Sunday, August 3, 2008

I know I’m always curious about the unique ways parents have found to home-school their children. Coming from diverse geographical and ethnic traditions, so many families have carved out unusual pathways to learning.

One Internet blog describes the everyday adventures of one such family. At https://, you’ll find the online journal of a Fairbanks, Alaska, family (identified only by first names and nicknames, perhaps to maintain privacy).

A sample: “I am Theresa, a Catholic mom of 5, wife of incredibly supportive husband, Ed, currently having a blast homeschooling Superboy (12) and JBug (6) in beautiful Fairbanks, Alaska.

“Though this is primarily a homeschooling blog and I like to stick to that topic as much as possible, other family members you may hear about include Modgirl (18) who is leaving for UNC-Chapel Hill this fall, Cityboy (17) who attends public school, and our grandsons Squirt (4) and JackJack (2).

“In our homeschool we have a nature-centered ‘curriculum’ and use a unique blend of materials and methods suited to our lifestyle of learning. We take our cues from the rhythm of nature and the children’s many and varied interests. It is a little unschoolish, a little unit-study, a little Montessori, a little Charlotte Mason, but mostly just us!

“We call it us-schooling and it suits us just fine!”

This family is all about exploring - from making their own nets to catch wildlife for study to traveling around the United States and Canada, rediscovering the beauty of North America. They use technology, including a digital camera and the Internet, but they also use a lot of old-fashioned, low-tech methods - notebooks and journals to record their observations, complete with impressive, hand-drawn illustrations. In this way, they can capture images of the gorgeous flora and fauna they are studying, and also produce original educational resources in the process.

It’s a breathtaking peek into how creativity and investigative study can be merged. One interesting aspect of their blog is that it shows the location of all those who log on, along with the time and date. So, even as you are looking at the site, you can see that someone from Germany or Guam also has been viewing the site.

Parents will find a lot of great ideas and tools on the site. For instance, there’s a list for a nature scavenger hunt and a step-by-step illustrated segment on how to make different kinds of nets to collect wildlife for science studies. You’ll also find photos from a father-and-son trek following the 1,500-mile Iditarod race in which men and dogs race each other and the elements.

What I love about family-learning blogs is how they provide fresh ideas as an antidote to the ubiquitous parental concerns about their children’s education. Instead of worrying about the content or problems in the school their children attend, home-schoolers are talking about how to learn and teach in a vast smorgasbord of situations.

To share some of your ideas and methods, please join The Washington Times’ home-schooling blog, “Home School Galaxy,” in the Communities section of the Web site ( Your own discoveries can help lots of other parents, and they may have a few ideas you can use as well. See you there!

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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