Archives for May 2013

Why We Homeschool

Here's Lucas reading

Here’s Lucas reading

I’ve mentioned in a few of my posts that we are homeschooling this year, but I never explained why. And I know a few of you are wondering. So here it is, my “why we homeschool” post.

As you might imagine, I’ve never been one to take my kids’ school decisions very lightly. Every January or February, when schools have their enrollment periods, I fret over this decision. It started back in William’s preschool years. Before pre-K, I never stuck with a preschool for longer than a year. None of them ever seemed perfect enough. When he turned 4, though, he started at a local private school. I enrolled him in their half-day pre-K program, and he did okay, but the emails and conferences with the teacher clued me into the fact that something wasn’t quite right. This was when I began all of my research into his food intolerances and blood sugar instability. Then it became clear that even after these diet changes, William was still a little young for the class. His birthday is just two weeks before the cutoff, so he was the very youngest in the class. Couple that with all of the diet changes and sensory issues (we we discovered that summer), I knew that being the youngest wasn’t going to be the best for him. So we repeated pre-K. He did amazingly well that year.

His Kindergarten year went really well also. He had an amazing teacher who challenged him but who was still super patient with all of his idiosyncrasies. That year, when January rolled around, I hadn’t yet decided where to put him for first grade. I had never thought that we would send him to private school the whole way, so we considered public (for a short time). By the time I got around to enrolling him, there were no spots left in the class! They had way too many Kindergartners going into first grade. It wasn’t managed very well, and I’m still upset by the whole situation.

Our Shakespeare unit

Our Shakespeare unit

Nonetheless, we found another private school for William to attend for first grade. It was a Montessori school and it enabled William’s creativity to flourish. But it was way too lax, wasn’t very structured, and didn’t challenge him enough. All of the intensity and drive that William learned in Kindergarten was gone. Lucas went to this same school for preschool. By the end of the year, I had had enough. And I wasn’t willing to pay thousands of dollars (times two kids) for a school that was just mediocre, to put it kindly.

But after volunteering at this school, I realized that I could do exactly what they were doing, and I could probably do a better job at it. Public school was pretty much off the table at this point. I had no faith that the public school would be able to accommodate William’s needs. Not only did he have dietary and sensory issues (which don’t qualify for any special treatment), but William was proving to be pretty advanced academically. I knew that even if William had an amazing teacher, it wouldn’t be a good fit academically, and he would likely become a behavior problem because of it. In any situation, even now, William refuses to be bored.

If I had to narrow down our reasons for homeschooling, I would say that giving my kids a good education is at the top of my list. Of course, it allows me to accommodate all of William’s other issues, but academics are my primary concern. Among the other homeschoolers I’ve met, I’ve found that we are a little different in this way. It’s a little frustrating, honestly.

William's dictation (spelling)

William’s dictation (spelling)

Among the many reasons that people homeschool, I’ve found that there are two that are most common: 1) escaping public school and 2) sheltering a child from the rest of the world. Many homeschooling parents have had their kids in public school, and for one reason or another, realized that it wasn’t a good fit. Since my boys have never been to public school, this wasn’t ever a concern for us, so I have a hard time relating to these parents. I’ve also found that many of these parents don’t challenge their kids enough. They seem to think that if their child has a hard time with handwriting, they aren’t going to require it of the child. I don’t know about you, but I have the opposite viewpoint. If my child has a hard time in a certain subject, I’m going to require more work in that subject, not less.

I can relate a little better with the parents who homeschool to shelter their kids. And I’m not sure that shelter is the right word. Many of these parents want themselves, not the child’s peers, to be the primary influence in the child’s life. I get it. There’s a bit of a “Lord of the Flies” thing that goes on in public school. Kids are sort of left to their own devices on the playground, and they are much more influenced by their peers than any adult that may be nearby. This brings me to my other concern with our local public school: there are over 500 kids! That makes about 4 classes per grade. And ours is even one of the smallest schools in the district. When I think about the sheer number of kids and the peer influence, I think of the two neighborhood kids who’ve lived here since they were babies. I have to say that I’ve seen a change in them since they started school. Neither one seems completely comfortable in their own skin.

So here we are homeschooling. Both boys are doing amazingly well. William is now in second grade and reading at a seventh-grade level. He’s working a year or two ahead in math, doing double-digit multiplication and division. And I’m able to challenge that little photographic memory of his with spelling words like “calculating,” “powerful,” and “ridiculous.” (All three of these words were in his dictation lesson last week.)

William's daily journal

William’s daily journal

Lucas is also doing far better than I expected. I had considered sending Lucas to preschool (the same pre-K William attended) even after I decided to homeschool William, but I’m so glad I didn’t. William had started to read in pre-K, but Lucas is well beyond where William was at this age. We’re using “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons,” and apparently by the end of the 100th lesson, Lucas will be reading at a second-grade level. We’re on lesson 87 right now. :)

Lucas is also doing well in math. We’re just playing math games with cards and Cuisenaire Rods, but it’s coming very naturally to him. Just today, on our way home from flag football, Lucas was doing math problems. He started it, asking me what 5 + 5 was. I had him tell me. Then we did all of the doubles (2+2, 3+3, 4+4) and he felt like such a big kid because he knew all the answers.

Lucas is finding handwriting to be a challenge, and we work on it every day, but I’m also being patient. He’s only 5. We’ll keep working on it over the summer. My goal is to have him writing most letters and numbers before the beginning of next school year.

I’m finding that my kids are getting a much more enriching curriculum than they had even while in private school. William is turning into a bit of a history buff, and both boys loved our Shakespeare unit. I build all of their Language Arts curriculum around our literature, so it makes it interesting. William is also learning Spanish.

Playtime!

Playtime!

And simply because it’s so often an objection, being social with other kids is also part of our curriculum. (Really, this socialization thing is a huge myth.) We go to our local homeschool co-op once a week and another homeschool social group once a week. Personally debunking the homeschool socialization myth, the kids made 200 Valentine cards this year! My kids have no problem socializing with other people, kids or adults. I also love that my kids have time to play and just be kids. We get our school work done before 1:00 on most days, which leaves time for music, sports, and just play. Oh, and Lucas can still nap!