Thursday, April 19, 2007

spring slump

A friend is going through a difficult patch right now in terms of thinking of putting her children in public school. I want to reply to her concerns, but share my thoughts with a wider audience. Her experience is similar to what many of us go through each winter when it feels like we haven't taught the kids anything and we still have miles left to go in our school year.
I am really struggling with some homeschooling decisions for next year. Let me give you the "status quo": I have 2 boys: 4th and K. This is our third year of hsing. Oldest ds went to ps for K and 1. We started hsing him at grade 2. I have never been the "picture perfect" hser. I've never felt totally excited about doing what we do. It is the best option for us and that is why we hs.
...So I have been debating what to do with ds who will be in 5th grade next year. He is a bright kid, but doesn't always want to apply himself. He is also very sensitive and peer oriented and I am afraid that school for him would become more about the social stuff (which is what happened last time) that the academics. I don't think ps is the best route for him, but then I am burnt out.
...DS has a huge heart for God, reads stories about the saints and the CCC for fun, kwim? I have thought of Seton for him next year, but to be honest, I am feeling very burnt out right now. Then today I got back ds's test scores for his standards and he didn't do very well this year.
...Maybe this is just a token of how this whole year has been, sub par and just getting by, and that's what I don't want education to become for him.
First thing I would do is make lists of the positives and negatives about homeschooling and compare the two. The positive one will certainly be much longer. Then get our some recent homeschool catalogues and look through them. Read ahead to the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade book offerings and see if you get a tiny bit more excited about learning these subjects with your son. Go to the library and find books that show homeschooling in a positive light and read these to get yourself more jazzed up. Another souce of pep talks might be tapes from a homeschooling conference.
Write a list of why you are homeschooling and keep it on the fridge, on the child's planning book, or on your bathroom mirror. #1 on the list should be: "I am homeschooling to raise saints!" Perhaps some other reasons would be to give them a top-notch education, to learn morals and values from family, to spend quality time with siblings, to be able to attend daily Mass, and to learn Catholic history.
I would lose the I-can't-do-it-perfectly-so-therefore-I-can't-homeschool guilt; you have a fine son who helps his parents, is kind, polite, and empathetic. None of us are perfect, I certainly run our school like a drill instructor with a crop of fresh recruits more days than I would like to admit. Little boys are tough to teach, that is why schools like to drug them to keep them passively in their seats.
I would pare down the workbooks to the bare minimum, not add any extra assignments than what is required and spend lots of time reading aloud to him. Will is facinated these days about WWII and read The Battle of Britain Landmark book in just 3 days. Find out what your son wants to learn about and get library books, see movies, listen to audio tapes/CDs about whatever topic he picks. Volcanos, earthquakes, classical music, pottery, war, explorers, machinery, chess, art, ships, airplanes... the list is endless. They learn an incredible amount and it turns school into an enjoyable experience again.
Write down some ideas for what he needs to review this summer. If you spend a few hours a week working on math facts, by September they will be down pat and he will be ahead of the game. Spend 30 minutes a day working on art projects, or science experiments, or whatever you feel he has neglected this past year.
Don't give up on homeschooling because you hit a rough patch, move, a family member gets sick, or all of the above happens at once. God has called some of us to this path and he will sustain us if we trust in Him, pray and try our hardest. The Blessed Virgin Mary told St. Bernadette she would not have an easy time of it in this life and homeschooling reluctant learners is likely our greatest challenge. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and set yourself back on the road with a confidence that only comes from following God's will.


chickadee said...

great advice!

Anonymous said...

Well, it sounds like she doesn't really want to homeschool. Why not try public school for him? He might really like it and it might be a nice break for her. Besides, not all schools want to drug little boys (I have one and we have never been approached to drug him). She can homeschool him with religious education if she likes.