Two weeks before the school year began last year, we found ourselves suddenly in a difficult home schooling position. We had home schooled Z, A and H for the past 4 years with wonderful success. Before that, Z had attended kindergarten and 1st grade and A had been in a preschool program. I was all set for the fall, until we found out what was causing my new sensitivity to everything, whether odors, food or Sean’s suddenly not-so-funny jokes. Surviving pregnancy with me a number of times before made him very familiar with the symptoms….or warnings, depending on your point of view. The increased need to nap at all hours and the nausea, also at all hours, made it pretty clear to me that some things were going to have to change in the near future. So, we reluctantly agreed that Z(10), A(7) and H(5) would go back to school for the 2006/2007 school year. I wasn’t sure what to expect but figured one year couldn’t hurt-after all, I definitely believed (and still do) that a perfect choice doesn’t exist. There are pros and cons to both.
As the year began, the most apparent change for me was my freedom-I just had to be back by noon for the kindergarten bus. No more regimented mornings, I no longer had to keep track of 5 different things at the same time. I didn’t appreciate the structure back then. Not to worry though, 2 year old J and 4 month old J have me well in line these days. It’s a good thing that schedules work well in this house.
Back in the home schooling days, we usually began our school year with the Not Back to School picnic at Mills Park. There, many of our fellow home school friends would rejoice that we were somewhat prolonging our summer. Through the fall, we would begin our days slowly, completing our studies by lunch time (on the good days) and spending the afternoons at various places or just relaxing before the evening commitments. Realizing the control they held over their own day tempered their lack of interest in the less fascinating subjects like spelling and grammar.
Surprisingly, their interest in other subjects grew by leaps and bounds by the simple fact that there were few distractions and many options on how to teach and learn the material. Music and art lessons, co-op meetings, writing club, and time spent with friends rounded out our days. However, the driving to and fro from all of these very good things was also very wearing. When your friends live 30 min. away, you just don’t see them as often. That was something I missed for the kids; seeing your buddies everyday. Our end of the year assessment and testing affirmed that great academic things were occurring but the equally important social time was definitely lacking.
There are such a wide range of home schooling philosophies from super structured, classical literature-centered to a relaxed, unschooling approach, let-the-child-decide-for-themselves-what-to-spend-their-time-studying. Unschoolers we are not, I definitely like good literature and history and feel it is absolutely essential to understand where we came from to see where we are going. Cliché, I know, but I don’t have time to figure out how to say it any other way. The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer was what I used to put together our home school program. I highly recommend it for suggestions if you feel the need to supplement your child’s education, otherwise known as “after schooling”.
Most importantly, I see now that just as there is not one size fits all direction for parenting, the same is true for educating your children. From learning style differences, to individual talents that need to be encouraged, to your own opinion of what is important or not….all of these influence what direction your instruction will take. Some people send one child to public or private school and home school another. Some children take a few classes at a school and do the rest at home. Some learn in the car, via DVDs, reading, and discussion while driving between music lessons or dance classes. These are usually those who have some incredible talent who are very lucky to be able to receive their education outside of the traditional school. Otherwise they might not be able to develop their gift. So, as for our family, we are taking it year by year. This year, our kids are again going to school. If you know our toddler, well, then the reason is obvious! But I can’t promise that will be the case next year. I find that circumstances have a way of shifting. Since we have this incredible freedom of choice, we’d be crazy not to thoughtfully consider it.