Saturday, October 1, 2011

Adventures in Homeschooling- Part Two


Turns out I had a lot to say about this so I broke it into two parts. Here’s part two.

I had been a homeschool naysayer. I would say “those kids will be too sheltered”, “They won’t know how to relate to kids their own age”, “they won’t be able to go to college”. I have found a lot of people are like I used to be. By that I mean, they have all these ideas about homeschooling but no real knowledge of the research or any contact with actual homeschoolers. I, luckily, was blessed to meet people who homeschool. Their kids were not sheltered, they were not weird. They were polite, social and very bright. So, being me, I started researching the topic. I could not believe all the studies that have been done and how much information is out there. And the consensus? Homeschoolers tend to do as well or BETTER socially and on standardized tests than their publicly schooled counterparts. Here’s links to some research: Academics  and  college performance. For those he don’t share my love of research, I’ll just tell you that homeschooled kids score the same or higher on standardized tests than public schooled kids.Also, many homeschooled kids finish high school requirements early and start on college sooner. I have also read research that says not only are homeschooled kids not awkward socially, but they actually surpass their public schooled counterparts.This now makes sense to me. In public school you are surrounded by people your own age for 8 hours a day. You come home, do some things, and then go back to hanging around people your own age. It is like a fish bowl. Also, with all those immature minds being bombarded by irresponsible media these kids make Jr high and high school into their own MTV episode….. and they all live or die by it. Parents and adults become the enemy and there is little chance you can make as big an impact on your child as you may want. The truth is JR/High school is just a few measly years of a persons life and the social impact they make in high school is fleeting in the big picture, but academically it is HUGE. And,sometimes, public school contributes to kids being socially awkward. I spent my high school years bogged down in a sea of stress, “teen drama”, pressures, and depression. My Junior year I cracked and tried to commit suicide. I spent the next 4 months in the hospital and came out much worse for the wear. I tried to go back to school but it just wasn’t good for me. I had always been pretty smart and my mother dreamed of watching me graduate and go off to college. It was a bitter pill she swallowed when she realized none of her dreams would come true.

   I believe I was a perfect homeschool candidate. I was bright and very curious. I was an active hands on learner. I explored less around other people because I was afraid to “make a fool of myself” so if I had been homeschooled I would have felt free to branch out and explore. I thrive on freedom and I desperately needed one on one attention back then. So I understood, in a very real way, how no amount of anything I did was going to make public school tolerable for my son.

   Slowly, I began to ask myself , Could I homeschool my children? Would it be better for them? Would I be able to do it? What would people think? Would the school be willing to work with me?  I kept coming up with positives but still I was afraid to pull the trigger. I was so caught up in traditional schooling and I lacked confidence in myself. I decided I would gather all the information and organize it. Maybe, when we moved I would try homeschooling, but when I found out he was getting all E’s again I just kind of snapped. I snapped out of my haze and put aside my terror and said “I’m just going to homeschool you. I’m done”

   The next morning we went to Trent’s school. On our way to the office we met that science teacher I had mentioned earlier. She used email to tell parents once to twice a week all that was expected of students that week, in great detail. She made sure that everyone felt comfortable contacting her. She really cared about the kids. We told her what  our plan was and she was very reassuring. She said homeschooling was really on the upswing and she could see how it could be beneficial. We continued on to the office where I informed  the office that I was going to begin to homeschool Trent. I explained that it was no failing on their part but Trent just needed something different. We needed to make a change so he could succeed. The secretary gave me a none to happy look and started to tell me I would need to sign all these papers and get “permission” from his teachers. I had read all the Michigan laws on homeschooling thoroughly, so I knew I had to do nothing of the sort, but I just kept silent for the moment because I had wanted  them to let me copy the table of contents from his books so we could check out free library books and follow along. The secretary got the principal (the screamer) and she followed us to Trent’s locker telling us we should have taken advantage of their tutoring and mentoring programs before this. I told her he did do both of those things last year and they didn’t help. She then told us we would need to turn in his books, so I told her my plan to follow along. She kind of half threatened me to make sure I DID return their books soon and walked off. At this point we are back by the office and the secretary comes out to tell us to return their books before we leave. I tell her my “follow along” idea and she says, “You can NOT copy those books. Those are OUR books” I explain that I would never copy the whole book. I just wanted the table of contents. At this point I am upset. I feel judged, awkward, ya know, like I’m back at school. All of a sudden, that nice science teacher is back and handing me something. She gives me a pile of printed papers that contain the whole 8th grade science standards and curriculum. I almost burst into tears, they start welling up in my eyes and I am mortified. This woman has no idea that not everyone has been as kind as she and she probably thinks I’m some unstable crazy person crying because she handed me some papers.

   I see Trent being led away to the office by the secretary. When I get in there the secretary has his backpack and is going through it taking out the books! I kid you not people… Trent is telling her that the principal said it was fine but the secretary says, “These are OUR books. You need to turn them in on your last day of school and today is YOUR last day.” Now I have to tell you, in my homeschooling research I had come across these lovely stories about how some schools were very supportive of homeschoolers. They would let them take a class now and then, share books during the year, share information. This was NOT one of those schools. I just thought to myself, this is not going to be the last person you meet who disagrees with homeschooling and is rude and hateful. I would just need to develop a thick skin, so we just got out of there.

    We are now officially homeschoolers. Let the learning begin!

Adventures in Homeschooling - Part One


Trent has had a lot of struggles with school. For the past, I don’t even know how many years, Trent has consistently failed math, mostly failed science, failed or got low grades in English, and been hit or miss in social studies. On top of this, Trent still seems to not grasp the concepts of writing. He doesn’t always capitalize the beginning of sentences, has atrocious spelling, etc...

     While Trent was collecting his progress report to see if he qualified to play in last week’s football game, we found out that he was once again failing all his academic courses.

       I get a lot of complaints from Trent and  Trent’s teachers/school staff.The school’s complaints: Trent doesn’t bring paper to class. Trent regularly loses his text books. Trent doesn’t have any pens or pencils. Trent never turns in any homework ( I get this one and the no book a lot). Trent disrupts the  classroom. Trent’s complaints: they don’t listen to me. I can’t concentrate for a whole hour while someone talks at me . I don’t understand and the teachers don’t believe me. The teacher wont answer my questions during class and I forget by the end (some teachers have a no interrupt policy where the kids can’t interrupt the lesson and can only ask their questions after the lesson is over or after school). I don’t have enough time to get my stuff out of my locker and then make it to the next class.

    Both sides have valid complaints. So, as my child’s advocate, I looked long and hard at these things. I realized that I also had a few complaints of my own. The school kept passing my child when he had horrible reports and grades. Also, when I am at the school I find myself cringing at the way the adults treat the kids. I know that they are adults and are the leaders of the school and the children are there to learn, but the children are still human beings, with thoughts and with feelings. They also live in the good U.S. of A, land of the free. Case in point, I am at Trent’s basketball game and I see this; A young girl running down the hall laughing. An adult woman grabs her by the arm as she passes and says “Where were you at? What were you doing?” I don’t hear where the girl said she was at but I couldn’t help but to hear what the adult’s response …. Adult screams” Really Kallie, you expect me to believe that? YOU ARE A LIAR! A TOTAL LIAR!” young girl mumbles something in defense adult continues screaming “I don’t even want to HEAR it. I am so sick of you kids and all your LIEING! You are nothing but a LIAR! Now get out of this school and go home!” After the game we see the adult that I had seen screaming at the girl and I ask Trent “ Who is that? Does she work for the school?” and Trent replies “That’s the Principal” I tell him what happened earlier and he shrugs, “Oh, she always is screaming at someone” I am shocked! First, I had never seen this woman. I had thought that the man I always see and talk to was the principal (turns out he was the assistant Principal) and what the hell was a principal doing acting like that in the middle of a busy school sponsored sporting event? If she acts like that to kids with parents around what is it like during the school day? I am not saying that I wouldn’t lose it if I had to be principal of a busy middle school, but that is why I wouldn’t CHOOSE,as my job, to be the principal of a busy middle school…

    That being said, some of his teachers were really good. He had a social studies teacher last year that called me, not to complain, but to say that all the sudden Trent seemed to be putting in a lot of extra effort and she wanted to recognize him for it. There was also an awesome science teacher that I will get to later.

   I also want to take some responsibility. I knew when I looked at his grades that he wasn’t doing well. I would ground him. I would make him bring books home. I had him do tutoring.But, I did not go to the school and demand help for my child. I did not insist that we spend hours after school studying. The reason was that I remember school and I know my child. I remember how boring and soul crushing it was. How awkward and terrifying. I did understand, at some level, that no amount of threatening, grounding, or yelling was going to make sitting for hour after hour of  educational lectures something Trent could do. I was Trent’s mom. I saw him at home trying to make it through one of my 5-10 minute lectures. I know how Trent’s mind wanders,how he finds it so difficult to organize his thoughts and his things, how easily “shiny things” make him forget what he was doing , how he finds it easier to learn to music, how he likes to move between things and get involved. How he likes to feel like he has some say in what happens to him. He is a lot like me. So I knew I wasn’t going to MAKE him start turning in papers or sit still or learn at school when I was all the way at home. So, I gave up. I still went through the motions of groundings, asked everyday if he had homework, listen to the teachers and apologized for his behavior but it stopped bothering me. I accepted he wasn’t going to change and lived with the ENORMOUS guilt.    END OF PART ONE