Have you ever thought about home schooling your child or children? We are just starting this journey and I have decided to share with those of you who may be considering this path.
We have 2 kids, 10 (Brian M) and 9 (Sophia). They are our grandchildren, actually, and we have been raising them since age 2 and 1 respectively. We had been considering home schooling for the last couple of years. But we had concerns, visions of writing and grading lessons, trying to figure out curriculum and lack of socialization for the kids. Not to mention concerns about the subjects which I struggled with, like physics and chemistry, and not knowing how on earth Brian or I would teach these classes.
And then there was the time factor. Often, for 2-parent families, both adults are usually working. For 1-parent families, well, that adult works too! So not only does the “WHEN would a person have time to home school” issue come into play but also the “kids being at home unsupervised” issue exists. Even if you are lucky enough to work from home, as I am, well, you are working, maybe in your pajamas, but your attention is on your work. Our situation is a little different – I work from home, about 30 hours a week, and Brian is retired and runs the household. So time was a factor, but not a major factor as I could arrange my schedule somewhat.
I mean, face it, for many people school is a place where the kids go and not only are they learning but they are with a sitter – supervised and relatively safe. I say relatively safe because we all know what has been happening at schools lately.
And, with two kids, there is benefit in them leaving the house. They develop independence and spend time away from one another (major factor we have discovered – but more on that later). They are also exposed to other ways of thinking that can expand their minds in ways bigger than our world, or so we told ourselves. And of course, socialization with their peers and learning how to work in groups, manage different personalities and form bonds outside the family.
But, for Brian and I, we wanted to not only teach concepts important to us but also to teach them in a Socratic way. What do I mean by that? The Socratic method is using dialogue, based on asking and answering questions, which stimulates critical thinking to draw out ideas and create awareness of underlying assumptions; it is highly effective. For example – teaching history, from an unbiased perspective or science from a broad perspective where the student (and teacher) is always questioning what the information means based on world view of both student and teacher. Unless one is lucky enough to have an instructor who embraces the Socratic form of teaching, this does not generally happen in our academic institutions today.
So, the plan WAS to let both Brian and Sophia finish 5th grade and then make the transition. We thought we would start with Brian since he is 1 year older, get our systems in place, establish a routine, and then a school year later start with Sophia.
But life happens and in our story four things affected our time plan. First, last school year, the teachers in OK went on strike – for so many reasons. They wanted higher pay of course, but they were also asking for better classroom resources, updated books, changes to the teaching day and more. We agreed and supported them every step of the way. But it brought into focus the aforementioned limitations of our public school system.
Second, Sophia had a teacher who did not allow “talking” in class, at all. No discussion, no conversation, just complete quiet. This is completely opposite of what we know to be a conducive learning environment.
Third, the kids only got 15 min for lunch. Who can eat in 15 min? Again, not ok with us and unfortunately not a situation we could change.
Last, and most important, is that both Sophie and Brian were far ahead of their class in comprehension and test scores, yet, they could only be presented with information to a certain level. And the teachers did their best to give them extra work including putting them both in gifted and talented. But even with extra work and the G&T program, they were bored. Kudos to them, their behavior was awesome, and they found ways to adapt, but they wanted to learn more. So we were supplementing at home which just fueled the issue at school.
So we felt we could do it better. And as luck would have it, my brother, Vince and his wife, Katie, had decided to home school their two youngest girls as well. We took the plunge, signed up for Epic Charter Schools, and plan to start on Sept 4.
First thing, the kids were assigned a teacher, Kim (who we were able to request), and who is the same one teaching their cousins. A few weeks before school was to start, Kim came to the house to meet with us, see the home environment, get to know Brian and Sophia a bit, work out a schooling schedule and talk to us about curriculum and their learning fund. One of our major concerns was alleviated immediately – we will not have to write the core curriculum, although we are allowed to supplement (for credit) whatever we wish.
There were many different curricula to choose from and as long as we used one approved by the state, they would earn their high school diploma as if they had attended public school in person. In addition, because Epic is a charter school, approved by the state, they were given a learning fund of $900/each/school year to use for extracurricular activities, computer, YMCA, etc., whatever they need to facilitate their learning. In addition, if they complete through grade 12 with Epic, their first 2 years of college are covered!
So we set up a meeting with Kim and left that meeting with a plan. We:
- chose a curriculum with her guidance
- created a plan to supplement/replace lessons based on our travels and other interests the kids have
- set up a flexible daily schooling schedule (8 am – 12 pm)
- set up weekly meetings with her, every other is to be in person
- scheduled assessment tests so she knows where to start them
- created Google accounts (email, drive and calendar) for independent communication, assignments and a repository for their work
Kim will be available to the kids daily via Skype, chat and email. There are also tutors available by chat on demand if they run into questions or have a hard time with any of the lessons. And, perhaps best of all, we are free to travel as they can complete their work as long as there is internet connection available.
OK, that’s it for this post. Now that you have the background, I will try to document this weekly so you can see how it goes!