To Home School or Not?

Such a loaded question. Such a life changing answer. I’m considering taking the leap in Jan or maybe sooner.  I’m a planner,so let’s get real here, I’m not going to just jump in before planning it all out, even if Alena’s current class situation is making us all miserable……………I want to be able to teach her all the fundamentals she will need to continue her education wherever we go in whatever school she may end up if home school isn’t working for us. But I also want to teach her marketable real life skills that will propel her ahead of the pack, help her shine, and make her adult life easier to transition to.

Do I have a degree in teaching. No. Do I think I can get Alena to focus and listen to me, and teach her everything while making sure the twins don’t kill themselves trying to climb the walls. Maybe…. Do I think I could get Alena involved enough in Co-ops and rec sports to keep her social skills maturing? I have no idea.

Here is my entire thought process on to home school or not?!?!

Pro’s

  • I control the material being taught.
  • I control the speed and length  of lessons
  • I pick the type of activities used to teach the lessons
  • Mother/daughter bonding time
  • Unit studies with different levels for all the kiddos while having one main topic.
  • No Peer Pressure or inappropriate playground talk
  • Possible early graduation
  • More time available for extracurricular activities and opportunities  to volunteer
  • Like mind co-op opportunities and life long relationships
  • No bullying or damage to self-esteem by mean kids in school.
  • Home school works well with the army life of moving frequently, sometimes to areas that don’t have the best schools, or even nearby schools if located near major training posts.
  • Freedom for random travel, and ability to make traveling to different cities part of her educational experience instead of just a trip she took one year.
  • Less school time over all since she currently goes to school for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. In TN she will go for 4 hours a day, 180 days a year or 720 hours total accountable lesson hours.
  • Field trips count for learning time. Random fun trips to the zoo, museums, plays, and other cultural places and events now becoming learning destinations.
  • Emotional Freedom from bullies, trying to fit in, making friends, staying away from the bad friends, damage to self-esteem from mean girls and other common social issues that affect social development. They live in the real world, where lives aren’t dictated by adolescent trends and dangerous experimentation.  She will be able to live in the real world without having to follow every teenage trend or exploitation which in recent years some are dangerous.
  • Busy work will no longer be worksheets, but chores that teach housekeeping skills.
  • Well rested kids and the flexibility to move  school hours around appointments, sickness, and other events.
  • Freedom to mix teaching styles and curriculum to ensure the most well-rounded approach

Con’s

  • Fighting, drama, tears, stand still in learning due to the emotions of an 8-year-old and 32-year-old…
  • Am I qualified
  • Lack of “normal” school peer social development and experiences
  • There is so much information and ways to home school, it’s overwhelming
  • Bad days at school make worst days at home, no escape.
  • Planning and organizing is very time-consuming.
  • Organizing and keeping records for the state and for your child’s future can be a part-time job if you don’t set up systems to handle the paperwork right in the beginning.
  • Materials and curriculum can get expensive.

The Student in Question

I have always been very hands on in teaching Alena-Beana. She has a high aptitude for Meet Alena-Beanalearning and if she is willing, she picks up and masters things on the first try. She was reading sight words around 3, and figuring out math before kindergarten. I loved her desire to know everything, she was a mini me and I tried to give her all the knowledge her little head could soak up. Well…. As she started getting older, more dramatic, more independent and a teacher replaced me as her main source for education, teaching her became frustrating to say the least.

So to home school or Not?

Common Core Woes

Common Core math is the CRAZIEST STUPIDEST LONGEST way to do elementary math. If you have to send your teachers to a class to teach them how to teach 2nd graders how to add and subtract in a “new, easier” way, you might be an idiot.common-core-math-problem

The irony of common core is it was meant to make things easier for students and to build a foundation of understanding instead of rote memorization in the hope that upper level abstract concepts would become more intuitive to the students. As with many things that seek to make the complicated less complicated, it failed. Sometimes doing the long way makes out the shortest way in the long run, which is what education is, a long run.

Since Alena does not do well with trying to figure out the common core “short cuts” but does awesome with rote memorization, I feel it is best to give her the time she needs to build her foundation in a way that she will grow and advance with instead of trying to make it easier with pictures and blocks that don’t exist in the real world when she will need to be able to compute basic math in her head to survive.

Social Development

This has always been a tricky one with Alena. When she was little she hung out with adults.  I never talked to her like a baby and I treated her like a mini adult to a large extent. She always was very friendly and loved to play with others. She was outgoing, but still polite and  very well-mannered when she started school. The teachers loved her vocabulary and maturity, but that sometimes hindered her finding a friend on the same level.

Then it happened. The attitudes of the other kids started shaping hers. She started whining, fighting, and being dramatic. It was almost an overnight thing that would continue to shape and transform my little girl for 3 years as she figured out her role in a classroom, in a group of peers, and around teachers. Teachers loved her, and the kids, well they didn’t know what to do with her and would push her around or leave her out. It bothered me, but I used it as teaching moments for her character, morals, and core values. She did have a lot of the kids like her, just didn’t have close friends until last year. Of course this year they would be separated and her best friend moved away to Texas. How can I homeschool and still make sure my child gets socialization?

One of the biggest fears of parents considering home school is how can I still teach my child the ropes of social interactions so they will be able to form, maintain and grow relationships as an adult and function in society as a valuable well-rounded respected citizen. I have read a lot of articles and some books on the topic about how home school children perform in the real world beyond college. Home schooled adults against their public school peers are more likely to succeed while being more confident, and willing able to handle situations without the approval of someone, or some group. They’re more independent  and ambitious in their careers and their lifestyle choices.

If you really think about it, your personality is pretty well set when you are a little toddler, and you simply spend your years growing up trying to find people like you. In the school system, that may mean some kids try to change themselves to fit in, which is never ideal. Take away that pressure and you have a person who is able too grow up and really get to know themselves without worrying about the opinions of the cool kids at the lunch table. They are more willing and want to seek out people like them instead trying to find the group that doesn’t get picked on.

There is also a plethora of activities, groups, co-op’s and sports geared towards home school children. Also socialization doesn’t always mean you have to be around other people, you could do plenty of lessons at home about conflict management, working as a team, etc before putting your child in the situations so they would be better prepared to handle the different personalities they will encounter in life. In fact, I think it made me better to be able to keep them home and teach those things to them before they get thrown into things they are not ready to handle. What can I say, I’m a momma bear.Raising children brings out your inner momma bear

Home School Process

Legal

So now since I have talked myself into homeschooling, how do I get started? First place to gather your information and requirements for your state is HSLDA: Home School Legal Defense Association. It is your one stop shop for all legal information regarding the rights and requirements for each state concerning homeschooling families.

HSLDA Pages and topics for homeschooling families and advocatesAbove is the broad range of topics the HSLDA covers  as well as the outreach programs they have available for homeschooling families.

The first step in figuring out what you need to do is to click on your state and check the requirements. There are 50 different states, and 50 different laws, but most are pretty similar so for those who move often such as military families. You shouldn’t worry too much about major differences across state lines.

For example in TN your child must attend 180 days a year for 4 hours a day. You can pick what days, and how many hours a day as long as you hit the total goal of 720 hours for the school year. You can start your year whenever you want, take whatever breaks you want and teach whatever you want. There is mandatory testing in 5th, 7th, and 9th grade. You must withdraw from the school system and fill out a letter of intent to the school board in the county in which you live. You must also have at least a high school diploma or GED. TN is a GREAT state to home school in.

Some other states however require certain standards and testing for those standards, require records of your curricula, grades, etc to ensure your child is receiving the education they need. I personally believe that most parents that take on home school, are the type over teach, and that is a big reason why on average home school children do better on standardized testing comparisons to public school children. The individualized teaching a parent is able to give just can not be replicated in a classroom no matter how great the teacher, or how low the child teacher ratio.

Home School Method/ Style

Once you have figured out the requirements of your state and filled out the paperwork, it’s time to decide your method of teaching. Here are a few that are common.

School-at-Home

Unit Studies

“Relaxed” or “Eclectic” Homeschooling

Unschooling

Classical Homeschooling

The Charlotte Mason Method

The Waldorf Method

Montessori

Multiple Intelligences

DVD/Video Schooling

Internet Homeschooling

I will be trying out eclectic first. It is a mix of multiple approaches. I believe it will give me enough control, while also giving me plenty of support and pre planned materials with lesson plans. No need to try to reinvent the wheel, use what is out there, just pick what is best for your family while doing it. The amount of available resources for you to buy, rent, use, download is mind-blowing. No reason to ever say you can;t find something to use to teach your children something. I think I may even learn a lot to on this journey. I know my history and world geography could use some major refreshing as well as new learning.

Find Homeschool Groups and Co-Op’s

Being home with your children more can’t get lonely, frustrating, and tiring. It is important to remember you don’t have to sit at a desk all day and follow a traditional school approach. It is more than acceptable to get out and go on field trips, go on nature walks, volunteer,Homeschool Activities  find crafting groups, sign up for lessons of some sort, or even just drop the kiddos off at a Gym for some social time and physical fitness. You are not the beginning and end of your child’s learning. It takes a village to raise them, and to teach them how to be an adult. It’s not something they become one day when they turn a certain magic age.

Homeschool groups are popping up everywhere now. There are big ones, small ones, specific interest ones, religious ones, home school style based ones, location-based one, neighborhood ones, community ones, military ones, etc etc etc.

The library is a great place to find out the info of where  groups meet, what do they do, and how to find them. Facebook is also a GREAT place to search for groups. I’m not a big fan of getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people. I am so busy every day and I feel that new friendships deserve time to grow, therefore I just shy away from them.That and I really love my lifelong sisters I already have even if we are all hours apart now. I do think it is important to have Alena involved in other groups that can broaden her view of the world, teach her a skill I do not have, give her little friends to have other and play with, and all the other good learning lessons that come with making new friends with people of different backgrounds, ages, and culture.

So in order to give Alena the best well-rounded approach to home school, I will be getting my own lessons in getting out of my comfort zone, which in turn will show Alena that life happens outside of what is comfortable.

Patience

I am so Type A, I think I could be used in a study to be an example of what it looks like. My patience is barely more than a toddler’s resistance to touch glass. I want to make plans, and go fast. Everything I have read about starting home school states that the first year is the hardest. Reminds me a lot of the advice for the first year of marriage, which was easy for us even with moving away from my hometown of 30 years pregnant with twins with a little girl with a broken arm. I think despite my impatience, that my aptitude and tenacity for making things work, and making them work better than expected will be a driving force in finding our home school niche.

My biggest struggles are going to be:
  1. Listening to Alena. What she is saying, what her work is saying, and what she is not saying. I’m so busy pushing, sometimes it is hard for me to hear what I’m missing.
  2. Getting her to respect me as her teacher and not as her mom doing school hours.
    1. Making sure I don’t put too much on her just because she is smart and I want her to get ahead. Being ahead is not the main goal. Being AQS2well-rounded, and having a childhood she remembers fondly is. I want her to enjoy being a kid, and develop a love for learning and not get burned out because momma pushed too hard. I’m a natural slave driver I know….
  3. Balancing my life with planning her lessons. I am bad about over booking myself and setting high expectations of what I want to do. I am my worst critic and I always want to do more, do it faster, and do it better.

To Home School or Not?

Home school is not as scary or hard as I thought it was. It isn’t just for hippies or devout religious families. It can be anything you make it be for your family. I truly feel it will be the best fit for my family both in our lifestyle with the military moving us around, and for the future success of my children. I’m so thankful it is an option for our family since I stay home, but even working parents make it work.

The hours required for home school are so much less than traditional school, not to mention the time you will save from getting them ready to go, transportation, homework, extra school events, the time you actually spend more time for traditional school than home school.

There are online schools that are take the planning and teaching out of your hands so you can be the learning coach and there for one on one help but you aren’t having to figure out the ropes of curriculum and taking all the time to plan your lessons.

There are plenty of ways to socialize your child other than a traditional school setting. There are groups of all kinds for you to reach out and get help from. You are not alone, homeschooled stick together and help each other more than traditional school PTA’s. Then there is the internet; where you can look up anything, find someone somewhere who has went through what you are going through, can answer your weirdest questions, or just be an ear to hear your story.

Even if you have decided home school isn’t right for you, you can use the resources to help your child do better in school. At the end of the day the thing that matters most about education, is that they are getting it and that a love of learning is being fostered.

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To Home School or Not?
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