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.)

No comments: