1.08.2010

How We Homeschool

Emily wonders how we're going about the business of homeschooling.

The short answer would be: mostly incidentally.

See, school is about 90% socialization, 10% academics. I'm pretty sure I'm not saying anything controversial there. Most advocates of public school (or private school, for that matter) that I've talked to readily agree that most students can get through all the necessary academic coursework at home in anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. But school isn't just about academics; in fact, socialization--learning how to live well in community--is a much bigger, and much more important part of the education of a virtuous soul.

But there's some pretty intense disagreement among parents about how exactly they would like their children socialized, and thank God, America allows us the freedom to agree to disagree, and socialize our own children according to our own beliefs.

So, even in the states with the very strictest requirements for homeschoolers, the law only addresses the academic 10%.

There are a lot of great curricula out there that would enable us to give the kids the academic portion of a public school education, with a pretty minimal time investment, and others that would let us give them a much more intensive education with a bit more thought and work. I can respect either approach.

But for us, academics is just a way of life. We talk about number theory while setting the table, Plutarch and philosophy of history over the dinner. We listen to Cry the Beloved Country while we wash the dishes, and then we sit around the fire and read the Odyssey. I'm planning on periodically assessing, and making sure that we really are covering all the bases... but I'm not too worried about it. This is one of the perks of living in Texas; as long as I'm using some sort of written materials to teach my children the three R's, good citizenship, and Texas history, I can be as loosey-goosey about it as I please.

The kids really do have to learn to read, though. HAVE to. For my sake as much as theirs... I want them to start looking up their own history questions. (And mine, too!) I've found that they just aren't mature enough to pay attention to words when there are any pictures whatsoever on the page, so I'm just using the primer in the back of Why Johnny Can't Read. It's a bare-bones set of word lists, and we're grinding through, just a little bit of sounding-out and a little bit of dictation every day. It's amazing how important the dictation is--it turns out that spelling comes easier than reading, and it's through learning to spell that they're learning to read. Anyway, it's slow slogging, but there's a whole library full of history books at the end of the tunnel, and I read them fun books as a more immediate reward.

As for the 90%, I'm of the opinion that participation in a vibrant, healthy family (and church!) is the best socialization. Learning to navigate friendships with kids their own age, and also spending time with older kids, and godly grownups. And learning how to pull their own weight around the house. And camping, and spouting poetry, and building stuff--from tiny wooden boxes to grandiose universes, worlds in which Jim the Warrior was there to stop Alegdander of Jalon from stealing the whole world, and in which the Titanic was truly indestructible, but had enough lifeboats anyway.

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