Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old...

We have been busy, busy, busy around here.  We went up to the lake for the Fourth of July.  We love it up there!  It's hard to believe my parents have had the house for 5 years!  The girls have really blossomed there and every year they get a little more daring.  This year, they were both jumping off the end of the dock and this year A didn't hesitate to go water-tubing alone :)

At the end of last summer, the girls made some friends up there and through facebook we have all kept in touch and gotten closer over the winter.  The moms are wonderful ladies that I am happy to call friends.  We had talked about planning a big Fourth of July extravaganza, but with my mom's surgery, we ended up being unsure of whether or not we were even going to be there, but C & T & N were very gracious and put on a wonderful party.  We had met Tracey last July fourth as she comes from England every year to celebrate Fourth of July at the lake; we are all facebook friends with her as well and it was wonderful to see her too--and to drink the wonderful Sheridan's that she brought!

Yesterday, the girls and I met with some more homeschooling families.  The girls were nervous and hesitant to go because they "wouldn't know anyone".  I didn't know anyone either and was a little nervous myself, so we talked about it beforehand.  On the way there, I thought that it was a great experience for them to learn to meet new people with me and to observe me in these situations.  We got there and within minutes, we knew we had made new friends.  Everyone was warm and accepting and friendly.  The girls were whisked off by the other kids to make beaded jewelry and do their nails and put make-up on (three of their favorite things, so they felt RIGHT AT HOME! LOL!).  The moms were friendly and talkative about a lot of things, but they asked why we were considering homeschooling, if we had looked at curriculum, etc.  We talked about the variety of school options and state testing.  And once again, one of the moms was a former teacher who is opposed to the extreme emphasis on state testing.

It was so wonderful to meet with these families that are supportive and helpful; they let me borrow several different curriculum sources to review.  It was great to be with people who share my beliefs and examples of how well this choice can work.  They were informative and they invited us to join a co-op that several of them are members of, where the girls can learn Latin and Spanish and drama and how to play the flute; they invited us to join a non-competitive fun soccer league and a mixed age Girl Scout troop.  Plus, be part of their weekly playgroup and the opportunity to attend field trips....I don't think socialization would be a problem.

I want this for my girls.  I want them to learn in an environment that is not competitive, but is created for learning to understand.  I want to expose them to different things, different ideas, different experiences.  I want them to be able to explore and really take the time to understand the things that interests them.  A right now spends hours reading about WW II and books with titles like: Why Snot is Green.  If she wants to know that, why knows where that could lead?  I want her to take that journey.

I see the benefits of school: different teachers, different personalities, different viewpoints (but they could have similar experiences in a co-op).  The kids, even the teasing and the cliques (again, socialization won't be an issue, there are many great resources).  Teachers may specialize in a given topic, where I do not have the specialized knowledge (but again, there would be opportunities in the co-op, or we can take advantage of tutors and later, classes at the community college).  Of course there is that fear, that stigma, of them being WIERD.  But, we have met several dozen homeschool kids in the last two weeks and none of them were wierd; had I not known that they were homeschooled, I would never be able to guess that they were, they were all social and friendly and fun.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who changed my life.  Ms. Diane Edwards Leahy.  She told us that we could choose to do the minimum and get by, in school and in life.  Or we would investigate the world around us and learn about things and in so doing, we would be able to form our own opinions, affect change and make a difference.  She was of the belief that as long as you could qualify a statement, it was valid.  That kind of thinking changed my life.  It made me believe in myself and think for myself.  Discovering for yourself, in my opinion, is the best knowledge.  That is the kind of education I want for my girls.

Additionally, in college, I had classes where the majority of the grade was based on a cumulative exam.  I fretted over those classes and stressed and crammed and memorized...and I couldn't tell you a darn thing about what I learned.  Then, there were classes were our grade was based on an essay, where I got to explore things and relate and understand them; those are the classes that I remember.  I remember how the immune system works and what the role of the T cells are because I was never tested on it.  I never even wrote a paper on it, my paper for that class was on how female body adjusts to pregnancy (which is fascinating, even though I am squeamish; but the lungs and organs adjust to the growing fetus).  But because I wasn't stressed and nervous that I would forget it, I was relaxed and open to learning it, I remember it 20 years later.  And I was not a bio major.  I could given dozens of examples of this in my major, but I think it is more credible in a subject that I wasn't even that interested in, but took to satisfy core requirements.

On Friday we are meeting with yet another group of homeschoolers and their parents. Knowing that there are so many people making this choice, learning from all of them is strengthening us to believe that we can do this and that it would work and be great for the girls.