This year, with Biwa in fourth grade and Shane in second, things were going quite smoothly for us at home. The boys were progressing well in their academics: grammar, math, geography, history, French, bible, spelling, reading, and piano. My daughter, Tavi was enrolled in our local public school kindergarten, which made her very happy. She had new friends, two girls she adored, and the schedule worked for us, as she started each school day at 11:00.
But I was insecure. This is the plague of home schoolers everywhere, I believe. Were they learning enough?
A friend of mine (a former home schooler), had her kids at a classical Christian academy about a half hour from us, and was encouraging me to explore this school as a possibility for my boys (and not just because she wanted a car pool buddy!) My insecurity got the better of me and after consulting the headmaster I enrolled the boys in their hybrid program: Monday-Tuesday, school at home with the curriculum provided, and the last three days of each week spent at school.
It seemed like a perfect solution! It lasted for eight weeks.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had my answer –my validation – the day before the boys began, when they were assessed. I warned the headmaster although Shane was excelling in math, being a full grade level above second grade, but in reading he was remedial, being that his reading was not fluent. His reading level was an assumption on my part – I somehow couldn’t imagine he was better than grade in both reading and math!
The headmistress came back to me after meeting with Shane and said he was reading at a fourth grade level, and I said, “So… I’m the one with the problem?” Tears sprung to my eyes. I wasn’t a terribly lousy teacher, after all!
Of course, the story doesn’t end there, because I still enrolled the boys. They attended for those eight weeks, and over that time my aggravation with the “system” grew. As good a job as the educators there were doing, I realized Shane was no longer at liberty to pursue his mathematics to his heart’s content. Now he was on a treadmill, along with his entire class. When I went in to discuss his performance at school, the teacher’s comments focused on how well he behaved in class. This is not my main concern, frankly. Biwa started to come home with this oldest-child attitude again, belittling and teasing his younger siblings. I won’t bore you with the details of my frustration with the Internet delivery system for the homework, which was faulty at best to a perfectionist like myself. Finally, the curriculum was not, as I had imagined in my miasmic insecurity, tremendously better than my own!
Oh, and if I had to have one more discussion about the carpool schedule, which was more complicated than the health care bill, I knew it would be the final straw on my sanity.
I determined to pull them back out again, and told them about it. Strangely, they took it in stride. They were curious, of course, but I think the whole waking up early, making their lunches, organizing books and hour minimum travel each day was aggravating them, too. On their last day of school, Shane bounded into the kitchen to announce, “Mommy, I’m so happy today is my last day of school!”
As we settled back into our old routine, Shane began complaining that he didn’t understand his math. Me, mystified: Where did that come from? Shane, crying: It’s too hard for me! Me: Of course it isn’t. You’re brilliant in math. Let’s do it together.
I can’t say exactly what at school had made him fear math, although I will say the text they used was about four inches thick, and a book that size would put me on edge. It took us about six weeks to undo it, so Shane would enjoy his math work again. I’m still working with Biwa not to bully his siblings with derogatory comments and controlling behaviors. But the boys are happier at home, and I’m happier to have them here. Biwa often asks to be woken at six, so he can be done with school before nine!
Ultimately, I’ve learned my lessons: I’m just not really a team player when it comes to the education of my children – I can’t outsource my kids’ care – and I don’t have to, because I am an effective teacher.
I finally received the validation I craved, so I can relax now (sort of). Our kids’ education is so important, and so many little things can affect them at this tender age. I am incredibly happy to know that I can supervise and protect them myself, and help them grow into responsible, fearless young adults. And it’s enough.