Homeschool Field Trip to the William Harris Homestead

The William Harris Homestead is near and dear to my heart.  It was my great aunt’s vision to restore her husband’s family’s ancestor’s farm and use it for heritage education.  Due to her hard work, it is on the National Register of Historic Places, and now over 40,000 school children have toured the Homestead.  It boasts a log house, smoke house, salt house, corn crib, barn, cemetery, and natural spring.  Everything sits in its original place.  It’s such a peaceful and beautiful place.

A few years ago, I spent some time photographing it, and I also organized a homeschool field trip there in 2010. The field trip at the Homestead is fabulous.  Here’s a description:

“Take a tour through the William Harris Homestead to learn about the lives of Georgia’s early white settlers in the 19th century.  The Homestead is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it boasts a log house, barn, smoke house, cemetery, natural spring, and other out buildings that are standing in their original places. Participants will be divided into four groups and rotated through four units as follows 1) log house with spinning wheel/loom demonstration, 2) the cellar, candle-making, herb garden and cemetery, 3) a Civil War interpreter will talk about daily life as a soldier, and 4) natural spring, a talk about the Native Americans who inhabited the area at the time, and a hay ride.  Participants will also view a live, sheep-herding demonstration!”

You can read more about the field trip and my experience organizing it in the column I wrote for the Barrow Journal.  Click here to read that. And if there is any homeschooler out there interested in participating in one of these field trips, be sure to e-mail me at writetospabis (at) gmail (dot) com.

But you don’t have to participate in a field trip to see the Homestead.  It’s open to the public on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 10-2pm. It’s just a 45 minute drive from Athens, located near Monroe, Georgia.

Unschooling: Criticism of an ABC News Report

This post was written on April 22, 2010.

The other day I watched this news segment from Good Morning America, “Extreme Parenting: Radical Unschooling.” I could not have been more astonished at such an extremely biased news report.  The reporter obviously did not do her homework, and she seemed more than ready to paint a negative picture of this alternative form of education.

Let me be clear.  I’m not saying that unschooling is good or bad.  I don’t have enough knowledge or experience with it to make that call.  But I have read enough about homeschooling and unschooling to know that it is a worthwhile option to look into.

This report focuses on what the children have not been exposed to as well as some irrelevant issues, in my opinion, like a teenager staying up all night.  Teenagers tend to keep crazy hours, and I don’t think this is going to reflect on what kind of adult they become.  I saw a very short image of many garden plants the teenagers were cultivating, but nothing was said about them, and in fact, the reporter never bothered to ask what the children have learned and what they are ready for.  Furthermore, the interviews with the family seemed edited and their answers were truncated.  There was a short blip about another family who unschools, but in all, I did not get a clear picture of what either of these families look like.  When I listened to this report, I could hear the reporter’s negative questioning much louder than anything else.

The report also indicated that the unschooling parents also used a relaxed structure and little or no discipline with the children.  Though unschoolers may use a relaxed parenting style, I think it should be noted that every homeschooling and unschooling family looks different.  Again, I think these families were unfairly misrepresented, but no one should look at one family and think that every unschooling family does things the same way.

I recently read The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith.  It’s just one of many books about homeschooling/unschooling that I would like to read.  From this book and the many testimonies it offers, I know that there are many unschooled children who are capable learners who can effectively live in society.  I would wager that most unschooled children are much more willing and able to do the hard work it takes to accomplish something because they know first-hand why it is beneficial and rewarding to work hard at something.

I was particularly struck by one example in the book of a twelve year old boy who decided for himself that he wanted to try public school when he entered junior high.  (His siblings chose to remain at home and continue unschooling.)  He said he liked the challenge of school, and when he was presented with a group project, his attitude was “let’s have fun and see what we will learn.”  The classmates in his group, on the other hand, had the attitude of “let’s finish this as quick as possible so that we can go home.”

Indeed, I remember having this same attitude in school, and all my friends had it too. My husband, a college professor, is dismayed by the lack of motivation of his students.  Many of his students cannot write, and he deals with a large amount of plagiarism each semester when his papers are due.  He often comments to me that he is unsure these kids are ready for the real world.  In other words, why question an unschooled child’s future when there are so many children in our current system who are not prepared for college or other “real” jobs?

Whether or not one agrees with “unschooling,” we must admit that our current system is losing a vast number of students.  Children begin life believing that the world is an exciting place, and they are eager to learn.  Now that I’m nearly forty, I also know that there is so much out there to explore and wonder about.  What can be done to help children not lose this spark?

At least these parents are taking their children’s education into their own hands.  They are trying something different.  I absolutely believe that if children are given a nurturing environment, exposed to the world through real-life experiences (and not just sitting in a classroom all day), and offered a variety of resources, they will want to keep learning and they will love learning.

I support and admire these families.  They have the right to do what they are doing, and I will look to many more (expanded and unbiased) examples of unschooling before I decide whether or not it is good for children.

***

For another good post regarding this news report by a father of an unschooled child, click here.

Article on Homeschooling in Atlanta

This post was originally published on February 2, 2010.

Thanks to someone who posted it on a homeschool e-mail list I belong to, I was able to read this informative article on Access Atlanta entitled, “Home schooling breeds new culture of learning.”  It talks about how many Atlanta venues are offering homeschool days and discounts to homeschoolers.  It also offers some nationwide and state statistics on homeschooling, which I found very interesting.  I thought you might like to read it too.

Click here to read the article.

Pumpkin Patch


This was originally published on October 17, 2009.

I took my crazy little man to a homeschooling field trip yesterday.  Unfortunately, there were many visitors at the farm, and I didn’t know who was who, so I only met two of the other homeschoolers!  (One I already knew.)  Oh well…maybe next time!

But we had a great time despite some chilly weather!  He got to pet some farm animals, watch the pig races, ride a cow train, and, of course, pick a pumpkin.  He also got to wear his new jacket…next time I’ll remember to roll the sleeves up!

(FYI:  This was his response when I asked him to smile.)

If you live near Athens, Georgia and want to go pick your own pumpkins (or strawberries or blueberries), you can visit Washington Farms too. I know there are other places around this area that also let you pick your own fruit.  If we try others, I’ll be sure to write about them in future posts.

Georgia Homeschool Groups

Below I’m listing a few of the e-mail groups that I have found in this area, but if you don’t live in my area, just google “homeschool groups” and your state or city.  Keep looking because I’ve found that digging has paid off.  Also, by joining a couple of e-mail groups, I have found other groups through recommendations.

I am not a member of all of these groups anymore.  Either I don’t have time or the activities are too far for me to drive.  But I learned so much about homeschooling by following all of these groups for a while, and then I picked the few that were most beneficial for me to keep subscribing to.  I highly recommend that beginning homeschoolers do the same.

As I find more groups or resources, I’ll add them to this page.  Feel free to e-mail me at writetospabis (at) gmail (dot) com if you have a group you’d like to get the word out about.  I’ll add it here.

Creative Home Educators – North Georgia – Very active group.  Mostly made up of families in the Atlanta area.  I also like their statement about including homeschoolers of all spiritual beliefs. (They also have a large spin-off group for Gwinnett.)

Creative Home Educators – South Georgia – Same group but for South Georgia.  Unfortunately, it’s not as active.

P.E.A.C.H. (Parent Educator’s Association for Children at Home) – Primarily for Gwinnett County.  There’s so much going on in Gwinnett County that I almost wish I lived there!

Athens GA Homeschooling

Barrow Co. Homeschoolers

Walton Co. Homeschoolers

GAunschoolers – A group for Georgia’s unschoolers.

Secular Homeschoolers of Georgia (SHOG) – For families who choose secular homeschooling.

Walton County Secular Homeschoolers – For secular homeschoolers in and around Walton County.

2012 UPDATE

Another note about signing up for homeschool listservs – you may want to create filters to sort these messages because these groups can fill up your inbox in an instant!  I cannot possibly read every message, nor do I contribute much to the discussions yet.  But they are a great source of information to keep on hand, if you are thinking about homeschooling.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you can always create a group of your own by meeting people through existing groups or perhaps posting a notice at your local library.

You can also read the newspaper column I wrote for the Barrow Journal titled, Doing Research on Homeschool Groups in Georgia. It has similar information.

The Homeschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith

This post was written on April 13, 2009.

The Homeschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith is the first book I’ve read about homeschooling, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is thinking about homeschooling.  I don’t think it would suit seasoned homeschoolers, but for us beginners, it gives a broad overview of everything we need to think about as we make the decision whether or not to homeschool.

Hopefully I’m not breaking any copyright laws if I give you the Table of Contents.  I think it best summarizes the topics in this book:

Does Homeschooling Really Work or What Do We Tell the Grandparents?

Legal Issues, or Can We Really Do This?

Structure or Can We Wear Our Pajamas to School?

Assisted Homeschooling, or Do We Really Need Any Help?

Money and Other Practical Matters

The Primary Years: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic

The Middle Years: Exploring the World

The Teen Years: Finding a Direction

Evaluation and Record Keeping, or How Do We Know They’re Learning?

Finding Learning Resources

The Homeschooling Community

Coping with the Rough Spots

Special Circumstances

Beyond Homeschooling

There are also four appendices in the back of the book that lists Homeschooling Resources, Homeschooling Organizations, Selected Learning Resources and Colleges That Have Accepted Homeschoolers.

I can’t possibly summarize the whole book, but I can tell you what I most appreciated in the book:

  • She emphasizes that every homeschooling family has to find their own way of homeschooling.  You may hear plenty of advice from other homeschoolers, or you may come across companies who swear their curriculum is the only way to go, but there is no right way to do it.  Try out everything until you find what works for you.
  • In the first chapter, she lists and summarizes much of the academic research that has been done on homeschooling.  There is not much evidence that homeschooling is a bad choice.  At one point she explains that this is largely due to the fact that if homeschooling doesn’t work for a family, then they put their children back in school and no harm is done!  I found this to be very reassuring.
  • In the third chapter she briefly goes over the various theories of learning.  (Examples:  Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development, Charlotte Mason, and Holt and Unschooling.)  I found this interesting because I have no background on any of this.  She also goes over the advantages and drawbacks of different homeschooling styles, such as School at Home, Eclectic Homeschooling, and Unschooling.
  • Throughout the book there are letters and advice from many different homeschoolers.  Each of them seemed to tackle the various topics and issues differently, and it gave me great insight to how current homeschooling families work.
  • I loved the part in which she explains that new homeschoolers might be intimidated to visit a seasoned homeschooler’s house and find that it’s clean and in perfect order.  She says that the seasoned homeschooler probably scrambled to get her house clean just before the visitors arrived!  That is, for every homeschooler, it’s difficult to get everything done!  When I read this, I thought to myself:  “Gee, that’s how I deal with my housecleaning already!”
  • She makes suggestions for what to do if your children decide they’d rather go to school, and she also covers “parental panic attacks.”  That is, all homeschoolers have doubts and moments when they’re afraid they are doing it all wrong.  She offers sound advice and consolation for when this happens.
  • Most beneficial of all are the resources she lists.  Whatever you can think of, she put a list in there: websites, magazines, newsletters, books, organizations.  It’s a great place to start if you are looking for more information on homeschooling.

Furthermore, I found this book to be easy to read (I’m not a big fan of non-fiction), and I read it rather quickly.  I thought there was a good, honest balance between the benefits and the challenges of homeshooling.  Because of this book, Mary Griffith’s other book, The Unschooling Handbook, is now on my wishlist!

You can also read the newspaper column I wrote for the Barrow Journal on The Homeschooling Handbook. Click here to access it.

Please tell me what books/articles you have read about homeschooling.  What would you recommend?