Monday, March 3, 2014

Omnivore's Dilemma, Food, Inc. and Self-Directed Learning

We have been embarking on a new approach to education since I last updated this blog.  Being able to let my girls lead is what I love about homeschooling.  Over the last four years (FOUR YEARS!) of doing this I have learned a lesson that took me 40 years to learn...everything will work out, I just have to go with the flow.

The girls have to do Math (we started using Teaching Textbooks this year and both of them really seem to be thriving with it!) and they have to write every week, whether it's a short story, part of a novel they are working on, an expository piece, a play, a current event that they create to look like a newspaper article, etc.  Sometimes I see them writing their stories and plays I just let them be, other times I ask them to work on a current event or expository piece and give a "due date".

Beyond Math and Writing, I follow their lead.

Allie is considering a career as a Nurse (if she decides to pursue this, her ultimate goal would be to get her master's degree in Midwifery).  We have discussed how this career choice is basically recession-proof and a good idea, how she could stay home with her kids and just work one or two shifts per week, how sometimes nurses can work per diem, etc.  We have also discussed the heavy science course load she would need to take.  Allie decided she wanted to learn more about the human body, so we went system by system.  We worked together and they worked alone, researching, writing papers, create models of various organs, complete with red and blue tubes for the arteries and veins donated by my dad.  We attended a workshop at Liberty Science Center and are signed up for a dissection workshop at an adult continuing education center.  The girls final project was to trace each other on large sheets of paper and make a life size diagram of organs.

Piper is still not really sure what she wants to do, but she spend her free time creating.  Sewing, rainbow-looming, drawing, making videos, etc.

The girls are both busy with several different co-ops and outside classes.

Piper snowboarding

We meet friends at a local YMCA weekly to swim

The girls tutor my friend's daughter once a week

The most exciting addition to our schedule has been a self-directed learning community in Princeton that Allie attends with several friends each week.  The program is for kids ages 13 and older.  Allie has been getting out of her comfort zone and learning all kinds of new things, from drama to geography with an art class that she really likes thrown in for good measure.

One of the coolest things that has come out of this community is a new teen-led book club!  The first month they read and discussed, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the next month centered around Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (I had not thought to expose Allie to Stephen King, but she seemed to like this book).  This month they are reading Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma (they have the option of the adult version or the Young Adult version) and watching Food, Inc. to discuss.  I know that if I had come up with these books, it would have been met with resistance of some kind, but having other teens recommend books and democratically decide to read them and then to listen to her friend's discussion on the books has lead to a deeper interest and excitement in Allie to read books she would not have chosen on her own.

I feel so fortunate to have found our little homeschool group.  The community Allie participates in each week tends to be a meeting of all of the homeschool teens in our area, so she is connecting with teens and reconnecting with teens she met along the way -- on field trips, at homeschool soccer or our old co-op or homeschool knitting - and lost touch with.  We've also become friends with a wonderful group of homeschool families--we finally found our tribe after four years--we spend weekends having poker parties and bonfires, roller skating together or just hanging out...the dads are friends, the moms are pals and the kids are all's a wonderful thing.
Allie wanted to learn to play poker--my friend's husband runs poker tournaments and was happy to teach our homeschool crew how to play poker---now it is becoming a regular winter get together kind of thing!

and of course, there are our crazy-fun-almost-family homeschool neighbors!