how to homeschool

A few of you kind readers have been oh-so-gently urging me to provide a link here to the essay I wrote for Mothering last spring. I’ve finally done it. You can find it here.

About that title…

in print

I had, cheekily, submitted the essay with the title “How to Homeschool” since the piece is written in the guise of a how-to-manual. There had been some emails back and forth with Mothering about changes to the essay; one of their suggestions was adding a subtitle to my title, something like One Mother’s Instruction Manual.

It wasn’t until I saw the published article–while shopping at Whole Foods with Mr. T–that I realized they’d changed the title altogether to “The-Never-At-Home Homeschoolers”. The title seemed a little odd to me, since never-being-at-home is only one small part of the essay. But I was too thrilled about seeing my writing in a magazine to fret about it. Plus there was another surprise: those charming illustrations, which I hadn’t known about either. Aren’t they fabulous? What amazes me is that they really look like our family, although the illustrator, Ben Hatke, had only the text of the essay to work from. (Do check out Ben’s website–his work is impressive, and his blog lets you into the intriguing life of an artist.)

The illustrations were my main reason for linking the essay as a PDF file. I’ll bet I don’t really have the rights to display the essay in this format, but I’ll give it a go. I’d like the essay to be accessible to folks who are considering homeschooling, so please feel free to pass the link along. Let me know if you have trouble opening the file.

* * *

In other news of things I’m doing that I really shouldn’t, one of my dear friends sent an email about the tadpole-collecting of my last post. She pointed out that collecting animals in California is illegal. Yikes. She also noted that if I was going to partake in illegal activities, I should probably not mention in the post the location of my illicitness. And also the concern that I might have inadvertently collected eggs of a protected species.

Oh dear. And here I was thinking it would be better to raise a local species that could be returned to the proper habitat.

Life seems so complicated these days. Oh, for the summer days of my childhood, when my brother and I could ride our bikes, unaccompanied, to the creek that ran at the edge of our housing tract and collect interesting creatures in jars without anyone caring. Kids these days seem to have fewer and fewer opportunities to interact with life as directly as we did.


24 comments… add one
  • susan Jun 18, 2009 @ 8:35

    I believe my urging was not so gentle! So glad to see it up.

    FYI those California newts are deadly poisonous. So don’t eat them or drink the water they are in. 🙂 And wash hands after holding them because they secrete their neurotoxin onto their skin.

    • patricia Jun 19, 2009 @ 13:00

      I don’t think we have to worry about newts–all that seem to be emerging from our egg cluster are microscopic creatures like hydras and daphnia. Nothing looks remotely like any amphibian larva that I’ve found in pictures. It’s a little baffling.

      You must be home by now–welcome back!

  • Kathy Jun 19, 2009 @ 6:49

    That’s a fantastic article. Thank you for sharing it.

    • patricia Jun 19, 2009 @ 13:01

      Thanks, Kathy! Nice to hear from you again!

  • Kristin Jun 19, 2009 @ 11:51

    I’m glad that you’ve included your essay as part of your blog. It is such a fun and informative read. It will help so many people who are new to homeschooling, or who are already doing it, expand their perception of the type of learning that may take place in an enriched environment such as your own.

    I agree that life is more complicated for kids and parents nowadays. Perhaps we worry more? Maybe we should ignore some of the rules? At least we should try and find humor about it all so we don’t become depressed.

    • patricia Jun 19, 2009 @ 13:03

      Or maybe we should just send our kids backpacking with their fathers. 😉

  • marissa Jun 26, 2009 @ 0:12

    oh thanks so much for sharing

    • patricia Jun 26, 2009 @ 7:24

      And thanks for stopping by and saying hello, Marissa! I appreciate it!

  • Michele Jun 29, 2009 @ 21:39

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful article. It was great fun to read and as a mom who is considering home schooling her 5 year old this year instead of sending her to public school, well, it is was just what I needed.

    Congratulations on getting published!!

    • patricia Jun 29, 2009 @ 22:46

      Thanks, Michele. I’m glad the article has found its way into your consideration process. People like you are just who I wrote it for!

      The photos on your blog and flickr page are just stunning.

  • John Evan Murphy Jul 18, 2009 @ 18:05

    Patricia, your stuff is awesome. I want to read everything you do. I like your blog and want to start one in Ukiah for teachers. I have a funny story… A long time ago a friend of mine went to a toga party down the street from my cabin. Well, we all started drinking, started yelling and singing and one thing led to another. At one point we all decided to marry our buddy C. He was so drunk he doesn’t remember. But let me assure you the bride was just as inebriated and neither party agreed to it they just wobbled and we hummed the wedding march song. I just remember C Z saying, “Murph, get me out of this. I don’t want to get married yet. I want to marry Tricia Broderick. Go figure. I am on Facebook under John Evan Murphy. It’s Jack still.

    • patricia Jul 18, 2009 @ 23:02

      Look what happens when old friends from high school find your blog–they reveal all your secrets. Or your spouse’s secrets…

      I’ve never seen him in a toga!

  • John Evan Murphy Jul 18, 2009 @ 18:41

    Writing is a blast.. My students really love it when I have them tell me their stories and I type exactly what they say. It inspires them and makes them think their words are important. When you separate the task of writing from the task of just oral story telling students create incredible things…. By typing out what they say and then going back and reading it together, students learn all kinds of things about their style and voice.

    • patricia Jul 18, 2009 @ 23:10

      Oh, phew, now we’re not talking about my husband’s drunken escapades anymore…

      “When you separate the task of writing from the task of just oral story telling students create incredible things…. By typing out what they say and then going back and reading it together, students learn all kinds of things about their style and voice.”

      Yep, yep, yep. This is precisely what I’m giving a homeschooling workshop on in a few weeks, and what I hope to focus on in my book draft. When it comes to young kids, people think of “writing” as the kids putting pencil to paper. But it takes years for kids to develop fluency in writing, and I think it’s important to allow kids to develop their writing voices when they’re young–and the best way to do that is to take dictation for them. I think it’s harder to accomplish that in a classroom setting, due to the adult to child ratio. Kudos to you, Jack, for making it happen! But for homeschoolers, it’s easy. If parents would make a regular habit of writing down their kids’ words–fiction or nonfiction–those kids would develop such fantastic voices as writers. And if you have a strong writing voice, all the other parts of writing fall into place pretty easily.

      • John Evan Murphy Jul 19, 2009 @ 10:49

        The best part of many days at school is when I have young writers hang back at recess and we write. They talk and I type and question them as we go … i have collected 100’s of writing samples over the years and each one makes me laugh….writing together helps develop deeper personal connections … Do you know if lots of parents Home School only during summer vacations? There is a niche here that needs to be filled… Hello’s to my goalie “Z”.

      • patricia Jul 20, 2009 @ 7:33

        I think that questioning them as we go is really key. It’s a form of revision and expansion, and kids learn so much from that process. In my experience, younger kids don’t like to revise much, but adding to their text as they dictate teaches them how to expand their work, and they start doing it more on their own as they write (or dictate).

        And I agree: it definitely forges personal connections. I think it’s so meaningful to the kids that their words matter to you.

        The fact that you use your recess time to write with kids shows what a wonderful, dedicated teacher you must be!

        Homeschooling takes so many approaches, so it’s hard to say how it might look to different families in the summer. But one mom blogger whose kids go to school is trying out her take on unschooling over the summer, and she’s blogging about it with others here:

  • Angela Jul 21, 2009 @ 7:15

    Someone posted a link to your article on my blog, and now I’m loving *your* blog. Great article. Congratulations.

    • patricia Jul 21, 2009 @ 10:19

      I’m glad you liked the article, Angela. Now I’m off to visit your blog!

  • Angela Feb 4, 2010 @ 1:41

    Just re-reading some of your old posts as I plan a little writing project with some homeschool kids tomorrow, and I saw that last bit about the tadpoles … do swimming pool get covered for the winter where you are?

    I used to collect eggs and tadpoles off the swimming pool cover — I guess frogs laid them in the collected pools of rain water — the weekend we started cleaning up for the season when I was a lifeguard. I figured they were going to die anyway, so I didn’t need to feel guilt if they didn’t all make it.

    Surely that wouldn’t be against the rules!

    • patricia Feb 4, 2010 @ 8:32

      That would be a good plan–if I knew someone with a swimming pool!

      Actually, we ended up getting a fire-bellied toad cluster from friends. We now have twenty small fire-bellied toads (actually, they’re frogs). I have to give some away–I can’t keep up with all the crickets they need to eat!

      I’d love to hear about your writing project.

  • Rachel Apr 20, 2010 @ 18:43

    What a wonderful article. I’ve just begun the process of figuring out what homeschooling could be for us, and that was wonderful, just what I needed to read, and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it again over the years. I just subscribed to your blog today. Thank you!

    • patricia Apr 20, 2010 @ 22:32

      Oh, I’m glad that the article helped. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know, Rachel!

      Homeschooling is a wonderful journey. Take it on as a great adventure, knowing that you’ll never figure it all out, that you’ll probably always adapt as you go. If you follow the lead of your kids, it will all work out.

  • wanderingsue Jan 19, 2013 @ 4:26

    Am I too late? The link’s gone!

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