Thursday, July 7, 2011

Part of My Story With Homeschool and a Vent

Thanks for all of your interesting and thoughtful comments about my homeschool post.  I gained new understanding about the topic from reading your words.  I really don't have too strong of an opinion either way when it comes to the subject. As with most things in life, there are pros and cons and I think there are many people finding success with it. This is also true with public education...there are some really great things to go along with it and not so great things.  As a public school teacher on a break, I see the inside scoop on public education.  I will be sending my kids to public school and I do think that there are some GREAT schools out there.  I also think there are some amazing teachers...I'd like to think of myself as one of them. And I don't say that to sound arrogant.  I say that because I know that when I am teaching, I am giving my all to my job. It is a job that I love and am deeply passionate about.  I hold myself accountable for each and every child that comes into my classroom and I make sure I am doing all I can to teach them, inspire them and help them LEARN to LEARN!  I also know that parents need to do what is right for their children and themselves.  

I brought the topic of homeschool up more because I was feeling annoyed by some underlying assumptions that I am picking up on from a "friend".  She has made comments before about homeschool and seems to believe that all kids that are homeschooled are ignorant and lacking in education. In my opinion, this makes her ignorant. And I shouldn't let her comments get to me but they do.  What can I say?  I'm sensitive and care way too much about what people say and think. Even if they are not that important in my life. 

As many of you know, I was a non-traditional homeschooler.  My mom took me out of school in 7th grade because she felt like I was being influenced in a negative way.  She did what she thought was best and I love her for it (although I hated her for it then). I don't blame her for her decisions anymore and I honestly feel like my experiences have made me the driven person that I am today.  I was "homeschooled" from 7th through 11th grade.  I use homeschool lightly because really I was given the teacher's manual and I taught myself.  In 7th and 8th grade I was doing a correspondence course where I sent my tests in to be graded, etc. This really was a rich learning experience and  I read some amazing literature and had a pretty awesome curriculum!  In 9th through 11th I switched curriculums and I planned my lessons and made sure that I got through the course in time.  I often finished my lessons in the summers.  I'm not quite sure how I was self-motivated enough to make sure I did what I was supposed to do because my parents just took my word for it.  They trusted me.  Ha!  But I was determined to make sure I stayed on track. 

 I taught myself Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, History, Science...the works. Math was easy to teach myself because it seemed like such an easy language for me and there was usually a pretty clear way to solve things once I figured out the formulas.  I do admit that it wasn't so easy to learn Science and History from only a text book.  This was hard and I often found myself asleep and drooling on my text books.  Without interaction, projects, discussion, etc. there was no way to make these things REAL to me.  I did learn though and I did learn HOW to LEARN!!  And I was lucky to have a brilliant step dad that could talk to me about history and tell me anything I wanted to know.  I found myself fascinated with the things he was most passionate about.  For example, during my studies of the Civil War, he made it all come alive for me and I found myself excited to read more and more about it!  He was also an extremely gifted writer and he inspired me to write and really value great literature.  

Are there "holes" in my education?  I'm sure there are certain things I missed or didn't absorb with text book reading but who does remember everything about historical events and the periodic table in Chemistry?  I mean come on!  As teachers, we skip things all the time due to time and having to move on to other things in the curriculum.  It is ignorant to think that just because someone went to public school they know what they need to know or they read all the books that make them a "well read person". The important thing is that we learn how to learn and know ourselves as learners!  Not that we can memorize a bunch of facts and never forget the exact dates of all the World Wars and moments in history. That is what google is for right?!  Ha! 

I eventually returned to public school in 11th grade because I refused to teach myself anymore.  I pretty much said that I would NOT teach myself Chemistry or electives like could I?  So I went back to school and enrolled in the hardest course offered to my public school...Chemistry with Mr. Franklin.  It was a challenge, kids dropped out like flies, but I LOVED it and got an A!  I especially came ALIVE in my honors English and AP English courses..Wow, was a fire ever lit with this!!  I was ravenous for learning and reading and talking about literature with others and this continued on into college.  I came alive as a writer and found that it was something I was good at!  I wrote for the school newspaper for a bit but I was still finding my voice as a writer and was a little insecure since I hadn't had any formal lessons in how to write.  I was just getting up the courage to say that writing and English were what I wanted to do with my life when my high school coach crushed me by telling me that I was horrible writer and that my real gift was math.  He told me that I needed to be an engineer and give up writing.  This stuck with me for a long long time because I thought so highly of him.  

I had been competing on the cross country, swim and track teams all along so I was already familiar with the school and had many friends.  I was bummed because when they asked for my grades so that I could compete, I had no clue about G.P.A and what that would mean for me later.  I thought they would think I was "cheating"  if I turned in all A's so I spiced it up a bit and threw in a few fake B's.  Stupid me!  I did end up graduating in the top 10 of my class but I still wonder what I could have done if I wouldn't have messed up my G.P.A. on purpose. 

Long ramble here.  I guess there was more in my heart about this than I thought and this was a good vent.  If you did take the time to read this, thank you for letting me share part of my life with you.  And thank you again for your comments about homeschool.  It was an interesting dialogue going on today!  

On the running front, I am still sore from Monday's Marathon!  Seriously.  


  1. Wow, very interesting. If I had home schooled myself I would have for sure given myself all "A's" but I probably wouldn't have learned anything from myself. I am just not that disciplined. Good for you.

  2. I've homeschooled one of my stepkids... it was a nightmare but he did really well. His mom decided she would rather homeschool him than let him stay in the public school, and then after 2 weeks she couldn't handle it and dropped him off at our house... interestingly, he was in 7th grade!

    Homeschooling works great for some kids and some families. Public school works great for some kids and some families. Private school happens to be our answer for our kids and our family. Making blanket statements about anything never really works, does it? Does your 'friend' read your blog? LOL

    And I'll bet you are an incredible teacher :)

  3. I haven't had much exposure to home schooling. I know I couldn't do it myself - I just don't have the patience but I'm sure it works well for some kids and not so well for others. I did once have a client who was home-schooling her daughter but this was so she could become a successful gymnast and that poor girl had a very out-of-balance existence. At 10 years old she was spending 5 or more hours in the gym and was lucky to do 2 hours of schooling. Her Mum bragged to me of her reading level but I knew the reality was that she was only managing words my kids had learnt in the second grade. This was an extreme example of what can go wrong if the educator has the wrong priorities.

  4. I had no exposure to homeschool growing up but it seems to be more prevalent now. To each his own!

  5. Thanks for sharing this part of your story, Amanda. Since I don't have children, homeschooling isn't really on my radar. My knowledge of it is pretty limited and tends to come from anecdotes from friends about relatives or neighbors who are homeschooling their children.

    As a history professor, I was very interested to read about how hard you found it to learn history from just a textbook. I try to make my courses very interactive and discussion based, which can be a challenge in my larger classes.

  6. I think it's a family to family situation. For really can be beneficial. For others...the self-guided discipline that's necessary can't be fostered and they will thrive moreso in a public setting. To each his own. Ryan and I often contemplate homeschooling any future kids we have despite the fact that our kids seem to be doing awesome in the public setting right now.

  7. OH...and I LOVE LOVE LOVE your new header and the photography done of your fam. So awesome!!

  8. Believe it or not by the time a homeschooler gets to highschool they are mostly self taught. That is the process. They aren't spoon fed anymore. The teacher is there to guide when they are lost. Sounds like you did an incredible job jumping back in and getting and A.

  9. Your story is so interesting! Everyone is motivated in different ways and it is clear that you are a very self-motivated person. I think if other kids were left to teach themselves it could be a disaster but you were hungry to learn and you wanted to do well. I consider myself self-motivated as well. You taught yourself high school and excelled in college -- that is so incredibly impressive. Damn your coach for telling you that you are a horrible writer! What does he know? He should stick to running. You are a beautiful writer and I am glad you know that now.

  10. oh my gosh, I have been reading in google reader for so long, I didn't notice the new blog it!

  11. Interesting. Sounds like you did a great job with learning on your own. I went to a good public high school and an excellent university and I know for a fact that there are lots of holes in my education. Luckily, I'm a research librarian, so I can always find out whatever I need to know. ;o)

  12. what an interesting perspective... since you've seen both side of it as a student. then you decided to go into education yourself. i love that you brought this topic up because it's been so interesting to see all the different opinions on the subject. i'm pretty laid back in an "i'll see what the situation is when it comes time," and i had no idea there were such strong opposing sides :)

  13. I think with homeschooling, as with any human based experience, there are the norms and there are the extremes. As a public school teacher I would not argue that one solution is appropriate for all. Certainly I worry about some children who do end up being isolated and missing aspects of development. But I expect that is not the norm.
    On the other hand, the public schools, by definition, cannot individualize on a level that can help all students. The dictated pacing and class size prevent it.
    For me, I do not think I would have been able or motivated to homeschool my children but since my wife and I were full time there was not the opportunity either.

    If you want to stir another pot just argue one side or the barefoot/minimalist debate. Folks get crazy fast. : )

  14. Some "teachers" shouldn't be allowed to teach. You may have a gift for math, but you have a passion for writing. Passion will get you further than just doing a job. I had a teacher that told me I couldn't do chemistry and said I should not try nursing school. Took me a long time to get past that. Sure wish I hadn't listened to him.