3.31.2009

The reluctant homeschooler


This week we have BigBoy's kindergarten registration and Open House. I'm really nervous and I know I shouldn't be apprehensive, but I just am. I want to love it. I want it to be the best damn kindergarten in the world. I want the teachers to knock my socks off and the parents to be totally involved and interested. I want them to have a kick ass curriculum school-wide with lots of arts, PE and recess. But in my heart, I know it probably won't be.

We live in the country, kinda. And that in itself isn't the issue, but typically the more 'burby areas have the more innovative schools. My concern isn't so much for Kindergarten- they will have lots of singing, dancing, circle time, etc- active learning. But after that? butts in chairs, one recess, no/very little PE and then Teaching To The Test. That's my problem. No time to teach. No time to deal with the kids that need different techniques. God forbid a teacher get a "problem child". I don't blame the teachers, I really don't. They have to work within their system, but the system sucks. And teaching to memorize what's on a test is no way to learn. And BigBoy will most likely hate it. And I'm scared he will be That Kid. And then the ADHD label will kick in because he is busy and can't sit still. And they just don't have time for that monkey business.

Living in the Kinda Country, we also get a lot of religious views thrown into the mix. I'm also not cool with that. That belongs in the home, not in my state/federally funded public school. I was talking to a friend of mine who is student teaching and the 1st grade class she was observing was reading about planets and the universe. Many things were issues for me, but one thing that struck a chord with me was a response to a kid's question of "Where did the planets come from?" Teacher: "God created them." Uh, excuse me? So apparently we don't teach science in our district. Yes this was my district, not our school, but same district. She also rushed the kids to the next subject since they didn't have time for more than one question.

I was the Talker. My name was always on the board... with check marks (this was not for being good or "helpful"--they did those things back then.) Then in 2nd Grade, I had Mrs. Maddox. She looked like a pig because her nose turned up and we all called her Miss Piggy behind her back. She was mean. I got put in a desk facing the corner, by myself, for talking too much. Thankfully Big Papa saw it at Back to School Night and threw a fit. Miss Piggy changed it the next day. I hated the 2nd grade.

But then in 4th grade I had Ms. Smith. She was the first "Ms." I had ever met. She was beautiful, to me. She had freckles and gorgeous red hair cut in a bob. Her breath smelled like that pink fluoride treatment you got as a kid at the dentist- medinciny sweet. At recess she played handball with us- in heels. I can't remember anything else from 4th grade exactly, but I loved it. I loved her. I loved the 4th grade.

The next 2 years I went to the MGM/GATE program at another school. Now my learning world got rocked. 5th grade with Mrs. Sweraski (sp?) where we played LOTS of Greek dodge ball and jumped bamboo sticks and Chinese jump rope. We had reading groups and math groups that worked at our own speed and level. We sat on the floor in bean bag seats. 6th grade with Mr. Keith Johnson (one of the first teachers that told us his first name and my first male teacher.) This was a fabulous time for me and learning. We spent the entire year funding and creating a business to raise money for an end of the year production- Lil Abner. We sold stock to our parents for a dollar a share, decided on a name "Kids Stuff" (in big puffy lettering) elected a board, created departments (I was in purchasing- go figure), developed a product line, built it (frustration pencils, wiggle worms, etc), made a profit, used the money to buy materials for our production backgrounds and costumes, made THOSE, hired a piano player, bought the script and then did our show at the end of the year for family. I think we even did some journalism and created a newspaper. I remember doing so much and it was such a fantastic experience, but only because I was a "smart kid." And how would you even do that today? The Test wouldn't deal with starting your own business, so how would we have done on The Test? Unfortunately, we just wouldn't have time for all this now.

So where does that all leave me? I have pretty fond memories of elementary school, but I think it will be vastly different for my kids. I don't really want to homeschool. Selfishly, I want some Me Time back. Plus I am not confident in being my kids' teacher- "learning expert." We don't have a lot of options in the middle, unfortunately. I talked with our Fabulous Babysitter yesterday about this. (She just stopped by to give BB a bday card and ended up hangin out a bit-- can I love her more??) She was homeschooled and if she isn't the poster child for homeschool, I don't know who is. She is the kid you dream of having- sweet, kind, thoughtful, AND smart. So if homeschooling is the way to go, we'll go there. I never in a million years thought I would be considering Homeschool for our family. But it's about my kids after all. If this is what it takes, so be it. We'll get creative, we'll find options, we'll get a game plan. And there will be no names on the board for talking.

4 comments:

Roxanne said...

I think you are just a couple months ahead of me with the school stuff, Chloe starts in the fall. I have looked at public school and private and haven't yet decided. I just think that kindergarten teaches a lot of social ideas that just can't be taught at home..at least not by pushover me.
I also heard that you have to have a masters to homeschool, I only have my bachelors right now.

Steve Hancock said...

My son is in 1st grade right now. We really didnt think too much about homeschooling. I know many parents that do and I have mixed thoughts on it. I see it good for some and not so good for other kids. My wife and I both feel that we really would not be good homeschool teachers. I got through school ok but didnt do great. Also with 2 year old twins in the house, there would be too much distraction by the twins. Austin loves going to school from the learning and social aspects.

Last year for kindergarten we had a horrible time with the teacher and school. Definately the teacher is key in the experience for the child. We were in a different district which was not so great anyways as a whole. The teacher was so horrible. Austin hated going to school and never wanted to do his school work because it was the same work every day. We were bored working with him to get it done. At the open house the teacher had hanging up all the students papers where they wrote 1-100. Austins only was up to about 30. I asked the teacher why his was not up to 100. She said he only wanted to write to 30. My response was that as the teacher she should make him do the work in class. If not then tell us. Dont just make it ok for him to not finish because he doesnt feel like it. Then I asked her about any suggestions she could make about getting him more interested in his school work. She replied that she doesnt know how he can be bored with it since he doesnt know anything. I almost just punched her in the face at that point. I went to the principal for that and other issues. She did nothing. I went to the board members for the district who were very upset about the response but the principal said still she was not seeing any issues.

We now have Austin in another school where he is doing amazing. We are much more involved in the school too so we stay on top of what is going on. My wife helps in the classroom and I am on the site council and volunteer helping with whatever I can.

Ok that was long ranting about my sons school but I guess the point is that if you try sending him to school, get involved. I think that makes a huge difference. You don't have to keep him home to give him a great education but also dont just send him off to school and leave it at that. The schools are not perfect and need the parent involvement. When I signed up for the site council for Austins school, only 2 parents out of the whole k-6 volunteered to be on it. It only meets 1 hour a month. I do not think schools are completely the problem...I think the parents are just as much of the problem on where schools are today. We let the schools be how they are and just say "Well that is public schools for you."

Kerrie said...

In Oz, we basically have two choices - public schools which are underfunded and therefore necessarily take a very cookie cutter approach (god forbid your child is not "typical"); and private schools which are hideously expensive but that doesn't mean they come with a guarantee of intellectual superiority (jerks exist in all social circles). Home-schooling is so rare it's almost unheard of.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to go to a Montessori pre-school and think it was the best head-start I could ever have had - I'd love to send my kids to one too but simply can't afford it!! So I'll probably take my chances with public school, and just make sure that I keep a REALLY REALLY close eye on what's being taught...

Lisa said...

Thanks everyone! Lots of good stuff. I will probably do a follow-up post on this.

Rox- I'm pretty sure you do NOT need a Masters- I don't see how they could enforce that. There are a ton of homeschool groups in CA. Here is a link to get you started if you are interested: http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/ca

Steve- Me NOT being involved isn't even an option. At my son's preschool I was class rep/mom and on the board and was actually slated to be on the regional board for our co-op organization. I've already volunteered to be on my daughter's preschool board. I agree, knowing what is going on and being involved is Key. I also agree that parents are a huge problem.

Kerrie- We have some private schools, just not many and most are faith-based. The Montessori schools are difficult to get in after Kindergarten and CRAZY expensive. BB went to a co-op, play-based preschool and we LOVED it. Teachers were fantastic with him and we miss it dearly. I know this was a great start for him and began his love for learning. I wonder if there are homeschoolers around you, but you just don't realize it. I never did until I really looked. It's legal in all AU states! http://www.hea.asn.au

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