Back to School…At Home

Back to School…At Home

Well, it’s that time again! Back to school! It’s glorious right? Well…let’s hope. My kids are homeschooled. For those with questions it means…they go to school at home. See what a good teacher I am. It was a decision the hubs and I came to when our daughter was in kindergarten. She’d attended a private preschool for years and it was lovely but costly. Attending kinder there would be a stretch; especially with little bro soon entering preschool right behind her.

So, we enrolled in our neighborhood school. It had a solid rating, was minutes away, and seemed quite adorable at the Open House. Ummm, long story short, let’s just say, it didn’t work out and we pulled her out after six months. She stayed home the rest of that year and we explored options for first grade. Of the choices we had, we felt continuing on the path of “homeschooling” was where we were called to be, and so the adventure began.

When homeschooling there are a million different directions one can go. It depends on what works best for your family. We opted to enroll in a charter school that operates as a “personalized learning program”. The school is fully accredited so there’s no transfer issues and they keep track of all the paperwork and record keeping. Honest about my own limitations, I felt it best I not be responsible for that. We adhere to a specific calendar and meet monthly with an “Education Facilitator”, who helps answer questions, collects work samples, and keep us on track. There’s access to restricted funds that can be put towards classes, curriculum, and supplies, while the charter itself offers an extensive resource library. Teaching is done at home by me, usually in pajamas but we opt to use funds for outside classes one or two days a week. Drop off for said classes usually also happens in pajamas. In addition to some academic classes this has given them the opportunity to explore things such as programming classes, guitar, acting classes, piano, lego robotics, art history, and holistic cooking. Our field trips happen almost weekly and we’ve gotten to design lessons around family trips to Big Bear and Lake Tahoe where we did things like study animals of the area, scavenger hunts on hikes, apple picking, boating, and fishing. Because we always have school to consider, it causes me to think differently and ask questions like how can I sneak some super effective learning in all things like baking these cookies? Easily, that’s when we reinforce fractions and irreversible change, math and science, BOOM!

I was prepared for it to be challenging. What I wasn’t prepared for was all the funk nasty judgment folks can have on the issue. Why do they care? Yes, people my children are learning! Yes, they have friends and active social lives. Yes, they can count and read. They also have manners, conduct themselves well, and are well rounded student athletes. What home school is for us is an opportunity to sow into our children the values that are important to us while teaching. It’s such focused learning time that I can truly see how each child learns. If something isn’t clicking, I can (and have) switch it up on a dime. We can rest if they struggle and advance if they’re ahead. Those things couldn’t happen in my daughters kinder class, so as a result, she was bored to tears, and constantly in trouble for talking in class. My son was in kindergarten last year taking a multiplication and division class, more confirmation for us, how blessed we are to have this as an option. My daughter loves science and is pumped to dissect critters we ordered. She can sit for strangely long periods of time watching dissection videos online. To each his own, right? I’m not thrilled for these lessons but will suck it up for the sake of science. Speaking of critters, we experienced metamorphosis by watching butterflies form from caterpillars and froggies from tadpoles. They’re now pets and I have two more mouths to feed. I don’t mention any of this for any other reason other than to demonstrate that my kids are just fine. They are thriving happy kids. This is what works for our family right now. Who knows if it will be the plan forever but it’s not changing in our immediate future.

As for me, I’m getting better at it and feeling more confident.  There are those insecure days when I think I’m for sure ruining the children or feel twinges of guilt that I reeeeeeaaaally wish they would get out of my face and simply disappear.  Luckily on those days, have a support system that are in the homeschool trenches with me or just willing to hop in there to pray, talk me off a ledge, or whisk me off to happy hour; whatever’s called for.   I’m also gifted with moments where I overhear one of my kids telling how Rosa Parks was key in the Montgomery Bus Boycott or that a butterfly eats with its proboscis.  I watch the boy understand difficult math concepts and her catch a praying mantis with her bare hands, then list off more facts than I ever cared to know about it and I exhale.  Life has a way of throwing curve balls that send you down roads you never thought in a million trillion kajillion years you’d be going down.  I would literally laugh out loud when-EVER someone told me they homeschooled their kids.  Not in judgement, but in a “HA! Good luck, you can HAVE THAT!” kind of way.  Jokes on me.  There was another plan, and you know I’m big on being sensitive and obedient to those dang gone plans.  It’s not always the easiest route,  but it always ends up being the best.  Even when I can’t see it that way right away.  That’s where faith comes in.

Oh, some interesting nuggets… The highest rated elemenatry schools in the West are located in Finland. (The US is ranked around 29th)  When asked what’s going down in Finland to cause  children to perform at such impressive levels, these are some of the reasons given in a nutshell:

  • The happiness of the children comes first.  It is not about competition on any level.
  • Children attend approximately twenty hours of school a week.
  • There is no homework…ever.
  • Play and exploration is encouraged.
  • Teachers are highly respected and as such highly paid.

Minus the “highly paid” part, I’m pretty much doing things like the” winners”! See, leave it to me and my American ways to make it a competition when the Finns clearly laid out how its not supposed to be.  My bad.  This week starts first and third grade.  I’m expecting big things.

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