Learning in the living room
Source: The Valley Breeze
By: Meghan Kavanaugh
May 1, 2012
More programs available as home schooling numbers increase.
It's 2 p.m. on Monday and Aisha Manzoor is sitting on the floor of her Cumberland living room, simultaneously helping 5-year-old son Ammar, at left, with addition, and 8-year-old son Huzaifah with measuring skills.
A second-year home-schooler, she bounces back and forth between the two, helping Ammar with counting blocks and insisting that Huzaifah write smaller numbers to fit in the allotted space.
The kindergarten and 2nd-grade lessons are the first workbook-style instruction the children have gotten today. Earlier, they climbed at an indoor rock gym with other home-schooled children, and later that night, they accompanied their father Ikram to the Masjid Al-Islam mosque in North Smithfield, where he is the imam, for a religious studies lesson.
It's not the 9-to-3 model of schooling that most area children follow, but Aisha said the more flexible scheduling works best for the family.
While she tried to follow a strict school-at-home model last year, with kids up early to learn, Aisha said she has changed her methods to "go with the flow" more. The kids say they enjoy the relaxed atmosphere that Aisha said allows them to learn at their own pace.
An elementary school educator for nine years, Aisha has experience teaching, but she admits she is still getting used to home-schooling.
"It's always hard to teach your own kids," she said. "If you can make it through the first year, you're golden."
The decision to remove the kids from a private school in Mansfield, Mass., was prompted by a love for travel, she said.
Since December, the Manzoors have traveled to South Africa, Dubai, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The trips would have been impossible, Aisha said, if the children were enrolled in school.
While not all of them necessarily have international field trips, the number of home-schooled children in the state has increased in the past 10 years, from 857 in 2002, to 1,273 as of February of this year, according to data provided by the Rhode Island Department of Education.
According to Rhode Island General Law 16-19-2, the state requires students to learn, in the English language, reading, writing, geography, arithmetic, United States history, Rhode Island history, principals of American government, health and physical education.
They must receive authorization from their home district's school committee by providing a letter of intent.
Each district has different requirements for students, but all ensure that the children receive 180 days of instruction. Some, like Lincoln, have students take standardized tests, while others, like North Providence, do not.
Melissa Robbs said her son Ian, one of the 122 home-schooled students in Warwick, spends the entire year reaching that 180-day mark. The family will travel for weeks at a time for her husband's job with G-Tech, she said, so instruction does not follow the same schedule as the public schools.
Robbs is on the board of ENRICHri, a nonprofit organization started three years ago by state coordinator and home-schooler Beverly Burgess, that provides classes, seminars, social activities and guidance to families who choose to home-school.
The organization will host Homeschool 101 on Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Westminster Unitarian Church Smith Hall, 119 Kenyon Ave., East Greenwich.
Register for the seminar, potluck picnic and curriculum sale by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Another tool helpful for home-school novices and veterans alike is the Home Schooling Co-op, which meets monthly at the Cumberland Public Library, 1464 Diamond Hill Road.
The meetings, which started in January, are organized by librarian Debra Cohen. Parents discuss curriculum, share tips, and talk about the struggles and rewards.
Whether they got into it because of a shy child, too much structure in the classroom, medical reasons, or a desire to see those "aha" moments when a child learns, the parents seem to agree to take home schooling a year at a time, molding it to fit a growing child with expanding interests.
They discuss different methods of home schooling, of which there are an endless number of variations, from school-at-home, which follows the structure of a traditional school; to the Waldorf method, which emphasizes imagination and creativity; or to unschooling, which lets the child lead the subject matter to follow his or her interests. The eclectic model allows parents to combine several methods into one.
And when a student surpasses the parent's skill level in a subject, a network of contacts can step in, they said. Parents either accept a similar tutoring session or cash in return.
At a meeting in March, the parents talked about socialization, calling the assumption that home-schooled children do not learn to interact with kids their age a "misconception."
The families stock up on extra-curricular activities like Girl Scouts, ballet, baseball and library programs, each giving the children the opportunity to make friends, and learn how to deal with teasing, just as they would in school, the parents said.
Cumberland resident Allison Jewell, who has a 10-year-old daughter she has home-schooled since kindergarten, shared the best advice she received when starting the process: "Start where you are, and keep doing what you're doing."
She explained that every parent technically starts home-schooling when a child is born.
Jess Sanna, in her first year of home schooling with her 6-year-old son, agreed.
"The question isn't when did you start home schooling," she said. "It's when did you stop?"