Sunday, December 18, 2011

Transtion in Action: Homeschooling and Community

by Melissa Alderman

If you wish to educate the student by science [or in any subject], love your science and know it, and the students will love both you and the science, and you will educate them.  -Leo Tolstoy

We get this question a lot, "Why do you homeschool your kids?" The answer is not in theories of public and non-public education, nor is it in religious protection or in pursuit of educating a super-brain such that the world has never known.  Our answer is that our kids have us, their parents, and a wealth of friends and neighbors that are highly qualified to teach what they are passionate about.  And as Tolstoy says, that passion is contagious, and they can't help but be influenced and taught.

Three years ago we started a homeschool co-op.   A few families from the neighborhood and our church decided to meet once a week to hold classes.  Some parents would teach and others would help watch kids that were not old enough to be in class.  We started with History, Art, and Science.  Our friend around the corner, a school teacher turned stay at home mom, taught our history lessons just because she loves teaching and jumped at the opportunity, even though she didn't have a kid old enough to be in the class.  I taught art because I couldn't imagine teaching anything else at the time, and my neighbor taught science, an obvious choice since she holds a degree in physics.   That year we met every week for twenty four weeks with breaks in between.  In the history class, each kid made a mummy entombed in its own sarcophagus.  Our oldest daughter went so far as to bury hers in the back yard.  The students entered their Jackson Pollock lesson pieces in the kids’ art exhibition at the Caldwell County Arts Council.  In the biology class, they studied metamorphosis by observing and recording caterpillars transforming into butterflies.

Since then we have kept up the co-op, sometimes formal, sometimes not, sometimes the same teachers and subjects and sometimes different ones.  But we see a lot of value in continuing to do it no matter what the format because we love it, the kids love it and they learn a great deal.  We have found that a large part of our homeschool experience is with others.  

We teach others, and they teach us.  We teach what we are passionate about, and we learn from others what they are passionate about.  So far, it has worked.

It has been incredible to see what this group of people can accomplish together. Classes, book clubs and field trips aside, we've seen the kids come up with ways to raise money to buy books for kids that don't have books.  That was last year's project and they raised around $200. That's not a huge amount of money, but it is impressive when 5-10 year olds are doing most of the work. This year, however, we saw the largest culmination of our efforts.  We held a production of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ in our backyard.  This play started as a homeschool project, but by the time it was done we had student actors and stagehands from both public and private school as well.  Most of the kids in the play were from our neighborhood and all of the assisting adults live within walking distance of each other.  

Our co-op of passionate and intelligent friends is not the only reason why we homeschool, but it is an important factor in our decision to continue.  What we do collectively is more than we can accomplish as individuals or individual families.

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