Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 3

Adrienne: You said that you used a boxed curriculum when you first started homeschooling and that things evolved from there.

Valerie: Yes. I liked the idea of unschooling, but it seemed too radical for me. I looked at the materials available at the time, and went with a mainstream provider.

Adrienne: What grades were your children in when you started?

Valerie: Our oldest son had graduated from high school and was in the Army, so he was no longer at home. The twins were 10 and their younger sister was 8.

Adrienne: How did things change as you went along?

Valerie: The structure of the coursework felt stifling, and by the end of the year we wanted to divorce each other. Each day’s work was scripted, and the learning wasn’t organic. I found the scripting interesting (despite the frustration) because there was nothing educationally mystical about the process — it was just proceeding from one step to the next. We read, we did, we learned. Same as with anything.

The item that convinced me to change from using a prepared course of instruction to putting together my own plan was the social studies book. The kids had been in “normal” school before we started homeschooling, and this provider used standard textbooks, so I assumed that the kids would be prepared for the next level of materials, but that wasn’t how it worked out.

In the social studies text the progression was manifestly destined: “American History: And god created Columbus and it was good,” and then move on from there. But that didn’t satisfy the kids. Now that they were in a “safer space” for questioning, they wanted to know some background. I think they usually phrased the question as, “Well, why’d he do that?”

I answered their questions by backtracking and doing something such as finding an encyclopedia entry about the time or persons immediately preceding whatever event triggered the “why’d he do that” question. After the answer, the twins would look at me, and ask, “Well, why’d HE do THAT?” So, we’d backtrack a little more. After a few backtracks, I realized that this process could continue farther and farther “back,”  that is, if the twins didn’t lose interest, which they did. Social studies was a shambles and was the “subject” that provoked the most resistance.

At the end of the year, I said “enough of the boxed curriculum.” I found the process of starting in the middle to be flawed, so I decided that the next year, we’d start over… from the beginning, and that’s what we did. I’ve got some of the beginnnings at:

http://happy_as_kings.typepad.com/happy_as_kings/our_homeschooling_a_decade_ago/index.html

(This category has languished since I started blogging at Home Education Magazine, but I mean to add to it.)

To re-start our trek through history, I collected materials about creation stories from various cultures and information about scientific theories about the start of the universe.  Through the following years of our homeschooling, we continued through prehistory into history and up to the present.  In this way, we didn’t have loss of interest because of lack of preparation, and we didn’t have any more “why’d he do that” questions.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Internet Resources, Interviews, Military Homeschoolers

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