Thursday, July 31, 2008

thoughts on the first week of homeschool

Wait, what? School in July? Yeah, we started school in July. A few reasons: the Sonlight box came and Jason was drooling over all the books he would get to read... he begged me to start early, the baby will be arriving in December and I'd like to take at least a month off of school to get used to life with the newest Rusco, also my doctor said my body's tired of having preeclampsia with every baby so this last one may be a rough ride (please help us pray for a safe delivery). I'll keep you posted about the baby. Oh, and we're homeschooling this year, here's a few thoughts on the why and how of that announcement.
First of all, we love our kids and want the best for them, I think every parent would agree with that statement, so the process to arrive at this decision was actually 2 years in the making. I started reading about homeschooling and asking questions of friends before Jason entered kindergarten. At the time Darren had no interest in the subject so we gladly enrolled Jason at NCCS. As former students and teachers at NCCS we have a deep appreciation for the ministry of the school and the wonderful people who work tirelessly to operate it year after year. I am very grateful for Mrs. Ricks and Mrs. Reasor, because they lovingly poured out themselves to Jason and his class this year. However, as a parent I always felt there was something more to my child's education than just dropping him off every morning and hoping for the best. I don't mean to put down or offend anyone who sends their child to school, public or private, I just want to explain my arrival at the homeschooling conclusion.
I was only a teacher for two years and Darren taught for 7. In that short time I realized that the classroom situation was a mission impossible. I was given the task of leading 20 students through a course of study and the expectation was that they would pass the course. The expectation was that during our 30-40 minutes together each day I would teach and they would "get it". However, many times our time was stolen from us by school business, discipline issues or other distractions. Most importantly our time together was ineffective because I had 20 unique individuals in my room with different learning styles. I could do my best to reach every kid with every style, but it never seemed optimal for everyone all at once. I know that there are very effective and talented teachers in the public and private schools and they do a great job of engaging their students. But I also know that there are far too many mediocre teachers who are just punching in their timecards, leaning on the aggressive nature of their union and counting down the days until retirement. Like I said earlier, I want the best for my kids.
So why homeschool? Because I can. I am a college educated woman, but more importantly I am a life-long learner. I was actually disappointed at my college graduation because my school career was over. They wanted me to leave. But looking at the next quarter's catalog I realized that there was so much more for me to learn. Imagine getting the chance to take a history class again... don't you think you would appreciate it more now? And what about the opportunity to watch your own child learn, to see the light bulb click on when they "get it". And what about the opportunity to study your child's unique learning style and developing a school program just for him? Wouldn't you jump at the chance to do it? Sure it will be hard. There will be days that I doubt my sanity and want to put my child on a school bus. My house will look like a disaster and we may not eat gourmet meals for a while. But my child will be taught be a teacher who loves him, one who loves him more deeply than any state employee or private school teacher. I think he'll excel in that kind of environment.
Please understand that we're taking this one year at a time, one child at a time. If we realize that this homeschool utopia is not to be for the Rusco's we will gladly enroll Jason in Mrs. Well's 2nd grade class. I am not going in blindly. I feel like I've done my homework, interviewed enough people (both pro and anti homeschool), and have prayfully asked the Lord for guidance. If you are skeptical please continue to check in on us throughout the year as I attempt to honestly blog about our homeschool. Here's an example of my conclusions from our first week:
This is hard! Cameron is a very jealous little girl and she does not like all the time I am spending with Jason. I did a lot to prepare "school work" for Cameron before we started this week. I made her activity bags including a flannel board and felt shapes, pasta sorting, coloring books, picture puzzle cards and stickers. This does not seem to matter. As soon as we sit down to start our day she is right there making a fuss, talking louder than normal and generally interrupting everything. By the end of our first half hour she has covered the living room floor with toys and activities but has finally found something to do. Jason is doing well except for writing assignments. Apparently it is torture to ask a little boy to write a sentence or practice his handwriting. He loves math and science, especially when we work with manipulatives or do experiments. We break up our 2 hours of school work with little breaks every half hour to either snack or play. I see clearly that he needs to wiggle and he actually works better after a break. I'm happy to oblige and am doing my best to not be rigid with our schedule. So far I am most impressed with the Singapore Math program. Jason is learning addition facts up to ten and he is learning them backwards and forwards, mentally and in writing. It is a very thorough program!


Flo Oakes said...

This is exactly what we are thinking about right now-I hope you continue to post your experiene.

Sera is going into "pre-k" so we technically have a little while before we'd have to worry about it "for real". Although, around here the public schools are HORRIBLE and we were hoping to get her into a magnet school or waldorf type school...but there is a lottery, and it is hard to get it and you have to start the application process, like, NOW.

My husband wants us to home school, I think it's a great option as well, but I worry that I will burn out...

I'm hoping to maybe find some sort of classical school option where the girls go a couple days a week and we homeschool the other days.

There is so much to think about with kids and's hard not to freak out and trust God with them.

Anyhoo, I'll be reading about how things go with you, since right now, we're deciding what we should do. I think it's key that you're taking it one year at a time too--everyone I know who has been successfull in their home school endeavors has taken that approach.

Thanks for posting!

Melinda said...

Wow, Jen. I am exhausted just reading this latest blog, but also more impressed with you and your seemingly inexhaustable creativity and patience! Good for you! And, by the way, thanks for your chat with Makenna. She is no longer asking to be homeschooled--at least not now!!

Sallie said...

I totally understand the "life-long learner" concept! I would love to take some classes - any classes - just no tests or papers!!


funfelt said...

Have you thought about doing some activities with her? Do you know about Five in a Row? There is a version called "Before Five in a Row" and it is so cute to do with little ones. You take a book, like Blueberries for Sal, and for 5 days in a row you read the book and do some sort of thematic activities, like one day we picked blue berries, one day we made a recipe with blueberries, one day we learned about how the plant grows etc. It was really fun. Maybe if she felt like she got to "do school too" it would be easier? I had the same trouble when I was homeschooling K and had a 2 year old underfoot. Here is the FIAR website:

Incidentally I found your blog searching for articles about flannel boards! Here are some that could be fun for both kids:

Have fun, homeschooling is not as easy as you'd think (I was a teacher too!) but it does get easier!! Hang in there! :)