Thursday, April 3, 2008

Home Education - somehow, we get it done!

I've not talked about homeschooling on my blog, so I thought I'd see if I could find anything interesting to say on this topic, mostly because I haven't been able to think of anything else to write about today!

We do use a packaged curriculum, and follow the guidelines, loosely. The curriculum we have chosen emphasizes the use of literature, rather than textbooks, and we all enjoy the times of reading aloud together that come with our schoolwork. We don't follow a planned yearly schedule, with breaks at certain times, we just do school whenever we aren't doing something else. Often, I'm reading aloud to the younger children, while they do ministry work, like sorting donated clothing.

If a team is visiting, we take the week off school, and the kids participate in the ministry that week, to whatever level they are able. My children are learning to be dental assistants, assistant pharmacists, translators, construction supervisors, and many other things! Currently, the children are taking turns having days off school, so that they can help with our big construction project.

This version of schooling has resulted in an unusual education for our children. They love to read, and excel at math, but they also have learned some very interesting, non-classroom skills.

For instance:

Spanish - this one is huge, of course. Officially, this is a classroom subject, but it has been my experience that few people actually learn to communicate in a foreign language through being taught in a classroom. We are blessed to have this opportunity to live where we can learn Spanish through immersion. Each family member has a different level of ability, with Russell at the top, being totally fluent. It's safe to assume that none of us would speak as much Spanish as we do now, if we didn't live here!

Construction skills - all of the kids have a great deal of knowledge in construction. Kirstin wired her own bedroom for electricity when she was 18. Bethany drives the front end loader, at 11. Russell, Kirstin, and Christopher can all lay bricks in a very professional manner. Kirstin can draw blueprints using a CAD program on the computer. Russell is a very competent carpenter, and has lots of experience leading construction crews, in both languages.

Commercial cooking skills - this is mostly for Rachel, who began her cooking career making breakfasts for visiting teams back when she was about 11. For the past few years, she has been cooking dinners and breakfasts for all the teams, which generally consist of 35 to 50 people (including our family, 'cause we eat, too).

Nevertheless, I've had my doubts over the years, that this unorthodox educational method was going to bring about great results. We have so clearly underemphasized the traditional academic subjects and traditions!

However, Kirstin is in college now, taking courses online with Taylor University in Indiana (a very heavily academic school). She hasn't taken a large number of credit hours (she is doing college part-time, so that she can continue to invest some time in the ministry work), but after completing 8 classes, she has maintained a straight 'A' average, so I guess I'm gonna have to get over the idea that she wasn't prepared for advanced academic work!

So, those are the basics of how we do school. Somehow, in addition to everything else we're doing here, we manage to squeeze it in.


Suzanne said...

Thanks for the look into homeschooling, I've wondered about this form of education, realizing that I would not have been successful because it obviously involves a high level of discipline and organization - neither of which I possess!

I do wonder how you would teach a subject in which you have no competence....for instance, how would I teach Trigonometry unless I had a working knowledge of the subject? In that case would I learn along with the kids?

I've also examined which subjects and skills have benefited me during my lifetime because looking back would provide information on what was useful and what was not. In hindsight math has been important, though as a student I never believed that to be true. Writing skills are very important.

What you are teaching your children involves imparting a broad spectrum of information and a curiousity about the world. The practical skills they are learning are priceless! As are the interpersonal skills and management skills in running a ministry and dealing with the logistics and difficulties of hosting mission groups.

Having studied anthropology in college I also wonder about your sense of cultural isolation. Are you able to maintain your sense of culture while immersed in the Hispanic culture? See, every time you post it raises more questions!

Thanks Trish, I always enjoy reading about your family and your work.

Rachel said...

As a Mom who recently took the plunge into homeschooling I am always questioning the quality of education my children are getting. Will they be prepared for college? Will my limits limit them? The usual fears I think. I think it's those fears that make me strive to make their experience as well rounded as possible and far beyond what they would receive in a traditional classroom . I appreciated this post so much!

Honduras Sprout said...

Your kids are and have learned such highly valuable skills.

I forgot that you can get a degree through online courses.

How did you go about having Spanish classroom? I know you can walk out into the street and learn if you want, but in the case of my daughter, she clams up and won't speak. What was the approach you took to encourage the learning? Did you have any requirements or lessons to follow?

Trish said...

Hey Sprout (I feel funny calling you that, but I assume you don't want your name used here), we use a computer program, called Rosetta Stone, to help with our Spanish. My oldest son, who has spent tons of time out on the soccer field, didn't use anything to learn Spanish . . . he just picked it up naturally. The rest of us use the computer program, and it has been very helpful.

I've found that it is easier for boys to run around and make friends, cross culturally, than the girls. Girls' friendships are all about communications, and that makes the language barrier extra hard for them at first. Since your daughter is going to bilingual school, I predict that she will naturally pick up Spanish without a lot of pressure. You haven't been here all that long, and she's had a lot of adjustments to make . . . if you want my advice (which admittedly, you didn't ask for, so feel free to disregard, if you wish) I wouldn't pressure her to use Spanish more than she is comfortable doing. My bet would be that, in another year or so, you won't be able to get her to shut up in Spanish, and then before too long, you'll be using her for a translator!