tirsdag 28. januar 2014

Why homeschool? part 3

 Freedom is the wonderful WHY of our education

So, we became free from our current problems. But there were several other freedoms which we did not think of as the reasons to leave school for, but which became the blessings we enjoy.

Freedom of bilingualism

Every bilingual family with children at school knows that without a complimentary education it is almost impossible to maintain the child’s mother tongue.  Norway is a multilingual and multicultural country, while many schools in Norway are happily unaware of that, in spite of a great number of multilingual children in each classroom. School are often operating in a very monolingual way. “This is Norway and here we speak Norwegian”. My children heard this several times. Language of instruction is of course Norwegian, but even during the recess my kids (a brother and a sister!!) were forced to speak Norwegian, without as much as code-switching. Every time they tried to hold a conversation in their mother tongue they were addressed by the school authorities and made clear that it was necessary to switch to Norwegian. The reasons were many, but the conclusion my children made for themselves was clear: speaking Russian, and thus being one, is not valuable. Russians should become Norwegian.  And so should Pakistani. And Turks. And Frenchmen. Maybe one could give an exception to Americans. They speak a language the teachers understand! (As a side note: of course, language is not the only thing which makes a Russian Russian, but it is a cultural marker and a great part of one’s identity.)

Here we should actually address the notions of power, of cultural capital, of transnational knowledge and trans-local affiliation that the children have, which teachers who are ethnically local and monocultural are not aware of, they close their eyes on differences and look at the school children as a homogenous group. They might give some recognition to the kids with different skin color, but the white kids should OF COURSE be, react, and think the way Norwegians do. Which it is not the case. My children ARE bilingual and bicultural. They are Norwegians in many ways. But they ALSO are Russians. 

Therefore homeschooling is befreeing in language and culture terms, when a child is free to read, watch movies, listen to the songs he/ she likes, speak and write both in his/ her mother tongue AND the majority language, or code-switch, as she/ he feels fit for the language situation. Children chose the language they use according the learning arena they are in, which is in its turn, also chosen freely.

Freedom to choose a learning arena

Learning arena should not necessarily be a classroom and books. Such an arena can be actually any institution which is functioning in town. Unfortunately, the public institutions as libraries and museums in Norway have not recognized yet the growing need to address homeschooling families. Nevertheless together with other homeschooling families we have been to guide tours in many of Oslo museums, parks, Philharmonic hall etc, providing our children both joint learning and socialization. 


We made field trips to the University Biology Department, to a laboratory studying mildew and fungus, to an entomology department where we learned about different insects, their life and development. We visited a painter at his workshop, we saw how violins are being made - and used as a learning arena many, many other locations and businesses. 

And we should not forget online learning. Khan academy, Russian online school, a plethora of videos about history, science, natural science, or almost any subject one could think of.  All of it is there!

onsdag 22. januar 2014

Why homeschool? part 2

As stated in part 1, homeschooling was a choice made as a solution to a current problem. Today I will describe what the problem was and how this solution helped us. (A little note: all the information below is written with my children's consent).

My son had a language deficiency and up to the age of 4 he could say around three words: "Mama", "Papa" and "tractor". Luckily all three sound the same in both Russian and Norwegian so he managed well.  He attended a day-care where after a year of struggle he was diagnosed with “non-specific language impairment”.  Despite the fact that he made a progress, the specialist wanted absolutely for him to start school during the year he turned 6. The additional problem was that he was born in October, so he would actually start at 5. After long discussions he was allowed to stay an extra year without school. During that year I saw how much a child could develop just in one year when provided proper attention. Still he did not reach the level of language development that would be enough to follow verbal instructions. The teachers didn’t realize the need he had, even though we made them aware of his problem. They just became upset when he did not follow their instructions. Several times they addressed him for disobedience when he just did not perceive the instruction. He was in despair. He did all he could to please the teachers and the kids, but they were not accepting his efforts because they thought of him as a disobedient stubborn kid. In addition, because of these special features he was bullied. His jacket was thrown in the garbage, milk poured into his bag, his art was destroyed and he was excluded during the recess. The teachers were only saying “of course, we are working on the issue, this is a bullying free school”, but did not succeed. Finally, my son turned from a happy child into a withdrawn sullen boy who once told me that he didn't want to live anymore. At the age of 9!! Can you imagine my despair???

At the same time my youngest grew up totally differently. She learned easily and fast. She memorized poems just after I read them a couple times. She learned reading when she was hardly three just sitting on the opposite side of the table watching how I taught her two years older brother. I actually was unaware of that she learned to read until one day I saw her with a book UPSIDE DOWN sounding it out. I had to help her with some letters which we didn’t cover with Daniel yet, and she started to read. By the age of 5 she was reading thick chapter books. She was also willing to write and count and was reading her brother’s school books, just out of interest. She could not wait to start school! She expected a world of knowledge unfold in front of her, the educational heaven in a way. Instead she was forced to form the letters for hours and to stay on 1+1 types of Math problems. When I asked her teacher if Maria could get some more challenging tasks, I received an answer: no, then other kids will be upset that she receives a special treatment. In addition, of course, to be a smart girl loving math is a social suicide, even in a primary school. Maria started to have strong pains in her stomach as well as headaches. We went to all the doctors, made ultrasound of all the organs in her stomach, took plenty of blood tests, tried to put her on a diet without milk or bread, in case she had an allergy. She was twice admitted into a hospital but doctors could not find anything wrong.

So, in such an unfortunate state we came to January, exactly 3 years ago. We were very upset and saw no hope or light in the future. A friend suggested homeschooling as an option. At first I was skeptical, but looked it up on internet – and voila, there was a homeschool association in Norway. I took a contact and we decided to come to their meeting on Sunday. We loved what we saw. Normal kids, playing together without even a shadow of disrespect. They did not seem to be unsocialized while they were not pushy in their communication. We enjoyed also talking to parents and received all the information on how to start home schooling.

On Monday I wrote a letter to the principle and we started our home school!

The ones who knows Daniel can see that he is again a happy positive boy with a lot of ideas. He is eager to learn and with years his language problems are getting better. And Maria- her pains gradually disappeared. They receive the educational challenge they need and get the attention in every way.

 to be continued...

Why homeschool? part 1

Tusen takk til alle som arrangerte konferansen om hjemmeundervisning i helgen, og til alle som kom. Konferansen var veldig lærerk og nyttig. Vi fikk høre både fra akademikere, de som ser på hjemmeundervining gjennom sine akademsike briller, og fra de som er på basis nivå, de som underviser barna sine hjemme.

Jeg snakket på søndag om hvorfor vi valgte å ha hjemmeundervisning. Hovedpunktene av foredraget leser dere videre. 

Why do we educate our children at home?

I. Introduction: stating the main reason.

The question why some parents choose to educate their children at home is raised very often. Many believe that homeschoolers are unhappy restrained kids chained to a table and kept in a dungeon. Of course, this picture is anything but true :). 

I myself was never keen on homeschooling and ironically was educated as a SCHOOL teacher, first in Russia, then in Norway, with a Master's degree in multicultural education. Moreover, my oldest daughter went through school and is finishing her last year of public high school this semester. 

So I chose homeschooling first as a solution to a current problem which arose at school my children attended, and only later developed a strong conviction that this is the best choice for our children. 

I myself worked at both private and public schools and can testify that no matter how hard you try it is just not possible for a teacher to meet and address every child's need in a classroom setting. You have a diverse group of kids, with different talents, interests, starting points, level of language development and hormonal change. To treat a classroom as a homogeneous group is dangerous, but is is exactly what happens because teachers simply don't have enough time to reach each child and someone always will remain a mystery. 

On the other hand, even though they will never admit it, teachers don't LOVE my children the way I do. And their goal thus, being very attractive, differs nevertheless from my goal as a parent. School aims at educating and socializing  my children, giving them opportunity to grow up into good citizens. While my goal is to help them to become happy, free, well-functioning adults who are well equipped for life. The notion of LOVE is never mentioned in academic research. Parental involvement, test results and success are. That is why it is so important for homeschoolers with experience to voice their side of the story so that the academics will be able to legitimize the notion of love and include it into their research studies.

So, in a nutshell, we educate our children with hope to help them grow as happy free individuals well equipped for life.

to be continued...

søndag 5. januar 2014

Tilbakeblikk på året som gikk :)

De første dagene i det nye året har kommet. Det er mange som har atter en gang laget nyttårsforsett og jeg ser flere og flere som jogger utenfor huset i regnet. Istedenfor å ta ut vannskiene og skli nedover gressplenen har jeg bestemt meg for å skrive en serie av tilbakeblikk på året som er gått (med en god kopp kaffe og en halvfull pepperkakeboks).

Året har vært preget av mye latter og glede, bloggen er et godt bevis på dette. Allikevel er det sånn at vi ikke startet denne bloggen før juni (!) og det vil si at det er masse gøy dere har gått glipp av. Derfor vil jeg gjøre dere en tjeneste og fortelle om høydepunktene. :))

Med dette ønsker jeg 2014 velkommen og håper at dere deler gledene sammen med oss.

La båndet gå!

Vinteren er kald, men familien gjør alt så mye bedre...
(også kakao, men har ikke bilde av det :))

La oss starte med det naturlige: Nyttår 2013. I Norge er det ikke veldig utbredt å feire så mye på denne dagen, hvis vi ser bort fra fyrverkeriene. Og mat. Og gaver. Whatever. I Russland derimot er nyttår en familiefeiring som kan bli sammenlignet med jul her i Norge. Venner samler seg, går rundt juletreet, åpner gaver, spiser masse mat, sender opp fyrverkeri... Har jeg sagt dette før? Greit. Kanskje mange folkeslag har denne måten å feire nyttår på, men for oss var denne gangen spesiell: vi hadde besøk av farmor og kusinen vår sammen med mannen hennes. Det er noe spesielt med feiringer som samler familien. Stemningen blir med en gang lysere og det nye året blir ønsket velkommen med ekstra stor glede. Her ser dere kveldens høydepunkt :))):

En annen ting som er spesiell med familien vår er at ingenting kan bli feiret uten musikk. På nyttårsaften sang vi og barna fremførte stykker på instrumentene sine. Dette var også et høydepunkt. 

Maria laget julestrømper til kusinen og mannen hennes. Hun lagde motivene selv, tegnet dem, fant materialer og sydde disse på julestrømpene. Hun var så flink! (stolt mamma)

Etter nyttårsaften er det ikke bare nordmenn som går ut på ski i snøstormen. En ekspedisjon med farmor i spissen utforsket skogens herligheter og kom hjem igjen med roser i kinnene og grillpølser i magen. For min del var det helt greit å se familien på vei mot vinterens gleder fra stuevinduet. Hehe. Min kjærlighet til vinteren har jeg beskrevet før. Men så lenge barna har det gøy går det helt greit for meg. 

-- Spikersuppa skøytebane har også blitt et "must" de siste årene.

Men tilbake til meg og min kjærlighet til vinteren. Det var en tid da jeg tok på meg lag på lag med ull og tok barna med ut i snøen og lagde snømenn sammen med dem.  De husker det og synes det var en fantastisk opplevelse å ha mamma med på moroa. Men etterhvert som de vokste opp og ikke trengte mammas "en snømann på 1-2-3" oppskrift lenger, har jeg for lengst gått over til den lette versjonen av denne aktiviteten: gitt dem en gulrot og frihet for fantasien. Resultatene har sjeldent blitt "vanlige" snømenn :). 

Med dette avslutter jeg min første del og ser fram til å fortelle mer om de naturvitenskapelige og intellektuelle tingene vi drev med som jeg vet dere vil vite mer om. Mua-ha-ha :))) Dere slipper ikke unna...