by Mary and Michael Leppert
by Guest Editor, Michael Leppert
Sometimes homeschooling reminds me of dieting. There are so many choices that one can easily become confused, self-doubting and even disheartened at attempting to be successful. I know a number of people who have tried every reasonable diet regimen known to Man, at first trying to make the person fit the program – Weight Watchers®, Pritikin®, Atkins®, Zone, Grapefruit juice, high protein, low fat, no-fat, low carb, high carb . . . and finally developing a customized version of one’s very own regimen after much dieting experience, because too much protein can cause problems, too many carbs make you feel tired . . . the choices are many, but it still comes down to having to get through the Day 5 or 6 hump that stands between successful change for the future and falling back into one’s former, unwanted, eating habits.
With homeschooling (the academic portion), a parent has just as many choices, including School-at-home using a boxed curriculum; School-at-home using a Study Guide and procuring one’s own materials from diverse sources; Absolute, Strict Unschooling; Eclectic Unschooling-sort-of; Unschooling-but-we-really-need to cover-higher-math . . . and hundreds of variations upon all of those possibilities. With homeschooling, like dieting, you may begin by trying to make the person fit the program, i.e., conveyor-belt institutional-school style. If you can stand the neurotic onslaught brought about by all of this weighing and measuring – 50 minutes for reading; a 10-minute break and then 50 minutes of spelling; etc., your child will probably be finished with 12 grades by the end of your third year of homeschooling. This may be suitable for a few families, (I have heard myths about families who did school-at-home for their entire experience) but most of us who begin such an approach soon fall off of the wagon – the program -- and then spend much time trying to get back on it . . . feeling guilty as we don’t. It takes a long, long time for some of us to question whether the wagon is worth riding; is it taking us to a destination we actually desire or need? At this point, the homeschooling parent is gaining enough personal experience to realize that the program should fit the child/family.
Now, a bit of relaxed unschooling creeps in, maybe (the equivalent of adjusting the balance between protein and carbs). The parent sees the wisdom in letting the child "run" with his/her day once in awhile, spending hours just doing whatever comes to mind. No planned academics, no schedule, no weighing or measuring, no judgment, just pure being. (I have found that after weeks of strict dieting and reaching a sticking point, I could lose another 3 pounds by eating a huge piece of chocolate cake and loving it!) During such a "free" period, if your child spends time exploring the world of insects, the nighttime sky, drawing or music, then your academic regimen had better include lots of time spent in these endeavors . . . at least as long as interest is there. Some children have an early interest become a lifelong passion and an occupation; others experience varying interests for a time and then move through one to another.
A key difference, of course, between dieting and rearing a knowledgeable, well-rounded child is that the diet may have a goal weight in mind. Most diets try to bring the dieter to a specific weight – healthy or not – while other regimens have a complete state of well-being as the goal. This is a much subtler achievement and is similar to a parent’s in raising a well-adjusted, living being who knows things and can learn more. We may not know if we achieved the full "goal" until many years later. So, the point is to keep from becoming disheartened, discouraged, and trying to judge one’s performance to the point of distraction – or destruction. If you seem to be "failing" at homeschooling, take a fresh look at your goal, remembering that it is a very subtle one. Is your child thriving in the "person" areas of life and only struggling with one or two academic areas? Take heart. He’ll be forgiven for not knowing how to spell "receive" or not knowing how to find the area of an isosceles triangle without a math book. And, of course, some of this information can be looked up each time one needs it. In closing, since we all know that calories don’t count if someone else invites you to eat them – I say, "It’s time for some chocolate cake!"
In This Issue:
We have another great line-up of offerings from our regular columnists – Diane Flynn Keith; Marc Porter Zasada; Cyndy Rodgers; Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis & Victoria Kindle-Hodson; Erin Chianese; Laurisa Reyes; Michele Hastings; Alison McKee; Diedre Wachbrit and Jeffrey Shutterbug. Also, this issue has some great features including two articles on handwriting; a new vaccine article reprinted from The National Journal – "Beating the Mercury Menace"; Part 2 of 50 Fantastic Websites; Income Opportunities for Homeschooling Families; Making a Yearbook; Reexamining the Role of Art; "Starting a Home Business," reprinted from Countryside Magazine; another thought-provoking article by Dr. Rene Fuller; Donna Simmons’ the Waldorf approach to Science; and our usual array of Messages From our Advertisers and The Link Reviews of some useful products for your consideration. We hope you enjoy reading! – M.L.
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