home education

Homeschooling in the popular culture

Sunday night, the children and I sat down to watch a movie on Hulu since we have no television (and no real interest in football, anyway.)  On the lineup?  Princess, because I’ve had about all the Flipper and Fudge I can take.  The plot doesn’t really matter.  Suffice it to say, she doesn’t get out much, having spent almost her entire life in this castle.  And it doesn’t take long for the writers to invoke our culture’s one great symbol of isolation:

Rumor has it, she was homeschooled.

Being a princess, you sort of automatically think of governesses and tutors, for what sort of princess is properly homeschooled?  But nothing says locked-away-in-a-tower quite like homeschooled, so homeschooled she was.  And seriously, how else would lines like “I don’t socialize much,” and “Can you tell I’m not used to this?” (referring to, uh, having a conversation) make any sense?

Now we homeschool.  Locked away in the west tower, looking out over the kingdom and unable to have any part in it.  I asked my children what they thought about the comment, but the negative undertone passed by them unnoticed.

Of course she was homeschooled, mom.  She doesn’t have time for school with all those mythological monsters to take care of.

So I don’t have to worry about what subliminal messages they are being fed, just yet.  It all makes sense within the context of their own experience and beliefs about what homeschooling is and is not.

But the stereotypes are heavy on my mind as I look around at nearby churches.  It is a long drive in to Lincoln for worship, long enough to negate any real participation in the church community there.  When our commitments are through, I hope to move to a local church where we can be part of an active community.

I’d never really thought about it before.  I know people who have had difficulty in their home churches due to homeschooling, but Lincoln is big enough that it just isn’t that hard to move to another church.  The pickings are slim, out here, and somehow, we’re going to just have to make things work if we want to worship in our own community.

I like the idea of that, but I guess we shall see how it plays out once we begin actually visiting churches.

Thoughts of a secular German homeschooler on the asylum case

The story of how the Romeike’s, a German homeschooling family, was granted asylum by a judge in Tennessee has made quite a few waves, with reports in Time, Education Week, Forbes, The Washington Post, not to mention blogs.  I’ve seen a nearly constant stream of updates in Twitter as yet another circle of people I follow learn the news and pass it on.

Homeschooling, it seems, may have finally been defined as a basic human right as well as a particular social group by an American court.  HSLDA says they took the case partially in hopes of influencing public opinion in Germany.  It certainly has spurred the national debate, with the story hitting major newspapers, television, radio and the German blogs are on fire with the discussion.

I wanted to provide a slightly different perspective on the issue, with the thoughts of a secular German homeschooler/unschooler who currently has children in the German public schools.  The translation is my own.

Thoughts on the Romeikes:

The WDR (Translator’s note: West German Radio, German public broadcasting) holds a team meeting, One of the topics:  The Romeike Family.  The current WDR editor asks whether one can be skeptical of the Christian views.  I, like the conversation partner who spoke with the WDR, think yes, one may.  BUT no one, because of his beliefs or because he represents a minority, should have to leave this country, because enough other families know that things aren’t the best with our own schools.

“Why shouldn’t we allow home education in Germany, where perhaps only a couple thousand would take this option?” were the thoughts posed to the WDR.  The answer came quickly.  The editor said only two words, “If that.”

Yes, if only a few thousand families were to home educate.  If only a third of these did so for Christian reasons.  A strong country should respect its minorities and not suppress them.  Because most Germans love their land and should be supported.  The editor also took these thoughts in his meeting.

I’ve been at “learning at home” for almost six years with my oldest son Manuel, whom many of you know.  For almost two years, he has been learning almost fully alone.  The first years were also arduous:  Considering what needed to be learned, the search for materials, the preparation and follow-up, the learning alongside.  It was also expensive, in two regards:  all the books to buy, supplemental materials, one tinkers, works, holds animals, plants and visits museums and other institutions–everything for education.  And one pays court costs in order to be clear of penalties and fines.  It was also a very beautiful time and it is still now, because Manuel has become an independent, self-possessed young person–like many free learners I have come to know.  Most do it for reasons very different from the Romeikes, the authorities however proceed the same: Fines and penalties and finally comes the youth welfare office, which tries to compel the children to school with threats.

Now my youngest two sons go to school–many of their best friends are unschoolers and homeschoolers.  They go to school, because that is what one does, because they can and are successful and–and because they may learn at home what they do not receive in school.  Without challenge at home, without support for their interests, the education in the school would be insufficient.  I was raised Christian, but am of the opinion that my children should decide for themselves which beliefs they would like to have and was always dissatisfied with the religious instruction in the schools.  Therefore, my sons go to Ethics.  (Translator’s note:  Religious education is compulsory in Germany, generally Protestant in the north and Catholic in the south.)

Today in the school is a participatory concert, a minister will come, he will sing with the children.  In the first two school hours.  Normally in this time, core subjects are taught.  Normally after that,  one of my children has PE, which is canceled for the day; a substitute teacher will keep the children busy.

We must pay 2 Euro per child for the minister’s concert, we received a parent letter which stated that the children of the first grades would participate in the concert as a required event.  We were not asked how we felt about that.

I asked my children if I should ask the teachers what the Ethics children were to do in that time–and whether they would actually like to go.  My younger son gave the answer: “But Mama, we’re singing the songs of Noah’s Ark, we’ve been practicing.  EVERYONE’S going.”  We’re a democratic household, had the boys said they wouldn’t like to go, it would have to be considered how the school could accommodate the children.  So it was naturally also simple, they wanted to participate, so they will participate.

I had no more words after that for the statements of my children, I had to reflect on that.  Clearly, today they have gone there.  It is sure that it will be fun for them.  But I have understood what persuades Christian homeschoolers like the Romeikes to leave this country, although I find it unfortunate.  We still have a constitution, with parental rights and freedom of belief.  I have tried to grant this freedom of belief to my children.  I hold to the law and my children attend a state school, which also has nice aspects, because in that time I can work and have time for my children in the afternoons.

But–today the state, represented by the primary school, determines that my children are required to compensate and accompany a minister for a concert and prior to this, the school successfully proselytised them and taught them subjects of faith without my knowledge.

My children are strong children and tell everything at home and we will talk about it and answer the questions that come up.  But what about the children that have a home where parents do not have this time–because there is too little money and both parents must work all day?  What about the children who may not be able to bring their questions about new beliefs home to their parents?  Does the state really have the responsibility to determine in which Christian beliefs my children should be brought up?

After the Romeike’s asylum proceedings, the state, the schools and the teachers should reflect what their purposes are.  Above all that, while the press explains that Germans have fled to the USA for their freedom of belief and were granted asylum, today Christians, Muslims and children from other religions sat in an elementary school gymnasium and participated in a concert with a minister, the exact contents of which were previously unknown to us parents.

I wish the Romeike family well, and may Germany go thoughtfully into the day…

~Corinna

And indeed, what are the purposes of the state in education? Preparation for a global economy and socialization, the latter of which has significant parallels with the “parallel societies” argument Germany has used to support it’s persecution of homeschooling families.  That is also why I think it is important to get the answer to the ubiquitous question “What about socialization?” right.  We as homeschoolers are held in the middle of our own national conversation and while I do not foresee us seeking asylum abroad any time soon, I do believe how we answer this with friends and strangers may have a greater long term impact than all our legislative efforts.

I am happy to see this has sparked quite a bit of conversation in Germany.  It is one thing to hold that “children should go to school” and quite another to be confronted with the consequences of deciding not to, which at times leads to the decision to face losing your children or fleeing the country.  And while many have tried to make this about religion, Corinna makes it clear that your religious beliefs are irrelevant when the state discovers you are homeschooling.

What do you think about asylum being granted for homeschoolers fleeing Germany?

_________________

Other blogs discussing the decision:

Why Homeschool
RedStateEclectic
The Teacher
The Daily Salty
Babycenter

This is NOT a homeschool room. I don’t WANT a homeschool room.

We now have a homeschool room.  Something I never particularly wanted to have, and a concept I have at times resisted.  But then we bought this house and with it came this little, boxy room with no purpose in all our other plans for the house.

Wouldn’t it be nice to put the bookshelves in there?

We thought, mindful of the overflowing bookshelves crowding the front room and children’s room of our old house.

We could keep all my homeschool supplies in that closet.

We thought, remembering the manipulatives stored under the bed, in the laundry room and in the attic.

Ooh…and a place to keep projects.

We thought, remembering the work laid out on the kitchen table that became a centerpiece for meals.  Because the kitchen table as homeschool classroom doesn’t work so well if the lessons don’t end by dinner time.

And the homeschool room was born.  It is overflowing with books, and the manipulatives are stacked helter skelter in the closet.  Posters are lying on the floor, and my whiteboard is tucked behind a shelf that doesn’t belong in there.  Pull out shelving is planned for the closet to keep my things neat and accessible, but there are many projects in line before that one so the room will have to wait.

As I sort through boxes and try to figure out how to make a temporary home for all this stuff that is not going to be a continual source of frustration until the time and budget allow for the light remodeling, I come to terms with a simple fact.

I never wanted a homeschool room.  In fact, I rather liked our boundary-less homeschool space.  Calling it a homeschool room brings to mind images of lined up desks and children facing forward, though the room would never fit five desks and there’s little chance of them all facing forward at once, anyway.  But all I need is an old analog clock that buzzes hanging on the wall, some fluorescent lighting and the classroom image would be complete.

Oh, and maybe a modern playground just out the window that they never actually get to play on.  That brings back memories.

So I think, “What’s in a word?”  Why does “a place for all my stuff” have to be a “homeschool room” and why does that have to remind me so strongly of a school room?

And I  look at the bookshelves, double stacked with books, thinking of all those boxes still in the garage with books to be unpacked and shelved.  I’m running out of room.  And it dawns on me.  This isn’t a homeschool room.  It’s a library.  A place to go to choose a book, start a project or just stare out a window.  A place for a quiet game, a quick lesson or a needed escape.  A small, homeschool library.

Now I just need to teach the kids to whisper.

Not quite a homeschool room

I’m totally reposting an old post for My 3 Boybarians’ Blog Hop.  Not all that much has changed since the last time I posted on the topic, except that I have a fifth child now. And a kitchen table which is currently buried under their latest project.

First, we have the independent learning center.  This is where children may come to select activities and interact with one another during self-directed, exploratory activities.  Note the purple curtain in the background.  This is actually a sunroom-turned-bedroom and thus has three walls of windows, covered here for intimacy, but opened in the daytime to allow minds to range freely even while bodies are trapped indoors.  Going with the Bringing-the Outdoors-in theme, my children are preparing for a camp out.  Or is it a camp in?

camp out

With only 900 square feet, finding a place to get away is sometimes a challenge.  Here, my daughter has solved the problem beautifully by retreating to the top of her bunk bed.  And pulling up the ladder, which you cannot see in this picture.  She has taken a quiet moment to read a book…at 11 PM!  I think she may be a bit like me.

Reading

Many homeschoolers do the bulk of their teaching at the kitchen table.  We did away with that nuisance long ago and no longer own a kitchen table.  Instead, we use TV trays for just about everything that might pass as school.  Here, the children are playing a nice game of chess.  I love this picture because….well…it just looks so homeschoolerish.  Nevermind that neither of them knew how to play when this picture was taken.  It is all about the image discovery.

chess

With limited space comes creativity, and every room and every piece of furniture does double duty.  Here is an impromptu tea party on my old bed.  And what tea party is complete without a baby dressed as a…actually, I’m not sure what they were thinking.  Their living doll is pretty patient, however.

tea party

Last, but not least, is the center of our homeschooling: the sofa.  And here you can see a little of my philosophy of how to keep toddlers under control while teaching: just give them the same tools and let them play along.  Note the ubiquitous TV tray.  Can’t do school without it.

sewing

As you can see, our school room covers pretty much the entire house.  Nine hundred square feet may be small for a house, but it isn’t bad for a school room.  All that aren’t pictured here are the laundry room because they aren’t allowed in there.  Just LOOK AT WHAT THEY ARE CAPABLE OF and I think you will understand why.  And the kitchen.  For some reason, young children near open flame requires a level of atttention I do not have behind a camera, but if you follow that link, you will see my three year old in her chosen profession which definitely involves the kitchen.

And it is the school room of my dreams because here is where my children are now, building something for their futures that we cannot yet even guess at.

Homeschool poll: How involved are dads in homeschooling?

After the discussion on my last post, I’ve been wondering just how involved the average homeschool father is in homeschooling.  And it looks like the discussion has already begun a bit with Homeschool and Etc., Zimmszoo, and Only Sometimes Clever sharing their thoughts.  So I thought I’d conduct a little poll.  Wholly unscientific, and from which no meaningful conclusions can be drawn, but I’m curious anyway.  For the homeschool fathers out there, how involved are you in the homeschooling of your children?

Dads: How involved are you in homeschooling your children?
I do the homeschooling.
I help with the homeschooling.
She homeschools and I support her 100%.
She homeschools, but I don’t really know what it’s all about.
She homeschools and I wish she didn’t.

Promise Rings

Around here, my husband is very supportive although not directly involved.  Actually, that is part of why we homeschool in a round about way.  As a railroader, he has a crazy schedule, and for those precious few hours when he is both home and awake, we find the family time to be more important than the school time.

Other than being a check on a budget that might otherwise spiral out of control, he has very little to do with any of the educational decisions made.  Not counting the first big one which would be the decision to homeschool in the first place.  I was totally against it, and only consented to teaching kindergarten because I think Playdo is as important as pencils at that age, and the local school district does not necessarily agree.

I began homeschooling knowing full well my daughter would be enrolled at the school in first grade.

From that point on, I’ve pretty much gone on about “my thing.”  And, for the most part, it works.  I’ve never particularly lamented the fact that he doesn’t do math lessons or listen to them read.  I know he trusts me to do my best for the children and (almost as important) I know he won’t say too much about the last order I put in to Amazon.com.

I don’t expect him to take on the role of teacher, nor do I particularly want him to take on the role of principal in our little homeschool.  I could not do this, however, if he weren’t on board.  If I felt like I was continually being compared to the public school.  If I had to keep my doubts and frustrations to myself to keep from adding fuel to the disagreement on how to educate the children.

There are enough people out there who question the decision to homeschool without it coming from my own home.