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Would Homeschooling Work for an Eagle Rock Family?

Some swear the method produces brilliant learners, others say it spells academic disaster.

I know parents can be divided into two uneven camps: Those who would love to homeschool their kids and those who think that’s nuts.

Well, I’m of the former camp. I'm really interested in homeschooling—or "unschooling." But it seems as though one of the requirements for homeschooling is a stay-at-home mom or dad who can take on the role of head teacher.

But I’m a freelance mom who sometimes gets called out to jobs at the last minute. What’s the alternative in Eagle Rock? Are there any homeschooling groups or communities out there that can give me some insight?

Yes, I know there are lots of great schools in Eagle Rock—for me that’s really besides the point. In my mind, homeschooling is more about teaching kids to love learning, as opposed to loving school.

What are the pros and cons?

— Eagle Rock Mom Michelle

Allison February 23, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Great question, Michelle, I always wondered if I could swing homeschooling for my child. If I didn't work full time, I might have given it a go. But my kid is in a top-ranked public school and loves it. What's more, we transform most of our afternoons and weekend adventures into learning experiences. We even took a week off from kindergarten and went to Disney World (I know, I know, bad mom!). But the experience was really super -- Epcot Center showcased so many cultures, and the animal adventure park had a eerily realistic safari, African village and Nepalese and Indian landscapes. We talked and learned so much throughout that the trip turned out to be like homeschooling with rides! I think even if you're kids are in public school, they can develop a deep love of learning. I also believe that homeschooling has produced some amazing out-of-the-box thinkers. The boy who wrote the bestselling Aragon series was homeschooled. Who else out there can offer some insights in local homeschooling?
Kavita February 23, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Definitely worth exploring! That one stay-at-home parent is needed in order to home school effectively is a fallacy, especially these days. Many parents work part-time or freelance, trading off with one another. Others take advantage of homeschool learning centers - places where kids can get together and do great classes, have a little structure, be away from home, but still have the flexibility of home schooling. They choose the classes and days they want, instead of having to go with what everyone else is doing, which is what typically happens in traditional schools. There are also home school co-ops and field trips, and once you are part of a community, parents help each other out by doing things with one another's kids. One of the best and closest home school groups in Eagle Rock is called FaCe-LA. They meet every Thursday, and do a book club one Thursday a month. There are field trips, hikes, plays, notices about classes, all sorts of things, with families from Eagle Rock, Glendale, Pasadena, but as far as the West Valley as well. Everything is communal. Once you get onto some Yahoo groups, you'll be inundated with tips about workshops, events, museum visits, out-of-town trips, more than you could possibly do. People will give you advice about curriculum, if you want to go that route. There is nothing about home schooling that is reclusive or withholding. Everyone is so eager to share information and post possibilities. More in my next post . . .
Kavita February 23, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Okay, Michelle, So here are my homeschooling pros and cons: The pros: you get to focus specifically on what your child needs and loves. You set your own schedule, pick the people you want to do things with. If your child wants to spend five hours planting things in the garden, you get to turn it into a botany lesson. You begin to see everything as an opportunity for learning, and that in itself is wonderfully liberating. The cons: while there is a lot of community support, it's pretty much all on you - initially to reach out, and then to do the planning, signing up, scheduling, driving (or arranging car pools). You will sometimes have chunks of time to yourself, but not every day, as you might do with a child in school. Everything else becomes more or less secondary to your child's education. But, ultimately, you are bound to feel much more connected to your child, being able to intuit what they want to learn, and how they want to learn it. Really hope that helps!
Sophia February 23, 2011 at 09:17 PM
Hmmmm, my nephews have been homeschooled and their education leads me to believe that homeschooling is only as good as the teacher leading it. The HS kids I've met tend to be really good at one or two things but don't have the well-roundedness of kids who attend the best public or private schools. My nephews are 10 and 12 and don't even know they're times tables very well. . I also find HS kids kind of hungry for attention from everyone they meet but maybe I'm not reading that correctly and they're actually just interested in learning from everyone they meet. I like th e idea of schooling in a more traditional way and using everyday experiences as teaching possiblities. I
Tracy Talbert February 23, 2011 at 09:49 PM
My husband and I considered home schooling, but we soon decided against it. The main reason is that we work from home and we realized that it is very hard to get much done with a couple of kids at the house all day. Although, I strongly believe that no matter what type of school kids attend, the MOST important learning must happen at home. A true love a learning can only be instilled by parents. Even more importantly, lessons about how to be a good citizen, a steward of our world and a morale person are things that make a child thrive. Institutions can't teach those things. So those of you who can make home schooling fly, more power to you.
Sophia February 23, 2011 at 09:53 PM
That's an excellent point, Tracy. After all, we are our children's first teachers . . .
Allison February 23, 2011 at 10:20 PM
I'm right there with you. I totally admire parents who can pull off homeschooling. If I weren't so selfish about my own career and my private time, I would love to try it. I agree too, Sophia, that we are our kids' first (and most important) teachers!
Chip February 24, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Many families who practice Home Schooling do so because they are Christian and wish to shield their children from being educated about evolution etc. Bringing it back to Eagle Rock, however, as our ER public schools consistently rank high n national ratings, I think parents can get the best of both worlds by having their kid attend ER pubic schools and learn social skills - and then "home school" them in the evenings as they do their homework. It was disappointing to learn that neither City Council candidate (Huizar nor Martinez) chose to enroll their kids in public school because then they have no stake in its success.
Rosalind Guder February 24, 2011 at 12:20 AM
Many people have an image of homeschooled children studying at the kitchen table for hours and hours each day. They imagine them interacting with few other children and lacking involvement in extra-curricular activities. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Among the many homeschooling families I know, very few of them engage in what we call “school-at-home.” Most homeschoolers do little sit-down work, usually the minimum required to ease the conscience of the homeschooling parent! The amount will vary from one family to another and according to grade level, but generally speaking, it is far less than the 6 or more hours per day that a schooled child spends. Instead, most homeschooling families spend most of their time involved in some sort of more hands-on learning. My kids have done kitchen sink science experiments and filmed movies in the Arroyo and learned survival skills from Highland Park-based survivalist and wild foods specialist Christopher Nyerges, among many other things. Often these are team projects and could be classified as “multi-disciplinary” studies. The beauty of homeschooling is that kids are not cooped up in classrooms all day, in the artificial environment of 30 same age peers! The whole world is their classroom and everybody in it is their teacher!
unixchick February 24, 2011 at 01:07 AM
I'll vote for homeschooling :-) Home4kids and Face-LA are two homeschool group park days in your area. Homeschooling has a ton of pros.... I'm not sure which ones mean the most to you... the con for you will be finding what to do with your kids when you need to work. I used aftercare for a while, when I needed a few hours.
Zephram Wolf February 24, 2011 at 01:27 AM
@ Chip - A number of families homeschool for that reason, but they are an extreme minority, at least in the area I was homeschooled in (Pasadena/Burbank/Glendale). Also, with the state of the public education system as it is now, I pity any child who's forced to sit in school learning how adults are uncool slavedrivers there to make the kids suffer, and that all that matters in life is adherence to the celebrity-determined social norms - I'll explain why I believe this is the case below. @ Michelle - I'm an 18-year-old atheist homeschooled teen about to start my fifth year of community college classes - my GPA is 3.9, and I've been taking full unit loads for the past two years. At an educational level, I find homeschoolers are generally much more open-minded and capable of learning something than those who've gone to school, more able to think themselves out of something they have trouble fully understanding. At least for me, I believe this is true because of how my education was approached - I had to learn, but I could choose whatever the topic of the day was, and field trips and/or research online and in relevant books were almost always part of the learning. I learned history from visiting castles and roman ruins in England, where I lived for my first year of homeschooling; knowledge of foreign culture came from constant attention to current events. I was reading (and subsequently prohibited from reading by my teacher) Harry Potter on my own in 2nd grade. <cont>
Zephram Wolf February 24, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Writing came from research reports on whatever - I studied castle architecture, I wrote about castle architecture. We watched the start of the Iraq war as a family, and debated as a family about how and if it could be justified, and the political repercussions of each argument (age 9-10). On a social level, homeschooling is leagues ahead of school. A school-going friend of mine from camp once invited me to go to camp with him the following summer, where I was the only homeschooler. Activities were split up such that I was always only with those of my own age, often of only my gender, and not doing something the group was doing was never an option. I compare this to the park days of my local homeschool group FaCE-LA, where kids of all ages and both genders interact regularly in radically different activities across the park as they all please - here are the kids at the table playing cards, there are the kids who go and hang out at the library, there are those who play capture the flag, ultimate frisbee, dodgeball, whatever. No segregation, no bias, completely open to all ages. I've often looked at a late-20's college classmate, and compared their emotional maturity level to that of an 8-year-old at park day. There's no comparison - the 8-year-old is capable of having a discussion on almost any possibly relevant topic, any time, with anyone, while the 20-some-odd wouldn't care if the world was facing nuclear war as long as their favorite TV star's affair was going well. <cont>
Zephram Wolf February 24, 2011 at 01:27 AM
I loved being homeschooled. I was able to study what I cared about, and when I had to study something that I didn't care for, I was able to do so in the company of my friends in a class environment that one of the group's parents had put together for all of us. I love being able to talk to anyone without being innately biased by mainstream culture with regards to their age, gender, religion, ethnicity, or political beliefs. I'm currently leading a group of twenty or so homeschooled kids in Live Action Roleplay, where we get together, tell a Lord of the Rings-esque story, and act out the combat with foam weaponry. Our youngest player is 7. I'm the oldest, but not by much. LARP is "uncool" - but I see no reason to care. So a celeb would rather die than be caught being as much of nerds as we are - good for them. Homeschooling let me grow up to be who I am. School is a production line where uncaring, cold robots manufacture identical students, and quickly quash all sense of individuality - I was handcarved at home, and where I was me, that was allowed to stay or go as I saw fit.
Kathy February 24, 2011 at 02:54 AM
I am a homeschool mom in Highland Park to four kids under 11(the youngest being 2). I also work from home. My kids have learned already that when mom has to get some work done they have activities that they can do which allow me semi quiet to get things done. My kids can interact with anyone at any age versus only someone of there own age as Zephram said. My kids have areas where they excel and areas that need more work just like public school kids(just because at PS kid learned a subject in school doesn't mean he grasped the concept or that the teacher took the time to get them proficient) I know where my kids are and what they need work on. They are smart enough to know their own weaknesses and to solve problems on their own because they have learned to think for themselves not what someone tells them to do. My eleven year old already has her own website and is selling products off of it. She has knowledge that could challenge any fresh out of high school kid. Her math is on grade level but she knows to use her strengths which is what even some adults don't know how to do yet. My oldest are both girl scouts and are on a team for dance competition. Socialization is better for homeschoolers because they interact with 0-99 in social groups and can properly communicate with all. Some adults can't even do that who were PS. I believe the parent figures are very important as is discipline.
Kathy February 24, 2011 at 02:55 AM
The parents are what make or break a kid irregardless of homeschool. I was a teacher in a good public school but the kids whose parents didn't spend time with them fell behind the rest of the class and their was only so much I could do since I had a full classroom not just a few to work with. I love being with my kids all day every day minus their extra-curricular time, of course. I love that have such a love of learning and do it all day long every where.
Michelle Massie February 24, 2011 at 03:12 AM
Zephram: Brilliant!!! We couldn't have said it better. After being tortured for years by LAUSD (whose main interest is in power over parents as opposed to the best way to educate your child), we finally gave up and started homeschooling in 6th grade. There is no doubt in my mind that my learning disabled son is learning better but even more importantly, he's got a HUGE number of friends. For all the reasons Zephram listed; no age boundries, no activity exclusions or mandatory inclusions. All ages, all together. Just like real life. (Quite frankly, I can't think of any other place in life where you're stuck in a room with 35 people exactly your own age for six hours a day.) Plus, I know SCADS of adults who remain wounded by cruel treatment at school. To Sophia: Do you know why your nephews don't know their times tables yet? Don't assume it's simply negligence on the part of the parent-teacher. One of the main reasons we homeschool is so that our kids can start on subjects when they are ready (and you would not believe how fast they pick it up when they are) and not when some pre-determined mandate says it's time for them to learn it. My son struggles mightily with math, so we stay in basic math for now (he's 13.) But he's at grade level for science and ahead for social studies (we're studying Middle East unrest...it's amazing to watch it unfold.) The idea isn't recreate school at home but to create a curriculum that will allow your student to thrive.
Erykah Grande February 24, 2011 at 06:58 AM
Wow! Excellent read! However, as a parent to an 11 month old, I would love to hear more about the successful stories on the "institutionalized" people. My husband and I aren't happy with the way LAUSD is run and we are both atheist (if you have to label us) who won't be looking at overly priced private schools either. However, I know of many if these public schooled successes who have done well for themselves and not just speaking in zeros on the check, morally, socially speaking too. But these friends were raised outside of CA. With that said, we're torn.
Ajay Singh (Editor) February 24, 2011 at 08:34 AM
Historically, some of the most brilliant kids appear to be home-schooled—check out the winners of the annual Spelling Bee—and I've always been intrigued by the whole idea. The key, besides academics, appears to be adequate socialization, given that education isn't just about grades—a great deal of it has to do with integration in the so-called "real world." A lot of home-schooled kids appear to manage that just fine, and I'd love to hear about that from moms who home-school their children. Kavita?
Cheli Clayton Samaras February 24, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Thank you all, zephram, you are an example of the reason I want to homeschool. Thank you all for the input. Michelle
Kellie MacSwan February 28, 2011 at 03:25 PM
The problem with comparing schooled vs. homeschooled adults is that EVERYTHING had changed - schools today are not what they were 10 years ago. With No Child Left Behind, 100% attendance requirements, and Zero Tolerance policies, fear and control drives most of what happens in schools, not 'pedagogy'. Homeschooling has changed too - the internet has enabled people to network instantly and gives access to information and resources so that anyone can learn anything they really want to. We can't possibly rely on research (including anecdotal or story-sharing) that was done in the 1900s, even in 1999, as valid for making educational choices. Watch "The War on Kids" if you find yourself thinking 'schools aren't so bad, since So and So came out okay'. http://www.thewaronkids.com/
Suzanne March 02, 2011 at 11:19 PM
A great deal depends on the relationship between parent and child. My son has always been highly oppositional at home, and the dynamic between us difficult. Homeschooling was really never an option for us, even if we'd wanted to consider it. Public school isn't for the faint of heart, that's true, but he did things in class under the guidance of his teachers that he would never have done either on his own or at our suggestion. You have to know yourself and your kid.
Searmi Park May 13, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Great questions and responses! I am the mother two awesome kids, a 1st and 2nd grader, one with autism, and both my husband and I are freelance musicians. We want our children to grow up to be free-thinkers, to not be afraid of being wrong, and to explore, play, and love learning about things that they have passion for. I do not like how the education system rewards children for being right, and does not teach them that there is always more than one answer, more than just one way to do things. I have been doing a lot of reading about homeschooling, and am trying to find like-minded parents who would like to possibly join us in starting a small co-op homeschooling situation; we live in Glendale. I would like a curriculum that is very child-led, peer-supported, and we adults simply provide the foundation for growth; lots of field trips and a very hands-on approach to learning is what I am interested in. Our family lives with consideration and respect for our environment and planet, and would like to teach our children to be global citizens! If you are interested in exploring a co-op homeschooling for our children together, please contact me at searmipark@att.net. Thank you for your time in reading this!
Mara Donahoe February 02, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I have been interested in homeschooling since before my kids were born as I have an aunt who sent me great examples a few years ahead of me. We came to Eagle Rock from Washington state, and let me tell you LA, right now, is the place to be home schooling! There is a large diverse community including semi organizations such as FACE-LA, WISH in Pasadena, and two friends and I have just opened a home schooling resource center in Atwater Village called Urban Homeschoolers. We wanted to offer space for classes especially for the older kids. I always hoped my son could follow Zephram and others example and go to community college when he got to be a teen, but as the economy has gotten worse, that option is more difficult. So we are setting it up for ourselves! The homeschooling community is really what makes the whole thing worth more than I can say. We love it.
Allison February 02, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Hi, Mara, Great to hear from you and what a fantastic venture. Would love to hear more about this. Please email me through Patch editor Ajay Singh: ajay.singh@patch.com Best, Alison
Ajay Singh (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 03:44 PM
After enduring decades of ridicule, are home-schooled kids having the last laugh in the classroom of the future? http://patch.com/A-w6qm

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