So Dan and I have been talking about wanting to homeschool our kids since before we were even married. Those conversations were along the lines of “Yeah, not sure if we can pull it off, but it’s something we’d like to do.”
Well, now that we have kids that are approaching the age at which they would start traditional schooling, the question becomes more urgent. So I’ve been looking into it pretty seriously over the last year, researching everything I can about philosophies, methods, resources, tools, legal issues, social groups, etc.
Legally speaking, Virginia is a pretty homeschool-friendly state. We’d have to notify the school district of our intent to homeschool, and starting in first grade, we have to administer annual testing in English and Math. Other than that, there’s no onerous requirements or hoops to jump through. (Please correct me if you know something I don’t about legal stuff).
As far as social issues are concerned, we’re already part of a social network through the Central Virginia Mom’s group, which has a lot of kids the same age as my kids, so they’d have an age-peer group to socialize with. We’ve also hooked up with LyFE homeschooling group, which is a great group of homeschooling families, with different numbers of kids of various ages, and with various different educational philosophies. So they also get to interact with kids that aren’t exactly the same age as them, which I think is valuable. Add in church, the Y, and any sports, or other extracurricular clubs/teams they might become interested in joining, and I think we would be extremely well-covered in the socialization arena.
I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that the quality of education they receive at home will be better than at public school – the very worst outcome is we use the same syllabus and teaching methods, but do it at the pace and level that meets the kids’ needs.
Of course, here in Lynchburg we do have a Catholic school option, and it is one I’d like to look at more closely. But I find it hard to believe that anything in the education or the whole experience they receive there would be enough better than what they would get at home to justify the high price. We can buy a whole lot of materials and take a whole lot of field trips for 6-9K/year – and that would be just for one kid.
So having said all that, have we really decided to homeschool? Not yet, not really. Because the remaining factor to be considered is how the kids actually respond to the homeschooling experience, which we won’t know until we try it. Still, I am pretty sure I know how The Big Kid would respond to public school, and I don’t think it would be a joyful, positive experience. He’s just too sensitive, and too opinionated to do well in that environment, at least at his age. (And I don’t think either of those traits are completely bad and need to be beaten out of him – I think if we can help him get a little bit of a handle on them, they will help him become a really good leader).
So our only official decision at this point is that we are not sending him to public school kindergarten this year. This might end up being “redshirting” and he might end up there in 2013. However, I think this is highly unlikely because I can hardly keep him from learning during the year I’m keeping him home, and since he’s pretty much already mastered most kindergarten material, it’s almost certain he’s going to be well over grade level academically by the time he’s ready emotionally. And that would just cause its own set of problems in a public school setting.
Also, The Little Kid is practically at the same level as his big brother right now. In fact, his reading skills are better than his big brother’s, and he’s only a little behind on everything else. Which means that he’s almost certainly going to blow past grade level by the time he’s old enough for school. Not to mention, he’ll already have a couple of years of unofficial homeschooling under his belt by then, so we should already be familiar with our setup and method choices.
And with the baby already responding appropriately to such purely verbal statements as “the leap pad won’t work unless it’s plugged in” (he found the plug and brought it over and attempted to plug it in), I’m guessing he’s going to be right up there with his brothers in a very short time.
So, this is the current plan:
In august, we send a letter to our school district stating that The Big Kid is not emotionally ready for school, and will not be starting kindergarten this year.
While he’s home during the upcoming school year, we continue to encourage and follow his interests in various subjects, with especial focus on building reading and math skills within those activities, without necessarily following a kindergarten curriculum. The little kids would get similar but possibly even less structured activities.
Shortly into the school year, midway and again near the end, we evaluate where we stand on the ease and effectiveness of a) homeschooling itself, and b) our current instructional methods, and readjust as necessary, in plenty of time to decide on our options for the following year.
If he really really hates it, and is not learning anywhere near as much as we would hope for, we would reconsider all our options and try something else – and that may even include public school.
On the other hand, if he loves it and continues to excel at learning new things, we’ll know we’re on the right track and stick with it.