Wednesday, March 10, 2010

BEGINNINGS~ We home school! Now what?

  If you read my first Follow Your Homeschooling Heart  post you're probably wondering, what a retired hair stylist/salon owner and a sales proffessional knew about homeschooling. Not a whole heck of a lot in the beginning. Neither of us were tie-dye wearing, (except the ones we make ourselves of course ) granola eating, (we eat plenty of granola around here) vegan, (we 're meat eaters ) bible thumping ( no thumping, but we do believe) believers.
Then again, we were raised in the 60's and 70's so it's possible there might be a slight hippy hang over in there somewhere. I only mention these silly stereotypes because they are just that. Truth is, the face of homeschoolers has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. More people from every sector of life are choosing to homeschool ( for a whole host of reasons) and exercising their rights of freedom to the fullest.
We were just nutty enough to take on home schooling our children and we wanted to do it our way from the beginning...
Naturally, we were nervous at the start (so many unknowns) but excited to begin this new chapter in our lives. Once we decided to home school I got busy trying to find other home schoolers nearby for support and sharing information. We were lucky that our immediate families were supportive right from the beginning but that's not always the case. If you find yourself in the later catagory a support group can be most helpful in soothing away those initial doubts and butterflies. We found a support group through our local state home school association, aptly named"Beginnings". Our children were preschool age at the time ( 4 and 2 ) and this was a group made of up parents with children in the same age group... Most of us were in the "investigation" phase of our home schooling journey.

Besides the emotional support they offer we  found Support Groups and on line e-groups to be the best way to link up with other homeschoolers for classes, activities and social gatherings.

 After a year of regular play dates, library story times, meeting in eachother's homes and sharing information we had gathered along the way we decided to make a move across the country to my husbands home state of Massachusettes to be closer to his side of the family. It was hard to say good- bye to my native home of 40 years, family and friends but we looked at our move as a great adventure!

Wagon's Ho! We packed up our Durango, and left the high desert of Northern Nevada behind for greener pastures and the sandy beaches of Cape Cod Bay. We spent 9 days traveling across our great country in late July of 2001 just in time to see the great plains of our heartland in bloom with sunflowers.

Did you know Kansas is the Sunflower state?
We were getting the heck of this homeschooling thing already!
Once we got settled on the East Coast I started looking for the kind of homeschooling support I had enjoyed back home. I did a quick on line search with in our area and found two groups for new homeschoolers right away. The first meeting I attended was very formal and ran much like a board meeting. The vibe of the meeting in general was tense and unfriendly. I knew right away this was not going to be my cup of tea. I was looking for a more friendly, relaxed and creative group of supporters so I kept looking.
The second meeting I attended was much more to my liking. It was advertised as a Playtime  (doesn't that sound better?) for new homeschoolers and those who were thinking about homeschooling. Just like my old group, it was hosted in someone's home. The hostess served us future home school mom's tea, cookies, and a wealth of information in the way of children's books and literature, curriculum ideas and web sites to wet our whistles even futher. Her enthusiasim was infectious! The other mom's were friendly too and they all brought resources to share with the group.

What caught my eye while we were chatting away was the area our hostess had set up for her young children adjacent to the table where we were all sitting. She had placed various games and toys in an easy access manner for the children to occupy themselves, including a large plastic bin full of uncooked white rice with a scoop.

I thought to myself, she really understands children.

 I was as an instant fan! While I never did provide our two at home an open rice bin and scoop to encourage further development in their scooping and dumping skills (don't worry, they had plenty of sand and water at the beach to practice with and my plastics cupboard was in total disarray forever it seems ) I left the gathering feeling inspired. I felt excited about all that was ahead of our family as we learned together.

The playtime gatherings continued twice a month on average for a good year and we attended as often as we could. As our children grew some folks took the more traditional path to education sending their kids to school and other's continued on their home schooling journey. You know which way we went! For the next several years our children along wth many others,enjoyed regular Park days, Lego Club, Drama Class, Swim and Gym, Art, Archery, Science Classes, Nature Discovery and more!

Finding others who share your ideas but execute them in different ways is always inspiring.

note:  It might take more than one try to find the homeschool support group that feels right, but keep at it, you'll find one that feels right eventually. If by chance you don't,be bold and start one of your own!

FROM MY BOOKSHELF:      Here's a look at a few "classics" for the NEW homeschooler.

Most states have a homeschool organization or network in place. They  provide contact information in the way of web sites, phone numbers and e-groups. State Laws and Homeschool Regulations for your state are often included. They differ from state to state so unless you're a true rebel, ( we know you're out there ) it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your states requirements. That way you 'll be able to answer all those questions that will be coming your way once you announce your new adventure to your peers and loved ones.

Common questions asked of home schooler's.
 Is that Legal?
How will they be "socialized"?
How long will you homeschool?
Will you homeschool them through High School?
What will you do when they get to highschool age and the courses get harder?
What about the Prom?
How will they ever learn to dance? 
How will they meet people?
Will they be able to play sports? 
How will you know if they are learning anything? 
How do you know what to teach them? 

 CONFESSION:  My least favorite homeschooling question to date was:  Is that legal?  It was our first year home schooling, and even though I was strong in my conviction, I felt vulnerable.When an aquaintance and I were discussing what schools our children would be attending, I announced we would be homeschooling and then she asked  the question," Is that legal?  I felt defensive and affended that someone,anyone might think I was doing something ILLEGAL with my beloved children. In reality, it's an honest question coming from someone who probably hadn't ever talked to a homeschooler about homeschooling. I managed to compose myself enough to answer her with all the knowledge I had about the legalities of our state. Back then, any trace of non support or suspicion could easily send me into a curled up, fear of failing, homeschool mom ball  for days. It was my sweet husband who said,"Darlin', ( yeah, he calls me darlin' ) if your gonna do this you need to toughen up".  He was right... ( but don't tell him that, I hate it when he gloats)

Over the years I have grown much more confident and you will too! 
Our kids are so busy with their own interests, friends, activities, and community groups they have more of a social life than we do!

The best part for us about homeschooling is the bond we have developed as a family. You would think with all the time we spend together, that might NOT be the case, but it is. Sure, we have our moments like all families, like when our daughter plays piano all morning while our son trys to read, work on math or play his guitar. It can get a little crazy sometimes, but we've learned to work things out quickly and get on with the day. 

Now, homeschooling is so natural for us... it's a way of life.

My favorite homeschooling question came just this year to our 12 year old daughter as she was getting aquainted with new friends in the Organization for Rainbow Girls. One night after her meeting had ended I went inside to pick her up. She was surrounded by a few girls who were excitedly asking her questions about homeschooling. Suddenly above all other voices we heard this question:

HAVE YOU HEARD OF CHEESE? ... We all burst into laughter! This young girl just couldn't get a visual of what a day in the life of a home schooler looked like...But she was so darned cute about it.

I love the cover of this book! With a full tank of gas and a sense of adventure, you can go anywhere and learn anything you want too!

It's hard to believe it's been 10 amazing years since our humble beginning as new homeschooler's. To this day I am grateful for all of the homeschooling folks we have met along our journey, and I will always have a special place in my heart for our " first homeschooling friends" and the friendship and support that has grown from them over the years. 

Next time:  Musings on discovering our Homeschool Philosophy.

 eclectic   intuitive   creative  

Until then...

FollowYour Homeschooling Heart..
it will lead you home ~

Deborah Jean Bosworth
Where are you in your homeschooling/unschooling journey? We would love to hear your adventures too!

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