I’ve been researching homeschooling for years. As excited as I was to start my kids in school (not one tear when kindergarten began!), I soon realized that once my kids start to read and begin to educate, entertain, and engage themselves (usually around seven), I actually like having them around. I developed a homeschooling plan for a “just in case” scenario. In case the school couldn’t meet their needs, academically, emotionally, or socially. I never wanted to send a kid to school who wasn’t excited to go every day, who wasn’t thriving.
I like the classical approach to education, because when I studied it, mainly from the book “The Well-Trained Mind”, it resonated with how I was already teaching my kids. During the preschool years, children are immersed in language, phonics, books, and play. During elementary school, from grades 1-4, the “grammar” stage gives kids the building blocks for higher learning. Reading is emphasized, because a strong reader can learn the other subjects more easily. Tons of facts and parts are memorized–rules of spelling and grammar, math facts, stories from history and literature, names and descriptions from plants, animals, and the human body. We treat kids like the sponges they are and let them drink from a fire hose of knowledge without necessarily having them make sense of it yet. We give them years of building materials and tools before we start having them create.
We have enjoyed amazing public schools for six years now but I keep seeing a trend that places unrealistic expectations on younger and younger kids. Book reports in first grade. Lots of applied math in the early grades. An emphasis on creative writing without first spending time on basics. Classical education teaches critical thinking, but not until a foundation is established. The middle grades (5-8) are spent analyzing (the logic stage) and the later grades (9-12) emphasize rhetoric–learning to speak and write forcefully and elegantly.
During Gavin’s third grade year I was noticing he was bored a lot, without progressing in the basics. He was given easy math applications, without any drill on multiplication tables. He was writing long summaries of books without correction of grammar or spelling. And during social studies, he was forced keep pace with the the class, even when he wanted to read ahead.
The last straw was when his SAGE class, the two hours a week pull-out class for gifted kids, was cancelled over and over again so the teacher could start testing kindergartners for gifted-ness. Apparently we have to test them in kindergarten now. Gavin was bored during most of school without really learning the basics. So I pulled him out.
After two weeks, I can tell homeschooling will be a challenge (obviously). I have been kind of cruising because it’s almost summer, but we have been doing reading, writing, grammar, spelling, history, and math. The math is more of a review, so if we do this next year I’ll have to find a curriculum I like. We are using Singapore Math workbooks, and they are great for drilling basics but I don’t know how I will like them when I start teaching new concepts. If we continue next year I want to add music (piano, guitar), science, Latin, some kind of art appreciation (because heaven knows I don’t do art).
A cool thing about Washington is homeschoolers are allowed to access any resources from public schools, including classes. Which means Gavin can continue going to SAGE two hours a week. Or science, or PE, or art, or whatever part of the day he’d like to attend. We can borrow any textbooks we’d like (although I can’t imagine what I’d want to use, I haven’t been impressed), and access all the online resources the district pays for.
Mainly, we live within walking distance of one of the best library systems in the country. In fact, on day one of homeschooling, after he had breezed through all the work I gave him, he asked, “Now can I just ride my bike to the library and find some more books to read?” And I was like, “Yes! Do that!” When I checked on him a few hours later, he was curled up in a chair by the giant floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Seattle skyline, and looked like he was enjoying himself immensely.
Megan is happy in school; she has a good group of friends, engaging teachers, and escaped from elementary school before Common Core. And although Ben says he wants to homeschool I’m sending that kid to kindergarten. He still is working on “play nicely with others.” But I think I’ll let Gavin choose what he wants to do next year. So far he says he only misses PE and recess. We were eating lunch together the other day and I asked if he missed eating lunch with his friends. He said, “No, the lunch ladies are mean and don’t let us talk.” So there you go.
Ultimately, I think I could enjoying homeschooling all my kids. I would relish the opportunity to travel as a family whenever we could, to field trip once a week, to watch my kids build stronger relationships with each other. While Christopher has a corporate job, our flexibility as a family is limited, but if he attains his dream of owning a business and working for himself, homeschooling might enrich our lifestyle in ways we can’t know now. In the meantime, one day at a time.