Friday, July 24, 2009

Why I homeschool . . .

Well, I don't exactly feel like an expert on this subject. I have homeschooled one child who was past preschool years for one year. And didn't start homeschooling until 3rd grade.

But I'll try and explain how we came to the conclusion to homeschool.

It all started when Flower started in Kindergarten. I had taught her in preschool for two years before that. I had done some research in early childhood/kindergarten education. I'd done a lot of research on our local elementary school. Flower had attended Pre-K in the afternoons at that same elementary for two years.

Everyone agreed that Flower was bright. She was academically ahead of most of her peers. Not altogether surprising since her birthday is in late September, so she is almost a full year older than some of the students in her grade. The Pre-K teacher, a Kindy teacher, and the principal and I met during the May before Flower went to Kindergarten to decide what would be best for Flower.

And that has always been the key to all of it - Do The Best Thing For Each Child. It May Be Different For Each Child. And Decisions Will Be Made On A Year To Year Basis.

We discussed which Kindy teacher would be best suited for her - she was very bright, but also very, very hard on herself. She couldn't stand to do anything that she perceived as "failure." (It was heartbreaking to see a 5 year old so hard on herself.) The idea of advancing her to first grade was discussed briefly but decided that it would be much better for her to be in Kindergarten where she could have time to learn that writing an "r" backwards wasn't fatal.

And off she went to Kindergarten. She had a GREAT year. Her teacher was WONDERFUL. She was really good about being able to modify assignments to challenge Flower without making it a big deal to her classmates or increase her workload. And when there were occassions that it made more sense to pull her out and send her to a 1st grade classrooom, she advocated for it instead of letting Flower be bored.

1st grade. Sigh. It was a tough year. Flower had a teacher who felt that all students should fit into a little box and all learn the same things at the same time. Everything was very textbook oriented. Flower finished her assignments early often, and was told to "just look out the window until the rest of the class finishes." (Confirmed by the teacher at a conference. She saw nothing wrong with having a student do this instead of doing, uh, anything? Read? Help other students? A supplementary worksheet? Anything?) This was the year when Flower started asking to be homeschooled. She also started reverting back with her perfectionistic behaviors, and would cry instead of answer a question that she wasn't 100% certain of the answer or heaven forbid, an open-ended question with no "right" answer. I chalked this year up to a not good match with a teacher and hoped for the best during the next year.

2nd grade. Sigh. Sigh. It was another tough year, but not really because of the teacher. Well, a little, but not for the same reasons that there were problems with the 1st grade teacher. Her 2nd grade teacher was much more willing to try and make changes to curriculum where possible, and she did lots of hands-on, creative activities. Well, it appeared that way anyway in the end of the year photo album. This teacher was VERY difficult to work with. She was almost secretive about what was going on in the classroom, and didn't want parents to help with homework, help in the classroom, etc. She also had NO tolerance with Flower's behavior. Flower had also started to get "stuck" on things - She just couldn't let stuff go. She also got very hooked up with semantics, and if the teacher or a child, or anybody (even her family) said something, she would ask questions if the person said the wrong word, or wasn't quite descriptive enough or whatever. It comes off as very disrespectful or worse. But I believe that most of the time, she just couldn't help herself. By the end of the year, she was still doing very well academically, but in all other ways, school was becoming a miserable experience. She started asking me to homeschool her by November of this year. I still feel bad for making her stay. I decided by February to homeschool her for 3rd grade, but decided to have her finish the year.

Jelly Bean, on the other hand, has needed the structure of school. Or to be more clear, she has needed to see the behavior of lots of children her age and see how most of the children are acting. And the structure too. Jelly Bean doesn't do well with "Oh, we'll just hang out and see how the day goes." That's a recipe for disaster for her. She attended the same Pre-K program Flower did, but she attended because she had boundary issues. She was either overly violent, or overly affectionate. By the time she went to kindergarten, her behavior was better, but not great. She had the same Kindy teacher (We love Mrs. B!) as Flower. It was a great fit, not because Jelly Bean needed the same things as Flower, but because Mrs. B is just such a great teacher and knew what would help Jelly Bean the most. By the end of Kindy, Jelly Bean was doing really well. Flower was just finishing 2nd grade, and we had decided to homeschool her. I was afraid if we didn't homeschool her, she would begin to associate her negative experience with school with learning, and I didn't want that to happen. And since I had been teaching preschool at home for years, it didn't seem like a stretch to homeschool.

So we talked about it and talked about it. And we decided that for 1st grade, it would be best to have Jelly Bean stay at school, and Flower to come home. But that we would discuss it at the end of the year and decide what we wanted to do for 2nd and 4th grade.

So here we are - it is July, and Jelly Bean is most likely going to do 2nd grade at home. Jelly Bean really wants to do it. I think that she is capable of it now, and that she will enjoy being able to study things that she wouldn't be able to at school, but we will still provide her with enough structure so that she will feel comfortable. Flower will also do 4th grade at home. She has made great strides with her behaviors, but I feel that she still needs one more year at home. Super is attending preschool here in the mornings, and attends the Pre-K program in the afternoon. He will go to Kindergarten at the elementary school, and most likely, will return home after that.

But I always try and remember when I am making decisions about homeschooling - Do The Best Thing For Each Child. It May Be Different For Each Child. And Decisions Will Be Made On A Year To Year Basis.