Homeschool Chronicles: coming Home
I mentioned in my last post that the end of summer was a chaotic and stressful time for me. Well, just as several issues hit a crescendo, Aria announced this news: she wished to withdraw from public school.
Now I want to be careful to clarify that I feel public school is an important institution with many caring professionals who do their very best by our children. The public school experience also varies radically from state to district to classroom. Add to that the natural variety in pupils, and it's no wonder that public school is not the best solution for many children. Not all parents want or can homeschool. It happens that I can and I do.
Honestly, my heart sunk when she shared her desire to withdraw. She had good reasons: there was too much time wasted at school and too little available for her to learn. The honors classes were not meeting her needs. "I've been thinking about this, mom." She was right. I just didn't want it to be true. Especially with the new work I've added to my schedule, I just didn't want to add more responsibility to my plate.
She shared her thoughts on the last Friday of September. I was mostly in denial that day, but by Saturday was busy researching new options and by Monday was enrolling her in new programs. Yes, it would have been so much easier for public school and public funds to meet her needs, but if that's not possible I feel a responsibility and drive to step up as her parents and make it happen some other way.
Homeschooled most of this year. Struggled to teach Aria algebra at her level, even though Brandon and I are mathy. Excellent online classes are available, but pricey. We'd already been doing them for science, her favorite subject. Put her in public school at the end of 6th grade so she could get testing that would allow her to be placed in 7th grade honors classes.
Completed two months at award-winning public school. Positives: chorus class, Mathcounts (competitive math club) and social learning. Negatives: no science club, no challenging core classes, excessive time wasted, no Mandarin offering (her chosen foreign language), drains energy for independent learning and other positive after school activities.
Now that she's returned to homeschool, she's joined Science Olympiad (competitive science club), an online Art of Problem Solving higher math class, started a high school fiction writing curriculum, resumed her Mandarin studies and she can continue going to Mathcounts, since it's an afters school club.
And get this - Aria and I made a detailed plan for 7 - 12th grade. I know that sounds crazy, but it actually gave both of us soooo much clarity. We already knew she was aiming to attend Governor's School of Science and Math, a state-funded boarding school for 11-12 grade students who qualify. Taking a detailed look at their course offerings and prerequisites helped us to understand that she wants to complete a number of AP classes before going to Governor's School and should go ahead and start accumulating high school credits now, since she is doing high school level work.
I had been resistant to giving her high school credit for anything prior to high school because I didn't understand the point. I am heartily against her graduating early, because I graduated from high school at 16 and feel it was a disadvantage. However, now I see that giving her high school credits in middle school will allow her to take classes in high school at her level. Ah!
We might try a local public magnet school for 9-10 grades. Actually, we're heading over their today to get a feel for it and find out if they can accommodate her goals. Aria's not very into it, but I want to make sure we consider all the options! I'd love to see her be challenged by real teachers in real life as soon as possible.
And What it Means for Me
Well, I guess you can see why I used the words "chaotic and stressful" to describe recent weeks. We really are getting to a better place now. Aria's been home for two weeks and it's been lovely to have her around again. We all agree it was the right decision.
But all of this makes me uncomfortable on a few levels. Of course I am proud of her, SO proud of her. She works hard, works smart and has wonderful goals. I guess I'm uncomfortable with admitting that public school has so far failed her. I hate what that means for other kids with fewer options. I'm also working to accept that she is... academically gifted. It's a label I have avoided. I believe that most all people are gifted in some way. So I choose to say "academically gifted" to clarify that her blessings happen to be testable. And she was tested. Her test results were way beyond great into the shockingly great category. She's joined the Duke TIP program for "kids like her" and will be taking the SAT this December as a diagnostic tool. Although we are trying not to put any pressure on it, the truth is that her SAT results could open some doors for her.
Anyways, there are other things, but it begins to sound like bragging for sure. The point is this is an adjustment for all of us. I'm grateful that her public school experience gave us new perspectives, got her involved in Mathcounts and provided important social learning. As my dad wisely says, "No learning is wasted."
Wow, this was a very long post and probably more than you bargained for! If you've read this far, thanks so much for your interest and support. It's really special to have these chronicles to look back upon, and I hope they are also helpful for a few who are finding their own paths.