***WARNING--What you are about to read are candid and blatantly honest, mostly unfiltered thoughts. If you are looking for politeness and political correctness, be forewarned!
Tomorrow most all the kids will be returning back to school, but not Will...exactly. I have never been a huge home school advocate. As a public school teacher myself for 10 years, I was actually a fan of public schools. They aren't perfect, but I could see the fruit of my labor. The kids seemed to learn so much from each other. My only real experience with having a home schooled student in my class was not exactly, shall we say, the strongest case for homeschooling your child. And so my opinion was formed...I was not interested in home schooling.
Some think private school is the answer. Will did attend a private preschool (thanks to a scholarship) that was great. But it appears that most private schools, at least around here, don't differentiate instruction. As a former public school teacher, this is appalling to me. Kids just aren't all on the same level--period. So although this school was wonderful spiritually for him, the academia side of me could never be happy there, at least for a child that I am quite certain is gifted. (Throw up now. I know everyone thinks their kids are gifted.)
Now I am going to be (even more) perfectly frank. Please don't throw tomatoes. But in my circles as a stay-at-home mom (something I also at one time never thought I would ever do) I met some home school families. While some appeared perfectly "normal," the majority were not what you would call good-looking, fashionable, or popular. Let's just say that volunteering to be a member of this group was not widely appealing.
Out of desperation, more than anything, I did resign myself to home school Will for kindergarten when I thought he wasn't going to get into the school we wanted. Our area school was a bit scary and I had heard many bad things about it. There was no way I was sending him there. Then, at the last minute, he did get into the school we wanted. I should have been elated, but I was surprised to find that I was actually very disappointed. I found myself bawling my eyes out a couple nights before school started because my "baby" was leaving me.
We had family vacation in September that had been planned when we thought we would be homeschooling. Although I had told his teacher on numerous occasions what we were doing, and sent a note to the school office, we were not informed that it could have been excused as educational enhancement until it was too late. We did have a wonderful, and educational, time!
Once the holidays, beginning with Halloween, rolled around, there were so many fun things that I wanted to do with the kids. (Thanks Pinterest!) I even made a list so I wouldn't forget any of them. The same happened with Thanksgiving and Christmas. None of my lists were even halfway accomplished. By the time Will got home, had a snack, relaxed for a few minutes, did homework, and ate dinner, there was very little time or energy left for the fun stuff. Not to mention trying to add in piano lessons and practice. I felt like our family was missing out on the things that make us who are. As far as Christmas goes, we were missing out on a lot of great spiritual lessons and opportunities.
Flash forward to half way through the kindergarten year, and my Will has already been student of the month. He has tried first grade for half a day, but socially and emotionally it didn't work out so well. (Partially due to the fact that it took a good 2 months for them to try it, by which time he was already settled in his new routine.) He finally got into the gifted program--for about 3 hours out of a 35 hour week. He has learned a lot about writing and spelling, but as far as I can see, that's about it. He has made a few friends, but nothing like he had in preschool. His 2 best friends at school are friends he already knew from church. Even though I volunteer once a week in the classroom and have dialogued with his teacher on several occasions about wanting him to be challenged, 98% of the time he does what everyone else does. He only gets to read chapter books for an hour or so a week in the gifted program, even though he was reading at least 3 a day before he began kindergarten. He wasn't even allowed to check them out of the library until I mentioned it to the staff. For that matter, he was the only child not checking out any book until 8 weeks into the school year and they hadn't even noticed! We are now officially half way through the year. The accelerated math group has yet to start...and this is all at a school that is supposed to be known for it's individualized education. Not to mention the many mornings that Will, a kid who loved his 2 years of preschool, cried and begged for me not to send him to school. I am also not mentioning the serious attitude in the afternoons from being on his very best behavior all day and still not being able to work his way up the ranks to the "superior" behavior rating reserved for only a few days a year. Add in the 1 1/2 hour minimum we were spending in the car per day, coupled with $12 a day on gas. For that kind of money, Will could have join any sport or extracurricular activity he wants.
Don't get me wrong...there were some things that I really loved. Like the fact that this school, unlike the one I taught at, valued life experiences--lots of assemblies and enrichment programs. I even loved it that he was exposed to things like ballet--which he hated. I am not all about my child being happy all the time--I'm about him getting what's best for himself, spiritually and educationally speaking especially. The faculty was nice, the school was clean. His teacher was a wonderful Christian lady and very sweet. I honestly believe that as far as public elementary schools go, it really is one of the best.
In the course of my frustrations, I prayed and prayed and prayed some more. It seemed the answer was always the same--home school. So I would pray some more, "Lord, surely this isn't what you want for us. I have a part time job I enjoy. I was public school teacher and an advocate for public school. I have never wanted to home school my children." But God doesn't often answer me as I expect--home school. Even praying about when to start was crazy. Pull him out in the middle of the year? That's probably not the best choice. But guess what?
So here it is January 1 and "school" starts tomorrow. I am not sure where I fit into the scheme of things as it seems most home school for spiritual reasons, which didn't play into our decision as much as the academic reasons, though definitely a bonus. I feel a little disgruntled at either the curriculum prices or the lack of meat in the curriculum, so I know I am going to have a lot of leg work and supplementation to do on my own. I am not sure how Gemma and a new baby are going to work with this whole home school thing. But other people do it and God has never lead us to take the easy or expected route with anything...from getting married quickly, to adopting a baby, to me staying at home, to me going back to work...And so our adventures continue.