Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homeschooling not easy, but rewards are many

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Recently, the Hickory Daily Record published a guest column by Mike Koivisto in the absence of Scott Hollifield of the McDowell News. I thought the readers of the Hickory Daily Record might like to read about our homeschool experiences, since I offer a different view of homeschooling from Mr. Koivisto.

We began our homeschool journey in 2000. It was during that fall that we discovered that our oldest child, who had been on the "A" honor roll all of her academic life, did not learn any math skills in third grade in public school. Her entrance exam to fourth grade showed that she had the math skills of a child finishing 2nd grade.

She was unable to complete assignments in her fourth-grade math book because she did not know basic multiplication and division.

Did we, her parents, know that she was not being taught multiplication? No. We assumed that she was doing well in third-grade math, based on her report cards.

What we did know about third grade was that it was all important to know how to take a standardized test. She spent third grade learning how to color in the little bubbles on the test. And, miraculously she passed that test at the end of third grade, because she was promoted to fourth grade.

Thus, our homeschooling journey began. I spent two years working with her on mastering basic math skills. And I began teaching her younger brothers at home as well. What I found is that I was equipped to teach them as well as a certified teacher. Yes, they are able to pass the end-of-year standardized tests.

And to correct a fallacy in Mr. Koivisto's article, they do not have to "pass" it to be promoted to the next grade.

My philosophy of teaching them is the mastery approach. We do not move on to a new skill until they master the current skill being taught. There is no pass or fail. There is only a pass option for a course. If they do poorly on a test, they study the material again and retake the test. This does not happen often, but it does happen. They are learning that they cannot take shortcuts in their education.

I am teaching five of our six school-aged children. Our youngest child is only 2, so he isn't on our school roster just yet.

To give you a bit of perspective on the grade levels that I am teaching this year, I have a 12th grader, eighth grader, fourth grader, second grader and kindergartener. Is it a lot of work for me to teach this range? Yes. Can it be done successfully? Yes.

We are stronger as a family, because of our homeschooling experience. I can see growth in my children's educational abilities first-hand, and it is just amazing to see the light bulb moments when they master a new skill. I would not give that opportunity away for anything.

Is homeschooling for everyone? No. It is something that takes time, commitment, money to buy books and a desire to foster the love of education in your child.

There are 38,000 homeschool families registered with the North Carolina Department of Non-Public Education. These are families who have children who range in age from 7 years to 16. There are many homeschool families who have children under the age of 7 or over the age of 16.
I do not feel that I am shattering my children's dreams. I feel that I am facilitating their education to meet their needs as adults.

I will be giving my oldest child her high school diploma at the end of this school year. I could not be more proud of her accomplishments since we began our homeschool journey eight years ago.

Tami Fox, a resident of Taylorsville, is a homeschool mom to six children.

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