August 4, 2008

Homeschooling Through High School

If you happen to read my blog (more than once), you will find that I tend to write a lot of posts about home schooling. It requires the lion share of my time and attention, and as such, is the "thing" I tend to focus most of my energies (both mental and physical) on each day, each week, and each month. I have home schooled since 2004 and believe it has been one of the most difficult thing I have done (except give birth) in my life. It is not easy to home school, despite what people say when you ask them "is it hard to home school?" Most tell you , "no" or if they are honest they will say "it is a challenge, but I am up for it." Home schoolers, in general, try and stay up beat and will usually take the "it is fun route" over truth-telling. This is because home schooling is still a minority pursuit and many, many, many people are opposed to the idea of doing it. Though home schoolers have made great legal strides and now have equal access to curriculum, to events and activities, etc., we still are often looked down upon or treated as second-class citizens. This post was not meant to digress into a discussion of home, not at all. I just wanted to say that in being honest about it, I have found it very difficult to home school my child.

Performing "Ballade" by Brahms on August 2, 2008

That being said, said child will turn 15 in 45 days (yes, he is counting). He will begin 10th grade in the fall (September 2) and is actually looking forward to it (school, maybe; turning 15, definitely!) He has asked me to teach certain subjects, namely Chemistry; and, wants to continue his language study in German. I guess that does speak volumes. I don't know many high schoolers who are actually looking forward to taking Chemistry (I certainly did not) nor who are anxious and eager to continue foreign language studies. I guess I am fortunate to have a child who LIKES school.

My son has always liked school. He loved it when he could finally go to Kindergarten and loved every single year he was at the public school. Home schooling was our choice, his Dad's and mine. We took him out of public school for academic and social reasons in 5th grade and plan on home schooling him through graduation. I don't think my son really understood just how bad public school was for him. I know he suffered greatly with bullies and with being picked on daily. I think he looks back on it in hindsight and thinks it was a normal part of the experience. He wasn't the ONLY kid getting picked on, but he was our kid and we gave the school chance after chance to do something about it and they didn't, so we exercised our right to pull him from the school and took him home.

The academic issue was much harder to address and really is the primary reason we have chosen to home school. Our son is gifted academically and as a young student, struggled to fit into the classroom environment. Now as a teenager, he probably would do just fine in an honors course or enrolled at the Junior college. That being the result, of course, of 5 years of learning at home and maturing under our watchful care. He is by all accounts a very ready and able student. He will do well in college and we feel he is ready to handle all the unpleasantness of any college campus.

Back when he was 10, though, he didn't fare so well. He was skipped a grade (from 4-5th) and then by subject area into a 6th grade class. Academically, he did fine (all As). Socially, well...he got the brunt of the social injustice of the public school system: bullies and bullying. All this, simply because he was smart and gifted and able to compete with kids 1-3 years older than he was. Home schooling actually turned out to be a bonus for him. We felt we were sheltering him from the nastiness of the middle school years, when in turn, we actually were giving him the freedom to learn at his own pace and to develop primary interests (music, computers, programming) that have helped him become a well-rounded and dynamic young man.

Now as we approach 10th grade, our thoughts and our plans turn towards college. Last year, my big plan was to make it through our first year of high school. We put up with alot of questions, concerns, and downright antagonism to our home schooling through high school plan. It was tough and the microscope was on us nearly all the time (are you testing him? how will you know he passed his class? can you give him grades? Ugh!) We passed 9th grade with flying colors and are now ready to tackle some more "meatier" subjects: Algebra 2 and Chemistry. I have to admit that I am more excited about 10th grade than I have been about any of our other grades at home. It is something about the courses and the fact that my son is ready for them -- well -- it just makes me happy to be home schooling him.

A guitar duet on Seven Wicked Reels (with 4 violinists) on August 2, 2008

As I finalize our plans, I am settled in the knowledge that our son will graduate from our home school come 2011. He would like to study music and become a musician. We are thrilled with his desire to study music as he is a gifted pianist and can see him doing something with music and computers (his two great loves). I know that he has the skills to handle college classes and that he finally has developed some independence and responsibility, enough to ensure that he will be able to keep up with the demands of a college schedule and also the advanced coursework.

All in all, though our journey has been difficult at times, it has been rewarding and well-worth it. I do not think it was a mistake to home school when we did (5th grade) and am finally able to look back on those first few years and marvel at what we attempted and actually accomplished.

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