May-June 2008 Selected Content
Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon
History Dead or Alive
How do you make history interesting for your children?
How do you explain homeschooling's socialization benefits to people?
History Dead or Alive
"After one too many boring field trips to historical sites my kids are in full revolt. They want nothing to do with anything that reeks of 'old and dead.' What do you do to make history interesting to your kids?" - Eileen Petrelli
I have to admit I have never really thought about "teaching" history. History comes up in almost every discussion about every subject. Going to look at a rock where a battle took place would be boring. Pretending to be in the battle would be fun! Following are some resources and ideas that we have really enjoyed and that have made history a part of our everyday lives:
• Videos of "Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego" and "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego"
• Books from Usborne, especially "Time Traveler" and anything from the "Starting Point History" section (usborne.com/catalogue/browse.asp)
• Books from Nomad Press (nomadpress.net)
• Book series Childhood of Famous Americans (various authors)
• Online, interactive museums with games and challenges such as britishmuseum.org
Finally, our very favorites, living history museums. Do a Google search for the one nearest you. History really is alive at these places and suddenly everything relates to everything. - Jen Lynch, Wisconsin
My son loves history, but he also gets bored if we do the same type of activities over and over again. One thing he really loves are re-enactments. Civil war re-enactments and the Society for Creative Anachronism are two well known ones, but there are many more out there that include ancient periods, frontier times, even modern history. There are even paintball tournaments that include re-enactments of famous battles! There are also living history sites, many of which welcome hands-on participation. If your children are really interested in this type of thing, they can join a local re-enactment group or volunteer at the living history sites. - Carri Ann Lahr, Oregon
There's no point learning about key points in history if you don't understand how people lived and why they made the decisions they did. Our method of making history come alive was to "do" history. We read fiction based in that time period and talked about living in the same kinds of situations. We cooked food from that time period. We did science experiments and art projects of the era. Then when we felt we understood the time period better, say the years leading up to the Civil War, we talked about what it might have been like to experience the pressures on both sides that led to war. My children wanted to find out what happened next, believe me! - Jennifer
We're movie buffs. The best way to get into history for us is through a good movie. Recently, our boys loved "300." It really emphasized winning against unbelievable odds and made us think about people long gone as real people. After that movie we were gung-ho to learn all about Sparta. The boys looked up all sorts of details about their military training and famous battles. Then they went on to learn about life in Sparta. They were surprised to find out how cruel living standards were there. And we found out a lot that wasn't emphasized in the movie, as we always do, such as, military force was really important because Sparta relied on a huge number of slaves and had to quell slave revolts.
Some of the historical movies that have led to the best discussions and learning for us have been Varian's War, Schindler's List, The Kite Runner, Kingdom of Heaven, Glory, Amazing Grace, The Alamo, Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot and There Will Be Blood. A lot of these are about war but there's a lot to learn about why wars start, how wars can be prevented and what qualities people exhibit under stress. Those are important lessons for today. - Dave and Lisa Spitz
"We have a five year- old son whom we have decided to homeschool in the new year. He is showing signs of being very bright and we think he'll be able to learn more this way. The other reason is that he is a little behind with speech development, which makes him less self-confident in big groups of peers and therefore affects his learning because he's anxious or uncomfortable. We think he'll become more confident when he's more comfortable and not pushed into situations where he's forced to fit in. He does fine with younger and much older kids and adults, but is a bit inhibited with large groups of kids his own age range.
My mother-in-law feels he needs a lot more social interaction outside of the family. She's always pushing that he needs to play with more children his own age, get involved in more social activities. While I'm looking into an activity or two, and to meet other home school families nearby, I don't think he is going to be socially backward if we're not involved in a myriad of group activities. We haven't even told her we're leaving public school to home school yet, so I know the constant comments will get worse. I find it really disappointing so many people think a child's own parents aren't able to decide what is best for their child's education and well being because it's outside the norm. How can you explain to people who don't understand homeschooling that it helps with confidence and socializing skills, not prevents them, and that a five year- old doesn't need to play with tons of kids to get social interaction?" - Cheryl Bush
I taped this inside my kitchen cupboard recently. It was posted by homeschool activist Ned Vare, and reads:
"The Socialization Myth."
It begins as follows: Honk if you think any of the following are good ways to socialize: Sitting in boring classes with same-age, same-ability children for twelve years; pushing through crowded corridors to beat a buzzer; cheating; bullying; forming cliques; conforming to group pressures; doing busywork; long dangerous bus rides; hectic meals; being drugged for behavior; being diagnosed as "learning disabled" and put in special rooms to be treated as patients instead of students.
Public schools use "socialization" as a sales pitch. Itis a catchword that they hope will elicit the response they intend - that school is a good place for children to congregate, that what schools do is a necessary and good way for kids to grow up. It is neither. It is prison for innocent children run by people with dubious motives.
I put this up so that every time I open my cupboard door to get a plate I'm reminded of what my school years were like. My mother meant well, but all she really wanted was for me to be popular. She insisted that I had to go to play dates, sleepovers, Girl Scout meetings, after school clubs, church youth outings, summer camp, and anything else that came up. My temperament was different than hers. I needed time to warm up to people. I needed time alone to read, ride my bike, and play with my dolls. I needed one good friend and didn't feel comfortable with crowds of kids. Being forced into these situations didn't make me happy or popular, it made me miserable. If I complained or tried to get out of going she told me I was ungrateful for all the opportunities she gave me. She lectured me about being more mature, about "learning to get along with others," and told me all the time to "act happy" so that other people wouldn't be turned off by my "sourpuss" face. A long school day was enough to make me feel overwhelmed, an activity afterwards was torture. And then I had to go home and tell her that I had a great time or I'd have to listen to more reasons why I wasn't popular. By the time I was 12 I learned that a few sips of vodka helped me get through the day and a few more sips made me not care if I was just pretending to be happy. It was the only way I could manage. I didn't stop drinking until I got pregnant in college. I've been clean and sober ever since.
Now I have two children, two and six years-old, and nothing, absolutely nothing, would make me force them into situations that they were not ready for. I respect their individual temperaments. As you might imagine, I pay no attention to what my mother or mother-in-law or anyone else thinks is best for them. All those years of misery turned me into a fierce mamma bear willing to shelter her cubs. That's an instinct too many of us have lost. - Finally Happy in Michigan
It's a myth that kids need to be forced to socialize before they are ready, whether in a school setting or anywhere else. Seems to me that people believe this myth because they want kids out of their hair. There are plenty of books on this for homeschoolers. A quick check on Amazon led me to But What About Socialization? Answering the Perpetual Home Schooling Question by Susan McDowell and The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling by Rachel Gathercole. Buy one of these books for your mother-in-law so she knows what she's talking about. - Erica Reams
It's a step-by-step procedure.
1. Explain to your mother-in-law that you respect the parenting she did that created your wonderful husband, but it's your turn now. Tell her you are comfortable with making your own decisions about your child's social time. When she defends herself hold your ground. The only solution is for her to keep her comments to herself. Tell her that you may encounter parenting problems that you'd like her input on and then will come to her for advice some day, but you'd appreciate it if she'd wait until you asked.
2. If she brings the topic up just keep repeating the same catch phrases over and over without getting defensive or even reacting. Try, "He's very happy and doing well," or "We don't want to overtax our family with too many outside activities." Then change the subject or get off the phone.
3. If she doesn't stop butting in, you might try writing her a note. Tell her that she probably doesn't mean it that way but you find her constant suggestions demeaning to your parenting abilities and you need her to stop.
4. If that doesn't do the trick, go to the bookstore and buy her a book on grandparenting that emphasizes letting parents make their own decisions.
5. If she is still on your case you have no recourse but to limit your contact with her. - Rhoda Emery
I have a pushy relative, too. My twin sister thinks she knows what is best for my kids because she was a mother before me. I made the mistake of listening to her for years even though my instincts sometimes told me to do the opposite. I used to tell my husband I could get along fine with my sister if she'd move away and we could just e-mail each other, but what I needed to do was move away from her emotionally and not give so much weight to her opinions.
Learn from the years that I kow-towed to my sister. Don't make the same mistakes I did because you'll regret it. Your mother-in-law is using her opinions to control you. If you do everything she says it will just fuel her to give her opinion more freely. If I were you I'd stop it now. Tell her that you understand she loves her grandson and is trying to help but you prefer focusing on something else than what she thinks you are doing wrong. She'll probably be mad and probably keep trying to undermine you, but don't back down or you'll really lose. And make sure your husband backs you up. Remember he was raised by this opinionated woman and it will be harder for him. You want to break that cycle with your own son. - Alysha
In my opinion his speech problems are connected to the stress of socialization at school and the stress his parents feel from his grandmother. Put your family first. Make happy homeschooling a top priority and don't do any activities with groups that your son doesn't choose to do. I bet that in less than a year his speech will improve on its own. - K.J.C., Wisconsin
Questions for the next issue:
Questions & Answers is a readers' forum, a section to share our concerns, experiences and insights. Each issue will highlight questions proposed by our readers along with a sampling of answers, which reflect a wide range of perspectives. To answer a question, or propose your own question, please write to Laura Weldon or Questions & Answers, c/o Home Education Magazine, P. O. Box 1083, Tonasket, WA 98855. Your responses must meet our deadline of May 10th. Please recognize that your submission may be edited for length or clarity. Indicate how you prefer your question or answer signed.
"Our son is finishing out his last two years as a homeschooler. He's gotten pretty lazy about getting his curriculum done on time. My husband is aggravated and figures school might straighten him out. I don't think he should get out of doing his homeschooling or anything, but I don't want him to go to the high school here; it's a cesspool. What should we do?" - Marilyn N., Idaho
"I'm just curious. Do you identify yourselves as homeschoolers up front or keep it to yourselves unless someone asks? My little boy will be homeschooled next fall after a difficult kindergarten year. People like my friends, former co-workers, and the sorority sisters I get together with all the time just wouldn't get it. Homeschoolers stereotypes made me uncomfortable." - Nikki
© 2008, Laura Weldon