Trust The Children

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We're Sailing

This may sound nuts, in fact it is nuts, but
I can't see the name "Bob" without thinking of the hilarious movie "What About Bob?" with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. When I need to laugh, this is still a sure fire way to get me there, no matter how many times I have viewed it. The last time we watched it, I came up with an idea that would bring me financial independence, guaranteed. A movie of our own titled, "What About Mom and Dad?" about how many people we drive crazy without even knowing it, because we home school? Maybe we are driving our kids crazy too?

I think for many of the parents who know us, we do drive them crazy. Especially the non-homeschooling ones. Crazy, because we are comfortable with the home schooling foundation that we establish with our kids from the early years. Our boys have found out at scouts and church that there isn't spell checking when writing on a black board. So they get embarrassed when they can't spell even an easy word. I drive others crazy, when I don't freak out when that happens. Ben is making our families newest version of a hover craft. This one actually works on water. That we consider this more "educational" than much of traditional book learning, I think drives some crazy.

I drive some crazy, because when they want to ascribe some level of success to our family in home schooling, I respond that so much of what we do is so normal and ordinary. They want to believe what we do is way beyond their abilities, and I don't let them off the hook that easy. Much of what we do is something any person of average intelligence can do. Just come and see for yourself, I say. They rarely do. I think they are afraid. Afraid that it IS easier than they think and if that were the case, they would have to consider it viable for them. So the whole thing drives them crazy. Meanwhile, we shuffle along.

Yet, while the content of much of our home schooling is much easier than others want to believe, there is one aspect of it that may be extraordinary.... that we were willing to try it out and have faith that it would work out. One reason we took the leap of faith was best described recently as a friend of ours, Doreen Blanding, made this comment on a home schooling list I read.

"I truly feel that home schooling has given me more knowledge and understanding than all the years I sat in a formal classroom. It is quite amazing to me how much I have learned and pointed out how much I didn't know. Terrifying at times, but wonderful most of the time because a lot of pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall in place and I'm beginning to see the picture."

ssssshhhhh! Don't tell anyone. We educate at home because, learning along side our children, WE also benefit. Crazy huh? But you musn't pass it on, it might drive others crazy, because.... we're sailing.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Where did that come from?

I received several positive comments about the last entry regarding packaging up your style of home schooling so that others stay off your back. One of the comments reminded me where I first learned to appreciate this idea of packaging stuff up in words. And how it can be useful to home schoolers. I guess we call it spinning today.

I had flown my dad from Portland Oregon up to Winfield British Columbia in a light plane. We were selling small RV furnaces to Vangard Trailers in Winfield BC. Dad was negotiating with the General Manager, who was the type who asked very strategic questions, to give him as much negotiating leverage as possible. My father had such a way of handling people like him.

He was asking questions about the company who manufactured the furnaces, their financial where-with-all and how substantial they were in plant capacity, how much market share they had, questions like that. Dad mentioned that this particular company had several divisions including one that was involved with solid fuels. When he said "solid fuels" the General Manager (GM) was really taken back. The way Dad said it, it was so impressive, high tech, etc.

Later in the afternoon, we got the commitment for the business and just before we were leaving, the GM asked my Dad "Dave, just exactly what did you mean when you mentioned solid fuels?" I think he was thinking about fuel that would go in a solid fuel rocket booster like on the space shuttle. High tech stuff. Dad responded, "wood and coal burning stoves for heating homes." The look on the GM's face was so precious. Here he had thought solid fuels were something really exotic and in the end, it was wood and coal.

We all just laughed so hard. Jim had been had, but the business was ours. Packaging things up has meant something to me ever since.

I am not as gifted at packaging as my dad was. I usually tend "call 'em as I see 'em". Nevertheless, packaging things up in the right words can make a huge difference. "Lap books", for instance, is so much more interesting than "self directed study." For us, "Got your Saxon done?" slides down the throat better than "Is your math done?" Asking about progress on rebuilding the quad was responded to much more enthusiastically than "have you done your small engine class homework?" Then there was the "class" on building a hover craft. Or the structural engineering "class" that built a bridge structure out of paper, to see how much weight it could hold. Learning activities themselves are a way of packaging up some pretty sophisticated ideas in a way that seems to be more effective and at the same time fun.

Try it out for yourself. See if you are having more fun than before.

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There Is A Reason for Good Packaging

Cyndy always says that there are as many ways to home school as there are children and parents and that they are all better than public education. I smile every time I think about that. I am sure some don't see what we mean. The system damages our kids in so many ways beyond fear of violence, attacks on values and lack of flexibility. Some see the damage, but because it happens so slowly, so imperceptibly, we don't get it, until we find ourselves dealing with the consequences and wondering why.

The conversation is further muddled, because home education from 0-12 (approx.) is different from home education after that point. We talk on this blog about the benefits of letting children play and learn experientially. We talk a lot about trusting your children to "get it" even if all you do is identify and follow their interests as defined by what they are curious about. The thing is that while this can be the main course in the early years, practicality dictates that it becomes more of a side dish in the later years, say 12-18.

The key for us is preserving curiosity at all costs, through all the years. You are dead without it.

Still, for me, packaging this approach up in a box called "Unschooling" or "Unstructured" doesn't sell very well. It scares people off. So I am determined to come up with a new label. "Elementary Experiential Model" or "The Think System" (from Music Man fame) or "Structured Associative Approach" are my front runners. Same idea, new package.

When asked, "How are you going to educate at home? Respond with, "Of all the approaches I have studied in depth I have settled on a very sophisticated approach. I am convinced I can do it, and that my children will benefit." "Oh really? Which approach is that?" "The Advanced Experiential Model." It focusses on using an advanced curriculum developed by young but bright minds in collabberation with older and more mature minds and is flexible to meet all the needs of my children at a low cost." They will of course ask, "Oh really? How much is it?" "Well it varies with each child, but let me just say it is affordable."

At that point, quickly change the subject and pray that the subject doesn't come up again until your kids are Rhodes Scholars.