Tale of a Third Grade Home Schooler

Our son started 3rd grade this year. One decision we made before the time came in enroll our son in school was if we should send him out into the public school system or try home schooling. My wife, her parents, my parents and several friends were all for it and excited. And then, of course, there were those that hated the idea. The supervisor of my department at work even went as far as to describe every home schooler based on his interactions with two kids of neighbors that are home schooled. He said all home schoolers have that awkward, shy, anti-social way about them, are unable to carry on a conversation and look like the least little noise will scare them. Well, despite his view on the subject – and, really, that is the very large stereo-type associated with home school students – we decided to do it anyways despite the naysayers.

Our child is a talk-monster. He will talk your head off – especially about animals (dinosaurs, sharks, whales), loves video games, reading, bowling, going to the zoo, taking vacations and has never met a stranger no matter where we go. I don’t think socializing will ever be a problem with this kid. His only weakness is getting his feelings hurt. Because he’s never been pushed into public school, he doesn’t know what it’s like to meet someone who absolutely doesn’t like you or who lives only to torment you on a regular basis. So, when something comes along that just blows him out of the water – i.e. a rude or hateful person – he is stunned and deflated. Thankfully, with his personality, he quickly springs back and moves on. And while we’ve actually encourage him to take karate classes as an activity, he’s never been interested. But let me tell you, when it comes to defending himself or others (including his much older cousin at one point), the boy can take down a bully. Ahem, not that I’m bragging, but he isn’t a push-over, thank goodness!

We aren’t forcing home schooling upon our child, far from it. We are always open to the idea of him going to school and have never once tried to create a negative image of public schools in his mind. And, when he gets older, if he finally decides he’d like to try it out, that’ll be great! But right now, we are entering into our third year of home schooling. This year my wife decided to do something different, though. Normally, we go through a parent school, which takes care of the paperwork but pretty much stays out of your way as far as the education process goes. We’ve had no problem with the particular school we have been associated with, but they aren’t really very interactive as far as activities and get-togethers with other parents and students go.

Enter the K12 program. This is a “virtual academy” that is directly supported by the public school system. The one here in our state is in its second year and enrollment for this semester is so high that they’re in the process of hiring and training new teachers, which is actually affecting the beginning of the school year. K12 is a free home schooling alternative (they also offer a paid private school option or paid supplemental learning classes). Your curriculum and projects are provided free to you, as long as you return them at the end of the year in good condition. Books and supplies are shipped once you sign up (we are still waiting on ours, which should be here later Wednesday afternoon). There is also the “virtual” component, which is online lessons, virtual meetings with teachers, customized lesson plans based on your students level of learning, group activities and get togethers with people in your local area and an online guide for the parent/teacher to follow along, keep attendance and make sure the student is kept on track.

So far it sounds good and we’re liking what we see. The goal for us is to 1) save money from all the text books that we have been buying, which can run pretty high depending on which curriculum you want to teach with, 2) take a little of the planning off my wife’s shoulders for right now so she can focus more on our sons learning rather than all the paperwork and shuffling of lessons and picking out the right books to meet our sons requirements. And 3) we will actually get to see where he stands as far as a 3rd grade public education goes based on what my wife has done so far. And I admit, she has done an outstanding job. Based on close friends and family who have kids in the same or slightly higher grades, our son is on about a 5th grade level in everything but math. He does struggle with mathematics, but then again, so did I. Heck, I still do 🙂 My wife, however, is a math wiz.

So, we are learning again. The whole experience is new to all of us this year, but so far – being the computer nerd – I like what I see and have actually been enjoying poking around in the online section of the lessons. My wife – who is not a computer nerd and is instead a bit illiterate in the computer area – is confused a bit, but relying on me to help her out until she learns her way around. And our son is just going with the flow. Oh, and as far as activities go? They’ve already signed up for two get togethers this month, so far, in hopes of meeting and getting to know other folks in the program.

Home schooling, it’s not that bad. It isn’t just weird-o’s who can’t cope with reality or socialize. It’s a group of people who want something better, more down to earth and stable and definitely more secure. Maybe some think we’re being over protective, but we don’t. Being over protective would mean we wouldn’t let him be on a youth bowling league or play on a little league team or encourage him to take karate lessons or learn to play an instrument. We just want to instill a strong moral compass for him to be guided by, not a ball of mass confusion as associated with the chaos of a school setting. Well, okay, maybe that did sound a little “over protective” or crazy, but we’re just trying to do what we think is right. There are also things that school just doesn’t teach you or prepare you for. I realize things have changed since my days wandering the hallways, but I can honestly say that when I graduated and entered The Real World, I wasn’t prepared at all. Not once in 12 years of public education did they bother to teach me anything about life outside their hallowed brick and mortar walls. With the opportunity to teach your child in a more comfortable environment and on a one-to-one basis, you can do these things. They see every day life as you go about shopping, cleaning, working, etc. Teach them what they need to know about life. Teach them what they need to know to survive in the workforce, encourage them to further their education, read, learn, live. After all, as the saying kinda goes: parenting doesn’t come with an instruction book, it’s an adapt-as-you-go situation.

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