Back in 1990, just before we took the plunge into homeschooling, I sat down one day and typed out every reason that came to mind for our decision. My purpose was not to make a reasoned argument for homeschooling, but to have something written down to which we could refer when the going got rough, to remind ourselves why we had made that choice.

At the time, I posted the list on the good ol' GEnie Education Round Table, my online support group. Now that I have my own blog, I thought it would be fun to publish it again. The list is specific to our particular school situation in places, and somewhat dated, but most of the reasons would still be valid were we beginning our homeschooling journey today.

At the time of writing, we had one child going into sixth grade and another going into third, both at our local public school. The elder had completed kindergarten and first grade in a private, Montessori school. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 8:23 pm | Edit
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I'm cleaning out old computer files, and came upon this article by Paula Rothermal of the University of Durham. Unfortunately, I no longer have any idea where I acquired this comparison of home- and school-educated children in the UK.

For reasons of copyright, the above link goes only to an abstract of the paper, but I'm posting a few interesting quotes that I believe fall into the "fair use" category. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 3, 2006 at 6:07 pm | Edit
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Let me make clear up front that I'm glad our grandchildren are on schedule for most of the currently-recommended childhood vaccinations. I can be pleased with that because their parents have taken the time to research the issues, and decide which vaccines they think are worth the risk, and which are not, and are willing to pay the extra costs—in money and time—to spread the vaccinations out rather than subject their children to the assault on the immune system caused by receiving many vaccines on the same day. Moreover, the children are breastfed, which helps their immune systems deal with the vaccines.

Vaccines have prevented much suffering and death, and they do work; witness the frightening polio outbreaks in Africa when immunication efforts were hindered by Muslim clerics skeptical of both the vaccines and the good will of the vaccinators. But they are far from risk-free, and the government and the medical community are doing parents a disservice by pushing vaccinations as if they were entirely safe and absolutely essential for their children's health. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 3, 2006 at 7:35 am | Edit
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When Larry Summers, then President of Harvard, dared suggest that genetic differences between men and women might, in general, predispose them to greater abilities in different fields, I had no problem with that. When he was pilloried and forced to resign, I was appalled (though not surprised) at the continuing evidence that liberals aren't necessarily liberal, those who call loudest for tolerance aren't tolerant, and "academic freedom" is an oxymoron. If the presence of a Y chromosome instead of an X can make differences that are visible and obvious, to insist that it can't possibly make more subtle differences, and to forbid inquiry into the matter, is as bad as the Catholic Church in Medieval times. Worse, because I don't think the Church ever claimed to be open-minded.

Yet as fast as Harvard tried to distance itself from Summers' heresy, there are more serious worms in its own apple. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 7:05 am | Edit
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It's been a while since I've posted a Frazz comic here (I always worry about the line between fair use and copyright violation), but it's one of the best comic strips ever, and deserves all the publicity it can get. Though set in a public school, it often captures what homeschooing is all about, and today's strip made me shout in acclamation:

Self-determination
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 16, 2006 at 7:04 am | Edit
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During my lifetime I've watched the Deaf community teach the world to see them as people, rather than as people who can't hear. This was brought home most forcefully to me in the story of the two young children, one deaf and one hearing, who met one day, and each went home to report the other's disability. The hearing child explained to his mother that his new friend could not understand him when he spoke, while the deaf child expressed to his own mother his amazement that his playmate could not understand him when he signed.

Today's Orlando Sentinel showed me that blind people are beginning to accomplish the same feat. An article on teaching very young blind children to use a cane describes an encouraging departure from the conventional model of mobility for the vision impaired. In the old, vision-centered model, young children are taught to depend on those who can see to lead them around, and only later learn to use a cane. This trains blind children in habits of dependency at a stage in life which for most children is the golden age of mobility. The new method introduces the child to using a cane at an early age, even as young as when he first learns to walk. In this way the skills needed for independence come naturally and thoroughly. According to advocate Joe Cutter, retired from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, "What matters isn't the vision you have. What matters is the skill you have. You have to observe your own movement, do it solo, to get those skills."
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 27, 2006 at 7:24 pm | Edit
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Thomas Edison said that genius is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. Anders Ericsson, a psychology professor at Florida State University, would agree. His studies of what makes someone really good at something are discussed in the May 7, 2006 New York Times column, A Star Is Made, by Freakonomics authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt. (The New York Times requires registration before you can read their content, but it's free and worth the effort.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 1:21 pm | Edit
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Two recent articles on homeschooling were brought to my attention; specifically, they are about unschooling, that branch of the homeschooling movement that seeks to liberate students from the oppressive assumptions and restrictions of schooling as much as from schools themselves. Each article was reasonably positive, yet was too short to be of much use, and included a few blood pressure-raising statements. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at 8:45 pm | Edit
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The Giver, by Lois Lowry (Dell Laurel-Leaf, New York, 1993)

I doubt I would have found The Giver had it not been required reading for two of my nephews. One read it as a class assignment in seventh grade; for the other it was read aloud in fifth grade. Intrigued, I borrowed the book from our library.

The Giver makes me wish I belonged to a literary discussion group. Without a doubt there is plenty here to discuss, and I can see why teachers might be eager to share this Newbery Award winner with their classes. I would love to talk about it in a group, to toss about various interpretations and implications. And yet, despite the "young adult" designation, despite the fact that the main character has not yet reached his teens, I question the value of such a book in the elementary or middle school curriculum. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 11:09 am | Edit
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The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2004)

I heard so many homeschoolers raving about The Well-Trained Mind that I had to read it for myself. Then the question became not why so many people love it, but why do I? One reviewer called this approach “ultra school-at-home”—which should have been enough to send me fleeing as from a thousand devils. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 11, 2005 at 12:40 pm | Edit
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I once read that a child should learn "at the rate determined by her own happy hunger." (I believe the quotation is from John Ciardi, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.) It is delightful to observe Jonathan’s voracious appetite. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 27, 2005 at 9:18 am | Edit
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One of Janet's classes was discussing the causative have, such as "I had my hair cut" and "I had my bike stolen." She noted that the latter can make it sound as if the person caused his bike to be stolen, though that is not the way it is normally used. That set me thinking. To me,

"My store burned down in 1990" implies the poor guy's store caught on fire and burned to the ground.

"I had my store burn down in 1990" implies the same thing.

"I had my store burned down in 1990" implies he hired some arsonist to torch his store so he could collect the insurance money!

I'm glad I learned English as a child, when accepting such subtleties was still easy! Any comments, grammar experts? (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 14, 2005 at 6:17 am | Edit
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Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000)

My nephew is going into seventh grade, and this was part of his required summer reading. He didn't have much to say about it, not surprising since it's hardly a title, nor a story, I would expect to appeal to most middle school boys. Or girls, for that matter. At that age, I would have picked up the book, assuming it was a science fiction story, then put it down in disgust when I discovered what it really was.

I'm not sure who the target audience is for this book, since the setting is high school and the themes adolescent, yet the intellectual level seems more geared towards elementary school.

Nonetheless, when I picked up the book recently to check it out, I became intrigued when I discovered that the title character was homeschooled before making her way into public high school—and definitely not fitting in. So when my nephew left for home, taking the book with him, I borrowed it from the library so I could finish reading the story. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 8, 2005 at 11:28 am | Edit
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Janet is currently in Japan, preparing to teach English. Perusing an old diary today, I discovered an inclination toward that profession appearing much earlier in her life than I had supposed. The incident took place in the fall of her third grade year.

[Her teacher] has been reading James and the Giant Peach aloud, a little bit each week. After she finished today’s reading, it was time to go outside. Janet asked her to continue reading out there, and she said no. Then, Janet asked if she could bring her own book out and read. Having received permission, she did just that, but instead of reading to herself, she read aloud. By the time recess was over, she had quite a group of kids around her, listening. She is reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 5, 2005 at 5:19 pm | Edit
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So today is National Teacher Day. (I know because Google told me so.) Since this blog includes rants against the terrible damage done to children and families by an inhuman and inhumane government-sponsored school system, and such private schools as seek (or are required) to emulate it, it is meet and right to make space today to recognize teaching as an honorable profession, and good teachers as incomparable treasures. The monstrosity that is school destroys teachers as well as students. In particular, today I honor: (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 3, 2005 at 10:55 am | Edit
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