Sunday, August 26, 2012

Eclectic Homeschooling and "October Sky"

For this post, I am going to use snippets from some of my 1998-1999 columns in the Teachable Moment. Visualize a bulletin board with snippets of wisdom pinned to it. These snippets were just some of the words of wisdom on my bulletin board over the years.

Cafi Cohen, the author of "And What About College?" was someone I discovered early on in our homeschooling adventure. It was from her that I discovered we were eclectic homeschoolers. "Families incorporate diverse resources to create the best program for the student. The educational philosophy is: use anything that encourages enthusiasm for learning." ( 2012 -Sorry, didn't write down the page number all those years ago!)

Mary Hood, otherwise known as The Relaxed Homeschooler made a big impression upon me. From "The Joy  of Homeschooling" page 83: " First, in order to free yourselves from the idea of lesson plans, separate subjects and grade levels, it is absolutely critical that you and your husband formulate some long range goals to guide your efforts. Most of the specific roles of the homeschooling mother can be derived from looking at these goals on a regular basis. For example, one of my goals is to turn out eighteen year olds that love to read and write and are competent at these skills. In order to accomplish this goal, I must constantly monitor the progress of specific children (through observation, not necessarily testing) and provide experiences and materials. My roles may include reading a bedtime story to a toddler; obtaining a magazine subscription for a preschooler; helping a six year old learn a few phonics rules; listening to an eight year old read knock knock jokes to me while I'm washing dishes; helping a ten year old write a letter to a penpal; editing a story for a  middle schooler; or finding an appropriate resource to help a high schooler learn how to write a research paper. Some people might see such roles as "teacher" roles, but I don't. I just think of myself as a mother, who is helping her children set and reach worthwhile goals and doing "whatever it takes" to accomplish that." (2012 - Is that powerful or what?)

In an FPEA (Florida Parent-Educators Association) seminar I attended in May 1998, Mary shared that some parents worry over their child possessing a certain core body of knowledge. She believes that each child's core body of knowledge will be different and specific to that child (makes sense to me, living in the information age that we do!) She stated that some parents need to focus on their children's core body of skills and values.

Mary has a Ph.D. in education, by the way and readily admits she learned to "play a game called college". The emphasis of this class was not to forget a mother's primary role is exactly that - a mother. She kept emphasizing that we are not teachers, we are mothers. Our children will learn but our perspective needs to stay on being their mothers. (2012 perspective- who else besides a mother and a father cares so earnestly about their child's success in this journey of life?)

From another FPEA seminar in 1999, I scribbled furiously from two seminars by  Susan Sheffer titled "The Myths of Unschooling" and "Self-Directed Learners": Two good questions parents can remember to ask their child are , "What's the part you need help with?" and What's the part you can do by yourself?". She listed nine ways parents can support their children: 1) helping kids pursue their own goals  2) letting kids know about stuff that is available  3) listening and helping them think things through  4) helping kids feel capable- show them their own strengths and how they're progressing in a certain area  5) reassurance  6) helping them figure out how to do things  7) giving feedback  8) sharing our own ideas, work experiences, decision making process and  9) don't wait until they can do things by themselves before letting them try.

Here's an example from our lives of that eclectic homeschooling: " We stumbled upon a movie, by accident, that ended up being a great start to our homeschooling year. "October Sky" is based on a true story of a group of boys from a coal mining town in West Virginia and their science teacher's belief in them that they could do more than mine for coal. The Russian satellite, Sputnik, that was launched in October of 1957 captured the boys' imaginations and started them on the path to launching rockets. They had to overcome adversity and attitudes from their own parents and even their high school principal. As a parent, it reinforced to me the importance of supporting your child's learning interests. Our children thorougly enjoyed the movie and have asked for it to be added to our collection of home videos."

2012 update: I attended FPEA's Convention every May for the majority of years our family homeschooled. It was a valuable resource to me and I feel it is a tremendous resource for homeschooling families. Many homeschooling families designate that time as their family vacation week. Other families scrimp and save so that the homeschooling mother or father can attend. Many times mothers from an area travel and room together and get their Girls Time Out session in.

While I served on the FPEA board from 2001 - 2010, one woman came from Africa two different years to gather up curriculum and take it back to share with her friends. A blind man and father of five traveled from Australia. Chad Hymas, a quadriplegic, flew across the country two different years and donated his time to speak and also be the keynote speaker in 2011. Please visit his website and read his story!

This is an organization worth having membership in and always needs people who are focused on serving homeschooling families. This organization needs all the help it can get and needs its homeschooling membership to keep a watchful eye and make sure the focus always stays on serving the homeschooling families and not just growing a corporation so that it can be number one in the state and nation.  It is easy to get caught up in the good the organization does and to succumb to pride. The focus should always be the organization existing for the homeschooling families and not the homeschooling families existing to grow the organization. It was a frequent discussion during the years I was there. I am sure it is still a frequent discussion even today.


  1. I loved this post. Even though we are reaching the end of our homeschool days, I find that I still need encouragement. Not for the days ahead as much as the years gone by. Articles like this remind me that yes, eclectic homeschooling was the best fit for us. "Whatever it Takes", works!

  2. Thanks Rox! It was what worked best for us too. I appreciate your commenting!