Category Archives: not back to school

Our Brand of Homeschooling

Many years ago, I wrote about why we homeschooled, but what keeps us tethered to this very particular lifestyle?

Our family’s style of homeschooling has always been very hands-on, unstructured and casual. From the very beginning, I saw that the boys picked up the most information from ‘doing’ things, rather than reading about them – apple picking, beach trips, family vacations, board games, fairs, festivals, camping trips, museums, and visits to state parks, etc. have always produced much more meaningful knowledge than any textbook. I would rather help my kids develop a practice of ‘how to learn’ than attempt to fill them with facts. They can go on to learn anything they want once they can gather the resources to teach themselves. I want them to know and believe this.

This year, Gavin is a senior in high school. He entered school for the first time as a freshman and I have seen him use school as a tool instead of depending on it as his sole source of education. He continues to educate himself in more ways outside of that structure than he has within it. He has maitained a good balance of experiences that he has wished to have during his high school years  – most of which were not academic in nature. I am glad his education has been self-led. I firmly believe that I would never have made as good of choices for him as he has made for himself.

Mikey went to school as a 7th Grader for a myriad of reasons. He REALLY wanted to go. He needed to experience what was going on in those buildings and see for himself what ‘school’ was like. He was also working with an educational consultant at the time who felt that school could provide many academic supports and services that were not available to homeschoolers. While he enjoyed the structure of the school day and the social aspects and chaos, I can tell you that they did not, at all, provide what was promised and his experience was very flat, narrow and dull. School was limiting for him and it cut into valuable time he could be developing skills that will be more meaningful for him in the future. It became clear to Dennis and I that the opportunity cost of going to school was just too high for Mikey.

This summer, when we began to assess his strengths and challenges, it became clear that what we wanted for him could not and would never be addressed by school. He has several short years before he is an adult and we believe the time is best spent on an education that is extremely practical and as broad and experiential as we can create for him. During his time in school, Mikey came to believe that you are to sit still (which he did NONE of) and a teacher spoon feeds you information that you produce for a ‘test’. I can think of few things as dangerous as that for Michael. Seriously.

Nope. Photo op – Denied.

So, we are here. Back to basics in a very true sense.

Sean continues to attend the same ‘school’ that Gavin did at his age – The Costello Academy for Feral Children. His current focus is an obsessive pursuit of All Things Yo-Yo. Sometimes he watches videos and practices techniques for hours on end. He reads about the physics and how to repair and modify yo-yos. This might seem frivolous if you are not looking through the lense of self-education. Sean is laying a basis for a lifetime of learning. He chooses video series wisely, weighing the quality and camera angles for their ability to clearly show how tricks are mastered. He found reputable websites containing products and articles about the ‘art’ of yo-yo-ing. Although the topic might seem questionable to some, the skill set of teaching yourself ANYTHING is worth allowing him to spend as much time as he needs down this rabbit hole.

The truth is, some of my kids are living without school, but don’t confuse that with living without ‘An Education’.

See the source image

Have you ever watched anything by Sir Ken Robinson? Watch one. Then watch them all.

September Starts

September, for us, does not hold the same foreboding that it did when I was a kid or that it does for many families. Fortunately, ours is a little more relaxed. If you don’t happen to find September daunting, hurray for you!
End of the Summer golf/boardwalk/rides/pizza night!
Castaway Golf, Point Pleasant
We are so grateful that The Midland School exists and provides exactly what Ethan needs and wants. He looks forward to going. He thrives on the structure and opportunities provided to him there. He likes his friends and likes his day to fall neatly into the boxes on his schedule. He wants his routine to be enjoyable – and to Ethan, that means predictable. Thank God Midland has a ‘No Homework’ policy – because our family does too!
Ethan’s new ‘LunchBlox’ System – love it!
So we said ‘goodbye’ to Ethan on Wednesday as he happily ran to his bus!
Although the other boys are homeschooled, we continue to have a strong connection to the September ‘start’. Their hockey league starts practices and scouts begins meeting again. Our homeschool playdate and cooperative start up again, as do classes at The Circus Place.
This year, we think they boys need a little more structure and a tighter routine for their day. Our boys have serious focus ‘issues’ – oh, where did they get that from?! Gavin, in particular was able to articulate that he often does not get done what he hopes to in a given day. Who hasn’t experienced that? I wouldn’t function without a list. We sat with the boys and talked about some things that they are interested in accomplishing. We discussed interests and desires, and how busy they want to be. We looked at what was ‘scheduled’, like existing classes, and started plugging in some blocks of time for them to accomplish other tasks.
This preschool has a ‘shirts optional’ policy – heck, it has a ‘clothes optional’ policy!
I expected some of their requests – like time for computer games and juggling, continuing on Khan Academy and time to read. Some things surprised me – like Mikey’s request to learn about the United States and cursive. I was surprised that Gavin decided to take over teaching himself from The Story of World.  When Dennis and I presented them with lists and routines on paper I thought they might balk at first (turned out only I did), even though we were sensing they needed a little more support in their days. “Looks good!”, they said. Hmmmmm, I guess there is a season for everything.
So here we are in September, with a new season about to emerge, in more ways than one.  I am not fond of fall or change or lots of structure. I am hoping we can find just the right balance for the season we are in.
“Not-Back-To-School-Day at Turtleback Zoo