Thursday, December 29, 2011

Making the decision to homeschool and homeschool day 4

Homeschoolers, are you there? Did you have a hard time making a decision to homeschool? I have always admired homeschooling moms, and now that I'm on the edge of becoming one, I'm a little nervous. I'm nervous that if I take my son out of school for the rest of the school year (which was originally the plan), and then we don't like homeschooling, the school and everyone else will think I'm a flake. I'm nervous that my son won't like spending all day with me. I'm nervous that when my baby comes in April, I'll be so tired and grouchy that homeschool will fall by the wayside.

Ok, writing those down is helpful. Now my rebuttals. I don't know if I really care if people think I'm a flake. I think that the school will respect me for trying to do what I think is best for my son. I'm pretty sure that my son will love homeschool, and I think that when the baby comes in April, it will be ok to dial things back a bit and re-focus. It may be nice to have him around to play with my 2 year old (he adores her).

Scott's main complaints about school are that he is bored, he is not learning anything new, and that the other kids don't listen to the teacher and he loses out on recess time while the teacher waits for other kids to settle down. He also mentioned (to the pediatrician) that the other 1st grade boys who are not in his class make fun of him because he is friends with a girl. He is a high level reader and is an excellent speller, and he's been writing and illustrating his own stories for years. He is a doer and a mover and does not like sitting in a desk all day.

This morning, I really felt like it would be best for Scott to go back to school next week. This doesn't mean I'm giving up the idea of homeschool, but it means that I have some questions to ask the school as I explore the best options for him.

  • How does one go about skipping a grade at school? Would it be possible for him to start 3rd grade in the fall (or move into 2nd grade now)?
  • Is it possible that he could enter the dual language immersion Spanish program in 2nd grade? I was told there would be openings in 2nd grade, but only for someone who can already speak some Spanish.
  • If he is un-enrolled, is there an "earliest return date" that he can come back to school? 
To be honest, I need to ask myself some questions, too.
  • Are you ready to commit to a more regular daytime and night-time schedule? 
  • Are you willing to have 2 children with you all day?
  • Are you willing to commit the time and energy to planning and running homeschool?
  • What will Elizabeth (age 2) do while Scott is doing homeschool?
  • What is the worst case scenario for homeschool? What is the best case scenario?
  • What do you want?
Many things to think about. Here is what we did today for homeschool:

Devotional (and reading/writing)
Read part of the Sunday School lesson for this week
Review memory work on 1 Nephi 3:7
Write out 1 Nephi 3:7 by memory, then correct it against the scriptures

Practice addition and subtraction with online flash cards
Practice general math playing Junk Pile at (I love this game!)

Review the names of the states playing hangman (I didn't plan this, but Scott found it and wanted to do it)

Individual reading and free play
(Is this something I need to document? I think it's just a part of every day.)

After reviewing what we did today, I feel more confident that homeschooling would be a good thing for Scott. I feel ready with math and reading and writing and Spanish (just found a great kids website for learning Spanish!). I'd like to find a good history curriculum. I have Story of the World, volume 1, but as my husband has been reading it, he has found some serious discrepancies in the stories that are being told. I also don't like the lack of sources mentioned in the text. Maybe we can use the book as a very loose outline and use other books as reading material, as mentioned in the activity book. Any of you have a history curriculum that you love? Or other books/websites that you love and use in your homeschooling?


C T said...

We use Story of the World as our basic spine for history. It's a great starting point. After reading a segment from it, we often watch related videos from the library and on YouTube and read related books and do related crafts (again from library books). I just find the extra source material on my own (as free as possible, of course). For instance, after reading about Roman architecture, we looked at pictures of aqueducts on Google Images and found YouTube videos on Roman baths. After reading about Alexander the Great in SOTW, I read aloud a 20-chapter book about him that I found at a thrift store. SOTW is "history lite", certainly, with its lack of sources, but it covers so much more material than I ever learned in school and is in language accessible to young children. Just the bit on Attila the Hun and Honoria near the end of Book 1 was worth the cost of the book to me. If I catch something I think is wrong, I just tell my daughter what I think is more correct; it's not too early for her to learn that books don't always get things right and that there are often disputes about what actually happened in the past. I haven't used the activity books for SOTW yet, so I have no opinion on them.

Tanya S. said...

I highly recommend hitting up The Well-Trained Mind forums. They're very useful:

I had planned to use that book as the basis of my own homeschooling plans and diverge from there, so I'm obviously partial toward it, but the forum also discusses other approaches to homeschooling, so it's a very useful resource no matter which way you go.

(Okay, I know I don't have kids, but I had planned to homeschool, and even though kids are clearly not going to be a part of my life, I still enjoy peaking into the homeschooling world.)

Amy said...

I don't homeschool, but I admire the thoughtfulness you're giving to it. It's hard to know how to meet bright kids' needs.

I wanted to weigh in on skipping a grade. My daughter is a sixth grader in a gifted magnet school with several kids who skipped grades when they entered the program. They offered us the option for her in second grade, but we decided against it since she's already young for her grade with an August birthday. I am SO GLAD.

By fifth or sixth grade, the kids who skipped really, really lag behind the other kids socially and developmentally. I think skipping a grade erased some of the benefits of this accelerated program for them. I haven't been thrilled with the academic progress my daughter has made (I opted not to enroll my son because math is his thing and her math instruction has been shoddy), but socially it has been perfect for her. But for the kids who skipped grades, that social piece hasn't really worked out. My daughter is taller than me and blends in with the Mia Maids, and the two boys in her class who skipped a grade look (and, especially, act) like they're not quite ready to be baptised. It has been a REAL struggle with the teachers and the other students with these two boys, even though they can handle the academics. I'm pretty worried about my daughter handling the bus/lunch/foul mouths of middle school next year, and I'd hate to rush pushing kids into that environment.

What is really nice for gifted kids is if you can find a program where the pace is faster and the depth more intense (which is supposedly what my daughter has). The kids a year older than Scott aren't going to be moving any faster or be any more attentive; they've just already learned some of the stuff he already knows.

This is turning into a novel, so feel free to disregard it. I wish I could find a Spanish immersion school for my kids. I think that would be an ideal level of challenge.

Have you looked at charter schools? There are some Core Knowledge charter schools here that I admire. There's also a STEM school that my boys would rejoice over, but my daughter thought it sounded like her worst nightmare, and I decided I couldn't handle getting them to two different elementary schools every morning. Sometimes you have to make compromises to keep the family running. . .

Good luck deciding. You really can't make a wrong decision here. One thing that several of my mom friends with older kids have told me is that once kids get to middle school and high school, you realize that their elementary school instruction wasn't as important as you think, and that the main thing to take away from elementary school is a love of learning and general well-being and happiness. So if Scott's unhappy, maybe homeschooling would be a nice break for him to recharge and get excited about learning. My daughter was really starting to withdraw by first grade, and sending her to the gifted school for second grade made her blossom. I was so grateful for the friends she made who came over and got excited about re-enacting Egyptian history with her.

Good luck! Pray about it. That's what really helped me decide where to put my Ethan.

Lorena said...

We both have a Scott, but my Scott is only 4 years old. I know I already sent you a fb comment, but I wanted to tell you why we started homeschooling.

Nicole (now in fourth grade) was attending a public school. We lived in the country, and it was the ONLY school around -- although it was touted by locals as "excellent." I volunteered in her class every week. She was very unhappy there (and she had LOVED her previous year of private school). After a few weeks of unsuccessfully trying to convince Nicole that school was "so cool," I proposed the idea of homeschool. Nicole was floored, "What?! I can do school AT HOME? With you?!"

We had a large support group there, and my husband and I decided that we would try it for the remainder of the school year. At the end of the year, we were moving out-of-state and could find a new/better school, if we desired.

When I had to sign the release paper at the district office, I was very nervous, which is atypical for me. But as soon as we left their doors, I felt so liberated and knew that we were doing the right thing for our family at that time.

People often ask me how long we'll homeschool, and the answer is that I don't know. But we have loved it so much ever since that none of us have wanted to do anything else.

When Nicole was in school all day, she came home tired, and then she had piano practice and homework and dinner and bedtime routine-related duties. She had no energy/time left for any of the fun activities of our family (and she frequently missed out of fun activities that I did with her younger brothers while she was at school). I felt like all of my child's best hours were being stolen from me and that I wasn't even getting a very good return on my sacrifice.

As for what the younger ones do while you do school, all I can say is that it just works out. You find your groove, and it changes as the kids pass through different phases. If it's something you really want to do, you will make it work.

If you decide to do it after all, and you still want some curriculum ideas, send me an email. I try to find curriculum that is mostly student led/independent because we have several schoolers now, and it seems like one of them is always needing me for something.

One last thing, here is an additional history resource: I don't have it, but I have thought about buying it many times. Also, if you do SOTW, I recommend the accompanying "Activity Book." It has more recommended reading, maps for nearly every chapter (with instructions on making them more useful), and crafts/games to help reinforce the topics.

P.S. When Nicole did first grade, we had a four-day work week because we were so much more efficient that the public school. Our fifth day was used as a "catch up" day on school projects, field trips, or just taking a day to relax. We have too much school for that now, but it was fun to do that for the year.

P.P.S. (Sorry!) Find a local homeschool group!