Sunday, September 07, 2008

Home Learners

Somehow I missed Tannis's excellent post about our decision to not send the girls off to school this fall. She's pretty much said it all, but I needed an excuse to post this ridiculously gorgeous photo of Ella sitting at her desk, eagerly digging into her new math book (or was until I interrupted her with the camera, that is).

Maybe the only thing to add is a quick account of our experience on Friday. I brought both girls in to the home learners program so the teacher could test them -- getting them to read to her, do some quick worksheets, some math exercises -- so she could see what level they should be working at. Then she put together a package of customized curriculum (textbooks, activity books, etc) for each of them, mostly ignoring their age and expected grade level in the process.

This means Ivy will be studying novels she would have been reading anyway for fun, rather than the usual Grade 2 readers. And Ella won't have to sit through months of ABCs when she can already read perfectly well. Maybe this wouldn't be a big deal for everyone, but for me and Tannis it's HUGE. We both remember being bored in school and never feeling like we really learned anything new, developing bad habits and losing our love of learning over time.

Anyway, I love the program so far. It's publicly funded through the school district, the materials look decent, the kids can go to class one day a week, they've got fun field trips, we get funding to spend on outside lessons and materials, and we love having them at home with us during the day. No more fights in the morning over getting up too early, lunch contents, impossible clothing decisions, lost papers, missing books...never mind the constant driving. I know this kind of learning wouldn't be for everyone, but for families like us who can and want to do it, it's a dream.


Anonymous said...

What a cutie. She could almost pass for Laura or Mary. Sounds like a pretty ideal curriculum for where the girls are at. Pearl

Jeremy said...

Yeah, it does have that vintage look, doesn't it? Almost black 'n white, with that old desk. And yes, most of the curriculum seems very well suited to the girls -- enough to push them a bit without being over their heads.

BobbyRisigliano said...

a bit hippish but after reading your post as well as Tannis' I commend your decision. All the points hit the nail on the head and I got another reason to add, most teachers especially in my experience and foremost in HS don't really care about their jobs or students. They only care about the paycheque they recieve at the end of the month.
When i was in school i always had this magical view of teachers as all knowing. Now I know they're like you and me and most of them are actually less educated and equipped to educate kids than myself who never went to post secondary.
PS- I know my brother in law's a HS teacher he agrees with most of my opinions

Kaili said...

That picture of Ella is my VERY favorite one you've ever posted on here! So gorgeous! Love the look of it!

So glad the home learning is going so well!

Jeremy said...

Richard, I can't believe you hadn't figured out already that we're total hippies. Our kids were all born at home! But yeah, you're right, it's an unconventional choice for sure.

I hear you on the teacher thing too. Ivy had good teachers, actually -- it's just that there's so little they can do with 20+ kids in front of them, all at different levels of ability and behaviour. Even the best teachers have a hard time engaging all the kids. And then if you get one who's just there for the paycheque, it's basically a wasted year.

One thing I forgot to include in the post -- the girls will also benefit immensely from one day a week spent with a fantastic veteran teacher, their beloved Grandma Hiebert. They did their first day there yesterday and loved it -- art, Spanish, math and a big letter-writing project.

Jeremy said...

Thanks Kaili -- that's my current favourite Ella photo too. There's something just right about it. You guys doing ok? I've been missing the regular blog updates...

Anonymous said...

I think that it's great that you and Tannis have chosen to do home learning with the girls. I guess I am in a minority of people who really enjoyed my school experience. I was bright, but I enjoyed being able to "slack off" when the lessons were super easy. I think from grades 1-5 I usually finished all the lessons in my Math texts before the first month of school was done. That way I had NOTHING to do in class, and I could just draw or pass notes to friends. Later, in HS, I whizzed through assignments and reading abd focused on socializing. I loved it. If I had applied myself, and actually spent ANY time with my nose in a text book outside of school hours I likley would have aced HS with a full line-up of A's. I didn't really care - my marks were perfectly acceptable to most Colleges and Universities... which I never ended up in anyway, and worked at my dream job without ever paying a penny on a student loan. So, just babbling here, I liked my school experience. But that's just my story. I can see how finding school dull and boring would definately NOT be cool.

Jeremy said...

I don't think you're in the minority, Heather -- most people like school well enough, finding the positives outweigh the hassles. The problem is that so few have anything to compare those experiences with -- it's difficult to know what might have been better (or worse) because it's all we knew.

Tannis and I learned to slack off too, but don't feel that it served us very well in the real world. We liked the social stuff, but really, there are lots of ways to have a social scene without school. The girls will have less time surrounded by random kids, but ideally we can make sure they have better quality time (play dates, clubs, lessons, sports, etc) with friends.

We know we can provide them with more challenging and engaging learning than they would have gotten in school, if only by letting them plow through it at their own pace (rather than always waiting for everyone else like you described), and in starting them off at the appropriate levels.

As long as we can provide good social connections as well...and don't go insane from spending this much time together...then it will likely be a successful experiment this year. If not, we'll try something else next year.