A few quick words

Today we escaped the heat by meeting two other homeschooling families at a local indoor playground, and we all had a great time. Besides meeting a bunch of new friends, I actually ran into a former classmate from sixth grade – who also happens to be a homeschooler – and the director of the dance school Kiki was at for five years.

It might have been a little awkward, since this is the first year that she isn’t taking any classes at that dance school. So after our small talk, I just talked about how Kiki wanted to try so many different things this year and how we’re making a big shift to homeschooling, too. She offered some supportive words and then said, “If you don’t mind my asking, I’m curious about why you’re homeschooling.”

I’ve heard this a few times, and I’ve had many, many mental conversations about it. Most of my explanations are way too long, and I started off that way: “Oh, it was a lot of little things, you know … there was no big bad experience…” blah, blah. But then the best summary I’ve given so far came out of my mouth:

“I’m tired of trying to make her change to fit in when there’s nothing wrong with her in the first place.”

Something clicked in my head at that point – and I’m pretty sure I saw the dance teacher’s face change, too, like she got it. After all, she has been acquainted with Kiki and her quirks for five years. And it really sums up a lot of what has been brewing in my head for the last three or so years now.

So there you go – my very own “why” in 25 words or less.

The mission statement

Let me just say now that I feel so fortunate that I’m able to do this homeschooling thing. The more I learn about it and all the opportunities within driving distance of here (not to mention on the Internet), the more convinced I am that this is the right thing for Kiki – and not just for this year. But we’ll hold on making a verdict for awhile yet.

Planning and organizing our space has kept me busy, and The Boo has kept me from being online long enough to post. I have been working behind the scenes, though. While making decisions about what to study and which curricula to invest in, I found myself waffling a lot between several options that all sounded too good to pass up.

What has helped me a lot was writing out our family’s specific goals for Kiki for this year, including an all-encompassing mission statement. In thinking about these and getting them down on paper (well, on the computer), I’ve realized that I’m not as worried about following the standards set by public schools or even in books like What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know (which was one of my first purchases, just for the record). I’m more concerned with opening her mind to round-the-clock, out-in-the-world learning and helping her find something she’s passionate about.

(Sounds almost like unschooling, but my philosophy isn’t quite THAT relaxed.)

So instead of following a checklist of topics to be covered and skills to be mastered that has been provided by our school district – or by the Common Core standards – here’s what The Headmaster and I have come up with (sorry in advance for some of the corny sentiments):

As (Kiki’s) parents and primary educators, we pledge to help her love learning and motivate her to explore things she’s interested in on her own. We want her to feel the satisfaction of an answer found and a problem solved. We want her to feel more confident in her role as daughter, sister, friend, etc., and make her realize that being a student is something she will never outgrow – and that the world is her classroom.

Between now and the beginning of next summer, we would like her to:

  • Express herself more confidently in writing and drawing in a variety of media, from pencil and paper to computer to paint and other arts materials.

  • Make reading a daily ritual she looks forward to, whether it be aloud with the family or by herself.

  • Be aware of history and why we study it – as well as gaining exposure to some of the major ancient civilizations and their contributions to our lives today through literature, art and other means.

  • Learn that history is ongoing by keeping up with current events and learning how we fit into the world (geographically, culturally, etc.). Along the same lines, learn about her own family history and how our predecessors got us to where we are today through research that includes firsthand accounts from living family members.

  • Have a deeper understanding and an increased facility with math concepts that she has only so far touched upon at school.

  • Learn about the different branches of science – and how they relate to topics she’s interested in (ie. chemistry in cosmetics).

  • Explore some activities that she has expressed in interest in: trapeze, diving, music, photography, videography, computer game programming, anime/manga, theater, etc.

  • Gain an appreciation for music and learn the basics of singing and piano playing.

  • Learn to play non-electronic games (not just the written rules, but also the unspoken rules of conduct).

  • Enjoy learning to the point where she pursues her own learning goals because of her own personal interests. While her parents/teachers will need to guide her somewhat, we want to foster her ability to take her own initiative.

  • Look back on her past year of homeschooling as a positive experience with pleasant memories.

Yeah, some of this is basic stuff – and more general than most educators’ goals. It’s a start, though, and our personal list adds specific plans and methods for working toward these goals. Also, this isn’t set in stone. In rereading this list for this post, I just realized that we forgot to put in a physical fitness goal, and that’s something we definitely wanted to cover.

More and more, I’m learning that flexibility is going to be a good thing.