Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, February 23, 2007

In Which Darwin Describes His Homeschooling Years

It seems that the honorable MrsD has signed me up to provide my own retrospective of my homeschooling experience, so here it goes...

Initially, my mom started out homeschooling only my younger brother, the middle of the three children. He was very smart, but didn't fit in well with standard classroom technique in the 1st grade, and so after trying several different programs for him without our parish school and then the local public school, she started teaching him at home. This was in the mid eighties, and homeschooling was still relatively new. (I think mom was pretty much the first in her group of friends to start homeschooling, though others followed not long after.)

Her big concern was making sure that she covered everything, so there was a lot of use of "what your second grader needs to know" type books, and for each of us she used Calvert up through 8th grade, though with more and more substitutions as she became more comfortable with customizing the curriculum.

As time went by, the stress of having two kids in the parish school while one kid was homeschooled mounted, and my folks were getting increasingly unimpressed with the quality of the parochial education they were paying for. Classes tended to be pretty large (my 5th grade class had 43 kids in it) and progress was necessarily at the speed of the average to slow end of the spectrum. Meanwhile, I was becoming increasingly disrespectful of school authority, since I could easily pick things up in the first day or two of a unit, and then check out for the following several weeks while still getting top grades.

After a particularly tempestuous 5th grade year for me, my parents decided to pull both me and my sister (the youngest) out of school and homeschool the lot of us.

The transition took some work, and having the structure of using Calvert was probably very important for me the first couple years. I'd been used to having a (usually one-sided-ly) adversarial relationship with my teacher, and measuring success based on how I did versus my peers, neither one of which was helpful in a homeschooling situation.

I was a very independent type, and using the Calvert manuals and texts for most subjects (with Saxon for math) I was able to keep to myself and make my own schedule so long as I hit basic deadlines.

By the time we decided to keep homeschooling me through high school (that's a long story in itself -- but the short version is that the Catholic high schools in the area were all either academically pathetic or empty of any Catholic identity) I had got over my bad attitude and my parents felt confident in striking out on their own in curriculum development. (Besides, there really wasn't anything very good out there for high school in the way of set curriculums.)

What they came up with was:
Math: Algebra 1 - Calculus (Saxon)
Science: General, Physics, Chemistry, Biology
Language: Latin (Wheelock followed by Caesar and Virgil)
Humanities Program: A great books-type reading list plus a history text for each year, running from ancient to modern over four years.
(plus assorted religion, logic, art history etc. thrown as a side dish)

Academically it was very, very good, and since I generally had week-level goals, I got very used to scheduling out my own assignments in a way that was good practice for college work.

The main areas of frustration with my own homeschooling experience mainly had to do with (brace yourselves, folks) socialization. Perhaps partly because the homeschooling movement was still comparatively young, the only Catholic homeschool group we were able to find that had any other kids my age in it was 70+ miles away or Orange County. (Yes, that Orange County, but it's not like the show.) Since my mom didn't know how to drive until I taught her how right before leaving for college, we didn't tend to get out there much until I was old enough to drive. And even then, it was too far to carry on too much activity.

Not that things were totally isolated. I was in the Boy Scouts till I got my Eagle. But I did seriously miss the opportunity to belong to school clubs, drama productions, and generally see people I wasn't related to more than once a week.

1 comment:

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

This is a very interesting read, Mr. Darwin. The sincere portrait you paint is refreshing. I used Calvert for many of our offspring-- Numbers One and Four most of all. It is impressive indeed, although recently they have made some sad changes. I too stopped using it when I was making too many substitutions. And yes, socialization is an issue needing some serious re-visiting. Love your blog. Being married to a scientist (who doesn't blog) keeps me on my toes re: things Darwinian.