Dazed and Crazed

Hello lovers. We had a beautiful, but whirlwindy weekend, in which we forgot to bring the camera to document any of the awesomeness. Now, we have a jam packed week (no, not THAT kind of jam) so I will be short on words today and other posts this week may just be photos. But in the meantime, I would like to ask you some questions and start a conversation here.

1. The first question is a small long shot but…do you know of anyone in the Bay Area looking to rent a room? We have one available in our flat, but combing through the mediocre CL responses is literally stressing me out. Email me at terrallectualism at gmail dot com for the link to the ad and other info. How this blog is, is essentially what our home is like, so I figure y’all may know someone who would be the perfect fit.

2. The second question is this: For those of you who have kids, what is your approach to their schooling/education?

Now that we are in Fern’s second year, this is the foremost question that I’m looking to resolve for our family. There is much thought that goes into this, but here is our vantage point, in brief: Public school is out of the question. This has nothing to do with the passionate, creative, brilliant teachers that teach in the system (Yo Kristen, you know I mean you!), but rather the detrimental stink bomb of “No Child Left Behind” and the way it quelches real learning. Our decision not to put Fern in public school also has to do with the amount of crime and drug use (Berkeley teen girls are pimped out by their boyfriends at the local high), the institutional style of “education” that I believe works for 25% of learners and leaves everyone else in the ditch, the force feeding of information rather than nurturing the natural curiosity of the child (compounded by standardized testing), the overcrowding and on and on. I taught in a middle school for 3 years, as well as being an educator in Theater Arts and Environmental Education for 13 years, including curriculum development and administration, so my opinion is not without experience or precedent.

So with public school out, we also lose our most affordable option. For a low income family, this is challenging. We have considered Waldorf but 1. it is costly and scholarships are still costly and 2. not so sure I’m down with Fern being taught Old Testament stories as part of her education and 3. it depends on how “Steinerism” is applied. However, I have noticed it produces bright, soulful, independent, creative and secure kids, so it’s still in the mix.

I am particularly excited about Unschooling. Although I know that lack of socialization is an unfounded fear/myth about homeschooling, I will admit that I am waiting to decide about this until I know what community we will be in, and whether or not there will be other families to work with, to offer support and be supported by. What I love the most is the premise that we are all natural learners, and unschooling optimizes that curiosity, as well as covering the basics of the three R’s. Unschooling has gotten a little bit of negative media, and because of our conditioning regarding education, this method of education brings up a lot of questions and doubts. If this blog is the first time you’ve heard of Unschooling, please do a little bit of internet research before you reply. Here is a beautiful video from the annual, “Not Back to School Camp”:

[vimeoΒ http://vimeo.com/9368376]

So tell me your experience.

How do you school? If you homeschool/unschool, how did you make that decision? Do you use a curriculum all, or part time? Do you unschool in an urban environment (another issue of ours…I think a rural area would have more opportunity for learning/experimentation). How often do you work with other families and do you trade off days? How did you create/find that community?

How about Waldorf? What do you think about the emphasis on Christianity? Did you get a scholarship?

What about Montessori?

Let’s start talking, and I will chime into your comments when I can during this busy week!

Love to all

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24 thoughts on “Dazed and Crazed

  1. well. our approach embodies a little bit of all of it. and we are quite lucky with our public school at the moment. 22 kids in all, k-5 in a 100 year old school house with two rooms up in the high hills. kind-of dreamy. kind of makes us pinch ourselves to check if this is real?? and then max, well, you know, he needs tons of extra support. so can you say costly private tutoring with specialists that blow me away with their skills? we have had them all go to a buddhist preschool once or twice a week as youngsters. yep. a dreamy waldorfy~buddhist preschool. i want to go there myself. as they start graduating elementary school, ummmmmm, what will i do? i have NO idea and it terrifies me. i sort-of dream of homeschooling then. but i am not a homeschooling woman. it’s just not showing up in my genes so far. maybe it will? NO idea. NO idea. panic attack is setting in just thinking on that. luckily we are a few years out. that is good. finding our ways through this aspect of parenting is so intense, i’ve found. david and i have not always been on the same page. that makes it super hard. but we work it out. i feel it is such a heart experience. no matter which way you go, if your heart is in it, the kids thrive.

  2. I know I don’t have children, but my younger sister (she’s much younger — 7 years) is homeschooled. Rather than my mother teaching her though, she uses Advantages, which is an internet based schooling system. Kids are able to work at their own pace through modules, so if he/she’s not getting something, they have time to work it out. Hayle loves it, and says she prefers it to actually physically going to school. She’s been to public schools in New York, and private schools here in Turkey, and she actually went to my parents and asked to be homeschooled.

    Also, this probably won’t help much, but after high school, I took a one year break and “unschooled” myself. I learned more in that year than any I spent in lousy public school.

    xo

  3. i’m public schooling my kids. if i had issues with my local public school’s safety i would consider homeschooling but there is no way i’d unschool my kid. i’ve seen too many kids who’ve been fucked over by that nonsense. i loved school and i love learning and i think kids do well with learning how to read and write and do math. while i am a smart cookie and could do in a pinch i don’t think i am the best person to provide my kid with all the tools they will need to go to college or pursue a career. all the unschoolers i know tend to be very lazy about it and i jokingly call it unparenting and it pisses me off immensely, the disservice that they do their kids. i think there are a few (very few) kids who will thrive in an unschooling enviornment but most will end up being far behind their peers. that’s been my experience anyway, living in an area where alternative school is popular and being active on online communities that support that sort of stuff. my parents are both public school teachers and i support public schools 100% in the sense that i’m not going to bail on them because my preshus baby is too special to go where everyone else goes, ykwim? i dislike the notion that i cannot continue to add to my childs education while they ALSO go to school. i spend the part of the day when my kid is not at preschool hanging out with him, reading, teaching, doing art. he can have BOTH a formal education AND a hands on education at home. as i said before, if i felt like it was unsafe to send my kid to public school, i would homsechool them, but i’d take it very seriously and do a curriculum that kept my kid at the same level as his peers, lest he he be hindered later when he returns to public schools. i remember homeschooled kids coming to highschool and being really behind both socially and in terms of their education. plus, I LOVED SCHOOL!!! and my kid has been begging to go since he could talk. no way would i keep him from it. if you do choose to homsechool, you should see if your area has any co-op schools. my best friend homeschools my goddaughter, but they go to a school where they work with other parenst and teachers to make sure that the kids aren’t getting left behind.
    my real opinion? i think people take this shit too seriously. my kid goes to preschool. he loves it. it’s benefitted him more than anything else. its just a simple, regular preschool, nothing fancy, no special philosophy or expensive toys.just kids doing crafts and learning their ABC’s. when kindy comes, he’ll go to regular old school, just like his mama did.

  4. i don’t have kids but i am in agreement with Brigit insofar as if you choose to homeschool, i think it would be wise to do co-op – so the kid gets good and broad social contact and learns about getting along with others outside the primary family – as well as follow some sort of clear curriculum, whether pre-determined or creatively made by you. Having read the ‘What is Unschooling’ article, I am still unclear as to what, in fact, it is. It sounds a bit like “if you trust that your kid is smart and curious, let him do what he is drawn to and it will all just be OK.” I don’t see that that is really ever true, especially in these times that are quite complicated socially, culturally, and tough economically and bound to get tougher. Also, parents are busy and to teach, you yourself have to learn. how dedicated are you and jeff to learning some calculus, you know?

    There’s no doubt that simply being a child of our parents does not make us similar to them: In fact, kids all come into the world bringing their own stuff. Sometimes they are wildly different than us! So what we can offer them might not make up all or the best part of what they need or would benefit from. For instance, i was never a math person, so i might homeschool focused on the language arts, but if my kid was very interested or good in math, i would not have a good grounding to give her. And she might never know what she was missing if i did not think ahead and undermine my own assumptions about what is good or important. So i think structure is important, breadth is important, and especially that the kid is keeping up with his or her peers in the public system. I would want to make sure that my kid would have the necessary skills, however gotten, to do as well on the standardized tests that any public or private schooled kid could do. I would want to make sure my kid could – if she had to – ace the SAT, have the same or better opp’ys for college as her peers. I would want to make sure that my kid knew what discipline was – that sometimes in order to get something she wanted, she might have to do things or complete assignments she really found rather unpalatable. Because that is really the way the world works. When I took the WAIS-R many years ago, i was told i had a statistically significant difference between my lexical/language and spatial intelligence, but it was not because i was smart, it was because i just never had any practice with those skills. this was true – i was scared of certain things and not as good at them, so i shunned them. i only found out in adulthood that actually i was not that bad. We tend to like what we are good at because it makes us feel better about ourselves to excel at something, to do it well. if unschooling merely bolsters that tendency, i cold see a kid go through his whole childhood never even having an inkling at something he might be good at with a little more effort because he was so fascinated by bugs, for instance, that Shakespeare just never got airtime.

    That said, i watched the whole camp video and it was very sweet and inspiring. However: Everyone was white. There were maybe 2 mixed race kids i could identify. the demographic does not seem that much different than well to do kids who are sent to groovy/alternative private schools. I’d be concerned about my kids staying isolated in a pod of people just like them all the time.

    those are my two cents!

  5. well… i had second thoughts about posting after that one, whew! that was a doozie. ok but i am just going to answer your question about what we do… quinn and i are unschooling. i want to preface this by saying i’m not NOT schooling based on fear. sorry for the double negatives, and defensiveness. it always seems to be assumed that we’re making this choice because of x y z about school we don’t like or things we fear about how our son will turn out or what he will be exposed to, etc… nope, the way we look at it, we LIKE this, so we CHOOSE this. anyway… we love to learn, and we feel like we do it best (me, my son’s dad, and myself) when we are self-motivated, and we feel like the best environment (for us) for that is at home or wherever we choose to be, surrounded by who we love most. it’s not always logistically or financially possible for everyone, and might not be ideal for someone else, so i’m not super evangelical about it, but for us it is of very high priority, we make financial and logistical “sacrifices” (we don’t really think of them as such but from a societal point of view) to make it happen. that means, quinn is either with me or with his dad, so yeah that limits our working ability, but we are two creative people and so far (he’s four) it’s working for us. i did well academically, and i have grappled with the idea of where i’d be if i hadn’t been privileged to have the education i had, and honestly, i might be in a very different place, but i think i’ve arrived at the conclusion that it would not necessarily be a lesser place at all, and might even have saved me some struggles. who knows, though. all i know is the way i, myself, learn now, as an adult, is entirely motivated by what i like. and that part of me was turned off for a good number of years while i studied what i was told to study, and i think i might have done just fine studying what i liked, instead. (this is incredibly oversimplified. it’s a comment after all.)

    for us, i find waldorf and montessori options, in general, to mostly stray too far from interest-driven learning, for my needs/desires. again, this is for us, not saying this should go for everyone.

    i’m not sure about the urban/rural situation but what i can say is that here, it’s pretty rural and i do not really know anyone else here who unschools. well, it turns out that some of the local homeschoolers happen to practice a little bit of unschooling philosophy, but they don’t identify themselves with that nasty word lol. and then, really, when it comes right down to it, you can unschool no matter what your surrounding community/friends are doing. i am friends with, for example, a number of christian homeschool mamas, there are plenty in my area of those, and honestly, while we do not identify as christian, it has been wonderful to be friends and grow community that way, and we can still do our thing even though they might use a curriculum or have bible as one of their lessons. (we’re just not hanging out when those are going on!) focus on the commonalities rather than the differences, i am finding, is very helpful in our smaller town. and i think the urban struggle is more of place, than of people, and i think those challenges, too, could be overcome.

  6. thank you to everyone who has chimed in so far.

    i am having very mixed reactions, especially to the comments that come across, to me, as tirades. i am all for folks having their opinions. but what i asked for was a sharing of your experience. not how effed up you think homeschooling/unschooling may, or may not, be.

    i am interested in your on the ground, day to day experience of choosing schooling for your child. for myself, i know i feel more receptive when opinions are shared in a tone where personal responsibility for those opinions is taken. i am less responsive to hyperbole, anecdotal evidence or sweeping statements. i do take this decision/choice very seriously, so please give your humble author the benefit of the doubt that i am well aware of potential pitfalls/difficulties/drawbacks within EACH system. i consider my daughter’s schooling to be an extension of her parenting, and thus will pick the option that is most in line with my wisdom and values.

    i really want to hear what folks like mb have to say about choosing to unschool, but i am concerned that many voices may stay silent if this seems like a hostile forum.

    thanks!

  7. We unschool our two boys (ages 7 and 11) and have been doing so since they were little ones. My husband and I both had great experiences in school, but were exasperated with all the testing and regulations that have taken over in the place of true learning. We live in a rural area (we have a 3 acre farm), but we also live near a medium-sized city where my boys love to visit the museums and more.
    We are part of a homeschool co-op of families that meets each week. I’m teaching a class this session on Native American and Appalachian history and culture to a group of 7 boys! Last week we made stone necklaces and this week we are making baskets. The parents offer a class they are interested in teaching and the children choose which class they want to take that session. We love our diverse group of families.
    We use several blogs as inspiration for activities, including Waldorfy blogs. We also have used some curriculums to get ideas and information from. I would NOT recommend Live Ed as a curriculum. It is very purist and overwhelming to follow, plus it’s expensive and they do not allow you to return it. Iwas able to borrow it from a friend. We like Little Acorn Learning (young ones) and Earthschooling (K-8). Both are wonderful in that you can easily follow the curriculum and the moms who wrote them are extremely helpful.
    I don’t want to ramble on, but I’m more than willing to talk more if you’d like.

    Bright blessings,

    Jenny

  8. I’ve never commented before but I love reading your blog and have some experience to pass along. I have a daughter just a bit older than Fern and an eight month old son. We attend a Waldorf parent-child program once a week and love it. That being said, I probably wouldn’t send my children to a Waldorf school beyond Kindergarten. Here’s why.

    1. I think Waldorf philosophy looks at children as a whole a bit too much. My daughter is a very imaginative little sprite, in fact, she never really did the mimicking thing much at all. The expectation within Waldorf circles is generally that a child will begin imagining around age 3, and mostly mimic until then. As there is so much emphasis on allowing children to stay in their “dreamy” state and not “wake up” too soon, I felt a bit under the microscope, as though my parenting was “waking” her up too soon. I think there is definitely a dire need to preserve childhood and the freedom and dreaminess that comes with that, but I also feel there has to be flexibility in allowing a child to grow in their own time.

    2. This is completely personal, but I don’t dig anthroposophy. Maybe its just my aversion to anything religious, but I can’t get into the whole life-force thing. I love magic and enchantment but I see enough of it in our humanity without wanting to bring in beliefs that seem hokey and false to me. Again, totally personal preference. Also, it seems to depend on the school how much Anthroposophy actually factors in to everyday school life.

    So, what do we plan to do? Homeschool. With a lovely mash up of Waldorf and unschooling and a bit of art therapy. Until one of my kids lets me know that’s not working for them and then we’ll do something else.

    Which is what I think should be at the crux of all schooling conversations. Parents know their kids. Hopefully, they are connected and tuned into their children. Meeting our kids where they are at, right now, is one of the best gifts I believe we have to offer. I think homeshooling facilitates that well.

    And one last note, on the unschooling hating going on. I think it is how it is carried out that makes the biggest difference. I’ve seen parents who say they unschool when really they send their kid off alone with a book. Obviously, that kind of isolation and lack of teaching is not cool. There’s no way that child’s needs and interests are really being met and engaged. But, I think, I hope that unschooling can be great. I equate it to baby proofing when your child first learns to crawl. You can place your baby in a play pen with educational toys to protect them from all the sharp corners and outlets. Call it good because they are technically learning in a safe environment. Or, you can cover the corners, plug the outlets, move sharp objects up and let baby have at it. It requires more work from the parent, more discipline to foster an environment that lends itself to learning than just tossing toys in a playpen, but they get to experience a much larger, much more interesting world. I think that to unschool well, it probably takes more work on the parent’s part than many other forms of schooling, to facilitate their interests, help establish social relationships, learn discipline and tenacity without constant due dates. But , if we’re up for the challenge, they have a whole world to explore. In my opinion, that’s quite a gift.

    This was so long, hope it helps!

  9. i don’t know where to start….i am so disappointed to hear about the state of berkeley public schools! we used to live there (before kids) and it always seemed like there were some really good, progressive things happening (for anyone able to make a decent enough living to live there, anyway…and thus we moved πŸ™‚ )
    i did not send my kids to preschool. i didn’t have any peers who could offer tips on good places, and what i found on my own all seemed like glorified babysitting. we’d made the choice that i was staying home with the kids and were relying on one income, so why would we bust our financial asses to send them to daycare?
    when my kids were born, i thought i would home school. mostly because i couldn’t bear the thought of being away from them, and i hadn’t been very happy at school when i was growing up. however by the time my daughter was 4 (son then almost 3), i didn’t think that i was organized or patient enough to educate them at home. among other reasons, they have very different personalities than i do; i am more introverted whereas they are not and crave much more social interaction.
    we considered the public waldorf at that point, but i wasn’t sure we were radical enough (this is very, very funny for those who know me). ultimately we settled on another public magnet school (integrated thematic instruction through arts and science) that required parent participation. it seemed like a balance between a traditional public school and my nontraditional leanings.
    nope. that is, after a few years, i felt a widening gap between the values we have as a family and those at the school we chose (among a million other little things that pile up with any relationship). i found that many teachers were not organized or patient, either. after a very difficult last school year, we decided to find another place for our family.
    i revisited my first instinct: waldorf. i visited both the public school and private school in our area. i immediately loved the public waldorf, but i knew that our chances of getting in we slim at that point. i visited the private waldorf and felt my self saying “no no no” at many a corner (based on teaching staff, as opposed to curriculum), but decided to pursue it as a backup plan, anyway. long story short, by late summer both kids had been accepted into the public waldorf (phew).
    it has only been two months since we started in waldorf, but it has been a world of change. our entire family unit is far more relaxed and happy, and the kids still continue to blossom intellectually.
    i completely understand your concern about the religious component that can be a part of waldorf education (we not christian). we spoke very directly about this subject to the teachers at the private waldorf. however, their curriculum took a more inclusive approach, so that the children learned about the lives and stories of peoples from various religions and civilizations, and the blessings they did before lunch were very general. there is a similar approach at our public waldorf where, for instance, my daughter’s fifth grade class recently finished a unit on ancient india, during which they learned about everything from how people lived in their daily lives to the hindu deities they worshiped.
    we dodged a bullet by getting into the public waldorf where the only real fees are for field trips and energy towards fundraising (which is par for the course with good public schools these days). paying for the private option would have been very difficult (they did have financial assistance available), but i was ready to do it if it had been the right place for my kids. coming out of such a negative situation, i realized that i would pay anything to have happy children at the end of the day.
    my only suggestion for you would be to visit any places you are considering while class is in session to get a vibe on the teachers, children, and staff in action…and then trust your gut. but i don’t think i even need to tell you that πŸ™‚
    p.s. sorry for the novel, but this shit is a big deal!

  10. so much to say. need to use bullets:

    – i think the kind of unschooling that i seek for my children does not exist anywhere but in my mind. that said, ideas are put into action and new things can blossom. i am a public high school teacher and i would consider sending my children there after they have a foundational education which is not public school based (standardized tests, mandatory curriculum, etc.)

    – both of my children as you know are in a waldorf inspired private school. we are fortunate enough to have grandparents paying half of the tuition, tuition assistance paying a portion and our full time jobs paying a portion as well. i literally stumbled into waldorf education and have learned more and more about it each year that we have been. eden attended a home based waldorf preschool in sf that we loved. elijah attends the homey setting of a waldorf inspired preschool up here. they both thrived (and continue to thrive) in this environment. this is why we have stayed here.

    – i think the junior high years are the scariest in public schools. if i had to save my pennies, i would save them and splurge on schooling (unless i was unschooling or homeschooling) on those years.

    – the aspect of waldorf education in the early years (preschool, kindergarten and 1-2) which has created such an amazing sense of growth in my children is the establishment of a rhythm. a daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal rhythm. it is one of the most important things to eden. she is that type of kid. (i do weekly meal planning and write it on a chalkboard. she checks it every morning to see what we are having. it is very comforting to her and allows her to feel secure. elijah doesnt seem to be that particular yet.)

    – our school (now that she is in 3rd grade) teaches old testament stories as part of the farming and shelter building curriculum for this grade. they are taught as stories just like the mythical tales which were taught last year were taught. they view them as such and eden loves learning through storytelling.

    – i have many things that i worry about with waldorf education. none of them are coming up in my reality today. most of them are fears of the future. we will cross those bridges when we come to them. i dont care what anyone says about them. i cant listen to their fears because after all these are my kids, not theirs.

    – i adore the fact that my 9 year old still comes home singing songs about the seasons still rather than lady gaga and katy perry. i cant help it, but there is something that i find painful about watching little girls shake their thangs and act like mini hoochies mamas (i dont know how else to say this… that is a personal thing.

    – living in marin now, i absolutely hate the fact that there is no diversity other than marin city and san rafael (which at the high school where i teach, those kids are still experiencing institutionalized racism daily)

    – i applied to marin country day school when eden was going into kindergarten which about 50% of the population comes from the city. it is supposed to have more diverse population. we didnt get in.

    – there is an awesome looking school which just started up in sf this year called http://sfbrightworks.org/ i would absolutely check out this school for both of my kids if i still lived in sf.

    – the rhythm which starts in preschool in waldorf education is very do-able at home. (bread day, soup day, painting day, etc…)

    – i am pretty sure that there is a waldorf based co-op in sf that looks pretty rad. if you are interested, the sf waldorf school would probably give you information about it (i think it is called hummingbird or something)

    – i keep putting one foot in front of the other and realizing that there are no perfect solutions. one of the biggest things that i have experienced as a parent and a teacher is that most of the real learning happens at home, whether there is a curriculum attached to it or not. whether they are attending school all day or not.

    -you and jeff are educated and aware and loving parents and you cant help but make the “right” decision for fern. you will fall into it.

    xoxo

  11. i should also say about my first bullet point there, that if i was not working full time, if our circumstances were different, i would seriously consider unschooling or homeschooling or some sort of mesh of that rather than the school thing. but i do think there is something good about suiting up and showing up when they are older. just my two cents…

    and woodacre/west marin area has a great charter waldorf school or so i hear and they also have lots of affordable housing that is surrounded by nature… just another two cents. that makes four cents.

  12. Welllllllll….. I think there are many great thoughts here about education, choices and children! First I am a mom, second I am a teacher. I am deeply involved in the public school setting as my career. I believe in free education, whatever path that may be. I sometimes feel like private, costly education is very exclusive. Sure, you may be able to get into a private school on scholarship, however, I can’t afford private school, nor do I qualify for scholarships based on my income, thus we are excluded.

    I send my kids to a charter school. I totally feel like a hypocrite, because I despise what charter schools are doing to public schools. I think if every family that invests their time and energy into charter schools stayed at their regular neighborhood public school, public schools would be so much more appealing. You wouldn’t believe how families (particularly new to the school setting – meaning first child in school) flock to a school based on it’s name. If they closed down my school (where I teach) and reopened it with the word charter or magnet in it, the people would come, but for now they are fleeing.

    Back to why I chose our charter school… the charter was written with an agricultural emphasis. The school is set in the midst of grape farms and is 20 minutes away. Our local elementary public school is about 2 blocks away. See?? HYPOCRITE. However, my children are experiencing project based learning (field trip to a grape harvest anyone?), they have a full time music teacher who follows the same philosophies I do, a Learning Garden, small, diverse community, with a beautiful “back yard”. For me this is heaven. Downside: it’s exclusive in that not everyone can get in otherwise the school would be HUGE, so they have a lottery and a waiting list. It’s so sad that public education has lost so much of what other schools (charters) are able to do.

    But our little school just goes to show that there are gems out there, you just have to find them. Definitely observe at whatever school you are interested in, if you choose to go the school route. I am still reading up on unschooling. To be honest, it’s a brand new term to me. I believe in learning through play. Play play PLAY. I would hope that a child, regardless of their early learning experiences, would have the opportunity for life-long learning, college and beyond.

    Have you heard of Reggio Emilia schools? I always thought their approach to learning sounded very good and I know there are some in the Bay Area. I’m sure they’re not cheap. And I love the idea of public Waldorf and Montessori schools. Free (although we pay for them through taxes… so not really free). πŸ™‚ And also I love the idea of learning at your own pace. Imagine that.

  13. I’ll try keep this short seeing as you have a gajillion comments already. My darling goes to a public school in New Zealand. Our schools are not all created equal. Our school is a “gentle” school…the parents are an extremely active part of the school community and have a large input into the rule making. It is a semi-rural school. I have no issue with the style of education, as so far, it suits him. He has been really fortunate this year to have a teacher who is great with boys. (my main concern is the over-feminisation of the education clientele and therefore school environment – and that would be whatever school he went to, unless we paid for one particular all boy, evenly distributed male teacher /female teacher ratio….which we may do for the two years (we call intermediate) before high school. I believe schools unfairly treat boys – in that they are not well catered for. I’d never homeschool because i would probably stab myself in the eye with a fork out of frustration. I know this, as homework is hard enough for me not to become a total control freak – poor son of mine. High school is to be another story yet again….the ones in our area are not great. We’d move in order to get him into a better school. And it will be a private school. OUR problem is that our kids aren’t baptised…and most private schools require Christian affiliation, and we’re completely non-denominational – so not sure how that will pan out. Do unschooled kids fit easily with social norms and peers? I know that this goes against the point of it sort of….but realistically the actual world does place social demands on us and our kids. I don;t want my kids to be brainless conformists or bullies…..but i do wish for them not to feel too displaced in their world. That would be my only concern for my own children (besides my own nervous breakdown) should I think about homeschooling. But good luck with whatever you decide…my experience is likely to be different from you USA ladies. x

  14. Hi all! This is FANTASTIC, you have already given me so much information and things to think about. Mostly, I find myself agreeing with you around desires, questions, concerns.

    One theme I am noticing that I would like to comment on, is the base assumption that homeschooled/unschooled kids are lacking in socialization. While I understand the assumption of how this would be the case, from everything that I have seen, all I have read, and everyone I have talked to…is that the opposite is true. Home/unschooled kids are not lacking in social interaction…they have just as many friends and do just as many group activities as the rest of us. These social interactions are also racially diverse…often more so than if they went to the school in their district. I encourage y’all to seek out more information about this.

    So keep it comin’, and thank you so much to everyone who has replied so far. I love the passion and wisdom contained in this little corner of the blogosphere.

  15. glad i came back- some of the following comments have been amazing, many of which i wanted to quote and say “i second that!” but i will just give a general “yay!” for them instead and keep it brief. i agree with you 100% as far as what i have seen and socialization: kids who know how to have a conversation with people who don’t happen to be their own age! and good for you for having researched it, mary. it is by far the number one question/comment you will receive if you do decide to home/unschool. it certainly has been for me.

  16. Nice post. I found your blog via Twwly’s. My husband and I are also posed with the question of homeschooling our two children. I recently went to a “reskilling festival” at a local Waldorf-inspired Grade 1-8 school, where my three-year-old got a little taste of what a waldorf education might be like. The atmosphere was wonderful, it felt more like a second home with a big back yard, complete with apple trees! I like the idea of homeschooling for the first couple of years, with the option of a Waldorf education as the children age.

  17. I will hold my opinions – you just asked for my experience which I applaude you for because really you can not talk about any other experience with complete truth unless…well – you experience it.

    My children (9 and 12 ) have gone to a small Waldorf school since preschool. There is a bunch of things that don’t fit exactly in my own ways. like anthroposophy, and my lifestyle sometimes being questioned by others in the community. But those are minor. I am strong and non-threatened and I don’t need the world to be perfect. My children LOVE their school, they are getting experiences and knowledge that I am thrilled with, they learn to navigate the things that may not be perfect in their school, life , etc, just like we all do in life. Their teachers love them – truly love them. We were very lucky with our teachers. And it is a wonderful community. I feel if you are looking for everything to be exactly how you want it to go – it could turn into a detriment to the child. We are making the best choices we can for our children when they are babies and help them navigate the rest – why should school be any different? The good out weigh the bad. Most days everyone rolls along beautifully, things come up , we deal with it and usually a lesson is learned in it all and we all have grown. Our experience has been wonderful!

    Ok – Old Testament – yes they learned some but as an above comment suggested, it is taught as any other story is taught. As an non-religious person I am thrilled about this. My children understand how to take a religious concept that they hear about while in everyday life (from relatives, the public, media, etc.) and put it into a context that they understand – it’s just a story. And by the way – they really are beautiful stories. Great lesson learned, that I would have never thought of on my own!!!

    Tuition – it’s a bitch. We sometimes have help, not nearly enough tuition aid, and struggle. Right now, we are still hanging on – it is our choice, this is where my kids are – this is the present and I do not feel like the tuition as a negative yet. As the kids get older, the lack of travel far and wide may swing the see saw for us. I take each year as it goes –

    Hope that helped> We actually moved to go to a Waldorf School that was more affordable, cost of living in a small town was more affordable, etc. I thought it was temporary, but it ended up being a great community. I feel like a found a little secret noone knows about πŸ˜‰ A few less coffee shops and no Trader Joes/ Whole Foods….but great people and tons of farms!!!

    1. somesortagirl, i’m not sure how long you’ve been reading this blog, but if you’ve been around for a while, you know that our family is looking for our new home (which unfortunately needs to be in close quarters to the bay area) so i just have to ask….WHERE DO YOU LIVE? lotsa farms? great people? no whole foods? sounds delightful! πŸ™‚

      1. awww – no where near the bay area – all the way in Pennsylvania! Surrounded by the Amish near Lancaster, PA…..

  18. Wow Mary, you’ve got a lot of reading to do with all theses comments. I guess I’ll add a bit more. I should preface this by saying my opinions are totally colored by the fact that I work at a small private community school and my husband is the principal. That comes off sounding much different than I feel that we do as people, because we absolutely don’t fit the principal etc. mold.

    I am a product of California public schools and in my time it, elementary school in particular, was a great experience. Could have been better in the upper grades, but I was able to make it work. I also taught art in public school, subbed all grades all subjects and lead outdoor ed programs. Most recently I worked in SF as an on site therapist for several of the middle schools. I am not knowledgeable in unschooling, so will kindly keep my mouth shut.

    I live down near Half Moon Bay, which I believe is too far for your little Fern, so please don’t read this as an advertisement for my school, but rather points I think are important in looking for a school- if you choose to send her to one. First, size matters. We are a limited growth operation, meaning we believe that for every child in our school- and our staff as well- to find/know her place in the community, as well as those of her peers and their families, we keep our size limited to approximately 85 kids. In this way children and families do not get lost in the shuffle, they have room to explore and find their place as a unique individual supported by the school community, a place that will grow, deepen and shift as they move from being a little kid to a big kid (we’re JrK-8th grade). While academics are not secondary, relationship is really the cornerstone of the school, because we feel that relationship is the vehicle through which many important lessons and skills are learned. We foster this through small size -20-ish kids per class with a teacher and an aid in every room, as well as traditions like a 15minute school wide gathering every morning for news, songs, quotes, and other sharing. We focus on teaching core values, which change monthly- this month is integrity- which we work into the curriculum. And I recently started teaching a social-emotional learning class to all grades which covers everything from problem-solving, principles of non-violent communication, identifying feelings states, art based self-exploration to examining violence in the media and other issues.
    In terms of learning and learning styles, we believe that meeting every child where she is at, is key to successful learning and fostering a love of learning. If she is accelerated in reading but slower in math, then during small group time, she is in a group that fits her level. She is not bound to 3rd grade curriculum if she is a third grader. If a child struggles with social or behavioral issues, this is also wrapped into her own program. Each child is discussed in staff meeting as a team, and is in conversation with parents regularly. Our academics include the arts- drama, dance, music and graphic arts. And their bodies get regular exercise on hikes, games on the yard, kayaking trips etc.
    This is all to say that we want to teach the whole child. And all children in our school are seen. Not just the geniuses or the squeaky wheels, all of them. We have a lot of parents looking at the school trying to make the choice that you are. I think if you want to send your child to school, there are schools that can be a nurturing place where she can make friends, learn about the social fabric of life, have trusted adults outside her home, and be given many opportunities to grow and be challenged.
    I am certain that we are not the only school in the Bay Area doing these things! What I am saying is that the principles by which we operate the school seem to foster success- and I don’t just mean good grades. OK, that did sound like an ad, but whatever, I didn’t expect to be immersed in school as I have become, but I feel it is a good way to spend each day, and it has taught me and my husband tons. And so, I feel very passionately about small size, holistic learning, and relationship focus. Hope that helps in some small way. I know it was a mouthful.
    V.

  19. What a trove of information you have here Mary, I am a little later in getting back here, though it has stayed in my mind to. I see I am not the only lengthy commenter round here: ) perhaps I will leave it short and sweet today.
    I know you and your family will find the perfect way for Fern. And to always remain open and listening, if there needs to be a change, I think is key.

    I am sure in SF, there must be a wealth of alternatives to main stream school.
    I happend upon Waldorf and it was so clearly the path for us, by seeing how Madeleine thrived and bloomed with it. I love it as a way of educating and cant imagine doing things another way right now. Its become an amazing part of our lives and though I am not an anthroposophist, I see lots of wisdom in there, and use what works for us, as I do with buddhism and Christianity too, and whatever else works for us. I leave out what doesn’t and if I have any issues, I speak with her teacher about it. We are so lucky to have an amazing teacher, who M adores and when I walk out the gate of the kindergarten each morning, I know I am placing her in a good place. She is learning so much through song and play and developing her body and mind. Its all working its magic through movement and being outdoors. M is more connected with nature then I ever was, and so in harmony with the woods where we live. I look at her all the time, thinking how blessed we are, that I can give her this much.

    I could ramble on here a while abut this with lost more specifics, but the other Mary has covered lots of similar ground. If you ever have any questions about this, I will happily try to answer them for you.

    xx E

  20. I’ve been thinking about you and Fern all week since this post. That subconscious thinking that surfaces once a day. So I thought I’d better comment to release my thinking.
    Wow, I’m impressed by the comments. I have three little people (1, 4, 6) and we’ve settled on homeschool/unschool. However I can vividly remember wondering and even feeling a little anxiety over not knowing what we’d do in the future when my first was literally two years old. Waldorf? Montessori? Public? Charter? Homeschool? Unschool? Curriculum? Oy.
    My best advice to you is to let life continue to blow you on your path and things will literally develop as they should. The more you get to know Fern, the more you’ll know how to help her bloom into her best potential. Right now it feels crazy-big also because there are more unknowns even than just who-Fern-is. My life back a simple four years ago was a zillion times different than it is now. We lived in a little apartment in South Berkeley, and dreamed of something out of there. Something out of what felt like us a rat-race. And one that we were always a bit behind in. Rent?! Gadzooks!
    Anyhow, we live rural now. Husband works to support us by my staying at home penny pinching. And we at the last moment finally decided to do homeschool for these first two years. Our weekends are midweek so that allows us to be sane in that sense. And then we promised we’d ask the girls where they wanted to go (kinder for middle child then, second for my eldest). And they want to try the public school down the road. A piece of me cringes now knowing that our little crazy-wonder-bliss will come to an end next year. At least until someone perhaps wants to return to it. And a piece of me knows that to be the democratic household that trusts my own kids instincts in testing their own boundaries and comfort zones, I gotta take them to the schools and let them listen and see and watch them for reactions. So that’s what we’re doing.
    As mentioned, we’re unschooling. I find it funny when open-minded people bad mouth things lumping them all into the same pool. I’m cool with unschooling my child, especially at this young age. From my reading home-based learning is ideal until about age 7 if it’s kept stimulating, cooperative, rich and involved. I strive for that but honestly it’s hard. A school day is 6 hours plus or minus with 3 of those hours being literally shuffling kids around from this to that, asking for quiet, etc etc. And when they’re at home you literally feel kind of bad every time you aren’t helping a teaching moment happen. Also, another benefit of homeschool/unschooling is that you can make your own blend. I too am not comfortable with some of the hardcore stricter aspects of Waldorf and Montessori, but I love many things about both. So I blend bits of both into our day and rhythm while adhering to our own hearts and minds only. Trust be told, I love the aesthetics the most for both of those learning mediums. But I can’t stand following rules of any kind it seems (yeah, great parenting right?!)
    But anyhow, we love it for kinder and first. And I’ve felt in my heart and knowing my child now that it’d be good till about 3rd grade FOR US.
    So, anyhow, enough of us. Listen to yourself. It’ll unfold. And soak up the positives people have shared. The negatives are unknowns as to whether you’ll experience them similarly. And cheers for asking a stimulating question. πŸ™‚

  21. Hiya Mary,

    I feel like we’ve done/are doing it all. Rose is at a Montessori preschool (where Col went for kindergarten). I love it in all ways except the tuition. Now we’re unschooling, though for us that does not mean we don’t have focus and goals for learning. We’re also part of a homeschool co-op, which is fantastic. And…Col goes to public school 2 days/week. It’s all good, none of it is perfect.

    I love being home with my kids, I love learning with them. I love having time away from them as well (plus I need and want to work). It’s important for me that they have community and that they’re free to love learning for learning’s sake. However, I do stress at times because Col is not super focused on reading and writing. If he was in full time public school, he’d prob be farther along in reading and writing. But he’s learning a lot of other amazingly wonderful things and I know the literacy stuff will come.

    I really like the downtime that unschooling allows. I honestly feel like my kids need that for their physical health (let alone spiritual/emotional health).

    When I was fretting last year about educational choices, someone said to me, “if something doesn’t work, you can always change your mind.” A-ha! I feel like the whole thing is a big experiment, day to day.

    Blessings in your journey, Mary.

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