Hey, just a question, maybe you could answer it in a post as I'd LOVE to know!! Why only homeschool for primary years? Most homeschoolers I know do the whole lot (or take the kids out at pre-teens and homeschool, but that's more to do with problems at school anyway).
The short answer:
There is no such thing as the perfect world. And in any case, I'm a paradox, and you know I like the best of both worlds.
When I was a little girl, I always said I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. So I duly finished high school and went to Teachers' Training College, where I finally learned the secrets of writing neatly. Firstly, I liked the idea of beautiful handwriting; secondly, I was ready to learn. Thirdly, the environment was conducive to learning: it was a teachers' college, after all.
Two-thirds of the way through my teacher training, Bulldog and I conceived D18. I was nineteen, he was twenty-one. Thankfully, the College was extremely understanding, and when D18 was born in late August the following year, they gave me eight weeks off to bond with my baby. Together Bulldog and I embarked on our journey of growing up and becoming parents within four months of leaving home. We celebrated our first blissful summer playing house and babies. Bulldog was half way through his tertiary study too, and so the following February we made the momentous decision that I would spend two more years becoming a certificated teacher while he continued to study full time and be a House Dad. It was heart-wrenching, weaning D18 at five months old and going off to a classroom, but delicious and wonderful having thirty beautiful six year olds in my care every day. We learned together and discovered nature together and read stories under the big tree and painted and swam and wrote class stories and made Hot Cross Buns together. We sketched each other all dressed in hats and I told them lovely updates of D18's baby progress and toddler progress. I wrote all D18's achievements and new words in a journal so that I wouldn't forget him while I was juggling the new wife/mommy/teacher thing. It was a huge learning curve for all of us.
When D18 turned two and a half, and Bulldog had been teaching in a classroom for half a year too, we decided to come home. I had missed two and a half years of the awake hours of D18's life and felt that it was definitely time to build a relationship with my son; and we had already spent six months trying to conceive R14, without success.
That was the beginning of Home Education. I remember receiving a note and a basket filled with crisp green apples from one of my lovely class mums, saying, "I was sad to hear that you are leaving, but I am very happy to know why." That basket still rests on our bench, holding our keys.
It took D18 and me a while to find our groove at home. We played with friends and cooked the dinner and hung out the washing together, counting pegs and grouping colours as we hung. We read thousands of stories and took photos and made books of our own stories and danced and bounced on the trampoline together. We started a wonderful Home Kindy with friends, hanging out once a week to paint and eat and sing and play.
When D18 was approaching four, a beautiful little girl was born. R14 was our newest little kiwi and we were all captivated by her. Over her first year I watched as familial love expanded exponentially and our two children developed a close bond; they grew up together, learning from each other, becoming friends. It was my hippie friend Helen who first suggested the idea of Home Education to me. She had three children at that time, and lived up North in a little town in the country, and home educated her kids. She said, "Five's too young for school. New Zealand law says that children don't have to go to school until they're six." I wasn't convinced at first, so I went up to the local primary school and spent two days relief teaching in a classroom. There were close to forty children in one room and it was mayhem. I immediately thought that we'd try school at home for a year. We did. We liked it. At the end of that year we had another little kiwi come to join us, the peaceful J12. We decided that this Home Educating lark suited us, and committed ourselves to it for another year. So we all played house and babies; D18 learned to read, R14 learned her alphabet, and my Philosophy of Education was beginning to form. Not without hiccups. Initially we tried to recreate the classroom at home, one year attempting nine different subjects. By then I was pregnant with the effervescent S10. It just about killed us.
Thankfully I saw sense and packed all the subjects back into the box. From then on, I started to explain our days as "We do life, with school added on." Lots of mates, lots of play, lots of cool experiences, lots of reading, lots of fun, and lots of housework lol. Ten years later I still have trouble articulating our Philosophy of Education. I do have a few strong beliefs, however. I believe that each child is born gifted. Each has been given their own special loves, desires, abilities. It's my job to create an environment where the whole child can be nurtured. I believe that at a young age learning happens best through play. Why would I interrupt J12 and M6's creative "stock exchange" game with the cuisenaire rods this morning to fill in a page of maths sums? Will we get to the maths sums? Maybe tomorrow. The kids are all a year ahead of their peers in maths anyway.
When my children were ready to crawl, they crawled. When they were ready to walk, they walked. Oh, sure, we held their hands and clapped and cheered them on. But the readiness came from the child. It's the same with learning to read, or write, or memorising the Times Tables. The child shows readiness, the parent responds with encouragement and a bit of direction. There's a whole lot of input from me as required, but it's child-directed, not teacher-directed. The children have all this time to discover who they are and to learn through play. We go off in search of experts to take us bush walking and kayaking and shooting and learning french and how to play the piano and other musical instruments and we meet friends to have picnics and play on the beach (ah, we do so *love* the beach).
And as we have continued our Education journey, I have come to trust each child that when he/she is ready to learn the next thing (whatever that may be) he/she will just go off and do it, even if it takes until age seventeen to learn to write letters neatly. Of course there's nothing wrong with a bit of practice, I'm just not going to throw marshmallows at anyone's head... unless they open their mouth.
One boy + a bunch of onions + a bit of kiwi ingenuity = the beginnings of tonight's delicious pasta sauce
Education happens all the time. See the quote at the top of my sidebar? "Happy hearts and happy faces, happy play in grassy places. That was how, in ancient ages, children grew to kings and sages."
That's the essence of why I do what I do. I believe in the Big Wide Open Spaces. I believe in a thing called love. *grin* I love this lifestyle of learning together, growing together, developing a strong family bond and sharing each others' worlds.
So why do we give our children the opportunity to go into a classroom at age thirteen?
Compromise, my darling. The best of both worlds. Even though I say I don't believe in the classroom, Bulldog teaches at high school. We are joined by the bonds of love and nothing can track that. (movie line) So it works this way for us: I hang with the kiddos during the first half of their school years, they get to hang with him during the second half. And be inspired by teaching professionals who have strengths in Physics or History or English or French. And individuate from me. And try debating at a regional level. And act in the school stage production. And sing in the school choir. And get singing lessons for free! And travel to exotic locations (watch this space). And continue developing their passions in a more formal environment. (Just in case there's any gaps in their learning, lol.) Our first two children have had the awesome opportunity of being in their Daddy's maths class. He is in their world, they're in his. It's been an easy transition because they are ready, er, to grow up. (movie line)
Mr G. summed it up quite nicely yesterday when he said,
"I think it was the best choice we ever made for our kids and the quality of our family's life. Having primarily one income prohibited us from having a lot of "stuff" and "extras" but I credit homeschooling for giving our kids the freedom to be themselves and learn how to learn naturally and with passion. And to take responsibility for their own education."
And so far, for our kiwi kids, it's been a beautiful equation.
Of course we are still on the journey. Somewhere around the corner there are the million dollar questions awaiting us: Where to from here? What will happen with the last three lads? Will they go to school too?
Well, I can't tell just yet: you know we only take one year at a time.