July 20, 2015

How to Get Started in Interest-Led Learning

Secularhomeschool.com asked me to post about unschooling in their forum. I wrote about the definition of unschooling/interest-learning, the benefits, a typical day for us, and how everything  worked out in the end. It's nice to have all that organized in one article.

July 12, 2015

Almost done with my master's degree

A few years ago I started my master's degree, taught reading for one year, took one year off, then last fall started taking classes again. The coursework is over and now I'm working on my thesis. I hope to finish it soon. I'm reading 47 fiction/nonfiction books for middle level readers, all with LGBT characters or topics. My project is called a content analysis, and it's just what it sounds like. I'm analyzing the content. I hope it will be a resource for teachers, saving them time looking for books that might be useful. It's interesting and I'm learning a lot, but it's also taking longer than it should.

My classes have been fun. I truly am an education nerd--there's nothing I like more than talking about the history and philosophy of education. One of the biggest surprises was to realize that education academia is all about letting kids follow their interests, take charge of their own education, and show proof of learning with real world application. Huh. Too bad it takes the outside world about 50 years to catch up with academia.*

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope it helps you find ways to help your kids.

*Allington, R.L. (2013). What really matters when working with struggling readers. The Reading Teacher, 66(7), 520-530.

September 10, 2014

The Joy of Childhood and the Joy of Learning

Melissa posted this on Facebook today and I wanted to post it here as a reminder that when we homeschool, we have to keep the big picture in mind. What do you want your kids to say when they look back? My guiding principle was to maintain the joy childhood and the joy of learning. She's 20 years old now:

A lot of Facebook posts are about how being a grown-up sucks, or how we all rushed to grow up and now regret it, etc. I feel very fortunate to say that I don't regret the pace at which I grew up, or feel like I missed out on anything. Quick shout out to my mom for homeschooling me, because I was able to explore the world and be a kid while everyone else was stuck in a classroom. So thanks ma, because of you I will forever be a kid and have an INSANE love of learning. — with Jena Borah.

July 5, 2014

I just found this TED Talk from a 13 year old student who has been freed from public school to follow his interests and his learning style. Love it! Also, check out Sir Ken Robinson for more reasons why interest-led learning makes so much sense.

May 14, 2014

What the Kids Think About All This

I've been writing at Simple Homeschool for a few years, but today is my last post. I asked Peter, Meg and Missa to give their reflections and advice for homeschooling parents. It's pretty fun to hear what they think after living it!

Here's the article: Homeschooling advice from graduates who have been there

And if you want to read all my posts on Simple Homeschool, you can find them here.

March 16, 2014

Peter in Corporate America

Peter and Missa last summer
My previous posts have been about my two girls, so now it's Peter's turn.

Now that my kids are adults, I don't want to write too much about their lives because, well, it's their lives and privacy matters. But Peter is cool with me talking about his homeschooling experience and how it has influenced his life out in the "real world."

He graduated from college in 2012 and spent his first year working at a job that paid the bills but was not what he wanted long-term. During that year, he taught himself computer programming, volunteered evenings at a small company to gain experience, and started interviewing for software development jobs. As it turns out, in this tech hungry world, you don't need a degree in computer science to land a job in the field, you just need to show you have what it takes.

After a few interviews last summer, one company offered him an incredible opportunity in downtown Chicago and he has been working there ever since. All I can say is WOW. Wow, Peter, wow.

He says being an unschooler has been his advantage. He learned how to learn, how to go after something from nothing and build it. He was tired of college telling him what to read and what to study. When he was free, he set his sights on a new career, researched what he needed to do and did it.

He has met one other unschooler at his new job, and this guy is not so positive about his experiences at home. Peter thinks it's because he didn't have as many chances to get out and explore like we did. I thought that was interesting. It is true, successful unschooling needs opportunities.

Imagine a child sitting in an empty room. There isn't much to explore or learn there, even though he is innately curious and intelligent. He needs a library and the whole outside world to explore and find what he loves. Then he needs experts to advise and teach what else he needs to know to build on the knowledge he has to keep growing and creating.

So, as moms at home, still in the middle of homeschooling, let me encourage you to relax as you watch and listen to your children. Take them to new places and see how they respond. Ask them what they wish they could do. Help them become their best selves. Let them become experts at what they love and to enter adulthood with a love for the process. This will increase everyone's joy (believe me!) and carry your children into the future with the confidence and skills they need to succeed.

For you moms with techie kids, Peter started here in learning programming:

https://www.udacity.com/course/cs101 (Peter did the free version)

He says, "They work well together, so I recommend starting both of them and switching back and forth whenever you start to get frustrated/bored/confused." Spoken like a true unschooler.

February 4, 2014

Meg in Art School

Meg went to India the year she would have been a junior in college. When she came back, she realized she wanted to be an art student, and perhaps, eventually an art therapist. She had been in Family and Consumer Sciences, so that, along with psychology, are her minors.

She just loves art classes. It's a dream come true.

She drew this man from a picture. You can see a bit of the original taped to the side. Her skills have taken off with just a little bit of training. Drawing is relaxing and invigorating for her. She is happier than I have seen her in a long time.

January 20, 2014

One of my children is gay.

We parents love our children. No, we fall in love with them. From the moment they are born, we marvel at their tiny fingers and notice each new development as if it were a miracle. Sitting up, crawling, talking, walking, running, riding a bike, reading...all these things filled me with awe as I watched my children and helped them develop their talents.

One thing I didn't notice about one of my children was that she is gay. I didn't live in a world where gay people existed. I didn't know a single openly gay person, and I didn't think it was possible to be born gay.

But one day, when she was 18 years old and we were dropping her off at college, Missa asked to go on a walk and talk. She said she had been praying and trying not to be gay, but finally felt peace that it was OK. God still loved her and in fact, He had made her this way.

I hugged her and told her I didn't understand, but I wanted to learn, and I was happy that she still loved God and wanted to continue her relationship with Him.

I spent the next year in silence. I didn't tell a soul about this. Missa and I stayed close, texting almost everyday, and weekend visits were frequent, but we didn't talk about this part of her life. I was in shock. I was processing. I was hoping it would go away. She was very patient and kind to me.

After one year away, she moved back to our hometown and started going to college here. I continued to stay silent until I found a book that helped me tremendously. It's called Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs Christians Debate, by Justin Lee. His background and experiences were so similar to Missa's that I finally understood. My view on this topic has completely changed. I now see how a person can be gay and a Christian and that my views of the Bible passages were wrong.

Many people say it takes knowing a gay person to help us confront our long-held opinions. That's what happened to me. I never had to think about this issue because it wasn't part of my life. Little did I know I was raising a gentle, thoughtful, talented gay individual.

Missa has started a blog of her own, talking about her struggles to reconcile her faith and the reality of being gay, what she went through before she came out to us, and what she thinks now.  

I could kick myself for being so blind and so lazy, for not studying this issue for myself, and for using pat answers. She forgives me and we are still best friends.

For you parents NOT stuck in the mud on this issue, yay for you!! I don't talk about my faith much on this blog, but it's the main reason I didn't know what to do when Missa came out.  

I found these realizations to be the most helpful for me as I emerged from my year of silence:

1. People are born with a certain sexual orientation.
2. Homosexuality is not contagious or learned.
3. The Bible verses that seem to condemn homosexuality are not as clear as I had believed. Studying for myself using the tools on www.blueletterbible.org was very eye-opening.

If your kids are "testing the waters" by asking questions and they sense you are against homosexuality, they might retreat from you and have to handle this on their own. To be preemptive, read Torn, do your own Bible study, listen to your kids, and don't be afraid.

Another mom's story  
The Gay/Christian Network
Essay: A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On
Video: The Bible and Homosexuality by Matthew Vines 
Book: Bible, Gender, and Sexuality by James V. Brownson

October 11, 2013

My Posts on Simple Homeschool

I've been writing posts over at SimpleHomeschool.net for a couple years now. If you want to browse through those, here is the link: http://simplehomeschool.net/author/jena/

It's a great blog full of practical ideas and inspiration.

October 8, 2013

To New Homeschoolers from an Old Timer

Suzy Homeschooler recently sent me some interview questions. I had a great time thinking through this stuff.

Here are the questions:

1- First tell us a bit about your yourself and your family. [For example:] How many years have you homeschooled? How many children do you have and what ages are they? How would you classify your teaching style? Has it changed since you first started homeschooling?
2- Despite its rising popularity, homeschoolers are still in the minority. How did you respond if/when family, friends, or even complete strangers would make negative comments?
3- Stay at home moms, both homeschooling and not, often feel lonely and isolated due to the long hours spent alone with small children. Did you ever struggle with this? And if so, what helped you through it the most?
4- As moms we wear many hats and homeschooling is a very time consuming matter. Did you ever struggle to take your "teacher hat" off and reconnect with your children or your husband or even yourself- away from homeschooling? What advice, if any, would you give to women regarding this balance?
5- During the difficult times in one's life, it can be easy to focus on the current situation rather than on the bigger picture. Many homeschooling moms feel defeated after a bad day. Looking back on your years homeschooing, was it worth it?
6- If you could say only one sentence to a new homeschooling mom, what would that sentence be?

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