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Outschool, our way

Well, I thought I was so darn clever. I decided that what my daughter and I are doing this year should be called “outschooling” instead of homeschooling.

In this world, what’s the point of trying to be original? The original homeschoolers got to that term first. But my homeschooling world bears little resemblance to the world of the original homeschoolers, so I’m going to take that term as my own!

Many of the original homeschoolers were, of course, people who wanted to keep their kids home. The majority of homeschoolers twenty years ago were Christian, and probably the most famous reason they had for keeping their kids at home was reisistance to the teaching of evolution.

That definitely doesn’t describe our reasons for homeschooling our daughter.

The original homeschoolers homeschooled out of the wish to keep their kids away from American society. Though I definitely share some of their concerns, that’s not why we’re homeschooling. (It is, however, why our kids don’t watch TV.)

So this year I was trying to figure out what to say to people about what we were doing, and I came up with the term “outschooling.” My “real homeschooler” source (my friend who actually chose homeschooling before trying out school) tells me that for “real” homeschoolers, outschooling means the opposite of homeschooling.

For me, it means going out into the world and tailoring schooling to the needs of the individual child. The result, this year, is that we’re only home for a reasonably long period of time on Fridays…as long as we don’t have fieldtrips.

Here’s how it’s working: Mondays, my daughter goes to her public school program. They do some academics, but the emphasis is mostly social. It’s a mixed group of kids from 5 to 7 years old. They do a lot of playing and have time for “inquiry groups,” where they learn about a subject and do related activities. My daughter’s group is making a rainforest in the classroom.

One Monday a month we have started a homeschoolers book club. We get together at the Educational Resource Center, have book discussions, do crafts, eat snacks. We’ve only met once, but it was very successful. You know those classrooms where the teacher tries to get the kids to talk about a book and they stare off into corners hoping they won’t get called on? In our little circle on the floor, we couldn’t get the kids to stop talking! Of course, some of the children were quieter, but they were all engaged and (one parent pointed out) I even slipped a little literary theory into our discussion.

Tuesdays, a friend takes my daughter in the morning for sewing class. As I recently gave away my sewing machine because I hated it So Much, this is very fulfilling for my daughter. And me. After that, we’re going to try out a math class taught by one of the teachers at her school.

Wednesdays, piano lessons, then we take friends’ daughters for Baking and Nature Club. For two weeks I walked the girls down into the woods and we identified plants, did sketches, ate lunch, and played at the creek. My goal is to have them create artwork and poetry for the Get to Know Contest. Having a specific goal always energizes my already energetic daughter. Given the weather, though, I guess this week is going to be more baking than nature!

Thursdays, we have a science class in the morning, again at the Educational Resource Center. It’s taught by Imagination Unlimited and the wonderful Kristan, who, when she’s not teaching kids, goes to Antarctica on research missions. I can’t think of a cooler role model for my little adventurer! In the afternoon, it’s off to art class at her school. Right now they have a Spectra artist doing a mural with them on a wall of one of the school building. I still remember doing the mosaic in the courtyard of my elementary school — creating something permanent on the walls of your school makes a deep and lasting impression. After art class, she goes off to spend time with Nana (my mom) at their farm.

Are you tired yet?

By Friday morning, having dropped her at Nana’s, brought son #1 to his violin lesson, and gone to my Ariose Singers rehearsal, I’m pretty wiped out! But she is totally energized. If I tell her, with a sigh of relief, that we don’t have anything to do till Judo at 3 p.m., she starts to whine. “I want to go OUT! I want to DO something!”

The great strength of homeschooling is that the education can be exactly tailored to the child. The great weakness is that a parent can get used to taking the easy way out. I know this, so I’m watching our outschooling closely: Am I just giving in to her “novelty seeking” nature? Or am I giving her an education that will help her to work on her weaknesses, while taking advantage of her natural strengths? I think it is the latter, and I know that it is a lot more work than I really wanted to do.

But she’s happy, and she’s learning, and what else can I ask from school than that?

Posted in Education, Homeschooling.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. The year in review: Energy Girl rocks! – Avant Parenting linked to this post on December 9, 2009

    […] Here’s how our very active school year has been going. […]

  2. Homeschoolers. Will work for learning opportunity. – Avant Parenting linked to this post on March 16, 2010

    […] This is our outschooling year. Next year will be our inschooling year. At least, I hope it will be. Daruma is a Japanese Buddhist icon which helps you achieve goals […]

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