A few months ago I wrote about beginning our homeschooling adventure. It has certainly been an adventure.
Now that the school year is drawing to a close, I am seeing posts in an online forum for local homeschoolers from parents that have decided to withdraw their kids from public school for the next grade. They are looking for advice on how to do it. I love giving advice! I am rarely insulted if you don’t take my advice, but I’ve always been eager to jump in with my thoughts and experiences. For once, I have little to offer.
You see, dear reader, this homeschooling thing is full of choices which is a double edged sword. At the base of the homeschooling decision is the knowledge that public schools (or even private schools with a similar model) are not working for your family. But the reasons for that are so varied. For some people, there is not enough religion in public schools and private religious schools are too expensive. For others, the curricula don’t fit with their child’s learning style. For others, the material isn’t rigorous enough. For still others, it’s too rigorous. That means that there are hundreds of choices for text books. There are many styles of teaching. Some people do great recreating a classroom in their home, but using the texts that fit their values and their childrens’ pace. Some people throw out everything that smacks of a formal classroom and go with an unschooling model. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
Where do you start? Search for curricula for your child’s grade and see what appeals to your style and your budget. Also look at unschooling. But be aware that many parents have found that as their children grow and mature, they need to change curricula from year to year or even in the middle of the year. And that’s ok. It can be hard to see an expensive book languishing on a shelf. But it doesn’t do any good to force your child into doing something that’s torture for him or her. Find another way and you’ll both be happier. Maybe you’ll luck out and hit the magic formula for your kids immediately. Maybe they’ll be that rare breed that loves the material from the same publisher year after year. It has been known to happen.
You’ll have to let your local school system know that you are going to homeschool. Every state has different reporting requirements. So, make your search engine your best friend and find sample letters that fit your local laws. Call your local superintendent to find out where to send the information. Be prepared that some of them do not understand your rights under the laws of your state and will demand more than they have a right to demand. Many homeschooling parents insist on avoiding phone calls and only communicate in writing/email so that they can prove that they have followed the state’s requirements should a truancy officer come knocking on the door. That rarely happens, but it can. The writing thing also keeps things much calmer in the face of opposition to what you know is best for your child. We are blessed to live in a district that makes it easy on homeschoolers.
Now we are wrapping up our 1st grade year. It has been rewarding and wonderful to see Alex grow and learn without the things that stressed him out at our local public school.
Alex loved some of the text books I chose and hated others. Some of those books got replaced immediately. Some have been replaced as of 2nd grade which we will start in the fall. Many homeschooling families don’t take a summer break. Where I live, the weather is only warm for a short window of time, so we’ll be enjoying that as much as possible. As it is, Alex has completed his 1st grade book work with the exception of science, so, we’re finding things to do outside of book learning. He hated the science book I got him. So we abandoned it and are watching videos and going on field trips. We’ve taken advantage of the ice melting away to get outside and go on nature walks. We live on Cape Cod and can hit the beach, a kettle pond, the woods, and grassy areas all in one day.
These are some pictures I took at the Long Pasture location of the Mass Audubon Society over the weekend.
On their website they had a “quest” that you can print out that serves as a guide through the trails and points out many different aspects of the environment. We followed it, but didn’t do the contest this time. In a new environment, both Alex and Craig seem to like to charge ahead rather than slowly take in the things going on around them. That doesn’t mean Alex isn’t paying any attention. He asks great questions and gets very excited about the things he sees. This was a new place for him. On our next visit, I’m sure he’ll see more.
At the beach closest to us, he can spend long stretches of time looking in the same small pool of water or under the same rock, observing the way the water moves and what the snails or other creatures are doing. He’s been there countless times, so he’s quite familiar with the environment there. I never quite know what will capture his attention on any given day.
Alex doesn’t enjoy the woods as much as he enjoys the beach. But sometimes I insist on a walk in the woods because that’s where I feel most at home. About a month ago a friend told me about this nature preserve. Before we left for a visit a couple of weeks ago, he had watched a video about erosion. He noticed the trail was exhibiting signs of erosion in some places and told Craig and me all about it. It’s great to have that kind of evidence that he’s paying attention!
Sometimes I wonder if we are doing enough to teach him the things he’ll need to know as an adult. Then he surprises me with some bit of knowledge that he stowed away from one of our lessons. And I know. Yes, we’re doing enough.