Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Home School???

Well, technically Tay is passing math sufficiently enough to be pushed into 5th grade. And yet, Scott and I have serious qualms about that. Yes, she's been working her tail off for the last couple of months to bring her grade up (to a C-minus, from a low D), and Math is technically the only aspect of school that she's been so far behind on this year that holding her back was the only option.

BUT, the teacher made a comment that he'd see what he couldn't do to get her a better grade based on how hard she tries, instead of only test & paper scores. *sigh* That completely misses the point!!!! I totally appreciate how hard Tay has been trying to "get" her math. I appreciate it even more when I consider that it's been Scott tutoring her (as much as he can) through this math. And, considering he doesn't understand a lot of it..... Well.... He's doing excellent. Whenever _I_ try to explain something to her, she completely shuts down. He explains it, she gets it. (Of course, somewhat frequently he's got to get me to explain it to HIM first, or one of his friends at work who's got a degree in engineering. THEN he explains it to Tay.) So, it's not that I don't want to see her succeed.

But, should it REALLY be this much of a struggle?!?!? And, as it's been this much of a struggle EVERY year, should we continue to put her into the next grade and hope she'll catch up???? At what point do we say "enough"!?!?! I personally think that point should have been last year. I don't think she should have been put ahead into 4th grade when she didn't even understand the basics she'd learned in first, second and third grades. But..... Well.... This stupid "No Child Left Behind" doesn't help those kids who aren't being "left behind" but should be "held back" so that they can blossom in their own time.

Grade levels are an aberant concept. Our 10 year old sons & daughters don't ALL have the same levels of learning, and shouldn't all be EXPECTED to learn everything at the same pace. And yet, that's what we're doing. And, rather than holding back those who could use an extra year, we're pushing them on into the next grade and expecting them to catch up.


Combine all that with the fact that I learnt, Monday night, about another Lock Down that was had at the middle school last week.... And, well.... I'm rather ready to say "screw it all" and homeschool Tay next year. (And yet, I know that homeschooling will likely result in a lot of gray hair on my part -which I have been lucky to avoid completely to this point- and notions of strangulation.)

Turns out, 3 of the little girls (all 6th graders) in my neighbourhood were mentioned as shooting targets in an online statement made by one of their classmates. One little girl in particular, C., was the main target. The two other targets are friends of C's. One of them is the older sis of Tay's best friend. The other is the older sis of one of Tay's classmates. Both of these girls were targeted because they're friends of C's. (For what it's worth, C. is not a child we allow Tay to hang out with. To put it very nicely, she's completely lacking in manners and her parents are completely lacking in any sense of authority over their child's upbringing and seem completely happy with their children's behavior.)

Anyway, it sounds like the cops and school officials ended any possibility of violence before the violence actually occured, but this is the second time in LESS than a year that the middle school has been locked down in prevention of a shooting plot. Last year's plot included about twelve 6th and 7th graders who had concocted a very elaborate plan to commit a lock-down & shooting rampage of their own, even down to the plans to cut the phone wires leading into the school, and to target the front office first. It's scary that this school that's well within walking distance of our house has twice now seen violence proposed against the children that attend. (Neither the high school nor the elem. school, also both a quick walk from my house, have seen any hint of this violence.) Suffice it to say.... Neither Scott nor I are very comfortable with the thought of sending Tay into that environment in another year's time.

(There IS a small charter school -for 7th and 8th grades- just on the outskirts of my small town that is an option we're considering for a couple of years from now, but at the same time, we're reluctant to let Tay into 5th grade at this point when it's clear she's not entirely grasping the concepts required in 4th grade yet. This charter school focuses on kids who need more intensive teacher-student ratios, but aren't "Resource" or "Special Ed." kids, either. The UNFORTUNATE part of this, for Tay, is that the floor plan of the school is literally an open floor plan, allowing noise from one side of the small building to reach the students on the other side. For Tay, that would be a major distraction. There is also the fact that they only take about 24 kids per year. No guarantee of Tay being one of those lucky 24.)


*sigh* So..... All this adds up to the fact that we really do wish we could homeschool Tay, and yet we're very unsure of how we would accomplish that. I'm not willing to quit my job, and yet I know that Tay isn't ready to be home alone and concentrating on her own school work, completely unsupervised for several hours per day. Scott also isn't in a position to quit his job. Our main hope is that I get the next available opening out here at NPB Lib. so I can quit driving to town, therefore cutting out 10 hours of driving time AND having a work schedual of only 20 hours per week instead of my current 30 hour work-week. That would allow me to work, while also homeschooling Tay. Then we would only have to figure out how to instruct her in the necessary subjects without losing our sanity. *wink* And, as neither Scott nor I are truly scholars.... You see our dilema?!?!

(Oh, and private school is NOT an option. I've been to 2 of the 5 private schools in town, and they're all very strictly christian schools. 4 of the 5 are fundamentalist baptist church-schools. The fifth is the only option I'd remotely consider, and that's the catholic school. But, that school is also on the complete other side of fairbanks. It'd be a LONG drive taking Tay in every day. And with fuel prices being what they are..... Well.... That isn't really an option either. *sigh*)

It seems we're stuck between that proverbial rock and hard place. We know that our options aren't great, and yet we don't have a clear path to navigate between all the options. What I really wish is that co-op schooling was an option.... Ya know, I provide the English & Reading instruction 2 days a week, somebody else does Math, somebody else does Science. We get the 5 or 6 kids involved outside for a couple rounds of tag or a good long nature walk every day..... Between it all, the kids get a complete education without any one parent having to commit to providing EVERYTHING for their child(ren). It doesn't seem possible, providing a truly complete education for one's child, the same way that being truly self-sufficient doesn't seem possible to me. I know that in life we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I know that this carries over to our understanding and ability to explain educational subjects as well. I know that neither Scott nor I are (am?) very good at math. (Oh Hell, my English skills are slipping as well, apparently.) Would that we could combine our academic skills (Scott's good at natural science and phys ed., my strong points have always been English, Reading, and History) with those of other parents, and thus provide our children with a good foundation upon which to build their lives. That would also allow for the teaching of handi-crafts, musical instruments, and phys. ed. geared toward the abilities of individual children. *sigh* Such frustrations!!!


Speaking of ill-mannered children..... I had the occasion yesterday to wish I could slap a small group of 6th grade girls. (They were all 3 between 10 and 12 years of age, so I'm not exactly sure of their grade-level, but that's an approximate.) One of my coworkers is a physically and possibly mentally disabled woman. She's got a very awkward walking style and her speach is somewhat brutally stilted as well. Anyway, evidently one of these three little girls had evidently conversed with Helen in the past, because I overheard her stage-whisper to her friends "Watch this....." before she approached Helen and asked for directions to the "science section". Helen told her "The science books are in the Q section of the non-fiction." To which the little girl asked Ellie to repeat herself because the little girl didn't understand. Helen did, and the little girl still claimed to be unable to understand. This happened at least 3, maybe four times before the little girl and her friends were laughing too hysterically to continue tormenting Helen.

Next thing I knew, another one of the girls asked Helen to SHOW them where the science books are, and they all took off after Helen, mimicing her awkward walking style and pointing and laughing and thinking they're all brilliant because they know how to make fun of a somewhat elderly woman with obvious physical handicaps.

*sigh* I was putting CDs away, as all this was going on, and was only a matter of feet from where Helen was attempting to tell this girl the information the girl claimed she needed, but being as we're all adults and it is a professional workplace, I didn't know what my boundaries are as far as stepping in and telling these brats to knock it off. I approached Dan, our security guard, a bit later and asked his opinion on what could be done. He said that as annoying as it is to see behavior like this, it's not OUR place to give these brats proper instruction on manners and respect for others. However, he also said he'd make it pointedly clear to all 3 of the brats that their presence was no longer wanted in the library if they were going to treat library staff in such a manner. *wicked grin* All three girls left very shortly thereafter. *wink*


The sun is back out today, and the skies are clear. But it's also windy and cold. So, the snow that we got the other day is not melting as fast as one might think it should, this time of year.


Puck escaped from his kennel again on Monday. This time without any indication of how he got out. One of our neighbours across the street noticed Puck, called Scott at work to verify that it was indeed Puck, then put Puck back inside the house for us. Scott's Dad suggested that we use the chicken wire bought for my compost & potato bins to make a higher upper edge on the outside of Puck's outside kennel. So, that's what's going to happen. *sigh* Scott plans on doing so tonight. There goes my thing of chicken wire...... I guess Scott's gonna have to get me another next weekend. Sooner or later the sun will warm things up enough that I can plant, and I don't want to be caught without the means to do so.


In that same line of thought..... I may not get to put a veggie garden in the front yard this year, but I'm going to get to put a small strawberry patch out there. The "Soroptimist" foundation (or, whatever they call it) has a strawberry sale every spring where they offer a dozen strawberry plants for only $10. I went ahead and ordered my dozen strawberry plants yesterday. I figured that a nice, small raised-bed strawberry patch in the front yard would be acceptible to Scott, and I was right. He just about jumped when I asked him if he'd have a problem with that and actually asked how much it would cost and was I sure I only wanted one dozen plants. *grin* So, I may not be planting beans and radishes in the front yard this year, but I WILL be planting strawberry plants. And, that'll take up only a small area in one upper corner, so Scott will have his "lawn" for one more summer anyway.

I think that pretty well covers it for today.

Have a Blessed Day!


barefoot gardener said...

K, I haven't even read your whole post yet but I have some comments to make on the whole Tay-school thing.

My friend The Sarge has a son (Cowboy, if you remember) who also has been struggling in school a bit. Now, The Sarge went and got herself a loan to send him to Sylvan Learning Center to get him caught up, but I won't suggest that. They have done wonders for Cowboy, but it is WAY too expensive.

The Sarge HAS done some things that worked really well and were cheap, too, though.

First, she enrolls Cowboy in summer school every year no matter if he needs it or not. The schools in her district don't have a "year-round" program or she would have him in that. The point is for him to keep working on the skills needed for every grade level all year long so that he doesn't "forget" and have to start over every fall. Our summer school programs only run 4 days a week for something like 5 hours a day, so he still gets plenty of time to play, etc.

Another thing she does (that I have been doing for Big Sprout just cuz I like the idea) is she buys homeschooling books with fun pages and brings those whenever they go somewhere that Cowboy might get bored. He does them in waiting rooms and in restaurants while waiting for his food to come, etc.

I know you have talked to Wendy about this a bit, but you might want to ask her exactly what the nuts and bolts of homeschooling are like. You might be more able to make it work than you had previously thought.

I DO really like your idea of a homeschooling co-op, and if I lived closer I would be one of the first to sign up. Maybe if you posted flyers around town just stating the basics of your plan, you could get in touch with folks who are interested in that kind of thing.

Most importantly, I think you are doing well not expecting Tay to understand things too quickly. I know I was horrified when it took me an extra year to understand the multiplication tables as a kid (I just COULD NOT grasp the concept). Looking back I am pretty sure my brain just hadn't developed enough for the idea of it, cuz once I got it it was easy enough. Tay will get there in her own time.

I suppose that's long enough, huh?

Marsha said...

I feel for you in your delimma with your daughter. Is there anyway you can cut back your budget so you can work part time instead of full time?
Homeschooling is a big committment, but well worth it. I homeschool my two kids...always have. There is nothing like the security of knowing they are home safe with you. My son is not up to grade level in his math either and I sudder to think what they would do with him in public school. I am afraid he would be stuck in special ed. At home he can work at his own speed in math and he can work at whatever level he is at in all the other subjects as well. We struggle with math. It's not my strong point but I am willing to do what I can to learn with him so I can help him. Math Tutor Videos are the next item on my shopping list for school supplies next year ( mostly for me, so I can teach him). We are a single income family. We've had to make some sacrifices along the way...our medical bills are high every month, we pay for our own school books etc. and are trying to eat organic, healthy foods and I am gluten free...that food is expensive is all very expensive but we are making it. We have a budget and try best we can to stick to it. We don't have cable TV or Satelite Dish...just get three channels with rabbit ears. WE don't buy new cars. We don't have a boat. Our home is modest bu comfortable. WE can't afford many of the extras that other families on two incomes do, but we are happy with what we have and I love being home with my kids. We are involved in a local homeschool support group and that is a great social outlet for both me and the kids.
If you can figure out what you can do without and what your priorities are, you can homeschool.

KAYLEE said...

OMG kati,i totally agree with you on that homeschool thing :)

Ashley Ladd said...

Hugs. That's scary about the schools.

I feel sorry for your coworker. Two out of my 5 children have speech impediments and learning disabilities, so I'm particularly sensitive to hearing things like this. At the same time, I'm hard of hearing - deaf in one ear - and thus I have trouble understanding a lot of conversation, them in particular, which sometimes makes things difficult. But it's never on purpose.

peppylady said...

Sometime Children and school are strange bed fellows.
My oldest one focus right in and did fine.
For the first three year and I'm not counting kindergarten.
Every year we thought he would be held back because he would day dream and they thought he might even have a learning disability.
He scored very high on a I.Q test he was just day dreaming all the time and all the big wigs said he was propley smarter then any of us.
Well once he hit fourth grade he start to focus in on learning.
Now he is junior in high school and tudor special ed boy down in Middle School.

Don't give hope keep push and asking question.
Something bound to work.

I was terrible in math but I can balance a check book.

Dena ~ swaddlecottage said...

Hi Kati,

I agree, the "No Child Left Behind" act isn't helping the children that need to master a subject. Children don't all learn at the same pace. It's sad that this isn't acknowledged.


Sian said...

Home schooling sounds the way to go here. Terrible to hear about that lock down so close to the anniversary of V Tech.

On a far more pleasant note, do you know that you can grow strawberries (and cherry tomatoes) in hanging baskets? It saves a lot of space in the garden and they look pretty too.

Connie Peterson said...

When Joy was in second grade, we decided to let her repeat that grade and I believe it was a god-send for her.

Now, Joy is homeschooling and she belongs to a co-op. They have 2ce monthly meetings where someone teaches art, someone teaches science and someone teaches physical education. Plus, the parents meet once a month to discuss problems and solutions for all their children.

Good luck in advertising and starting a co-op.

whimsical brainpan said...

I'm so sorry about your schooling dilemma with Tay. No child left behind is a freaking joke.

Puck was certainly well named. :-)

The strawberries sound like a great idea.

Slip said...

It seems that it is just a horrible time to try and raise a child. School lock-downs, snot nose brats that have zero respect, the push'em through mentality, subject mater being taught that has dubious value in real life, and children suffering from peer pressure to grow up too damn fast.

The system is broken and needs to be overhauled. They want your kid in school everyday not because of educational opportunities but because it affects the Federal aid.

Homeschooling I think it works for a lot of children because they have parents that actually give a shit how they turn out! You must be one of those radicals that want to raise their own kids and instill a positive set of values. That is the governments job. They are just not very good at it.

Tori_z said...

Admitedly it would mean you'd be on a tighter budget, but I do think that home-schooling would be a good idea for Tey. That way she could learn the skills she needs to learn at her own pace. I'm sure if you put up flyers and such you can get a groups started where the parents can get together to teach the things they're best at. I expect there are quite a few parents who feel the same way as you do.

Tori_z said...

By the way - about your disabled co-worker, and the way those brats behaved - it's a real shame that things like that are still happening. You'd think these days that there are enough disabled people around that people would have learned not to behave in such a way, and that parents would teach their children better manners. Unfortunately that's not how things work, and people don't care about the feelings of others. Even if the woman wasn't disabled, those brats would have probably found some way to agrivate and tease her, because that's how some parents seem to have raised their children to behave. I'm just glad there are parents like you around to teach their children some manners so that not all children end up like those brats.

Wendy said...

Here's a link to homeschooling laws and resources in Alaska. Look specifically at the support groups - and don't be discouraged if you don't find "exactly" what you're looking for right away. It may take some time to build a community.

You might also want to browse the Yahoo and Google groups for support groups in your area. An e-list can be a fantastic place to find support as a homeschooler. There's a national pagan homeschool support group I was on for a while, and they were great for ideas and just in general. I only left, because I didn't have time to field all of the email messages I was receiving.

As for the co-op idea. My guess is that there are other parents in your area who would jump on the idea of a co-op. You should consider starting one. There's a link on that website above for co-ops and an article about how to start your own. Of course, there probably is a coop (or two) in your area already. Thing is that homeschool groups don't always advertise themselves very well, and you just have to get in the loop.

As for the academics, don't stress the small stuff. You can find a lot of curriculum support if that's the route you think you'd like to go with Tay. There are dozens and dozens of companies that sell curriculum or provide "cover school" support to homeschoolers - everything from Calvert, which provides everything you'll need for the entire year, including pencils and papers (at a cost of about $500 per year) to, where you can find all kinds of lessons at all levels for free. You just have to organize them into units yourself.

In addition, there are as many "ways" to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. We consider ourselves "unschoolers." It's not a philosophy I'm prepared to explain in the limited space of a comments section, but you can check Sandra Dodd who is the "mother" of unschooling.

Just don't think you "can't", because it's the easiest thing in the world. As a parent, you're already your child's first "teacher" and what they learn in school ... the academic stuff anyway, is only a tiny portion of the lessons they need to learn in life. The 3Rs are easy to teach, and frankly, our schools pretend that they are worried about the 3Rs, but the reality is kids are learning much less of Reading, Writing, and 'rithmatic, than they are things I don't want my ten year old to know, yet ... which is why we homeschool. She may not know all of her multiplication tables or how to do long division, but the question is, does she need to know those things? Or better, does she need to know those things NOW? For me, the answer is no, and when the time comes that she really does feel the need to know them, she'll learn them, with or without my interference :).

But she can read. And she can navigate the computer. And she can add and subtract and count money. She can cook (without my help). She can sew (with my help). She can knit (better than I can). She knows all about all kinds of animals. She has a fantastic grasp of geography. And she just earned two gold medals at a regional dance competition. She's never been in a "traditional" classroom.

Deciding to homeschool is a very personal choice, and it really is a commitment - but it's also just an extension of the commitment you and your husband have already made to Tay as her parents.

If you keep in mind that you don't have to do things like the school does them, then you won't have to worry about gray hairs or "notions of strangulation" ;). Afterall, if the school was doing such a good job, there wouldn't be so many of us homeschoolers. Do what works for you, and the rest will take care of itself.

Wendy said...

You don't have to post that whole comment :). It was long, and it really was for you ;).