Home Schooling—Thoughts and advice by Kristie
Kristie’s comments on home schooling are at the bottom of this page. However, I think it is useful that as interested grandparents, Barbara and I also add our observations.
The results of Kristie’s efforts to home school Zadia have proven to me that not only is Zadia receiving a good education but she is much more rounded then she would be if enrolled in a traditional school. Specific outings to museums, historical sites and other points of interest are part of the program. These would be difficult to impossible if attempted in a public school curriculum. I can note that her vocabulary is much larger then would be expected from a young girl her age and I can see that her confidence level is very high.
These alone are enough
justification for the program.
Barbara has some thoughts
and then I shall let Kristie
continue with specific lessons
she has learned and objectives
she would like to achieve.
Barbara’s Thoughts on Home Schooling and the Grandchildren
While I will leave it to our daughter, Kristie,
(Kristie’s comments follow) to write about her journey down
the road of home schooling Zadia and Adelia, I will share my
observations of the path she and David have taken with the
girls, and how I view the results so far.
I remember when Kristie first called us about the idea of home
schooling Zadia. Zadia was still in kindergarten and Kristie,
being her father’s daughter, was researching diligently the
public school system where they live and what options
were available when Zadia entered first grade. Zadia’s
development and education was of vital concern to Kristie
and David (and now with Adelia as well, since she’s joined the
family). From the beginning, Kristie was devoted to
maximizing Zadia’s development, reading to her liberally
and often, providing enrichment opportunities for her, and
ensuring that Zadia could expand her boundaries about the
world in a way that stretched her without making her insecure
and lose confidence.
From the beginning, Kristie and David had high expectations and a vision for the development of their children, including what I think was an appropriate balance of discipline, play, accountability, enrichment and learning. While I admit to being somewhat biased, since I’m not Kristie’s biological mother (I’m the “other mom”), I do think I have enough objectivity, especially when I first came into the family, to say, I truly admire and respect the vision, care and planning both Kristie and David have brought to raising the girls.
But I digress. As Zadia left infancy and entered “toddlerhood”, it became evident that she was a very bright little girl, absorbing knowledge like a sponge. Between the home enrichment she received from her parents, and her innate intelligence, she was developing intellectually at a faster rate than many of her peers in pre-school and kindergarten. The issue facing Kristie and David was that before Zadia was scheduled to enter first grade, she was already at least 2 grade levels ahead of what the public schools had to offer for first graders. She was reading way beyond her age level, learning French, knew her numbers up to 100, was doing simple math, and was developing critical thinking skills. Kristie was hoping there might be programs for bright, even gifted children like Zadia.
While the school system had had a program targeted to children who were developmentally ahead of schedule, the program was being phased out, I believe because of state or federal funding issues. When Kristie talked to the local elementary schools about how they could address the needs of a child like Zadia, she was told flat out they couldn’t. If she were only one grade level ahead of her classmates entering first grade, they could deal with that. Anything beyond one grade level was not feasible in a traditional classroom setting.
Private school was out of the question financially and so Kristie, being a lemonade person like her Dad, did not accept the unacceptable, she jumped into researching the other alternative, home schooling. By the time she called us, she’d done a lot of research and thinking about it and wanted to know our opinion. At first, she was questioning her ability to do this, wishing there were other alternatives, afraid she was ill equipped to meet the challenges that lay ahead, but firmly resolved to do the very best she could for Zadia, so she could realize her potential.
Herb and I were very supportive of her going down this path. While I did not have in-depth knowledge of home schooling, I believed in Kristie. I knew if she went down this road, she would give it her all to make it the best experience possible for Zadia and future siblings. My only concern was social opportunities for Zadia, so that she did not miss out on the friendships and socialization aspects of school so important to interpersonal development. Kristie and David shared the same concern but were optimistic they would find ways to deal with it along the way. Home schooling was an experiment, but we were absolutely confident that Kristie and David were capable of making it a successful endeavor and that Zadia was an apt pupil for it.
In hind sight, it has indeed been the right decision, the best decision for Zadia at this time in her life. I believe she is thriving in ways that she couldn’t in their local public school system. She’s truly receiving a broad education that is not restricted to classroom or rote learning. She is so incredibly bright she mostly educates herself through reading, research etc. And of the internet, with its almost unlimited educational opportunities for children on-line, has assisted exponentially. Mom and Dad provide the resources, Mom is her primary coach and tutor, but it’s astounding how much Zadia learns on her own, in a manner that is meaningful and rewarding to her. She is 6 years old and is reading books on middle school reading lists. She has a wide breadth of interests and passions, including natural science, anthropology, history, geography, languages, and cultures. The world is hers to discover and she soaks everything up, eager to learn more. Zadia has routine in her life to keep her on track, but not the boring routine of public school curriculum. Zadia’s learning is not gauged by memorization or standardized tests, but by talking to her and realizing how much she has learned and is growing every day. She has multiple tools and venues for learning, which I believe are ideal for her temperament and learning style.
Home schooling is not an easy path to take if you are dedicated and devoted parents, as Kristie and David are. It takes a lot of hard work, finding the right resources, putting together lessons plans, making sure she gets not only the basics expected by the State, but that she is challenged and has the opportunities to interact with other children, and to grow emotionally as well as intellectually. It hasn’t been easy for Zadia to find friends of her same age who are interested in the things she is or who are as bright as she is. I know Zadia wants a best friend and it hasn’t been easy for her in that regard, but Kristie and David, along with other parents in the local home schooling network are finding creative ways of marshalling their skills, talents and resources to bring their children together to learn and play.
From my perspective, it’s been a successful experiment so far. Would Zadia be as far along intellectually and developmentally as she is had she gone to public school? I don’t have the answer to that. It’s not only what the school can provide, but also the child’s desire to learn, ability to learn, and the nurturing provided at home by the parents. Just as home schooling can benefit children with Zadia’s and Adelia’s abilities, it can also benefit children with learning disabilities, as Kristie has noted. I know Kristie and David would have done everything possible to supplement what the public school provided, or could not provide, but in and of themselves, public schools are hard pressed to deal with special needs children, whether we are talking about the developmentally challenged on one end of the spectrum or the developmentally gifted, as Zadia seems to be, on the other end of the spectrum. Public schools are designed to focus on the middle ground, and there is nothing middle ground about Zadia or Adelia, much less most children. I do believe not all home schooling experiences are created equal. But Kristie and David have optimized this experience for Zadia and will do the same for our little Diva, Adelia (who is just 3 years old now), but is ahead of her age as well in her education and learning.
There are statistics that indicate that most children who are home schooled do as well, and in many instances better, than their non-home schooled counterparts in making the transition to college. In fact, many colleges and universities, including the Ivy League schools, want to recruit home schooled students, because of the qualities they develop that are not necessarily developed in the public school environment. They are independent learners, thinkers and self-starters, can have highly developed problem solving skills, good study habits, and adapt well to the learning environments of higher education.
We love our beautiful granddaughters and want the best for them. The best gift they have is their parents, whom are doing a remarkable job of raising their daughters with solid values, good hearts, an ethic of self-sufficiency, self-confidence and the believe they can do or be anything they want to be if they work hard, are self-disciplined, use good judgment and make responsible choices for themselves. As a former high school teacher, I give Kristie and David A+ as parents, and I believe home schooling the girls through elementary school and on will payoff in big dividends for the girls’ learning potential and lives as productive citizens, and hopefully followers of their true passions and capabilities in life.
Conversation with Kristie about Home Schooling
Barbara: On our last trip to Massachusetts, I “interviewed” our daughter Kristie about her decision to home school the girls. The following is the Q&A between Kristie and me.
Question: How did you arrive at the decision to home school your daughters?
When we were living in Rochester, there was an article in the newspapers, about a local home school group. The group had been awarded the right to form their own sports teams to compete against public school teams. The group also had a band and a choir, etc. This group had all the things public schools had, a departure from the prevalent criticism of home schooling being it lacked the resources and activities that public schools provided. This piqued our interest as we talked about having children.
David and I talked about the value of home schooling, which harkens back to medieval times when tutors were engaged to provide individualized instruction until students were sent off to college. Home schooling related back to ancient ideals of individualized education. David and I agreed that when we bought a home we wouldn’t make the public school system a priority criteria for where we lived. We would first find the house we wanted, and if the public schools where we chose to live were below par, we would look at private schools and if couldn’t afford those, we would home school.
At the time our first daughter, Zadia, was born, we were living in an apartment in Connecticut. We bought the house we wanted in Massachusetts, and the elementary school Zadia would be slated to attend was rated as one of top ten worst schools in Massachusetts. We sent Zadia to a private nursery school and through efforts at home she was an emergent reader at 3.5 years (she knew simple words, could recognize sight words like “a”, “an”). She was learning to read through a phonics program at home.
Prior to nursery school, she was exposed to classical music, big band and jazz, renaissance music, walking through art galleries, regularly going to the science museum, library story times, reading to her constantly (a slow day was 3 books per day, usually 8 or 9 books per day, utilizing library card).
By Zadia’s second year of preschool (when she was 4.5 years old) she was well on her way to being a fluent reader. At beginning of the school year, she would sit down and read books to her classmates, such as Stella Luna, Miss Spider books, and Dr. Seuss books.
By middle of the school year, we noticed she was having problems with her classmates. Kids her own age were ostracizing her from the playgroups. It was a good day at school if Mason let her play; it was a bad day at school if Mason didn’t let her play. Complaints from teachers were – she was bright, she listened well, but they were concerned she preferred to be with the teachers, and not interested in playing with her classmates. She was ostracized by playmates because she could read and they couldn’t. Mason told her one day that the reason they didn’t want to play with her was because she could read and she shouldn’t be; that teachers and mommies and daddies read to children. So Zadia hung out with the teachers and had conversations with them. The cause for concern was that she was not playing with the kids and was being socially isolated.
I began to question what we needed to do to help her grow up to be well adjusted and stay proud of who she is and not be ashamed or try to hide the fact she could read. How do you counteract her friends telling her reading was bad and wrong, when peer pressure was so strong? She began to hide the fact she could read so she could have friends play with her.
We started looking around for a kindergarten program even though she was a year too young. I started looking at private kindergartens in the hopes I could find one that would let Zadia in since she could read and was doing basic addition and subtraction in math.
With the private schools I researched, I asked the question, “what do you do with an early reader?” The best school I found said that they would remove her from the classroom and take her down to a resource room where she would have some one-on –one time with a resource teacher to enhance her reading skills. The rest of the time she would be in the classroom, working with other students on pre-reading and pre-math skills, learning to recognize letters and numbers, skills she had already mastered. And if she got bored with that, they would give her some worksheets to do.
I felt like I could do better than that. So at that point, I began researching home schooling for early readers, which led to researching home schools for the gifted and talented, because the more I read, the more descriptions led me to believe that Zadia fell into that spectrum. Zadia displays many of the characteristics that are common to children who are within the spectrum, although she has not been tested.
Question: What were your concerns about taking this road?
I was concerned with keeping up with Zadia, ensuring she was well rounded, that she was appropriately challenged without overloading her, also making sure she could be a kid and pursue the things she was interested in and at the same time providing her with a classical education that would prepare her for college, especially preparing her for a potential Ivy League Education.
We tried to find a social network for her – we were worried about that, and we have had found it difficult to find peers for Zadia. It has not been difficult to find same age playmates, but it has been very difficult to find peers, children who are at her intellectual level. David and I remembered being bored and unchallenged in school and being ostracized by our classmates. We agreed it would be better for our children to be alone in an empty room with a good book, than to be alone in a room full of people with a good book. It feels so much more comfortable to be alone than to be bitterly disappointed by a play date with an age related playmate who only wants to play “mommy”. Zadia has a world of imagination that is so much more fulfilling than any of the age related playmates she has, because they aren’t interested in the things she is.
In a home school setting, we lowered her expectations of how many friends she is going to have. We aren’t putting her in a room full of 30 kids who don’t want to be friends with her because she is different.
Question: What have you learned from this grand experiment so far?
We have learned that there is no such thing as a good boxed curriculum. I looked and there isn’t.
So how did I cobble together a curriculum?
I did a lot of research on learning styles to learn what Zadia’s learning style is. I looked for materials that would educate her in the ways she learns best. She is an audio-visual learning. She needs both stimuli when learning new concepts. We incorporate TV shows and video. “Between the Lions” a PBS show, taught her some phonics that I was unable to get through to her and after studying learning styles it made complete sense why she could learn from the show in a way that I could not provide her. It combines audio-visual concepts with music, which is one of her passions.
Whenever I run into problems with her grasping something, I have to stop and regroup and think about does she have an audio and visual source and how we can throw in another sense – taste, or smell, or how can we get more of the senses involved so she gets it. Once she gets the initial concept, she can run with it.
Right now (spring 2008) Zadia is learning regrouping in math and she is having a hard time with it. We are using blocks in groups of 10’s, and she is physically moving things around, talking it through, using a rhythmic and consistent word that she knows. She talks through it while she moves the blocks. David and I make it visual, audio and touch.
Question: What are you doing to broaden her education?
Zadia loves history. Whenever we move to a new time period or culture, we discuss the religion of that culture, the art, what the children wore, we’ll borrow videos from the library. She likes documentaries and even thought she may only get one or 2 things out of a documentary, it is still broadening.
When Zadia was studying ancient Mesopotamia, we played a board game that children of that period would have played. We’ve listened to music from Ancient Greece and Rome and Samaria, and temple music from ancient Egypt.
We do crafts that may be indigenous to whatever period of history we are studying. When we studied the Jewish tribes on the history timelines, one of the things children did, they would make prayer scrolls on thin sheets of silver, and roll them up and string them with beads and wear them around their necks. We made our own prayer beads by using tin foil instead of silver, along with beads and a pencil as the scribe.
We’ve made our own paper when learning about ancient China and the ancient Chinese inventing paper.
Zadia is looking forward to studying Native American history and basket weaving. Instead of weaving yarn around pipe cleaners, the usual method in schools, we are going to buy a basket weaving kit and make our own baskets.
Other broadening activities we incorporate in her education are a book club, learning chess with her dad and grandfather, taking piano and tap dance. She’s learning French, and loves ancient Rome, and is learning some simple Latin roots for vocabulary.
We are pairing with another family, to investigate a program twice a month for a Parks education program for a hike and to bring nature journals, specimen bags, binoculars. Then we’ll go back 2 weeks later and do a more in-depth look and explore nature without the guide. We are looking into having a group of 5 families to do this year round. One of the questions we’ve already explored is what do the birds do when it is raining?
We also do lot of field trips to a lot of museums and science centers.
Keep in mind that the year is 2008, Zadia is now 6 ˝ years old, she is reading on a 6-7th grade reading level, books like Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables, Wizard of Oz, and Treasure Island. Zadia adores biographies of women, and has read biographies on Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman (her favorite historical figure), Susan B. Anthony, and Abigail Adams (whom she thinks is really cool).
In math, she has mastered addition, is currently working on mastering subtraction, and in science she is particularly interested in wildflowers, has just finished studying the human body, and will be starting a study of the rainforest this summer. We are planning a trip to the Bronx Zoo at the end of the study, to go through their rainforest habitat so she can experience what it would be like.
We’ve discovered a language arts curriculum by Michael Clay Thompson, published by Royal Fireworks Press, which we intend to use. It is a broad and in-depth curriculum encompassing grammar, poetry, sentence structure, language and writing, in a creative and substantive curriculum.
Question: What are you currently doing with respect to Adelia’s education?
Adelia is 3 ˝ years old. And spunky! She’s not afraid of anything. She is learning how to read and how to write. She can write her first name, she can count to 12 reliably, but has typical problems of mixing up the teens before she gets to 20. She knows her alphabet in 3 languages – English, French and has mastered recognition of all the signs in sign language and can sign them back. Her passions are dancing, singing, modes of transportation – trains, planes and automobiles. She especially loves trains and planes. Boats too - steamboats that make noise. And Space. She wants to strap herself to a rocket and travel into space, go visit the moon and trek around Venus and Mars. She may be an astronaut who also moonlights as a Broadway star.
Question: What’s been the most rewarding aspect of home schooling?
I think the best way to answer that is the conversation Zadia and I had in 20 minute ride home from her dance class this spring. Zadia and I were driving home from dance class one day, and Zadia was pointing out houses for sale and noticed a lot more houses for sale, even more than a few months before. The discussion evolved into a conversation about the mortgage crisis, and banks loaning people money and why would they do that? Which then came around to why so many people are losing their houses, foreclosures, other people selling before the bank takes it, and then Zadia, who has been listening and asking questions: “oh, I know about this - this is just like in the American Girl book when they were talking about the Great Disappointment. The Great Depression, when lots of people lost their homes. Zadia asked what we were doing to make sue we didn’t lose our home.
This led to a discussion about recycling and how we don’t just recycle to help the environment, but also to save money, which evolved into a discussion about humidity levels outside and what it feels so sticky outside, and the fact that areas that have a large numbers of deciduous trees have higher humidity than areas that have great number of evergreens.
We talked about the fact we feel sticky and sluggish because our bodies cannot release heat as efficiently, when humidity levels are high, which makes you uncomfortable as the body can’t cool off as easily. Then Zadia related that to the water cycle and thankfully we pulled into the driveway at home and it was time to go in and say good night to Daddy. All of this with my 6 year old daughter.
And I came into the house thinking: Ah! She does pay attention!
Herb & Barbara our interests and family