Open thread Friday + Saturday

Published by Lori Pickert on January 2, 2009 at 03:18 PM

Well, I meant to get this open thread up early this morning, but as usual, I’m running a bit slow.

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope the year is wonderful and brings exciting adventures!

Here’s a great quote to get us started:

We need to see ourselves as explorers of learning. We are all trying to understand and learn together … While we are talking about all this, we are creating our own culture. — Karen Haigh


Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 2, 2009 at 05:10 PM

I think everyone is slow this morning! I'll start.

Taking that quote, I'm very curious how all of you explain to your family, friends, etc. why you feel the need to create your own culture and if they "get it" or not. We're starting homeschooling our youngest and need to tell the family. But they're so locked into traditional schooling that we're not sure how to explain our decision in a way that will resonate with them. Ideas?

Comment by estea on January 2, 2009 at 08:08 PM

hey there fruit loop - hope you're enjoying your fresh start :)

ok, her books look VERY interesting. must investigate further...

the most exciting part of learning to work with my kids in the project-based way is uncovering what our *new culture* might look like. particularly meaningful is "We are all trying to understand and learn together" - - - in order to co-learn i *must* respect my kids' way of thinking, have to observe carefully. i've always paid this idea lip-service? i guess? but now i realize how little i observed and respected their thinking, their own paths, meeting them *where they are* instead of where i think they should be...

anyway, i guess this is just a big smooch to you. thanks.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 2, 2009 at 08:54 PM

sarah, i’m very curious about how other people will answer your question.

for myself, mm, i have a long history of going my own way. self-employed, started my own business, started a private school, build a house that looks like a barn. really, people don’t even react anymore at the things we do. ;^)

what i’ve found is that it is eminently doable to form your own community around the core of your own priorities, values, and interests. it takes an effort, sure, but it is very, very doable.

re: explaining to your family .. i hope we can gather some good advice for you!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 2, 2009 at 08:58 PM

estea, yes .. it’s one of those things we say (esp. professional educators) that starts to mean nothing. when you *really* do it, you realize how powerful it is.

i think it’s a big struggle for some parents, let alone teachers, to let go of control for even a small amount of time and pay true attention to what children are doing on their own. there’s this feeling that if you let go of the reins even briefly, you’ll lose control completely.

thank you for the smooch! ;^)

Comment by Dawn on January 3, 2009 at 12:56 AM

A few thoughts…
“creating our own culture”…I have been thinking about homeschooling as a word(s). To both those within the community and the outsider it defines a culture in many ways. It is any easy way to tell people that you are not putting your kids in school but I am having a hard time identifying with the words... home and school together. I do not aim to recreate school at home... many of my ideas would fall under the unschool umbrella….but I am beginning to see that my big issue lies with the word school associated with what I hope to create here within our family. So what do I call us? Life Learners? Anyone else have ideas on this?

From Sarah’s comment: “how to explain our decision in a way that will resonate with them”
I finally had a break through with my in-laws. It was mainly around the idea that school is not what it used to be. They both had what they define as “great educations when the California school system was the best”. Finally I got to them when I recounted the ways education has changed over the years. Not that it really matters to me, there has never really been a time when I would have wanted to go to school, but it was something that resonated with them.

They are also very creative people (music and art) so I touched on the idea that time spent doing all of the things that other people think is important is time away from the development of creative passions. This also hit home with them.

I have been talking about learning at home for years and I think they are finally more open to the discussion because we are actually school age so talk is now action!
They still think that it will be a temporary thing for us – just by the comments they make – but at least now they are a little more supportive at the moment. Hopefully time will provide them with some peace of mind that our kids are going to be great *despite* being *taught* at home.
Just some thoughts! Sorry so long…

Comment by Stephanie on January 3, 2009 at 03:09 AM

Educated, open-minded discussions, book recommendations, and, like Dawn said above, time - especially time, all helped in dealing with family concerns about homeschooling. They still never fully accepted it, though. And eventually I came to be at peace with that.

I've followed your blog off and on for a while now, and I wish you the best of luck Sarah.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 3, 2009 at 04:20 AM

dawn, i love your angle with the in-laws .. excellent.

re: homeschooling as a word .. i wrote something about this somewhere in the comments the other day. i think “unschooling” doesn’t really mean anything (since so many people are doing different things) .. and it is so negative and still mentions school! i just keep “homeschooling” and define it for myself. but i understand what you are saying, for sure.

your thoughts were wonderful .. thank you so much for sharing!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 3, 2009 at 04:24 AM

stephanie .. a great point that they may *never* change their minds and you may need to be at peace with that. some of us (aHEM) have a hard time letting go of a discussion until our opponent (!) concedes our point. ;^)

Comment by Alice on January 3, 2009 at 11:22 AM

>a great point that they may *never* change their minds and you may need to >be at peace with that

That is so true. I learnt this one the hard way after many hours in bitter conversations where each party backed further and further into their own corner/opion. Evidently some people feel challenged when we make choices different to their own - if we choose homeschooling then some will feel that as a criticism of regular schooling. Obviously I have a critical view of regular schooling if I am choosing homeschooling but is there any point in discussing it with someone who is feeling defensive about their own choice of regular schooling?

My daughter is still happy in school, so homeschooling hasn't been brought up for public discussion, yet:) I think I would find it hard finding arguements that would "resonate" with my family but I will try and come up with something. Otherwise I will just stick to "I feel that this is the best choice for our family".


Comment by Dawn on January 3, 2009 at 03:13 PM

"Evidently some people feel challenged when we make choices different to their own" - Alice
I have found this to be so true with my in-laws. From the very first moment they found out I was PG with our daughter all of our choices have been viewed as an evaluation of THEIR parenting. It is very difficult to create your own family culture when those close to you see anything you do different as a slam to the way they raised their own kids! Especially when one of those kids is your husband.
Thank you Stephanie for mentioning coming to peace with it... I have recently been able to take what they say with a grain of salt (most of the time)... taking away only the things that I feel will enhance our learning.
They are such creative people and giving in so many ways. They would be wonderful resources for the kids learning if they were more open to the process. I will just keep the dialog open...

Comment by Cathy T on January 3, 2009 at 03:18 PM

I love these open threads. We've been homeschooling forever (oldest is 14, youngest is 2) and some of my in-laws accept and are very open to hsing, others were more accepting when the kids were younger. BUT, along the way, my husband and I have grown stronger in our convictions that hsing is the best option for our family and have decided it doesn't matter what popular culture and family think, as long as it works for our children and for us. The kids are learning and they are (usually) happy in their pursuits....

What I have noticed over the years is that homeschooling doesn't work when one of the parents isn't totally accepting of it and the culture or if one person cares what the outside world thinks of them. Stand tall and proud and the world will respect you and your choice. And what works one year may not work another year!

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 3, 2009 at 03:26 PM

There are some really good suggestions here. I'm okay with them not being all rah-rah about the idea so long as I have gotten us to a place where they will let it go and not go down the rabbit hole of endless discussion and arguing. I can be one who is reluctant to end a discussion (just ask my husband!) and my FIL is even worse about it than I am. I'm hoping something makes the lightbulb go on enough that he lets it go.

Thanks so much!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 3, 2009 at 04:49 PM

choosing to homeschool means choosing to take the less-traveled-by path, and we are *working* to find the right way for ourselves.

it’s not exactly the best time to be fielding aggressive questions from family and friends who feel defensive about their own choices.

often, we’re not even sure of what we’re doing, as we sort through our choices and try different methods and approaches on for size. we’re hardly ready to stand up and go to battle for homeschoolers everywhere!

with time comes, hopefully, real confidence that you’re on the right path, and then you become (hopefully!) more immune to well-meaning attacks.

in the meantime, how about: “i am happy that you found a solution that worked well for you and your family, and i’m really happy that i have the freedom and opportunity to figure out what’s best for us.”

Comment by Barbara on January 3, 2009 at 06:27 PM

Oh goodness, this came up for the first time on a road trip from maine to boston when i was six months pregnant and was getting the great parenting inquisition. I should have just kept my eyes on the scenery and my mouth shut. I have since learned that confidence is key, as is keeping it short and sweet. The proof really is in the pudding, and if others can't get past their close.minedness, ultimately, it's their loss. Just stay positive and 'be the change'. :-)

Comment by Dawn on January 3, 2009 at 07:21 PM

Lori, Thanks for your thoughts on defining homeschooling for yourself. How true that this is not the best time to defend choices...while you are knee deep in the process.

Comment by Kit on January 3, 2009 at 08:49 PM

Lori, this is such an interesting discussion. We have not homeschooled our children, but have (so far) had them in both public schools and now in a private school. I have always been interested in homeschooling, and in fact, taught Spanish for many years to homeschooled high schoolers. Man, were those kids self-possessed, self-motivated and fun to teach!
I mainly came by to say thanks for your comment on my blog...but I'm so glad to see what is going on here. I will be back to read more! Thanks!

Comment by Sam on January 3, 2009 at 10:12 PM

Finally made it to an open thread! Yay!

"I have been thinking about homeschooling as a word(s)" - Dawn

In the UK, we use the term Home Educating, which removes the word school completely. However, less is known about home educating/ home schooling, so people seem to assume we stay at HOME all day, every day, recreating school exactly, just for one person. Not suprisingly, I'm often greeted with shock/horror when I tell them we home educate :-)

Can I ask a different question?
My eldest son (age 8) has recently developed an interest in World War 1 and 2 and is always asking me questions. I have tried not to answer them myself, and encourage him to look in the library, but he does not want to get a book to find the answers.

Where do I go from here?


Comment by Lori Pickert on January 4, 2009 at 01:10 AM

barbara, that’s a great attitude and excellent advice. :^)

dawn, lol, yes -- knee deep is the perfect way to put it! ;^)

kit, thank you! and i’m glad you’ve had such positive experiences with homeschoolers. :^) although i homeschool, i used to teach using the same techniques at a small private school. i’m most interested in how to support children in learning independently, whether at home (where i happen to think it’s much more easily accomplished) or at school (more rare, but possible!).

sam, i get the same attitude from people, mostly older relatives -- they say, “well, *you* can’t do that, because you’ll be home busy teaching the boys.” they have a very hard time wrapping their head around the concept of the boys teaching themselves. ;^)

re: world war I, that’s a tough one. my 12yo was very interested in world war I back when he was about the same age, and he tried to find books at the library but most of them were meant for adult readers. he *really* wanted to read certain books that were just too graphic for him.

just on the general topic of “he doesn’t want to get a book to find answers”, i would just keep saying, “where should we look for that?” if he suggests the internet, you can search with (the kid-friendly version of yahoo, although it isn’t *always* 100% kid-friendly in my experience). if he doesn’t want to look for a book, well .. natural consequences! you might remind him that the library also has films .. he might find a tv show on tape (history channel, nova, etc.) that would interest him. but in general, i would just sit tight and let him absorb the fact that if he wants to learn about it, he needs to get up and figure out where to look. ;^)

Comment by Sam on January 4, 2009 at 01:21 AM

"just sit tight...if he wants to learn about it, he needs to get up and figure out where to look." -Lori

I suppose that's the key - if he wants to know more, he'll find a way of learning about it.

That's the scary part for me. I've "mastered" stepping back, and letting them explore their own interests. Now I have to wait for them to want more.

I need to dive back into your blog - I'm working backwards, lol.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 4, 2009 at 02:26 AM

think of it like a parent teaching a child to drive the wagon on the farm a hundred years ago. you say “you can do it” and maybe they say “no, no” and try to hand the reins back to you. ;^) but you put your hands over theirs, then you take your hands away. and you trust that they really can do it.

it *is* scary .. which i why i believe you have to really accept that this requires as much of you as it does for your child. you are in it with them, facing your own fears about being in charge of *your* own learning.

i do think there is a time to step in, wonder aloud, make a gentle suggestion, remind a child of a plan they had voiced awhile ago .. but if they simply balk at doing their own work .. then i would try to wait them out. ;^)

Comment by jen on January 4, 2009 at 02:39 AM

I'm very new here, but I love this thread and all of the questions/answers!

Sarah, one of the things that I think has helped some of my family (full of PS teachers) come to terms with homeschooling was when I politely but firmly and confidently said something like, "I don't really have all of the answers, but this is what I know we are supposed to do right now." Then I updated them, as they wanted to know, how things were going, sharing the good and the bad. There's been so little bad to share and some really, really good to share that as I believe someone else said the proof is in the pudding. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 4, 2009 at 05:05 AM

thank you, jen! i hope you come back. ;^)

admitting you don’t have all the answers seems to me a great, honest way to deal with questions .. because then you can end the conversation! lol

Comment by Dawn on January 4, 2009 at 01:51 PM

Sam about World Wars... I taught high school World History for two years (even though my credential was in Health and Physical Education - but that is another story!) I had great success with my students making books and timelines.
One of the things we started with was a KWL chart. Start with three columns.
What do we KNOW? (Later this can be marked it on the timeline - draw a picture to go with it maybe.)
What do we WANT to know?
What did we LEARN? This "LEARN" section is great to see if you reserached everything you WANTED to know about.
We kept this chart up through the whole unit. Students came back to add things and mark down what we learned. It was a great visual to get them into the unit and coming up with new ideas... (We did this with all of our units and the kids got really good at it)
Toward the end of the unit I had the students pick some part of the conflict - battle, or personal story, etc.. to make a small board book. They started with the blank book and made the story - historically acurate - and drew the pictures. They were great about looking stuff up to make sure their story was right and find pictures they could use. I let the ones that were held up with the art work cut and paste pictures as long as they gave credit to the artist/photographer.
Another thing: Games. There are many board games out there based on the WW's. One of these might be an entry point for him to want to learn more. The more you know the more "fun" it is to play the game. They usually have lots of maps and visuals.
I have a family of historians and board game players.... I personally don't like the war games but my husband and his brother have been playing them since they were kids. They know more than I could ever imagine about those time periods in history. I know those games were a spring board for their interest over the years.
Hope this gives you some ideas!

Comment by Deirdre on January 5, 2009 at 05:05 PM

It's Monday here, so I'm not sure the thread is still usual I'm a bit late, but enjoyed all the thoughts here.

I'm not fond of the term "homeschooling" either, but love the term educating as someone posted. I'm hoping to use the term "self-educating" to describe what we are aiming for, becaues we are doing these things both within a public school (at least for now) and at home and everywhere we go.

And ultimately that is what I want for my sons---to be self-educated men who know how to follow their passions and how to learn anything they want.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 5, 2009 at 05:39 PM

deirdre, mm, i like that term, too. especially since the *way* i “homeschool” is to work toward having the boys teach themselves.

you and i have the same goal, about our little men. :^)

Comment by Sam on January 5, 2009 at 11:52 PM

Lori - you are so right, I have got into the habit of answering Buzz's questions when I should have been encouraging his own thinking. New year, new habits...eventually. I shall also try to do that with my younger son, before we get into more bad habits :-)

Dawn - thank you, you have given me so many ideas. Buzz became interested in the wars thanks to games, so that and DVD's would be a good place for him to start answering his own questions.

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