Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Talking the talk and walking the walk...finally.

After much reasoning and thought, we've decided that we are going to give home school a try. I've gone back and forth on this decision since the summer before Zander went into Kindergarten. In fact the day I found out that I was pregnant with Zander I turned to Chris and said, "we ARE home schooling".

We've always managed to talk ourselves out of it for one reason or another. In Kinder it was, "well the social aspect will be good for him"...we were wrong there. In first grade we thought, "it will be more challenging to him and he won't be so bored this year", we were wrong. In second grade he decided that he wanted to go back because he watched Mia getting ready for Kinder and I think he got a little jealous. But as with every year a few months in, the kid was done.

When we first made the decision that we wanted to home school Zander (in utero) it was purely for social reasons. I still had a very bad taste of public school in my mouth. Years of memories guided that decision. But then as I became more educated on the topic and got to know Zander the reason changed. It became completely for educational reasons. Not one bit of why I want to home school my kids has anything to do with social challenges I've seen them have or not have....not yet anyway...I'm sure middle school will provide enough of that.

Having experienced four years of public school and how my children are being taught, I can only say that it seems that public school celebrates mediocrity. That word is perfect...here's a definition for you in case that word slipped by you...

--The quality of being intermediate between two extremes; a mean; A middle course of action; moderation, balance; The condition of being mediocre; having only an average degree of quality, skills etc.; no better than standard; An individual with mediocre abilities or achievements--

I believe that for many kids, this is a fine standard. They teach for the middle students. But what about the ones that are behind or accelerated? What happens to them? Well I'll tell you.

I was always a little behind in certain subjects. I fell through the cracks. Nobody ever noticed that I was missing things; they just made sure that I was up to bare minimum enough to pass. Was this helpful to my education...no. In an ideal world my parents would have caught this and stepped in...well that did not happen and I continued to sink all the way through high school.

On the other side was Chris. He skipped third grade. He graduated high school at 16. He was in honors and advanced classes. He got his bachelors degree in three years while working full time and fully supporting a stay at home mom and two babies. He graduated magna cum laude, and then went on to graduate school. The punk is smart. He describes his education as boring, unchallenging. The schools can only do so much to keep these advanced kids engaged. His parents could have stepped in and offered him more when he got home, but seriously MORE...school is 8 hours long plus a few hours of homework...then mom is supposed to supplement MORE to actually stretch and enrich them??


Zander and Mia seem to be following in the abilities of their father. They are both very advanced and find school unproductive. We have them both in the GT programs offered at the schools, but really...not impressed with what that has produced. They come home begging for more. They call it home school. We sit sometimes for hours working on math and reading. We learn about history, and our state. They beg me for more and more and more. When I got home from school at their age I just wanted to veg out. Why are their needs not being filled at school? Why am I teaching my son how to do multiplication at 6 because he's ready, but his classmates are not so he sits and does endless addition sheets to keep busy...

Let me be clear about one thing-I don't think my kids are anything above what other kids are. I think they have had advantages that other kids don't have. I've noticed that other kids in the same situations as we are are just as bright as mine. It's opportunity that shaped them. That is a whole different post, and I'll just leave it there.

So I ask myself, why am I putting them in school for 8 hours a day if when they come home they are begging for learning? Zander knew how to read at three. He was doing the math that his second grade class is doing now when he was five. Same story with Mia. She tends to follow more of the creative side. She was dictating stories to me at the age of three. Amazing stories and drawings.

So here we are at the end of another school year where I am full of regret that all this time has been wasted and my children have learned more from me at home then all year in school...seriously. How can I as a mother refuse to teach my children when they beg for more because I don't want them to be bored in school? You try looking at a child thirsting for knowledge and saying no...you won't be able to do it either. It goes against every maternal instinct. We are here to teach them in everything. A mother's teaching doesn’t end when the child turns five.

Like any normal person, a major reason that we have not done it yet is I am afraid that I will ruin those kids. I'm afraid that I will not do it, slack off, veg out. I'm afraid that Mia and I will kill each other. Or Mia will kill Elle...those two are fun, let me tell you. I'm afraid that having a new baby will make it impossible to have that teaching time. I'm afraid that my kids will bug me to death. I'm afraid that I will forget something and they will be behind. I'm afraid that being home with oddball me will make them weird. I'm afraid of the expense. I'm afraid of so much that I've always been able to talk myself into sending them one more year. But then at the end of the year the fear turns to regret...and here I sit.

So this year we decided that we are going to give it a try over the summer for a few reasons. First, the extra "work" will keep them engaged and busy and not killing each other. Second, to see if I can actually do it. Third, to see if they actually learn anything. At the end of the summer, it will be their choice about whether or not to go back to school, if I was successful on my end of course. I'm assuming that I will do fine, because I've never had a hard time setting goals and accomplishing them. Realizing that fear was stopping me was very empowering also...fear is weak...i'm done with it.

I've spent the last six months researching home school methods, acquiring curriculum, gathering ideas and supplies, making a schedule, talking to everyone I know who does it. I'm so excited to put it all into action. I have so many fun things planned for them that I really believe that public school doesn't have a chance...but we will see. Both kids are going to be put in year round swim which means one hour of swim team practice a day for their health portion. Also we have some co-ops to supplement if I see a need in the kids. They offer more kids and extra enrichment.

So my question is...have you ever considered it? I've met so many moms that I admire who say that they would love to home school, but the list of fears are winning. I'll be the guinea pig then. We're going to give it our best so then if it doesn’t work for us I will know that I did EVERYTHING I could do. That realization offers so much peace.

Would you like to see what we are doing and how simple it is? OR are you so against everything I've said that you'd stop reading my blog...LOL! I love ladies with strong opinions! Tell me what you think! I know you're there.....mwahahahahaha!


This Place is a Disaster! said...

I jugle back and forth as well.
I always have, but so far the school we are in is great and although it has only been one year, my child is off to a good start academically.
Socially? I thought my child needed friends, but infact I am finding that she is a bit of a misfit and although she is around so many children and loves them, they find her to be wierd and she is very lacking in the friend department. so, I jugle back an forth once again!
And then, there is me. I dont think I have the vim to home school. I too slipped through the crackes of public education, but I vowed to not let that happen to my children.

The Allgaiers said...

I have thought about it, so you aren't alone. However we have a very different situation with Evan being autistic. I just don't have the necessary skills to be able to give him the therapy he needs that the schools do offer. We'll see how I feel after Kindergarten! Good for you for taking the jump. I'm excited to talk to you about how your methods are working!

Melissa said...

I failed to mention that we do live in one of the best school districts in the city of Houston...the fourth largest city...the school couldn't get better as far as public schools go.

Jenny-I know, I would be so worried if we had a special situation like that too. I don't think I could do it myself.

Melissa- friends at school are overrated! I assure you that you will have more negatives than positives.

Sarah said...

Way to go girl. I am so curious to hear about your methods, successes (may they be many) and failures (may they be few, but useful). Please share!!

nuttbutts said...

so as i have been thinking...i think you should look into the thomas jefferson education or TJed. alot of what the kids do is to read read read good books and classic books, think, talk, discuss, disect those books. i have been doing it for myself and although i dont have anyone to share my thoughts with i do love the questions and thoughts that go throuhg my mind. anyhow, i could send you a list of books if you are interested.

English Rose said...

Well I'm not a lady with a strong opinion but I agree wholly with your statement "public school celebrates mediocrity" and that is coming form a teacher! Louie has the same issues - even in a GT class he is being held back BIG time and they stifle creativity because of school ratings being based on standardized tests. If there it to be any accountability then there doesn't seem to be any alternative. I don't have the answers but I applaud you for trying this - that puts you in the "supermum" category if you can pull it off. My mum tried and failed. By the way - I can't believe Zander is in a GT class and doesn't do multiplication. Even the regular kids at Carleston moved onto division.
Hope you are all well

Melissa said...

Karen, Pearland ISD has its own set of problems for sure. I won't even go there. They are doing it here, but not what I would call for real. They arn't memorizing tables just working on story problems. Slow...slow...slow...The GT program doesnt start until third grade here before that its for advanced kids, but not true tested GT kids. Zander was one of the three to test into it for next year (its a very difficult series of tests and most are not truely GT who take it). I just don't know if I have to the patience to waste another year in hopes.