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Back to home/school – vive la différence!

Another year, another set of decisions about education. When my son was going into kindergarten, we thought we’d choose a school and that would be it until 6th or 8th grade. Ah, doesn’t the universe have a way of making a mockery of everything we know?

I took this photo for an article I wrote about my daughter's choosing to go to school...for an unschooling magazine! Amazing how life changes and we parents just have to roll with it.

I took this photo for an article I wrote about my daughter’s choosing to go to school…for an unschooling magazine! Amazing how life changes and we parents just have to roll with it.

My older child has attended:

  1. 1 preschool
  2. 1 private kindergarten
  3. 1 charter school
  4. 2 private elementary schools
  5. 1 middle school public homeschool program
  6. 2 online schools
  7. 1 high school public homeschool program
  8. community college both online and in person

My younger child has attended:

  1. 2 preschools
  2. 1/3 year kindergarten at a private school
  3. 1/3 year kindergarten in a public homeschool program
  4. 4 more years in that homeschool program
  5. 1 online school
  6. 1 neighborhood public elementary school

No wonder I sometimes feel weary when people ask me about their own educational choices. What have I NOT tried?

What I’ve come to realize is that education is always a year-by-year decision. Even when parents think their child will stay in the same school forever, they probably face a coming year with some qualms. Is this the right educational choice? What if it’s not a good fit with the teacher? What if my child is more interested in after school sports than math? Would we all be happier unschooling? Is there a better school, with better teachers and perhaps better friends for my child? Am I screwing up my child’s future??

Well, I at least have decided to let go of that last one. I’m doing what I can to create the right education for each child. This year, our choices for each child are radically different:

The fifteen-year-old is just loving being a homeschooler. He loves the hours (though he’s not a late sleeper). He loves the flexibility which allows him to pursue his passion, computer science, with an almost single-minded fervor. He really likes his public homeschool program, where he has met some good friends and is reminded that it takes all kinds to make up a community. He enjoyed his community college class last spring and is going for more this year. He really, really loves not having to do PE.

The eleven-year-old, my original homeschooler, decided last year that she wanted to try school. She was in sixth grade, but it was Middle School Lite because our neighborhood elementary had two self-contained sixth grade classrooms. That meant that she was in a school with a total of less than 300 kids, in a room with the same 31 kids and the same teacher each day. This year? We looked at all sorts of options, including homeschooling, a small charter school, and our district junior high, and she has decided to go for the big guns and attend a 700+ student middle school in a neighboring district. Today, in advance of the first day of school, she spent over an hour poring over their lunch menus, their student newspaper, and anything else she could find online.

I hope that each of my children excels in the environments we’ve chosen. I think my family is a clear example of why you simply can’t say that there is one right way to educate children. Who would have believed that I would become a committed homeschooler? Who would have believed that my child who couldn’t last a full day of kindergarten simply loved public school last year? Who would have believed that my compliant “good student” would become a happy homeschooler-bordering-on-unschooler?

I read with great interest articles by people on all sides of the education debate about what works for students. But if there is one thing that turns me off, it’s someone who refuses to acknowledge that the most important thing our educational system needs is flexibility and choice. You can cite all the test scores and studies you want—what I know is what I have seen with my own kids and with every other family I know. The safe option, the easy option, and the obvious option is not always the right option. My two kids, born of the same parents and raised in the same house, are going two very different directions.

May they both thrive!

Vive la différence!

Posted in Parenting.

3 Responses

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  1. Ig says

    I’m a random parent that’s been visiting here, of a PG 5 year old. We are going for a 3rd year in the same, highly differentiated school (my kid loves other kids above all else, because we are very lucky and have been able to manage the 2e stuff that comes with that end of the bell curve fairly well. And you know what? You nailed it. We are ready at any moment to pull out and go to options b-z because I know what you mean. It means I know exactly where in relation to requirements and deadlines etc all the other plans are at, and it means that I’m already heavily supporting and supplementing at home the one track mind things that she jumps on, that are all so intense. We have almost no gt community where I live. It is a 4 letter word and not spoken of here, and the public school system just can’t do at all, the most selective program only goes 2-3 years up, doesn’t support the emotional needs, and you know what happens if you stick 35 gt kids in one classroom, even with the most talented teacher, who still is required to teach common core, when they all have their passions, their 2e baggage, and their high assynchrocity? There is no way. No way. So we are coughing up crazy (25k a year for kindergarden!) money. That’s almost 2x what my college cost for 4 years! We didn’t give the free public program a go even, because we don’t want our kid to be stuck independently doing worksheets or independent reading for 6 hours out of 8 in school, that’s not properly differentiated and doesn’t meet interest, at age 5 with 35 other classmates and one poor teacher… So our next stop if our school fails us, is homeschool. And every month, not year, I’d say, the question comes up. You say it between the lines with the partial years for your kids… You have to be ready and I wish schools and systems would be more supportive of switching it up half way or more, if things didn’t work out. No, if things don’t work out, we won’t get our 25k back either. Such a crapshoot. Our homeschooler community here is nill. And to make things worse, my second kid is like a completely opposite profile and is somewhere up there too, my fear is that I’ll end up having them in different schools like you, and that’s so hard on all, isn’t it, and that’s sometimes what one has to do.

  2. Suki says

    Hi – I really sympathize with your situation. My two children are so different it’s hard to believe that they are 100% genetically our children! 🙂 Their needs have always been so different. Early on I realized that when I parented my first child, I learned to parent my first child. I didn’t learn “to parent” because everything that was right for my first child ended up being wrong for my second! It’s frustrating, especially when you meet other families with two kids who are similar enough that the families make the same parenting decisions, the same educational decisions, the same summer camp decisions… and on and on. On the other hand, I’m no longer tempted to assume that what’s good for one works for the other, so I suppose that’s to their advantage. It’s all a balancing act, and if they need separate schools, well, you can find a way to work it out. Also, don’t assume there aren’t other homeschoolers in your area who haven’t found each other. A mom I know started a homeschool support group by declaring a time and a coffee shop and hoping someone showed up! Someone did, and the group has been going ever since. Good luck!

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps says

    Suki, I know what you mean about having to make all educational decisions a year at a time. We agonized every March over where to place our son the next year:
    K–3 in public elementary school (except for two quarters of sabbatical in a different city)
    4–6 private school
    7–8 different private school
    9 public high school
    10–12 home school though school district
    next year, UCSB.
    I think that we made pretty much the right choices given the options we had. We could have done things a little differently and had somewhat different outcomes, but whether they would have been better or worse is hard to say.

    Having the very warm and welcoming (but also challenging) theater community of WEST has been one constant throughout.

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