Saturday, January 31, 2015

Day 7: The Secret of Learning To Read - Revealed!

As I said in the previous post, we attempted to teach Hunter how to read with reading programs and books like 'Dick and Jane'. Though he would participate with us because he liked doing things with us, he never really actually enjoyed either the reading programs or the books.  I found that I had a lot of conflict with his not wanting to read because I had this idea that he needed to read as soon as possible and at the same time, I experienced guilt for pushing him to do something that he was struggling with and didn't want to do.

Despite my guilt, my sense that it was best to allow him to develop his ability to read on his own terms, and his telling me that he 'wasn't good at reading', I reasoned that there were simply things that we had to do in life - that we had no choice about - and reading was one of them.  Additionally, I attempted to hold him to my idea that in order to be 'good at something', we must practice doing it.  So, I argued my case with him with these ideas and beliefs.  He understood what I was saying but it did not change him, his perspective, nor his approach to learning how to read.

Reading became a chore and a burden for him.  Each day that the books came out, he would go into resistance with yawning, he would say that he was tired, or he would distract himself from the books with playing with whatever he could fit in his hands, doodling, or initiating random conversations with me.  After several months, we made some progress to where he could sound out small words but he continued to struggle with certain sounds and letter combinations.

Around this time he was learning about Minecraft - a creating and building game that is played online with others via an XBOX LIVE account on the XBOX 360 gaming system. Here he began playing with kids of all ages from here in America to across the world - and in order to play and comprehend what was going on in the game, he had to read what was on the TV screen.  During this process, he may have asked me a couple of times how to read something though there's nothing I can recall specifically as he took the point on himself and was reading clearly for himself within a few weeks.  In two months, his previous reading programs were below his reading level and now, three months later, there have been few words that he hasn't been able to read or sound out on his own and he reads fluidly.

Hunter playing a game called Kinect Party on the Xbox 360 where kids play with virtual games, toys and costumes.
From this reading process, I realized that for Hunter to learn naturally and with ease is for him to see a purpose or need for what's being presented.  Which is quite a fascinating point because when I look back to when I was in school, I didn't see how most of what I was learning was useful.  Further, I did not retain the majority of the information that I was taught in school, aside from the things they had us repeat over-and-over-again.  I did not see how these things benefited me or applied to what I was involved in at the time.

Like many other children, I was miserable within the classical school education system which brings up a question for myself: Why do I continue to attempt to push upon another young individual subjects and systems of learning that, as myself as a child, I saw as the worst possible use of my time when I could have been doing and learning about things that I was actually interested in?

In the next blog, I will go into why I have been doing this and open up a potential solution that I have been working with.  In the meantime, if you have a moment, check out Radical Self-Unschooling - Day 340 to see how another has been questioning their beliefs about the education process and establishing a whole new level of self-trust.

Here are some other gaming resources that assist with reading, spelling, and typing:
Download version of Minecraft for PC and Mac.
There are also pocket versions of Minecraft available for Android, iOs, and the Kindle.

Multiple versions of Scribblenauts for the PC, iOS, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, and WiiU.

Here is a video of a teacher using Minecraft in the classroom to demonstrate the differences between Solids, Liquids, and Gases.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 6: Interest Based Learning

By the time Hunter was 18 months old to 2 years, he had learned all of the letters and sounds of the alphabet.  He did not learn this by order with the usual reciting or singing the  'ABCDEFG' song that other children have been learning.  He knew each letter by sight and would sound them out when he saw them.  He also could differentiate between complex shapes and would say their names when he saw them in his external world.  Our family and close friends were excited and amazed by this - they would often express to me how smart he is.

I would have liked to have taken credit for this however, his ability to learn this information had nothing to do with any education processes we were doing together at the time.  It was all him seeing and getting into things that he was interested in.

A friend had given us a Leap Frog gaming system which I noticed that he really liked how the characters looked and sounded.  Unfortunately, the game system was very buggy and did not work as well as we would have liked, so I went on a search for other Leap Frog products and found the video Talking Word Factory where the story focused on some Leap Frog characters, letters, and their sounds. He enjoyed this movie so much that he asked to watch it 2 or 3 times per day. Within 2 weeks, he had learned all of his letters and sounds.

From here, I attempted to move him into some workbook activities with his new skills and found that he didn't like this.  He was also introduced to other reading programs by me and other members of our family which he would do with us because he liked doing things with us though I can say that he didn't actually like the content and would have to push himself to get through a few pages and unlike the video, he never asked to do these workbook activities or reading programs.

It was the same with his learning shapes.  He liked watching Nick Jr. on TV which was focused on pre-school education and presented shapes, animals, art, science, numbers, math, and information about other cultures.  When I took what he was learning and applied methods of classical education with reading, worksheets, and book work, he was not as interested and eager to move on to other things like baking with me, helping his father with projects, dancing to electronic dance music and perfecting the art of woodcutting and making chainsaw sounds.

It was around this time that we started mentioning to our friends and family that we were considering homeschooling Hunter and we found they were either in complete disagreement, they had concerns, or they saw it as one of those 'on the fringe' of society kind of things.  Through the years they've all come to accept that we're homeschooling though they do not trust it and often ask, "How's homeschooling going? What is he learning? Has he learned how to do this yet?", "Are you guys keeping up with everything?", "What grade is he in now?", "He needs more time with other kids," and/or "You really need to start teaching him about this."

Obviously, it would be pointless to attempt to judge our friends and family for their concerns because they are all concerns that I have had myself and I realize that they come from fear of the unknown and our beliefs about education that we have been ingrained with from the beginning of our learning process with adults - who, in-turn, as children went through the very same learning process with adults. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Day 5: My Decision To Homeschool

I will admit that my decision to homeschool was based on a foundation of negative past experiences with the education system, a fear that what I had been seeing in the education system would not provide Hunter with a proper education and make him into a mindless working drone that didn't ask questions, the inconvenience of school hours, me not liking the idea of turning him over to other adults whom I did not trust would make decisions that were best for him, and my desire to keep him with me.

I have realized that my starting point was from a fear of loss and self-interest.  Additionally, I had been able to reason my fear and self-interest with many arguments about how it was best for him.

See, realistically speaking, I have come to know many cool, interesting, and amazing people that have gone to public school.  So my arguments that support the idea that the public school system will traumatize or hold back Hunter in anyway have been debunked by seeing real people doing real awesome things in the world.

When I take away the fears, beliefs, expectations, judgments, imaginations and justifications about public school and homeschool, what's left is the self-honest point that I simply want to be with Hunter and take the opportunity to explore alternative education processes to see what potential unfolds.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 4: My Second Impression of Homeschooling

I have worked in the food and beverage industry for most of my life and even while I was working in the public school system, I continued working in a restaurant as a server, a bartender, a hostess, and a manager-on-duty.  I did this because I found that working in the school system with my position of an Educational Technician was unstable - there was no pay for vacations nor holidays, we were not allowed to contribute to the decisions made for the student's education, and there was no job security as when a student that we were assigned to graduated or was no longer attending school, we were sent home.  I was also working in the school system at a time when I was able to see the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act and how special education students were forced out of the Life Skills programs and into mainstream classrooms.  On a daily basis I watched teachers, students, and parents struggling to make the changes required to satisfy this law and it never worked - everyone was beyond stressed and this created an emotionally charged environment.

For me, the end point is when I was working with two students - one was graduating that year and the other would be graduating the next - and because my main student, the one who was graduating, made it to graduation and left school, the administration pulled me out of my one-on-one work with the second student who actually needed my support more than my first student.  When they called me to take on a new student for the following year, I declined and instead of going back, I decided to go into managing a restaurant that I had been working in for some time.

During my second year of managing the restaurant, I had a 20-year old girl on my staff that was working on her Masters degree.  When she was not at work, she was focused on her education and her future so she wasn't into the same social activities that the other staff were into.  I remember her being bright, cheery, really pleasant to be with, and up for challenges.  She was also able to fit in with the other staff despite her outside interests and activities being different.  When she told me that she was homeschooled, I became excited because I had been curious about homeschooling and homeschoolers and this is something that I wondered if it would be possible for me to do for my youngest child, Hunter.  She worked for me for two years and it was great getting to know her, learning about the homeschooling process, and seeing how someone who was homeschooled interacted with others and their environment.  See, there's this myth that homeschooled kids aren't 'socialized' or aren't able to function with stability within the system and I found out from this girl in real time that this definitely was not true.

Working and playing - a daily thing in our restaurant
During her second year with us, her mom came to work for our company at the front desk of the hotel so I utilized the many times that I had with her in one-on-one communication to ask questions about homeschooling laws, requirements, procedures, the time investment, curriculum and what I could potentially expect to see based on her own experiences with homeschooling her children.  See, homeschooling tends to look like this HUGE thing - like this big deal or a commitment that goes beyond what we think we can give to our children but this mom assisted me to see that it's actually quite simple and more convenient for some parent's schedules.

Out of all of this, though, what stuck with me the most is when the mom shared with me that by the time children are 8 years old, they start teaching themselves.  She told me that the only part I am actually required to provide are the 'morals' or principles.

To be continued.

Day 3: School Won't Change Who Your Child Is (And Neither Will You)

In my last post, Day 2: School From A Parent's Perspective, I left off with when I realized that my oldest child was not academically prepared to be successful in a private high school environment because my child had limited exposure to text books in her elementary school and the high school expected that a student be responsible for answering their own questions about the material by utilizing and researching the information provided in the text books.

There was a small part of me that blamed the elementary school for not providing books for the students and thus showing them how to use books to find information and self-educate. This is in-part due to me seeing throughout the years how well paid the teachers were as they drove really nice cars and lived in beautiful houses.  So this point of children not being provided with the same educational resources that I had during my education process was confusing and I often wondered why the teachers had so much more and the students had so much more less.  And though I was in-part in blame back then, I now have an understanding of how our system currently works where resources are not equally shared so within this, for the few to have a high-quality life, many others must go without.  It is the same in the public school systems and the children being the one's to go without is an unfortunate consequence of our acceptance and allowance of this system. Which brings me to my next point: My known responsibility as a parent.

My two children - one 7, one 25

Regardless of my attempts to blame the school system for my child not being educated to a private high school standard as well as my own, I knew that I was the one that was ultimately responsible for her not succeeding.  I was the one that gave up, I was the one that accepted the authority of the system, and I was the one that very much wanted to believe and have faith that the situation with my child's education would work itself out.  I'm sure that many can relate with the guilt here - the knowing that you could have done something to change the situation, decided not to, and then saw that consequences of that decision.  Admittedly, I carried around that guilt for a long time and to some extent, that guilt influenced my decision to homeschool my youngest child and to give him the quality education that I saw my oldest child missing out on.  Looking back, I see that despite my attempts to utilize guilt to victimize myself and trying to continue to give up, my sense of responsibility for the lives I brought into this world was much stronger and later I was able to utilize this guilt as a point of making changes.

I took this picture of my oldest in her study hall.
I was fortunate to be able to be a part of her high school years.

So, at the time that my oldest child was frustrated with the private high school, I was working as an Educational Technician at a public high school and I saw that it would be cool for us to be there together. My daughter agreed and joined me during her junior and senior years.  She says today that it's one of the best decisions that she made.  From a parent's perspective, I agree as it was definitely cool to see her relax, have fun, enjoy the education that she WAS prepared for and focus on art, theater, and being social which were things that were important to her.

Understand, my oldest child grew into an adult that is stable, responsible, committed and has a strong work ethic.  Private school would not have made her more successful and public school did not hold her back from being successful because she is an individual that sees clearly what she wants for herself and comes up with plans for potential ways to make these things happen.

For parents and future parents reading this, realize that the school that you are able to provide for your child - whether it's private, public, charter, co-op, or homeschool - is not likely to change who your child is.  What I have found that changes with the child in response to where they get their education is their beliefs and perceptions about self, others, and the world and how they automatically respond to what they're seeing with their beliefs. This is a point that I see surfacing quite often so we'll go deeper into this as the blog progresses.

With her husband.
They met in their second grade classroom.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 2: School From A Parent's Perspective

Referring to my last blog post, Day 1: My First Impression of Homeschooling, I mentioned that I am the parent of two children.  My first was born in 1989 and my second in 2007.

With my first child, I was very young and had the tendency to place faith and hope into the world systems - especially the education system because I had a certain level of respect for the education that I received.  Also, I gave birth to my child when I was still in high school and shortly after graduating, I went to college. So, the system education experience was something that was still apart of my daily living and I saw it as having a great amount of value and being an integral part of a child's development.

Early on, I found that my child was extremely mentally and physically active and that she responded well when being directed to reading, math, art, and other educational-type activities so I integrated those things into her daily schedule.  As a result of this, at age 2 1/2, she was able to get an early acceptance at a private pre-school.  She thrived in this environment - she thoroughly enjoyed going to school and it was very cool to see her develop socially.  Throughout this, we continued with her education at home because it was something fun that we did together and it kept us both routine, scheduled, and focused.

When she was 5, she started kindergarten - it was a half-day program and I saw it as a way of integrating the children into the school experience.  So that first year, I didn't see much academic progress but I didn't anticipate seeing much either.

My daughter at age 5 - just before entering school for her first day of kindergarten.
For the following year, she began the first grade and I expected that I would start to see her being challenged academically.  Each day I saw the work that she brought home and it was the same as what she had brought home from her half-days of kindergarten.  When I asked her what she learned, she would smile, shrug, and and usually say, "Nothing."  After a couple of months of this, I called the school, expressed my concern about my child not learning anything new, and asked if they would consider challenging her.  I was told, "She is fine and she is right where she needs to be."  As I've mentioned, I still had this belief that the school knew better than I did, so I let it go.

Throughout the years, this pattern continued of me being concerned that she wasn't learning anything and with me doing nothing about it because I saw the school system as an authority - and after awhile, I accepted that my child was an 'average student' because she wasn't particularly driven to take advanced classes and seemed relatively satisfied with her school experience.

I do remember this one time when there was conflict in her classroom for an extensive period of time.  The school was struggling to direct the situation and they were reacting to what was happening with and between the children in her class so she would come home stressed and burnt-out.  She told me that she wanted to be homeschooled - but with my job, the other things going on, and me thinking that I wasn't qualified to teach her, I told her that it wasn't possible.

The school eventually fixed the problem and the point of homeschooling never came up again.  She went on to attend the same private college prep school that I attended.

See, I saw my daughter as much more intelligent than I ever was - she did not have the problems that I had with learning and she seemed to breeze through school up until high school level.  So, I thought that she would do really well at this school.  I mean, if I could make it through it, she would probably do pretty well there.  I also was satisfied that she chose this school because I knew that she would be challenged.

During her first year of high school it became clear that she hadn't been prepared for this level of education.  I remember a day when I picked her up from school, she was agitated at an experience that she had with one of her teachers where she asked her teacher a question and the teacher told her to look it up in her book.  She then explained to her teacher that she didn't know how to look something up in a book and her teacher suggested that she learn.

When she told me this, I recalled how I never once saw her bring home a book from school until high school - it was always copied worksheets.  She had never learned how to use a table of contents or the index of a text book.

To be continued.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 1: My First Impression of Homeschooling

As a teenager, I had my first look at homeschooling when I went with a friend of mine to her home where her young sister was homeschooling.  I remember seeing her sister doing schoolwork at the dining room table while the mother looked on from where she was doing tasks in the kitchen.

Seeing that it was during a time when most children her age were in school, I asked, "What is she doing at home? Is she sick?" And they answered, "No, she does her schoolwork at home - she is homeschooled."  At the time, I did not realize that such a thing was possible unless there was something mentally or physically wrong with a child.  I remember being curious about what might be wrong with the child and I secretly asked myself questions: Does she not get along with the other children?  Did she fail at school and now needs her mother to catch her up?  Are her parents trying to protect her from something?  Is she mentally disabled?  Is she in a wheelchair? Does she have some sort of disease?

During the short time that I was in my friend's home that day, I could not find anything wrong about the child.  However, what I did see was a relaxed young person who was mature, articulate and an active participant in the conversations that were taking place.

When my friend noticed that her sister was getting distracted, she said that it was time for us to go, we said our good-bye's and left promptly.

I remember continuing to be curious about homeschooling because it seemed weird or foreign to me so I would ask my friend random questions like, "Why does she do her schoolwork at home?" and,"Why can't she be with other kids?"

My friend answered simply that her sister didn't want to go to school, that she didn't really like the kids that she had gone to school with and that she got more work done at home than in school.  Also, her mom was a stay-home-mother so it wasn't a problem for the family to do this.  My friend told me that she, herself, was also homeschooled up to high school level.   I found this interesting because of how my friend was - she was more mature than any of us at this age, she didn't have the emotional ups-and-downs, she was relaxed, she didn't seem to be influenced much about what others were saying or might be thinking in regards to her or her decisions, she was committed, and all-in-all a really nice, easy-going and down-to-earth person.

So this was my first impression of homeschooling.  At the time, the general belief that I had connected to this way of educating was that homeschooling was one of those rare things that others do - that it was a radical and sort of 'on the fringe of society' thing.  Also, I grew up in a period of time and within a family where being a stay-at-home mom was looked down on - where I saw that being a housewife was a horrible life choice and that it was wrong to not be out in the world and contributing to society by working.

I admit, I did not see the point of homeschooling.  I saw the school system as respectable, experts, and absolutely necessary for almost every child.  So, I had this belief that all children that are able should be in school and that all parents should be using that time as an opportunity to work and contribute.

When my first child entered first grade of the public school system, my perspective changed where I began to question what was going on at school and why my child wasn't learning anything new because she wasn't bringing home any work that I saw as challenging or further developing any skills that we had already opened up at home.

In the next blog, I will be expanding on that experience of not being satisfied with my child's education and sharing what changed my perspective on the school system and why, despite my awareness that public school may not be best for my child, I chose to continue to allow them to fulfill the educator role for her.  I will also be sharing how this history assisted me with making the decision to take responsibility for my second child's education with homeschooling.

My second child, Hunter, whose school is home, the world, and the things that interest him or are important to him.  In the background, you can see where does his structured curriculum like Reading and Math - on a TV table and sitting on a comfy couch with a blanket, his favorite toy Mario, and his Nintendo 3DS.