Feb 26, 2009

Homeschool Mom Steps Outside the Box—and Dances on Top

Note: Please give a warm welcome to my hilarious friend, author Annette Fix! I love her even more after reading her following guest post on homeschooling. She totally gets me when it comes to trying to fit into the two most distinct camps in the homeschooling world.

It's not easy finding someone who is from the same Truck Masters School of Language as Annette puts it (I'm the fellow graduate *giggle*), and who is fun-loving, laid-back and non-judgy. But Annette is all of the above and that's why I adore her.

Be sure to read to the end to find out how to win an autographed copy of Annette's hilarious book The Break-Up Diet. (It's one of my favorites now)

Also don't forget about my giveaway for a $25 to Chic and Sassy Design. Enjoy!


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My sensibilities have always been more “Dallas” than “Little House on the Prairie”—so, when I decided to homeschool my son through junior high, I quickly discovered that my assimilation to the homeschooling culture would be as easy as shampooing and blow-drying a cat.

I started by attending my first conference, eager to take notes in all the sessions and absorb the wisdom packed into the phone-book-sized manual. During a break, I sat at a table filled with other homeschooling mothers, and began flipping through the binder. I came across a page of sample math word problems. Example: If Eve gave Adam 6 apples in the Garden of Eden and he ate 4 of them, how many sins were left?

Um…seriously? Math sins? I looked around to see if I was on a candid camera show. Unfortunately, I was not. However, I was the only mother at the table, laughing like a deranged witch, and ripping pages out of the binder. By the time I tore out every page I didn’t agree with, the content of the remaining pages wouldn’t have filled a prayer card. When I turned around from dumping the harvested pages into the nearest trash bin, the other mothers at the table had formed a hand-clasped circle and were praying for the salvation of my misguided soul.

Note to self: Not my scene. Run. Run far away. Very fast.

Next, I decided to attend a different type of homeschooling conference—someplace where I’d be less likely to be struck by lightning or burned at the stake. At my second conference, I was embraced by granola-crunchy moms who make organic pasta, name their children after indigenous plants, and don't own shoes. The environment felt much more inclusive and welcoming, even if it was a circus of free-love and Bobby McFerrin unschooling.

Out of the two choices, it seemed like the most suitable fit—until I could locate an organization of college-educated, homeschooling, exotic dancer/single moms. But I wasn’t going to bet my brass pole on that ever happening.

Unlike the first conference, children were allowed to attend, and my son enjoyed meeting kids who reinforced what I told him—homeschooling would be an adventure. He could blow up a bottle of Mountain Dew and Mentos in the backyard. Study the mating habits of the North African gerbil. Or learn to play the “Star Spangled Banner” on a xylophone. Lack of imagination is the only limit in homeschooling.

At this conference, I was introduced to the concept of multiple intelligences and their related learning styles. That’s when I realized my son’s problems in public elementary school were the result of his kinesthetic learning style, not A.D.D. as his teachers claimed. A light came on for both of us and it helped me guide my son to his current success as a professional photographer at the age of 20.

Though my homeschooling days have come to an end, a recent conversation with a like-minded mom (and fellow graduate of Truck Masters School of Language) caused me to reflect on my experience. I’ve always been a little outside of the box, and because of it, I’ve become a keen observer of human nature and an armchair quarterback of social psychology.

I found that although the utmost care is given to making the decision to homeschool their child/student, many homeschool moms try to conform to rigid expectations—outside expectations—of who they should be, how they should behave, what curriculum they should use and how they should teach. This was especially true in the conservative homeschooling culture.

All the posturing and Mary Kay façades seemed so counterproductive to the end goal—preparing the children for attaining success in the world—teaching real life skills: financial independence, social and environmental consciousness, development of aspirations and a sense of purpose, strong communication abilities, emotional maturity and an understanding of their sexuality, interpersonal relationship skills, the ability to reason and overcome challenges, and most of all, to have a solid sense of self to embrace and be authentically who they are.

That’s a big job that goes far beyond teaching algebra and U.S. history. But how can a child/student learn those valuable life skills if their homeschool mom is not teaching by example?

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear them.

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Annette Fix was a single mom, sole support and care of her son for 15 years. She has been happily married for 5 years and is adjusting to an empty nest. She is a freelance editor, a publishing industry and single parenting speaker, Senior Editor of WOW! Women On Writing, and the author of The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir-the heartbreaking and hilarious true story of a 30-something homeschooling single mom and aspiring writer who is working as an exotic dancer, searching for Prince Charming, and trying to find the perfect balance between her dreams and her day-to-day life as Supermom.

You can email her directly at annette[at]annettefix[dot]com.

For the length of her blog tour, Annette will be giving away free digital copies of her memoir. If you’d like a copy, send an email to promo[at]thebreak-updiet[dot]com, please put “So a Blonde Walks Into a Blog” in the subject line.

To win an autographed copy of The Break-Up Diet, simply leave a comment here (Haloscan or Blogger) with your thoughts on Annette's post above.

For bonus entries, you can do one or all of the following (one bonus entry for each method):

~Twitter a link to this post. Then leave a separate comment here with the link to your Tweet.

~Write about this giveaway on your blog with a link to this post. Then leave a separate comment here with a link to your post.

Deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. ET, Thursday, March 5, 2009. Winner will be selected at random through Random.org and contacted by email (so be sure there's an email address to be found in your comment or profile).

Good luck!

24 comments:

thebreakupdiet said...

Thanks for hosting my blog tour! I'll stop by to answer questions and respond to comments, so bring 'em on! =)

Dapoppins said...

I can not believe she attended one of those conference things. Ha! Even I am not brave enough to do that.

What was the hardest thing about homeschool for you? How did you "socialize" your son? Jr. High is an evil world, what was the most challenging thing about homeschooling a jr. higher?

Bunny B said...

LOL! Annette's post was really funny! I'm sure I will enjoy her book! :)
bunnybx at gmail . com

Bunny B said...

Tweeted: http://twitter.com/bunnyb/status/1256522249
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Bunny B said...

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Nevada said...

Hilarious and poignant... I really enjoyed this! Sounds like you did an amazing job raising your son!

John said...

My thought/question/comment is:

Brass pole? *!!*

I'm sorry, I didn't catch anything else there...could you repeat that?

; )

sybil law said...

I'd like to know how you socialized your son, too. It's the one thing that's really held me back from homeschooling my daughter.

Giggle Pixie said...

Awesome post - I really enjoyed it!

Annette said...

WOW. Sorry to be MIA! My email never notified me that I had any comments!

I'm a total education junkie, so attending those conferences seemed like the perfect way to jump in and find out what homeschooling was all about. As you can see from what I wrote, it was much different than I expected! I was used to attending writer's conferences, so I was a complete fish out of water.

As for socializing my son, it wasn't hard. It's not like I locked him in a closet with a wooden spoon and a Tupperware bowl to play with. He had all the neighborhood kids, he was in little league for 9 years, and I joined a homeschool group, so he definitely wasn't isolated.

The most challenging thing about homeschooling was being confident that I was teaching him what he really needed to learn. I started with a stack of textbooks that covered all the disciplines (science, history, etc.) and rigid lesson plans. By the second year, I was mostly unschooling and focusing on life skills, writing, communication skills, and more experiential lessons. We even enrolled in a sign language class together at the local community college.

Annette said...

I didn't have a problem with my son in his jr. high years--or any really. Of course, he occasionally had the typical teen attitude flying like a national flag, but I had a strong enough personality to keep him in line. And it happened so infrequently that it wasn't an issue.

I think what helped is that I established open communication with him from a very young age, so it really limited the frustrations that come up between parents and teens--especially with regard to sharing thoughts and feelings about what the kids are going through at that age--emotionally, physically, etc.

My son was much more willing to come to me and talk about his challenges, fears, and everything else because I made that part of our every day conversation.

Sena said...

Your writing is lovely and funny, Annette! I would really enjoy reading your book! Thank you.
sena.sagani[at]gmail[dot]com

Sena said...

I have linked your contest at http://senalovescandy.blogspot.com/2009/02/sweet-lovelies.html
sena.sagani[at]gmail[dot]com

MJ said...

This sounds really heartwarming and funny. I think I could really identify with it. Please count me in!

mindy said...

sounds awesome i always like a bit of humor thrown in the mix thanks for the giveaway

turboterp said...

Annette's take on homeschooling was both funny and touching. Thank you!

Alice H said...

This really sounds like a great book. I loved the comments about how our job as parents is to prepare our children for the real world. Also - not important I know! - but I really love the cover of the book! Thanks for the chance - alicedemske at hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Great story, title and book cover!

theyyyguy@yahoo.com

thebreakupdiet said...

Alice & Anon,

It does matter! I'll let the cover designer know you're diggin' her work! =)

Michelle said...

Very funny post! I work at a university and deal with all kinds of educators, including home schoolers, and yes, they run the gamut from all the women wearing matching frocks made up gingham and are subservient to all the men to open minded, articulate and mature 10 year olds.

Annette said...

Michelle,

At that second conference, I was blown away by the homeschool kids. They were mostly all "unschooled." The conference had a lounge set up in one of the conference rooms, but some of the older kids had organized their own activities at various places on the grounds: a talent show, a debate, a round-table discussion.

I went to one parenting session and there was a 20-year old boy (who was speaking) who had been only been interested in Civil War history while being homeschooled, so that was all he studied. By 20, he had been hired by a university as a history professor because his knowledge of that era was so astounding. (He had published in education journals, etc.)

There are so many homeschool kids who flourish from that teaching environment. Some of the stories are incredible. Of course, there is Zac Sunderland, the 16-year old boy who sailed around the world alone, and Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon, et al.

I'd be willing to bet that all of these kids are kinesthetic learners... The public school system just isn't the best place for them.

Betty C said...

If your book is anything like your comments I know I will enjoy it to the max!
My children are all adults now but I would never have had the courage to try to homeschool them. I have a good friend who homeschools her two (13 & 15) and they are a joy to be around. She started homeschooling her son because he showed definite signs of social anxiety at a young age. Homeschooling has been perfect for him.
For those of us who are just ordinary moms with no special education or talent, how would you suggest we could learn to believe that we are capable of teaching?

Annette said...

My book is VERY candid about my relationship break-up--everything I was thinking, saying, and doing (which most women would never admit in print)! LOL

The homeschool element IS in my book (as is my relationship with my son and what we went through), but it is NOT the main focus. My personal story "a woman trying to juggle it all, find love, and not lose herself" was the main point of my memoir.

As for your question about how an ordinary mom can learn to believe in her capability to homeschool, I think the #1 thing needed is a boundless love and concern for your child's success and well-being--and a desire to do whatever it takes to make it happen. (Maybe that's 2 or 3 #1 things.) ;-)

And it helps to be resourceful! ;-) I suck at math. A point my son made very clearly when I said I planned to homeschool him. But there are resources that can augment what you can't do. I used www.aleks.com for my son's math education.

I am college educated; my major was English, so I must admit, much of his more formal lessons from me were based on reading, writing, and spoken communication.

The majority of his lessons were experiential--field trips, hand-on activities which also included what I felt were "life skills"--learning how to set up and keep to a budget, read and understand nutrition labels, utility bills and sales ads, figure credit card percentage rates, do taxes, keep and balance a checkbook, etc. (There are workbooks available to help teach these lessons.) And I had already taught him to cook and do his own laundry from when he was in 3rd grade. (From then on, I never again had to put my hand into crunchy, red-dusty, little league socks to turn them right side out!)

Just the process of learning these things, reading, developing reasoning skills, it all creates a more well-rounded child. It prepares them for real life and it actually makes learning rote memorization (like what public school students learn in history, science, etc.) easier.

I mean seriously, how often do you use algebra and information about WWII history in your every day life? If your child has a passion for history or math or science, they will gravitate toward it and will pursue higher education to learn it and turn it into a career.

As long as they can read and write effectively, employ critical thinking and reasoning skills, and communicate well--they can do anything!

travellingmomof2 said...

Way too funny. My children went through Public School through first year of high school. Thought about Home Schooling, but couldn't take the step.