Monday, April 16, 2012

Homeschooling Journey

Our homeschooling journey is going to come to an end.

We started homeschooling our oldest child, Z, because the public schools were letting him (and us) down.  While they were ready to recognize his abilities as they suited the school, they failed to help him meet his learning needs.  That is, they berated him for not completing fairly braindead, repetitive assignments and let him through the system on his amazing testing ability.  He helps them (achieving test scores higher than predicted by his in-class achievement).  He learns nothing new from them (he is a self-directed learner) and has lower and lower self-esteem from being berated for his attentional problems.  This was pretty much lose/lose.

I slowly came to the realization that for the three hours nightly that I was browbeating our gentle son into doing fairly mindless and inane assignments (chapter summary after chapter summary, ad nauseum); I could spend the same amount of time helping him learn new stuff.  And, he has learned some incredible new stuff.  He is ahead in reading, science, math, and critical thinking.  He has explored history, government, and geography.  He has done some cool engineering (google First Lego League for more information).  What an amazing mind this child has, and he has had nearly free liberty to let it go while homeschooling.  We have two last blast trips planned - one to Washington D.C. by train and another to Connecticut.

Why stop homeschooling?  Well, for a regular homeschooler, homeschooling has lots of social benefits.  But, homeschooling while working full-time has limitations.  Namely, it can be somewhat socially isolating.  This could, by itself, be rectified.  But this year an additional wrinkle has become increasingly pronounced.  He is better at avoiding me than I am at holding him to a higher standard in the skills that he needs to work on most.  Like everyone else in the world, he prefers to do things that come easily than things that are hard.  And, for him, writing is hard.  For the last four months (or more) our homeschooling has devolved into a "I'll do what I like then vanish" strategy on his part and a frustrated game of hide-and-seek on mine.  I do not have formal grades or any other currency that motivates him.  This has created a frustrated mom and a sometimes sad child - and, that is not successsful homeschooling.  It is clear that the public school for our district will not meet his needs. If only dictation software worked well enough, he could really rock school...

So, what next?  Private school is our plan.  The hope is that he is motivated enough by being there to earn his way to stay.  Intellectually, it should be a piece of cake...  but, the output required of students there far outstrips anything that we've seen in homeschool or regular school.  It will take a while to get there. 
On our side is that he has some wonderful friends there already, the teaching looks exemplary (from what I've seen), it looks like a fairly loving environment, and he wants to go.   There are other gifted children there and they recognize his quirks and are willing to work with us to meet his needs. Will this be enough to make up for the mental toughness he will need to develop in facing his writing demons? 

This can be a brilliant move or an abject failure. Only time will tell...