Monday, April 30, 2012

Last Week

This is our last official week of schooling.  I've been so horrible these past few weeks about taking photos and what know, actually maintaining this blog.  We leave for Texas in 11 days.  Starting next week, the boys will start their modified schedule of reading and math (I still have to figure out how to get our math program on the IPad so we can travel with that).  So, I just wanted to pop in real quick and say "Hey" before my days all become a blur.  If you didn't get a chance to read Dave's first post, you should scroll down.  It's a much better read than this :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why I Believe in Home Schooling

This is Dave writing.  I’m late to the game on posting to this blog, so I thought maybe the best place to start would be a little bit about why I think home schooling is important and why I do it.

I work in a public school.  I was a teacher for 5 years for mostly high school seniors (economics and sociology).  I love teaching as well as the school for which I work.  Those subjects are a huge part of my personality and how I see the world.  Currently, I work for the district as a statistician/economist.  So how can somebody as involved and connected to traditional schooling be a home schooler?  Is this not hypocritical? 

As I see it, not really.  The more I taught, and the more I learned about teaching, the more I started to see what kids really need (or don’t need) educationally.  They need a personalized and integrated curriculum.  They need lessons that move at their own pace.  They need lessons that are centered around their interests and strengths.  They need to be treated as individuals.  By its very nature, public education does not do these things very well.

That’s not an insult to public educators.  It’s just that there are limits to what anybody can accomplish when there are 25 unique students in the room.  The limits of public education are as much about the structure of the system as the teachers within it. 

Without getting too far off base, here’s the logic: “public schools” and “public education” are not the same thing.  Public education is a necessity in a free society.  Jefferson, Mann, and others spoke of the need for educated citizens in order to have participatory, representative government.  We all benefit from this, therefore we all should pay.  Hence the basis of public education.  This need not have led to state-run schools, but it did.  And despite all of the arguments in favor or against, or all the philosophy about why we need schools, the only thing that really matters here is how they finally turned out: the factory school.  Factories and mass production were all the rage at the time, and many thought, “why not apply that model to education.”  You know the rest: following a bell schedule, uniforms, conformity, no talking, and most importantly, a large number of students to sit in a class and receive instruction from one teacher, a standardized curriculum for all kids, that changes little, that ignores their unique pace of growth.

Why doesn’t that work so well?  The answer is obvious.  Kids aren’t like “widgets” or steel.  They are not all alike, and therefore we cannot assume that what works for one works for all.  Kids are unique, and what works well for one, won’t for others.  This diversity amongst individuals is the source of innovation and progress.  Kind of strange to design an education system that, despite great intentions, destroys exactly what it claims to build, isn’t it?  Today, our students still sit in classrooms that were designed in the industrial era to generate a largely standardized product and serve interests other than their own.  Think about it: 30 kids, 1 teacher, 1 lesson, controlled curriculum, limited opportunities for expression, and perhaps most ironically, an experience that’s inconsistent with the real world learners will ultimately face. 

I am an individualist.  I want my children to grow into their own unique selves through a rich learning experience.  That simply can’t happen in the modern classroom.  How much attention and customization could my sons actually get? And frankly, my kids are the worst kind for this situation: they don’t get into trouble in school and they don’t get bad grades.  Sounds good, except for the fact that it means they are ignored.  And why should it be otherwise?  Wouldn’t you try to put out the fires and save the sinking ships if you were their teacher?  I emphasize again: at any given moment, the curriculum only speaks to a very narrow range of students in the room. 

At work my goal is to convert mass production education into mass customized education: students receive personalized feedback as to their progress along with recommended learning activities.  As they work on these, the teacher moves from one to the next, giving exactly the instruction that particular student needs.  They face authentic learning and thinking situations, solve real problems, and master the core skills needed for society.  They emerge not as reservoirs of facts and “content,” but as critical thinkers, problems solvers, communicators, and information-users.  If you’re a home schooler reading this, you probably realize that sounds a lot like your day. 

It will take a lifetime to bring this into public schools. Yet here is this incredible opportunity to give it to our children, right now.  And more, not only is their academic education better, but so is their emotional development.  They get to be themselves.  They feel valued.  They have a say in their educational process.  They spend their day being educated by the people that care about them the most.  We can at least give these two kids the opportunities I wish were given to all students.  It’s funny too, because in order to give that education in the public school, it would take a massively complex array of systems, technology, management, tons of resources, and the aforementioned years of work.  Yet to save our own sons, Stephanie and I only need let them stay home to learn more and be more.

I went into education to help children.  Here’s a chance to provide to the two that matter the most to me what I have been working to give to the 3000 my school.  What’s hypocritical about that?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Listen To Your Mother Plug

So, you can read about me here at the Listen to Your Mother site.  The SOLD OUT in a little over a week show will be on Sunday, May 6th at the Biograph Theater in Chicago.  This is the first time Listen to Your Mother will be performed in Chicago and is one of 10 shows nation wide happening this year around Mother's Day. 
I know, you're sad that you couldn't get tickets.  Even though I warned you that they were going to sell out quickly.  You should have acted all Chicken Little like and heeded my warnings - I told you!
Anyway, you can totally still check out the show because they will be recording it and it should be up on the LTYM YouTube channel by the end of May. 
For now, go here and check out the past performances - they are pretty awesome. 
Okay, end shameless plug.

Homeschool Day: Sky High Sports (Naperville)

Every Monday, from 1pm to 2pm, Sky High Sports of Naperville offers an opportunity for homeschooling families to get together and jump!  Sky High Sports, located at 2244 Corporate Lane in Naperville, is an indoor trampoline place that sports trampoline floors and walls, over 50,000 square feet of trampoline fun for your jumping pleasure.


Homeschool Skate: Aurora Skate Center

Every Thursday from 10am until 2pm, the Aurora Skate Center located at 34W113 Montgomery Road in Aurora, offers a skating opportunity to bring homeschooling families together. 

Hanging Head in Shame

Hey! *waving frantically*  I'm still here...we are still here.  We are winding down our homeschooling year right now as in about 2 weeks we will be going on the Mega Field Trip.  We are going to be traveling to Texas by minivan, with my parents, and stopping at "cool places" along the way.  I don't know exactly what these cool places are as of yet, cuz I've been kind of busy with this thing called Listen to Your Mother.  Practicing, reading, re-reading, trying to pace myself while I read to myself in a mirror.  I'm totally relaxed doing it.  I hope to keep that going come this Sunday when we do our final read through prior to the show. 
So - back to homeschooling.  That's the cool thing about homeschooling - Let's Go To Texas!  I couldn't have pulled that off in May if my boys were still in school.  And I totally know that this is going to be educational, have I told you that my dad is a HUGE history geek (I get it from him).  I see a visit to Springfield, Cahokia Mounds, St. Louis, Diamond Fields in Arkansas, The Dr. Pepper Plant in Wacko, The Alamo, Austin, San Antonio and lots and lots of places within and on the way.  I'm super excited about this opportunity for my boys.  I know, KNOW, what this is going to be like for them, I lived trips like this when I was their ages.  When I was Chris's age we traveled cross country in a station wagon visiting various family members and friends.  When I was Cody's age I had already been pretty much all over the US and just returned from a European trip and was gearing up for a trip to New York.  We traveled as a family when I was growing up.  That was so huge for me.  I want that for my boys and that is what this upcoming trip is going to allow them.  To see places they haven't seen, appreciate and enjoy things they otherwise wouldn't get to.
I'm excited!
I'm also distracted right now, so you will have to excuse my lack of updates on our homeschooling journey.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Let Me Tell You!

I think that every drunken argument I've ever been in has started with that statement.  Lucky for you I'm not drunk, nor have been for....well, a long time.  I think a decade.  Whatever, enough about my non-drinking self.  Today was a tough emotional day for me.  One of those draining of mommyness type of days.  As you may have read, I got my heart broken a few weeks back.  Oh, and I should probably warn you that this is one of THOSE OTHER where I don't talk about our week or homeschooling or anything along those lines. 
I'm a fan of taking responsibility for my actions.  It sucks some times, especially when I am in the wrong and have to clear that.  I think that by doing the hard stuff and stepping up and righting wrongs we allow ourselves to grow and learn - it allows constant change to occur, which is a really good thing.  I know that I am so not the person I was like 20, 15 or even 5 years ago.  Because I've moved on, moved forward and grown. 
Today, Cody had to grow and grow in a very hard and difficult way.  But there was really no other way around it, closure was needed.  Closure that would allow him to move on.  He needed to step up and take responsibility for his wrong actions and clean his side of the street - and he did.  I'd like to say I'm proud of him, the circumstances to why this all came about are not allowing me to do that now (doesn't mean that I won't, just not now...still processing).  What I am, though, is pleased.  But, let me tell you, I am still very heart broken.  He's not my little baby anymore.  He's 12.  12 going on like 20 and that is scary as hell for me.  Cutting the apron strings pops into my head, I'm all fine with cutting the apron stings if I was reassured that the tools to which I have equipped him to deal with life were enough.  I question that.  Question where I have gone wrong as his mother, what haven't I done more of.  What he is lacking and desperately trying to fill.  And that filling, those things that he is going after to make himself feel whole, holy shit!  That is what scares me.
Tonight I am resolved with knowing that streets are clean, nothing is hanging over anyone right now and there will be no surprises.  Tonight I want to grab him tight and hug him and reassure him that he is enough and to mend my heart.   

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Break 2012

We were on it, hence the lack of a weekly update.  Here are some photos of what we did, though.  Catch up with you later this week.
Cody had an orthodontist appointment Monday.
I had to work Monday and Tuesday night.
Wednesday, when Dave and I woke up (finally, some time in the afternoon) we decided that we should go hiking.  So, we went out to Starved Rock.  Let me tell you - this is a BIG deal!  Spontaneous decision to travel somewhere that is over an hour away = to big deal in this house.  It was AWESOME!

Thursday we thought it would be cool to go to the Jelly Belly Factory for a tour.  They decided Thursday was a great day to close early for inventory :(   We went to Gurnee Mills, got Cody some much needed pairs of jeans (I still think it would be cheaper to stunt his growth) and went out to dinner.  It was wonderful!
Friday we headed out to The Farm and played word games, decorated eggs, blew out eggs and just hung out.