The Summer They Owned Their Education

Earlier this summer I was concerned about my homeschooled sports nut and how I was worried about his time spent in sports overshadowing his work in language arts. Throughout the summer (which, I have come to learn, is a perfect time for unschooling to blossom), my sports nut kid and his siblings have undertaken a total baseball immersion program of their own design.

It started in the spring with all three kids in little league; the boys on a baseball team and my daughter on a softball team. They practiced and played during the regular and post season. My daughter started receiving computerized box scores of her games, created a binder and together the kids began to study closely her teams’ statistics.

And then my Mother/Homeschool Angel, with help from my sister/teacher, found some books by Matt Christopher. Not only were they about Little League players and their adventures, but they were also at a grade level perfect for Little League age kids, like mine. We have since searched for as many baseball related books as possible from to public libraries and second-hand shops. My little sports nut that never sat still graduated to READING IN BED! He has also has been working on the ongoing project of building a Fenway Park replica with Legos.

Around the same time my Mom also instituted a reading program for the kids, rewarding them with cash for each book read over the summer. I can’t even describe what it was like, though, to find that sports nut child laying around with his nose stuck in a book!

His older brother, a total baseball fanatic, has become a walking baseball trivia library. As a dyslexic he has had numerous baseball books read to him, and has done a good deal of reading himself as well – more than ever.

Over the course of the summer the kids’ baseball/softball immersion program included:

1. Playing the game on regular and all-star teams.
2. Practicing at home every day that didn’t rain, even at beaches or other people’s houses, where ever they could.
3. Setting up a weekly pick-up game in our community.
4. Learning about statistics, such as ERA’s and batting averages and how they’re computed.
5. Reading baseball novels, biographies, histories,etc.
6. Watching YouTube tutorials about pitching, etc.
7. Learning how the Little League World Series is structured and about different world and U.S. teams.
8. Watching baseball and softball games, bloopers and best-of videos on the Internet.
9. Attending Senior League World Series games in Bangor, Maine.
10. Reading standings and sports stories in the local newspaper.
11. Looking up scores on the Internet
12. Learning the multitude of baseball and softball rules by playing, learning from coaches and other kids, and by watching and listening to games
13. Learning Red Sox trivia with a card game, by watching Red Sox videos and through discussions with their diehard Red Sox fan of a father.
14. Listening to games on the radio.
15. Writing up their own rosters.

Over the past three months they covered reading, writing, math, computer skills, engineering, geography, social studies, history, physical education, teamwork and mentoring. And what part did I have in this? A couple trips to the library and some driving. The kids did this. This summer they owned their education.

It’s been said that young students in the U.S. slide backwards in their skills during the summer compared to kids in most other countries where school is year-round, unless they are exposed to a multitude of learning camps and other educational opportunities during their vacation. One of those opportunities is the freedom to create your own educational program. Given that freedom, kids will learn.

Shane pitching 2014

Lucas batting 2014


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Homeschooling Confessions

Before I had kids I never once thought I would ever homeschool. Nor had I ever known anyone who homeschooled.

I often think that we cannot possibly homeschool another year. We originally planned for me to be a stay-at-home mother for one year. Remember, homeschooling was never part of the plan! Twelve years later I have to settle my nerves by saying to myself, ‘just one more year, make it the best!’

The prospect of going back to work is a bit ominous. My unpaid job as homeschooling Mom has had so many benefits – will I find something as rewarding? And there’s the resume gaps…..

99% of the time I feel very good about homeschooling, even though it often feels like swimming against the tide. 1% of the time I feel like it’s pure insanity and we’ll certainly regret it later.

I am thoroughly impressed with all the homeschooling parents I have met over the years. The amount of energy they expend and the level of creativity they exhibit astound me. Homeschooling is so cool because you really can tailor it to the needs of the child and family. When done well it’s a beautiful thing.

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Freedom to Homeschool

By the time the 4th of July rolls around many of us are thinking more of beaches, baseball, picnics and fireworks than our freedom and independence. After putting up with last winter, we have every right. I often take for granted something we’ve always had; something many others may never experience. In America we have the freedom to homeschool. We have the option to replace public education with a home-based program reflective of the needs of our individual children.

In many countries (including Brazil and Germany among many others) homeschooling is illegal or heavily restricted. In other countries it is socially unacceptable. In the U.S. each state is left with the responsibility of education, and regulations for homeschooling vary from state to state. In Maine we are required to report that we are homeschooling and have someone with a Maine teacher’s certificate view each child’s portfolio annually. I think many homeschoolers will tell you that these ‘restrictions’ allow for many variances and much flexibility in programs – and the freedom to choose what is best.

This 4th of July I feel thankful for all the freedoms I have – and homeschooling is one that sits very close to my heart.

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The Homeschooled Sports Nut

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy nine-year-old homeschooled son loves sports. I’d been feeling challenged with finding him homeschool learning opportunities that deal with sports, other than the sports themselves. I realized that time spent in sports provides chances to learn things like game rules, making new moves and social skills. But I was worried about him spending so much time moving that he would not improve his reading and writing skills. I also started to notice that both my sons enjoyed school work more and worked faster directly after playing hard outside. I realized myself that the best times for writing were right after a long walk or a workout. But still I tried to think up ways to interest Lucas in language skill projects that involved sports. Reading about sports history? No, Mom. Writing about last night’s game or a sports hero? Nope. So my question was how to engage Lucas in a learning environment of his own design, but that which would satisfy my need to know he’s improving his language skills?

While I was planning to write about sports and learning I came across this TedTalks video by Neuroscientist, Daniel Wolpert, where he explains that, “Movement is the only way you have of affecting the world around you. Everything goes through contractions of the muscles.” And he goes on to convince us that brains evolved solely to move. Everything our body does involves series of movements.

I wonder if this works backwards. I mean we all have heard about the links between movement and brain growth. Does all his movement give him an edge in language skills? Or can it only be done by actually practicing reading and writing?

I look at my son, who has learned to read and write at his own pace. I watch him work extremely hard to master movements and strategy in hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer and all the made-up sports that he and his siblings and friends have played over the years. He has found something he loves to do and spends as much time as possible practicing and improving.

This morning I asked him (again) what lessons he wanted to take this summer (his brother and sister take piano and Spanish, respectively). After his initial, negative reaction, I talked to him a little more, feeling bad that they are getting something he’s not. I suggested he could take anything that interested him. He was vehement, “No, Mom. No Lessons. Only sports.”

The thing is, when he’s not doing sports he’s doing things like putting the pool ladder together, without instructions. And building things like this robotic zamboni:

or this Lego castle:


So OK. He’s not spending the same amount of time as school kids reading and writing. A typical writing assignment to him may be a condolence card to his grandfather directly after the World Series. And he spends more than the average kid moving because he has more time. His communication skills, social skills and attention span are good. He’s extremely helpful at home and seems happy. Though I still worry at times that we’re not doing enough reading and writing, seeing him in action in life and sports puts my mind at ease.

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