In the April 2002 issue of Home Rules, Jeanne wrote about her family's 'journey' through the school system and ultimately discovering homeschooling. This is Part 2 of her story.
How did we do it?
In 1989, we started out very simply as far as school work; using Golden Work books and lots of field trips. Any degree of structure was based around the scheduling demands of the two year old. Our lives were far from simple. We gave up the regular salary my husband had and started our own business that fall. Theo had open heart surgery in the first month of our leap into home education. With Tom's flexible schedule and with the kids out of school, we were all able to stay at Ronald Macdonald House together. We juggled our work and family times much more easily when we weren't tied to the comings and goings of the school bus. It was a time of new direction and freedom for our family. We had no regrets about our decisions.
As the kids and their interests grew, we started using the Unit Study approach and since the two older boys were very close in age, it was easy to have them working on the same subjects with just slightly different expectations and using simpler books and methods with the youngest one. When our fourth child was born we prepared a Unit Study for the older boys that focused on pregnancy and infant development. We relaxed about teaching and learning other things for the first few months after he arrived. It seemed important to teach not only about babies but to experience the reality of the impact babies have on routine.
In 1994, when Leigh was home for Grades 7 and 8, we made plans for our biggest Unit Study yet. It was time for the long-awaited construction of an addition to our home and figured we would need all the help we could get. We couldn't continue our home-education routine without including time for this project. We started with the planning and included looking at the history of housing and types of homes around the world. Eventually we got into a bit of architecture and design. Through the winter we fine-tuned our plans and we all worked on the costs and bill of materials. By spring we had everything ready. The kids were taken to the nearby building supplier and each was bought a carpenter's apron and the hammer of their choice. Hammer they did. By the fall we had closed in our two storey, 800 square foot addition and on Valentine's Day we put the last bit of paint on the walls. The motivation to keep them at it was high since the addition was providing individual bedrooms for them and a communal play and storage place for us all! We worked for nearly two years on that project and had an amazing structure to show for it.
Gradually we got back to daily school work routines with the older three scheduled often around the youngest. We kept the kids involved in Cubs and Scouts and music lessons when we could swing it. The only text book I ever bought was a Transition Math book for Grades 7, 8, and 9. It was a wonderful investment (I got the answer book, too!) and both older boys got through it in two years giving them great preparation for Grade 9 Math in school. Theo is using it now.
The Moores' Influence:
When the two older ones were in high school, we focused most of our energy on the learning needs of the next oldest one. Theo had a full recovery from his heart problems. But we discovered that he was not an avid reader and probably would have been "identified" as learning disabled had he been in school. Everything Raymond Moore has said about boys and reading was evident in this child! We focused on other areas - hands-on activities, field trips, museum days, Math and music and drama.
When the announcement came that a new four-lane highway was to be built nearby we decided that following the process would be an exciting thing to do with Theo. He interviewed workers, got a tour of the engineer's trailer and the gravel pit, and made phone calls to contractors to find out when the bridges were going up. At the end of it all we wrote and published a book as a family about the highway (thanks to Dad's professional design and a hired illustrator). It was a great experience for a kid to write and publish a book when he still couldn't read very well!
Theo reads much better now. I suspect he is close to the average for his age. But he does not like to read. He plays violin and has a part-time job in a toy store where he often juggles and rides his unicycle to entertain customers. He is a computer whiz, can fix anything he tries and he has many other interests and talents.
What Have I learned about Education?
There is no question in my mind that individualized home-education is the ideal. At the same time, I have had many days when I feel inadequate and start to panic about what our kids might be missing academically (especially when we have been overwhelmed with real life situations like having a new baby and a dying Grandpa and we had no 'book' work to show for our time and efforts).
We have also had wonderful opportunities to learn together as a family about things going on around us. We have often, by default, focused our 'schooling' on everyday things that show up in front of us, despite our plans to be more strict and better organized. We have used holiday times and family events as opportunities for learning: parties, new baby, weddings, funerals, holiday preparation, renovations, all these real life times. We involved our children in meaningful activities to help in those times and put the books away until the dust settled.
We have discovered how unique each child is and how their education must be planned according to those individual needs and talents. We have learned that it doesn't matter if any particular subject is missing at any particular time. There will always be areas in everyone's education that are different than others in school or out. We have done what we could, what each child will allow and more and more, we have learned to relax!
In retrospect it seems as though this approach is a much better one (read: realistic for us) than letting books and adherence to a curriculum be our guide. We have personalized each of children's education, we have let them teach us, and not let anybody else or anything else control that for us. We have truly 'taught our own'.
I originally wrote these memoirs for my eldest son when his girlfriend asked why we chose to teach our kids at home. There are volumes more I could write. Reading this over it seems much of our time and focus has been on family times and babies. Leigh is a father now and does he know how to look after a baby? He does it all: diapering, rocking, supporting the baby's mother. While he is planning to continue his education for a career, in my mind there is not much he needs to learn that is more important than what he has obviously already learned from his home and family education.
Jeanne Lambert is a mother and grandmother, living in an owner-designed and -built passive solar home in rural Eastern Ontario. She and her husband, Tom Graham, run a Marketing and Communications business, volunteer in their church and community, sing and play music, teach and lead workshops, and generally keep up with the day-to-day demands of a busy home educating family.