Thursday, January 19, 2012

Do We Still Homeschool?

I caught myself wondering and asking myself this very question the other day as we are on the horizon of graduating #3 from St. Thomas Aquinas Homeschool.

Truth be told, this graduate's high school year has not been manned by an over-anxious, stressed, obsessed, second-guessing-herself homeschool mother but by different tutors at our local co-op where we gather every Monday for classes with a nosegay of offerings.

Son and Graduate #3 has read and scaled the complete history, mindset, and mystery of Homer:
The Odyssey
The Iliad
The Aeneid
as well as a study of Shakespeare's works in sonnets, comedies, tragedies, and histories,
the great poem Beowulf,
and Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales
(thanks to our good friend Ms. Angela)

He has been tutored diligently in the Maths:
Algebra (maybe even twice ;-)
Algebra 2
(courtesy of our good friend Ms. Monica who not only easied my un-Mathmatical mind but soothed me with the reassurance that a well-grounded understanding of Algebra (even if it is repeated) is the ladder towards all the other advanced maths he might encounter in college.

He has been taught the Sciences:
Biology I
Biology II
(faithfully with all the experiments by our good friend Ms. Stephanie)

He received a tutorial on Dave Ramsey's financial planning and a free writing course in the otherwise expensive I.E.W. class by our good friend Linda.

Many other varieties of lessons and knowledge were compacted into a classroom that didn't stifle him but raised the bar and challenged him. It's one day a week. The rest of the week we are free to live and dream and inspire to be something above and beyond an educational system.

Monday co-op has been a one-day blessing in our home.
Ask my children (well, maybe not the graduate but definitely the younger two ;-).
As far as the graduate, please speak to me. I am the facilitator.
By one's senior year even homeschooling parents are tooting test scores constantly and flagging Kahn Academy reminders to you via text messaging. 
It does get frustrating. The world is frustratig.
It's the nature of the beast.

Graduate #3's sisters are getting a more expanded version of what #3 got. It promises to be a rich and rewarding experience. We are ever grateful.

So where does this leave our "home" learning if the children are answering to teachers and a weekly co-op is setting the rhythm for the rest of our week?

Are we home? Are we still homeschooling?


Co-op has set a beautiful rhythm to our homeschool days: an inspiring one, an accountable one, a heightening one, a freeing one.

There are no regrets.

With the dead-weights of education being taken care of by "experts" in the field, I am able to embrace the unschooling, Charlotte Mason enarmored, laissez faire, gypsy style that some educated folks scoff at but without it the very life and breathe of me as a mother would be snuffed out. My spirit would ebb into total defeat.

 I agree that accountability and preparation and consistency are roots for good workmanship and citizenry. We all need the balance.

Co-op provides a balance that strengthens the weak side of being me.
I need my friends. My children need my friends.
Have I mentioned how blessed we are to have them?
It's a treasure to our family of seven that we have family and friends who give us this balance.
Our children and our home life is well-grounded and well-rounded because of the consistency of family and friends.

Was everyone so blessed! 

Beyond co-op, upon entering my house you will find...

Books with secret baking recipes stapled in the very back. They are the frosting on the floor of our new office. Some little person has been blitzing through the study nightly, morningly, and daily to finger through the newly cased bookshelves in search of FIAR favorites, childhood favorites, and cooking favorites.

The evidence is underfood.

 ...along with a sampling of Robert Frost in...

and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poetic gallop in...

At co-op she's taking classes in American History, a sign language class, Spanish, and Abeka's Science for 4th grade. We're focused on multiplication this year at home. And writing. Lots of writing: stories, letters, songs, etc.

We're enjoying the boundless possibilities of our new workroom.
We've always schooled around the house and had to clean-up/tidy-up after ourselves...or leave a mess behind.

It's nice to have a room where the newness and order are so great that we all seek to leave good work, self-imposed neatness, and intentional productivity behind us.
Diligent watchdogs oversee tabletime with lessons in math, english, research, and science...either co-op assignments or lesson books from Seton, CHC, or MODG recommendation.

This has been a given since we began homeschooling 14 years ago with my oldest. Morning tabletime is to our home education what butter and molasses is to morning pancakes and/or waffles. I may not teach well but I am consistent.
The kitchen is afluff with pie dough and sticky sweet custard.
A lesson in Home Ec 101 teaches one that a coconut pie can be salvaged by pouring liquid custard back into saucepan, adding flour, extract, and sugar and supervising careful stirring.

It also teaches one how to make a meringue...and that you never add sugar until after whites stiffen.

It also teaches that a child can make an excellent pie crust her first time around without any supervision from Momma whatsoever! That's right. My child made a pie crust totally unsupervised or unprompted. And it was nicely fluted, trimmed and delicious on top of that. That was definitely a proud-Momma moment. :-)

Accomplishment! And continuing to try without a system telling you that you're failing.
That's really a huge part of homeschooling.
Paper towels rolls are like boxes.
Best toys ever!

Sparks of creativity and imagination are more valuable (so claims Einstein) than any book learning in the world.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” ~ Albert Einstein

Home education assures that our children are not boxed into a classroom or a preconceived idea of someone else's version of what knowledge is. It is up to the parents to offer a steady diet of ideas and opportunities for him to expand his sights and imagination.

Technology is good.
Your own imagination and unlimited potential is better.

Speaking of which...
The rest of the afternoon my 14-year-old daughter found an unlimited supply of creative powers, festive imagination, wonderful opportunities, and bountiful interest in something technologically fun...

Forget that I lectured her on laundry and hanging up phones.
I consider pre-algebra, Latin, baking, and an unlimited resource of inspiration at Pinterest to make for a good day.

And now we are off to dance lessons.

Tomorrow promises a drum lesson and a performance of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing done by a group of talented children, the core group which I was privileged to teach learn from many moons ago. It began as a co-op experience.

They needed a warm body to teach facilitate a literature class. I got the call. I was there to teach. They wanted to put on a play. Since I don''t teach well, I was more than happy to let the children take over the class.
They've done quite a few performances since.
Quite a few...
These performances include not only the performances but the scripts, the props, the music, the costumes, and (even) the programs.
And though I can take no credit, (that completely goes to many supportive parents who do endless driving, endless feeding, endless encouragement, and endless backstage running and executing), I do somewhat feel like a mother hen...puffed with pride. :-)

It's a small area of the homeschooling body that bleeds excellence and proves that Albert Einstein was right. Our imaginations are what raises the bar towards excellence. Not some test scores.

Allowing our children this freedom, which homeschooling allows completely and thoroughly, if done with the child and hiigh ideals in mind, taught me what children will do when trusted, facilitated, encouraged, then turned loose with their ideals and youthful exuberance.

This is why we still homeschooling?



  1. My boys still go on about a co-op like the one you described. The kids did history, literature and science in multi-age groups and loved it. How nice to have the 'stage' set and be free to enjoy other aspects of homeschooling.

  2. I farm out a lot of high school subjects. I'm just not smart enough to teach them and my kids aren't disciplined enough to study them on their own. So homeschool classes are the answer! And they get a social life too! Right now my 16 yo is taking a Chemistry class, a Latin class and a Shakepeare class. He's also taking precalculus on line. Whatever works!


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