What I'm Learning from Home School

I honestly wonder regularly, who is learning more here. Me or you?

I was so excited about our new plan to shorten the times per class from your "simulated public school week", and carry on with our new and more outlined homeschool days. I loved the way the structure really amped up your responsibility and respectful attitude toward school, and even me. 

Then came Monday morning, and as we began our new approach on a lower key, everything crumbled around us. You were upset, which usually doesn't happen. You seemed frustrated, unhappy, distraught really. You even cried during your second class of the day - just sat over your workbook, pushing your pencil, and crying. 

After talking, cuddling, and deciding that this could just be a rough day for you (we all have them) we wrapped things up and called school off early.

The next day, school went better, though it still didn't seem quite right. 

While speaking on the phone with another mom about her own homeschooling dilemma, I was led to call our ILT (Independent Liaison Teacher) through the Public Charter School you have been enrolled in for the past two years. I needed to ask her some questions about the requirements before I could move forward in supporting and advising my friend. 

During that conversation the ILT shed some light on my own homeschool requirements, expectations, and schedule. I brought this up to her, asking her respected opinion and advice, and she really helped change my understanding and perspective. 

I think that homeschooling can be tricky. While a generally laid back homeschooling parent might not meet the standard with their children on a regular basis, a more A-type person might have their children going way too far and above what should be expected of them. There's really not a good way to even know (in Wisconsin) how your homeschool children academically compare with public schooled kids. That can lead to questions and feelings of doubt that either bring on ideas of failure or an overachieving focus for a homeschooling parent. 

We were definitely of the latter mentality. When we slimmed our schedule down for this week, we actually went from five hours of table time a day (table time being active lessons and practices at the table) to a shorter four hour table time. I thought this was lenient of me. :(

After speaking with our ILT, hearing the requirements and expectations of the state, what the public schooled kids aren't learning, the ratios and statistics, the challenges and obstacles they are up against, and the environment they are supposed to be growing in, I realized that you are way way way far and above what most kids are academically being exposed to today. I also remembered that while our homeschooling is about one-on-one, specific learning to your strengths and style, choosing what goes in and monitoring what comes out, and cultivating your character from a healthy launching pad, it's also about being able to feed your individual and personal growth rate appropriately.

While, there is no doubt (especially when you score off the charts in the standardized public school testing) that you are extremely intelligent, we are and have been doing WAY too much school. Which would explain why you are in 3rd and 4th grade curriculums at a 2nd grade age. 

And don't get me wrong, I'm not about to let the opportunities we have to enrich your education and lean into the areas of your strengths slip away. But we are done with four and five hours of 10 to 12 one-on-one lessons and pencil pushing every day. 

We are finished turning you right off to learning. 

We are going to do five to six classes a day. We're only going to spend 2 to 3 hours in scheduled one-on-one table lessons. 

We are going to the library more and renting more books for you to soak in at your leisure (since, you read more in your spare time than anything else). We are going to go on more field trips and plan more playdates. We're going to make more fun kid deserts and meals, and do more arts and crafts. We're going to watch Bill Ny the Science Guy and Modern Marvels, start projects, and play more games... we are going to PLAY more! 

And as our ILP advised, we can find other areas to amp up the structure that you reacted so positively toward. It just doesn't have to be in school. Your responsibilities and our expectations of you can come up a little, while we rightfully lessen the intensity of your school load.

I'm sorry that I forgot you are eight. I'm sorry for putting you through a middle-school-like schedule.

I promise to protect you from losing these fun and free days of your youth. 


What I Learned From "Public School"

There's been a lot of whining and complaining at the school table the past... few years. I especially noticed it has been getting worse of late. I was adamantly administering the well known empty threat of a homeschool mom, asking "do you want me to send you to public school so you know what it's like to have something to complain about?" 

Of course, we never would,
and I'm sure you knew it. 

So onward with the whining, and grumbling, and arguing... and next came bossing, bullying, and disrespecting me - your mom and teacher. 

On a cold morning, after having to flex the schedule a bit to hit the grocery store before starting school, I had heard about all the ungrateful complaining I could take as you stuffed your spoiled face with a Long John donut I was regretting. It was at that time you shouted up to me in exasperation that your mom-drawn chariot was just "WAY TOO WARM" for you. 

It was at that time I honestly considered pulling the car over on the country side road and dropping you off (not before stealing your sprinkled frosted donut for my own cozy quiet ride home). I thought better and pulled myself together, promising to make a change. 
Something had to give!

I spoke with your Dad (who, by the way, advocated sending you to public school for a couple of weeks) and this is what we decided upon: to simulate a public school environment as best we could at home for one week-minus, obviously, the masses.
We began this week, and we were all surprised at the results. 

You were expected to wake up every morning in time to "make the bus". 

You dressed, ate, brushed your teeth and hair, and got your homework and bag lunch packed up to go. You put on your shoes and jacket (and even umbrella one day), kissed your mom good-bye, and walked to the end of the driveway to wait a timed 5 minutes for your pretend bus to arrive. Then you came into the house to sit in our leather chair for another timed 10 minutes on your way to school (I call this lenient).

Once at school you had a designated locker for all of your things. You were given a schedule indicating the time and order of each class, including a recess, lunch and study hall. 

In classes you were asked to sit in a normal seat at the table and mind as you listen to me teach and instruct you on each lesson. You were given 10 to 15 minutes to begin working on the assignment for the next day, and then you had 5 minutes between classes to put away and gather your things for the next period. 

I thought this would really show you.

I thought you would see how much less fun it is to get up on time, to wear jeans and be responsible for so many things. 

I thought you would hate sitting down and listening to lectures and lessons at the chalkboard. 

I thought you would really pout about having to eat a sack lunch or what ever the "school" gives you. 

I thought you would beg back your cushy little life of privilege and pajamas.  

But the opposite happened. 

You actually love school this way. 

You love the structure, the schedule, the expectations, the higher standard, the responsibility, the lessons, and accomplishments... 

You love that we have handed all of this to you with sure confidence that you could achieve it, and you are well aware that you are excelling even more so under these circumstances that you were on cruise control with a demanding lip. 

You have certainly risen to the occasion, and I am truly humbled by what I have seen and learned. 

You were doing very well before, but you were sassing and smarting off and wearing a pair of pants too big for your own size. And not just during school.

All along I thought it was just you, when in fact it wasn't you at all. It was me. It was how I was doing things; just you and me, fun and family, snug around the dinning room table, laughing in our sweat suits and tangled bed heads. 

It was fun. It really was. And I don't regret one second of it.

But in hindsight I can see how we got where we did.

And looking to the future, there may not be pretend busses or bag lunches after this week, but not too much else will be changing around here - and the funny thing is, none of us are sorry about it.