Here we are again, with yet another school year behind us. It felt a little anticlimactic for us this year, as Joey was the only one finishing up a year of conventional school; there wasn’t that feeling of counting down to summer. Homeschooling has a way of blurring lines between school days, weekends, holidays, and breaks.
Joey finished up junior high school. There was a big promotion ceremony for the outgoing eighth graders last week, which, like so many other things these days, was a little overblown (this is eighth grade promotion, not high school graduation; so many ceremonies of life have trickled down to the younger set that I keep wondering what they will have to look forward to), but nice. Overall, junior high was a pretty good experience for Joey. It’s an angsty time. His social circle changed a few times, and his anxieties increased in some ways, which concerns me (especially given what happened with Kevin in high school). His grades fluctuated, depending on how much of a shit he gave (and it’s hard, as a parent who no longer believes in the institution or policies of conventional school, to enforce the school’s expectations without feeling like a hypocrite), but he finished strong. Whatever that means – it’s a piece of paper with letters and numbers on it, right?
Anyway, he’s sort of in limbo right now. All the kids he knows from junior high are going on to high school, and they all know exactly which high school. Joey might start at his high school of choice come August, but he might not – it all depends on whether we manage to get our house sold over the summer. There’s a good chance that I’ll homeschool him for a year, because I don’t want to pull him and have him change schools multiple times given our pending move (we’ll rent for a while once we arrive in Oregon while we look for a place to settle permanently). And truth be told, if I had my druthers, we would delay his starting ninth grade for a year – not because he can’t hack it academically, but I think a year to grow (which is what we should have done when he started kindergarten; he has a July birthday, so we could have gone either way) maturity-wise and size-wise would benefit him. We shall see.
Homeschooling this year definitely had its ups and downs. I went into the school year feeling excited and confident; I had spent countless hours researching and choosing materials to use with the girls based on their learning styles and personalities, and my own goals and philosophies. I bought everything ahead of time and was ready to rock and roll. Of course it didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned. By November or December, we had ditched almost everything I had so carefully researched and bought because the girls were bored with it, and I was growing increasingly frustrated. We had meetings and took votes, because I want them to have a voice in their own education. We settled on a much more relaxed way of schooling which required them to take a lot more initiative and responsibility for their own learning, rather than my forcing formal lessons on them. All in all, it was a better way to go, but it’s never perfect – probably because parenting and life are never perfect anyway. I feel like the girls all grew academically this year – except in math, which continues to be the bane, man. The things I am most pleased about are:
- realizing that Lilah is dyslexic and taking steps to address that. When I figured out back in October that she’s dyslexic, so much made sense suddenly about her short history with school and her relationship with learning; it was a revelation. I have been working with her ever since using an Orton-Gillingham-based program, and she’s made definite strides. It’s gratifying.
- the amazing science research projects each of the girls did. All I asked of them was to choose any science-related topic they wanted, to research it, and present something. Each of them did something different. Annabelle studied the solar system – she chose the books from the library and read them, she took notes and made an outline, she put together a Keynote presentation and presented it to the whole family, she made a 3D poster representation of the solar system – completely on her own. All I did was drive her to the library and buy the supplies she asked for to make her 3D poster. This was a HUGE achievement for this girl who is usually repelled by anything that smells like work. Daisy studied waves – specifically, what makes waves in the ocean. She did all the research herself, wrote a report, and did a cool demonstration involving a tub of water, marbles, and a fan. This was less surprising coming from her, as she is by nature conscientious and responsible. Lilah studies volcanoes. She chose books from the library, did research on the internet, made a working model of a volcano (not from a kit), and with a little help from her sisters, made a mini documentary about volcanoes. They spent several weeks on their projects, and came away feeling great about what they had learned, and what they had achieved.
Homeschooling Finn has been less than glowing. In truth, I still have a bitter taste in my mouth over how things panned out for him at school. I believe that pulling him was the best thing for him – but only because the adults in whose charge he was created such a negative environment for him, and it wasn’t supposed to be that way. At home, we still deal with a lot of negative behaviors with him – and yes, it’s tough and it’s frustrating. It takes so much patience and perseverance to ignore negative behaviors, offer lots of positive reinforcement, and create opportunities for him to be successful. I have no doubt that the negative behaviors he exhibits stem from emotional immaturity, frustration at not always being understood and not being able to do all the things he wants to do, and diminished self-esteem from all the negative reinforcement he’s gotten. The bottom line is that the more positive we are with him, the more positive he is. Still, I didn’t accomplish much at all with him with regard to academics. He was so resistant to anything school-related when I pulled him out of school in January that I finally just decided it was best to back way off and give him time to regroup. I worry about him falling farther and farther behind, but then I ask myself, “Falling behind what? Behind who?” It’s not a race.
Scarlett, who will be four (yes, four!) in a few weeks, also benefits from homeschooling – even if she’s not officially being schooled. She’s my clean slate – completely unsullied by traditional school. She mixes colors of paint to make different colors, she sounds out written words, she counts and is beginning to understand the concepts of adding and subtracting – but all of it is happening organically, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Kevin finished his first year of college. He’s done well. He’s paid for it all himself at his insistence; when we’ve offered to help with his tuition and books, he turns us down. I think he’s owning his own education, and I admire him for it. He’s talking about an art major; I just want him to be able to make a living and be self-sufficient. We don’t see a whole lot of him these days; he’s either at school, at work, or hanging out with friends. He comes home to sleep, and occasionally to eat. That is the natural order of things, I suppose. He may not even move with us to Oregon, as he might have the opportunity to rent a room in the home of a friend he’s known since third grade. I have mixed feelings about it. It’s hard to imagine being that far away from this child in whom I’ve invested so much love and hope and fear for almost 20 years, but perhaps it’s time for him to go forth into the world.
As for summer break, it’s shaping up to be very hectic. Joey and Annabelle are both at rehearsals every day for the next couple of weeks gearing up for the summer (and final) production of the theater company to which they belong; Daisy is at dance nearly every day, and she too has a show coming up, and other than that, we’re getting the house ready to put on the market, which means purging, packing, cleaning, and having work done.
And that’s all she wrote.