Things I Want To Shout From The Rooftops!

My homeschool philosophy or
Things I want to shout from the rooftops or
Things I seem to say over and over….by Kim McIntyre

1. If you’ve decided to embark on the homeschool journey, good for you! If YOU call yourself a homeschooler, I will too. Who am I to say otherwise? And being a homeschooler does NOT mean I am anti other schooling. Thank goodness we have choices.

2. There is no right or perfect way to do it. There are tons of methods, resources, curricula etc. Chances are what works for one kid won’t work for another. (Maybe even the other kids in your family!) Thankfully, whatever you choose only has to work for your kid. And it only has to work today. It might not work tomorrow and that’s okay because there are tons of methods, resources, curricula, etc.

3. Kids learn ALL the time. Even if it doesn’t really look like it. Even if it doesn’t look like you want it to. Kids often learn in spite of us. Kids’ learning often looks a lot like play and like a lot of fun. Join in! You just might learn a thing or two.

4. You WILL miss things! It’s impossible to teach EVERYTHING. Instead focus on basics (reading, writing & arithmetic), help them figure out their learning style, how to find information and to think critically. Hopefully, you can demonstrate that even adults still need and want to learn things. Hopefully, they will LOVE learning. There is no rush! They have their entire life.

5. High school is just a continuation of what you’ve been doing. Or maybe you are just starting…if so, good for you (see #1)! In some ways it is easier because the kids already know the basics and can clearly express their interests and preferences. (Oops, sometimes that makes it harder!) It’s really great when they can drive themselves to lessons, classes, and activities. You CAN give them a diploma and transcripts (the important part) are not that hard!

6. Going to college is no more of a challenge for homeschooled students than any others. Colleges have DECADES of experience with homeschoolers! Research and prepare but DO NOT WORRY!

7. Savor this moment because it will not last. If it’s a bad one, it will soon pass. If it’s a good one, it will soon pass. Be kind to your kids. Be kind to yourself. It’s a journey…don’t forget to look at the scenery along the way.

Kim McIntyre is a veteran homeschooler with 17+ years behind her. Her youngest graduated from home in the spring of 2014. She has two degrees from the University of Michigan. Currently living in Great Falls, MT and substitute teaching. Quirky fact: She has lived in four different states, all beginning with the letter M. Wonder what the other two are? 

This Secular Homeschool Blog Brought to you by Selective Mutism

While looking at my calendar a few days ago, I realized that we are approaching our twelfth homeschool anniversary. According to hallmark.com, I should expect gifts of silk, linen and pearls. I’ll drop a few hints and register at Saks later. First, I want to share the story of how we became a secular homeschooling family:

Twelve years ago, my oldest daughter was in third grade at the local, public school, and she was struggling, but challenges were nothing new to her. Born weighing less than two pounds, she’d already been through a lot. Doctors were honest and straight-forward about her prognosis from the beginning and predicted that, if she lived through birth and then survived the inevitable preemie complications and infections, she would have significant developmental and learning challenges. We didn’t know how severe or what kind, so every milestone she met was a cause for celebration.

Visits from a hospice nurse and an early intervention specialist began the same week she came home from the hospital. She was monitored closely and diagnosed with mild to moderate learning disabilities and developmental delays before her second birthday. As she got older, she was easily frustrated, often anxious and stubbornly resistant to change. During her first year of kindergarten, she developed an unusual coping mechanism: she completely stopped talking at school.

mute

That may not sound particularly alarming, but this wasn’t shyness. And it wasn’t temporary. The following summer, she was formally diagnosed with social phobia and selective mutism, a response to stress that causes someone to involuntarily become mute in overwhelming social situations. Specialists, therapists and developmental interventionists could not get this child to talk. And she didn’t utter a sound at school from the middle of her first year in kindergarten to the end of third grade.

Some resources describe selective mutism as a disorder. Others approach it as an indirect effect of or coping mechanism for a larger disorder like anxiety. Our search for answers was long, frustrating and fruitless. What eventually became apparent to me was that, regardless of what caused the anxiety in the beginning, it was important to remove my daughter from the situation that caused her the most stress (school) in order to allow her to get a proper education and to learn to cope with and overcome her anxiety.

Home education was the answer for us. Initially, I was reluctant. I knew a few homeschooling families, and I didn’t want to be like them. They were church-going rule-followers with traditional family values. I am not. They used religious resources and Biblical study as a guide. I didn’t want that. And I knew no secular homeschooling families. Nonetheless, with her dad’s support, I took what I thought would be a short break from my career in media and dedicated myself to my little girl’s education and well-being.

It was slow going at first. During instruction, my daughter would shut down and stop speaking to me. Then, she’d resume conversation when “school” was over. Eventually, I learned to take cues from her. When she’d stop talking, I’d stop talking, and we’d write notes back and forth until she’d completed her school work. From there, she graduated to whispering when she was unsure of an answer (she was terrified of being wrong.). Then she began talking all the time. Two years later, she was on a stage in front of a crowd reciting lines from Shakespeare as Helen of Troy.

In retrospect, I know I pushed too hard that first year. My naive goal was to get her caught up with her peers in time to put her back in school. One day, it dawned on me that sending her back would likely undo all the hard work we’d done and plunge her back into a silent existence. At that moment, we became a homeschoolers for life.

Rather than overprotecting or sheltering her from the “World of Stress”, I believed that a homeschool environment based on reason and sound observations would allow us to rebuild her confidence, rekindle her sense of curiosity and then gradually reintroduce her to the “World of Possibilities”. Our hard work has paid off.

She is still awkward and uncomfortable in many social situations, but she has learned how to handle herself, make friends, hold conversations, tell jokes and be happy. At the age of 22, she may not know how to drive (yet) but she is learning computer programming and hopes to create her own games and apps. A few years ago, she returned to her old school to meet with and actually speak to her former teachers. Some of us cried. It was amazing to see her come full circle.

Now, I am homeschooling my younger daughter. Although I hesitate to call her typical or average, she has none of her sister’s challenges. They couldn’t be more different. We started this journey to help a silent little girl find her voice, but I continue to homeschool because I’m convinced that I can give my children a better, more realistic and more useful education based on reason. It has been the best parenting decision we ever made.

Natalie West (Guest Post) is a writer in Mississippi.

The Journey of a Christian Secular Homeschooler

Guest post by Jennifer Guise Rahner

 

evolved

Evolution has been defined as the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.  Evolution, in the biological sense, is just one of the matters that separate secular from religious homeschoolers. When my family decided to homeschool last year, evolution quickly became a hot topic in our household.

As our frustrations grew with the public school education of my seventh grade step-daughter, we considered many alternatives, including private school, before committing to homechooling. I’m an expert “googler” and I spent hours upon hours researching before we made the leap. When our dissatisfaction reached the tipping point, and we both felt confident we could do a better job schooling her at home, we decided not to send her back just after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Up until this point I was researching homeschooling methods, pros and cons, deschooling and the like. Once we took the leap, I shifted to delve into curriculum options and local homeschool groups. I was not prepared for what I found.

First, let me tell you just a little about me. I grew up in the Northeast and at one time or another lived in the suburbs of every major metropolitan area between New York and Washington, DC. I attended 13 public schools in as many years and grew up well aware of the differences in educational requirements in different areas. I also developed an open mind but a primarily agnostic view, especially with the rise of the political religious right.

Then I was moved to the area where I now reside with my then-job. I thought I would return to the Northeast again after a few years – in fact, thought it was a career stepping stone to bigger and better things back at home office – but as often happens, things didn’t quite turn out as I’d planned.

Out of the Northeast and in the “Bible Belt”, I started to meet and interact with many more Christians. I finally saw examples of faith that were counter to everything I saw in the media. I saw people motivated by their convictions to help others in need.  My primary example was meeting the man I love – this tall, handsome born and bred South Carolinian who is smart and witty and kind and devoted to his faith. But, unless you bring up that subject with him, he’ll never tell you that or try to ram it down your throat.

I changed, slowly, but honestly it felt more like coming home than changing. I had always craved a name for my belief in that elusive larger something, but was so turned off by the close-mindedness of populist conservative Christians. Getting to know just a few people showed me that you can believe in a Christian faith and be open-minded to all of the possibilities in the world.

Which leads me back to my search for curriculum and community; I had honestly never heard of “God’s Design for Science” and hadn’t a clue what a “Christian worldview” meant. But suddenly, all of my searches for materials to homeschool my step-daughter seemed to lead somewhere we really didn’t want to go.

My family believes that God created the universe and the earth and everything else, but we don’t believe that he did so in seven, 24 hours days. The Bible and scientific fact don’t need to be interpreted as contradictory.  The moral guidance of a Christian faith is taught in our home and church but doesn’t necessarily add value to an Algebra lesson. The local homeschool group requiring the signing of a statement of faith before participating in any activity is certainly succeeding in assuring uniformity of the participants, but does nothing to further the inclusive messages of Jesus that has spoken to my heart.

If you’re here following N.A.S.H., I probably don’t need to tell you that while there are secular resources out there – vendors, freebies, virtual and physical groups of people who want to educate their children with a wide worldview and let them grow and learn and make their own decisions about matters of faith, like I did – they are not easy to find. The most recent data shows that the primary reason for choosing to homeschool is not a desire to provide religious (64%) or moral (77%) instruction but a concern about the environment of other schooling options (91%), according to the National Center for Education Statistics. As this concern grows, so too do the number of families who want to find a central source for secular information.

That is why I’m volunteering my time and energy to the creation of N.A.S.H. I don’t know where this will lead, but working with all of these passionate people to try to build this huge thing from the ground up through our own perseverance is exhilarating. I’m hopeful that one day I’ll be able to point to a vibrant organization that supports homeschoolers who chart their own path, independent of religious beliefs, and say, “I helped to start that.” I really, really believe we’re going to do it.

I’m happy to take on the future role to develop local chapters of N.A.S.H. so that there are secular and local homeschool groups all over the country. There will be no exclusionary statement of faith to be signed before joining. We’ll welcome all who want to learn from each other.

I wouldn’t trade my journey to my religious convictions for anything on this earth, and I want more than anything for our daughter to know all about the world outside our front door and find her faith as she grows. Perhaps she’ll find her way back to the Christian teachings of her youth, or perhaps she’ll find another path that speaks to her heart. Either way, she’ll also know Algebra and Science and World Religions and Art and everything and anything she wants to know on any topic so she can make a place for herself in this world, evolving into a curious, open-minded, loving, and interested adult.

 

 Jennifer Guise Rahner is the Chapter Development Manager for the National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers. In addition to homeschooling her 13 year old stepdaughter, she works full time as a Software Support Specialist and is in the midst of starting a small business handcrafting tutus. Originally from New York she’s now happily settled in western South Carolina with her hunky husband and aforementioned step-daughter in a home their two orange tabby cats allow them to inhabit with them. When not educating, working or volunteering, she likes reading, mountain biking, trapeze, whitewater rafting, and TV shows that feature food.