Here we are, approaching August. I'm huddled over the sharp clap and drone of our bedroom copy machine all the time now. A few hundred worksheets and quizzes down; just as many to go... There definitely isn't a lot of time to blog anymore, but I'm gathering ideas from reading what others have time to type up.
Sometimes it's encouraging. Sometimes it's just intimidating.
By middle school, it feels like most homeschooling mothers have readjusted their way through a dozen different curriculums, struggling to find exactly the right fit for their child. Of course, one of the major benefits to homeschooling IS that freedom and flexibility there is to change things at will, and to custom-fit aspects of education you normally wouldn't have control over as an after-school parent. But reading about how many different curriculum choices an individual family has cycled through by seventh grade is one of the most disheartening topics for me to read about in online searches relating to homeschool. It makes the chances of us being thrilled with the first curriculum we try look pretty grim.
Since we're only homeschooling for two years, hoping to undo a little bit of sullying and beef up a few preparations for high-school we felt were being neglected where she was, I want these two years to be successful without too much of a waiting period. Its a lot to ask, but I want them to pack a punch.
Finding where we fit inside a "homeschooling philosophy" was challenge number one. I realized this when the first article on preparing to homeschool that I came across, preached to its readers about the importance of doing absolutely nothing related to academics at all for the first six months to a year of homeschooling - even if 'un-schooling' wasn't your chosen philosophy. WOW. Another article that I read warned parents not to buy books -- ANY books, in preparation for year one of learning at home. You'll see that philosophies like this sound more radical than they actually are once you educate yourself on the background behind them, but all the same, they weren't for us. We intended to head in a different direction with our experience.
Now that we're pretty well rooted in where we stand on homeschooling and the philosophies therein, I've gotten a lot of questions, especially in the past few weeks about our curriculum choice. I love that this is happening! For one, I'm excited about our curriculum, and secondly, because I've put a lot of heart and effort into doing this right, It's fun to see that friends and family are getting interested in what we're up to.
Because it doesn't feel like our situation is extremely typical, and a lot of my new readers are homeschooling mothers, I want to clarify that Mary just needed a little "reset" from public school. We have a public (charter) high school in mind for her in the future, and our goal is to prepare her for success in that environment over the next two years.
Originally a part of why we chose to homeschool her over placing her in a more structured private school setting where she would have been influenced by a more positive crowd, was cost. It definitely wasn't the only factor*, but it was a consideration.
*(We still weren't going to have a lot of control over the attitude changes we wanted to see happen, and couldn't guarantee that by high-school she'd be emotionally or academically ready for the high school we wanted to see her prepared for by 9th grade. We also worried that placing her in a more structured, less-tolerant setting would only result in her being reprimanded more often, with stricter penalties, and that by only being held to a higher standard of academic performance so suddenly, her grades would slip further. She was in a delicate place, where we worried about any more discouragement solidifying the personality changes we saw her struggling with, and we wanted to be as involved in the turn-around as was possible.) <--- Wow. NOT as condensed an explanation as I was hoping to fit inside of those parentheses... lengthy digression over.
I was able to find a very highly-rated 7th grade curriculum, which came in a complete package, on sale. It was still expensive though, ringing in at about $440.00 all told. When I say "all told" I mean that it covered each core subject in a single purchase. That doesn't take into consideration the cost of field trips, which will be more expensive if she isn't part of a larger group taking them. (Sometimes she will be; sometimes field trips will just be an outing I take she and her smaller siblings on myself.) It also doesn't take into consideration the cost of setting up her schoolroom, which was safely over a hundred dollars, pinching every penny. Or project supplies for in-class activities, which will add up over time. Then, there are dues for homeschooling organizations and clubs. These, of course, are important because she won't be getting the social and structured physical outlets that come with a traditional public school education, and we'll need to supplement. And then the unholy amount of food #Good Lord, the food!# this child eats being home all the time, when she already put us out a small fortune by needing to eat three or four times a day just after school.
Yesterday my husband asked (for, like, the third time) why I chose not to go with a free k-12 curriculum, which was actually one of the first avenues I explored. A lot of families use the k-12 curriculum and swear by it. The reviews were very harum-scarum, though. Some family said it was the best curriculum they've used in 25 years of homeschooling and others said that it was the worst. Homeschooling was already such a new endeavor to us that I felt like relying on a curriculum that wasn't highly rated across the board was one leap of faith too many.
Besides, homeschooling appealed to me because of what it was: different, self-paced, centered on family. I like that what we're using was designed with those virtues in mind, without deviating too much from the traditional approach to education she's already accustomed to.
I also like that this curriculum came to us complete in all core subjects. There was room to add the mini-subjects I wanted to boost her confidence in (typing, cursive, vocabulary), but the curriculum as it came, would have been more than enough on it's own. We even got a few free gifts that were actually decent additions to our package.
Most of my decisions regarding her homeschool education have centered around the knowledge that if it were up to her, she would have stayed exactly where she was in public school. It was by our choice that she left, not hers. As negatively as it was affecting her actual education (among other important aspects of her life), she was one of the few kids who never wanted to miss a day of school. For that reason, it wasn't as much of a priority for me to abandon the school's methods on everything, as it generally is for families who are just getting out.
For example, I actually wanted her to have a room in the house with a "classroom" ambiance. My social priorities for her were actually less about bubbling her in so that she only ever associated with pre-approved crowds, as they were about just making sure she (as a VERY social being) gets everything out of them that she craves. She's coming from an environment where the vast majority of her day is fun and games, peppered with small bits of interrupted effort. I've seen the standard she's been held to in the past and I plan to ask much more of her than she's used to providing. She's in for enough of a culture shock as it is, so it's important to me that this experience on a whole not be a total drag; that it not ever feel like a punishment.