A co-worker of mine recently told me that her dad, in his eighties, still parries attacks when people find out he and his wife had 14 biological children. For crying out loud, leave the man alone!
That said, my first comment is that I have collected positive proof that homeschooling is counter-culture. Ergo, if you’re not strong, don’t do it.
In my case, it’s necessary because the boy, my 9 year old step-son, has essentially never been taught. I won’t list the things that he doesn’t know, but I will give you the punch-line. He has never, not once, been taught to think. When I first met him, I was fooled into thinking his laugh was genuine and displayed some amount of discernment. Since he moved in, I have come to the opposite conclusion. His laugh is only, and sadly, a defense mechanism. Somehow “pity” was the overwhelming view taken by the adults in his life. It’s a shame. At 9, he operates at a level that is usually reserved for infants. Consequently, and among afore-posted reasons, I won’t send him into the public school forum with the rest of your kids just so that he can come out “feeling” like he’s really doing it (living as a free man).
Regarding homeschooling, then, here’s a succinct “A day in the life.” (And if you earnestly want any info on the curriculum I use etc., then please email me. I didn’t invent the wheel here.)
After breakfast he does one lesson of Saxon Math, by himself. Well, almost by himself. He is the most undisciplined little fella I’ve ever come across, so I sit and time him on his “math facts” which is always part of Saxon’s “Warm-up”. Then, I stay with him a bit longer because he was missing the “patterns” or “problem solving” Warm-up word problem every day. It’s fascinating to daily observe his inability to recognize a pattern.
Despite never answering one correctly on the first try, every day–every day–he asserts that the word problem is simple. Then he totally misses the entire point of it. My function is merely as a broken record which sings, “Read it again,” until he begins to see that words mean what they mean, and not what he wants them to mean. Every. Single. Day.
Then he moves on to the lesson.
Whether he spends all day or only the one hour I expect it to take, he has to complete the lesson. And he does. Then he shows me the work, and I tell him he can go get the solution book and grade his work, fixing any errant answers along the way.
Next, the goal is for him to write a one-page essay, which I subsequently would edit for spelling/grammar. His English isn’t quite up to this task yet, so I have him copy two-pages worth of material out of something that I think is interesting or something he asked about or displayed uncommon ignorance about the day before. As you’ll see below, this is going well, and I’m planning to set him free this summer.
Lastly, he “free reads” for either the remainder of the five hour block which began that morning, or a minimum of two hours. In other words, if he drags his feet all day on math and writing, he still has two hours of reading. I have a “library” and he can read anything out of the library (as many times as he wants) , or his Bible, for the allotted time.
Because he is so behind, I also have him do one block game/activity thing every day, too. (Equilibrio.) I intended this to be a more-than-literal building block activity which slowly worked him up to the more mentally challenging and age-appropriate Architecto, but as fate would have it, this kindergarten level game has proven to reveal (and remedy) the boy’s terribly low self-esteem. In about 20 days we have gone from 1. A 9 year old throwing blocks across the table, 2. Crying, and 3. Responding to my inquiry, “Who, exactly, is preventing the successful completion of the task?” with, “The devil!” all the way to One Million: “Hey, Mr. Pete! Here’s tomorrow’s. Look. It’s easy. All you have to do is…” as he accurately describes a winning strategy.
Now for one humorous, self-effacing anecdote. The other day, A- told me about the time where he and H- and all of us where at an outlet mall and he saw a sign for “chocolate juice.”
I responded, “A-. They don’t make chocolate juice. It probably was for some kind of shake or something. What do you think? There is some kind of chocolate fruit? Like an orange? Which they squeeze juice out of?” (Wait for it.) I continued, “You know what? That’d be a good thing to look up in The Book of Knowledge today.” (This is in my Library. It is from the 50s, but it is a Children’s Encyclopedia that is absolutely wonderful for a child.)
A- opted out of the idea, more out of defiance than anything, and so days went by before he finally asked if he can write some of the entry on chocolate for his daily writing.
Next, I had him read what he wrote, both to highlight his copying prowess/weakness and to practice reading aloud. Together we heard the opening sentence, “Coffee is not the only one of our favorite beverages that comes from the warm tropical lands: cocoa, or chocolate, is another, and it was given to the Old World by the New.”
That was so odd to me that I essentially ignored it.
But I couldn’t ignore the words of one paragraph later which read, “Chocolate soon became a favorite drink in Europe…”
Please take a moment to really hear A-‘s relentless laughter. As if I didn’t have feelings!
If you listened closely, though, you could hear growth. And if you listened even closer, you could hear a fire being ignited.
You see, “Mr. Pete” was categorically shamed by his own method. And yet, A- has to admit into his reality (or his “felt experience” for those of you #trending) that the shamed “Mr. Pete” lives to fight another day. Previously, A- seems to have thought failure was forever and to be avoided at all costs–even if it meant abstaining. Now he is aware of something else. And this makes him a bit uncomfortable, a bit wobbly, and, most important, a bit curious.
In short, I couldn’t be more pleased with home school.
“No mistakes!” the boy beamed.
Scrunching up his forehead and sharpening his eyes, the man replied, “This one is wrong. And this one.” Then he turned the page over. “This is wrong. And this one isn’t exactly wrong, but it isn’t worded correctly enough to be right.”
“Why did you say, ‘no mistakes’?”
“Because the teacher put a star right there.”
“Well, there are mistakes.”
“Well, the teacher doesn’t grade it. She just looks to see that we did it.”
I ask you, reader, do you know what it feels like to have Ignorance violently and maliciously knock you unconscious at breakfast?
“Well,” he began again, “Why did you tell me that there were no mistakes if you didn’t know?”
“Okay. How about, ‘What does mistake mean?'”
“Like when you accidentally make a mistake.”
“Well, you can’t use the word in the defin-”
“Right. But it’s not really limited to ‘accidents’.” A pause. “So why did you say, ‘no mistakes?'”
“I was guessing?”
“Never mind. How about, ‘If the teacher says, “No mistakes,” when they haven’t looked at the work, then what is that called?'”
A searching pause. This, reader, was then followed by a nine year old’s terrifying, confusing, distasteful, and yet somehow innocent identification of everything wrong with public schools.
(In case you missed it, the beginning of my tale found a child–Hero? Villain? We do not know–in Fantasy Land, and he felt like a million bucks. Then the end of my tale landed our hero in the real world, where A- was repulsed by the thought of moral responsibility–not just moral responsibility but mere moral reality–and longed for that Fantasy Land of yester-minute filled with lies and no responsibility.)