An Obliteration of Childhood

Five hard truths about the unintentional obliteration of childhood

childhood
Image courtesy of Poulsen Photo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently overheard a conversation between two young mothers. One of them was complaining about the day care her three yr old attends. Her complaint? They play and do art projects all day, instead  of teaching the kids their letters and numbers.

I was taken aback. What exactly is wrong with that? That sounds like the perfect day for a child that age. But then she got down to the crux of the issue- the parents at that daycare expect their children- their very young children- to receive school-type lessons at this facility.

Which got me thinking…aren’t we parents the ones who notoriously lament how children grow up too fast? Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the issue and explore why this is.

Five Hard Truths about the Unintentional Obliteration of Childhood

We school our children too early. Everywhere you turn, you will hear people talking about the importance of Early Childhood Education, but just how important is it? Is it really necessary that children as young as three should be expected to sit down at a desk for several hours a day tracing letters and numbers? I don’t know about your children, but mine copy letters and words off of books, their siblings’ papers, and anything else they lay their eyes on without any prompting from me. They think it’s fun! In fact, my now six-year-old learned basic addition and several sight words at the age of four simply by being around the older children when they were doing their school work.

I realize that many preschools and Kindergarten classes do include fun hands-on learning activities, but, again, is it really necessary for this to happen in a classroom setting? Young children are superstars when it comes to investigating and exploring the world. As John Holt used to say, children are natural scientists. They do perfectly well at learning about the world when they are given the time, freedom, and opportunity to do so. If there is any way to quash their fascination with the world and their innocent wonder, it is by sending them to school where, instead of finding interesting things to do themselves, they begin to be told by someone else (presumably the teacher) what is important to know about. This eventually results in children who are apathetic, lethargic, and lack imagination because they, in essence, forget how to play and are used to doing nothing but sitting all day.

 

We overschedule our childrenAs if it isn’t bad enough for them to be shut inside a building for six hours a day, many children participate in after-school activities at the schools themselves, or they are kept busy with organized sports or other various engagements. Obviously, extracurriculars can be a good thing. It is when they get to the point of taking over your child’s life that it is time to take a step back and rethink things.

Schools are very good at organizing after-school programs, and many of them are wonderful, but again- how much is too much? Students are in school for a mandatory six to seven hours a day, and yet, many parents sign them up for these clubs and activities which will keep them confined in the school building even longer.

Let me be clear that I do not have a holier-than-thou attitude of someone who has never been there. When my kids were in school, I was one of the parents who signed my children up for every single activity I could because I thought it would be good for them. It wasn’t. It resulted in kids who no longer had time to be kids.

Studies show that children today are beginning to feel the same effects of anxiety as adults because of this culture of being able to “do it all.” Is it really worth it?

 

The peer influences in school are less than desirable. No matter how you raise your children, in school they are going to be around other children from homes with different moral standings than you. You may be able to shut off the cable at home, but I assure you that at school they will be exposed to everything you try to protect them from. They will see girls in short skirts who idolize the likes of Beyonce and Katy Perry. They will be around boys who, in their quest to be “grown-up,” will introduce your children to words and concepts their young ears are not prepared to hear. And if your child shows any signs of vulnerability or innocence, they may well be singled out and teased for upholding the standards you’ve tried so hard to teach them.

I recently had to stop allowing my children to play alone with a sixth grade neighbor boy who asked my fourth grade daughter if she wanted to “make out.” Kidding or not, these are NOT the influences I want my children to have. There will be plenty of time for them to deal with these issues when they are older. Right now, my hope for them is to allow them to enjoy being children.

 

-And don’t even get me started on technology! I get it. Technology is a wonderful thing, but is it really necessary for five- and six- year old children to own their own cell phones? I do let my younger children each have a one hour turn on my phone on the weekends, and even that often takes them away from opportunities to play outside or with friends.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to a party or picnic where all of the kids sat in the house with their heads buried in their phones or tablets the entire time. Just last week my kids came home from a neighbor’s house and told me that the entire time they were in his yard jumping on the trampoline, he was in his house playing on his tablet.

Technology may be great for the economy, but it steals away childhood merriment and replaces them with inanimate pixels.

 

Sometimes we are as much to blame as anyone or anything elseHow many times have we scolded our children for simply doing childish things? Things that weren’t necessarily bad but, maybe, were loud or were interrupting our quiet time? By no means am I advocating to let children run wild. I’m simply pointing out (to myself as much as everyone else) that sometimes we have unrealistic expectations.

By the same token, how many times have we told our daughters that they might look nicer with just a little makeup? Or tried to push a more mature looking outfit on them? My daughter’s friend’s mother regularly buys her push-up bras and crop tops. I’m not suggesting anyone reading this might go that far, but it’s a great illustration in how far parents will go to “help their children mature.” Is it really so terrible if our daughters continue to play with dolls throughout middle school, or our sons are fascinated with Pokemon cards, instead of cars?

And is it reasonable to expect our preschoolers to play quietly all day with nary a shriek or whimper? Is it really so bad to have a house that may be noisy but is noisy with joyful laughter?  One thing that I need to remind myself (and my husband) of daily is that our children are children- not little adults.

 

If there is anything at all you take away from this post, let it be this:

Hold your children close. Cherish them. Protect them. Guide them. And most of all- don’t rush them into adulthood. It will come too quickly without your help.

 

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Why Should We Homeschool?- Part 3- Values

“Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday School’s meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?” -Charles F. Potter, Humanism: A New Religion (1930)

values
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome back for the third installment in this series. In my first post, I addressed the issue of safety. The second was about the importance of personalized learning, and now today I will be discussing the issue of values.

There is a common misconception among most parents and education departments today that schools have the right to instill values in our children. This is, indeed, troubling as we take a look at the “values” being espoused in classrooms today:

  • Christianity being belittled and misrepresented
  • Birth control pills and condoms being handed out, many times without parental knowledge
  • The legitimacy of the traditional family being replaced with alternative curriculum
  • The enabling of known psychological disorders, rather than treatment

This is but a sampling of the types of behaviors common in schools today. The attack on Christianity, to me, lies at the very root of this problem. General principles of right and wrong that have been practiced since the foundation of this country are rapidly being replaced by a “do whatever feels good” mentality, and it is hurting our children.

There was an issue at the elementary school by our house last year, when a teacher was presenting a lesson on wants and needs. Upon asking the class for some examples, a little boy raised his hand and said, “We need God,” to which the teacher snarled back, “We don’t need God.”

What kind of a message are we sending to our children if we are raising them in one way at home, and then sending them to a place where they will often spend more time than they do with their parents, only to be bombarded with ideas contrary to the family’s? And I’ve heard the “school as a mission field” argument (which I plan on addressing in a future post), but that doesn’t cut it with me. There are adults who cannot handle the opposition they face everyday. Why would we expect our precious children to stand against it? Additionally, kids tend to look up to their teachers and value their opinions. Are you comfortable sending your child to a place that devalues your beliefs?

Let me make it clear that this is not a diatribe against teachers. I am well aware that many times it is out of their hands. Several years ago when my kids were still in school, two of the teachers, who I did not know at the time were believers, used to approach me after school all the time and ask me to confront the principal about what they felt were injustices but couldn’t do anything about themselves for fear of repercussions. Again, if adults are uncomfortable with the situation, how much more are the children?

If there is one thing you can be sure about, it is that schools are not religion-free. They are well-steeped in the religion of secular humanism, thanks, in part to the Father of Progressive Education himself, John Dewey, who was not only a Secular Humanist but a co-author and signer of the first Humanist Manifesto.

And it goes far beyond Dewey himself. Here are some more stunning quotes about our supposedly religion-free school system:

 

“What the church has been for medieval man, the public school must
become for democratic and rational man. God would be replaced by the
concept of the public good.”- Horace Mann

 

“There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there is no need for the
props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then
immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed,
natural law or moral absolutes.”- John Dewey, the “Father
of Progressive Education;” co-author of the first Humanist
Manifesto and honorary NEA president.

 

“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged
and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly
perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity.
These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most
rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort,
utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in
whatever subject they teach, regardless of educational level – preschool,
day care or a large state university. The classroom must and will become
an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of
Christianity…and the new faith of humanism.”- John J. Dunphy, “A New
Religion for a New Age,” The Humanist, January/February 1983

 

“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill,
because he comes to school with certain allegiances toward our founding
fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in
a supernatural Being, toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate
entity. It is up to you teachers to make all these sick children well by
creating the international children of the future.”- Harvard Professor of
Education and Psychiatry, 1984

 

I could go on and on with examples like these, but I think you get the picture. Suffice it to say that schools are, indeed, teaching religion, despite what they say or even believe. Without some semblance of a clear indicator of right and wrong, our schools will continue to confuse and, inevitably, deceive our children.

Homeschooling is a valid path to instilling our own values and beliefs into our children, and this is not exclusive for Christians. No matter what your beliefs may be, it is your right as a parent to raise your children to reflect the beliefs of your family.

It is inconceivable, and a bit laughable, that the public education system has felt it necessary to trample on the moral values which are central in our lives. Let’s face it… they can’t even handle academics properly anymore, so why would they continue to take on more burdens for themselves? Unfortunately, I think we all know the answer to that.

The time has come for we, as parents, to take our children back. Government education has crossed the line once again, and it’s high time we do something about it. Who’s with me?

Join me next week as I look into the freedom of choice that accompanies the homeschooling lifestyle!

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Lazy Day Links- 4/30/16

Happy weekend! I hope you enjoy this week’s links and book recommendations. 🙂

lazy day links
Image courtesy of porbital at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As promised last week, here are this week’s lazy day links!

(Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.)

Favorite Blog Posts:

Five Simple Ways to Ruin Your Homeschool {And What to Do Instead}– The Unlikely Homeschool

Dear Beyonce,– Beauty Beyond Bones

The Truth about Hospitality– The Art of Simple

Take Me to Your Dungeon Master– FIMBY

Simple Homeschooling: What My Kids Need to Learn– Generation Cedar

 

My Older Posts:

Translating Board Games into Educationese

Unlimited Gaming? Not These Unschoolers!

Small Steps Are a Big Deal

Going on a Road Trip? Ditch the Textbooks and Live Life!

Navigating the Red Tape- Part 1: How Do I Know What My Kids Are Learning?

 

Books Worth Reading:

Man, Myth, Messiah– Rice Broocks

On the Trail of the Nephilim, Vol. 2– L.A. Marzulli

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling– John Holt

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling– John Taylor Gatto

Angelopolis– Danielle Trussoni

 

I hope you enjoy. Have a great weekend!

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A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- Art and Election Day

It’s that time again for our end of the week review. Join me as I write again about another crazy homeschool week with ten kids!

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Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.)

(If you’re interested in a more detailed example of our homeschooling days, click here.)

I can’t believe another week has gone by! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?? While last week my kids were enjoying the warm weather all week, as I write this post, I’m sitting in my dining room in a sweatshirt, next to a space heater, shivering. Gotta love this fickle weather.

Anyway…this week my kids got much more book work done than last week, but we also accomplished quite a few other things, as well.

On Monday, I accidentally stumbled upon a new snack idea for the kids. Since I have to make so many waffles for breakfast at one time, I usually put them in the oven instead of the toaster. I happened to get…umm…sidetracked and forgot they were in the oven, and if there’s anything my kids hate, it’s crunchy waffles. Desperate to save some time and avoid making something else, I came upon the idea of waffles and ice cream in a chip and dip platter. (Okay, two things- I know ice cream is a horrible breakfast idea, but, hey, it was Monday :P, and the reason I thought of using the ice cream was to make my hard waffles softer. Phew! I feel much better confessing, so now I can move on…)

A desperate mom's breakfast hack!

The kids ended up really enjoying it, and I promise I will only use this idea for snacks from here on in!

On Tuesday, five of my kids had dentist appointments, so on the way home from there, I stopped by the local polling place to vote in the primary election. Since the 2-yr.-old threw up in the van (my kids always get sick after the dentist, do yours?), my oldest daughter sat with her and the 4-yr.-old while I took two of my other daughters in with me while I voted. This is an actual conversation with my 11-yr.-old as we walked through the parking lot:

Daughter: Mom, who are you going to vote for?

Me: Ted Cruz.

Daughter: Isn’t he an actor?

Me: (Cracking up) No, that’s Tom Cruise.

One hour later…

Older daughter: So who did you vote for?

Me: Tom…I mean Ted Cruz.

{Sigh}

And now on to the fun stuff:

The Littles:

The younger children finished up Lentil this week by learning about acoustics by singing in the bathroom, testing taste buds by eating sour candy, singing Fifty Nifty United States, and learning how to use shading when drawing.

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Here, my youngest decided to showcase her artistic prowess by decorating our bathroom wall.

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The Big Kids:

We’ve still been reading through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together, although all three kids have started new books for their silent reading. The 8-yr.-old is reading Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House), the 10-yr.-old is reading Dork Diaries No. 10, and the 11-yr.-old is reading Horns and Wrinkles. They’ve spent most of this week preparing for a report they’re going to be writing tomorrow and next week. We’ve also been doing lots of fun activities which emphasize how books are categorized at the library. They really seem to enjoy these and are excited for the scavenger hunt we have planned tomorrow which goes along with this theme. Besides that, they’ve been doing all kinds of art projects on their own (as they always are).

 

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Drawn by the 11-yr.-old during our Harry Potter read-aloud. This is Harry and Ron eating the candy on the train to Hogwarts.
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This was by the 10-yr.-old. All of the kids made several variations of fish and sharks and later used ribbons to tie them to long branches to look like fishing rods.

The Teens:

My 14- and 16-yr.-olds spent quite a bit of time at the creek this week looking for snakes and other critters. My son actually went there for several hours almost every single day, and this experience has motivated him to become an amateur wildlife photographer.

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One of the many photos he took.

My oldest daughter, who is turning 17 on Sunday, spent a lot of time with our oldest son, who is 22, this week. Although he is over five years older than her, they get along wonderfully, and they share many of the same friends. Tonight she went to an alternative gallery with some of her friends. She visits there several times a month and is planning on showing some of her work there in the near future. This was one of her favorite pieces she saw there today:

FullSizeRender

Book-wise, my son is still working through several WWII books, while the 17-yr.-old is still reading Dante’s Inferno and the 14-yr.-old has started The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler. Believe it or not, neither of these books were assigned to them. They chose them on their own. 🙂

So that’s where we’re at in our homeschool right now. What have you been up to?

 

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Looking at the Bright Side of Unschooling

Finding balance within your homeschool is the key to superior learning, and some unschooling philosophies can play a key role in that.

sun
Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After writing yesterday’s post about our experience with unschooling, I began to wonder if I was able to adequately convey our good experiences with it. I fear that there was a bit of negativity at the end, and I felt the need to clarify myself.

I am not against unschooling. I feel that some of its philosophies about allowing children to pursue their own interests and using life as a curriculum hit the nail right on the head. I have seen first-hand how much children learn when they have a vested interest in something. In fact, our family still uses natural learning as an important part of our homeschooling routine. Our structured learning normally takes only about two hours a day, while the rest of the day is open for my children to engage in anything they find useful and interesting.

What this has looked like this past week has been my son deciding that he would like to become a wildlife photographer after spending hours at the creek every day taking photos like these:

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Spending six hours a day doing structured school work would have prevented him from committing the time he did towards this project. Is this as valuable as book work? I’d have to say that this holds even more value because this is something he initiated on his own and will, therefore, remember all the better.

Before our unschool experiment, I would have scoffed if he had asked me to go to the creek during the school day every single day for an entire week. I would have lectured him about the importance of getting an education. Unschooling taught me to recognize that this is an education.

It also gave me the ability to see the worth in seemingly mundane things that many parents overlook. Caring for a sick baby bird. Making homemade paint out of sidewalk chalk. Helping the neighbor in her garden. These are all things I would happily set aside school work for in order to pursue.

Does this mean I do not assign value to book learning? Absolutely not. I am a self-professed nerd, and I realize that there are some things that are better learned with some structure- usually some sort of book, but not always.

It all comes down to balance. At the end of the day- at least with my children- there are some things which are best learned when they are taught, and there are other things best left to experience in real life. This is what homeschooling is all about. Finding the balance that is right for your family and allowing the joy that follows to shine through.

For more photos like these, you can follow my son on Instagram!

 

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Speaking from Experience: An Honest Discussion about Unschooling

Ever wonder what unschooling is actually all about? Join me as I give an honest review of what this homeschooling approach was really like for our family.

Mention the word “unschooling” to someone in your homeschool group, and you’re likely to get one of two extreme reactions- elation or disdain. When it comes to this controversial homeschool approach, it can be very difficult, indeed, to find a middle-of-the-roader.

From the very beginning of my homeschooling days, I was mesmerized by the thought of learning with no curriculum. No books? No seatwork? No daily mother/child struggles? It sounded too good to be true. Nonetheless, after several years of homeschooling with varying methods and finding none that I felt was the perfect fit, I decided to venture into the world of unschooling. Continue reading “Speaking from Experience: An Honest Discussion about Unschooling”

Why Should We Homeschool?- Part 2- Personalized Learning

Learning is not one-size-fits all, so why should your child’s education be?

personalized learning
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In last week’s post I addressed the issue of safety in public schools. Today I’m moving on from there to examine the importance of personalized learning as a means to a successful education.

Personalized learning isn’t something one usually thinks of when thinking about public school. In fact, as I searched for stock images to use for the photo here today, I simply typed in the word “learning” and found that almost all of the pictures that came up had something to do with desks, books, and classrooms.

Why is that? I’m going to venture a guess that when many of us set out to learn something on our own, we are not going to run to our desk, shut the door, and plop open a huge textbook. Yet that is the accepted image of what learning looks like because that is how it is done in school.

But what if learning doesn’t look like that for you? What if it doesn’t look like that for your child? Chances are, if they are in school, they are going to be singled out as “special education” students. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you might say; and for those students who truly do have learning disabilities, it surely is not such a bad thing. But what about those students who are simply wired differently?

Mounds of evidence have recently been produced detailing the complex differences in how people are wired and how they learn. Indeed, there are people who thrive in a school setting- I was one of them- but to assume that all people should be able to do so does a great injustice to the millions upon millions of intelligent people who would greatly benefit from a different approach to education.

For those unlucky students who are singled out as “special education,” the harm done outweighs any good that may be done through the schools, no matter what the school’s intentions.

During my children’s time in public school, one of my sons was recognized (labeled) as being delayed in reading comprehension when he was in 4th grade. Naively, I assumed that the teachers knew what they were doing and agreed to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to help him with this. The help that he received was minimal, and the only input I received from one of his aides was that, “He understands better if it’s about something he’s interested in.” Well, duh. He needed an IEP to find this out? How many adults have a hard time reading about things they have no interest in, let alone a 9-year-old?

After about a year, I was informed that he no longer required assistance, but that they recommended that we keep his IEP in place, just in case. Again, I trusted that they knew best, so I signed another one. The following year I withdrew my children to homeschool them, and I received a letter from the school district stating that I needed to have a Special Education teacher approve his homeschooling objectives because of his IEP. (This is in the PA Homeschool Law.) I called the district and explained that, while the IEP was still in place, he hadn’t actually been receiving any special instruction because he no longer needed it. Since he still technically was listed as Special Ed., however, I did have to comply.

After about a year of homeschooling him, we moved, and he asked if he could try school again because he wanted to see what middle school was all about. I reluctantly agreed. The new school took notice of his former IEP and decided to start putting him in special classes again. I told them that this wasn’t necessary, but they said they would just try it for a while. A few months in, I noticed that he was bringing home reading homework that was equivalent to what I was teaching his 3rd grade sister who was four grades behind him. I resolved then and there to take him back out and homeschool all of my children through graduation.

I called the Special Education Department of our school district and told them I wanted his IEP removed. A few days later I received a phone call from his learning support teacher telling me that he wasn’t ready to have his IEP removed. I immediately informed her that he had received straight A’s, and I was confident he would do just fine. I also explained that he wouldn’t be coming back in the fall anyway because I was planning on homeschooling him again. She reluctantly agreed. (I’d like to add that she had to because the law says that an IEP must be withdrawn if a parent requests it.)

Shortly afterward I discussed this ordeal with a friend of mine who is a retired teacher from that district, and she told me to never allow the schools to label any of my children because once they are labeled, they are always labeled. This is obviously bad for the students but lucrative for the schools who receive federal funding for these programs. The more students with IEP’s, the more money.

The ill effects of our experience with the Special Education label have not ended. Years later, my son still considers himself to be unintelligent and slow because that is exactly what was ground into him during that period of his life. I am not saying this was intentional, but that is exactly what happened, nonetheless.

The stigma of school-sponsored labels has no place in a home learning environment. One of the most awesome things about homeschooling is the fact that we, as parents, have the autonomy to educate our children in the way that we see fit. If they do well with textbooks, then that’s what we can do. If they need to move around quite a bit, we can offer lots of hands-on activities with shorter stints of written work. If our children love to read, what better way to learn than by reading a good historical fiction or any other books written by people with a passion for the subject? As a matter of fact, children who love to read can easily be the least expensive children to educate because the library is free!

Understandably, schools cannot and will not tailor their curriculum to meet the needs of each individual student. It would either require far more resources than schools could ever have, or it would necessitate a complete overhaul of the entire government school system, and I think we all know the likelihood of that ever happening.

So as it stands, parents of children who are not flourishing in the school environment simply because of learning styles have two options. We can either go with the status quo and agree to have our children labeled for life, or we can bring them home and design a method of learning that will work best for them, no matter what that method may be.

Now tell me, which sounds like the better option to you?

Join me next week as I address the issue of including our own values in our children’s education!

 

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Lazy Day Links- 4/23/16

Having a lazy day? I’ve got some links and books you just might be interested in!

lazy day links
Image courtesy of porbital at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.)

If you’re anything like I am, there are some days that you just can’t seem to get yourself moving. These are the days you spend lazily browsing blog after blog and website after website, trying to find something that will interest you for at least a little while. Since these days are usually on the weekends for me, I’ve decided to share links with you each Saturday. These will include 5 of my favorite blog posts from other bloggers, 5 of my own that you may not have seen, and 5 books I think are worth reading. I hope you enjoy!

Favorite Blog Posts:

10 Guarantees I Wish Homeschooling Offered {But It Doesn’t}– Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

5 Things That Really Matter in Your Child’s Education (Homeschooling Moms, Read This.)– Generation Cedar

My Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: Over-Thinking Methods and Philosophies– Amongst Lovely Things

Education and Doll Making– FIMBY

10 ways you’re making your homeschool day harder than it needs to be– Simple Homeschool

My Older Posts:

Maybe ”Educational” Should Be a Bad Word

Sometimes Simple Is Hard

What Exactly Is an Unschooler?

Just Let Your Kids Play, Already!

The Top Ten Reasons I Homeschool

Books Worth Reading:

Learning All the Time– John Holt

As It Was in the Days of Noah– Jeff Kinley

On the Trail of the Nephilim- Volume 1– LA Marzulli

Monster– Frank Peretti

Angelology: A Novel (Angelology Series)– Danielle Trussoni

 

Do you have any suggestions? Have a great weekend!

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Think You Know Why Compulsory School Exists? Think Again.

“School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.”- John Taylor Gatto

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.)

“Schools teach exactly what they are intended to teach and they do it well: how to be a good Egyptian and remain in your place in the pyramid.” -John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Every day millions upon millions of parents send their children off to school without a second thought. Schools are good, right? They’re there to educate the future of America, aren’t they?

What would you think if I told you that that’s not what schools were intended for at all? What many parents- and more than a few teachers- don’t realize is that compulsory schooling was not mandated to educate but to train obedient workers.

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Image courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t believe me? How about some history?

150 years ago, during the Industrial Revolution, factories were popping up everywhere and people like John D. Rockefeller were desperately in need of workers to run them. Unfortunately for them, however, people weren’t looking for jobs. At this point in time, the vast majority of Americans were self-sustaining. They grew their own crops, built their own houses, made their own clothes and toiletries, and bought only what was absolutely necessary at the general store. Most children learned their skills from helping with the family or apprenticeships and only attended a one-room schoolhouse for the few months out of the year they were least needed at home. Compared to modern society, these people were much more resourceful than we are today because they did everything for themselves, and it worked for them.

Since Rockefeller, among others, was a wealthy man, he had much clout with the government, who certainly saw the benefits of what he was trying to accomplish.

Enter compulsory schooling, when children began to be required, by law, to attend school. Students were instructed in specific subjects for a set period of time everyday, regardless of how relevant it was to their lives, and they were expected to drop what they were doing, no matter whether they wanted to continue doing what they had started or not, and change classes at the ringing of the bell. Students were also conditioned to blindly obey commands, as this would be beneficial for the foremen of these factories. Individual thinkers were not needed nor wanted in this setting. Factory owners wanted obedient, hard-working employees who did not mind the day-to-day monotony of what they would be doing and who did not rock the boat.

You may be thinking, but that was 150 years ago.

When I first began to read up on this, I thought the same thing. But let’s take a closer look at some common practices and see how they just might reflect this Industrial-era mindset of not-so-long ago.

  • School uniforms (conformity)
  • Mass instruction regulated by the government (conformity)
  • Senseless busywork (obedience)
  • Separate subjects which are to end immediately at the sound of the bell in order to move on to the next thing (obedience, conformity)
  •  Singling out those who learn differently (conformity, elimination of individualized thinking)

Politicians love to talk about education reform- especially this time of year- but how sincere are they? Before any true improvements can be made, the true intention of compulsory schooling needs to change. And, honestly, I don’t think that will ever happen.

 

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Unit Study Advice Every Homeschooler Needs to Know

Not sure how to use unit studies? Here are some tips I wish someone had given to me a long time ago!

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Image courtesy of antpkr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

(Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.)

In an attempt to make your life immensely easier, today I’m sharing with you some wisdom I’ve gained throughout my years of utilizing unit studies that I wish someone had shared with me. Through much trial and error, tweaking of curriculum, and, yes, burnout, I’ve reached a place in my life where I can honestly say that, yes, unit studies do, indeed, make life much more simple. This did not come easily, and only you can know what will work for your family and what will not. With that being said, here are the most practical tips I can offer you with regards to successfully implementing thematic units into your homeschool routine.

1. Unit studies are cross-curricular. Use that to your advantage. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first began to use unit studies was to use them on top of everything else we were doing. Instead of using this method to cover our science, social studies, art, etc., we would complete a full day of “school” and then add on a unit study for “fun.” Admittedly, at first it was a novel idea, and we enjoyed the activities because they were so different from the constant seatwork we were used to; however, very quickly it became too much and the “fun” wore off and was replaced by burnout, which led to sending my children back to public school for two years. When I decided to homeschool again, I was determined to use unit studies but in a much more relaxed manner. After much reading and research, I realized that unit studies sufficiently cover every required (and quite a few extra) subjects, with exception to phonics, grammar, and math- and even that is not written in stone. Some families are able to incorporate enough phonics, grammar, and math into their lessons to satisfy those requirements, as well.

2. If you choose to supplement, keep it simple. I am absolutely convinced that there is no need to supplement any area beyond math and some language arts. While these subjects are included in many unit study activities, most families feel more comfortable giving these subjects a little boost. My children have a “table time” most mornings where they will complete a math lesson and either a spelling lesson or work on memorizing passages from great literature. (We are currently using How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, which is phenomenal.) However, depending on what we will be covering on any given day in our unit study, we do not complete these lessons every single day. If I know that we will be doing a lot of writing or copywork or even some grammar lessons in our unit that day, we will only do math at table time. If I have a math lesson incorporated into what we will be pursuing, we skip the morning math lesson. My children are especially excited on those rare days that both of these subjects are covered in our activities and they get to completely skip their table time lessons. If your child will be sufficiently covering these subjects in your unit study lessons, there is no need to be redundant. Mix it up a bit. It will be refreshing for both you and your kids!

3. Don’t go overboard! Less is more. I can get a bit overexcited when creating our weekly lesson plans. If you ever happen to catch a glimpse of my lesson plan books, you will see that they are filled with eraser marks and entire weeks scratched out. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to choosing activities for my children, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I want to do it all. Everything looks so good, and I don’t want my kids (or me) to miss out on anything. So…I begin penciling in enough activities to keep us busy for twelve hours a day…until I look at it again a few hours later and realize that it’s never going to work. You know your kids best, so this is a great time to use that asset. Only you know how much your children will be able to comfortably handle in one day. At this point, besides our unit study read-aloud, I only schedule two related activities per day. That’s it. I know some people may be gasping at this statement, but I say it without guilt. I know my kids. You know yours. If your kids want to do four activities a day, go for it. If your child gets overwhelmed by any more than one per day, that’s great, too. One of the best things about homeschooling is the freedom to tailor our children’s education to fit their individual needs.

4. Don’t try to do every single listed activity. This ties in with #3. I promise you, if you try to complete every single suggestion, the unit study will get old fast. When choosing your activities, consider not only the activities your kids will enjoy, but also what you are comfortable with, as well. No one wants a cranky homeschool mom! While your kids may love to paint, if the thought of the mess stresses you out, skip it. There will be other opportunities for your kids in the future. (Perhaps you could even hold off on it until the summer and then move the activity outside and do it just for fun.) Stick to those suggestions that will work for all of you.

5. Don’t try to read every single book listed. As with the activities, the books are merely suggestions to get you started. You may decide not to use any books on the list and use alternatives you dig up yourself. That is perfectly fine. As the saying goes, use your curriculum…don’t let it use you.

6. If your children get bored with the topic, plan a new unit. Your son may love snakes. He may jump at the chance to memorize their names, study their habitats, create snakes out of clay, and calculate the size difference between an Egyptian cobra and a timber rattlesnake. If, however, his eyes start to glaze over after covering this unit for several weeks, it may be time to move on. Don’t destroy your child’s love of a particular subject by insisting that it be completed through to the very end. There are so many amazing things that God has created for us to learn about. This is the perfect chance to explore what else is out there!

7. Establish a general daily routine instead of an ironclad time schedule. I’m a clock-watcher. I always need to know what time it is, and I LOVE to create schedules and lists. (I guarantee that my kids will back me up on that.) One thing I’ve learned is the utter necessity of flexibility. Make general goals for starting and finishing times for your homeschool day, but accept the fact that things may not always go as planned and be okay with that. It’s not the end of the world if you finish at 2:00 instead of 12:30. Since I am officially homeschooling nine kids this year, I try to get my elementary age children done by lunchtime in order to keep the rest of the day open for the secondary age kids who do most of their work independently but do require my help sometimes. There are usually a couple times a week that I do end up working with my younger children after lunch, but it’s not a big deal because our routine allows for these circumstances.

8. It is not necessary to cover every subject every day. Just as life is not broken down into subjects, it is not necessary to break school down in this way, either. While I do include subjects covered per activity in the units I’ve written, I merely do this for record-keeping purposes. When planning our lessons, I do not pay attention to what subjects we will be covering but how each activity pertains to what we are reading each day. Sometimes you may cover history for weeks on end with only a few science lessons thrown in here and there. That is perfectly okay. If you think about it, kids are great at pursuing the sciences on their own through digging in the dirt, trying to build aerodynamic paper airplanes, and watching animal documentaries. Sometimes the tables are turned, and you may spend weeks doing science-related activities, while only covering history or social studies here and there. It balances itself out. And just as with science, kids don’t seem to have a problem touching on this area on their own through running errands with you, discussing current news topics, and running to the map to see where Fiji is. This can be true with any subject. Language arts can be covered through writing stories and emails and playing Mad Libs. Math is easily covered through playing games, handling money, and baking cookies. Don’t ever fret about going light on a subject here and there. Those topics still exist in the world around you, and they will happen naturally through simply living life.

9. Have fun! If at some point you find yourself dreading doing school, shake things up a bit and have a movie day, a park day, or take your kids for a walk. Remember that it is not a wasted day because life is learning and family relationships must always come first!

I hope this list may be a blessing to you. Just as each family is different, the same can be said about each homeschool. These tips are meant to be a guide, but it is up to you to decide how best to serve your children’s needs. Have fun and cherish every moment of your homeschooling journey. It will come to an end all too soon.

 

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