

It's interesting to see the younger kids taking in all of the discussions and research we're doing for our oldest's high school education.  They're mostly bemused by it.  Our eleven and nine year old boys think our oldest is pretty weird for thinking about doing school any other way than what we've been doing.  We'll see if they hold their opinions in the coming months!

Here's our homeschool crew after an outing to a local nature preserve this fall.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who I Am...

My name is Linda, and I'm a homeschooling mom to five kids in central Nebraska.  We raise kids and lots of different animals on our homestead.  The kids have driven most of the livestock adventures as they seem to believe they each need to raise their own species.  Here are just a few of the kinds of animals we raise:

Lionhead rabbits

California rabbits

Jacob sheep lamb

Jersey dairy heifer

Jacob sheep lamb

Anacona duck with ducklings

Our 13yr old with his new Jacob ram.  We drove to Oregon to bring this fellow home!

Ruby, one of our Saanen dairy goats 

Three little hogs -- Hereford Hogs

Ruby and her twin kid

We've homeschooled all of our children's lives, and now that our oldest is 13 and nearing high school age, we're exploring our options to find the best education for him as he moves into this new phase of his life.  Honestly, I never considered public school an option, but since he has always been homeschooled, he's curious about it.  Rather than dismiss it out of hand, we're investigating the two public schools nearest to us and are including them in our consideration of what will be the best high school experience for him.

We initially approached homeschooling from a classical approach.  While we still retain some classical methods, we've become much more eclectic.  We use some Charlotte Mason methods, and I find that I'm moving ever closer to an unschooling approach.  I never saw that one coming!

This blog is my attempt to document our journey to high school for our oldest child.