Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Same Direction / New Path
As we were making our big list of things the kids were interested in and wanted to do this year, we noticed something. There were a couple of potential activities that my kids wanted very much that just were not in the budget. Mainly, my Girl Child wanted to take more dance classes. She is an amazing tap dancer, and has been wanting to try more styles of dance. I love her dance studio and think that in an industry that can easily damage the self esteem of young girls, her teachers are wonderful role models as well as great dancers.
That led us to looking at homeschooling through a charter this year. It took me a while to warm up to the idea because I really have no desire to follow someone elses path for my family. I think we're doing a pretty good job on our own, and my educational philosophy does not really put any weight into standardized tests or graded curriculum that most schools rely on. While I do like getting ideas and input from other people, I am not at all a big fan of being told what to do. We're a life learning family, not a school-at-home family, and so I had to find a charter that could mesh with our style.
My first choice was a charter that a good friend works at, but unfortunately, they do not work with the dance studio we want. Since dance was the whole reason behind this, we kept looking. We finally found what we wanted- a charter that allowed us to flexibly go about educational goals while offering us some benefits. We debated and hashed over the pros and cons for a couple of weeks. The kids decided they were OK with taking the twice annual standardized test and meeting with the facilitator in exchange for the fun classes they wanted to take. I met with a facilitator who was also a homeschool mom, and understood my style. The required learning logs and samples didn't look too difficult- the hardest part being translating what we do every day into educator lingo.It seemed like a doable option where what we received would be worth what we had to give.
The kids were sold on the idea much sooner than I was though. Of course they are young and optimistic, and while I try to be positive myself, I occasionally have bitter and jaded views. I've also been known to be a bit of a rebel. I really struggled with the decision and felt a bit like a cheater, first going against my own free flying nature, and then not choosing my friends school, but in the end I had to accept that it wasn't just about me. It was about my kids, and they weren't the ones with the philosophical objection to tests and grades. I was. They were willing to do their jobs to get what they wanted, and my part wasn't really that hard. So, in the interest of my kids, I decided to give the charter a try. We're wading in to the waters optimistically hoping for the best.
So far, it's been pretty good, and we're happy with our choice. I feel less like a cheater and more like a mom who is giving her kids some new opportunities. The first set of required paperwork came together pretty smoothly, and I've enjoyed chatting with our facilitator. She even put together a box of fun stuff she thought we might like- it was kind of like Christmas. We've also been thrilled with access to another cool library and have already borrowed a bunch of books, videos, CDs and science kits.
Sadly though, the beginning of the year math tests caused some serious bad moods, stress and tears around here. Even though I thought were all prepped with the"just do your best, it's just to see if you've done these kind of problems before, don't worry, the results don't matter, even kids who do math worksheets every day aren't going to know some of this stuff, yadee yaah yaaah" bit, it was not a fun experience. There were a few "Who cares?" and "What a silly question, why would anyone ever need to know that?" type of comments. It gave us plenty to talk about afterward, that's for sure. I had worked to make sure not to pass my bad attitude on to them, but they seem to have found their own frustrations with the process. I reminded them that that test was part of the deal, and overall the time spent was small- that the only thing it reflected was whether you had been using that curriculum and that there are other tests that simply measure what you've memorized, not what you've actually learned. I think they realize all of those things, but nevertheless, the test itself was not fun. Eventually, when they go on to college, the test taking skills will come in handy, but they were right about some of the questions being silly and pointless.