Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Homeschooling Get Together... and a Barbecue

Forgive me if my post may seem a bit rambling. I'm not at home. We had an impromptu sleepover at my sister's house, after a family barbecue, and instead of going home on two buses, knowing that my kids would obviously fall asleep on both legs of the journey, and not be happy making the trek from one bus to the next, we decided to hunker down for the night here instead. So I could only get started working on this post after my kids went to sleep for the night, and my nephew and niece went to sleep for the night, etc...
You know why we had a barbecue?
Well, my uncle flew in from the US for the first time in a few years to visit our family. He chose the perfect time- he arrived on Thursday, and was supposed to fly home Monday morning.
Guess who's flight never took off because of the lovely "post tropical cyclone Sandy" or whatever it is that they're calling the Frankenstorm these days... Despite needing to be back at work- he directs an emergency room, so of all people, he's needed at work yesterday and today- there was no way for him to fly home, as all the airports in the NY area are underwater, not to mention the bad winds, etc...
So, instead of heading home, he is stuck here. At least he's not stranded in an airport, nor does he have to pay extra hotel fees. More time with family.
So we're making the best of it and enjoying our extra time with our uncle. So, barbecue tonight at my sister's place with the whole family. I took pictures to share with you... only I don't have a way of getting the pictures off my memory card and on to my computer. Oh well.

But part of the reason for this barbecue was because my kids and I were going to be in the area anyhow for a homeschooling get together, my fourth ever.
Now, homeschooling get togethers are an interesting thing.

I've been to get togethers by two completely different groups of people.
One group, closer to my house, has kids 5 and younger, and they all speak the local language, as they're natives to this country. They're very sweet people, and they're naturally inclined, but we have such completely different worldviews that it makes it hard to really connect to them on a personal level. Our values are just completely different.
The other group of homeschoolers are all either Americans or British expats, some new immigrants, and some who have lived here a long, long time. And on the whole, we have the same worldview and values. But for the most part, the one thing they seem to have in common is their children aren't all kids; many of these homeschooling parents have been homeschooling such a long time that their eldest are adults, and older than I am. It is nice to speak to people that have "been there, done that", and can talk to me from experience about how homeschooling really works. The downside to this though, is that as much as I enjoy coming to these events and speaking to these other moms (and occasional dads), my kids are some of the youngest there, and don't really have whom to play with, other than each other.
So that one group, they're too old really to play with those kids, and in this group, no one really initiates playing with them, because they all already know each other and have known each other for years, so aren't going to take the initiative and offer to play with some kids a few years their junior.
I'm not sure how much they enjoyed the trip, other than the fact that the park where the gathering was held was pretty awesome. But I do know that I got a lot out of this get together.

What exactly did I get out of it?

Well, as a homeschooler in a country where there really aren't many homeschoolers, especially in a country where people make it their business to tell you just how wrong they think homeschooling is, and how it'll mess up your kids, its sometimes hard to hold strong and not give in to the peer pressure and "just be normal and send them to school already". Support is so good. And of course, internet support groups are wonderful, but there is nothing like meeting people face to face and getting from them the support in your less than orthodox decisions.

Lately, I've been reading John Holt's book, "Teach Your Own ", a wonderful book that talks all about unschooling, how to do it, why to do it, and the problems with today's schools, etc... Most of what he says resonates with me so much; I've been reading whole sections aloud to Mike, because it is so powerful. I just want to shout out meaningful parts from the rooftops, so that the whole world will see it and understand it... but I realize that most of the world is not on the same page as myself and John Holt, and no matter how much I try to explain my views to them, they simply won't get it/agree.
What views exactly? The views that:
Children are people and deserve to be respected and have their feelings, wishes, and desires taken into consideration (and not in a small way) when making decisions about their lives
Children, and anyone else, can't be forced to do something they don't want to do; that if you try to force someone to do something/learn something they don't want to do, it may appear to work in the short term, but in the long term it backfires and you end up worse than you would have had you not pushed.
That each child is an individual and has his/her own unique path of education and growth, and that they will turn out to be different, and that is ok- they don't need to be forced into a specific mold, and its even ok if your children turn out to be different than you are!

The thing I love about these homeschooling get togethers with the second group of people is that by and large, they're unschoolers. Which means that they and I are on the same page about so many different things in life, not just about homeschooling, or even parenting in general, but also about how we relate to the world at large, and how we are teaching our kids to relate to the world.
It's so refreshing to have a get together with people who are so respectful of one another, so warm and accepting and inviting of people, despite their differences, and I really think the fact that these people are unschoolers plays a big part in their openmindedness and acceptance of people and their different views. (For the record, none of these people are radical unschoolers, nor are most even strict unschoolers. But what they do have is the general view of unschooling as I mentioned above.)

So, despite my friends asking me lately "Penny, now that preschool (from age 3) and up is subsidized by the government, and doesn't cost much money to send to school, aren't you going to send to school and stop homeschooling already?", no, I will not be sending to school at this point in time, because the reasons I homeschool may include some financial benefits, but those are side benefits. The main benefits of homeschooling is because I feel that that is the best way to me to raise them to be the type of accepting, openminded, and loving people I hope they will be, encouraging their strengths, and helping them work on the areas in which they're struggling.

My kids went to day camp this summer. Some friends of mine were totally confused by my choice to send them, thinking that "as homeschoolers, aren't you against sending your kids out and socializing?" Not at all, by any means. I have no problem with my children socializing and having friends, and in fact, I encourage it. I also don't have a problem with them going out. My issue is solely with the structure of school, and the fun of camp has nothing to do with school.

But back to the homeschoolers get together.

Somethings I really enjoyed about it was being able to discuss some issues that people have been bringing up with me about homeschooling in my country. Like the legalities of it, and how to deal with the beaurocracy involved in registering legally as a homeschooling family. But also other issues like how to make sure that my kids pick up the local language, if we speak English at home and socialize mostly with Americans and other English speaking expats.
I also spoke to some teens about what its like to grow up homeschooled, and what their thoughts are on it.
Its very insightful to meet people on the other side, people who are experienced in something that you're just starting out.

But I think perhaps the coolest thing was meeting a really sweet lady, who the first thing she told me, before I even introduced myself, was that she was a fan of my blog. Its really sweet and cool that people recognize me and know about me and my site. :-D Very flattering. ("Hello, you know who you are. ;) )

If you homeschool, do you go to any homeschooling get togethers? Why or why not? If you do, what have you gained from these get togethers?
What are your thoughts on unschooling, and do you think my summary above summarizes the main concepts of unschooling, or not? Do you agree with those views, or not at all?
Have your freinds and family been affected by Sandy? If so, how?

1 comment:

  1. How do you tech your child to print their letters.Daughter is a perfectionist if she doesn't do it perfect first time forget it. Anybody have some ideas.


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