Trust The Children

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Homeschooling Convention - Longview, WA 3/4/2006

In another galaxy, long long ago, where memories of our schooling beginnings are archived, I know there are pictures of all the home schooling conventions we attending early on. Some were pretty small. Then WHO got big. Washington Homeschool Organization began holding these conventions on a large scale There was no end to the classes, keynote speakers, advice and booths of things for sale. And, for us, there was no end to the ideas we talked about, and used as we drove home processing together all that we had heard, seen and done.

Now 26 years later, being much more confident and relaxed about things, we don't attend every one like we used to. So when we were asked to speak at the Longview Convention, a smile came to my face. The last time we spoke, I was sure we wouldn't be asked again. Mostly because I am too bold sometimes. Mostly because I feel passionately about the subject and the passion gets the best of me. And I think it scares people.

But at this conference, I came away feeling like I wished Cyndy was Sarah and I was Abraham and we were going to be blessed with more children in our old age. Guaranteed, Cyndy doesn't feel that way. I was so energized about some really great ideas that were presented. If you will indulge me, I would like to record them here.

1) Our keynote speaker, Vicki Robison, was fun and also passionate, but about books. She was also in command of the topic and I enjoy that. Her presentation was so good I was totally drawn in. One thing she confirmed to me again, is the power of the simple idea of just Reading aloud to children.
She described even doing it, regularly in her school setting ie in a large classroom, and how the entire class considers the time spent, as irreplaceable.

2) Our second speaker is in my humble opinion, an automatic qualifier for the Home Schooling Hall of Fame. Tambra Birkebak spoke on "Homeschooling on a Shoe String." She began speaking at a quick pace, and it never slowed down. I never thought in a million years, that someone could talk an for an hour about mostly free resources for exposing our children to wonderful people, places and things. But I sensed she could have gone on for another 3 hours. And when I asked her, she concurred, saying, "Oh yeah. I was just getting started."

3) The next class I attended was on Unit Studies. I am not very big on curriculums. Never have been. We don't use them here. Just not our style. But I went with an open mind on a topic I knew nothing about. Elaine Beswick taught the class. She gave us some examples, and then split us up in groups, gave us materials, and had us come up with an approach for the materials we had. First of all, doing it as a group was great, because our synergism really moved us along. It didn't hurt that we had Tambra Birkebak in our group. She suggested we start by identifying vocabulary on the topic and getting the "lingo" down before moving on. What a great idea. Then we decided to make a time line, and then a list of "Major Players" for our topic, and we moved forward from there. After it was all said and done, I could see myself getting pretty excited about doing this with those kids we still have at home. She showed us examples of lap-booking and when I explained that to the boys when I got home, they could see that lap-booking alone would have been a great way to hold on to the memories and the knowledge.

4) My final class was on home schooling children with special needs. What an eye opener. It was so inspiring to hear about parents who finally get out of their own paradigm and into their children's space. Perhaps the most telling comment by Becky Wilson, our instructor, was when she told us of purchasing a curriculum that made complete total sense to her, only to find out that it was 100% opposite from the learning style of the children she had purchased it for. How often do we present or teach, without the audience and where they are coming from, firmly in our minds? Most of us, just don't do that well at seeing the world through the eyes of others. (50% divorce rate? I rest my case) Then others in the class began sharing what they did to move into learning styles that truly matched their learners and how things turned around after such an adjustment.

This is my short list of ideas and impressions that really got me going. Of course there were some constants. Issues that I have heard over and over again, year after year.

1) We underestimate by a long shot the power and influence of simply reading out loud to our children. The cumulative effect of this, day in-day out, week in-week out is about the most "return on invested time" of anything I have seen done in Home Schooling myself or in the experience of others.

2) I was reminded once again, of how our own beginnings in home schooling were full of fits and starts, baby steps and lack of vision. Again, like most successful marriages, our now 26 years of home schooling success is mostly attributed to simply NOT QUITTING. Not really rocket science. We just didn't quit and just kept reaching out and trying, learning from others, and little by little we found out what worked for us and hung on to that.

3) Comments and questions, crystallized in my mind again, how deeply I feel that children before about age 12 need less cognitive learning and more play time. In many if not most cases, children educated at home, especially younger than 12, ought to be finished with their "schooling" in a few hours and spend the rest of the day exploring, running, being by themselves, moving about and playing. More true for boys than girls, but still true for them as well. Parents, whose maturity, experience, and age, has them comfortable with cognitive learning, often can't think like kids anymore. Therefore, parents underestimate by tons, the benefits and progress that come to children that just play. Its the parents who exclaim nervously, "But aren't I supposed to be DOING something?" Yes. Letting them play more and letting them experiment.

In my mind, reading aloud and playing and experimenting, in the early years is the main course of the meal, and the three R's is the spice, not even the desert, just the spice. For me, it is just better for the kids when parents back off and keep it simple. This approach preserves something powerful in your children. Curiosity and innocence.

And the parents need to cut themselves some slack here too. Parents often stress, when their kids are small about their children keeping up with other kids, about preparing lessons, motivating their "students", coming up with ideas for what to do tomorrow, and on and on. So I am telling my own children who are now growing families of their own, listen to your aging parents, and back off when they are young. Better for them, better for you. (Mostly because you will keep yourself from quitting.)

One more thing I am grateful for. At this convention, I was able to realize for myself, how much I expect my teenage children to find their own answers, do their own research, come to their own conclusions and reset their own exploration/learning goals. I expect it. I "demand" it and they do it. The result of this is, that they are more confident in their own abilities, God given talents and resourcefulness. Therefore, they have less needs to compare themselves with others, which ill-fated comparisons, brings up issues upon issues that are truly a waste of time.

Thanks to all in Longview, under the direction of MaryAlice Wallis, for keep the dream alive for all who attended.

With much love.. The Weiss'


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