You can’t say you weren’t warned.
Also, it will be long. So there’s that too.
Every year we discuss the pros/cons of continuing to homeschool vs kids going back to public school. It usually happens around March/April because that’s typically when we send in our end of year report/assessment/etc for the state (we have a state with relatively “high” requirements for homeschooling, see me for why it’s still a bunch of busywork bullshit, maybe a blog post someday…).
For new followers, this is a brief history of school for my kids:
Oldest went to public K and started 1st. He made it until just into October before he was DONE and we decided to homeschool. He then stayed homeschooling until January of his 4th grade, through until just after Halloween of his 5th grade year.
Middle kid went to public K too, 2 years after my oldest. There were some changes in standards that happened in that time and I found myself baffled after finding out they were teaching persuasive essays in kindy. To kids that could barely (if even at all) read. It was…something. She never went to 1st at all, and when given the chance to homeschool with her older brother, jumped at the chance. When we got to 3rd grade year she decided (and I helped her decide) she would try the local public school again. My oldest was attending for that section of his 5th grade year so they rode the bus together etc. She, too, lasted until just after Halloween and has been home since.
My youngest has been attending half day Pre-K at the local school. I am not too worried about any choices about him just yet. So at least there’s that.
So there’s the background.
Here we sit, facing the fall. My oldest’s 8th grade and my middle’s 6th grade year. Honestly, I can’t think of any other decision that’s confused me in such a way. Which I suppose is either a testament to how easy I’ve had it when it comes to facing tough choices or to how good I usually am at making a choice in any given situation, perhaps a bit of both.
To be helpful, both kids are also 100% sitting on the fence. Not even sitting, superglued there, just like myself.
When it comes to why, well. It’s complicated. Where I am homeschooling there’s not a lot of options for older homeschoolers. There’s maybe two or three options and all are extremely expensive and not really activities my kids would be into. We have tried numerous things over the years have yet to find one that they try for a year and go on to do another year of. Field school, theatre, art days, etc. None of it sticks. They don’t really make any connections with other kids, whether that just be the nature of them or the nature of the programs or the other kids in the programs…no idea. Not once in all the years of activities have we been given a number for hanging out later nor have my kids wanted to give our contact into to anyone else. This also counts for many, many summer camps (not homeschool related in any way) with the longest being 2 weeks for my oldest and a full month-long one for my middle.
At public school my oldest was invited to one friend’s house and they hung out here practically every weekend playing video games…until he moved away. Then he made one more friend but hasn’t seen/talked to him in awhile, probably just the result of neither kid being in the same place they were when the friendship started.
My middle, though, even in that couple of months she was in 3rd grade, made a very strong friendship with three other girls. We see them here and there and she chats with them online etc. They visit as schedules allow during school breaks etc. Summer camps are planned with each other, it’s a thing. Even still being homeschooled, it’s held, which I am glad for because those girls are all awesome.
School here, for grades 6+, starts just after 7am. The bus comes at 6:35 meaning wake up time is 6am. When I was a teenager and school started at 8am, there was talk of how even that was too early for the teen brain, that they literally wouldn’t learn anything that early. The research still HEAVILY supports that, but apparently the local district decided to double down and make it even earlier. *shrug* Why not, right? After an early bus ride and early start to the day there’s 23 minutes for lunch and that’s it until school is out at 2pm, with bus drop off around 2:20/2:30 in the afternoon. When they come home it’s expected, per the student handbook, that there be 60-80 minutes of homework, because nothing says “just spent 7 hrs at school doing what the teacher said” quite like another 1-1.5hrs more homework, right?
There are some (okay, like a fucking lot) that say they should adjust to, “the real world” and just deal. Okay, I get that, but how often does the real world involve being in a room, listening to one person for 7hrs a day, with only people your age? Even in college classes don’t start until 8, you will have students of various ages (all the way from high school to the elderly), and you only have, at max, 18 credit hours a semester. That’s not 7hrs a day with no break except 23 mins for lunch. What about the working world? Well, typically there’s at least SOME choice as to what hours you want to/are able to work and in most cases white collar jobs are 9-5 *and* you get breaks and a proper lunch and work with people of all ages, cool huh?
So, clearly I have issues with the public school when it comes to schedules, but you know what I can’t give them here homeschooling? I can’t give them a school filled with over 500 (I think?? Maybe even more?) students from various demographics. Poor, rich, black, white, disabled, refugee, etc etc. The homeschool community locally, by and large, is middle class white families. People that can typically survive, comfortably enough to manage purchasing curriculum/finding curriculum on a one income salary. Sometimes the homeschooling parent also has a side job, and some of the families are *very* frugal to make it work, but most of them are just like our family when it comes to economics, race, and age.
When it comes to actual education, well…that’s when things get tricky too. I know, without a doubt, that I can give them far more chances to explore their interests here at home. My oldest? Super into coding. There are no options here for him to code at his level in his age group. There are men and women working the tech field now that don’t know some of the shit he knows now. I take no credit for this, this is not bragging, it’s all his work and I understand none of it. Homeschooling has allowed him the freedom and the time to explore these things. My middle? She loves arts and crafts. She is constantly coming up with projects to do and paintings to paint. She’s also a voracious reader. I read a lot when I was a kid and she puts even kid-me to shame. Homeschooling has allowed her ample time for all these projects and to enjoy the adventures in Septimus Heap, The Warriors, and all manner of other books she can get her hands on. I believe she’s hovering just below 40 books so far in 2019. It’s April. And this is on top of her other schoolwork, which is largely reading books…
Schools often don’t cover other important life skills. Cooking, bills, balancing checkbooks, credit scores, taxes, managing money, etc.
But you know what? There’s also something to being taught science by a teacher that, like, learned science. Could I teach myself the science needed to teach my kids? Absolutely, I’ve taught myself countless things since leaving school (true fact, I graduated high school *and* have my BA without having EVER taken biology. Cool, right? Or maybe not so much).
My oldest is also not so great at what we call, “people-ing”. It’s not that he isn’t great with people, quite the opposite, he’s quite happy to talk to anyone about any of his interests. What it means is that day after day, week after week of listening in class, ignoring all the other stimuli, staying on task, plus putting on the “face” that is expected at school, plus navigating the minefield of social stuff is just 100% draining. He comes home 100% worn out. Where some would say, “Oh he’d adjust”, the answer is no. He wouldn’t. He has always been and will likely always be like this. All adjusting means is learning to put on that face that he’s *not* overwhelmed, stressed out, and completely uncomfortable and keeping it there longer. I want better than that for him. I’ve lived it. It sucks. And, again, it’s not real world stuff, it’s a situation you only really encounter in school. Even in open office environments most people are working on their own for a great deal of the day.
I know my kids well enough to know that if they went to public school full time that their interests and passions would have to fall by the wayside. There would be homework to contend with and exhaustion from being up way earlier than science says kids this age should be (or would have been if they went to school when I did/where I did). There is only so much to give, and if you spend it all, it’s gone. It’s not a matter of just sending them to school and then letting them keep learning here at home during breaks or after school. It’s gone.
At the same time? I am TIRED. I am tired from homeschooling and planning and making sure work is done. I am tired from having people here literally 24/7 and never being alone in my home. I am tired of making sure the books we need are here when we need them and that I cover what needs to be covered. I’ve been at this, essentially, for 7 years. Not as long as some, but a lot longer than many.
So, yea. I’ve talked with so many people about this choice. I’ve gotten various opinions. I’ve talked to trusted friends. Friends that are knowledgeable. Friends that know kids. Friends that are educators. I’ve talked to life-long homeschoolers and those that hate homeschooling but understand my family and our dynamics. I’ve talked it to death. All the opinions I’ve gotten have been good but they are all 100% valid, but they are too also 50/50.
If there’s a pro/con list out there, including a weighted one, I’ve done it. I’ve made various “pacts” with myself about it. I’ve said, “All right, if the little guy doesn’t qualify for an IEP next year and won’t have bus service or speech to do at Pre-K then I will just keep them home and homeschool the three of them.” Well, we got the report back and he doesn’t qualify anymore…but I still haven’t made the choice. I’ve said, “Okay, we will just TRY public school for the first chunk of the year and go from there.” Then I find myself thinking about how that’s the best part of the year in which to homeschool.
Next week we will get the IOWA full battery standardized test. I will be administering the tests to both kids (one kid in the AMs and one in the PMs over the course of about a week). I keep thinking maybe the results of that will give me a better idea what to do…but no matter the results, I can’t imagine that will actually make a decision for me either.
So here I am. A mom, just trying to do the best for her kids, knowing that all options suck, just for very different reasons and trying to weigh which is the best out of what’s available.
Private school is not an option (all religious and/or $$ and/or too far of a drive). Charters aren’t a thing here. Accelerated/gifted classes aren’t a thing here. Public school for a class or two per semester *IS* an option but *NOT* until high school (9-12).
If you made it this far, feel free to weigh in…see if you can sway me one way or the other…but good luck. *shrug* *sigh*