Tag Archives: homeschooling

Stuff that’s different in home schooling.

I was just working on biology late at night (yeah, I know) and thinking about how this experience differs from science class at a regular school. When most people think about the differences between homeschooling and regular schooling, all they can think of is “oh no, socialization!” That said, I came home from seeing a movie with a friend who’s my age and regular-schooled, and then I got inspired to work on biology. Amazing, right?

One of the things I noticed about homeschooling today is that I’m moving through biology curriculum very fast even though I was one of the slowest students in my old science classes. There are a few reasons for this.

1. There is no homework versus schoolwork divide. My curriculum occasionally assigns videos, but mostly just lets me read the materials on my own. That means that instead of spending 45-90 minutes listening to someone lecture or having those rich “discussions” teachers are so fond of where students awkwardly pretend to have read, I just read the stuff and that’s it. Homework time is class time.

2. I can complete one class worth of work in uninterrupted blocks. If I’m on a roll with Biology, I don’t have to pause to go to Algebra. I can keep working on biology until I finish a unit if I want to, so long as I plan it out right.

3. A lot of the random, pointless stuff that takes up class time doesn’t happen for home school students. Imagine how much faster school would go if the teacher didn’t have to beg David to sit down or ask religious Joshua to stop yelling “IN THEORY!!!!” every time she mentioned evolution (in spite of her best efforts to be balanced and offer religious perspectives to appease some of these people). Imagine if lunch didn’t cut into your class period, meaning you had to deal with 10 minutes of everyone anxiously staring at the clock, followed by another five minutes (at least) of “I dismiss you, not the bell,” and then another 5-10 minutes of “settling down” once the class resumes.

4. Going at your own pace is always faster in a way. If you get behind in school, you will not understand the lectures AT ALL and then you’ll have to catch up and THEN re-learn the current material since you were too behind to understand it when it was taught in class. Obviously that’s awful, and it’s nice to avoid it.

Honestly, the part where I’d end up behind and then get NOTHING from the lectures AND have to struggle to catch up was the biggest time-waster in school. Not having to do that saves me an awful lot of time now. I need all the time I can get.

Why are people so adamant that homeschooling/unschooling is going to get my family arrested?

My guardian did research about homeschooling/unschooling requirements in my state before I started this semester. Basically what we learned was that I needed to be able to show evidence that I was being educated in mathematics, language arts (reading and writing), science, and health. That, and I needed to be able to pass the ITBS/ITED or some other standardized test every year. Well…I’ve been doing fine with those every year although the material rarely has that much to do with what you learn in classes anyway. 

We were nervous about meeting requirements, so my family and I looked at a lot of those online high schools. The problem with those was that they basically became public school without the social interaction. In other words, you aren’t really freeing yourself up or your time up from regular school so much as doing it starting at a screen versus staring at an overhead projector. What I’m doing right now is a combination of Education Portal, Kahn Academy, a bit of Saylor (although we use lesson plans from there as ideas and not as set-in-stone programs), sometimes those Yale lectures, and Allison.com (which I ended up finding a bit too easy). I am also enrolled at a place called the Grey School of Wizardry. That sounds silly, but the courses actually teach you or encourage you to teach yourself quite a lot about mathematics, history, multiculturalism, people skills, health, writing effective essays, etc. To illustrate, on Education Portal I just got done learning about the Mayan civilizations and in Mathemagicks they wanted me to write a paper about a pyramid. To go along with my Education Portal curriculum, I wrote about one of the Tikal pyramids and included that paper in my “paper trail” related to my social studies work. 

On the forums, I’ve run into a lot of people saying that it is absolutely illegal/unacceptable to use the Grey School as part of homeschooling or unschooling. I guess I’m very confused about that. If Kahn Academy is alright, and Education Portal is alright, why is a paper written for a course that asks you to research the very thing you’re learning about on Education Portal not something worth showing “the state” if they ever ask what you’ve been learning about? I tend to make my Grey School assignments longer and more in-depth than they have to be so that they can be incorporated into my regular curriculum. They’re obviously not all I do, but they are interesting to me and keep me writing which keeps me creating a good paper trail should somebody ask. 

I’ve noticed that in a lot of places, there seem to be people who think that homeschooling or unschooling (unless you maybe stick to some kind of Common Core thing or some kind of obvious curriculum online) is a one-way ticket to jail/failure in life. My guardian knows a ton of public school graduates who went on to college and landed jobs at grocery stores after months of searching, so I’m not sure why there’s all of this insisting that public school works. It doesn’t, not for everyone at least. 

Why are people so convinced that homeschooling or unschooling is illegal or wrong? My family and I reviewed the requirements for homeschooling in my state as well as the common core standards for each course and figured out what we could do/wanted to do within those guidelines and think we’re all doing okay. So what’s with the drama? 

Biggest differences between homeschooling and regular schooling.

Because people ask, I thought I would write this.

  1. Choices. In regular school, you get told “welcome to 8th grade science” and then whatever curriculum that teacher gives you is the one you have to use. 7th grade science was horrible for me in regular school. The teacher was so bad at teaching and so ill-equipped to handle a classroom full of 13-year-olds that he ended up quitting after only one year. Most classes revolved around him fighting with students, basically begging them to allow him to have class. If I could have just gone off into a quiet room by myself and read the textbook I would have had a better learning experience. 
  2. Fewer textbooks. I think I have maybe two right now, which is great because I hate reading textbooks. My math is through Kahn Academy, which has lectures followed by short assignments. My science is through Education Portal, which works the same way.
  3. A lot less busy work. Rather than completing fifty problems to learn the same skill set, you just have to do as many as it takes for you to feel as though you’ve mastered the material. Quizzes and fill-in-the-blanks are mostly there to help you gauge whether or not you understand the material than to “evaluate” you – with the exception of the ITBS/ITED which they make you take.
  4. Less snobby elitism and competition. At least in my experience, I know some home school groups are completely full of it. When I was in regular school there was so much “well Iiiiiiiiiiiiii am not doing AP because Iiiiiiiiiiiiiii am too good for that and Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii was accepted to the IB program.” People were so damn competitive about who was going to be in the AP program in high school and who was doing IB or worse, the dual-credit program through the local community college. In homeschooling communities, people are a lot more like “really, you get college credit for that? Awesome! Where do you want to go to school?”
  5. Fewer blinders placed on your social atmosphere. Really, in the real world people actually are friends with people several years older and younger than themselves all the time. In school settings, that is often not the case. I like how in homeschooling it is seen as not at all weird for a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old to be friends whereas in normal middle/high schools it’s practically stigmatized just for a 7th grader to befriend an 8th grader.
  6. Better food. Seriously, just…one thing I will never miss about public schools is the lunches.
  7. Fitness that makes sense. Home school students have to do physical education but you can do basically anything outside the confines of a normal education. You can set up athletic activity to meet your needs versus that run until you puke stuff I dealt with at a normal school. I was not at the same level of fitness as other kids growing up (although I was skinny) and so I always felt sick doing what was just a reasonable workout for most people. No one really taught me how to build up endurance or how to take it slow and start off small, gradually increasing challenge until I got out of regular school and saw a fitness trainer for a few weeks just to get some tips.
  8. Graders aren’t as big of a deal. As long as you do the work right and can demonstrate mastery of a subject, there aren’t these like permanent red marks on your record forever and ever because you did badly on one assignment or forgot one thing once.
  9. Less attendance issues. If you are like me in 2009 and wind up with swine flu, you suddenly find yourself waaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind everyone else and teachers are rarely forgiving. How much work could an eight-year-old possibly have to “make up” from a week of absence? You’d be surprised. I was in there all the time picking up various math worksheets I hadn’t completed, doing quizzes, struggling through some “group” thing (and who does that…makes eight-year-olds do group projects), reading stories they all read in class, etc, all while I still had a terrible cough and felt like shit. When you’re homeschooled it’s more like “oh you’re sick? Cool, get better and then when you’re better you can do your math.” Either that or it’s like “well do what you can.” Rather than watching Nickelodian all day, I can actually watch my lectures on Education Portal or Kahn Academy with a blanket and Kleenex box provided it’s just a minor illness. Swine flu was different, gods, if I had been home schooled then I would not have been watching anything. I tried to watch one of my shows that somebody bought me on iTunes but all I could think about the whole week was how uncomfortable my skin was.
  10. A lot less b.s. if you have any learning disabilities or mental health things. I have an anxiety disorder and sometimes school could be a disaster. A lot of things at school triggered my anxiety and teachers were not at all flexible in working with me. I also had a bit of trouble keeping track of assignments and paying attention to boring things, and nobody was nice about that. If you ever said to a teacher “I feel overwhelmed, I literally have absolutely no free time whatsoever because of my homework” (and indeed I didn’t – I was spending recess working on stuff I was behind in and I was spending from 3:30 to bedtime on math homework most nights partially because it was poorly explained and partially because I was a perfectionist) nothing could ever be done to make things easier. That was how fourth grade was for me, and there was never any thought put into how we could manage that more effectively. 
  11. A lot less bullying and incompetent responses to it. Oftentimes it was other students who made it bad for me. I remember having horrible anxiety attacks over how another girl was being horrible to me in pre-k. When I asked to be put in a separate group from her so that we would not have conflicts anymore, I was accused of being a tattle-tale and a mean person. Later on, I was accused of wanting to start a lynch mob when I asked a teacher to help intervene with some teasing I was dealing with. I also got attacked on a playground once in plain sight of two teachers whose conversation was more important than their jobs or my safety. 
  12. A lot less controlling behavior from adults in your life. I remember how I had to pick up “the bathroom pass” to go to the bathroom and if somebody else had it, then I wasn’t allowed to go, and if we were “learning” then I would be asked why I didn’t “think of it” sooner (because I didn’t have to go sooner, dummy). 
  13. More than 20 minutes to eat your lunch. Goodbye, indigestion!
  14. Unfortunately a bit less social interaction but that can become okay if you have the right things going on in your life.