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Friday, September 18, 2015

Letter to the Misfit Homeschooler

Hello Dear Friend,

How are you? I am hanging in there. I am feeling my misfitting very much this week. Do you find that there are some weeks you simply feel it more than others? Why this week more than others? I don't know. Maybe Venus or Mars are in retrograde or something. Maybe Uranus started to show it's true colors. I have no idea!

This past Monday, I just felt lonely as hell. I mean REALLY lonely. Hubby has been traveling a lot and I am home alone with the girls and dogs all day, by myself. Do you know what's like to be surrounded by no other adults for weeks on end? To not have any close friends to go hang with? To have your days and nights consumed by other people's mental illnesses? It. Is. Exhausting! Not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Add to that, I am not part of a church and we live in the Bible Belt. Not a great thing to not do around here. I have nothing against church. I simply have something against people using religion to claim bigotry and judging others is okay because of religion.

All this week, I kept seeing all these beautiful posts of other homeschooler's kids who are so advanced. They are taking college courses in their young teen years. They are reading at age 3. They are traveling the world, taking in all the culture and sites and sounds, learning more than any text book could teach them. They are trekking through forests and mountains, doing expeditions on boats and learning from experts. They are engrossed in books like Pride and Prejudice.

Yep. You got it. We don't fit..yet again.

Here are MY signs that we are misfit homeschoolers:

  1. Neither of my kids are headed for a National Honor Society Membership.
  2. Neither of my kids are going to be part of Mensa.
  3. We don't go to church & are not religious while living in the Bible Belt.
  4. My youngest is "in" 3rd grade and reading at a preschool level and writing at a preschool level.
  5. My oldest is a "senior" and writing at a 4th-6th grade level and reading at a 6th-7th grade level.
  6. We spend more time driving to and going to therapy sessions (psychiatrist, therapist, occupational therapy) some days than doing any educational work.
  7. We have no set schedule (see 6 above).
  8. We don't have a ton of friends (see 3 above).
  9. We don't get invited to parties very often.
  10. Both my kids have mental illness, one more than the other. 
  11. Both my kids have severe learning disabilities.
  12. Both my kids have severe social anxiety, which causes them heartbreak.
  13. We don't live on a farm and we don't homestead.
  14. We don't start our day with prayer nor do we end our day with prayer (but I sure do pray throughout the day!!!)
  15. Both my kids are the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and raise.
  16. Both my kids are individuals and I allow them to be such.
  17. Both my kids are outstanding people who have their own thoughts, wants and personalities which I encourage.
  18. Both my kids have passion and want to follow those, not be stuck in a box told what to do.
  19. Both my kids think for themselves.
  20. Both my kids have overcome more than I can even put on this page.
Do you share any of these tell-tale signs? Do you have any of your own? I'd love to hear them. I know I don't fit in. I know sometimes it is lonely and sometimes it hurts. But, in the end, if fitting in meant losing my self, which I have fought so hard to find and maintain, then I will be lonely and hurt because those are authentic and true.  How about you?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dear Trust, You Scare Me

Dear Friend,
I've been homeschooling for 5 years now. But when I speak of homeschooling, I am not speaking of sitting at a table, text books spread and open for the next lesson to happen lead by me. Ok, sometimes that happens but not normally. When I speak of homeschooling, I speak of life learning. I speak of unschooling. I speak of autodidact learning. That sounds fancy, doesn't it?
Autodidact learning means that the person is self-taught. This quote is from Autodidactic Profiles:
"Millions of people pay a king's ransom for college tuition to learn what is free for the taking when motivated by a compelling desire to learn. In the movie Good Will Hunting, Will (played by Matt Damon) chides an arrogant Ivy League student for paying a fortune for an education that would be free but for the price of a library card. Although this is absolutely valid, very few people believe it. Instead they are convinced the knowledge they could acquire on their own is secondary to paying a lot of money to an institution which will attest that they have, even if they cheated their way through the process."
I will be honest here, it is beyond frightening at times to believe that children will learn when not presented with a structured curriculum. I fall into this category about every March. I was raised in public school. I was indoctrinated to think that worksheets and games which give us scores on how well we do is how we know we are learning. Honestly, I do believe there is a point to them. BUT, here is the catch: my kids do the ones they are interested in.
I can hear you groaning right now. me. The whole point of autodidact learning is to TRUST.
TRUST your child.
TRUST they are learning what they need to learn when they need to learn in.
TRUST they are going to want to learn.
TRUST that they want to become absorbed in their learning.
TRUST that worksheets and games and textbooks may not be how they learn.
TRUST that you will facilitate what they need for their learning.
TRUST it will be harder than handing them a worksheet or book because now you have to be involved.
TRUST you can do it.
TRUST it is easier than having to grade tons of papers and walk around with a really heavy tote bag full of files for you to grade during their latest lesson (although I do sometimes envy those parents because they look so important).
Every year, in the late spring, the girls and I sit down and talk about the following year. We pull up the World Book Encyclopedia Typical Course of Study and talk about what they are interested in learning. For me, this is an outline to begin from. It helps us organize our thoughts and explore different topics we may not have otherwise looked into.
Honey Bunny, my 17 year old, never thought about taking a class on psychology until we discussed it based off of that list. She also hadn't really thought about anatomy. She is enjoying both right now. Honey Bunny enjoys online classes, text books and the structure those provide for her. She enjoys knowing what is coming next. She enjoys being in control of her learning insomuch as she is in control of what she learns and reviewing for approval the classes I have facilitated in discovering.
Boo Bear, my 8 year old, on the other hand, is a free thinker and free floater. She does not like to have any sort of structure. She likes to craft..and craft..and craft. Right now, her entire world is about crafting doll items. She is severely dyslexic and has dysgraphia. We work closely with her occupational therapist, her tutor and her test administrators to make sure she is getting the education she needs (learning how to read, write and do math) while still embracing her passions.
You see, autodidactic learning isn't about letting your children play all day in the sandbox or hang out on a Minecraft Server all day while you eat bonbons and watch soap opra's. It's about truly being INVOLVED in their lives. It's about being an integral part of their lives so you can help facilitate further learning. It's about knowing what they are interested in, even learning about it yourself, so you can help open their world to new possibilities and thoughts. It's about helping them connect the dots and get from one place to another.
Autodidactic learning is not about being the authoritative parent, but instead it's about being a guide and a friend. It's about holding their hand through the journey of life like you did when they were little. It doesn't stop just because you have started homeschooling. No, it's about continuing to hold their hand and learning about the wonder of the world through their eyes.
So, whether you call it unschooling, radical unschooling, autodidactic learning, child-led learning or whatever phrase works best for you....the truth is it all boils down to one thing: TRUST in yourself and your children.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Letter to Homeschool Parents

To All My Homeschool Parents Out There,

Thank you for sharing with me your updates on your gifted child. I say this with honesty, not any sarcasm. I am genuinely happy for you and your child who is duel enrolled in college at age 14. I am genuinely happy for you that your child is doing a super job at maintaining a 4.2 GPA, is president of a club and vice president of another. Yes, you are doing a great job raising the next potential leader in this world. Hat's off to you and please take a bow.

Now, for the rest of us, I want to take a moment and say this: You Are Also Doing a Bang Up Job!!! Keep it going!

For those of us who homeschool because we have children with special needs, you are doing a great job! Keep it going!!! I know some days are tough, tougher than others, but you keep going! High five me!

For those of us who homeschool because we have a child with mental illness: Congrats! You made it through another day and they are still with us on this Earth! High five me!!!

For those of us who homeschool because our child has learning disabilities: Congrats! You are on the way to breaking their secret code! Keep up the good work!  High five me!

For those of us who homeschool because we don't like the way the public school is run: Congrats! You made another choice! I hope it is is all you have ever dreamed of! High five me!

For those of us who homeschool for religious reasons: Congrats! You are raising a child in the way you feel best with a moral compass for them to rely upon as they grow!  High five me!

For those of us who homeschool because we just feel like it: Congrats! You decided to follow your parent's saying of: "If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you?" No! You decided to say NO to the bridge jumping! Good for you!!! High five me!!!

And for those of us who homeschool because we have gifted children: Please keep us updated on their progress. Maybe, someday, we will be able to post similar things.

But for today, I am simply happy to post the following:
Honey Bunny has been clean from cutting for 6 months!
Honey Bunny hasn't had an emotional break in a year!
Honey Bunny is learning how to make her own meals and regulate her own water intake!
Honey Bunny is maintaining a meaningful relationship and learning communication skills!

Boo Bear is learning how to break the code for reading!
Boo Bear is learning how to subtract!
Boo Bear is learning how to find her own sense of self!

Today and every day is a success!!!! I have two children alive and engaged in the world around them!

Hat's off Homeschool Parents!  We are ALL doing a great job!!!! High five me!!