Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our Schooling Situation

I've been a homeschooling parent at heart for 3 or 4 years now. By some definitions, I've been homeschooling for 10 years. By others, I've never actually homeschooled my kids (@@).

The whole idea started when I realized how impossible it was for the public school system to address both giftedness and autism spectrum disorders in the same kid. I'm usually an idealist looking for a utopia, but even I have my limits. There are, after all, 20-something other kids in a classroom.

My ex (J's bio-dad) and I have been going back and forth on this for years. Sometimes it's intelligent conversation. Sometimes it's screaming matches.

While researching like a mad woman in hopes of winning him over, I began to see how much "homeschooling" I had been doing from day 1, with J and the girls, and how much I was still doing, to try to meet J's needs outside of the school day. While I hadn't won the battle to bring J home, I knew I wasn't going to send the girls when they turned 5.

Last year, H hit that "magic age" when children suddenly become independent creatures in "need" of social training by strangers through exposure to 20-something other "socially inept" children 5 days a week. This is supposed to prepare them for "real life".

Now, I have never actually read Lord of the Flies, but I'm pretty sure it's a similar theme. :::putting Lord of the Flies on my reading list:::

I'm not about to tell other parents what they should or should not do. I love my daughter with all my heart but, I've got to tell ya, she isn't what I would call a great role model for other kids her age. Sure, she can read, she's good at math, she'll jump at the chance to catch bugs or plant seeds or discuss the current line up on Nickelodeon. She's still more likely, over the course of 180 days, to teach your kid how to hide crickets in their room, order a movie on cable, and blame things on a sibling. Multiply that by 20 other influences, and contemplate that "socialization" for a bit.

So, we (Me, the husband was not thrilled) enrolled H in a cyber charter school for Kindergarten. A cyber charter was not my first choice, but it came with 2 big benefits. It gave the husband some reassurance that I would not spend an entire year teaching our daughter nothing but government conspiracy theory-as-fact, and it took away a lot of the pressure of lesson planning while adjusting to having a new infant in the house.

H had a fantastic year, for the most part. She moved up to reading "real" books and doing "1st grade" math. She learned a bit of Spanish and gained "exposure" to a smattering of Science, History, Art and Music. It did start to become a redundant chore by the end of the year. My child, who could destroy a rain forest in a week with all of her drawing, dreaded the thought of being told to draw another picture for school. She no longer wanted to do math worksheets, which had been her favorite. And, after a miserable winter, she wanted nothing more than to enjoy the late spring we had finally been given.

In effort to keep up with the curriculum, we missed out on a lot of chances to have fun with the material. Part of that was because of the program, and part was because I hadn't fully deprogrammed myself to see beyond the "rules".

We all learned a lot this past year, though. I've gained a ton of confidence in my ability to teach and manage my kids' education. The husband has gained confidence in me and the overall concept of non-traditional school. In fact, I think he's on the verge of becoming a fanatic.

We've (me AND the husband) decided to break even further from the traditional system this year, and move more toward the classical education model. I'm still a fan of pre-planned lessons, but with the freedom to skip, change, or burn them, if I so desire. It's a little bit scary, and very exciting. I'm thoroughly enjoying my new bible, The Well Trained Mind, even as my children sit in front of Nickelodeon and read Goosebumps, which I suppose will doom them to TWTM hell upon "graduation" (judgement day).

As far as J goes, I think his dad may be close to agreeing (capitulating, surrendering, shutting me up, whatever you want to call it) to withdrawing him from his school. This would be on the condition that he be enrolled in a cyber charter, and that we revisit the discussion at the end of the year. I'm okay with that.

I've only been able to see J's education from afar for the past 5 years. Report cards, a few projects, some worksheets crumpled in his backpack. I think that using a cyber charter will be very helpful in learning where he stands. He's a very rigid kid, highly dependant upon structure and routine, and he's been exposed to nothing but. I think a cyber charter will be very helpful in transitioning him from regular school.

I'm afraid to get my hopes up too high, but it's hard to control. I'm so excited at the thought of having three kids fighting over who gets to do their math under the coffee table in between running to piano lessons, cheer practice, drama rehearsal, Girl Scout meetings and homeschool gym. For a hermit like me, that's a big deal.

While my kids make me completely insane with moldy food, 3 times as much laundry as there should be, and choruses of "S/he did it" and "I donwanna", watching them get excited about learning and applying those lessons to real life (REAL real life), and spending time with other kids who see learning as a constant, fun process while still sharing enough naughty tips to be considered normal, has been the most incredible experience.

If I could just figure out how to bottle that feeling and save it for December, when I'm ready to sell them to the highest bidder. No reserve, free shipping.

1 comment:

Janet said...

I realize that I came to your blog long after you posted about your school situation, so please bear with me if this isn't something you want to talk about anymore.

My son is 6 and recieved an educational diagnosis last spring of Asperger's Syndrome. He's also gifted in some areas (math, creative constructs of any kind), likes a fairly rigid routine, and needs social interaction in order to learn (explicitly, since implicit social interaction is something he struggles with) how to behave in social situations. We struggled for a long time and even sent him to kindergarden before deciding to homeschool this fall.

I am so glad we made that choice. Of course it's early days yet and I may come to regret keeping him home, but for now, we like it! I like the way he starts his morning with math (long before my hair is washed and breakfast is served). I like the time we spend together on language arts. I really like that we can diagram whatever scientific thing has caught his attention on any given day.

Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts! It's such a complicated thing to choose between regular school and homeschooling. I love reading about other people's experiences (especially those who deal with autism spectrum disorders).