This semester will mark a big change for our family – our oldest child is going to school for the first time!
Since we have been homeschoolers forever and since we have blogged a lot about homeschooling, I thought I’d share a little bit about how we came to this decision. This post is not meant to say that everyone should do things the way we are. Every family is different, every child is different, and the opportunities (local schools) available in each community are different.
As I shared in my post on homeschooling when you have a baby and a toddler, it has been a crazy year for homeschooling at our house. In September, we almost enrolled Aidan in public school. Aidan is very social. We knew that he would enjoy having more kids around. He would be challenged with a little healthy competition since around here it’s easy to “rule the roost” with so many younger brothers. We knew that driving him to a private school would be a major hassle with a young baby, so that was out, plus a full-time private school was out of our price range. So the Friday before Labor Day, Jordan took Aidan to visit the local public middle school.
With any decision, it helps to write down the pro’s and con’s. Here were some of ours.
Pro’s of public school:
- It’s free.
- Aidan can walk to school.
- Opportunity to participate in sports, band, or orchestra.
- Teachers who specialize in each subject area, which means better instruction than what I can provide.
- There are science labs and technology available that we don’t have at home. Each kid gets a laptop for assignments!
Con’s of public school:
- The schedule. Our school goes from 9:20 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The kids get home close to 5:00 p.m.!
- The classmates. Our neighborhood is very, uh, working class. There are a lot of unsupervised kids. While we have no desire to shelter our kids from the world, it’s also true that there are certain things that once exposed to them, you can never be un-exposed. It’s a responsibility we take seriously.
- The internet reviews of the local middle school are less than stellar. It’s a great district, but the teachers can only do so much if the kids don’t care and the parents aren’t involved.
- The amount of time at school means time not available to do other things. Aidan loves helping with the landscaping at church on Friday mornings and creating fun projects for this blog! I love that he has the time to do these things.
So at the time, the con’s outweighed the pro’s to us. We decided to keep Aidan at home, but with some changes. We made more of his work independent. He has a schedule each day that involves getting to work in the morning even if one of the younger children is needing my attention. He grades his own math and language, and we go over things that he doesn’t understand.
By December, Aidan had truly made progress on working independently. However, the younger siblings were still a distraction. We did some tutoring with a college student from our church in the fall. She helped with grammar and math. We thought about hiring her for more hours in the spring semester, but Jordan ultimately decided that Aidan could really benefit from more structure than a tutor could provide. He needs voices of authority in his life that are not mom, and he needs classmates.
The week before Christmas, I called a local university model school. They had just had one student withdraw from 6th grade, which left exactly ONE opening. We visited the school the next day and enrolled!
Here are the pro’s and con’s for this decision:
Pro’s of university model school:
- Class size. Aidan will be in a class of 12 sixth graders. Not so small than one student absent ruins the day, but not too large either.
- Teachers. He will rotate to four subjects – science, math, language, and history. The teachers are excellent.
- Planning. I no longer have to plan his assignments! He will check the website on Thursday night and download his assignments.
- Balance. He will attend school two days a week and do school at home three days a week. Legally, we will still be considered homeschoolers.
- Enrichment. Aidan will be able to participate in science labs, literature discussions, and group projects.
- Flexibility. We still have some say in his curriculum. The school is allowing us to choose whether we will use their grammar program or continue with what we were already doing, for example.
- Accountability. Aidan is very stimulated by what other kids are doing. And I think that he will perform better for his new teachers than for me. Either way, the simple fact of having a schedule will keep us all in line!
- A social outlet. Aidan is looking forward to being with other kids!
Con’s of university model school:
- I will have to drive him to school twice a week – 20 min. each way. (Not a huge deal!)
- Cost. While much cheaper than full-time private school, this still costs money. We also had to buy supplies and books.
- Decreased flexibility with our schedule.
Here are some things that my husband and I discussed that we cannot expect school to do:
- Going to school does not fix character issues. It may be easier to work for a teacher than for us, but ultimately we need to be willing to address issues of laziness and teachability.
- Going to school also does not guarantee a more rigorous education. We have to follow through on our part at home.
- Going to school will bring about new challenges. There may be kids at school who are allowed to do/watch things that we don’t allow. There may be kids who are hard to get along with or teachers who make decisions that we don’t necessarily agree with. However, these challenges are inevitable at some point, and I think Aidan is at a good age to make this switch!
Question – What if my child could really benefit from a private school or part-time school, but I can’t afford it?
I asked my husband while I was writing this post what he would have done if we could not afford the university model school. He said that he would rather figure out homeschooling than put him in public school, and I agree. For us, we would rather get a little less done this year academically than put him in public school. Again, this is based on our middle school – we’re not judging yours!
Here are some ideas for making homeschooling work for older kids, even when life is crazy:
- School year round to make up for time missed because of younger siblings. Do less each day but for a longer school year.
- Get together with another family and do a subject together. Plan out how you will cover the textbook over the course of the semester or year. Take turns preparing science experiments, etc. Accountability helps!
- Hire a tutor.
- Hire a mother’s helper. (I’m actually doing this as well!) Find someone who would like to earn a little money to keep your toddler or baby occupied a few hours each week while you do some focused school time with your older kids. A 10 year old might be thrilled to earn $4/hour to help with young kids, and since you’ll be home, you don’t necessarily need a teenager.
- Let your child help pick out his or her curriculum. More involvement in the process can contribute to greater ownership of it.
Tuesday is the first day of school, and we are all excited! I’ll update during the semester to let you know how it’s going. 🙂