Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why I Homeschool

Last night, my friend and I had a Girl's Night Out.  She's a music educator in a public school so we always have an entertaining time talking about the pros and cons of teaching music in a school versus teaching private lessons.  (We usually manage to confirm for each other that we've made the right choice for ourselves).  She also has an infant who just turned one so she's enjoying the daily "what's new" with my baby phase.  As educators, we both love this time -- watching the lightbulb go off for a kid is pretty darn cool.  When it's your own kid, it's over-the-moon.  I miss those days with The Peanut.  She certainly has the lightbulb go off regularly, but it's not quite a constant thing that it was when she was an infant-turning-into-a-toddler.

All this makes today extra exciting.  We attended Touch Tomorrow at WPI, a festival all about NASA, space, and robotics.  It took over a good bit of the campus with hands-on displays, scientists and engineers who worked on various robotics teams including the Mars Rover, astronauts, simulations, student displays, mini experiments, etc, etc, etc.  The Peanut loves this stuff.  We did a unit on robotics and several space-related units during our first year of homeschooling (when I was winging science).  This got her going and now this stuff is high on her list of favorite topics, so today was set up as a win before we even left the house this morning.

As we wandered around campus, I watched her turn on her "sponge mode", just taking it all in.  As we walked through the campus quad, we saw models of the Mars Rover, did a few hands-on experiments (some of which we've done together, but these were cooler because they were directed by college students, not mom), and looked at a bunch of simulations.  The lightbulbs started flashing, though, when we got to the campus center.  On the second floor were several robots that were built for competition. She was so excited to find the room they were in only to be disappointed because they didn't look like robots. Despite having studied the Mars Rover (and looking at models of it mere moments ago on the quad), it didn't occur to her that robots come in all different forms and sizes.  Her disappointment soon turned to fascination, though, as we went and talked to a woman on one of the teams who explained what their particular robot did.  First lightbulb.

Back downstairs, we then saw a Lego robotics team with several of their creations.  Second lightbulb.  (Did I mention that The Peanut LOVES Legos?)  This sparked a conversation about going home and building robots of our own and what we would need to do so.  Third lightbulb.  Wombat and I had planned all along to at least expose her to programming concepts at some point and we had discussed using Lego Mindstorms to do it.  We did not expect to do it this year.  This has changed.  Wombat now has two projects to work on with The Peanut this year -- teach her how to play chess (also by her request) and now, build Lego robots.  He wanted to find at least one way to become more regularly involved in her schooling.  Now he has two.  The day had several more lightbulbs, but none quite as vibrant as those first few over the robots.  This will also work well with our little homeschool group as there are a couple of other kids around her age who share similar interests.

I have many reasons why I homeschool.  If I had to pick only one reason to do it, though, I would pick those lightbulbs.  To be a part of her discoveries is magical and I wouldn't miss them for the world.

On a side note, as I sit and write this, I can hear the conversation between Wombat and the Peanut as he's getting her ready for the bed.  It's all about how the camera on one of the robots we saw today sees and recognizes things.  She's firing questions at him fast and furiously.


  1. You've captured it :). I love lightbulb moments as well. E is fascinated with waterwheels and mills, now, and goes to Old Sturbridge Village full of questions. I love that he is confident enough to ask questions of the people who work there, and he really listens to the answers. Another reason I love homeschooling--that lack of the kids feeling like they have to conform, and to not feel like a fool, that they have to be "cool" and not interact with the adults. He's gotten some behind the scenes looks at things because of his curiosity--the OSV people seem to really appreciate it. E has recreated a working waterwheel from legos, with the Technic stuff. And I mean, all the right types of gears and things. He worked on it for an entire week all by himself before it was to his satisfaction. I don't think public school would allow for this kind of focus or time.

  2. Believe it or not, in the public sector those moments are labeled the "aha" moment and we are encouraged to do anythg and everything possible to ensure all children have those moments. The sad truth is while there is differentiated instruction, not all public school teachers can know their students so deeply that they can create that environment in every lesson. this is where homeschool has a direct advantage. You know what makes your child tick! Through our conversations I have grown to have a deeper understanding of what you all do as homeschoolers, and if there is a way to ever find something that is a right fit for my daughter.

  3. I know some wonderful teachers (you included) who are fantastic at making those aha moments in a public school setting. I give you guys a lot of credit for doing it too -- some days, it's hard enough to just feel like we accomplished something one-on-one let alone have anything close to an aha moment. I can't imagine trying to nurture that kind of environment for a whole herd of kids with different interests, learning styles, ability levels, etc on a daily basis.

    For you and your baby-turning-toddler, you'll find something that works for the two of you. Trust your instincts and listen to your kiddo -- she'll tell you what she needs. It might not be the ball bat approach that The Peanut took with me, but she'll let you know. :)