Beach get-aways, summer camps, lazy pool days and exciting excursions with friends are some of the highlights kids and teenagers experience during the summer. A few precious weeks of summer remain, promising a fun-in-the-sun finale to an incredible 2013 summer vacation!
But alas, we must get down to the gloriously insipid topic of homeschooling! Kidding. "Insipid" means dull or boring, and homeschooling is anything but. Frequently, people will ask me or my siblings questions about homeschooling. Encounters with curious public-schoolers, parents and teachers can lead to some humorous discussions, or downright frightening ones.
Non-homeschoolers often bring up the strangest questions, as their view of us can be skewed or even silly. We've been asked: "How do you get to school?" "Who teaches you?" "How do you make friends?"
We walk to school ... an exhausting 29 steps. Our dog teaches us, which is why we got the smartest breed (Border Collie) in the world; my parents wanted only the best. As for the last one, my sister was once asked this by a friend, to which she responded, "You're my friend, aren't you?"
We answer these questions with a straight face, but inside, we're often in hysterics. Of course, the kids who ask are simply curious, and we understand and can respect that curiosity. My sisters once marveled at a school cafeteria!
Conversations with adults tend to go differently. "What does your normal day look like?" "How do you and your parents decide what you study?"
My normal day looks like this:
7:30 a.m. - Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, feed animals.
8 a.m. - Start school. At the beginning of the school year, we're given a syllabus that lists everything we have to accomplish for us to graduate that grade. I work on my heavier subjects first: math, science, college courses, etc.
Noon - Lunch. This is also combined with unofficial "recess." Normally, we kick back for an hour, go outside or play cards or chess.
1 p.m. - Back to school. I save my lighter subjects for this period: French, reading, history, etc.
4 p.m. - This is when my self-assigned homework time begins. I work on leftover assignments, such as the last few problems in math, unfinished assignments in college courses, etc. I work until I'm done or deadbeat. Whichever comes first.
That's my day. Most days I finish by or before 8 p.m., but other nights I'm "burning the midnight oil," just like any other high school student.
As for what I study, several factors go into answering this question. Let me preface it by saying that everyone learns differently, but whatever the approach, everyone has a unique way of learning. Shouldn't education, then, be unique?
I have requirements to meet, the same as public-schooled children. I have to pay my dues in mathematics, science, reading, history, language and any other state-required subject. I just have a little more freedom.
We can actually tailor my school curriculum to meet my interests, as well as educational requirements. It's a given that I have to take certain subjects, but, within those subjects, we can better control how I learn them. This means choosing the right textbooks for me.
I'm not strong in math or science. I'm a humanities student. Knowing this, my mom and I try to work closely to figure out the best approach to my studies. During 11th grade, I switched algebra textbooks a few times. The first I really liked, but my mom wanted to try a text with a more simplified and step-by-step approach. This worked well for a while, but I found that, for my PSAT and SAT prep, I wasn't getting enough out of it, so I switched again.
I studied 11th grade chemistry using a set of DVD lectures. They met the requirements, and I found that it was certainly better than working out of a textbook, especially because I find science a rather dull subject.
Another example of customizing my studies presents itself as I enter my final year of high school. The university I'd like to attend offers "dual enrollment" courses, so I can take their online courses and start earning college credits, and they also count for my high school requirements. This year, I'll be taking an online math course that lasts sixteen weeks. It will earn me three college credits, and I'll be done with high school math after the course is over, because it also meets homeschool education requirements.
There are some people who worry that homeschoolers simply use homeschooling as a means to ignore education. I mentioned that encounters with inquisitive others can range from humorous to frightening. I've only experienced the "frightening" encounter once.
I was with my grandmother, and she introduced me to a gruff, middle-aged fellow whom we'll call Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith asked where I went to school, to which I responded, "Oh, I'm homeschooled." This commenced my interrogation.
I had never been asked so many questions about my education, nor in a manner as Mr. Smith asked them. He spoke with an intimidating politeness.
What intensified the conversation was that Mr. Smith was a math teacher at a nearby high school. His questions were more intimidating because he presumed to be knowledgeable about homeschooling. Instead of answering his questions about homeschooling, I somehow suddenly became accountable to him for our homeschooling decisions!
"What math will you be studying next year?" To this, I stammered, searching for an intelligent answer. It was terrifying being asked about my weakest link by someone for whom it's their strongest!
"What are your plans for your future?" (Spoken as if I had a grim one.) I told him I want to be a filmmaker. He scoffed, informing me of the industry's lack of stability. I told him I'm aware of the risks, but what is passion without them?
"I know many homeschoolers, and most seem to use homeschooling as a way to skirt education," he said. A low blow, if you ask me, insinuating that I perhaps was part of that stigma. I explained that I go through a third-party accreditation agency, and assured him "I'm doing all the work your students are doing."
Another stigma homeschoolers have to deal with is that of socialization. Yes, we poor creatures, deprived of sitting in a classroom for six hours while being taught the same regimented studies as millions of others across America, and playing the dog to Pavlov's bell ...
Sign me up! I'm sure I could be more socialized in that environment!
That, however, is for a different day.