Most people unfamiliar with the process and the purpose behind home schooling believe the children are either lazy or inherently psychopathic. I can only speak for my grandchildren, both of whom are home schooled, and I can assure you that neither assumption is true.
Before my grandson, Michael, reached pre-school age, I taught him to read and write. He went through his lessons with an intensity not often seen in children so young. I am generally reading 2-3 books simultaneously myself, and when he asked me why, I told him you can DO anything, BE anything, and GO anywhere if you can read. He knew I meant it too.
Kindergarten seemed a waste of time, so he waited for first grade. Two weeks into it, while attending one of the best elementary schools in Allen County, Indiana, Michael was ready to quit. ‘See Jane run’? he said, ‘I read that stuff years ago.’ He was bored to tears. His daddy spoke to the teacher, who acknowledged Michael was way ahead of the bulk of the class and could probably handle 4th or 5th grade work. But socially, that would be a disaster for him. It was at that time my son asked me to retire (my last job was as a medical secretary in an orthopedic clinic) and home school his son, and daughter when she was old enough (she’s three years younger than Michael). I jumped at the chance.
Home schooling is very common in Indiana, where we lived for six years and where I began home schooling both kids, as well as in Tennessee, where we now live. All children cannot be taught the same things in the same way at the same rate and have them all benefit to the same degree. Some children require a personalized approach, while others are content to move through their assigned material independently at their own pace. Michael and Michaela are perfect examples. Both are exceptional students, but their methods of study are different. Michael prefers to study on his own, but since Michaela likes to be observed during workbook activities, I sit with her during those lessons. While I am always available for questions, I am usually free to do housework, read or work on my writing projects.
Speaking of lessons, how are they set up? You must find out what your state requires for each grade level. Standards can be downloaded from your particular Department of Education website or obtained from any library. There’s a group of books that provide the required core knowledge in all subjects that I use, along with workbooks to supplement various subjects. I spend two to three days developing the lesson plans for the whole school year in advance, where 180 days of attendance is required by law. Having the year’s lessons completed makes it easy to make adjustments for outside events, such as educational field trips. At first, this can be quite the daunting task. However, with experience, preparing the plan becomes easier. The plan includes the text books and supplemental workbooks broken down by day of the week, subject, what pages are required, time allotted for reviews and periodic testing.
One must be flexible with the scheduling however. While the plan is very specific as to requirements and expectations, each child is unique in their ability to grasp certain subjects and in their comfort level with working independently in the home setting. Be prepared, and willing, to modify your plan to accommodate your child’s individual needs. As long as the core knowledge provided ensures that the child meets their grade level’s educational standards, the choice of teaching materials and plan of study is at your discretion. There is no monitoring by state personnel involved at the elementary school level. Private testing for a fee may be arranged to determine the child’s status, but it is not required. Home schooling at the high school level has strict criteria with regard to the home school teacher’s education and credentials, and there are numerous reporting guidelines and periodic monitoring performed by state educational personnel.
We set up each morning at the dining room table. Weather and / or traffic are never issues since I live with my son and grandchildren (he’s divorced with sole custody of both children), which makes for a smooth and stable environment. There’s a one-hour break for lunch and a thirty-minute recess, which is usually spent watching TV or playing video games. I’ve been asked if they miss being around other kids and how can they develop socially being isolated like that? Nothing could be further from the truth. These two are social butterflies. They’re knowledgeable yes, but they love to laugh, watch Spongebob, play video and board games, run, jump and act as silly as any other kid. No problem for them fitting in anywhere. We have the flexibility to use a weekday for a play date and focus on lessons the following Saturday, which allows for plenty of socialization.
I take them to zoos, aquariums, museums, galleries, and classes (with other home schooled children) at community centers and libraries (where materials are available for home school teachers that include sample lesson plans, attendance records, and contacts at state and national organizations that were set up to provide support). When special events hit town, we’re there (i.e., walk with butterflies, experience zero gravity, hold a snake and pet a baby crocodile, etc.). Much fun is had, but much is learned too.
What if they misbehave? Doesn’t happen. They know what’s expected each day. If they get done by 3 pm, go have fun. If they get done by 9 pm, get ready for bed. We don’t have discipline problems. But, how can this be enjoyable for them? Aren’t they missing something? Yep. Spitballs from across the room to get their attention and silly notes asking them to circle yes or no if they think Bobby is a creep. What they have is a safe, quiet, clean area to study in and Legos. Yes. Legos. My students build the Taj Mahal with Legos, learn the state capitals with a puzzle map, learn the countries playing Risk, create clay communities, and sand art. Classes at the Juzwik Academy are NEVER boring. One thing that fascinates me is how they view me as two separate entities. I am always ‘Nama’, but at school time, I’m spoken to and treated as the teacher. I believe it’s the strong structure I provide that helps in that regard.
Michael and Michaela both want to attend traditional high school and college. Since their elementary education is through home schooling, testing is required by the District prior to admission, to insure proper placement. Currently, they are in 5th and 1st (although some of Michael's work is freshman high school level and Michaela's at 3rd grade level). A lot of colleges offer scholarships to students who have been home schooled since typically, they’ve found these children possess great self-discipline, they’re dedicated and are willing to go that extra mile. Whatever path my grandchildren choose, I know they will be successful, and I will always be grateful that I was able to play a small part in their achievements.
published 22 January 2011