This morning I happened to come across an interview with Susan Wise Bauer. She is a well-known author in the homeschooling community and she has homeschooled for 17 years. She herself was homeschooled with her two siblings. In this video-interview she discussed homeschooling through the teenage years. Two of her children have now graduated and she talked a lot about her perspective on educating her kids through high school and college. Though my kids are still young, it’s really useful to think about what is coming down the road. It was a really terrific piece (thank you, Susan!!). I thought I’d pass this along for those who might be interested:
Luckily for us, my sister homeschools and my nieces and nephew are 16, 14 and 11. I really love seeing how their family is working through the higher grades. I often have long conversations with my sis to hear how things are going (and tuck that information into the back of my mind for when my kids approach that age)! To hear a few of her thoughts yourself, you can read my interviews with my sister from last June here: Part I: Homeschooling through spousal deployment and Part II: Homeschooling through High School.
The one thing that really sticks out in my mind after listening to this interview and after talking with my sister is that homeschooling is a journey. We all have to figure out what is best for our kids each step along the way and the path taken may not be the one we expect.
By the way, you can read all my homeschool interviews (with a Montessori homeschooler, a classical homeschooler, etc.) by selecting the categories button in the right sidebar and selecting interviews with other homeschoolers.
Now I’d better go round-up the kids and start homeschooling ourselves! LD is lost in a book (he’d read all day if I let him!) and the girls have disappeared upstairs playing an involved game of ‘pets!’ But with other activities we need to race off to in a few hours, we’d better start our day!
Last year I did a series of interviews with other homeschoolers. I always enjoy hearing why people choose to set out on the homeschooling path. I saw an article in The Atlantic about a homeschooling family in New York who has chosen to homeschool their kids and thought I’d share that link with you. The article is called the Homeschool Diaries.
I heard about a movie that is being produced out in Los Angeles that focuses on education, specifically the validity of homeschooling as an alternative to the industrial school model. According to their site, “the film will examine the numerous approaches to home learning, exploring both its history and recent growth.” The movie will follow an ordinary family in their quest to educate their children. You can read more about the film here. The film tweeted a few hours ago that they are looking for a homeschooling family in the L.A. area who primarily use a curriculum (and are interested in being filmed).
I went to check out their movie trailer and enjoyed what I saw.
Many people decide to put their kids into school for their high school years. What has made you decide to continue homeschooling them?
First, the kids really don’t want to go to “regular school” – they like the freedom of learning in depth and at their own rhythm. We homeschool year round, so when the oldest decides it’s time to put in a half-acre garden during spring, we’re comfortable letting her drop her book-schooling for weeks while she does the planning and planting. Likewise, last year (which was 9th grade for the oldest) all three kids participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote novels during November – and we let the other schoolwork slide. That flexibility is valuable for the other things the kids want to accomplish. I find that taking the long view (“in the next 12 months, we need to accomplish X”) allows for an ebb and flow around the subject matter that allows for focused bursts in a variety of areas. No two schooldays are the same – it looks a lot like my own scholarly life.
Do you feel prepared to teach them the tough and rigorous subjects taught in high school?
Our role in HS is more as facilitator – there are books and web resources out there to cover *anything* they might want to undertake. I don’t have to know everything, but I do have to know how to find it. There are subjects where my oldest already knows more than me. There are other subjects where she really needs my help. There are yet other subjects where the refrain is “dad’s rowing that boat.”
What about college? Do you worry about the options open to the kids as homeschoolers?
No worries at all. For one thing, most colleges now look very seriously at homeschooling applications. The academic preparation of homeschoolers does tend to trend higher than that of their peers (all that one-on-one time tends to do the learner some good!), and academic longitudinal studies show that they do very well once they get to college. Admissions officers no longer panic when they have an application from a homeschooler! We will start drilling the college skills more heavily over the next couple of years – my kids are unaccustomed to textbooks, and learning how to use that tool effectively needs to be on the list of things to do. That and bubble-test prep; there are tricks to multiple-choice exams that our kids haven’t had to learn yet. But mostly, we’ll just keep on with what we do.
And now to your day-to-day homeschooling these days. Do you have a particular style of homeschooling?
Eclectic trending toward unschooling, but with math, writing and foreign language as recurring check-points. We school year-round; the big vacation is often school-centered, and what “counts” is highly variable. Some weeks, videos are an important part of the intellectual offerings; other weeks, it’s more like book-school. Projects dominate a lot of what we do. Our chickens, for example, started as a lesson on working out decisions via spreadsheets. There are bits of the snap circuit kit over next to the lamp. The youngest took her “static electricity” demonstration with her to scouts a few weeks ago to share with the other girl-scouts. We’re researching New Mexico for our big summer trip – petroglyphs and ruins are in our travel future! Homeschooling is definitely cool.
Do you have a specific curriculum you work from or do you design your own?
We design our own. We use the Volunteer State Book Award reading list for much of our literature needs, and we have “Life of Fred,” “Murderous Maths,” and “Rosetta Stone” as framework curricula. But I’m forever sending the kids links to interesting science or history articles, or grabbing a stack of books on some subject, or working through an experiment that came up, or finding the right computer game to address that question about fractions, or following what this or that child is interested in.
What curriculum/books do you recommend most often to fellow homeschoolers?
I suggest the long view: what do you want your child to know better at the end of the year? Some of that will be in the area of citizenship and being a good person, some of it will be academic, some of it will be skill-based. Everyday, you should do some writing and some math (and some foreign language, but we’ve fallen off that horse and will pick it back up AFTER my book goes to the editor in June. Whew.)
For ease of delivery, I like “Life of Fred” or any of the various math workbooks as a go-to systematic drill. For writing, we do a lot of practical writing: an application essay or an answer to a scout merit badge question become workshops for writing well. A poem read in the car that gets resonance becomes a model for some writing of their own. And talk, talk, talk, talk, talk! What did the kids like about the movie, the book, the activity. What would they do differently? How does dialog shape what you notice in the story? What’s the place of a narrator in the history channel movie that we’re watching? Being thoughtful about whatever you’re doing – and teaching them how to investigate the things they have questions about – that’s homeschooling at its finest.
Not that we don’t fuss if they haven’t done their chores or gotten to the topic that’s on our worry list. Sometimes a kid needs to hear, “This school task isn’t optional.” But we’re ready to take the school that comes accidentally our way – a chance to talk with the weather-chaser van’s driver is going to be a MUCH better lesson than filling out some quiz on a book they’ve read.