Thursday, October 30, 2008

Feel like rambling...

I saw something online that got me thinking. A hs mom was asking how to cope with her 4 year old wanting to go to real school. This was something we encountered last year. For us the issue had more to do with living in a fairly condensed neighbourhood with, surprisingly, 4 boys (he knew and played with) going into JK at the same time and a few more heading to SK and 1, all to the same school just down the street. Obviously he felt a little left out. Then there was the August/September back to school hype and all the adults - from the supermarket check-out girl to the waiter serving us at a restaurant, asking if he was excited to be going to school?! It was a challenge.

It didn't help that it was our first official year home schooling and I was more than a little nervous. I was new at explaining it to people and those around us were just becoming aware of our venture. We persevered. Alex reconnected with home school friends. We tried to just relax and have fun. It was a long winter but we managed. Even in our toughest moments, Rob was there to cheer us on and remind me why we were doing what we were doing.

What a difference a year makes. This year we are all on board - completely. Alex didn't even ask about school. He saw his friends enthusiasm fade dramatically after September. More than a few of them let him know how lucky they thought he was. We have expanded our home school network, more friends, more classes, more fun. Izzy is older and now a bigger part of our activities. We no longer have to wait until she is in bed to do a science experiment or read a book without pictures. She wants to learn everything Alex learns.

So, when I think of that mom, I think that the most important part of keeping the kids happy with home schooling is to make them a part of the process. Have them become invested. We are a part of many activities but they are tailored to the kids and their interests. Alex isn't big on competitive group sports, so we just don't sign him up for the local soccer league. Izzy loves girly pink things and dancing, so she does ballet. They have both home school and neighbourhood friends, and contrary to some lore regarding kids who are home schooled, are not at all socially inept. They attend classes and group events. They have a lot of say over what we learn and how much time we spend doing it. We don't spend a lot of time talking about school. We talk about learning. We talk about our values, as a family. We talk about kids, ours specifically, and that we don't think Alex should be held back a bit in certain areas (like reading and comprehension where he is years ahead) and pushed too quickly in others (like writing, which he hates). They work at their own pace and are glad for it.

I think we are just a more confident lot this time around. We survived that first big leap. We kept Alex out of school and got through the loss of experiencing that first day of school (which I admit gave me quite a few pangs) and came out the other end just fine. Better than fine, actually. Happy.

Will I feel the pangs again next September when Izzy should be heading off to JK? Maybe, though to a much lesser extent I think. She does ask about school more often these days. She has a model of another system right before her eyes though, so I don't think it will be a big issue. I've always said, and I stand by this, that someday when they kids are old enough (don't ask me what that age is yet because maturity matters to me more than chronological age) and had a valid argument for them to attend a bricks and mortar school we would comply. The challenge for me, I suppose, is to meet their needs as best as I can so that they don't feel like they are missing out on anything.

All in all, we are thrilled with our decision. We make a lot of choices for our kids that they aren't always happy with or understand. That is our job and we do it with the best of intentions. So for that mom who worries about the child who wants school, I say wait a while and work with your child to make the life that makes you both happy. I am not a teacher or a dictator. I am an adviser to my children and an advocate. This is why they desperately need to be invested in the process. I can get the information to them, or help them find it but they need to be the ones to take it in. I can find the children for them to play with but they need to make the friendships. I can offer up programs and activities but they have to want to participate. One of the greatest things about home schooling your children is that you know them like no others can. A tailor made education is right there for the picking. Young children can't understand this but they will, eventually. Real school, or wanting to experience it, is not the enemy. It may very well be the right fit for her child someday, or even one or both of mine. Accept it for what it is. For now it is just the whims of a young child who doesn't even know what school is.

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