It has been a rough year with all the changes with the job, the move, and continued negative effects due to the bad economy's impact on our family.
When I found out a great magnet school with a specialization in my son's area of interest is right in my backyard I thought our reasons for homeschooling had now ended. We never had this option before. Our main reason for homeschooling was educational quality and customization to allow for learning styles and asynchronous development and the use of alternative education methods. Now that my son is 14.5 years old a lot of the asynchronous development issues have passed.
Now that he's in grade nine and on a pre-engineering path the alternative education has been reduced and more traditional schooling and tweaking to our scope and sequence has been done.
Why not just attend the magnet school?
In the last month we discussed this multiple times. Last month was the time when he needed to apply as a "move in" student. There was no guarantee that a single spot would be available for him as the only slots that would open would be if a student left the school.
I was on board with attending the magnet more than my son was, I realized. He did not share my vision. Then I explained why it would be a good thing:
1. They have an excellent academic record.
2. Their students are being admitted to very good schools, some with early admissions.
3. They have lab science classes with great labs and proper facilities, with teachers who love science.
4. They have foreign language classes (another topic that's a challenge for me to teach).
5. He knows a bunch of kids who attend and he'd fit right in. It wouldn't even feel like he was "the new kid".
6. It is a small school and the kids run in smaller circles. They are not lost in a sea. There are about a thousand kids in each class at the public school. Comparing the public school to this magnet regarding size is like apples and oranges.
7. The students rotate through a certain number of teachers and repeat classes with them over the years, which is great.
In the end I did not push onto him what I wanted for him. I let him make the decision. Why?
First, we looked at the application. When my son saw the questions he had to answer, he did not answer the answers that I thought he would. Two of the questions were simple: why they want to attend that school and what they bring to that school community. I could have answered them myself with certain answers but I wanted him to write it himself and for it to come from within and from within him. It clearly became apparent to me that it was not in his heart to attend the school, but it was more in my heart and mind that he apply for admissions. I was shocked.
But with that decision came a promise to cooperate
I think I've shared this before but I have been thinking about it again, so I apologize if this is repetitive for you.
What my son wants for himself is a healthy, well-rested body. He has been through multiple cases of Lyme Disease, had mono, chronic tonsillitis and just had his tonsils and adenoids removed. He recently finished four months of neurofeedback therapy for brain injury from Lyme Disease. Can you blame him for wanting to be healthy now?
He wants to be well-rested. He feels he does not want to do homework until midnight. He does not want to have to get up at 5:30 in the morning to catch the school bus. (If he attended the magnet I actually would have to drive him so I'd suffer too but we didn't discuss that.)
My son wants to have time to do the FIRST Robotics team. He sees how much some of the magnet school students miss full participation due to homework and studying. My son likes participating the level he is now, and he does not want to decrease it which would happen if he had homework and woke up earlier and was tired.
My son wants to continue to do the high school competitive rowing team. He sees the magnet school kids missing practice and regattas due to having school work.
My son wants to stay in Boy Scouts and he has seen the magnet school kids skip meetings or sit on the floor at meetings doing homework, and even doing homework by the campfire at the Scout camping trip.
There are subjects that I cannot teach my son at home that he needs for college prerequisites. Since going to high school would cover those topics, and he's refusing, we needed another option. My son is now willing to take these classes at community college.
The first step to community college enrollment is taking some tests, and passing them. My stubborn son does not want to take the tests or prepare or study for them.
That is exactly why putting everything in a kid's hands is not a good idea.
Even when setting goals themselves, kids do not always want to do the work it takes to actually get there. Before I get harsh on a kid's lack of discipline, I'll give an example: this is not unlike an adult who knows they need to lose weight for health purposes but does not want actually change their eating habits today and procrastinates.
The difference is that we are the parents, we are the adults, and sometimes we need to provide both the guidance and encourage our kids to persevere when they waver due to poor self-discipline. We parents have learned some things in life and we are here to try to help our kids learn positive character traits and skills such as time management.
There is some push and pull between parents and their kids even when trying to help a teen fulfill a goal they set for themselves. This process is also complicated by developmental stages in the teen years and hormone surges and a yearning for independence and self-governance. Teens know what they want but don't always do the right steps to make that happen. Errors in poor judgement due to developmental stages or foggy teen-brain thinking can have lasting negative effects. Parents should try to guide their kids to avoid some pitfalls, some of which cause damage that is irreversable.
Since so much of what we do in our family is based on my children's paths in life, is this not a self-directed education, otherwise known as unschooling? I don't know, and it doesn't matter I guess. Unschooling is just a label. What matters is what you do not what you call what you do.