In my last post, I talked about how my perspective had changed regarding my son’s education. How I was convinced that homeschooling would be great for our family, but that my son wasn’t convinced. I got the feeling that having been given a choice to homeschool, he felt more in control of his situation. We decided to wait until the end of the second trimester and see how he felt. In the meantime, I resolved to become more of an advocate within the school, and therefore help many more kids than just my own.
That’s how MMM and I found ourselves in the principal’s office, discussing our son and his feelings about school, as well as many larger questions like:
- As a school, should we be allowing recess to be taken away as punishment?
- Does the school have a homework policy? What happens if homework is not done?
- Is there a way to promote positive discipline techniques among teachers? (I learned that our school is a Positive Behavior Support School, which I wasn’t even aware of!)
- Are teachers being evaluated in any way?
- Is there a way to improve the math curriculum so that it is not so intensely dependent on worksheets?
These are hard questions that may not necessarily have one right answer. However, I found that our thinking was in line with our principal’s, which I was pleased to hear. We have a really good feeling about the direction the school is taking, and we are aware that it can take a long time to turn a school around. As I’ve said before, we believe in our neighborhood school and want to help, rather than abandoning the school.
Next, we asked the principal about the option of homeschooling for the remainder of this year and having our son attend school part time. Surprisingly, the principal was very agreeable, and said that our son could continue to attend school on a part-time basis while homeschooling.
The laws vary from state to state on whether a public school must allow children to attend on a part-time basis. These states are called Equal Access States. According to this document, in Colorado, “Children participating in a nonpublic, home-based education program are allowed equal access to the public schools’ extracurricular and interscholastic activities.” This document is provided by the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), who we can probably thank for paving the way for our generation of homeschoolers. Their arguments may have been originally based on religious freedoms, but the laws that were enacted are obviously beneficial for secular homeschooling families as well.
Meanwhile, our son continued to be disgruntled with school and things seemed to be getting worse. He complained more and more every morning and kept telling me that he felt like he was in jail. He said it was a place where he couldn’t be free to pursue his interests, where he was always being told what to do, where he couldn’t even talk to his friends, and had to ask to go to the bathroom. He even said he was losing his creativity and was having trouble thinking of things to draw (he’s always been an avid artist). I kept reminding him that we could homeschool for the last trimester of school, and he started warming up to the idea.
The day of our meeting with the principal was right around the end of second trimester, so I had a talk with my son about what he wanted to do. I told him that he could continue to go to school part-time and he really liked this idea. We discussed which classes he wanted to continue attending and together we formulated a plan and a schedule. I cleared it with the principal, his teacher, and other teachers involved. We handed in our Notice of Intent to Homeschool form, per the instructions on the Colorado Department of Education website, which means letting everyone know that we will start homeschooling in 14 days.
Given my last post, many have asked me why we’ve suddenly turned around and decided to homeschool. Ultimately, I think our son just needed a break and he needed to re-establish a positive relationship with his school. We think of this as a homeschooling experiment, to see what is possible.
We’re really lucky to have so much support from our local school. Our son can attend any class he wants. He attends school on Monday and Tuesday from 10:30 am until 2:05 pm for GT class (gifted & talented class), recess, lunch, and specials (phys ed, art, and music). MMM makes an appearance for an hour during the time that our son would normally have math class. We call this time “Dada Math” and they go to the park on nice days or hang out in the school hallway and have their own little math class. On one additional day per week, he goes to Art class with his classmates. In total, he’s in public school for 6 hours per week.
This schedule works out really well. He told me the first week: “This is great! I get to attend all the interesting classes, see my friends, and skip all the super boring stuff.” The first time he returned to school after officially leaving, all his friends came running up to hug him at recess. We still get to bike to school together three times a week. The streets are usually pretty quiet, which makes the bike rides much more enjoyable.
What’s important to me is that he’s starting to develop a healthy relationship with the school again. For the first week, he said he didn’t even want to bike past the school, but now he feels very comfortable going in and attending the classes he enjoys and seeing his friends. I can tell he is much happier and feels like his time at school is more balanced and productive.
There’s much more to report on: awesome days and projects, as well as some challenges. But, so far, things are working out surprisingly well in homeschool land. We still have our foot in the public school and our son has plenty of opportunities to hang out with his friends, so the social aspect is not an issue. MMM and I are still actively involved with the school and we continue to spend time with families that attend the school. In August, the plan is to have him return to school for the first trimester of third grade and see how it goes. We’re open to whatever ends up happening.