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Tuesday, April 19, 2005


I’ve gone back through my past posts, trying to find something worthy of a submission for this auspicious event, but have come up virtually empty handed. Anything that might have begun as seriously informational eventually trailed off into either frivolity or references to those whom I consider more knowledgeable or eloquent, or I completely changed my mind a few posts later on, which made me acutely aware of several things:

1) I am rather manic in my approach to schooling (and life too for that matter)

2) I am willing to believe others have more expertise on any given subject

3) I temper my lack of self confidence with a sense of humor

We fell into homeschooling, so I had no grand plan or philosophy when we first began. My lofty goal at the time was merely to keep the kids up to speed in the event our international travels landed them back in school stateside. But now, nearly through our fourth year of home education, without the kids ever having returned to school either foreign or domestic, I do finally have some firm grasp of what I’d like to accomplish and how to get it done.

So without further ado, accompanied by a soundtrack of the Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby, I present to you my recent formerly negative observations, now turned into positive, road-tested, sanity saving tips:

BE FLEXIBLE – This term is preferable to what I usually call flip-flopping or waffling, both of which could accurately be used to describe my technique. Not too long after starting out hardcore Well Trained Mind, we began our fairly constant wobble between classical and unschooling styles. Some days it’s straight Latin, history, math and grammar; other days it’s painting nail polish numbers on gopher tortoises for a terrapin census. If the girls want to spend the day with their father, we call it an apprenticeship; let them learn how to process building permits and deal with clients and employees. Left to their own devices they have published The Newspeeper semi-regularly, done dental work and autopsies on anatomically correct handmade clay figures, and videotaped historical dramas and adaptations of literary classics. Like a pendulum, we’ve swung widely from one extreme to another, but each arc brings us closer to the center. It’s all about balance.

How flexible am I? I am committed to giving my kids the best education available. Right now that means I’ll do it, but if we ever find a school that fits my requirements and offers a better education than I can, that’s where they’ll be.

BE CONFIDENT – You are the expert on the subject of your children. Focus on the big picture and all the details will fall into place. I have gradually been able to home in on how and what I want to teach my children by reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Climbing Parnassus, and A Thomas Jefferson Education. I’ve learned all you really need is a thirst for knowledge, great books, and a mentor. Read, write, and discuss, it’s that simple. Even with that knowledge, I still find myself having to resist the urge to buy additional curricula, second-guess my obsessively researched plans, and look for someone to hold my hand throughout the process. Remember, you can do this. Some whining will be permitted. Not much. Okay, that’s enough.

KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR – Play along when your children spend the entire day affecting nerd voices, or write the Rod ‘n’ Staff Grammur Hillbilly Idishun. Let them skip the rest of their schoolwork if they’ll eat a piece of Limburger cheese. Work bodily functions into your lessons whenever possible.

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene

(Johnny Mercer)

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