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    • The messy moments I was referring to, though, were more along the lines of personality conflict, power struggles, and strong emotions.

      If you ever experience pushback when asking your kids to do their chores and despair that they will ever learn to just do what needs to be done, imagine the feeling of their entire education resting on them doing what you ask them to do. I have one child who is extremely strong-willed and unless she is "bought in," she won't do an assignment. (She gets this from her father. ;) )

      Some days it feels like I'm trying to spin plates while everyone does their schoolwork. I'll start one plate spinning but as soon as I reach over for another plate, the first plate has a meltdown over Latin or has started bugging her brother.

      Even just among the three kids I'm homeschooling so far, we have some awfully strong personalities represented and it turns out that being family and loving each other doesn't make getting along easy.

      Most days I feel like we're learning a little about historical events and dividing fractions and a lot about patience, diligence, forgiveness and human nature. And I'm of course not talking just about my children. When I'm the single biggest influence on their lives, they'll pick up on my impatience, my distraction and my laziness and model that back for me. Homeschooling is a refiner's fire in many ways. It magnifies relationship issues, but it also provides a path for strengthening those relationships through shared work and play.

    • What do your neighbors think of your homeschooling?  Is it more difficult for your kids to make friends? To get involved in team sports or after school activities?

      If you ask most homeschoolers about socialization, they'll either laugh or get huffy. The general consensus is that it is *not* a problem based on the following:

      1) Only associating with children your own age all day is not real socialization. With only 20 minutes of recess at some schools, this is far from a perfect avenue for learning to work and play well with others.

      2) Homeschoolers are often out in the community taking classes, at a a co-op, or playing with other kids at the park. They interact with people of a range of ages in a variety of settings.

      3) There are plenty of kids at school who are awkward as well, so obviously even traditional school doesn't automatically yield a well-adjusted populace.

    • I think movies like this help to perpetuate the social isolation myth of homeschooling.

      At the same time, I would imagine the socialization challenges and solutions could look quite differently for homeschooling families with only one child.  Perhaps that could be the basis for a future conversation or panel of homeschooling parents.

      Everybody’s favorite subject

      Let’s talk about maths.  You have a background in math and science, which I could see as beneficial as a homeschooling educator.  However, I can tell you from personal experience, as the child of an aerospace engineer, that just because a parent knows math doesn’t mean that they are going to be a good teacher of it.

      What’s your approach to teaching math?  What do you find most challenging about it?  Do you use tutors? And do you think you’ll be able to continue to teach math—or homeschooling in general—when your kids reach high school age?

    • My experience with socialization has been a bit different. I think traditional schooling provides a few key things that are more difficult to come by for homeschoolers.

      Let me say first, though, that I am glad that my kids' model for healthy interactions is primarily their parents. We try to be calm, clear and kind in our interactions with others and I'm glad our kids have that as a baseline (rather than the example of their peers).

      Also, my first two kids are wildly different in terms of social interactions and they are the product of the same schooling. So there's a major component of nature here as well.

      Three things homeschoolers may need to work harder for?

      1) Opportunities to take direction from other adults. My strong-willed child and I have an understanding and rarely have power struggles anymore because I know how to avoid them. However, I actively seek opportunities for her to respond to other adults so she can practice handling what she views as unreasonable requests/demands. They're a part of life, after all. Likewise, not every adult is fascinated by what my 6 year old has to say. Lots of adults would just like him to sit still and listen, and he needs to learn that as well.

      2) The critical eye of peers. Bullying is no good, but homeschoolers tend to be extra polite and accommodating so some negative behaviors needlessly persist. Sometimes having a peer "check" an inappropriate behavior is far more effective than a parent's efforts. One kid your age telling you your breath smells might be all it takes to start paying attention. My daughter has a blunt friend (not homeschooled) who will matter-of-factly tell her when she's being too loud or overwhelming. It's awesome.

      3) Cultural competence. This was really lacking in the homeschooled kids I knew growing up, and I know my kids will struggle in this area as well. We don't watch tv and they spend most of their time with their family so they are mostly clueless about the latest toys, music, movies, etc. This is obviously by choice to a large degree, but I recognize it can make making friends a little trickier at least during later elementary school and junior high.

    • Math! I love it. I am in the minority among homeschool moms, though. I think most find it a difficult subject to teach because either they don't feel confident in their own math skills, or they struggle wanting to make it "fun" for their kids and it turns into a battleground.

      I haven't had any kids who don't love math so far, and I wonder if it's because they pick up on my attitude or because I try to pick up on their learning style. I have one kid who thrives on challenge and one who thrives on an incremental, confidence-building approach and shuts down if we take too big of a leap. So with her I make sure we're doing plenty of review. With the other I still do essential review but I take care to avoid unnecessary repetition so they don't get burnt out. (My third is more typical and would go with any kind of math flow.) Another key is that I teach to mastery, so my kids get the satisfaction of knowing something really well and applying it to interesting problems before we move on.

      I focus a lot on number sense when they're young, favoring concrete tools like an abacus and a ten frame to visualize addition and subtraction and base 10 blocks to show place value. I love making other mathy things available as well: pattern blocks, tangrams, logic puzzles, brain teasers, etc. because we all really enjoy those things.

      In terms of curriculum, we use Primary Mathematics for levels 1 and 2 and then transition to Beast Academy for levels 2-5. I teach them myself with occasional backup from my husband or Sal Khan (Khan Academy) if my explanations aren't clicking. I wouldn't hesitate to use a tutor or an online course for teaching math though, if I felt like I wasn't able to muster up passion for the subject. We use DVDs to learn Latin around here for just that reason!

    • I've been asked about homeschooling high school since my oldest was 5, and I've always answered that I have no idea.

      Just recently I've started to think that I would like my kids to go to high school, so we'll see in a few years if I still feel the same. I would honestly be sending them mostly for opportunity to navigate some of those social things I talked about earlier while still living at home, so they don't encounter them for the first time in college.

      Still though, it seems so far off! I know it'll happen in a blink but for now I'm just taking it one crazy year at a time with this crew.

    • Another key is that I teach to mastery, so my kids get the satisfaction of knowing something really well and applying it to interesting problems before we move on.

      Wait!  You don’t give them a math test on an arbitrary date but instead continue to teach and practice to mastery?!

      What an incredible world if all students were allowed to stay with a concept until they achieved mastery.  

      In sharp contrast to your children’s  experiences learning math, I remember a freshman math class I once taught where we spent the first three weeks of class reviewing fractions, decimals and assorted other concepts that they should have learned in elementary school but were still struggling with four years later.  

      One of the bright spots in public education is the self-paced learning systems where struggling learners practice to mastery and where teachers provide encouragement, motivation and reteaching as needed.  I have taught in such a classroom environment: it is a humanizing experience for students who thought they were incapable of learning math.

      Final thoughts

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights.  You’ve shared some helpful tips during the interview. Any final thoughts or suggestions for our audience?

    • Thanks for the fun interview.

      Hmm, I would just encourage anyone who is interested in their child’s education to think of it in its entirety. It’s more than a worksheet. Even if they’re in a traditional school setting, the things we do in the margins matter. Protecting playtime, allowing kids to experience boredom instead of constant entertainment, reading aloud great books, pointing out the beauty of math... we can do so much help our kids learn.

      Of course if you’re reading this and at all interested in homeschooling, know that it’s simpler than it sounds! It can be tailored to fit just about any circumstance. I’m familiar with someone who was homeschooled for just one year because his parents were concerned he didn’t yet love reading. He spent the year immersed in great books, went back to school and eventually became a great author himself.