sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Archive for August, 2010

Homeschooling Myth , “But what about socialization?”………….Busted!

March 22, 2010

“But what about socialization?”
We have all heard this question before from family, friends or random people who feel the need to give their unsolicited opinion about our decision to homeschool.  The general public appears to be afraid that traditional school is a requirement for socializing young people.  I wonder do they believe that because we have chosen to homeschool, we never venture out of our house?  And do they believe that children who have graduated from public and private schools have wonderful social skills? Well yes, there are those that do and there are those that do not.  But do the schools teach social skills?  Does the act of putting children together by age or academic ability foster their learning of social skills?

And what is socialization anyhow?

Wiktionary defines it as, “The process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it.”

The Webster’s New World Dictionary (4th edition 2003) defines socialize “to make fit for living in a group”.

Wikidedia defines social skill as “any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others”.

And so based on these definitions, does traditional school prepare children to live within our society?  Does it teach them skills to facilitate interacting and communicating with others?  This could be argued both ways.  Yet, where else in society as an adult are you grouped with other people all born the same year as you?  Or people who all are at the same reading or math level as you are?

Living in society and participating in society, i.e. going to the grocery store, post office, library and  bank on a regular basis is clearly more “learning one’s culture” than sitting in a room listening to a teacher tell you what to do all day.  (I exaggerate to make my point.)

No matter how this issue is defined or argued, I now have hard proof that children can learn how to live in one’s culture without going to school.  My 12 year old son started his own social network online.  He had joined the social network group, Fun Without School, for children who are homeschooled and wanted to be able to do more on the site and so he created his own site.  He has decided his social network is open to more than homeschoolers.  He named it “Kidbook”.  Somehow my son, who has never gone to public or private school, is learning to live within his culture.  Amazing!

He created his network on Ning (like Fun without School) and it is a private by invitation only site so that the general public can not see it nor join.  He invites homeschool children to join and to invite their friends and cousins- even those who go to public and private school.  I am a member on the site as well as a few other parents we know.

Added note (August 28, 2010):

When Ning decided to cancel their free service, my son researched the other options, moved his website and notified everyone on the site of the change.  I did not recommend this or instruct him to do this.  Somehow he learned this on his own.  In fact, he was the one, assisting me with learning the options and changes happening with Ning.  Who says we need to “teach our children” anything, let alone send them to school for socialization.  They learn by living.

Learning When Real Life Happens

November 01, 2009

Recently, my mother had to have hip surgery and I went to visit her in the hospital and to help her return home. She lives 2 hours from me.  I was able to go with just the baby and my older two kids got to stay home with Dad and do most of the activities we had planned to do.  Now I will be returning for two days this week and will have my 7 year old as well as the baby.  She was not so happy about this.  She will miss ballet and Jazz class, Girl Scouts and park day.  She is funny. She was more bothered that she was going to miss seeing one of her friends “5 days in a row” than missing out on dance class.  And she loves her dance classes!

Kids can be so funny about how they handle things and what bothers them.  She is also the middle child and despite having been the youngest for nearly 7 years, seams to “suffer” middle child issues.  I too am the middle child of 3 in my family and so I understand.  Yet, somehow, no matter what I say, it does not seam to comfort her.  She is a Daddy’s Girl in many ways, loves her mommy but really loves time with dad.  She loves and hates her baby brother which is very understandable.  It is funny because when I was pregnant, she told me I needed to have two babies, a boy and a girl.  I tried reminding her about this and bringing up how much busier I would be if I had two babies rather than one but she still thinks it would been better if I had a baby girl as well as a baby boy.

She is the type of child who spends an entire day with her friends and then when we return home, says “I miss….” or “I’m bored”.  She seams to be an extrovert and gets her energy being with other people. This can be draining as the rest of us are more introverted and really value time alone.  I think her baby brother is more like her, an extrovert which I always thought would be a good thing for her, but with the 7 year age spread, it challenges her.  She complains he is boring- despite how busy and funny he is!  He sure loves her when she plays with him.

One reason I love homeschooling, is because if we need to pick up and go in the middle of the week, we can.  As the children have gotten older, doing this has been more complicated with all of the outside activities they have going on.  I feel the lessons they learn with every day situations is priceless and often more valuable than traditional academic learning.  We have watched repairmen come for our heat pump, plumbing and other jobs like paining the house and redoing the roof.  My oldest asked questions of a very patient technician who installed a new heat pump several years ago.  They have observed how we have dealt with having a broken washing machine, leaking pipes as well as all the routine tasks of running a house like laundry, grocery shopping and paying bills.  Many of those things they would likely miss out on if they were in school because I would get them done while they were at school.

And so now they are learning by first hand observation as well as participating in how to juggle a busy schedule, a baby and taking care of grandma.  Sometimes, I need to take several steps back to see all they are learning and remind myself to take the time, slow down so they can at least observe my process of how I figure these things out.

Our children learn form us all they time, even when we wish they were not learning form us!  We can rush through those challenging moments in our life or we can slow down and involve them in the process.  And so we had a conversation with each child about the different options for traveling to Grammy’s house.  We heard their ideas and frustrations and shared our ideas.  We let them know what we could and could not do and made a plan.  It was not easy, took some time and I got frustrated and had to stop myself when I reacted to her drama.  But looking back at it, I am glad I took the time to have the conversations (for us it meant separate conversations with each of my older children- that baby just gets to take it all in:) and to hear her frustration and give her time to be mad and upset.

It is a good reminder to me of my philosophy of homeshcooling- we are learning through living- every day- while real life is happening.

From Healthcare Professional to Caregiving Family Member

I wrote this on September 12, 2008.  I have only edited it for clarity and added to it in the final paragraphs.

I am now beginning to experience care giving from the perspective of “the daughter”. In the past, I have always been in the position of health care professional. I have worked as an Occupational Therapist for over 15 years, primarily with the elderly in a rehab hospital, nursing homes and home health care.
My first step into the world of being a family member rather than just the health care professional was when my grandfather was hospitalized after complications years after an aortic aneurysm. I lived over 600 miles away but was at my parents home at the holidays with my 6 week old first born and we drove 2 hours from where my parents lived to go see him. I had been an OT for 5 years at that time and was on maternity leave, my first break away from the working world since graduating. -let me modify that and say: my first break away from paid full time employment (I was busy working on maternity leave…as caring for a newborn or a child is a full time job.)
At that time, visiting my grandfather, I was hesitant to step in and say much. He was still in the acute care hospital, one setting that I had not worked in and so I felt out of my element, not to mention the nursing baby in my arms.
Eight years later, my mother-in-law, had a heart attack. We live 800+ miles from her and so my husband went out by himself when she had the heart attack. She had been living in an Assisted Living for about 9 months since the family discovered her cognitive impairments that made it not safe for her to continue living on her own. Until she had a heart attack, I was mostly a “bi- stander” giving my input to my husband and and observing how they handled things. As the wife of the youngest of 5 siblings, I was the newbie in the family and although welcomed by all, not fully part of this group of people who had known each other for 20-30 years.
After the heart attack, I felt the need to express my professional knowledge to assist my mother-in-law. Although, I was not “close” to her, this was my husband’s mother and I felt my experience could lend a hand. I felt for her on a deeper level and I had a new view now of how things are perceived from the family members’ perspective. An inside view that I only got glimpses off as a professional.
Now, my father has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He is currently active and busy with all his hobbies including golf, fishing and wood working. Both he and my mother are beginning to educate themselves on Parkinson’s and think about their future. My challenge has been that I see what looks like the “inevitable” outcome of end-stage Parkinson’s and wondering how they and I will cope as we reach that point.
I am learning to take it one step at a time. As with anything in life, I need to be here in the moment. As my former Unity minister used to say, “Yesterday is a canceled check, tomorrow is a promissory note…and all we have is today”.  All we have is now, the present and it is a gift.  Yet, it does not come naturally to live in the moment and be here, now.  I continue to learn as a parent, to stop and enjoy the stage my child is in now, rather than wishing for the future or missing the past.  I must do the same with my parents.  I can offer my father my professional opinion and ideas but it is up to him what he does with it.  I can let them know how I can help them but must allow them to decide and to ask for my help.  I can step in and tell them what to do, not that they would listen, or I can sit back and do nothing.  Or, I can look to the shades of grey, and offer my expertise and knowledge, give them information and let them decide.  A balancing act of assertiveness, compassion, love and knowledge.

In the two years since I first wrote this message, I have attended a Parkinson’s symposium with my parents and assisted my mother after her hip replacement surgery.  It felt good to assist my mother with returning home from the hospital, getting set up at home as well as providing adaptive equipment and instructions on the safest way to perform activities of daily living (getting dressed, using the toilet and shower as well as maneuvering in the kitchen).  The experience was a bridging of my professional expertise as an Occupational Therapist and my new role as caregiver to my parents.  I look forward to attending more information and support meetings for my parents and am glad they are able to do all they are at this point in their life.

Evolving with Patience…And Learning to Let Go

Just as my blog is beginning and I am evolving as a writer, so do I feel that we as parents continue to evolve.  As parents, we may begin the journey with one idea how to raise our children, or to care for our aging parents or other relatives, and as we are immersed in the process, we discover new ideas, feelings and beliefs about what we are doing. And it is OK to change our mind and do things a new way. For if what we are doing is not working, surely it makes more sense to try something new rather than continue with the same old patterns because the same old patterns will yield the same old results.

I also feel that I continue to learn from my children.  I choose to home educate my children rather than send them to school.  Where we live, we are called homeschoolers.  Yet, homeschooling does not describe our life.  We are not having school at home nor am I acting as their primary teacher.  I am their parent, guide and facilitator.  Yet, I feel I learn as much if not more from them than they learn from me.

I imagine that as my parents age and possibly need my assistance, which is likely as my father has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, that I will learn how to best assist them from them.  Like learning to listen to my children, I too need to listen to my parents as to what their needs are and how they want my help.  I am already learning that. My background in Occupational Therapy and specifically with working with the elderly brings out the caregiver in me in a magnified sense and so when I learned of my father’s diagnosis, I felt the need to help them. I was in anticipatory grief knowing what would likely happen to my father over time, having seen many end-stage Parkinson’s patients while working in Nursing Homes. I wanted to help my mother with her future caregiver role.  With time and the guidance of good friends with experience in caring for elderly parents, I began to see that I could offer my help but it was not up to me to figure it all out. I can let them know how I can be of help, but it is up to them to ask for my help. Slowly, I have seen ways to do this.
We have to learn to let our children go as they grow. We can guide them, offer them good examples, provide them with opportunities, love and nurture them and then as they mature and gain more independence, we must let them go allowing them to be who they are. Yes, we must allow them to be who they from the time they are born and once they are able to make independent decisions for themselves, we must step back and let them.

I see this same issue coming to light in approaching my parents and my father’s likely physical and cognitive limitations. I can give them information, support and even advice, but it is up to them to choose it. As an Occupational Therapist, I truly know this and have seen it. I have gone to countless homes while working in home health care, with only a piece of paper telling me the person’s diagnosis and brief medical history that sounds like they must surely be bedridden, only to discover that they can walk and even do some things for themselves. And I have been to see people who have one minor diagnosis but who are trapped by their own fears and beliefs that they can do nothing. In other words, the person’s determination to continue living and do as much for themselves as they can, plays a huge role in how well someone functions, despite their myriad of medical diagnoses. Like a poster I saw in a nursing home said, “Ya Gotta Wanna”. No amount of therapy, medicine or magic can cure a person or even help them if they do not invest something of themselves in the process and make an effort to get better.

As I ponder the need to have patience with my children, my parents and in turn myself, I ask that you who find my blog, are patient with me along my journey.

It’s About Time

After journaling for 30 years and recently working actively on writing pursuits, I have finally created a blog.  Now what?  I am rarely at a loss for words when it comes to writing.  Yet, here I am with my brand new blog and my mind feels blank.  I say I am a writer in my soul and this is what I feel called to do.  I have numerous articles started and a few finished ones as well as countless journal entries full of writing ideas and beginnings.  I created a website almost two years ago:  Charlottehomeschooling.com and have blogs there.  I am quick to post on many of the forums and yahoo lists.  For years now I have been telling myself to have my own blog.  I did create another website, a parenting website.  I invested my time in my homeschooling website and it sat on the back burner even though it was created first.  I created this blog so I can write freely about any topic that so moves me.  I can share my ideas and opinions and vent all I want to for all of the world to see, if they so choose.