Choosing your “Cup of Tea” — Freedom for Homeschoolers


often say “it’s just not my cup of tea.”  When I make this statement, I am asserting my right to choose for myself what I consider fun and useful in my life.  So while a 20-mile training run is my cup of tea, going to a wedding shower is not.  Yes, the cup of tea I choose is different than that of most people of my age, sex and social position.

Do we allow the same freedom to our children?  Do we allow them to choose their own “cup of tea?”  Two books that have really reinforced that question for me lately are Guerilla Learning by Amy Silver and Grace Llewellyn and The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn.  These two books that focus on kid-powered learning,  based on choice and interest by the child, are both change and guilt inspiring.  How can we as parents give our children power over their own learning, while still fulfilling our roles as parents?

  • Really listen to our children’s interests and desires.  By being alert to what makes them excited, we can direct them toward activities that expand their horizons and help them reach their goals.
  • Find opportunities in the community to expose them to new ideas.  Being on the constant lookout for new opportunities for your children is one of the best ways parents can help their children know what is interesting to them.  How can a person be interested in astronomy if he’s never looked at the stars?  How can a person follow a passion for music without hearing a wide variety of music?  Investigate opportunities for your children to try new ideas and activities in your community, at local museums, at the library or amongst adult interest groups.
  • Allow plenty of free time for exploration.  Don’t fill every moment of your children’s time.  Allow them the space to  find what really interests them.

One of the most difficult things advocated by these books is for the parent to support their children’s interest whether or not that is one of the parent’s interests or the parent feels that this interest is valuable.  For example, it is much easier for me to support an interest in classical or bluegrass music than rock music.  Although this is true, I need to allow my child to pursue his own interest.  (Easier said than done.)

I highly recommend reading these books — Guerilla Learning is directed to parents, while Teenage Liberation Handbook is directed entirely to teens.  Each of these will give you great ideas for expanding your child’s freedom as a homeschooler.

What have you read lately which has guided your schooling decisions?  Do you believe in letting your children choose completely, or do you try to strike a balance between child-led and parent-led schooling?  Please leave me a comment below.


Quiet Blog = Finished Quilt

Only two years in the making . . . but remember correlation does not equal causation.

finished quilt closeup finished quilt

It’s machine pieced, extensively hand quilted, and the first of its kind made exclusively for me . . . by me.  And now maybe I’ll be seeing a little bit more of YOU!

Living Books for Homeschool Science: Dissections

One of the pressures we put on ourselves as homeschool parents is trying to avoid textbooks for learning.  Whether you are of the Charlotte Mason group, the Thomas Jefferson education group, or an unschooler, much negativity resides on the word “textbook.”  Instead, we encourage ourselves to find “living books.”  A living  book is described as one with original, first-hand knowledge of a subject, not “dumbed down” for children but written in a way that broadens and challenges horizons.  Can a textbook be a living book?  Not in the minds of most people.  And yet, one of the main reasons Eden wanted to quit the online charter school she did last year and come back to “mom-school” was the Apologia Science Biology book.  While she was dissatisfied with the science she learned from an on-line textbook through the charter school, this biology book has encouraged her toward further research and led her in directions she would not originally have known about.

One of the reasons Eden wanted to use Apologia Biology was remembering the dissections that Brett did while he was using this book.  She was not convinced that online, virtual dissections matched the real thing.  While there might be discussion about whether dissections are appropriate, the only thing I have to remember to resolve this question for myself is that dissection of human corpses was banned for hundreds of year, and this led to lack of knowledge and more deaths for humans.  Since we already had the dissection kit, we only needed to purchase more specimens, and Eden was ready to go.

This week, she got to try her hand at her first dissection: an earthworm.

girls doing dissectionShandy had helped Brett with his dissections, but Eden needed help at a time when he was really busy.  Also, Brett had done his dissections outside (mostly to keep the smell of formaldehyde out of the house) but the weather has not been nice enough to do that kind of school work outside.  So we layered up the counter with newspaper and went to work.

The instructions in the science book were very detailed.  The most difficult part was slitting the epidermis, the outer layer of skin, without destroying any of the internal organs.  Worms are, after all, quite small.  There were clearly labeled step-by-step photos in the science book, I suppose to allow students who decided not to perform the dissections themselves a learning opportunity.  They were very helpful in identifying the different parts, although what our worm actually looked like varied from the photos.

All in all, Eden was very satisfied with her first dissection experience.  The little ones were eagerly looking over her shoulder the whole time, so I am sure they, too, will be looking forward to their opportunity to use this living? textbook. Although Eden’s future plans at the time do not include major scientific work, the experiences she has now can broaden her interests for her entire life.  I am glad she was able to perform this dissection.

In an upcoming post, I hope to list some of the other living books we have found useful for studying science.   How do you find living books for your children?  Do you believe textbooks can serve as these books?  Please leave me a comment below.