Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I miss the good old days...

...when my toughest parenting decision was Pampers or Huggies.

I am very proud of the fact we homeschool Alex. I am proud because it works for us. I am proud that we took that leap even though it was not the typical thing to do and kind of scary going out on our own. He is happy, healthy and growing beautifully in body and mind. Well throw a little wrench into my well laid plans. Izzy wants to go to school. The worst part is, I think I want to let her. Only, not really. Confused? Me too.

It started a little while back. Months ago, probably. Izzy has always assumed she would go to school. Even though Alex doesn't. Even though most of her friends are homeschooled. Even though we never really presented it as an option. She insists that this is what she wants to do and has pretty good answers for a three year old when we question why. It came to a head this week because now she is talking about preparing for school.

Last night I had the most the most bizarre episode of deja vu. It was about three years ago that I remember standing in the kitchen, telling Rob everything I had found out about homeschooling with a strange blend of sadness, excitement and fear. I knew it was the right thing for Alex but I still needed to talk my way through it to help my brain iron out the kinks.

Well, now it is Izzy's turn and boy are we headed in a different direction. She wants to go to school. And the same scenario played out last night, standing in the kitchen, working it out with Rob. Only this time I was (grudgingly) arguing from the other side.

I love homeschooling. It works for us. Rather, it works exceptionally well for Alex. He learns at his own speed. So, despite being in the SK age group, he can read at a grade 4/5 level. He can do 2nd grade math. He can be further behind his peers in writing but light years ahead in comprehension. He has lots of friends and experiences classes that are fitted to his skill set and personality. He is very happy and has no interest in school at all.

And then there is Isabelle. That girl has changed a lot over the past few months. She is still a trying three year old but it is getting better. I give her more focus during the day but it doesn't always seem like enough. In a family of three mostly introverted souls, our fourth seems to be very extroverted. Where as Rob, Alex and I are in desperate need of recovery time after being overly stimulated, Izzy seems to recharge her batteries in the midst of all that energy.

Alex went through a very brief phase where he wanted to go to school. Found out he really just wanted to be a part of that back to school excitement that happens late summer. And he was fond of some cartoons that featured animal characters in kindergarten so he had a skewed Disney version. We got him a new backpack, some gym shoes and signed him up for more structured activities, like art class and Beavers. Problem solved. Izzy's request feels different. It is different because her needs are not what her brother's are.

My mental list of pros and cons favours the pros of sending her to school. Here are some of the pros I came up with:

(1) She would like it. (2) She does better with more constancy. (3) She would enjoy more friends, girl friends specifically. (4) She likes all those schoolish activities. (4) She doesn't learn as independently as her brother has and prefers a jazzy presentation with charts, songs and all that other stuff they do in kindergarten. (5) No matter how much attention we bestow on her she is still very interruptive when I try to do more advanced things with Alex. (6) She is more strong willed and we worry less about peer influence than we do with Alex. Actually, we worry more for the other kids that will follow her. (7) She seems to have a realistic grasp of what JK would be, not the Disney'fied version her brother conjured up a few years back. (8) It is something she can do on her own, by herself. Which is what she tells us is something she craves frequently. (9) I would feel bad not letting her try because homeschooling was something we did firstly for Alex's benefit and secondly because it gelled with our philosophy on education. (10) It isn't all or nothing. She may want to come home later on. (11) The first few years are only 15 hours a week. (12) Rob didn't feel opposed to it because he gets why I am thinking school might be the right fit for Izzy. He opposed me during a temporary lapse in judgment during a tough period where I suggest we send Alex to school for a year. (13) I want to approach both kids' educations as a custom program. Yes, I think homeschooling is better in theory but it doesn't mean school is bad. Because it is a bad fit for Alex doesn't mean I have to automatically rule our school for Izzy. (14) I feel like it would be a good experience for her not to be the centre of attention all the time. (15) There are many other reasons I am forgetting from last night or not articulating properly today but the biggest reason is my gut feeling. I can't explain it but my gut is saying school would be great for Izzy like it said homeschooling was perfect for Alex.

Rob says I have already made up my mind. Probably. Izzy is a little mini me and I loved school. She wants this. Or thinks she does. I cater a lot to Alex's needs and don't ever want her to think that she was an afterthought in these big decisions. I suppose it is only fair I fret over what to do with her like I did when we were preparing to send Alex off.

My only wish is to be able to take the emotions down a notch. I get teary eyed at the drop of a hat lately. I'd miss her so much. Plus, like Alex said when Izzy told him her plans of going to school, "...but Mommy, she's so small." Yes, but she grew a whole lot when we weren't looking.

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