Homeschooling Family Interview: Jessica

Today's interview is with Jessica, who is homeschooling two children, 12 year old Cameron and 4 year old Catherine. Jessica is a big believer in the unschooling philosophy; read on to learn more:

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

We usually say that our kids have been "unschooling since birth" because they've never gone to school or daycare of any kind. Our son is now 12 and our daughter is 4 ½.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Freedom and flexibility are two of the very cornerstones of our lifestyle. To an outside observer, perhaps the most obvious evidence of that freedom and flexibility would be that we are in control of our own time. Because we aren’t obligated to follow a normal school schedule, we can choose to go on vacation in February or May or September. We can avoid the after school rush at the dentist's and doctor’s offices by going in the morning. We can spend as much time as we wish in museums and parks and other fun places because we aren’t with a school group and don't have anywhere else we have to be. We have the freedom and flexibility to go where we want, when we want, without anyone else’s approval.

But on a deeper level, the experience of being FREE TO BE ONESELF has had even greater impact on our lives. We are not only free to DO what we want, we are free to BE who we are. One of my primary reasons for choosing to live an unschooling life with my children was to allow them to be true to their authentic selves. What I want for my kids is very simple. I want them to be the people they were meant to be – not MY idea of who they should be, or SOCIETY’S idea of who they should be, but who they already ARE, as well as who they are becoming. The best way to help them achieve that, in my opinion, is to trust them to know what they are ready for, what they need and when they need it. My role, as the mother of two unschooled children, is to be flexible and fully present so that I can help them explore what they love, learn what they want to know, and experience what they want to experience, for their own reasons. When I do that, they are then free to be themselves to the fullest.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Whenever someone asks about what kind of fun things we do, my mind goes in a dozen different directions all at once. I think of all the days we’ve spent going on nature hikes and creek stomps, whole days spent in our pajamas snuggled up on the sofa reading books, baking together, discussing the news, listening to books on CD on long trips, and so much more. I also think of the many field trips that we’ve been able to take over the years, from local farms and apple orchards, to long stays in Chicago visiting all the museums at our own pace. I have so many good memories with my kids thanks to unschooling!

When I asked my kids what fun things they remember doing, they said going to Conner Prairie and the Children’s Museum (we usually buy memberships to each), making messes and doing experiments with things around the house, spending time at home, getting to do things with homeschooling friends, summer park days, going to the Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering, reading together, doing art, and playing games together.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

It sounds like a “You might be a homeschooler if…” joke, but every single time someone asks what grade my son is in, I have to stop and count on my fingers just to figure out what grade he would be in if he were in school. We always crack up afterwards thinking about what the person must have thought of those weird homeschoolers who didn’t even know what grade their kid is in. LOL

I have lots of other funnies too, but I’ve been asked to keep them to myself in order to protect the innocent…or the guilty as the case may be!

Isaac Newton Is Wrong

As you homeschool your children, eventually you'll get into various science topics and will come across the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton. He put forth the theory that there are three laws of motion.

I am here to report that Sir Isaac was wrong. There is a fourth law of motion.

The oversight occurred because Newton never mothered any children. Mothers are the only beings subject to the effects of the fourth law. The fourth law of motion says a woman who becomes a mother tends to go into motion and stay in motion until acted upon by the only known opposing force, the child's adulthood.

Once started, this fourth law of motion cannot be stopped any more than a bruised Isaac could stop gravity and falling apples. Each stage of motherhood has its own peculiar way of proving this hypothesis and now that I have personally finished this experiment, I can now confidently proclaim the Fourth Law truly does exist.

I now await my Nobel Prize.

The following is my official report on what I discovered about the fourth law of motion through real-life experimentation of raising children.

1. During pregnancy, the first proof that the fourth law of motion exists occurs when a force pulls the mother repeatedly to the bathroom, either to throw up or to urinate. Her mass gets bigger and bigger as her waist extends outward into the vast universe. Later in her pregnancy, her abdomen begins involuntary motion as the baby kicks, making it difficult for her to remain at rest. Friction does not decrease this motion, it only creates indigestion.

2. Birthing time arrives and the fourth law continues as the uterus contracts in a sometimes rhythmic and often painful motion. The woman regulates her breathing in an attempt to control this force. Friction is observed again as the mother screams at the doctor for more drugs and yells at the baby's father for causing her current situation. Despite her attempts to control the fourth law, eventually the baby accelerates down the birth canal and into the world.

3. After a day or so, mother and baby arrive at home and the original hypothesis stated that the mother can settle down and remain at rest. This proved to be incorrect because now the baby, assisted by inertia, won't stop crying unless walked, swayed or rocked. Mother walks an elliptical path, orbiting the new living room carpet to keep baby quiet. At parties and family gatherings, when others take the baby for a short time, mother notices continuing motion when she spots herself in a mirror and realizes she is swaying. She starts to believe that perpetual motion is indeed possible.

4. Several months of various movements (including bowel) later, baby learns about the first three laws of motion and begins to crawl and walk. However, this does not stop the effects of the fourth law on the mother. Her motion continues and now the velocity increases. Acceleration is critical when chasing after her little one to protect him from toilet water, lamp cords and eating all her favorite cookies. The child experiments with the laws of motion as he hops out of his crib at 6:00 a.m. and jumps on sleeping mother's stomach. Mother's head and legs shoot toward the planets at a rate inversely equal to the decibel level of her groans squared. (Sir Isaac never came close to discovering this mathematical relationship.)

5. A few more years pass and the little tyke begins various activities. Mother’s motion now consists of driving a car for eighty percent of her waking hours. Gaining momentum, she transports the child from homeschool support group activities to scouts to swimming lessons. Mother has little memory of life without the fourth law of motion. (Isaac could lounge under his fruit tree and invent mathematical concepts like calculus, which is the foundation to analysis. But Analysis is what mother needs to help her understand the motivating forces which produced the motherhood desire.)

6. Mother’s excitement, a function of the square root of her relief, is visible on the day when her child gets a driver’s license. She believes her years of enduring the fourth law are over and she can finally be at rest. She soon realizes she's wrong when she finds herself in orbit around the same worn carpet, pacing the floor until the child gets home safely. Her worries, divided by her freedom, equals the distance traveled over the carpet in one evening.

7. When the child grows to adulthood and ventures out on his own, mother experiences the last effect of the fourth law of motion. She, in a burst of insight greater than Mr. Newton’s, suddenly realizes the gravity of the situation and is moved to tears.

If you have an 'in' with the Nobel Prize Committee, please feel free to nominate me.

Homeschooling Family Interview: Tracey

Today's entry is from Tracey, who has fun homeschooling a 9 year old daughter who loves to cook, a 12 year old son who can answer any question thrown his way, and a 4 year old who is probably the one who gave him the practice he needed to finely hone this skill. Read on...

1. How long have you been homeschooling?

We "officially" started homeschooling when our oldest was about four years old. We had always intended to homeschool. It was a condition I had for my future spouse, and it was for him, too. We didn't have our first child for 10 years, so the issue was on the back burner until I became pregnant. Then I was all about doing everything I could for brain development before he was born. Both before and after he was born, I did all kinds of reading on how to set up our home environment for his optimal development and did everything I could do to try to set our future kids up for that. Little did I realize that things like buttons on their coats and the boxes from their toys and the ceiling fan would be so fascinating...

But really, it was after a disastrous preschool experience that I really started thinking "I'd better be looking into more formally homeschooling." The in-laws were just fine as long as he was in preschool at age 3, even though he had to be dragged kicking and screaming there. When we took him out they were "concerned," so I felt like even though we had this wonderful enriching environment at home, I needed to known more about homeschooling specifically.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

For us, it's been in a lot of ways. For several years, I had a very active business that was dead in the summer but overwhelmingly busy in November and December. So we had "summer break" those months and did school through the summer months. Especially science, because we could do experiments outside where cleanup was easier.

Twice we've been able to take nice vacations during the school year: three years ago we went to Florida in January and this fall we went to Vermont during the height of the fall color. Both times, everything was super-cheap because both times were considered "the off season." At Disney, we were able to ride every ride, some of them twice, in just one day and have a theme dinner, all because we weren't there when the crowds were!

Finally, this fall all my kids were in the Indiana Ballet Company's Nutcracker. They go to their ballet trade school, The Russian Ballet Academy of Indiana. Many of the upper-level kids there are homeschooled, because with late rehearsals and performances and international competitions, the kids would be dead tired if they had to get up early to catch a bus. In my nine-year-old's class, where most of the kids are 10 and 11, half of the kids are homeschooled. When they go to the regional level of the big international competition next month, they won't need to "miss" school. The kids in traditional schools will be feverishly trying to complete homework between ballet classes, whereas the homeschoolers are free to socialize.

There are even special performance opportunities that are largely done by the homeschoolers there because they happen during the school day. One of these was the Friday performances at the International Festival. Most of the bussed-in school visitors were gone by about 1 p.m., and then our kids were able to go around to the various exhibits without the huge numbers of kids that had been their earlier.

It is also very nice that when there is snow predicted for northern Indiana, where my parents live, we can just pack up the car with the ice skates and snowboards (and books) and go. One winter we got to go ice fishing on their lake, and listen to the lake whooping and booming after dark under the starlight. Other times they've gotten to go snowboarding and sledding while the snow was right for it, and then did reading, experiments, etc. during the evenings. It is really nice to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise, especially when we can skip the crowds.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Well, the vacations were certainly fun! But we find ourselves cracking up all the time. My kids love it when I make long sentences of their spelling words, trying to incorporate each one. Or we'll play all kinds of games that teach grammar--some that we just make up.

One of our most fun times was a field trip with our homeschooling group to the Hope One-Room Schoolhouse (this is my son's top pick, after vacations). The kids had to dress in period clothes and take period lunches in period containers, and play period games at recess. They've also had a Medieval Feast, again with costumes and authentic food.

Probably the most memorable thing for me was when we took a ferry across Lake Champlain at dusk. It was just gorgeous, and it was the day that we also went to the Ethan Allen homestead. The day before we had gone to the Shelburne Museum, which is kind of like a cross between the Indianapolis Museum of Art crossed with Conner Prairie and the Children's Museum. The kids also loved touring Ben and Jerry's factory! Um, we all did. Free ice cream!

My older daughter, now nine, loves to cook and watch The Food Network. IF she finishes the things she's supposed to do (more schoolish subjects), she is allowed to watch it, and she's also allowed to cook one meal a week. She has to plan it and make sure the items she needs are on the shopping list. It's fun for her, and I really appreciate that we can have a nice meal I didn't have to cook once a week.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

We have so many funny things that happen nearly daily that it's hard to pick just one. I think one of the funniest that was directly related to homeschooling was when my son, then about 6, had locked my car keys inside our new car when he went to get a book out of it. I had to call a locksmith to come open it.

Unfortunately, it was hard to open, and he got a tool stuck in the wiring for the speakers in the passenger side door. He was laying on his back, his arm halfway up the panel, when our 4-year-old let our dog out of the house. The dog, seeing the car door open, promptly jumped into the car, using the locksmith's stomach as a launching pad. My daughter then started to do the same thing, but I stopped her.

Then she started asking questions: "What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Did you know there are clouds in the sky and dark clouds have rain in them? Why do birds like to live in trees? What makes the leaves green?" all asked rapid-fire, while she twirled around in circles, barely missing stepping on him, as I tried to get her to twirl in another area. She continued twirling and asking questions for another 45 minutes while he tried to extract his tool. He said he had kids and he understood.

Finally, she got onto a string of questions about clouds. We didn't see where her questions were headed until I realized she'd gradually started twirling towards the front porch. Her last question was along the lines of "How long does it take a raindrop to fall to the ground?" when the rain started coming down in buckets.

The dog, who I had finally decided to let stay in the car after I couldn't get her to come out, decided, when the rain hit the car roof, that she wanted back into the house. I was thinking more of getting kids into the house, so when she jumped back out onto the locksmith's stomach, I wasn't there to catch her. He had just finished getting his tool untangled and was in the process of sitting up when she jumped on him. He ended up hitting his head on the car door. Poor guy.

So I came out with an umbrella to sign the paperwork while I heard a string of questions coming from the house: "Why do you have to go write outside, Mommy? Is it going to stop raining? Are we going to go somewhere now? Are the worms going to come out on the sidewalk? Why does that man have a bump on his head? Why do some peoples' faces get red when they stand under an umbrella?"

There is a whole lot more where that came from, including: "If Santa's sleigh is pulled by reindeer, how come we never find reindeer poop on the roof or on the car?" (Best answer: He trains them to go over the ocean, where the whales think it's fish food and get a very bad Christmas present, according to my son, now 12.)

Homeschooling Newspaper Article

My son and I were interviewed for today's front page story on Homeschooling in Indiana.

Homeschooling Family Interview: Christa and Crew

Here is the second entry in my homeschooling family interview series. The whole family joined in which is great! I hope more families do so.

The mom in this family is Christa and Dad is Kenny. They preferred to not share their children’s real names so the children had some fun thinking of a name they’d like to use for this interview:

Daughter, age 10, would like to be known as Tink
Son, age 7, chose Peter Pan
Daughter, age 4, wants to be known as Cinderella and reportedly went by this name for 4 months last winter
Daughter, age 2, is going with Minnie Mouse, which she has been doing since September anyway

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

Tink and Peter Pan - Always.

Kenny - Huh? Who homeschools? I thought my kids got on a bus everyday after I leave for work. Just kidding.

Christa - The kids have never been in public school. Fortunately the four years I spent earning a teaching degree and my four year term on the local school board gave me enough of a glimpse into the government education world to make me quite certain it wasn’t the type of environment I preferred for my own children.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Tink - Last year we got to go to Disney World with The Ultimate Field Trip (over 700 homeschoolers from around the nation). While most kids were sitting in a classroom in September, we were having a great time at Disney. It was even better because September is the month when Disney offers FREE dining. Too bad for all those kids stuck in public school.

Peter Pan - Field trips, lots of field trips! We don’t have to go to bed or wake up as early as other kids. We can go to the bathroom when we want and eat when we are hungry.

Kenny - I can take one of the kids hunting in the mornings (the bus comes by our house while it’s still dark). If I have an appointment a couple of hours away, we can pack up the kids and all go together. Then we can take advantage of whatever museums or state parks are in those other areas. We can take mini-vacations whenever we want. We can travel at off-season rates.

Christa - Where do I begin? It’s all complete and total freedom, and that in itself is the benefit.

In my former life as a school board member, I had the pleasure of being involved in the discussions that eventually resulted in the creation of a school calendar. Pretty much a bunch of greedy teachers’ association reps. determine the dates that are most convenient for themselves and could care less how this affects parents and their children. I can’t imagine allowing those union leaders to dictate my entire life schedule. As homeschoolers, we come and go as we please. We schedule our dentist appointments whenever we like, and we don’t have to get a note or worry about getting a letter from CPS for too many absences.

What we learn is not determined by some government bureaucracy or a teachers’ association monopoly. We don’t have a standardized test dictating that we learn exactly the same thing at the same time as everybody else. We learn according to our own interests and in our own timeframe.

We have the freedom to make sure the values being instilled in our children are not contrary to our own religious beliefs. The moral character being modeled for my children is not at the mercy of every passing whim of the government education world. We don’t walk in one day and say, "Hello, children. Today we will be having a lesson about RESPONSIBILITY" and expect that completing a worksheet on the topic actually taught the children that trait. Instead my husband and I simply live our lives in a way that sets a positive example of such traits.

Most of all we are free of the government indoctrination camps (aka public schools) that train citizens to believe they cannot take care of themselves and that the only way they can be truly happy and safe is to rely on their government for their every want and need. Our children will grow up knowing self-responsibility, self-reliance, self-discipline rather than the superficial coercion forced upon the young people in government institutions.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Tink - Co-op classes with our friends. Going to all the free dress rehearsals and cheap school matinees at the local civic theatre.

Peter Pan - We pretend to be mad scientists when we do experiments in the kitchen, and sometimes we go to homeschool Gym & Swim at the Y on Fridays.

Cinderella - Homeschool Park Days and skating.

Kenny - I’m the principal, and I get to say, "There are NO snow days for the homeschooled." (Insert evil laugh)

Christa - Just being together as a family is the fun part. I can’t imagine having to send my kids off for eight or more hours a day and only seeing them for a couple of hours (as they sit at the table doing homework) in the evenings.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

Tink - Once we went into the kitchen for lunch when Cinderella was only 2-years-old. She stayed in the homeschool room and poured glue and white out (which she must have climbed a bookshelf to reach) on the dark green carpet. Then she smushed it around with her hands and feet. There’s still a big crusty spot on the carpet.

Peter Pan - Tink’s hair in the mornings!

Cinderella - Princesses. (Mom says she’s not sure what that means. That’s her stock answer that she gives when she can’t think of any other answer.)

Kenny - The school uniforms!

Christa - One night I took my oldest to dance. We were waiting in the lobby for her teacher to finish with the class before hers. She was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt that I had purchased at a yard sale this summer. She kept looking down at the writing on the front of the shirt. She seemed puzzled by it. Then she asked me, "Mom, what does this say?" I told her it said "Tommy" and mentioned that I thought she could probably read that word on her own. She said, "I know it says Tommy, but what does that mean? Who's Tommy?." I replied, "Tommy Hilfiger." She asked, "Do we know him?" I replied, "No, it's a brand of clothing." She said, "Oh, okay." Then I heard a few giggles behind me from the other moms standing around – not really mean giggles, more like amused giggles. I know that conversation would not have happened if she were in public school all day.
One day I had just finished a very important phone conversation with Ben (a homeschooling dad) about some very important homeschool related topic. When I hung up the phone, my 4-year-old asked, "Mom, was that one of your REAL homeschool friends, or was that a friend from Homeschool Webkinz World?

Non-Edible Hams in the Dining Room

I received a blast from the past in the mail the other day. It was a renewal for my Amateur Radio License. I totally forgot I even had a Radio License. I've had it for 10 years and talked on air 5 to 10 times I guess.

So why do I have one? Well this is just another example of the experiences I had as a homeschooling mom. Both of my kids were in Civil Air Patrol and radio communications play a big part in that organization. Keith was the Communications Officer of his squadron and even did communications work at the state level.

At one point we had an eight-foot table in our dining room filled with radio communications equipment. You might think that's a bit strange, but it really went well with the existing decor, which was another eight-foot table full of computer equipment. Yeah, YOU might eat in your dining room but not a family of electronic gadget geeks. But hey, it is called Ham radio so maybe it makes some sense.

Anyway, I went along with their idea and decided I would get my license too even though I knew nothing about electronic doohickeys of any sort. I worried I might not be able to learn all the technical information but my kids were great mentors. They were very patient, positive and persistent when they prodded me out from under the bed on the day we were scheduled to take the test. The poke up my nose with the j-pole antenna was particularly motivating.

Even though I ended up not talking on the radio much, I do have some fun memories of learning with my kids. And you know, I kind of miss having those tables in our dining room, especially when I trip over all the exercise equipment that fills up the room now.

Homeschooling Family Interview: Becky

This is from Becky, who homeschools in Indiana:

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

I homeschooled my own kids for 17 years and since then have been homeschooling friends' children. Altogether, it's been nearly 22 years.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Several of my children as well as the others I've taught are special needs--ADHD, autism spectrum, LD. Homeschooling allows us to work around their bad days and use the methods and techniques best suited to each child. The children are free to learn in the ways best suited to them and to take the frequent breaks necessary to prevent frustration. It has also allowed us to take days off for family emergencies or in times of crisis.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Rock hunting trips, trips to the park, outdoor science labs, using chalk to draw a scale model of the solar system in the church parking lot,.... Opportunities for educational fun are endless.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

My girls agree that the day their older brother attached a bicycle pump to the sheep lungs we were going to dissect and made them "breathe" was one of the funniest things ever. They also remember the day we were studying turtles and the turtle peed on my foot.

New Project: Homeschooling Family Interviews

I named this blog homeschoolingisfreedom because I believe strongly that one of the main reasons homeschooling works is because families are free from many of the constraints inherent in other methods of education.

I have always been fascinated and interested in how this freedom plays out in other homeschooling families. Therefore, I am starting a section labeled Homeschooling Family Interviews to give other families the chance to share their experiences and show us how educational freedom works in their lives.

I have started to interview other homeschoolers I know and will post the first one as soon as I am finished introducing the topic in this post. If you would like to join in, please let me know by emailing me at the address on my profile page.

This is going to be fun so please join me in compiling a huge list of examples of how freedom works!

WARNING: Sports OD Seizures

The proliferation of hundreds of sports channels on television these days has led to the growth of a new seizure syndrome and I felt it important to get this warning out early this morning so your family can avoid any possible harm on this first day of 2009.

The organization ESPN (Eradicate Sports Potatoes Now) says this syndrome has reached epidemic proportions and prepared a special press release about the increased danger on New Year's Day due to the huge number of college football bowl games on in a single day.

Many viewers, the overwhelming majority of whom are adult males, have been victimized. According to current research, the situation occurs because as soon as one event is over, the victim can just change channels and keep the sports coming continuously, which leads to overdose and eventual seizure. One theory holds that the constant drone of the stadium crowd lulls the victim into a trance-like state which results in the seizure which is not visible to the naked eye.

This seizure most often occurs when the victim is left alone in the house for a lengthy period of time. Other family members may find themselves in an emergency situation when they return home and it's important to get educated on the symptoms and proper action to take. ESPN offers an informative pamphlet entitled "Sports TV Seizures: Getting Victims Off The Couch." You can order the pamphlet yourself by calling 1-800-SportOD but since you may have problems today, I'm posting some tips in this blog on how to handle the situation.

The first clue something may be wrong is a foul odor. This is usually a combination of sweat, stale beer and various other olfactory remnants caused by a man left in one room too long.

Peek in the room and quietly survey the scene. Is the TV on a sports channel? Is the victim in a reclining position and are his eyes closed? Is he snoring? Does he have anything on except his underwear?

This is where most people just assume he's sleeping. Don't make this mistake. You must be very careful how you proceed from here or your intervention could cause further problems. NOTE: If you have small children, do not, I repeat, do not let them touch him, even with a broomstick or a toy sword. The inevitable sudden movement will cause severe cramping of the victim's unused muscles.

Follow these steps to get him out of the seizure trance:
1. Pick up the remote very gently off his lap.
2. Change the channel. But, and this is very important, you have to take him down slowly, so first change to another sporting event. Do not change it to something like Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel because a major switch like that could cause even more harm. And for gosh sakes don't change it to Lifetime or Oxygen, that could be life threatening.
3. Now from the second sporting event channel, change to something like a Bruce Willis or Chuck Norris action flick or perhaps a documentary about war equipment. You could also try a show where jungle animals are tearing each other to bits.
4. If he moves and mumbles that he was watching the game, this is good news. He's coming out of the trance. Do not under any circumstances give him the remote. Gradually change channels until he decides he does not want to watch TV anymore and heads up to bed.

Here's to a safe and enjoyable New Year's Day.