Monthly Archives: June 2013

7. Social Studies Goals

I’ve added our 2013-2014 social studies goals to the GGP Teacher Manual page.  You’ll see individualized goals for Ashby and Ryan as well as blank forms you can download for your own use.

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Social Studies Goal Sheet

I like to approach history from a world-centered viewpoint.  This is different from the CA state standards, but it just makes more sense to me.  In CA, 4th grade social studies is all about California history; so our 4th grade goal sheet reflects this.

Ashby and I are both excited to study CA history, even though it basically means we’re adding another subject to our lessons.  I have yet to decide just how we’ll do this.  I may schedule our CA history as a separate subject, or I may work it into our schedule mainly as reading assignments (which we always include anyways).  When I work on our history schedule, I’ll figure out just how in-depth our CA history work will be, and that will determine whether it is a standalone subject or an add-on to our world history studies.

For Ryan’s second grade social studies goals, I have generally adhered to the CA standards.  I did select our Historic Individuals from the middle ages so that they will correlate with our Story of the World (SOTW) readings.  The list of individuals on his goal sheet is not comprehensive, but I will specify more people when I create his history and reading schedules.

6. The Homeschool Project

The number of homeschoolers is growing exponentially, but I think homeschooling’s greatest leap is yet to come. I envision a culture ten years from now where parents routinely consider homeschooling as an option for their child’s education. But how do we reach the point where homeschooling is regarded as one of three common education options (public school and private school being the other two)? I believe we homeschoolers need to do what we do best…educate! We’ve all heard the homeschool stereotypes, right? I’d like to address and eliminate those stereotypes. Who amongst us hasn’t fielded the socialization question two or twenty times? The general public has a lot of questions about what homeschooling is and what it isn’t. How many more parents would homeschool their kids if they knew it were an option, a real option? …if they knew “normal” families do it? …if they knew how to do it?

This is where you come in. I’m starting what I call the Homeschool Project, and I invite you to join me. Check out the Homeschool Project page of my site, and join in the conversation. If you homeschool, tell us about it. If you don’t homeschool, but you’re curious about it, ask questions.

I look forward to meeting you and learning from you.

-Marisa

 

5. Goals

I am now in the thick of Step 2 of my preparations for the 2013-1014 school year, Goal Sheets.  You can find details on the GGP Teacher Manual page of my site.  So far, I have English/lit and math completed.  I’ll post social studies, science, health, and art as I finish them.

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Sample Goal Sheet

4. Mr. Darcy and the Honest Truth

But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.

– Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

While he said this in the midst of a rather arrogant proposal, the sentiment of Mr. Darcy’s words resonates with me (as does just about everything else about him). The honest truth has value, especially when we fear acknowledging it. This is why I feel so passionately about homeschooling. It enables me to teach, an act I feel called to do, in an honest manner. If I try something, and it feels like a perfect fit, great! If, on the other hand, it doesn’t align with my own truth, I am free to change my method without fear of repercussion.

I once worked at a school where my superiors told me that my science department had to achieve a “B average” that year (meaning the average of all students’ final grades had to average out to a B). The previous year’s average had been a C, and that was insufficient apparently. (The pressure came to us from the administration. But, whether the administration was feeling pressure from parents or the District/State for funding reasons, I’m not sure). One of the teachers, a fantastic teacher by all accounts, told me that he planned to use the regular curriculum for his honors students this year and “dumb it down for the rest.” By all outward appearances, this was one of the best schools in the state. As I was now discovering, this was a disguise. How could I pass those students who were clearly checked out (didn’t complete homework…ever, showed up high, were disrespectful toward the other students and me)? I had direct orders to pass them. But, what would I be teaching them, and all the students who did try their best, by doing so?

I left that teaching position soon after the school year started. I knew I was failing by leaving early, but I also knew I couldn’t teach under those constraints (inflated grades is just one example). The teaching practices there were too far from my honest truth. I avoided teaching for about five years after that, feeling that I had no right to teach and nothing to offer my students. Eventually, however, my mentor convinced me that I should try it again. I accepted a part-time position at another school, and I loved it! This healing experience lasted briefly, because we soon moved to New York for an amazing opportunity in Mike’s career. He left California at the end of March, and two-year-old Ashby and I said our goodbyes to family and friends and flew to New York the day after school let out for summer. I missed Mike during our months apart, but I had to redeem myself in my own eyes by finishing what I had started this time.

This journey began almost fifteen years ago, and only in the past year have I come to believe that I wasn’t the only reason I failed in my former position. Yes, I failed my students by leaving them and not fighting for them. But, the school failed me, too. I expected honesty, not disguise.

Thus awoke my curiosity toward alternatives to standard schooling. I discovered some works by John Taylor Gatto and realized I was not alone in my curiosity. Had I not experienced this personally devastating introduction to teaching, I might never have considered homeschooling. So, ultimately, it wasn’t a failure, just an experience. It taught me to value my honest truth, and for that I am grateful. My hope now is that other parents, for whom homeschooling might be a good fit, will find it naturally. It shouldn’t take a life-altering experience to learn about homeschooling. It should be right out there in the open with public schooling and private schooling. I am optimistic, because the number of families who homeschool seems to be growing exponentially. But, I believe there are still many families who would benefit from and appreciate it if only they knew it were an option.

3. Standards

I’ve spent the past few days reviewing the CA state standards for education (slowly becoming the national Common Core Standards).  This is always my first step in preparing for the new school year.  I realize that many homeschoolers want nothing to do with state standards; that’s partly why we homeschool, right?  But, for me, the standards are a natural starting point.  Maybe this is a byproduct of my time as a public school teacher.  My credentialing program taught me to design lesson plans based on the state standards.  Additionally, I was encouraged to write those standards specific to the day’s lesson on the whiteboard so that the students would know why we were studying whatever we were that day.  I’d be shocked to learn, though, that even one student paid any attention to what I wrote.  Kids don’t care about state standards.  Why  would they?  The wording is so convoluted that, often, even adults have to reread them several times to understand the meaning.  From the students’ point of view, standards are just another set of rules they are asked to follow without question.  Writing the standards on the whiteboard might have made my classroom appear more focused and exemplary to visitors and administrators.  But, did it actually serve a useful purpose and benefit the kids?  No.  In fact, I think it might have overwhelmed some of them.  I stopped writing the standards on the whiteboard.

So, why do I still read the standards?  I believe they are worthy goals for teachers.  Granted, it’s very difficult to achieve these standards in a classroom setting with 20-30 students.  With just two students, though, I can do it.  Also, as a teacher and mom who likes to plan, I feel most confident organizing my curriculum around concrete goals.  The standards give me a framework.  In reality, as I read the state standards for each kid’s grade level (which can take a while and be somewhat tedious), I find that Ashby and Ryan are already secure in many of them.  So, I just highlight the ones I want to address in the coming year and build from there.  As the school year progresses, I occasionally review the  highlighted standards to make sure we on track and adjust future lessons accordingly.  This review process takes only a few minutes at a time and gives me a sense of reassurance that we are headed in the right direction.  Of course, I never ask Ashby and Ryan to read the standards; they’re just for me.

2. What Box?

People talk about thinking outside the box. I guess homeschooling falls into that category. I would go so far as to say that, by homeschooling, I am living outside the box. This doesn’t mean that every aspect of my life is outside the box. One of the main reasons I am able to spend this time with my kids is that our family has a dependable source of income from my husband’s career, which is definitely mainstream. I have no issue with mainstream. I’m not trying to escape all of what is considered normal in our society. In fact, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the last person to break the rules or invite confrontation. I simply don’t want to be told that I can’t do something (like homeschooling) that feels so natural simply because it’s not what “everyone else” does. If I know and feel in my soul that something is right for me, and it causes no harm to anyone else, I should be able to do it. I believe this, but I still have to remind myself every now and then. After a lifetime of conditioning to follow the rules, do the “right” thing, make the smart (safe) choice, I have to make a conscious effort to think outside the box.

I hope that, through homeschooling, Ashby and Ryan will grow up with a strong sense of who they are. The mere fact that they homeschool makes them different from most kids. Some people see this as an obstacle. I see it as a plus; from the start, they are outside the box. I make every attempt to support their explorations of varied interests. Who knows what untapped strengths and passions they hold? I encourage them to take risks. I tell them that it’s okay, even natural, to be afraid. The key is not to let the fear stop them from doing what they know needs to be done. Hopefully, by the time they are adults, this will come naturally for them.

Anything is possible. I hope that Ashby and Ryan will create their own paths in life. They will own their lives. They will be so confident in their personal choices and unique abilities that they don’t wait to be told what they “should” do. When someone tells them to think outside the box, their response will be, “What box?”

1. The First Step

 It’s going to be a long journey.  But, I have to start somewhere.  So, here I am doing something I swore I’d never do.  Of course, the more I experience life, the more I understand the phrase, “Never say never.”  I was never going be anything other than  a doctor (everyone told me so)…until I admitted to myself that, while I was capable of becoming a doctor, what I really wanted to do was teach and raise a family.  I was never going to be anything less than an amazing teacher…until my first teaching job shattered my illusions of what “teaching” meant.  I knew for certain that I would never do this or that with MY children…until I had children and realized babies and toddlers have minds of their own.  I would never leave the Bay Area and all my family and friendsuntil Mike’s job offers led us to New York…and Chicago…and, 5 years later, back to SF.   I would never give up my career to be a stay-at-home-mom (lose my identity and waste my education?  No, thank you)until I chose to walk away from a part-time teaching position I loved to move to NY with Mike and Ashby (and Ryan on the way).  I soon realized, however, that being a stay-at-home-mom was more fulfilling to me than spending my day in a classroom (away from my own kids).  

  So, no more “never.”  It’s still my natural reaction sometimes, when faced with an option that I didn’t plan, to immediately think, “no,” and feel my body tighten with anxiety.  But,  it’s a fleeting feeling.  I understand myself well enough now to know that, given a couple days to think and process a big change, I can adapt to pretty much anything.  Flexibility makes for a much better life, I think.  So, this is me adapting yet again.  These past experiences have brought me to today.  I am a stay-at-home-mom and a teacher.  I started homeschooling Ashby in Chicago, and we continue it now here in the SF Bay Area.  Ryan joined in a couple years ago, too.  I love where I am, and I’m thankful for all the successes and failures that brought me here.  As much as I love to plan, I accept that life could care less about my plans.  Much like a baby, it has a mind of its own.  I look forward to seeing where it leads me.  For now, I’ll focus on teaching the kids.  I know I need to keep a digital record of our homeschooling adventure; but, a blog?  Everyone and their mother has one, and I would never do something so trendy…until now.