Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Being the Person Out of the Home in a Homeschooling Family

Hello, all. One of the toughest things for me as a father is that very core of fatherly duties, bringing home the bacon. Why? Well, because I must leave the home in order to fetch said bacon.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my work. Indeed, I love working. I’ve been a janitor, a soldier, a security guard, a fireman, a librarian, a manager, computer technician, a cook, a salesman – almost everything. So its not earning the bacon I mind – its leaving the house to do it.

Once more, don’t mistake me. I do not suffer from agoraphobia or social anxiety or anything. Indeed, I love to talk. I talk a lot. And I speak very fast. I have friends from New York who ask me to slow down. Once when my sister and I were speaking at our fastest and most animated, an onlooker didn’t think we were speaking English. I am also quite comfortable meeting new people. No, its leaving the people in my home that I don’t care for. I married my wife because I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I similarly want to spend as much time with my kids as I may before they move on with their own, adult, lives. In short, I resent every moment I am forced away from my family.

Worst of all, however, is the impact it has on homeschooling. My Dear Wife ends up doing the majority of direct teaching. I assist, of course, especially with religion, history, and political science (and math when there are tears). I strive to discuss important topics at the dinner table and to look for ‘teaching moments’ everywhere. I am building a course on survival skills (which I will write more about) and I do a lot of ‘practical example’ work with the boys, as well.

This seems to be what my homeschool dad friends focus on, too. A few topics they either assist in or teach on the weekends/after work, impromptu discussions, dinner table talk, and catch as catch-can lessons. We especially seem drawn to “real world” stuff, like having the kids help calculate how much mulch you need to get, our looking up what plants do well where you live (guess what project the Aquinas Academy household is working on?).

Since homeschooling is, to me, about acknowledging the reality that life = learning and that the core error of compulsory schooling is to separate the two, how else can we use what we do in, out of, and around the home to teach? Here are some of my ideas; please feel free to add your own!

At Work

If you get to take your kids to work from time to time, do so. In addition to showing them what you do, it allows all sorts of educational opportunities. If not, take some examples home! Regardless, this will probably be a rather slim source for education simply because, since you work outside the home, it will seem far removed from your kids.

Math: You can use your budgets to show how algebra is, actually, part of everyday life! Expense calculations, payroll estimates – all are great examples of how math is important and really used.

Science: I am lucky enough that there is a little science involved in my job. I get to explain electricity in relation to what I do for a living

At Home

There are tons of cool things you can do around your house. I am sure there are tons more you are already doing.

Math: As I mentioned, measuring the area for a project is a great way to demonstrate ideas like area and volume as well as using algebra to solve practical problems. Calculating the costs of projects is a good multiple-number problem that can include some algebra, too, with plenty of chances for estimating, rounding, even factoring. Calculating sales tax can be a demonstration of percentages, too (darn it). Use measuring tapes to measure the length of a kid’s shadow and the length of a shadow of the house, then measure the kid’s height and demonstrate how to figure out how tall the house is using algebra.

Science: In addition to learning about the bugs, birds, and critters in, under, over, and around your yard learn about the geology of the region, the weather patterns, and the closest rivers and lakes –then look for the bugs, etc. while mowing, collect rocks while picking up, and keep an evening weather log to se if you can eventually predict the next day’s weather based on the conditions the previous evening. Planting or caring for roses can lead to a discussion of Ph and a demonstration of how to test Ph levels in soil and water. A few rocks and an online almanac can help you place markers in the yard for astronomical events, like a solstice or equinox.

I stuck to math and science this time because I plan to write on history and other topics soon. But almost everything we do can be a touchstone for education. Trimming weeds? Talk about how the plastic filament is made. Pruning trees? Explain the difference between iron and steel. Weeding a garden? Talk about how corn and potatoes changed European agriculture. Having a catch? Talk about aerodynamics and how the stitches on a baseball make it move when thrown properly.

Sure, you can over do it; sometime you just gotta’ throw the ball, catch the ball, and hit the ball. But by using these moments to pass on even a few bits of knowledge we not only add to the education of our kids, we show them how rich and full every element of life truly is and prove learning is part of even the most mundane of tasks.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Introducing Myself

Hello, everyone. Aquinas Academy Dad is a homeschooling blog designed to let me discuss the how's, why's, etc. of being a Catholic homeschooling father. I will discuss things like curriculum, teaching methods, outside resources, activities, and other such staples of homeschool blogs. I will also cover the travails of being the member of the homeschool that works outside the home in support of the entire enterprise and ways to make that better in relation to the family and the learning process. Since I am trained as a theologian, I will also discuss religion, theology, and some related issues.

As the name of this blog indicates, I am the head of the family of the Aquinas Academy Adventures blog. In keeping with internet safety and privacy guidelines, you may call me Aquinas Dad (or AD), husband to MamaJen (the DW) and father to J1, A2, S3, and N4. DW has done a wonderful job of providing depth to the family description here.

I hope that I can teach you something, whether it be about homeschooling, parenting, religion, or just the human condition. So please, pull up a chair and let's talk!