What can we learn from homeschooling

My blog post for my Educational Psychology class that I'm taking to become certified to teach:

I love and respect teachers. I have many family members who are teachers, friends who are teachers, I myself am in school to become a teacher. And yet, teachers must spend a good percentage of the classroom time on tasks unrelated to teaching or getting to know their students. In the Department of Education 2013 Diary Survey, “Only about 1/3 of teacher time is spent teaching. Around a 1/3 is on planning, preparation and marking. The rest is management, paperwork, and working with pupils or parents.” How is this teacher able to make sure each child is succeeding, not being bullied, is being challenged, and so much more? How do we create a classroom where children's self-esteem and sense of self are not diminished when we have so many other responsibilities? I believe that sense of self is imperative to success in the classroom and believe we, as traditional school teachers, have much to learn from the homeschool community.

I have personally not seen the dip in self-esteem and sense of self in homeschooled children that it often seen in schooled children when they transition from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school. My own daughter started attending a public charter school this year in her sixth grade year. Her teacher more than once commented on her strong sense of self and ability to stand up to her classmates, most of whom had been together since fourth grade. I can provide numerous anecdotes from other families to this affect, though as we know, the plural of anecdote is not data. I do believe that this bears research. What about the traditional schooling model leads to a dip in self-esteem and sense of self?

Three factors are listed in the text as influencing sense of self (Chapter 3, pgs 63-64). The first, succeeding at challenges, is something that is likely to happen for every homeschooled student. The parents are going to create an environment that is challenging without setting the child up for failure. In addition, they have inherent knowledge of the background knowledge of the child as well as what the child needs to be successful in meeting that challenge. As a teacher with a classroom, or several classrooms, of students, it is imperative that we have the same knowledge of each and every child in the class. We then need to create challenges that are appropriate for the child, making sure that every child has the same chance to succeed as the homeschooled child.

The second factor influencing the child's sense of self is other people's behavior. Students are comparing themselves to how other students are doing in the class. The could be doing above average work, but if there are those ahead of them, the student could feel they aren't strong in that subject. There is also the other student's behavior towards them. A child could be ridiculed for myriad reasons, from doing too well in school to not wearing the correct brand of shoes to tripping in the hallway. A homeschooled child does not have many to compare themselves to, and in all honesty, they often will not compare themselves. This child will meet up with peers and talk about what they know about science, for instance. If the other children don't know about that, the child will explain it. The peers are not thought of as less intelligent for their lack of knowledge, only as people who had not yet been exposed to the topic. And if the peers do know about the topic, a discussion surrounding the issue will start. There is no pressure associated with clothing styles, no negative association with physical differences. In that way, socialization of mixed age groups in homeschooling leads to more tolerance of personal differences.
How do we create this in the classroom? Being aware of biases and talking about them is a good start. Follow that with fostering a sense of community within the classroom where collaboration, not competition, is valued. Finally, get the students excited about the material and sharing it with their peers. They are now all one team, working together.

The final factor is membership in a successful group. I believe this is easily accomplished in school or at home. There are sports, 4H, religious groups, just to name a few, that are available regardless of where or how your child schools. Encourage your students to get involved. If they aren't interested in what is offered through the school, be ready with some community opportunities that you know would appeal to them. Get them in touch with another student who is involved with that project, someone who could mentor them or at the very least, share enthusiasm.

But, what about socialization? Teachers often think they have the homeschooled child beat in socialization. Are there actual advantages the traditionally schooled child has over a homeschooled child in terms of socialization? Let's look at the four functions of peers in personal and social development (p 69).

First there are the variety of social skills such as cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Are these available to a homeschooled child? Most certainly. Homeschooling, despite its name, does not typically occur only in the home. There are many group activities and enrichment opportunities where homeschooled students meet up with their peers. Some are academic, such as LEGO Robotics teams or trips to the museum. Others are more social such as park days and potlucks. In all cases, students must work on social skills with their peers and others of different ages. I would argue this is more like the real world than a traditional school where students tend to interact with a more narrow age range of people.

The next two functions, students helping each other and providing companionship and support are again widely present in homeschooling. Homeschooled students often do not think of adults as the only ones with knowledge and therefore will seek out the person who knows about a subject for assistance. There is rarely a time when a student cannot find a competent individual to help them with something they wish to know. Companionship and support are available almost more so than in school because it is likely they can speak with, text, or facetime with their friends at any given time. If they need peer support, it is as close as their phone.

Lastly, directing ways of behaving through peer pressure or peer contagion, I would argue is better handled through homeschooling than through traditional school. It is highly unlikely that a homeschooled child is going to be pressured to adopt behaviors they themselves do not wish to simply because some other students have decided that is how things are done. We are all aware of drugs, unprotected sex, and other risky behaviors that are engaged in by adolescents. While these are certainly not absent in the homeschool community, they are generally lessened. And the positive pressures that peers can put on each other for things such as working hard, treating people kindly, and community service are things that are constantly in a homeschooler's life.

So what is a traditional school teacher to do when they want increase positive peer interactions while minimizing negative ones? Once again, provide opportunities. Students need to work together so they can learn how to negotiate with peers and help each other. They need to find a group to belong to so they can form friendships which will provide support.

And peer contagion? That needs to be minimized through bullying awareness programs for both teachers and students. Awareness that even seemingly neutral behaviors such as hair styles, can be sources of bullying for those who don't conform. Or that obtaining a certain brand of shoes is not possible for all students and can lead to bullying. Knowledge can be very powerful when dealing with issues surrounding sex, drugs, or other risky behaviors. Get your school involved in programs that provide factual, complete knowledge about these topics. When peer contagion is positive, it needs to be encouraged. Getting your class involved in a community service activity so they can bond together and have that group sense of pride, is but one way to make this happen.

I mention all these things, not because I believe everyone should homeschool. That is not practical, nor do most people wish to do that. What we do need is a change the way our schools operate. We as teachers need to learn from the homeschooling community and take what can work in the classroom and integrate it into our schools.  

Top Reasons Why Ebola Pisses Me Off

  1. 1.2 million people die in car accidents in one year – that equates to 3200 traffic deaths every day but no one is freaking out about that.  Nope, we drive ourselves everywhere without a second thought.  But we don't care about driving because NOT driving would be inconvenient.  Going insane about a disease that is likely to infect 1 in 13.3 million people in America this year, that we can do.  
  2. The fact that no one cared about Ebola until someone in the US contracted it.  We are vaguely sad about thousands dying somewhere else in the world but OMG SOMEONE IN THE USA MIGHT HAVE THIS DISEASE, AHHHHHHH! Shut up.  All people matter.  Americans are not more important than others in the world.
  3. That we're all happy that some pharmaceutical giants are working together on an Ebola vaccine, even though it's not really a profitable thing.  For fuck's sake, pharmaceutical companies should already be working together and helping people, not trying to line the pockets of their board members, their investors, their CEOs
  4. This is one small blip in the deaths worldwide each day and yet it is dominating the news.  I suppose it is better than something that belongs in the tabloids, still, it is treated like a tabloid headline story.  Every news source has a new story each day, even if there is nothing to report. Why can't we have a well-reasoned account of this outbreak with the statistics on possibilities of contracting it (not as a vague afterthought either) along with some stories on things that are actually problems to a majority of the population of their viewership.
  5. School districts in Colorado, many states away from the nearest case of Ebola, are spending time and energy sending out informational emails about Ebola.  They have to reassure parents that their kids are safe going to school amid this "crisis."  Good grief!
  6. The incredible stupidity of our populace about anything scientific.  People are ignorant of statistics, p-values, rates of transmission, modes of transmission, graph/chart reading, and even the definition of the words study, data, and theory. What people are good at? Misreading and assuming, creating wild ideas and posting them as facts, half listening and filling in the details with truthiness.  
  7. This.  That people even thought up these crackpot ideas.
  8. The fact that if we were truly worried about this, we would go to those places most affected by the virus and treat the underlying problems that are causing the outbreak.  The WHO says, "The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have very weak health systems, lacking human and infrastructural resources, having only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability."  But instead of trying to help in those countries with the actual problem causing the outbreak, we are trying to come up with a quick-fix vaccine, which probably won't be available where it is needed most, and trying to bar people from our country.  
Now, please don't think I don't have empathy for those who are touched by this disease.  I do.  I think the US's coverage of  and reaction to the problem is biased, selfish, and downright ridiculous.  THAT is what I am railing against.

Cocooned in my own responsibilities

I've been feeling overwhelmed to the point of anxiety.  I can feel the tiny pins and needles shakes going through my body, the fuzzy cobwebs clouding my brain, pushing out any actual thought processes and only allowing me to see whatever is the next crisis.

Last night in bed, I was still whirling with emotions to the point where I couldn't concentrate on my book.  Reading is what I do to fall asleep.  Without reading, there is not sleep.  Without calmng the brain, there is no reading.  I had one sleepless night a week ago, I did not need another.

While my brain spun down its threads of thought, it came up with an analogy.  I am wrapped in a cocoon of needs that are all pulling at me.  One silken thread is picking up the children from robotics, another is the living room that need to be picked up, yet another is that connection with a friend that has slipped because it is difficult to carve out time.  The threads are too numerous to count, but altogether form a web which surrounds me.  Each thread is something I want, something I chose, and yet, there are so many they are smothering me.

I envision crawling out of that cocoon.  I exit it as if I was crawling out of sleeping bag.  I emerge in the woods and, with no one and nothing to connect to me,  All threads are gone, left behind. In my vision, I have a weekend's worth of time with no worries, no responsibilies.  I have only myself to consider.  I am free, if only for a moment.

Yes, I need a vacation.

Now, who wants to pay for that for me? And drive my children all over hell and back while refereeing arguments take care of my children for the duration of said vacation?

Yeah, I didn't think so.  Don't worry, I don't blame you.

Wonderings on a Wednesday


Stella reminded me of Rainbow Brite this morning.  She was not pleased to have her picture taken, can you tell? This is completely unrelated to my blog post in any way.  Ok, well, I mention the children and she is one of the children, but that's it.  Still, it's cute, right? (the correct answer is "yes," even if you don't find it cute at all.  Humor me)

Several things running through my head at the moment.  None are really long enough for a proper blog post so I'm doing a hodgepodge.  A bonus for those with short attention spans, you're welcome! For those without short...oh look a squirrel!

  • I have an evil tooth.  It started hurting pretty good (bad?) this past Saturday.  I got in with the entodontist on Monday who said we could 1) do a rood canal and cap, but that wasn't likely to be a good solution because the cavity is at the gum line, or 2) pull it.  I decided to pull it as I am not enjoying repeated bone infections of the root canal/cap on the other side of my face.  Made an appointment with an office who has an oral surgeon.  Picked them because they were close to home and advertised they can often do extractions on the same day.  Nope, Oct 17th.  So several more weeks of toothache fun.

  • I am awesome.  Yes, after waiting a year for someone to do something about the entertainment center and tv that have been sitting around our house, I moved them outside.  Not only that, I put them on Craigslist's free section.  The billion pound tv is GONE already.  I have my entry way and kitchen space back - yeah me! (what is that saying, if you want something done, do it yourself?)

  • Today I contacted Front Range Community College to get my login worked out so I could see about taking classes.  You see, I'm thinking of taking some accounting classes since playing with numbers and organizing things is fun for me.  As a bonus, I'm good at those things too! I did take an accounting class way back in, say, 1988, but I'm thinking things may have changed a bit since the paper ledgers that we used in that class.  Soooo I logged in and looked at what classes I'd need, even put one in my "cart."  Then I got sticker shock at the $900+ that it would cost for ONE frickin' class and ran away.  Damn.  Well, maybe I'll figure that out another day.

  • Did you notice that it is autumn outside? Well it is here in the northern hemisphere and it is LOVELY.  Ok, the 90 degree days that have cropped up have not been anything remotely lovely, but the changing leaves, the rain, the produce, the smell...ah, autumn, I love you so much.  You will forever be the best time of the year.  One where I can be cool but not cold.  Everything is gorgeously colored.  Stews and soups are back on the menu.  Knitting can be done again without sweating all over your yarn.  And, the best part, we are as far from summer as we can be.  Perfect.  (sorry, summer lovers.  I know you far outnumber me, but I so hate summer.  I know how you feel to lose your favorite season though.  And you are probably dreading winter coming the way I spend spring dreading when summer will rear its ugly head and usher in the non-stop 90+ degree days.  Hold tough, your time will come again.  Unfortunately)

  • School.  So yes, the girls are still homeschooled.  They do a lot of activities besides so we keep running about on a regular basis.  Right now we have quasi school, soccer, violin, Lego robotics, 4H, rabbit shows, and puppet choir.  Soon dog training and dance will start up again, quickly followed by horse bowl and rabbit judging.  But then robotics and soccer will end too.  

  • We've also been doing a schedule for school, chores, practices, etc.  I printed up a spreadsheet of what needs to get done and what's happening each day for each girl.  They are doing pretty well getting the schoolwork part done.  Also doing really well at ignoring the chores section.  Nothing's perfect, right? We'll keep working at it until it works, or we try something else.  

  • While in spreadsheet mode, I also made a menu plan for 1/2 of September and all of October.  I mapped out meals for 5 days a week.  One is a crockpot meal, one involves an egg dish (due to chickens in residence,) and then there are three other meals, at least one of which is something new from one of the many cooking magazines we receive each month.  So far, things have been working out pretty well.  

Alright, well, I probably have more to say but it's time to pick up the urchins from quasischool so off I go!

It's hard to be Stella


Stella: WHY do I have to get dressed just to go to Sandis' soccer game?

Me: Stella, you have to wear clean clothes every day, regardless of where we go or what we do.

Stella: eyeroll with accompanying flounce

time passes....

Stella: MOMMY, you only said to get dressed, now Daddy wants me to comb my hair and brush my teeth!

Me: Stella, these are things you have to do everyday too, even if you don't leave the house.

Stella: WHY?!?

Me: steam coming out of ears

time passes...

Brian: Stella, the chickens want their scraps

Me: I told Stella to check the scrap bucket to see if there was anything in there

Stella: I did check it, you didn't say to take out to them

Brian: Did you think she was asking for educational reasons? Take it out to them

Stella: (in snotty voice, proving she did look at the damn thing) Well, good thing I waited because there is more in there now.  (flounces off)

And now we must leave for soccer.  Only time will tell how today will progress....

Hey, what's up?

Why, oh why, have I not been writing?

I could blame it on the weather.  I hate sitting around in my own sweat.  It makes me want to crawl out of my skin or claw out my eyes.  But that is not the reason because, write or not, the weather is still here.  It changes not one whit depending on how many words I type.

I could blame it on our lifestyle.  Yes, I believe 4H is a lifestyle choice.  Unlike being gay, 4h IS a choice, and one I have chosen for our family.  Along with it comes rabbits and dogs and fairs and shows and auctions and on and on and on.  Not to mention all the book work and preparation that goes along with all of this - training and practices and book work and record keeping, etc.  And then there are the extras that aren't even projects such as rabbit judging, dance, and robotics.

Still, this 4H lifestyle has brought my daughters self-confidence and pride.  A sense of accomplishment.  Not to mention friends.  Yes, I have had two, count them two, completely free weekends this year, but I wouldn't trade it for anything because the girls have grown so much in themselves.

Still, that is no excuse because I have found time to watch some tv.  And writing is infinitely better than television.

Is it work? My messy house? My other hobbies? Not really.

It's a slump.  An Ihavenothingtosay slump. Not exactly writer's block. It's simply that I'm too worn out mentally and physically to see things and think, "I must spin this in a humorous way and put it on my blog," the way I usually do.  Maybe that is writer's block? I don't know.  I only know that the things I have to post are pictures of the fair or rabbits or something rather than fun and entertaining stories.  So, without further ado, here are some lovely pictures.  Enjoy them because that's all I've got right now.

Walking chickens, it's a thing

Did you know that walking your chickens is a thing now.  Totally is.  At least at our house.  And before you ask, the chickens don't mind.  They really don't.  Their tiny brains can only do so much and this falls into the realm of "doesn't scare or hurt us" so they accept it.  Silly things.

First you harness them up

Then you take them for a walk

Or, really, they take you for a walk

When all else fails, carry your chicken

Crazy kids

This is part of the reason why Deanna does not believe chicken are livestock, because my kids do things like this with them.  Well, these chickens are less livestock and more pets-with-benefits.