Thursday, January 30, 2014

K12 Online Public School vs. Ted Talks

Oh how I wish I could say that about our homeschool.
I have let state standards, college preparation, and overall comparison cast a shadow over the freedom I SHOULD feel as I educate my children. (My boys, after all, need to be the brightest and most talented among their peers - and I must have documentation to prove it!)
*I just threw up in my mouth a little*

This year has had me on a journey of change in this area. It's been freeing - and a little scary.

It all started at the end of last year when my brain kept saying, "HOW is one silly mom supposed to provide a comparable education to the MANY qualified junior high teachers at the school who are SPECIALIZED in their fields of study?"
I had no answer for that. I was SURE I was ruining my children for life.
To alleviate my concerns and reduce my workload, we decided to let someone else plan our school this year. We looked at the large price tags on all the curriculum and teacher support systems out there - and saw that K12 online public school was FREE. Jackpot!
It is a state accredited school provided by the government with individual teachers for each subject. Did I mention it's free?
What a deal! What a blessing!
For us, it sucked like a Hoover vacuum.

I have a seventh-grade boy who builds computer programs FOR FUN.
He taught himself to solve a Rubic cube - because any proper nerd should have this skill.
He watches documentaries with his father and checks history books out of the library because they are "interesting".
Obviously, he can read and regurgitate information in his sleep. (He actually does this sometimes, he is quite the talker after 10:00 pm.)
And he detested online school.

His younger brother, my very bright "man of action", who does math problems in his head because writing it all down is such a bother, also struggled. Interaction, nature, and movement help him retain information; but they were hard to come by with the K12 methodology.
  • Don't stop to take a note, or draw a picture - there is no time!
  • Don't dig deeper about a subject that interests you. How will you finish your grammar worksheet if you do that?
  • Don't talk to your brother! He is in a different grade, in a different class, and doesn't have time to stop HIS learning to interact with the likes of you!
They were achieving mastery in every subject...and experiencing slow death.
I, of course, was bound and determined to stick with it.
My boys are capable! I wouldn't have people judging us and thinking we couldn't "hack" it. 
We pressed on - and walked around with a very heavy load on our shoulders (consisting mainly of textbooks and online assessments).

Then a very wise friend asked, "How much joy do you have in your days?"

After I quit crying...we went ahead and quit online public school.
It didn't work for us.
We couldn't hack it after all, and I realized I was REALLY OK with that.

Now I am re-evaluating my whole thought process about state standards and college prep...and WHY we do what we do. We took the time to jump through each and every hoop placed before us by our culture and were left wanting.
Now I have the slightly scary process of redefining our home education.
It could be a long road.

So what now?
Faith. Faith that the path will be made clear.
And JOY - lots of joy in our days.

We hope to foster a lifestyle (and love) of learning for our boys in the years we have left.
Clay and I are evaluating our own lives and seeing how we model this behavior...and where we need to improve.
We want to be more intentional with our time - even on those evenings when we all just want to vegetate. Don't get me wrong, we are still lazy; but we've been watching Ted Talks and Netflix documentaries as we snuggle up on the couch and eat thin mints.
(Shhhh! The boys enjoy the family "screen time" and haven't complained about the extra learning that sneaks in.)

*Sidenote: We love the Girl Scouts, but they are going to have to change the name of those cookies to Used-to-be Thin Mints*

We are still studying all the traditional subjects during the day; but we are definitely changing our approach. We desire to educate the WHOLE mind and not just the parts of it that are good at processing data. We have our work cut out for us.

The following Ted Talk has encouraged us along the way. It is funny. It's thought-provoking, and it is only ONE of the many talks that have been shaping our new way of thinking.
Go ahead, watch it...and join us on our journey.
We can all use a little encouragement as we try to understand our children and help them thrive.

Ken Robertson TedTalk about Creativity

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Really? Creative Writing

Explosions, guns, hunting, blood, and underwear...
These are the main subject matter in our homeschool writing club comprised solely of young boys.

"What would our children write about if they went to public school?" I queried.
"I have no idea, but I'm SURE they would be expelled for reading THESE stories," replied my cohort in writing club crime.

'Tis true. We are raising creative writing delinquents.
Although I often take a red pen to rough drafts in hopes of limiting the gross/violence factor, final drafts would rarely pass muster in an institution for the masses.

The thing is: my fifth and seventh graders are learning to ENJOY the written word.
Strong verbs, descriptive language and compound sentences are not nearly so daunting when the subject matter is engaging and makes them grunt with heightened levels of testosterone.

My kids are becoming competent, creative writers.
They will, someday, be successful when asked to draft a presentation for the 'big wigs' at work (or a college professor). If these skills are learned while creating PowerPoint presentations to convince their parents that the latest PlayStation game is necessary (for killing zombies and thriving in the future Apocalypse); so be it.
If they become proficient in drafting business letters while writing to the M&M Candy Corporation expressing disappointment with the term "fun-size" on teeny-tiny bags of M&Ms, I say, "Rock on."
If writing an accurate and detailed report about Cedar Point happens to include a description about vomit or underwear while adequately expressing the rush of adrenaline which occurred on a ride, I'll take it! A successfully written report (with details) WAS achieved.

They can deal with dry subject matter later if their future 'real-world' requires it. In the meantime, I have some fundamentals to ingrain within their cute little heads, and I have the freedom to do this any way I deem fit. Thank you homeschool!

I am sure many would poo-poo my methods.
That's OK. I'm sure I would also poo-poo theirs.
(I just wrote poo-poo in an "acceptable" way, and it made me laugh.
Sorry, I couldn't let that slide - I live with boys.)

If I risk raising delinquents, it is a risk I am willing to take.
I hardly think I can avoid rule-questioning/bending/breaking children anyway.
(I know their parents.)
I might as well use this tendency for their future benefit.