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The Homeschooling Attitude

I was chatting with a bunch of other homeschooling moms and the words came out of my mouth before I realized that they were a true insight into our family. I said, “Even before we started homeschooling, we were a homeschooling family.” As with many things I say, I wasn’t completely clear on what I meant till most of the sentence had made its way out of my mouth!
What I meant by it is that we’ve never been the family that thinks you should pop out the kids and then ignore them, or the family that thinks learning is a chore and other people (teachers) should be in charge of it, or the family that eats dinner in front of our separate TVs.
We have always been the family that relishes new discoveries, that tries to turn daily life into interesting lessons, and that acknowledges that togetherness is worth the friction it necessarily causes. This is the homeschooling lifestyle.
From before our oldest could speak, we talked to him about pretty much everything. And, as one babysitter noted with surprise, we never spoke babytalk. This was not an unconscious decision. My husband cringes when he hears others speak to our kids like they are from some other species that can’t quite think right. And we both have a pat answer to people who ask us questions about our kids in their presence: “I don’t know — why don’t you ask them?”
I’ve noticed that I’m the parent in a classroom who talks to kids about things they’re interested in using words that they probably don’t yet understand. How else to get them to understand new words than use them in a conversation that they’re interested in? If a kid has discovered how cool gravity is, it’s no use trying to explain the concepts in babytalk. We just use the words that actually describe what’s happening.
Consequently, when our children talk, they use words that people aren’t used to hearing from people their size. When he was four, my son and I went to buy a terrarium. When the nice pet store employee asked him directly what he wanted to buy, he answered, “We’re looking for a terrarium for a fence lizard.” The employee was stunned: “He knows that word?” Well, of course! What else would you keep a fence lizard in?
My daughter recently went into a monologue with an adult where she explained all about resistors and how they worked. The adults on the receiving end often remark how “smart” our kids are. I don’t disagree, but that’s really not the point. Our kids are interested in things because we are. Just like they tell you in parenting class, you need to model the behavior.
The homeschooling family has made a conscious choice to model lifelong learning in their house. Homeschooled kids are dragged along to all sorts of situations that other kids aren’t, and it has a big effect on them. I brought my daughter to a dental appointment, which I’d never had to do when she was in school. My dentist had a great time showing her how he could put videos of the inside of my mouth up on a TV in the room. She was fascinated, well-behaved because she wasn’t told to sit in the corner. She became part of what was happening.
From an early age, our daughter had to go for very difficult yearly tests at Stanford Hospital. It was truly awful for us, but we always made it an event for her. We let her plan the day as much as possible. And when the procedure was happening we didn’t just tell her it would be over soon; we pointed out all the interesting parts of it that she could take part in (and be distracted by). Consequently, she has been saying since she was three that she wants to be a doctor, and anytime she gets a chance she learns about the human body and how it functions.
When I started her in homeschool last year, I was pleasantly surprised to find families who were all a variation on our theme. Not that we’re all alike – far from it! – but we all have the attitude that we are part of our children’s learning. So even if you aren’t homeschooling, you might just be a homeschooling family. Think about it…

Posted in Homeschooling.

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