Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Proactive Education, Part II

After posting, I was asked why we are considering public school. It’s a question that deserves an explanation.

When my kids were little I felt confident of my ability to meet their academic needs. As they reach the end of middle school, my confidence wanes. It started with math.

I asked to borrow the pre-algebra book from our local school. I quickly discovered that we had not explored many of the traditional models to nearly the extent that this publisher did. My children had spent hours looking at visual models and learning to think mathematically. That was my goal and I think we accomplished it. But we had not done nearly as much work with traditional algorithms. I proceeded to go on a rollercoaster ride akin to Magic Mountain’s worst. I alternately felt like raising my hands in exultation and puking….

Nervous Nelly: “My kids are behind. They’ll never catch up. It will destroy them. And I’ll look like an incompetent fool.”

Confident Carmen: “But the public school class is only half way through the book and there are only a couple months of school left. If you spent a few weeks you could easily cover what they’ve done this entire year.”

Nervous Nelly: “But what happens when they go to HIGH SCHOOL and haven’t covered some of this stuff? Then what? Huh, huh? You want them to fail? Be crying all over the doorstep of the high school? How are they ever going to survive in college?”

Confident Carmen: “Look, schmuck. You’ve done a good job. They know how to think. They know how to learn. If there are things you haven’t taught them, they’ll figure it out.”

Nervous Nelly: “But what if I’ve done it ALL WRONG for SEVEN YEARS? Then what? Huh?”

Confident Carmen: “Good grief, are you ever pathetic. Get over yourself.”

To a large extent, my thoughts about putting them in public school are REACTIVE.

1. I am not prepared to teach my children college-prep math and science courses. I realize that we could get those courses other places even while homeschooling. (Part-time at the high school, community college classes, on-line classes, video programs.) However, I’m not sure I want to spend the time, money, and effort to get those classes when they are being offered for free at our local high school. Not only are they free, but they are actually worth $$. See #3.

2. One scary thing is that I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DON’T KNOW. Let me explain…

I’ve recently been researching higher-level mathematics curriculum. The more research I do, the more confused I get. I know enough about pre-algebra/algebra to recognize that there are some significant holes in some of the homeschool programs I’ve looked at. Holes according to whom? Well, holes that would be a stumbling block should we ever choose to enter the public school system. Yes, the public school texts are FAR from flawless. However, they are in the MAJORITY. And if my children are going to take any college math classes, professors will expect students to be on par with what the majority has been exposed to…good or bad.

In algebra I recognize that there are holes in the homeschool curriculum that I’ve perused, but I don’t know how to fill them with any semblance of confidence. In the upper level classes (take calculus, for example), I wouldn’t recognize a hole if I fell into it and ended up in China. I do not have enough knowledge in this content area to be able to evaluate the strengths or weaknesses of a curriculum. Same goes for science.

3. My older daughter (who has spent all her years in public school) will graduate from high school with over 50 college credits. The credits were earned through our local community college in the college prep courses she took in high school. So by going to high school, she will end up saving us money in college. When you convert those credit hours to a private college, it equals a LOT of money.

I would like to have a PROACTIVE stance toward what we choose for high school. So what do I want for my kids?

1. I want them to continue to grow as learners and as human beings, developing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I want them to develop their critical thinking skills, while enjoying learning for learning’s sake.

2. I want them to continue to explore their gifts and talents and what makes each of them special and unique. They need time to do this. Time to explore. Time to be outside. Time to BE.

3. I want them to explore the world around them—nature, the environment, other peoples/cultures. I want them to know how incredibly important they are as human beings but also how small they are in the universe. They need to understand that the rest of the world doesn’t live in the privilege that we do; therefore, they are given a huge responsibility, one that needs to be cultivated with care.

I’m sure there’s more…

But I guess my great concern now is that I don’t know how to rectify my reactive stance with my proactive stance.

To end on a positive note, my daughter took the state test in math yesterday. Apparently, she did very well--"exceeding expectations"--despite not having spent the year studying from the pre-algebra book that about sent me over the edge. My confidence is restored, at least for the moment. But don’t hold your breath until tomorrow.


bodegalee said...

first let me say, as usual, you are so well-spoken. AND second, if you and your children feel that home is best to meet their educational needs, you will do a slam-dunk job! NO doubts about it. However, I also completely understand where you are coming from. There's a small piece there that leads me to believe my two will return to public school next Fall, altho my greatest issue is that of probably having to return to work. BUT in talking to the out of district school my son attended last year (and this I DID not understand when I committed to homeschooling last year) there's no definite that they'll get in because they're going in above the K level which is sometimes harder if they already have large classes - grhhh! So we wont know til August.

I'm hoping by then to win the lottery or figure something out so I can continue to homeschool if need be. I loved all your points about homeschooling and as much as it's been a large learning curve for me, I couldnt agree with your points more.

We are working with a Charter and I know a lot of folks dont like Charters for various reasons. I have LOVED them. Our teacher advisor meets with the older children once a week and discusses assignments and challenges (like your dd's age). They also have math classes at the Charter site. There's also a very generous yearly budget to buy curriculum and hundreds of vendors they contract with. And then for my dd, as you know they're paying for her private therapy (not school based with a group of children).. private therapy, with the therapists she's seen since she was a baby. AND more than anything I know she's safe and I don't have to worry about getting that call that "your dd has wandered off".. ugh!

If you wouldnt mind I'd love to link to your blog from mine! Take care

richmomma said...

Thanks for your kind words, Leigh, and of course you can link...

You are lucky to have the charter option. It's not something we have available. We have a small school district that I actually like a lot. But, like everyone else, they are affected by the whole test focus. Something has got to give.

Good luck on the lottery! ;) And thanks for your comments. It's nice to know that someone is reading!!!!

KMDuff said...

I have a few thoughts that may or may not be helpful.

1. Do you have any math/science teacher friends who could help you find appropriate texts? E.G. I am a former math teacher, I know which texts I would recommend. (However, I am not a traditional math teacher, never was, so not knowing you I don't know if my choices would jive with your personal needs.)

2. I hear your thoughts on the college dad felt the same way and thought it would help a bunch, I went to college with 40 credits from AP classes. However, it didn't make my stint at college any shorter, and some of the classes I tested out of just weren't as good as the college versions in my experience in classes that followed them sequentially. (I should have repeated.) I don't think its worth it, and certainly not a reason to go to high school.

Jennifer said...

"So what do I want for my kids?...." This part of your post particularly struck me. There's no SYSTEM for this stuff, huh?

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