Archive for ‘School Bites’

September 29th, 2006

Selling Used Curricula

by Venomous Kate

This summer, eBay announced that it would no longer allow the sale of used teacher’s editions with homeschool curricula. The company asserted that such sales violated eBay’s fair use policies since the company had no way to verify whether the sellers/purchasers were, in fact, teachers.

The homeschooling community has been outraged.

But where there’s a niche there’s always someone willing to fill it. The latest entrant is the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which just announced the launch of its Curriculum Market.

Excellent! Now I have a good reason to go hunting through the basement for all of the books we’d bought last year but don’t need anymore.

September 28th, 2006

The Dreaded S-Word

by Venomous Kate

As any homeschooling parent can tell you, the most frequent question (or challenge) we encounter from other parents about our child’s education environment boils down to the dreaded S-word: Socialization. As in: “Kids who aren’t forced into social interactions with other children their same age can’t possibly be considered ‘socialized.’”

Witness, for example, the kerfluffle that happened at Dean’s World when he agreed with me about the perils and pitfalls of public school attendance as the primary method of ‘socializing’ kids. The one thing missing from the conversation at Dean’s was a single scrap of evidence that any ‘socialization’ occurs through the public school system, much less that it’s inherently superior. To put it another way, a staggering number of people seem to believe that public school attendance is synonymous with socialization.

The circularity of the argument is nearly laughable when one recalls what socialization means.

socialization

(psychology) The process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitation as well as group pressure.

Suffice it to say, then, that both homeschooled children and their public schooled counterparts are ALL socialized. The question is: to conform to whom? Homeschooling parents, myself included, believe that the greatest gift we can give our children is a personal role model, a functional home, a family that stands behind them in their own pursuit of excellence, and an education consistent with the morals that we claim.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what alarms those who believe children should be sent to public school so they can be socialized. They fear Johnny will be warped because his parents — who do not believe in evolution, for example — choose not to make that part of Johnny’s science curriculum. They cloak it in concern whether Johnny will know how to get along with other runny-nosed children his age, whether he’ll know what it’s like to be picked last for a team, whether he’ll be prepared to ask a girl on a date some day long down the road or if he’ll crumble the first time his boss passes him over for a promotion (assuming he can even get a job, being homeschooled and all).

But what they really, really mean is this: they don’t share the same morals as Johnny’s parents. They want Johnny to learn what they themselves believe, and they wrap it up in a nice, neat little package they call ‘socialization.’ Or, as Freeven noted in the comments:

The socialization argument is a canard. Public schools can’t be defended on the academic merits, so they have to look elsewhere for talking points. These things get parroted around, but ask for any hard evidence and the discussion is pretty much over.

Interesting, isn’t it? Non-homeschoolers do not believe that parents should have the right to independently educate their own children in a manner consistent with their family’s moral beliefs if they don’t share those beliefs themselves.

Frankly, I don’t call that ‘socialization,’ although I do agree it smacks of a different dreaded ‘s-word.’

UPDATE: Anwyn’s trying to decipher the comments of a Montessori advocate who, while remarking on the “positive social effects” of that approach notes: “Typically the home environment overwhelms all other influences in that area.” While I, being jaded, interpret that remark as yet another educator who believes that schools are inherently superior to a child’s actual parents, Anwyn’s taking a proactive approach and actually emailing the ‘expert.’

September 22nd, 2006

A Bounty On Their Heads

by Venomous Kate

These days, it’s increasingly common to read about schools searching out homeschooled students. Usually, however, the stories are about colleges actively recruiting homeschooled students.

Not this time:

Teachers, starved for technology, are bounty hunting homeschooled children.

Such is the case in Mason County, Ky., where The Ledger Independent reports that local public school teachers are being encouraged to make house calls to dropouts and homeschoolers alike, convincing them to return to school.

For each student that rejoins the fold and stays for a year, the teachers receive new technology in their classrooms.

While it’s disturbing that homeschoolers are being equated with dropouts, I’m more concerned with the reasoning of Superintendent Tim Moore, who is behind this clever idea.

When asked to defend his attack on home educators, he replied, “Education is more than learning in books.” He added, “social aspects of school are important as well,” according to the article.

Frankly, I’ve never understood what the allegedly beneficial “social aspects of school.” I recall classrooms filled with students trying to break the rules behind the teacher’s back in order to impress their peers, kids who were chubby or who wore glasses being or who just looked different being chased and sometimes “pantsed” or “canned” or just beat up by gangs of brats wearing designer clothes, smart children who acted stupid in order to make friends and girls who slunk around with caved-in shoulders to disguise their developing bodies from the taunting and leering eyes of their friends. And, before you ask, I was usually among the worst offenders.

Most “socialization” in the public schools seems to teach merely this: those with the fastest punch, the slyest tricks, the snidest attitude or the most expensive clothes are inherently more worthy of attention — be it good or bad. Teachers can do little to nothing about this, aside from sending a particularly unruly child to the principal’s office (which achieves the kid’s goal of getting both attention and out of class) and principals don’t have the time or legal power to do much more than make phone calls to parents too busy to care. And as for the ‘social aspects’ of classwork, most kids learn by second grade to do as little as possible in order to pass. Not to excel, mind you, just pass.

Nevertheless, the Superintendant of the Mason County schools believes he’s doing a service for students by pulling them out of one-on-one home education programs where children learn to work on their own, get along with adults, and take pride in their behavior, their efforts and their accomplishments.

I can only assume that with logic like his, he’s a product of the public school system himself.

September 20th, 2006

My Best Homeschooling Day Yet

by Venomous Kate

Yesterday I mentioned that I signed The Big-Eyed Boy up for Time4Learning after reading about it over at Dreah’s.

Today, I’d barely finished serving breakfast and starting a fire to warm the house (it’s still chilly… hooray!) when the Boy asked if we could “start playing school yet.” Well, dang! I sat him in my chair, booted up the computer, and let him have full control of the mouse.

No, I didn’t get a lot of blogging done and barely responded to any email, but he made it through three lessons in Language Arts, two in Math and one each in Science and Social Studies. And that was just before 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, I had a chance to actually step away from our homeschool corner in the kitchen to squeeze in a workout, do a little cleaning and start pre-sorting financial stuff for our tax returns.

Yee-freaking-hah!

This, I believe, calls for a celebratory martini.

July 16th, 2006

All Our Kids Belong To Them

by Venomous Kate

One of my favorite childhood memories about summer vacation was being totally, 100% in control of my day… unless, of course, my mother had plans for me which, luckily, she seldom did.

Oh, sure, there were days when I was bored beyond belief: neighboring kids were on vacations, it was too hot to play outside, and the 3 channels on television were all playing game shows and soap operas I wasn’t interested in seeing. So I read. One summer I worked my way through the Nancy Drew series which, considering I was only in third grade meant that I was stretching my reading skills. The next school year it showed, too.

Ok, so my mother wasn’t thrilled a few summers later when I found her brand-new copy of Joy of Sex and began asking questions. It disappeared, replaced by a stack of National Geographic magazines which were almost as educational, at least to my sexually curious 12-year-old mind.

Another summer, after my brother set aside the book he’d been reading in favor of chasing girls, I picked up Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern and encountered my first taste of fantasy fiction. It was the beginning of what’s proven to be a lifelong love of reading and a deeply rooted certainty that as long as I have a good book to read I’ll never truly be bored.

Those summers, when I wasn’t reading to fill time, I was writing or learning other things that piqued my curiosity. I churned out (what I believed to be) fascinating short stories and poems, wrote letters to my grandparents and aunties, even dashed off a letter to President Carter complaining about the smog-producing factories on the hillsides near our home. (He personally wrote back, incidentally, which didn’t surprise me at the time but now seems amazing he’d found time for a kid considering all that Cold War stuff going on.) I taught myself how to type on our manual typewriter, began experimenting in the kitchen and finally learned how to cook without almost starting a fire, and, yes, I watched TV… when I wasn’t busy exploring other things… and that was seldom.

Kids these days don’t have those three long summer months to fill anymore. It’s not just the over-abundance of cable programming that’s at fault: the schools themselves are destroying opportunities for kids to develop their own interests. As Lynne explains about her child’s summer vacation:

M is apparently expected to do 75 pages of that math book we received yesterday, read a book, and write a paragraph on each chapter during his “vacation“. Everything is due on the first day of school, and if it’s not, he’ll fail his first report card.

I totally sympathize. Although I homeschool my youngest (who has no idea that other children get 3 months off school each year), my teenager’s still in public school. She started her summer with homework assignments to complete and sports-related training to attend over “the break.” I was fit to be tied.

Even calling it “the break” ticks me off. It implies that the school is doing her a favor by not mandating her attendance but meanwhile still retains authority and control over my daughter while she’s not attending. And, guess what: according to the court system, that’s not merely implied: it’s a legal fact.

All our kids belong to them.

March 16th, 2006

Spoke Too Soon

by Venomous Kate

I should’ve known better than to write two days ago about how well my son had taken to homeschooling. I should’ve known better than to assume I’d continue passing days so richly contented, so permeated with joy. I should’ve known there’d be days like this one.

But I’m damn glad I didn’t know it beforehand.

Today was bitter, starting too soon and ending too late. It was ferocious. I would’ve gladly traded a year of my life not to have had to live through today. But live through it I did, and I can only hope that tomorrow is not nearly as evil.

It started at 7:15 when my son woke up a full two hours earlier than any morning in the past three weeks. He wanted breakfast — now — and refused to wait the 10 minutes it takes me to use the restroom, brush my teeth and find my robe and slippers. In those brief moments, he’d managed to strew Apple Jacks and milk all over the counters, the floor and the inside of the refrigerator. Add in one puppy who also couldn’t wait 10 minutes to do her thing, and you can imagine the swamp of cereal, milk, shit and pee that greeted me when I finally shuffled into the kitchen.

Where I stubbed my toe on my son’s firetruck that he’d forgotten to put away last night.

And I found that we were out of coffee.

But both of these things occurred just as I stepped into a big pile of dog shit which, since I was hopping on one foot while trying to massage my painful stubbed toe, meant that I went skidding across the kitchen floor and landed on my ass. In dog shit. And Apple Jacks.

Two hours later (and, no, nobody died), I’d managed to mostly clean the kitchen floor… or at least had cleaned up anything resembling feces or urine. Then it was time to start our school day… or so I thought. My son, however, had other plans.

He didn’t want to read a story together. He didn’t want to read to me or have me read to him, either. He didn’t want to play with flashcards, play Word Bingo or even play Junior Scrabble. He didn’t want to bang on drums, play with Play Dough or paint. He didn’t want to do anything but watch Scooby Doo.

So I let him.

Then the phone rang. The company from which I rent server space was sold again, which means that all of VenomPages’s clients were down while the new DNS addresses propagated. So I got on the phone with the company just as the damn puppy decided to take yet another dump. This time her target was my purse, which meant the company’s customer service rep got the earful they so richly deserved for having pulled this crap without notice to me. I was mid-stream in an admirable string of profanity when the customer service wench explained they’d sent me an email warning me of the transfer… last week… when my computer was hosed and I was offline.

Shit.

So I sit down to the computer to start restoring my clients’ site and that’s when the Big-Eyed Boy decided he was ready for school.

Now, I’m still new enough to this homeschooling thing that I figured it was better to take him up on his interest right then and there rather than risk alienating him by telling him that Mommy was busy. So I pulled out my notes on today’s science project — making rock candy to demonstrate crystallization, which jives nicely with our language lessons that currently feature the “hard-c” sound. (Get it: candy, cooking, crystal, crunch?)

We’re boiling water and stirring in sugar when a bird — yes, a freaking bird! — flew in the deck door that my cat had managed to push open. Hot sugary water flew all over the stovetop, all over my apron, and almost all over the Big-Eyed Boy but (thanks to the puppy peeing on my son’s firetruck which I’d only managed to kick across the kitchen this morning), the boy had moved out of the danger zone. Nobody was hurt. It was just another mess demanding to be cleaned.

Not that I had time, mind you. I’d just pulled out the 409 and paper towels when the doorbell rang. The DHL delivery dude needed my signature for the three boxes of miscellaneous school supplies I’d ordered two weeks ago. I’d just finished signing that weird electronic tablet thing the use when the puppy — followed by the cat — race out the door and onto the street. Naturally, I raced after them and the DHL dude was kind enough to race after me to provide help. Of course, my son also raced after the two of us, so while I’m hollering at him to get out of the street I’m also managing to scare the crap out of the puppy and cat. I have to say, that DHL dude is fast, because he managed to scoop up both animals and get them back in my front door before my son actually understood what I meant when I shouted: “Get back in the driveway, now!”

By the time we returned to the sugar-encrusted kitchen, ants had already found the mess and called their buddies in for a feast. I probably wouldn’t have minded nearly as much if they were cleaning up the Apple Jacks as well as the dog’s shit and pee that I’d somehow missed under the kitchen table, but they weren’t at all interested in those mundane things. I guess they figure there will be more of those available tomorrow, and they’re probably right.

At that point it was 10:30 a.m. and I was ready to call it a day. I put the puppy in its kennel, locked the cat in my office and bribed my son with his leftover birthday cake while I finished cleaning the kitchen then took a hot shower. Once I was clean again (and realized it was far too early to start drinking martinis), I figured the only way we were all likely to live through the day was by getting out of the house.

So off to Wal-Mart we went. After all, I needed a new purse.

This was our first trip to a public place during standard school hours, a potentially awkward situation that I’d read plenty of warnings about. Had I not been so frazzled already I might’ve noticed if we got any strange looks or passed by any old ladies whispering about truancy and bad examples. As it was, I could only focus on finding a purse that was cheap without looking so.

With that mission accomplished, we still had another 6 hours to fill before 5 o’clock — the Golden Hour when Hubby comes home and takes over parenting duties. So we went to the library, we went to the playground, we went to the grocery store and we went out to lunch. Then it was noon.

Dear God, how could it have only been noon?!!

Feeling sorry for the puppy in its kennel — as well as myself — we returned home to confirm that little leprechauns and house elves do not, in fact, exist. The house was still a mess, as was the puppy who’d managed to roll around in her own poop and emerged from her kennel dripping pee from her ears.

I was hosing off the dog in the backyard when my son strayed too close. I couldn’t resist. I sprayed him head to toe with the hose and he laughed. He laughed! It was the first laugh of the day for either of us, and it was infectious. I sprayed him some more, then I let him capture the hose from me so he could soak me down, too. This went on for at least a half-hour, with the puppy barking happily and dashing between our feet, when we decided that what we really needed was water balloons.

The lady at Dillon’s did her best not to bat an eye when my son and I — our hair still wet, although we’d at least managed to change into dry clothes — tossed six bags of water balloons on the counter. Finally, as she handed over my receipt, she mustered the courage to ask whether it was a school holiday or something.

“Every day is a holiday,” my son replied. “We homeschool!”

She told him that he’s a very lucky boy to be able to go to school at home with his mommy, then wished us well as we left. As for me, I bit my tongue.

If this is a holiday, I hate to think what’s in store for tomorrow.

March 14th, 2006

Well, Since You Asked…

by Venomous Kate

Then: Sometime around the turn of the year when my son was mid-way through kindergarten at public school, I glanced at the calendar and felt a gnawing dread twist in my stomach. Still twinkling in the living room, the Christmas tree stood green and perfect while outside its living counterparts shivered and groaned underneath a caul of ice. But my thoughts weren’t on the bitter temps, the squealing wind, the seemingly endless cloud-gray days. Because I knew they weren’t endless. I knew that eventually summer would come.

I used to wonder when I’d lost that eager anticipation for summer time, when I stopped yearning for the lazy warm mornings, the hours of freedom and leisure. After two years of sending my son off to preschool each morning, summer meant surrendering my life for three long months to cater to him. Summer was the three month-long period in which I didn’t have time to blog, to read, to write, and getting any housework done first required a lengthy negotiation session in which I agreed to play games and buy ice cream in exchange for the privilege of scrubbing pee-drenched toilets. I learned to dread summer, starting right around New Year’s Day, and to see each sunrise as one more step closer to my own armageddon.

But that was then.

This is now: Since we started homeschooling last month, my son and I are around each other just as much now as we usually are during the summer time. But I don’t wake up filled with dread anymore. I don’t find myself wishing his favorite TV show would come on just so I could have 30 minutes to shower, dress and maybe do laundry. The kid who drove me crazy whining and intent on consuming every ounce of my patience is now relaxed, centered, even happy. As am I.

In this, our first month of homeschooling, I have learned both about my son and myself. I have learned how much my little boy and I think alike — both of us are adamant and assertive kinetic learners. (According to my mother, when I started speaking it wasn’t merely a word but a sentence: “I do it myself.” Thirty-eight years later, my attitude has not changed.) We are doing this together, my son and I, and it is working. He seems to have embraced the concept of school at home… at least for this year.

I expected just the opposite.

On our first day as we sat down at our kitchen table for “class”, he got out his pencil and crayons while I silently reminded myself that the key to making this all work was patience and a positive attitude. I expected a red-faced tantrum punctuated by stomps and screams… from both of us. I need not have worried. My son has taken to homeschooling as if he had just been waiting for me to take the first step.

Our days have fallen into a happy pattern, far more leisurely and content than ever before. Now that he can wake at a time of his own choosing, he sleeps later and wakes with a sweet nature I’m only just now beginning to recognize. He likes an hour or so to himself before we start our school day, which means that I now have an hour or more to myself each morning, too. Then, when he’s good and ready, he takes his seat at the table and informs me it’s time to start school. By then, I’m glad to get started, too.

But the most miraculous change is in his behavior. See, I can’t remember the last time he misbehaved. Oh, sure, there are times he wriggles and gets distracted when we’re doing schoolwork, or even the occasional tussle over picking up his toys or going to sleep. But their significance — and intensity — pale in comparison to the fun-filled hours we spend reading and coloring, playing “Word Bingo” with his vocabulary words or “math-facts hopscotch” in the living room to reinforce addition and subtraction skills.

Had you told me a month ago that my son could be such a non-stop joy, that I’d relish every moment of our day and find myself preferring his company to any of my solitary pasttimes, I’d have thought you a liar. Now, I know better.

If I’m dreading summer-time now it’s only because I wonder if we really need a break from all this. According to my boy, the answer is a resounding “NO!” And I think he might have a point.

February 21st, 2006

An Apple For The…Mommy?

by Venomous Kate

Hey, remember me? I purportedly write a blog here, and yet it’s been days since I’ve checked in. There’s a reason, however: We’re officially homeschooling now.

But wait, regular EV readers say, weren’t you going to be starting at the end of the month? Why, yes. That was my plan. Then my son announced Thursday afternoon that he never, ever, ever wanted to go back to school. As luck would have it, that day our new curriculum arrived in the mail.

I’d ordered the 1st Grade series with the plan of letting him “unschool” (or “deschool” or however you want to put it) throughout the month of March. Then, I figured, I’d work with him to help him reach the remainder of the kindergarten learning objectives. By mid-summer, or maybe even this fall, we’d be ready for the 1st grade books I’d purchased.

Once again, my son had other plans.

This morning he announced that he wanted to start school at home with Mommy and brought me the 1st Grade Reading/Phonics workbook I’d left out after I’d looked through it. It didn’t take long to realize that the first six chapters were too easy for him, and by the end of the morning we were working on lessons scheduled well toward the end of first grade. After lunch, the same thing happened with the math books.

No wonder the little guy was bored out of his mind at public school. Luckily, Mom is not compelled to slow down his learning to suit the schedule of 22 other little minds, so I guess we’ll be finishing 1st grade sometime this summer… a year ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, I have absolutely no firm plans for history, science, art or Spanish (his chosen second language), so tonight I’ll be putting together at least a rough outline of objectives and our first few lesson plans.

So, although I thought I’d left behind my years of burning the midnight oil while slaving over a pile of books, I have to say: this is so much more fun!