Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shouldering Home Schooling

Home School Field Trip to MOSI
I get a lot of wide eyed nods and "good for you"'s when I mention homeschooling. For such a rapid growing movement the social acceptance seems stunted; people just don't know how to respond. Then again, I give similar responses when people say their kids go to public school.

The reason behind our choice is moot, we're homeschooling. Period. I'm not going to list out the research we did or discuss the dread we felt when compulsory age came upon our oldest, we're quite a ways past that. Chugging along into our third year with county home school acceptance papers in hand.What I want to talk about is how home schooling effects ME.

Being the main responsible party for overseeing the education of five kids sends me into a panic attack if I think too hard on it. But that's also true of just being a parent. Lots of people throw the idea into the waste basket as soon as the realization of just how badly you could screw up your kid hits their minds. That's okay. I realize it too, trust me. I've fished the notion out (and back into) the basket for about four years. But public schools scare me shit-less even more. Add to that, my home school guinea pig first child, Alex, is advanced -by multiple grades in some subjects- and our research into current gifted programs offered in our area was extremely disappointing. Private school wasn't (and still isn't) financial feasible.

So, how do I handle organizing five kids, three that are school aged, without going mad? I'm not exactly sure, I won't be writing a manual any time soon, but I think it has something to do with experiencing the achievements those sponge-like minds exhibit daily, something I wouldn't get a front row seat to without them being at home. Those "ah-ha!" moments fuel my desire as I bask in the light of the bulb floating over their heads. Their achievements are mine, too.

We started out our first year using K12.com  which was a great resource to start with. The cost is considerably cheaper than private and the organization was hands-down what got me through teaching with Rob in Iraq. Plus this is the same virtual school program our state uses, so if we ended up needing to enroll them in school we'd be aligned with current standards. We home school year round and go by the real calendar rather than the school one (why school starts in August might be a good research lesson for Alex...), taking breaks as needed.

I don't have a granite-etched schedule but more like a "let's see what today brings" mentality. We use curriculum, have tests and weekly spelling lists but some days we cover three science lessons and some weeks don't do a preplanned lesson at all. It works for us. The kids are advancing; it's not a race. I'm not looking to pop out the next world-star prodigy. We review material until it's learned and stop school when the kids feel too much pressure (like Olivia and her reading).

This coming year we've decided to let the contract on K12 lapse. Mostly for financial reasons but also because I've been able to learn my teaching method, developed confidence and have gotten more knowledgeable about standards, curriculum and learning styles of my kiddos. I've already started ordering our materials and downloaded THIS excel sheet from Donna Young to help me keep track, one of the features I've come to enjoy with K12.

I suppose how I shoulder home schooling would be summed up by trial and error. It's okay to try a program and find it doesn't work for your kid (or you). There are no real rules for home schooling*; play to your and your children's strengths, don't be afraid to tell your kid "I don't know" (go find the answer together), individualizing lessons may be more time consuming but the rewards will be painted on your child's individual  face, don't be afraid to try something that doesn't work, seek help outside your house (or in it) and enjoy the time with your child(ren). Teaching is a job, there's a reason people are professionals at it, but knowing your child can be a major plus to adapting learning to their specific needs- something difficult to get in overcrowded schools. Be open to suggestions, shrug off criticism and prepare to be "WOW"ed.

*check your county/state requirements for legal information

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