Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

As you may have seen in my sidebar, one prayer request we've had for this transition was about educational decisions for our children, especially our high schoolers.

As I've prayed, over the years, about my kids and how homeschooling fits into our family, one concern I've always had to keep in mind is my own stamina. I'm committed to homeschooling for the long term; I want to give all my kids this kind of an education for at least some of their years of schooling. I know that if I don't pace myself, I will run out of gas at some point.

And this last year has been a killer. Trying to stay on top of a 10th grader, a 9th grader, a 6th grader and a 3rd grader, while de-cluttering, de-wallpapering, decorating and constantly cleaning the house--and keeping 2 preschoolers out of trouble!--has not been my idea of a rewarding educational experience for any of us. One might think that I'd look forward to doing it again next year and getting it right this time...but I'm not. I'm too tired!

So going into this next year, I'm considering my own limitations. But I'm also thinking about my high schoolers and a conviction that has been increasing over the course of this school year--that they are capable of a lot more than they put out for me: capable of managing their time better, capable of caring more about mastery and excellence, capable of taking more responsibility for their own education. And my sense is that it's time now to get myself out of the picture, educationally--or at least into a supporting role only.

So when I began to investigate the high school options here, I felt open to anything. I heard about private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, vocational schools and multiple homeschool groups. I began talking to many parents and many schools, plus the Kenosha homeschool group.

And I quickly ruled out the private schools, for next year at least. There's the expense, first of all--when we've just had so many expenditures on our old house, our new house and the move--plus I just can't see myself spending over an hour a day in the car, since there's no busing to the private schools. Not when I really need a restful year personally, and hope to have a year of real investment in my middle boys.

I did not immediately rule out homeschooling the high schoolers, though. I decided that I'd consider it if at least some of their primary classes could be taken through a homeschool group, with a teacher that would assign homework and grades. There were options like that back in Illinois (though we didn't take them, since we thought we'd be moving mid-year). But as it turns out, the classes offered through the Kenosha homeschool group are enrichment only, and the other groups are too far away.

The magnet and vocational schools were too specialized for Blondechick and lacked special education support for Bantam17. The charter school was described to us as a good option for slower students, with smaller class sizes and lots of one on one, which didn't appeal to Blondechick but sounded great for Bantam17...but it's so new, they're just adding a year at a time and won't be offering 11th grade next year.

So the public school seemed like our best option--if we liked it. And we did like what we saw. One of the most refreshing things was that the students and teachers lacked the "affluenza" so prevalent in the western suburbs; they dressed less expensively and drove older cars, we noticed, and everyone we talked to seemed so down-to-earth. It seemed like a good place.

So we're getting them registered. I'm praying that it will be a great experience for both of them, but in my back pocket, if this year doesn't go well, is the option to switch to one of the private schools for Blondechick's last two years. (By then she'll probably be able to drive herself or we'll have met someone to carpool with). We're not as concerned about Bantam17; he's handled public school well before, and his autism keeps him from much social involvement, which cuts down on our opportunities to worry.

But Blondechick will no doubt make many friends and put us in many situations we're not ready to deal with yet; that's been her role for a long time now! But something tells me that this is a good thing to do now, while she's still under our roof and still tells us everything. (Really! She'll give me the whole "he said/she said" ending with, "That's all, I think. Where's Dad?" and then start over for him. I once half wistfully/half jokingly told her, "One of these days you'll realize that you don't have to tell us everything, honey," and she replied, "Oh, you know me--I won't be able to help myself!")

So we feel good about this decision, for these two, at this time. They're both going to take 3-week long summer school courses in July--Blondechick in PE and Bantam17 in Health--so that will help ease them into it a bit.

Now I've got lots of thinking to do about next year for the Bantams13 & 9! I actually looked into sending Chicklet5 to kindergarten at the public school next year, so I could really concentrate on the boys, but they only have full-day kindergarten and I just can't do it. So I need to give some thought to her year as well.

Both the Bantams want to be the one to teach her to read, using the same "yellow book" (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) that they learned from--a good sign for next year, wouldn't you say? One of my primary objectives is for us to have fun together, something we rarely had time for this last year. I know we're not going to do Sonlight; we're going to read all the great children's literature that is NOT tied to some historical time period! I haven't got any farther than that, yet--but I sure am happy to have the high schooling decision made.

Thank you for your prayers!


Square Peg said...

Everyone's got their own story, but if you were to take a tally, you can put me & my 4 sibs. down on the "conservative christian kids who went to public schools & turned out just fine" side. Public school is a great place to get to know different people, learning to balance the demands of various classes & teachers, wrestling with new ideas, and seeing up close how the other side lives. I'm sure with the grounding you've given her, and your continued involvement in her daily life, she'll do just fine, and hopefully will even count it as a positive experience. Looking forward to seeing what the new year brings you all! K

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great year planned, Jeanne. Good work!

DCG said...

One of the things I love is that we have so many options available to us in this country (for now at any rate). I thrived in Public School, and my now 14 year old has thrived in our local system as well. You seem to be making all these decisions by looking at ALL the options, and deciding which is best for EACH child. I think that is GREAT. Good luck in High School !

Sherry said...

Sounds like a plan. My policy is to take it year by year, and sometimes day by day. If you have some extra prayer time, I would love for you to pray for my youngest urchin who will be seven in August and doesn't want to learn to read. This child is the first one i've had who cries and complains at the mention of reading practice.

No, she doesn't have a learning disability.