Wednesday, February 3, 2010

From Homeschool to School School

We've been staying home lately. It feels strange to not be running from one new adventure to the next. It has been very nice to spend time with old friends at the winery in Maryville or the Mexican restaurant in Edwardsville, going to the local park to feed the ducks, letting our family feed us over and over again. We really are fortunate and undeserving the flush prosperity of good friends and family welcoming us warmly back into their lives.

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Our trip was a success by all accounts so far. We have not identified any ill effects in the children. Our family seems to be humming along peacefully even sometimes enjoying each other as the days go by. I've heard a few reports from the younger children about not fitting right in at school or having to play alone at recess. These concerns faded with familiarity with the other kids at school.

Traci has had some validation of her skills at homeschooling. We were given consistent encouragement from family members who were either homeschooled themselves or had homeschooled their children. It was still a little intimidating to enter into our childrens' "this will be on your permanant record" education. We worried they would miss out on information or technique or socialization. Traci coordinated with other homeschooling groups while we were on the road so our kids could visit with other homeschoolers. On one such occaision Shane learned how to properly discern an edible salmon berry bush in the forest. He spent the rest of our time in Washington explaining or illustrating to anyone who visited the characteristic butterfly shape of the downturned leaves on a salmon berry bush as a dead give away to good eating in the forest.
So when we returned to Illinois we felt our skills ( I take too much credit here it's really Traci's skills) at homeschooling would be put to test. Our children all posted good marks for their first term back in public school. Traci had spent too much energy concerned about how well the children had absorbed any of her homeschooling education efforts. Homeschooling had been a huge question mark in the equation for the big trip. The question is homeschooling was a great way to make the trip work well. The kids didn't have to acclimate to a new school and group of friends whenever we chanced to move. The teacher was consistent in her delivery. The curriculum changed a little here and there but mostly was the same. The end of the homechooling story was all the kids haven't missed a thing from not being in public school. Why did we go back to public school? The kids asked to go back and we had no reason not to send them.

Traci and I noticed Shane especially grew in his curiosity and assertiveness in learning about things around him. Our example was our trip to Mt. St. Helens in Washington. We visited the active volcano after reading several books about the disaster there in 1980. We talked up the trip and asked about what Shane thought the volcano would be like. Traci had lessons about Mt. St. Helens worked into her daily curriculum. Shane led the rest of us in our interest about the volcano. When we finally rolled up within site of the mountain we were all really excited. Shane took the initiative to ask questions and examined the exhibits in the museums in the park. He seemed to go all over the park and just learn as much as he could. He continues to have a strong interest in rocks, gems, geology and especially volcanoes. He even picked out a geology textbook for his bed time reading and I obliged his request to be read to sleep to the stacatto discussions of mineral composition, habit, hardness, streak, color, and luster, the subduction of the earth's crust and plate tectonics. He continues to seek out learning opportunities and is reading on his own with more confidence.
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Homeschooling was great. We applaud all those who have chosen this path to education for their children. The fleeting time with our kids can be more intensified and protracted a little by homeschooling, keeping them in our company instead of sending them off with strangers. The children seem to respond well to it. When and if we ever roam again with kids we would no longer be intimidated by the task of providing their education.