This week on The Spectrum, we meet the Dietz family – Jonathan, Kristi, Nathan and Jericho. They are a local San Franciscan family who choose to homeschool their two sweet, rambunctious boys. We interviewed Mom, Kristi, about the homeschooling system and why she chose to educate her sons at home.
Next week we will be featuring Gina Niblack, a 26 year old San Jose native who was homeschooled K-12 in a family of 5 children – and despite what most Americans think about homeschooling – turned out to be a socially capable, intelligent, amazing young woman with a career in classical music.
THE DIETZ FAMILY
1. Are you a part of a homeschooling “group”?
We are part of a community of home schoolers who share our beliefs and educational methodology. I think the most prominent stereotype about home schoolers is that we are anti-social. This could not be more untrue! Every family in our community interacts regularly with each other and the public. We gather once a week to formally learn new material from trained tutors. During these sessions we split into “classes” of eight students each where students get to conduct science experiments, create art projects, and present speeches. Additionally, throughout the week we go on field trips and outings which provide relaxed environments for our children to be themselves and thrive socially. Our flexible schedule provides an average of eight hours of “free play” or as I see it, cultivating communication skills, with other families. per week; by my calculations, my children actually have more time to interact with freely and naturally with other children (and adults!) than publicly schooled children have.
2. Where do you get your content from?
After much research, we decided that the educational method that best fits our family is the Classical Model. There are a number of Classical Curricula available, so I was able to choose one that aligns with our faith as well. The program we are using is called Classical Conversations and is an all-inclusive, “one-room school-house” model, faith-based curriculum. Not only does Classical Conversations provide the content I teach from, they also provide the community which I mentioned above. I cannot stress enough the vitality of both good material and strong community to the success of our educational endeavor.
3. What does a regular day look like for you & Nathan? How does Jericho fit into your schooling?
The flexibility of home schooling can be both a blessing and a curse. Some days I treasure it; other days I suffer from it. For this reason I’ve found that it’s best for our family to stick to a schedule. We start school promptly at 9:00 am and proceed through our subjects in the same order every day: Theology, History, Science, Geography, Art, Math, Latin, English/Grammar, Reading. Nathan (first grade) practices each discipline as Jericho (Pre-K, age 4) assists. In a one-room school-house, the younger children handle the same material as the older children, but are not expected to retain it to as full a degree as their older siblings. We move along at a casual pace, pausing to spend extra time on our weaknesses, striving for perfection in each area before we move on. Some disciplines come naturally to Nathan, and he masters them in only a few minutes, others require up to an hour each day.
Classical Learning is heavily based on memorization, so our first day of learning new material (Monday for us) is the longest. On Mondays we make sure to take lots of breaks, and we usually finish around 2:00 pm. Then as Nathan becomes more familiar with the topics, he learns to recite them by heart and by Thursday we can usually get through all nine disciplines in under two hours. All the while, Jericho is hearing the repetition of the subjects, and he naturally absorbs most of it. He won’t make sense of all the information for a few more years, but he is definitely able to retain it!
4. Why did you choose home schooling?
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately, the “village” I see when I look at schools across the country leaves a lot to be desired. So whose responsibility is it to shape my children’s destinies? I’m convinced that the job of child-rearing lies squarely with the parents. Our children will learn life’s most important lessons from us whether we try to teach them or not: their worldview, their honor, their integrity, their kindness, their patience, their love, their sense of justice… or lack of those things, will come from us no matter what school we send them to. I concluded I could better equip them in those most important areas if I could use the simple things, like math and science, to introduce them to the world.
5. How important is having a separate “school room”? Can you describe the school room?
We do have a separate room of our house devoted to education, but I don’t think it’s necessary. For us this comes back to having a set schedule. I’ve found it’s easiest for my children to learn within the confines of an established “rhythm,” a schedule that says: “This is when we quiet our minds to learn.” Our School Room simply provides a second layer to that, namely: “This is where we quiet our minds to learn.” Any dining room table without a meal on it could provide this exact environment for a child. 100% of the learning takes place in the conversations between me and my children; spatially, that could happen anywhere.
6. How do you find social groups for your kids? Have you seen any social disadvantage?
Believe it or not, I actually used the internet to find the group I belong to. I started by deciding on a curriculum (again, through extensive internet research) and then looked for a community that employed our same methodology. As I emphasized above, community is key in my children’s socialization. I would not recommend anyone home school solo; that’s just plain dangerous.
Once we got connected with the SF branch of Classical Conversations, friendships naturally developed amongst the adults and the children alike, and the topics of sports and music lessons come up regularly. We’ve been able to take leads from other moms to enroll our boys in phenomenal extracurricular
activities like sports and music programs, which provide yet another dimension to their social life. Interestingly, in these settings, surrounded by mostly public schooled children, my children stand out as years ahead of the others in their communication skills, patience, understanding, and ability to interact graciously with their teammates. (Disclaimer: I realize that sounds rather arrogant, but truly, I receive compliments on their behavior almost every week!)
Occasionally I get the chance to eavesdrop on some of the older classes in our group. It’s incredible to watch the “rebellious teenagers” who should be back-talking to authority, bullying each other, and fighting the system instead going out of their way to help others: encouraging each other’s strengths, opening doors for women, responding to elders with “Yes Ma’am” and “No Ma’am,” presenting speeches on poverty and social justice programs, taking seats on neighborhood councils because they care about their city, going on trips overseas to build homes for the least fortunate… etc. If this is what people call “socially disadvantaged,” sign me up!
7. What advice would you give to parents considering home school for their special needs children?
The beauty of homeschooling is that your child decides the pace. In a public classroom of, say, 20 students, the actual learning time (that is, excluding the waiting, chatting, giggling, organizing, day-dreaming and disciplining) each child receives is between one and two hours per day. But when you sit down with your child, in your own home, having each other’s undivided attention, you can either power through those two hours and finish by lunch time, or, when your child struggles, you have the option to take extra time to ensure full understanding, even if it takes the full day. When it does require a full day, you’ve just effectively increased your child’s access to education four times over.
At the end of the day, I can’t think of anything more important than my child learning and understanding the world around him. That’s worth everything to me: every minute of my day, every minute of my life. Are there days when it’s hard? Absolutely. But there will never be a day when it isn’t absolutely worth it.
If you have any further questions for Kristi, you can redirect them to firstname.lastname@example.org