May 4, 2007

Update

We started our first day of 9th grade today. It is hard to believe but my only child, DS, is starting high school. We home school year round so May 14th seemed like as good a day as any to start our new year. We finished up 8th grade at the end of January, took 2 weeks off in February and then did a mini study on WWII, mostly reading Stephen Ambrose books, until April 30. DS took another two weeks off in May and was ready for some more work. He would have said that he would like another month off, but Mother Knows Best, and decided that it was time to begin our new year.

DS is actually a great home school student. Not all kids are cut out to study independently but mine sure is. He was in public school for K-4th grade (he skipped to 5/6th grade mid-year) and did very well. He liked public school and got straight As in all his classes. He was bored most of the time and as he got older, he did get into trouble (silly things like talking, not listening to the teacher, interrupting, helping others, general gifted traits). He also was a different kind of student according to his teachers. He was "ahead" of his peers in many ways, not just academically, but mentally. He was socially behind which is another story completely. He often thought about and talked about things that were adult in nature (not content). Things like physics, theoretical math or scientific concepts. He asked unique questions "why can't you travel in time?" He wasn't satisfied with the answers and often said "well, I think it is possible." Most of his teachers liked him A LOT and let him do extra activities, like give special reports or presentations to his class. He often wrote stories and then read them to his class mates. He seemed to stick out, especially as he got older, and by 4th grade, it became obvious that he walked to the beat of a very different drummer.

He was asynchronous in his development and it really started to show up in 4th grade. He had poor handwriting, struggled with grammar and with writing. He was reading and comprehending books at a college level, preferred high school science texts to his 4th grade book, and could compute complex math problems in his head. He missed math problems that required basic skills like adding and subtraction. He couldn't divide or do fractions. He liked geometry a lot and could think in his head but not down on paper. He was messy in the classeroom, disorganized, and highly distracted. He often daydreamed or was allowed to draw when the other kids were doing paper work. He spent most days counting the minutes until recess or lunch and the rest of the time he was usually in trouble for talking or interrupting the teacher. He helped non-english speaking classmates with their school work, even though he didn't speak Spanish. He had a great compassion for children who were left behind or struggling and helped them as much as possible.

We brought him home from public school after repeated rounds of bullying and daily trips to the principal's office. I was tired of seeing his teacher shake his head when I came to pick my son up each day. Yes, another day with your name on the board (meaning he had misbehaved in class). Another day, another day, another day! I was tired of working with him at night to make sure he did all his homework. I spent so much time at the school, in the classroom or working at home, that it seemed more efficient just to teach him at home.

Our son was not anxious to be home schooled at all. He liked going to school but I didn't like what school was doing to him. I saw all the marks and I knew that I had better do something to step in or else my son would end up dropping out, simply from boredom. Or worse, he would fall into the wrong crowd. He was socially a little boy with a mind like a 10th grader. We tried accelerating him to a more advanced class and that only brought in social problems. He loved the challenge of the work, but the social aspects of being mixed into a class full of pre-teens was not worth the move.

In the fall of 2004, we started home schooling our son using a classical curriculum. I didn't know much about home school curriculum when we started but I soon found out that the options were endless. There is more curriculum available to home schoolers now than ever before. No matter what flavor you want, it is there. I chose classical because it is known for being rigorous and advanced. I knew that my son needed a challenging curriculum, one that would stimulate his mind and engage him daily. I actually started using a free curriculum called Ambleside Online, which is classical in the sense that it relies on literature and historical non-fiction rather than textbooks. It is a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum and is based on the use of her educational philosophy and methodology.

Since that time, he has flourished both academically and socially. He is well-adjusted, well-mannered, and articulate. He has matured and developed excellent character traits. I am well-pleased at his progress and his initiative for learning. He enjoys being home schooled and enjoys having the freedom to learn at his own pace. He is still the same talkative and inquisitive young boy but instead of sticking out as someone simply different, he is recognized as someone who is both creative and inventive, a leader and an aspiration.

Home schooling was the right choice for us and it has blessed us exponentially. It is not easy nor is it something we take casually. It takes a lot of my time and I must keep it balanced between my work (as a web designer) and my home/family life. It can take over your entire life if you are not careful. I have struggled to keep it in it's place and to not allow the planning and implementing of it to obsess my mind (I tend to obsess easily). Overall, it has been an eye-opening experience and I am grateful for the chance to do it. I think I will be the better for this experience. I know that my son will as well.

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