Monday, September 1, 2014

The Big Yellow School Bus

Home schoolers often joke about days when you "chase the big yellow school bus". Days when schooling just seems impossible and public education seems easier.  Well, we are officially chasing the bus. But not because it seems easier for my family. If anything I think we're about to navigate a field of land mines. There will be battles I can't even see from where I stand.

Here's what will happen starting tomorrow:

1) Fi will attend the high school a half day, then home school the other half. No, she doesn't play sports. Yes, we will be doing online learning via a personalized learning plan (PLP) via the school district.

2) G will be attending a charter school in a nearby town. He'll go Monday through Thursday and then be home on Fridays for the independent learning aspect of his education.

Will I miss home schooling? Absolutely. What's not to miss about winter days spend snuggling with kids and not getting out of PJ's till noon?

Why am I doing this? Because "this" doesn't interfere with our learning goals for the children. The goal with home schooling was simple: to provide the best education possible. I didn't want to cover just what the local schools or state standards required... I wanted my children to love learning. I wanted them to get a private school education at home. And in the beginning, I didn't want them to spend a year at a new school in a new state and then move once we settled into a permeant house.

I am fortunate to have a BFA which allows me to teach in all grades no matter where we live in the U.S. However I can tell you I cannot replicate the learning that happens when a 9th grader has her paper peer reviewed. Or the "click" of learning exactly what a teacher is asking of you. While I think many experiences can be replicated (or improved!) at home I don't feel that Fi never attending a public high school class would be any great gain when she attends college. And for what she wants to do she will have to have a 4 year degree.

And that's the big thing, right? In all this educating we do as home schoolers aren't we seeking how to best allow our children to reach their goals? If Fi's goal is pointing to requiring a 4 year degree you better believe I'll do what's required to facilitate that. Even if it's multiple trips across town this fall. (More on that tomorrow.)

But why put G in a public school setting? Doesn't he have learning issues? Yes. Yes he does. And I realized last fall that I couldn't really get him the attention he needs by being outside the system. I tried, and was given a little help, but I feel like he needs assistance by someone who has an entire head filled with strategies for those who learn differently. He doesn't need just an extra webpage or two. He needs immersion.

We're very lucky to have such a cool charter school near us. I'm very excited to see him learn this year. They offer multiage classrooms focused on independent learning. There's lots of outside time and exploration that naturally fosters creativity and unintentional learning. When we first visited the classrooms I immediately felt this would be a good fit for the little guy who constantly compares himself to a sister 4 grade levels above him. The entire room reads like a large home school group.

What about all the negative things kids pick up in school? I have to tell you, despite my best efforts to shield the children they are hearing quite an earful *everywhere* there are adults. I've heard more "f-bombs" in the grocery store here than I ever did in college. It is a very different culture. After explaining to them that just because you hear it doesn't mean you have to repeat it I think they'll sort it out. I am more worried about G than Fi... although a few days ago he heard a 6 or 7 year old say "hell" and was flabbergasted. So we'll try to keep him on track. Fi is so set in herself I have no concerns at all.

The best news is this: If it doesn't work, there are options. And just as I was willing to find our "best fit" in the past I'm totally up for finding our "best fit" in the future.

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