We decided – Amie, DH and I – to homeschool Amie for the coming semester and probably also fifth grade.
We love the school she is going to at present. It’s a smallish (ca. 400 kids) neighborhood K-5 school where kindness really matters, where the teachers are deeply caring and the staff a charm. Amie loves her teacher and her classmates and she is well-liked in return.
But she has been bored and frustrated, as she waits, a lot, Not sitting and waiting, thank goodness, but repeating and repeatedly hearing material she already mastered. Her vocabulary, use of grammar and spelling are at above elementary level and she regularly aces (over-aces, with extra credits) math.
Because everything comes easy to her, her work ethic and work habits aren’t very good. She has no confidence and shuts down when she meets a challenge (something that is only exhibited at home, when she is challenged by cello). She makes a clear and tragic division between (school)work and play.
School has introduced her to topics in science and social studies that interest her a lot, but she was never able to investigate very deeply because so much attention in Fourth Grade goes to Math and Language Arts. She wants to work, but hasn’t had the opportunity to go in-depth on a topic and as a result is losing her intense curiosity.
Now, you might say, why don’t you give her the more stimulating project work after school? Why not enroll her in Kumon Math or what have you? But that won’t work for us or for our kid. She would feel that her time is even more disrespected if we kept her waiting for hours every day (and that kind of waiting is not, by the way, relaxing), then replaced her play time with extra work. On top of that, she’d be even more advanced, more bored in class, which would only exacerbate the problem.
On the topic of having one’s time respected, for a long while we were stumped about her frequent complaint that she doesn’t have enough time in her day. We’ve always guarded against too many extra-curricular activities, so much so that unfortunately sports/physical movement have fallen by the wayside. Still, even though she just has 1 cello lesson and 1 orchestra lesson a week, and even though she doesn’t get a lot of homework, she insists that she never has any time. Where was this coming from? We realized that she means that her time is not valued. This feeling (or rather, fact) of having her time wasted is always present to her and sabotages any attempt at in-depth projects.
At home we can give her individualized attention (something that is difficult in a big classroom) and she can go at her own pace. It is not the intent to accelerate her, but she needs to have more freedom. One of her math curricula, for instance, will be Khan Academy Grade Four. She has already been playing with it and was allowed to pick and chose her modules (addition, multiplication, fractions, etc.), so she is not tied to a linear progression but can skip around.
Also, we’ll free up waiting time for project-based work and for more physical activity to build her physical resilience.
We’re aware that she will be missing out on a certain type of social interaction (working on groups, waiting, taking turns), which at her school was unreservedly positive. We are looking into opportunities to keep her socially engaged – especially crucial because she is, after all, an only child. There are other homeschooling families we’ve already connected with, art classes at the local art museum (especially for homeschoolers), and group sports. Thanks to our wonderful school district, she’ll be able to still go into the school and see her friends at drop-into-art and chorus, and she’ll continue in her school’s strings orchestra.
All this is possible in our home setting (though I do wish we had a school room) and in my own life. As I excitedly tell friends about this amazing development I become more and more aware of the luxuries I enjoy of 1) being qualified and confident and 2) working from home and choosing my work and 3) a relationship with my child that makes this a natural fit. And though she will miss her friends, Amie is also looking forward to it.
We start in January and, as you can see, I’ve already started buying lots of books!