The kidlets dropped a bombshell on us and once again said they really want to try school next year. It was unprompted and clearly something they’ve thought about, so we looked into it and got them into a last-minute trial.
The first things I considered were:
– are they just looking for a change of scenery or a complete shift?
– is there something we could add to homeschooling to meet a particular need?
– how on earth can we get them enrolled mid-December for February start?
The school seemed hesitant – understandably I guess, as they say they’ve never had kids move IN from homeschool, that it’s usually movement in the other direction.
I had to remember why it was we started homeschooling in the first place. My eldest was in kindy year and, a usually vital and engaged student, she disengaged completely.
To cut a long story very short, we discovered she needs extension and enrichment in everything, but it was the repetition that was destroying her. Once she had grasped a new concept she needed to move on, quickly. The continuous practice was driving her crazy. This is just the way asynchronous kids are – repetition causes frustration and even severe depression on disengagement. The school head said that Kindy is just taught that way and since it’s an optional year of schooling, perhaps homeschooling would be good until Pre-Primary year.
That is how we began the journey and it worked so well that she quickly got her mojo back and devoured any material we put in front of her. We made friends, developed a flexible routine and achieved great things. So much so, we didn’t go back in pre-primary year and kept on with home learning. My youngest never enrolled at school at all and home learning has been working fantastically for them both, so it’s rather difficult for me to consider putting them into a system that was inadequate before. Still, I had to try.
I needed to curb expectations in case the school trial didn’t turn as they were expecting, so we hatched a Plan B: what would they like to change about our homeschooling in the new year to make it ideal? They made some suggestions – (interestingly none about actual education!):
|Routine:||homework (yes, really!). This came from the eldest, who adores schoolwork.|
|movie afternoon to remain on the schedule|
|separate days for art, science, sport, cooking in a production line|
|walks every morning before school after which we come in and move to the designated schoolroom space for work time.|
|Curriculum:||more ‘stuff’ to look at and study (rocks, samples, finds)|
|official ‘cooking days‘ with friends who also have a food dream|
|Environment:||more learning in groups not including their parents|
|more climbing space visits|
|lockers with padlocks|
|a big whiteboard on the wall|
|school desks with drawers|
|a sign on the door to our learning space, with our school name|
All of these are easily done: MORE INDEPENDENT LEARNING and EMULATING A SCHOOLROOM ENVIRONMENT.
That backup in place, we went ahead with the trial at the school. Here’s the rub: the delivery of material and the extent of enrichment, freedom and challenge differ so much at school and home. It’s a risk – if the school doesn’t meet their intellectual needs they could disengage or lose the confidence and joy of learning they have developed.
The school assured me they have appropriate differentiation, acceleration, enrichment and access to extension programmes, so that looks good. I have friends who have kids (with similar profile to mine) at the school and they seem to be happy, so it is possible once the child is placed in a learning plan that meets their needs.
Our main concern is that new enrolments have to enter at chronological age level; not ability. Once enrolled they can be stretched and enriched, but only after all extension options have been tried and failed, then a strongly-evidenced grade skip can be advocated. This means a definite period of frustration for them.
Since my kids have already completed many of the elements for a higher grade, they would without doubt have to endure some repetition and redo a fair amount of work while the discussions take place. I worry about disengagement. If they could enter a school at their learning level, then be presented with the appropriate enrichment and extension, they would thrive. They can’t go backwards – it would wreck them.
The kids decided against school once more. We were relieved too I suppose. It would have meant more opportunities for me to work and they would have made many new friends, but all four of us reached the decision to stick with what works best for us. We may end up like the many families whose kids hop in an out of school over the years, for different reasons as their needs change. That’s OK and that is where homeschooling is a great option – it’ll always be here.
But do other homeschoolers go through this too, from time to time? We have been through this process in earnest twice over the past 18 months. Each time they have come back with a clear preference to homeschool, but it was exhausting to go through the cycle of committing, enjoying, questioning and updating. Maybe it’s healthy and prevents us from getting stale and complacent? I expect it may be a regular ride, particularly when the reason we homeschool is the children’s intellectual need for novelty and challenge.