Friday, December 30, 2011

Having that "Throw Them in School" Phase Again

I knew this would be a rough year due to the long distance move and this being a kind of in-between year (since we are not settled into a new permanent home here yet).  We don't know when the next part of our lives will happen: selling the old house and house shopping here and then moving again, so I don't feel like we're "done" with this life change yet. Despite my realization back when this started that I'd have to brace myself for experiencing what I figured would be a far less than ideal and imperfect year, it's still hard to deal with moments of self-doubt when they confront me.

I'm at a place where what I'm struggling with is a result of me having a good sense of reality, seeing clearly my limitations as homeschool parent-teacher and feeling constrained in this new place (not having yet figured out the local opportunties). Before me I have a clear picture of the parts of our homeschool that are not working fantastically this year and I see my kid's weaknesses (and my own). I ask myself if I can live with the worst parts of it. Is dealing with the mediocre or sub-par parts a good idea? Are my kids getting enough of the best stuff to balance out the things that aren't going so well?

I also tend to not think much about our successes or what we're doing well, my mind just focuses on what needs fixing or what is failing. I know some would tell me that's unhealthy do to that, but it is just how my mind works. It is not something I choose to do, it's just how I think. I have to constantly fight against myself to get myself to try to not think that way (it has been a lifelong battle that I have not yet won).

When I think of using school I need to be careful that I am also not just seeing the best things that school can offer. When pitting the worst things about our homeschool against the best things in school it seems obvious that I should just throw my kids into school and leave homeschooling behind. Yet, that is not really looking at the situation objectively.

If we quit homeschooling we will leave behind many very good things and the best parts of school also come with negative things. Some of the bad things we could never know until we experience them firsthand.

A friend is telling me to give school a try and if it doesn't work out to just pull the kids out again, that it's not that risky to put them in. I am not sure about that, because if I wanted to pull them out to homeschool again, I'd need my kid's buy-in with the process. It seems easier for me to give up on homeschooling and say "I'm putting you in school, period." than it seems possible to pull them out of school against their will and try to get them to cooperate with homeschooling with me as their teacher.

One of my concerns especially for my younger son is that he will love the fun social parts of school so much that he'd be willing to endure other things.  I worry about lower academic standards, boring schoolwork that results in shallow learning and such. If he likes the ease of school (as surely he will find it very easy as he's that type that just can "do school" so easily) and if he likes the rewards of school (easily getting high grades and then loving the stamp of approval he gets on the papers, tests, and report cards) then he will be happy to remain in school even if it's not the type of learning I'd prefer him to experience.

This is my fourth day in the house alone, the kids are at sleepover Boy Scout camp. It's not the same here without them, I miss them. I've had time to relax this week and do some things just for me for fun. I have also had time to think about our family life and our situation with homeschooling and to think of a mid-year evaluation of sorts.

I really am happy with how this homeschool year has gone so far, the kids have done four and a half months of serious studies, except for some fears about the adequacy of my older son's high school year. To be fair, his abilities to study and get work done have been hindered due to his medical condition and the two or three half days a week he has to go for treatment challenge us for time, and the therapy tires his brain, literally, on those days so it's hard to get much learning done. I am confident we have our priorities in line with getting his medical treatment as top priority. He wants to keep homeschooling but he is also disappointed he is not doing a full courseload this year, but he's doing all he can given his temporary neurological limitations. Whether we keep homeschooling or start to use school, we may keep him back a grade in order to make up for time lost.

As for my younger son I am thrilled with his academic progress this year but he is lonely socially. He has friends through Boy Scouting that he sees once a week at meeting and who he camps with about once a month but so far time with those friends has not spilled over into seeing them on other weekends or to be together in after school hours on weekdays. I know he would thrive in school socially as he's the type who just likes to be around other kids all the time and prefers being in groups to being by himself. If he had it his way he'd never be alone, he's that type that wants a buddy with him all the time.

When I think of what the best of school has to offer for my younger son, I think he'd like to be around kids all day. On the flip side if the kids are not good kids, if they are a negative influence or if they teach him that learning is stupid and that school sucks then that's not a good thing for my son to learn from peers. I want my son to have a positive outlook about education going into college so he can be on good footing so he can have the career of his choice, one that is challenging to him and something he wants to do (rather than be forced to do some second best option with his secondary education due to slacking off in high school like I did once school burnout set in for me).

I'm so confused! I'm taking things one day at a time but that is not really a good idea when sometimes planning ahead is required. For admissions to private school or magnet schools, the testing and application process starts twelve months ahead of time. If I'm going to wing it about deciding to put my kids into school it would have to be public school. I don't know enough about the public schools in our new town to know if they are something we should feel more convicted to avoid, or if they are just fine places that I shouldn't feel worried about enrolling my kids into.

Update: I phoned a local homeschool mom to ask her for a pep talk and advice. She was a teacher in a local public school here. She boiled it down to this: I can't put my older son in school now as his treatments conflict with regular school attendance anyway. Since my younger son is doing well academically now why make a change, especially in the middle of juggling the running around with my older son. Trying to adjust to new school attendance and help the other son get medical treatment could be too stressful for the family. So, we are going to get our sons together and see if they click and may become friends. Coincidentially, her son was also at the same Boy Scout camp as my sons so that's how we had time to have a phone chat. Well it looks like I'm making one real friend in the homeschool community here.


061dad02-3344-11e1-95ac-000bcdcb2996 said...

I've read your blog for years but never posted a comment because I never use my aol account...but your trajectory has been so similar this year to what happened to us four years ago that I just had to chime in. (We moved from Maine to Texas for dh's job.) I sent my son, my eldest, to public high school: schools of different sizes in culturally different places, and I was not pleased with the result. He is doing well at a small state college now, but had I had any inkling of the effect that school and its attendant peer pressure would have on him, I'd have tried to enticed him to stay home as an interest driven learner, like my daughters. If you'd like to explore the feasibility of a science field trip to our neck of the woods, send a message to my aol email.

Good luck with whatever you decide...I'm sure it will all work out no matter what you decide, because you ARE committed to your sons.


Tina Hollenbeck said...

My bias can be summed up in one sentence: "The worst day of homeschool beats the best day of institutional school. Any day."

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Christine, I am glad you talked to another local mom for support. I think sending a child from homeschooling to school needs to be a thoughtful decision on the part of the whole family, with buy-in on both sides. There is indeed the good and the bad of both situations. And even then, with lots of thoughtful discussionn, the transition is not necessarily easy. I know that when my son asked to attend high school, and we spend months deciding, it was still a shock to deal with it all for him, given his disability. There were many teachers that wrote him off because of it, and others who did not bother with accommodations required in the IEP. It was like having a full time job for me, just keeping up with all of the problems, the weekly calls, homework and all of that. I am not sure I would have done it had I known what it is really like.

I think the issue with you older son makes the decision to continue homeschooling even more important. Not only does his therapy schedule conflict with school, but his exhaustion would be much greater, for there is more to dealing with school than just academics. There is organizational pieces, and relationships with a number of different adults, and all the drama--and high school is drama hell--going on socially with peers. That in itself is exhausting for my son because of his social-communication issues. To transition him into that when he is already dealing with a disability would be really, really hard. He would not be able to hit the ground running, and would quickly fall behind simply because his intellectual stamina is not up to it.

I know the feeling, dwelling on what I need to fix rather than what I have accomplished is part and parcel of my perfectionism. I think you have made the right decision! And even though you have not completely settled into your new life, the cross country move is over, and you now have a chance to learn about your new digs!

Happy New Year!

ChristineMM said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

Especially appreciate those who have been there, done that. Goes to show that there is no simple solution to everything, and everything has its trade-offs.

kat said...


After 8 1/2 years of homeschooling, today is my oldest son's first day at Catholic school. 3 years of fighting him every day to get him to stay on task just wore me out on top of trying to teach 4 others and deal with a toddler.
I think you should take it slowly and it is very likely that homeschooling is the best thing for your family. School, even a good fit academically changes the whole dynamic of a household as we are finding out. Your life rotates around the school, rather than fitting in like other activities. There is no harm in staying put, slowly expanding your younger son's social life (as well as your own). We just moved a great distance (VA to ME) and I have yet to make a friend here. I haven't had the time or opportunity to find other homeschoolers, but it will happen.