Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Beginning of an Era

You always hear about the END of an era, how about a beginning?

I expect 2010 to hold a whole slew of "experiencing new things" posts. One of the biggies is going to be homeschooling. It's easy for me to talk about homeschooling--we haven't started yet! I have no doubt I will be able to look back at these posts in a few years, or even a few months, and blush in embarrassment over my naiveté, but life is more about the journey than the destination, so I'll have to take the risk.

We have been considering homeschooling as long as we've been considering kids. Both of us felt there were flaws in our education that we were capable of fixing and that it was worth giving a try. Since the original idea came up, we've done a few things that I think are pretty reasonable for a parent looking into education choices:
  • We looked into schooling options: We've done a fair amount of research into the public schools, charter schools, and private schools available. None of them are horrible, just not our first choice. As Sierra got older, we became more familiar with things like age cut-offs, placement exams, grade skipping and extra-curricular options.
  • We looked into homeschooling options: You can go it alone, you can join a co-op and share the teaching with other parents (which would allow a science-focused person like myself to take on extra kids for science or math and send mine to someone else more qualified than me to teach music or art), you can even join an online program that lets you follow a regular school curriculum at home.
  • We researched homeschooling laws. These are different in each state and range from basically no requirements, to heavy monitoring of the homeschool by the local school district. You can get a basic run down for each state at the Home School Legal Defense Association website.
  • We researched our fears about homeschooling and found many of them to be myths.
So here's where we currently stand: Both girls attend a small Montessori school. Sierra is in her Kindergarten year there, a year earlier than the public schools would have let her start. She is having no trouble with first and second grade materials. Sedona just started there this year and has a decent grasp on pre-school concepts like colors and same/different. She is just starting to count and can pick out and say the appropriate sound for some letters--she is reading very basic, "short a" three letter words.

Here's the reasoning: From all the research I've done, I don't believe the schools will adequately accommodate Sierra's academic needs. My short term goal is to keep her interested in learning, without letting her get too far ahead--I regularly turn down her requests to do extra workbooks at home in the evenings and on weekends. My long term goal is to teach her what she's willing and able to learn, but not to allow her to start college until she's 17 (the idea being she would turn 18 at the beginning of October in her first year), at the earliest.

We'll get the social issue out of the way here: I don't buy into the socialization argument against homeschooling. I've seen first hand in the Montessori school that there is a big benefit to mixing ages and I would rather my children live each day among a mix of people rather than spend 12 years grouped within an age group and being prepared for "the real world". My vision of homeschooling includes much more than "school at home", and I plan for them to be out and about, meeting people and learning from several different sources.

And here's the plan: We've decided that it's easier to move into public school rather than leave it (both from a legal and adjustment standpoint), so we will try homeschooling first, but are not opposed to changing our minds about that if it turns out not to be a good option for our kids. We will have a "core curriculum" that we'll supplement with researching topics the kids are specifically interested in, traveling to interesting sites, and taking outside classes.

I wanted time to create a rough schedule (it will be flexible, but I need something to follow), so we've got all of Sierra's core things for next year already. We have math, reading and comprehension, grammar, science, geography, spelling and Spanish. I had originally planned to do a Charlotte Mason curriculum with her, but had an ah-ha moment a few weeks ago and scrapped the whole plan. I liked Charlotte Mason because it's heavily based in reading and Sierra LOVES to read. However, she's my child and it suddenly dawned on me that if I require her to read so much, she will start to hate reading. It has to be HER idea. I did soooo much better with self-guided learning when it was offered, and she is very much like me. Sedona's still so young, it will take a while to see what her learning style is going to be. She will focus on picking up wherever she leaves off at school--I expect that to be continuing with letter sounds and reading, along with basic number recognition. She will only be 3 and I don't intend to do a more formal curriculum with her until she's 4. Right now, she likes to be in the middle of everyone else's work, paying close attention to what's going on, so I'll go with that and let her work on whatever she shows interest in.

Now I have to go hide all the books...Sierra is already trying to talk me into starting them now.

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