The Part-Time Homeschooling Solution

Dada Math in the Park (working with Palindromes)

Dada Math in the Park (working with Palindromes)

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.

{ 37 comments… add one }

  • Camille March 22, 2014, 1:06 pm

    How wonderful that the school system was willing to work with you! Twenty years ago when my husband was in middle school, he also became completely disgruntled with school (official position is that he hated waking up in the morning) and was making poor marks. His doctor recommended that his parents allow him to go in late on a part-time schedule so he could get the rest he needed, and it made all the difference. Mornings were spent gardening with mom at her work, and he was bright enough to stay up with all the homework on the classes he missed anyway. Eventually, he picked it back up full time. I think it’s wonderful how understanding teachers/principals have become in responding to each child’s specific learning needs.

    Reply
    • Mrs. MM March 24, 2014, 5:38 pm

      That sounds fantastic! I’ve actually thought about doing this next year with our son, once we get a feel for how third grade is going for him. The only challenge is that we don’t really have a bedtime right now, since we don’t have to wake up early. We have gotten ourselves into a weird schedule with a 10:00 or 11:00 pm bedtime and a 9:00 or 10:00 am wakeup.

      Reply
  • Tristan Hume March 22, 2014, 6:38 pm

    I notice you say he only attends school 6 hours per week but you did not say how much time he spends actively learning at home. Is your goal to keep up with the normal curriculum but with potentially less learning time per week or is it to keep around the same amount of learning time but go ahead of the curriculum?

    Also, how are you deciding what he learns and how? Are you and MMM teaching the normal subjects like Geography and English or are you taking a different approach?

    Reply
    • Mrs. MM March 24, 2014, 5:31 pm

      Hi Tristan. We are full time homeschooling at home and our goal is to follow the normal curriculum at school. It takes a lot less time that it would at school, so we are getting ahead pretty quickly. We are in contact with his teacher and I see all the homework and have access to the math curriculum and spelling, so we’re doing well there. Our son is also a very advanced reader, so I just make sure he keeps reading. Since he’s only in 2nd grade, there really isn’t that much to the curriculum. I feel like we’re getting ahead pretty quickly (particularly in math). But, I am mostly focusing on fun and on having him come up with his own projects, which he’s really good at doing.

      I plan to write a post about what our days look like and how things are coming along, so stay tuned! Thanks for writing in!

      Reply
  • Chris D. March 24, 2014, 3:34 pm

    I had never heard of the part time option. Thanks for posting about you experiences. I have so many negative memories of being bored in school, wishing I wasn’t wasting so much time, and longing to move on to college. We will definitely consider this option for our kids

    Reply
    • Mrs. MM March 24, 2014, 5:35 pm

      Yeah, I wasn’t aware either, until someone mentioned it on the MMM blog and I decided to look into it. I think the fact that he’s been in school and is comfortable there and has a lot of friends helps a lot. It also helped the teacher and principal feel comfortable with it. The fact that they know him (and know us) and that he’s advanced (they kept mentioning this at the meeting) made them feel a lot better about alternative options.

      We also have a program for homeschooling families which allows kids to go to school full day once a week. Kids can choose either Thu or Fri and they put together their day based on classes that are offered. It’s pretty cool and I would probably have considered it if our son wasn’t so ingrained in his current school.

      I’m not sure where you’re located, but the program I’m talking about is called Apex Homeschool Enrichment Program (http://apexhomeschool.wordpress.com/) and it looks pretty cool.

      Reply
  • Britni March 25, 2014, 8:53 am

    If you haven’t seen it already, you may be interested in this sort-of-recent article from the Atlantic about math instruction: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/5-year-olds-can-learn-calculus/284124/

    Reply
  • NV Teacher March 25, 2014, 6:47 pm

    Good for you. I always tell parents that they have to be their child’s strongest advocate. I didn’t see any mention of writing. If your child is a strong reader one of the best things you can do for his literacy skills is have him explore different types of writing. Best of luck!

    Reply
  • Erin March 28, 2014, 5:46 pm

    Wow! Part-time sounds like the best of both worlds! There are subjects I would love to homeschool and others I’d rather leave up to the teachers, so I’ve just kept my son in despite his frequent requests to be homeschooled. This would be a fantastic solution! Do you know of any quick way to find out which areas/schools for which it’s an option?

    Reply
  • tallgirl12014 April 13, 2014, 7:25 pm

    MMM seems to be off line, so I was searching around trying to get it (!) and discovered your blog! Thank you for providing your perspective. I also have an 8-year-old 2nd grader who is gifted in math and reading, and we struggle with how to ensure he has a good experience. His dad “checked out” of school early and barely graduated from high school, never went to college– he has run a successful business and has a happy life (and retired very early!) but we both want a different school experience for our son. Hearing how you are handling some of your son’s schooling is helpful– my husband would like to home school, but I feel like school provides a more three-dimensional view of the world– trying to find that balance will be a challenge. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Mrs. MM April 15, 2014, 12:59 pm

      Glad you found me! :) I think the kid’s opinion of school has a lot to do with it. If your son is enjoying school, but needs more challenge, then that’s something you can work on with the teachers and within the school environment. If he’s part of a gifted program within the school, that will help a lot. Being identified gifted will allow you to discuss with teachers how to differentiate for him and other kids in the classroom. If his emotional well-being is at stake, then another solution may be warranted. It is a tough balance for sure.

      Reply
  • Shelly April 15, 2014, 11:53 am

    Dear Mrs. MM:
    Wondering if you would weigh in on something for me – I have one child, a 9 year old daughter, who is homeschooled. I want to make sure she gets exposure to “social” situations through extracurricular activities, but the ONLY thing she wants to do is horseback riding. This involves two to three times a week driving 20 minutes each way to the barn, plus about $325 a month in lesson fees. We try to live a “mustachian” lifestyle and this just doesn’t seem to fit in with that, but I also don’t want her to lose this opportunity to pursue her passion. Any thoughts on spending money for extracurricular activities for kids? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Mrs. MM April 15, 2014, 12:55 pm

      I think it all depends on your situation. If you’re struggling financially, then it seems like an outrageous thing to do. But, as a mom of a kid who also doesn’t care for any extracurricular activities, I can understand what you’re saying. For example, if my kid wanted to do a science camp or something else he was interested in, I would be so excited that I would sign him up immediately.

      One thing you can do is take breaks from an activity for a while. Maybe you do lessons for a few weeks, then take a break and go out for horseback rides occasionally, then start up again. Maybe your daughter loves nature and would enjoy hiking on trails as well. It really depends on you and your family and your financial well-being. For example, our son takes swim lessons for a few weeks in the fall, we take a break in the winter, do some more in the spring/early summer, and then he spends all summer swimming at my parent’s cottage. We also go to the pool whenever the mood strikes.

      I should add that social situations can be quite varied and includes having friends over to play, families over for dinner, etc., which kids usually love. It doesn’t necessarily mean an extracurricular activity. Kids don’t tend to get much social time in organized activities anyway, as the activities are all run by adults! Having kids organize their own games at a park or just have them run around together is much more social for them. So, I wouldn’t use the horseback riding as a way for your daughter to get social time… just think of it as something she can do because she loves it, within reason and with balance.

      Reply
      • Kris January 11, 2015, 9:22 pm

        From a pony crazy kid, that has grown into a horse crazy nut.

        If her only intrest is horses, expand on that in your down time. As Mrs. MM suggests take a breaks. send her to a balanced kids camp that has other activities other than just horseback riding. Go on nature hikes and identify plants in relation to the horses. For young kids I like to identify easy ones that horses if left to their own devices seek out to heal themselves. Like Dandelion, Milk thistle, wild garlic, rose hips, and what the different plants that go into a hay bale look like and how they are different from one another. Like Timothy grass, red fescue, alfalfa etc. for older kids we do ones that are poisonous to horses, once learned expand to ones that cause health issues but not deadly, keep expanding.

        Check out what the higher level kids get to do, are they grooming and tacking up the lesson horses, and detacking afterwards? Is there commradery at the barn or is I am out for myself only attitude? Is there a bit of down time afterwards for the kids to chat? Or is it rush into the next lesson. Once she is older (teens) A good barn will offer a more well rounded program, with hands on time and ability to chat.

        You could also look into a 4-h group, they are now able to branch into other things as well not just horses, 2 examples are photography (Picts of horse) and car care (how to get to the barn), both of which you can link back to horses to get her started in at the appropriate age.

        Reply
        • CAtoTX February 16, 2015, 8:10 pm

          I second the recommendation for 4-H. I live in a suburban area but there are enough horses & livestock scattered here and there. We loved our 4-H program when we were home schooling. They had horse projects, livestock projects (my daughter raised the grand champion turkey one year), food, clothing, science, photography, arts and crafts, culture, public speaking…and if you don’t find a project you like, become a leader and teach your child and his or her friends! I spent a few enjoyable years teaching sewing as a leader.

          Reply
  • Ignacio April 19, 2014, 3:05 am

    Hi there,
    It seems that your son’s needs can be addressed by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_education.
    Children under this kind of education are free to focus on their interests instead of being told what to do.
    Cheers

    Reply
  • Abbie April 22, 2014, 6:41 pm

    I’m so glad you have a blog!!! My husband just discovered Mr.MM and I keep saying “I really want to hear from Mrs.MM!” And here you are! Thanks so much for blogging!

    Reply
  • Jen Guzman April 27, 2014, 9:41 pm

    I am also thrilled to have discovered your blog! I think you are really smart to take measures to ensure your son stays positive about learning and schooling. Last school year my son, (then 2nd grade) was feeling burned out and bored. We were living in a highly competitive public school system in the Washington DC area. He has also been labeled as a gifted learner and had always been very curious and imaginative, and I saw these traits leaving him. Honestly, I probably would not have considered homeschooling, but we happened to move around March to Seattle and I promised both my sons that we would homeschool for the remainder of the year . For this son, it was a great time to remember that he loved to learn, to work on independent projects, and to “recharge his school battery.” He’s had a great school year in Seattle….although admittedly we are in a unique and lucky situation as he attends a public Montessori school. Kudos to you for letting your son have a say in his education and also continuing to work hard for your neighborhood school!

    Reply
  • Elaine July 13, 2014, 8:03 am

    This is a great example of thinking outside the box with regard to parenting and education. Full time schooling has some significant downsides which are often ignored because people don’t explore their options. If you don’t know your choices, you don’t have any.

    It is helpful to remember that everyone really wants what is best for children. Teachers, administrators, coaches, tutors, scout leaders, neighbors, relatives and even the nosy people in the checkout line at the grocery store have an interest in your child and would like to be part of his success. Be both grateful and discerning as you weigh their input. Most of all, remember that you care more, know more, and have more at stake than anyone else with regard to your child’s well-being.

    In my case, necessity was the mother of homeschooling badassity (to borrow phrasing from Mr MM) and I continue to discover new benefits even after 14 years. There are many parallels to financial independence; you can begin thinking you are just trying to avoid downsides of corporate slavery/wasteful consumerism and find that the upsides of freedom, health, and simplicity are even more important. Another parallel is that people sometimes hate on those who make different choices and refuse to live in the “real” world as they have accepted it. But what is more “real” than Mustachism?

    Reply
  • Anne-Marie August 31, 2014, 6:50 am

    I’m a homeschooler who asked MMM about homeschooling back when he had the live chat on the Washington Post site, since homeschooling seemed so inline with mustachian principles of independence and DIY. I am so glad this excellent solution is available for you! I’m curious, would you choose part-time school or pure homeschooling if you were starting over–in other words, if your son (and you) didn’t already have those attachments to the school?

    Reply
  • Jessica October 23, 2014, 5:59 pm

    what happened with the homeschooling?

    Reply
  • Kara November 19, 2014, 3:41 pm

    I recently received some really good parenting advice when considering what to do about Christmas gifts (how lavish? lavish? frugal? who will we be? what are our values?) and I heard myself saying, “I just don’t want him scarred forever b/c I make frugal choices.” Srsly, self? Yes. Yes, I said this.

    My friend casually remarked: “I find it helpful when considering what is best for my kids NOT to ask myself ‘What is best for my precious, tiny, brilliant, special, vulnerable, young, perfect children?’ Instead I say to myself, ‘If I could go back in time and decide what my parents would have done in this situation for me, what would I have them do?’ It’s a way I trick myself into a couple good ways of thinking: 1. I’m start thinking of my children as my peers. I am strong and confident. I see their strength and confidence. 2. I remember unpleasant things that made me a better person, and I start thinking about how current unpleasant things may very well help my children be better people.”

    This REALLY hits home with me, b/c I lived in Spain when I was little – 5 years old, ripe to become bilingual. My older sister was coming home from school crying every day after this difficult (for her) move to a foreign country. My parents decided to put us both in American school, instead of sending us to school with the Spaniards and trusting our genius-child-brains to pick up the language naturally. It was easier for us. We liked it more. Though, my parents noticed that I, unlike my sister, really blossomed with this move – and starting wondering… maybe we should have chosen differently?

    I don’t speak Spanish. I wish I could visit my parents and say, “Really?!? You LIVE here but you aren’t going to put your kids in an environment in which they will naturally pick up another language?”

    I’m thinking LOTS about school with a 3yo and a 1yo and a desperate public school system (we’re in Philly – it’s rough lately; parents buy paper for teachers b/c the schools can’t afford paper. Not like lined paper for the kids to use. But copy paper for paystubs and memos and the most basic of not-school-supply uses a professional adult has for paper in their workplace). I like reading about what you’re doing, b/c I think it does answer the question of “If there were no financial constraints, what would I do?” I like how you talk about advocating for all the kids – not just the one that belongs to you. I’m trying to find that balance between what does my child need, what will feel awful for my child but will help, what will be awful and for no reason and I should step in and spare him if I can… what, what, what, what, what to do.

    Thanks for sharing what you’re doing and how you’re processing these questions!

    Reply
    • runrooster May 27, 2015, 8:25 am

      1. If you want to be bilingual, put yourself in places where you will hear and speak the language. Your genius brain is still there.

      2. How long were you in Spain? I doubt a year of schooling at that age would give you fluency. How do I know? I spent the first 4 years immersed in a foreign language and the next 14 hearing it at home. I understand like a 5 year old, easy words and food stuff. I can speak better after a week visiting home/ the other country. I don’t write or read. I don’t use it, I don’t value it. It may have helped my brain learn other things, but maybe it displaced an understanding of how to play softball (I’m terrible at team sports).

      3. scarred forever – I’ll tell you my frugal xmas stories sometime. It happens.

      Reply
  • Bryan December 7, 2014, 1:09 am

    This is so cool! We’ve been doing part time public school part time home school, as well, for a while now. It is AWESOME. The perfect solution AND we get some benefit from our tax dollars. Great minds must think alike :-)

    Reply
  • jen arrow January 20, 2015, 2:33 pm

    If you have time/inclination, would love an update on how homeschooling is going for you guys. We’re thinking about it for our son. Thanks

    Reply
  • Jen February 17, 2015, 6:15 am

    Just stopping over from your husband’s recent post linking to you, and wanted to say I hope you keep writing on here! I am a big MMM fan, but I also like hearing from a woman’s perspective. I read through your previous posts and can relate a ton. Also, we just had a son and I’m very curious about homeschooling for him once he is older. Sitting in a boring, inefficient classroom all day seems like such a waste of a childhood that could be full of better learning and socializing opportunities. I think more emphasis should be put on moving around and being active, and it’s terrible that they have shorted the already extremely limited time kids move around in school even more than before. Kudos to you guys for making homeschooling work for you.

    Reply
  • Liz February 17, 2015, 2:11 pm

    Thank you for this blog.

    Reply
  • Laura February 17, 2015, 3:03 pm

    Tell us more about how it’s going! Here in Canada our family has chosen the option of homeschooling but sending the kids for extra classes (group sports, cartooning, novel writing and musical theatre this semester) one afternoon a week at the homeschool centre, which is part of the public school system. My two grade school students have some extra learning challenges (ADHD, sensory processing, etc.) and I’m so glad this allows us to be flexible!

    Reply
  • Katie February 23, 2015, 10:03 am

    That is really great you found a solution that works for you. I have never heard of part time homeschooling before, I am very interested to see if they allow this in Pennsylvania where I live. I think it would be a perfect solution for my son who like being with his friends at school but struggles academically (adhd and auditory processing), which makes learning in a classroom with so many other children very distracting. Than k you for sharing.
    Katie

    Reply
  • Josefa May 21, 2015, 3:25 am

    Hi there! I am curious if you are still homeschooling and how that is working out? I have been trying to figure out what to do with my boys. Never thought I would ever homeschool but am now considering it. I have a 3.5 year old and 18 month old boys. I guess I sort of “homeschool” them now seeing as though I stay at home with them and am super involved. Nothing formal or anything, but my oldest loves to learn so I just go with it. Read books, go on “field trips” to nature walks, library etc, he is starting to become interested in reading too. We read SO many books a day! And lots of play and physical activity too. I used to be a physical education teacher before quitting to be at home after my second baby was born. Anyway, My husband and I just recently found the MMM blog and love it!! We have just recently made huge changes to our budget to save even more. I wish I would have found you both when I was working full time!! Oh the money we could have saved! It kills me! lol But oh well. If I ever get full time gig again Id be rich! haha I am living in Los Angeles, California and there are some decent schools where I live, but would love to have more knowledge about homeschooling because that may be a great option for us. So any links, books, resources or tips you can provide on the subject would be great! Thanks so much!! And looking forward to reading more on your blog and learning from you! :)

    Reply
  • Charles May 24, 2015, 7:12 am

    I’ve been homeschooled my entire life and really think it’s the best choice for an education. From a simply academic standpoint, it’s catapulted me way ahead and has allowed me advance quickly. When I was younger, I jumped ahead two grades in math, and right before high school, I skipped a grade.

    When I was 8, my dad taught me to program, and it has since become my biggest extra-curricular activity. I’ve since learned enough to get a part time job at a local startup.

    I’m now 16 and am currently dual-enrolled at the local community college. I’m on track to receive a two year degree Computer Science degree by the time I graduate high school.

    Even though I focus primarily on math and computers, my parents gave me a well-rounded education with an emphasis on English and literature. I’ve also played piano since I was 6, and have just started taking violin lessons.

    If I was attending a public school, there is no way I would have been able – or even allowed – to advance at a pace that is comfortable to me. My parents have had absolute control over the curriculum and have even been able to teach me skills that regular schools don’t teach. Overall, I believe it allows a better rounded education without any of the limitations.

    Reply
  • Alyse June 29, 2015, 7:05 pm

    Mrs. MM would you be able to add some insight into the Canadian side of things on your topics?

    Reply
    • Mrs. MM August 29, 2015, 1:34 pm

      Sadly I’m not well versed on all things Canadian, as we live full time in the US. Besides my Canadian roots, I haven’t done many “adult” things in Canada. But, if you have specific questions, I’d be happy to try and answer or find out. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • Diego July 20, 2015, 2:43 am

    I would love to read more about Homeschooling from you. I guess it takes away time you would use to write an article, but if you can do it, it would be much apreciated.

    Reply
    • Mrs. MM August 29, 2015, 1:35 pm

      Yes, I have a lot to say on the subject… if you have specific questions, ask away! My blog is not getting the attention it deserves these days, but at least my kid is! :)

      Reply
      • Diego August 29, 2015, 8:22 pm

        I don’t have specific questions right now… my only son is only 9 months old. I want to learn as much about homeschooling as possible now to have an easier time when (or if) I decide to start it. MMM already did a post about you two fully homeschooling your kid, what I meant with my comment is that I would love to read your point of view on the subject too. But of course, your kid must have all the attention he needs, so whenever you can share your thoughts with us!

        Reply

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