Ok, I'm uschoolISH. Don't ask for a definition, I just don't have one. We dual-enroll, so we have books, we just don't use them much. We do book work for math and we read, read, read and we watch lots of educational programs and we learn from lots of other areas. A few weeks ago, I bitched to a local homeschool group about our reviewing teacher. When we started out, our choices were slim and I didn't know how to find a supervising teacher. An internet search brought me to the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, or NICHE. Great and all, but we're not Christian home educators.
I was clear with the teacher I chose that we were secular and unschool-leaning. She assured me that she'd worked for many years with many different types of homeschoolers. That first year, she suggested several religion-based homeschool textbooks, saying, "I know you're secular, but..." The second year when we decided to use the portfolio option instead of testing, she lectured me about including something that proved my son had learned grammar and sentence structure, proper writing technique, and a tape-recording of his reading. We hadn't studied sentence structure or grammar outside of the normal common-sense stuff. Most people speak with correct grammar by the time they're five, so writing this way is not difficult. Do we really need to break it down to nouns, verbs and adjectives, and discuss the proper tense? Do we really need to learn things like subject and predicate? I can honestly say in my entire adult life, I've never used the word "predicate" until this teacher required we include it in our portfolio. Chad is a reluctant writer, and pushing and forced writing activities only strengthen that reluctance. And what the hell does reading aloud prove? I can barely read Dr. Suess aloud without stumbling a bit, and saying "the" instead of "a" or something similar. He would lose points for every misread word, and he was then at the point of reading several 5th grade level books per week silently - big words and all.
So I cheated. I printed a couple stupid worksheets about parts of speech and subjects and predicates and I actually stood over my son while he did them. I briefly explained each worksheet and then asked him to answer aloud before writing the answer. If he was wrong, I simply told him the answer and we moved on. These cheated worksheets were my examples of his grammar lessons, and if he remembered any of that stuff longer than five minutes, he's doing better than most kids in public school as far as I'm concerned. Considering newspapers and the like are written at a 4th or 5th grade reading level, the fact that anything harder shows up on his reading list is a pretty good example of his reading progress. We picked a reading selection without too many multi-syllable words for him to read aloud, and I let him practice reading those two pages for almost half an hour before we recorded it. When we recorded, I let him run the machine, and if he misread or didn't like the way something sounded, he rewound and recorded again. The whole thing left me feeling icky and wrong, but it satisfied the teacher, and I was hoping once we were past all that silly grammar stuff it would not have to be repeated this year.
I was wrong. I just received a letter from our reviewing teacher, sealed with a sticker showing a sweet little boy praying and the word "Faithfulness" across the top. Ugh. The letter states her requirements for portfolio content as:
1. Results of baseline tests (this doesn't apply to us)
2. lesson plans, diary or written record of planning overview. (we don't plan, we just learn)
3. Outline of curriculum used (umm...)
4. Samples of work in each subject area: Reading, Math, Language, for grades 6+ add social studies and science (we have a reading list and math work, but language? .. I'm also concerned about next year and how the hell I'm supposed to prove he learned social studies and science? A list of videos and field trips?)
5. Any grades, assessments, written reports, test results, etc. (we do none of this)
6. A list of books read (covered)
7. A cassette tape of the child reading aloud (wtf? Why?!?)
I'm starting to think this woman doesn't understand the meaning of "unschooling," nor does she appreciate the benefits, obviously. I'm shopping for a new reviewing teacher this week for the next school year. I'll also spend the week making a fake lesson plan for the year and pretending I have a clue what days we did or did not "do school." Traditional school uses the same methods to prove learning as they do to teach. I'm not teaching my children to pass tests, I'm teaching them what they need to learn, in any way they need to learn it. So how the hell am I supposed to prove learning that isn't done simply to pass a test? I do not want to misrepresent my kids' progress and feel like a huge cheating loser for this, but I'm at a loss on a better way to handle it at this point.