Friday, November 7, 2008

I'm drinking the last of my cider!  Nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!  It's hot and spicy and yummy and tangy and I want moooooorrrrrrree!  It's a bit more chilly today--62--when I was outside a little while ago.  Whew!  It being 76 yesterday, it didn't seem right to be drinking hot cider, but I couldn't resist the temptation any longer and, well, 62 has to be cold enough.

Enough of my weaknesses!  I'm supposed to blog about homeschool this week, and since it's Friday, I guess today's the day.  Oh, but I guess that brings up another of my weaknesses though: Procrastination.  My daughter claims that it is not a weakness.  It is a strength, she says, because she is always in denial.  What a silly child!  She's amazing, but silly!  I would know because I spend a lot of time with her, since she is doing school at home with me.  How's that for a segue?  Now we are officially talking about homeschool.

Mine has doubled to 2 whole students--up from only 1 last year.  Sandy, beware, you have to keep Johnny away from this post.  He can't know that David is being homeschooled!  (That would be my nephew who has been begging for homeschool for a long time.)

I have been so frustrated with the school system for so long.  I keep holding out hope that it will work for us, but in the end, I'm finding teaching these two children at home makes them and me much happier and helps them like their work better.  I'll grant you that teaching Elizabeth math at home has not made her love it.  She still hates it, actually, but she is back to loving the things that she was starting to hate because of school:  history, literature, writing, and science.   She enjoys them again. When I asked her what the best parts of having homeschool were she said:  more time to read and sleep (the middle school here has the tardy bell at 7:25AM) and write. 

Let me quote for a moment my brilliant daughter.  "Homeschool is not right for everyone.  Side effects include:  extra sleeping, musical addictions, and an increased amount of time and flexibility in your schedule, but there is a lack of social involvement and your mom gets to nag at you all day long!"  (Thanks Elizabeth!  Very well stated!)

Here's the thing though with the nagging.  I did so much more nagging when the kids were in school than now that they are home with me.  It was all about homework.  (See my blog about homework for my take on that if you haven't already.) The nice thing for me is that they know the things they have to do, and they are free to do them on their own schedule.  Plus, they are doing them when they are fresh and not tired from a long day of school.
When I asked Elizabeth what she had to do today.  She volunteered Math first up.  (Which she hates worse than torture remember.)  I didn't even have to nag.  If it had been homework from school, I not only would have had to nag, but threaten, stand over her, and continually refocus her to do it.  

With homeschool she is the master of her own destiny, and that works for her.  I think one of the things she hated most at school was the lack of control over what she did.  She always wanted to know the purpose for an assignment.  Was it to help her learn the words?  She would argue that the assignment was a waste of her time because she already knew the words.   She would much rather spend her time reading a book that she hadn't already read 5 times or learning words she already knew.  I had to agree.  There was the problem with so much of it.  I agreed with her arguments.  Her points were compelling.  It was so hard to make her do the assignments when I saw how inane they were.  "Because the teacher said to do it" was not an adequate reason.

The places where I felt the school system failed her was in the areas where she is strongest--where she could really excel.  In fifth grade they had mandated vocabulary lists that were required on a state level (maybe national level--I'm not sure exactly where the edicts were coming from). By Christmas I had grown so frustrated with her unwillingness to do the vocab homework that I went and talked to her teacher about someway to deal with this issue.  Her lack of homework was bringing her grade down even though she knew all the words.  As we were talking, he said that there was a whole group of kids in the same situation as Elizabeth--they already knew most of the words in the lists too.  He felt it was important for her to learn the responsibility of doing the work.  I told him that I wasn't trying to get her out of work.  What I was looking for was a list of words that would actually increase her vocabulary--words she didn't already know.  It was like a revelation to him and he thought it was a great idea.  He decided that students who got an A on the Monday pretest could have a different, more advanced vocabulary list for the week.  

Elizabeth was so excited when she came home with a list of words she actually had to study.  Her eyes sparkled and she was enthusiastic about learning them.  She sat right down and started working on them.  No argument. (Shock! Shock!)  I was so happy that she was doing her work without having to be prodded to death.  Other parents liked the new vocab lists and the other students felt good about it too.  There was real learning going on for all the students.  Those who didn't already know the original list learned it and those who already did know the words got a more challenging list.

Guess how long the advanced vocab lists lasted.  Three weeks!  That's it!  So much for creativity and innovation.  So much for students being challenged to really learn!  The teacher was given grief from the district and, as I understand it, was reprimanded for not following the standard protocol--the vocabulary lists were mandated, and he wasn't allowed to deviate from the program.  It was back to drones doing work they already knew how to do.  All the joy and enthusiasm for vocabulary got sucked out as well. 

So often our schools don't teach our children to think and know things.  They teach them how to obey and be compliant.  They are teaching the brightest students that drudgery is the key to success.  That is just not the lesson I want my children learning from school.

At that moment, I lost most of my faith in the school system.  I'm not trying to say that it's all about public school failing our kids.  In fact, that public school that the kids went to at that time is a really good one with awards and teachers of the years and all.  There were a lot of great things going on there.  Things that I loved.  I just felt that the teachers and administration had their hands tied by federal mandates, etc.  What's a mom to do?  

So the next year when we moved (with my husbands job) I decided to put all the kids in a private school thinking this would solve those problems.  Some solved--others created.  

      to be continued...



Lioness said...

Yay! First post!


Seriously! Most teachers are perfectly happy to accommodate the needs of their students. It's the big bosses that you need to watch out for! GRAAAH! My brain was about to explode with the boredom! I can't say that homeschool solved every conceivable obstacle, but it solved so many!

spinregina said...

Great ideas; thanks for sharing! We're not at that stage yet, and I have no idea what the difference is in Canada...we'll see. About the math; there is some system that apparently works like magic - it's in parts of Canada. It's called JUMP - if you Google JUMP math the site comes up.

lotusgirl said...

I'll have to check out that JUMP math site. That sounds interesting.