Monday, March 28, 2011

Crossroads

Okay, so you've heard me gripe from time to time about schools. In the back of mind there has always been the nagging thought, "So why don't you stop complaining and actually do something about it??" So I'm here to report (go ahead and laugh at me if you wish) that I'm getting ready to make a big jump.

I'm considering home schooling.

Of course I should be more specific--I don't typically "approve" (my, doesn't that sound so condescending?) of homeschooling.  It's a fine idea in principle but my completely unscientific anecdotal studies have shown me that most people who attempt this amazing feat tend to produce inferior results.  Don't get me wrong--I'm not condemning it outright, it's just that among all the billions of people I know who have tried to homeschool their kids I've only seen three--count them three--cases where I thought the experience a success.

More often I seen children who have a hard time socializing (though that's a horribly worn-out argument against homeschooling and I don't know that I buy it) who have a hard time with the basic educational requirements. In other words, they can't read. I have the occasional family that takes the money and runs, leaving junior to be the unpaid help in the family business rather than actually making the huge commitment that proper homeschooling takes.

Sigh.  So I've been terribly suspicious of the whole idea.  Then, on top of that I'm actually quite happy with the school system (speaking in broad generalities). The teachers my kids have had in elementary and middle school have been great--hats off to them.  But ever since Grace hit high school there have been issues.  She watches more tv at school than she does at home, she's had teachers openly flirting with female students, teachers who consistently show up 10-30 minutes late for class (and by "consistently" I mean pretty much every day), not to mention those that just don't bother to teach.

Then there's the curriculum.  When I was in high school we read Shakespeare, Chaucer, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dickens, you name it.  And then we wrote about it. Today she reads things like Jodi Picoult's 19 Minutes (about a Columbine-style school shooting).  Her junior year she finally, actually and for the first time picked up anything close to a "classic" (Macbeth) and then instead of reading it they watched a graphic movie version. Don't get me wrong, Shakespeare it meant to be seen rather than read so I don't have a gripe with that per se, it's just the lack of discussion and analysis, the falling back on television as an entertainment rather than using it to actually teach.

There's nothing wrong with modern literature as long as you can prove to me that it can teach as well as that which was produced by the masters. And I'm just not thinking that Picoult can rival the greats at any level. Not in characterization, theme, literary tools or depth. Dumb English department.

So what does this mean folks? Well I've come to a parting of the ways, a crossroad if you will.  Forget Grace, there's no hope for salvaging her senior year in the liberal arts, she's only taking a half-day next year anyway and she reads and studies enough on the side that she's doing fine with her own interest in education but Spencer? He'll be hitting ninth grade this fall and he's not someone who will pick up a book on his own to see what he's been missing in English class. I could supplement it all with my own reading requirements but his schedule doesn't permit extra work, we need to find ways to replace what isn't working with stuff that will meet his needs.

The plan is to sign him up with a homeschool program here in town then go back and sign up for the maximum number of three high school classes he's allowed to take.  That will be his biology, geometry and Spanish and I should mention that I've had no gripes with the math and science teachers there; on the contrary, I've been impressed with their quality and strength of teaching, plus I don't feel I'm competent to teach those subjects anyway.

For his PE credits he can take extra curricular sports (which he'd do anyway) and then as he's interested in studying graphic design we'll get him local art lessons and from what I've been able to deduce, they're superior in every way to the classes at the school, especially in the areas he needs (drawing).  That leaves history and English for me and between my own abilities and the online resources such as Williamsburg Academy I think we can get the job done.  He could even take classes at the University here or BYU homestudy online.  He's already proved to us that he can handle the discipline of online courses because he's just finished a series of online classes in Adobe Illustrator and has plans to next tackle Photoshop.

So what do you think? Am I crazy?  My biggest concern is making sure he's getting what he needs to be able to test at the needed levels. I don't want him to get a year or two into things and then realize he's way behind and has no chance on the SAT or ACT.  Boy that would be bad, wouldn't it?

Do you see any holes in this plan? Give it your best shot before we do something I'll later regret and irrevocably ruin my son's chances at an education.

 ***

And in related news--our friend Treg Taylor is running for the school board which I find gives me a great deal of hope.  It's not that the whole system needs to be thrown out and remade but I think he's someone who can make some crucial changes to get things back on track. Good luck Treg!

71 comments:

Motherhood for Dummies said...

I think you guys are smart. Spencer is getting the best of both worlds. Good education from schooling, the sports, and friends. And you can teach him the stuff they are lacking... plus high school can be a time of bad choices and temptation for some and this helps keep him a little bit more out of it, without shielding him/smothering. Both curtis and I think it was a great compromise/choice.

Anonymous said...

Having raised two sons who are now college-educated men who live on their own and work in their chosen professions let me add one caveat:
don't believe what you hear. Teens are not reliable reporters (i.e. teacher flirting with student); you may say, "my child is completely reliable and trustworthy" but trust me, not so much in the teen years.
Home schooling in my opinion delays learning to navigate real life; it can be a bubble. Just my opinion. Linda

Allysha said...

Good for you. I had a great HS experience, but some of my jr high classes were a lot like you mentioned. Because of that, and because I'm not too fond of the jr high socialization I am thinking of doing something very similar when my kids hit the jr high.

You and your husband both seem to be intelligent, critical thinkers. I am sure you will be able to help your kids get the education they need at home and at school.

Good luck! It sounds crazy and exciting.

Scribbit said...

Thanks for the opinion Linda, I do appreciate hearing the other side. I have until May 1 to decide and I kind of waiting to see how I feel about it before I actually sign up. I agree that kids can be unreliable, you're definitely right, though 90% of what I've heard has been confirmed from other sources as well so I tend to believe it.

You bring up a good point about navigating life--that's been a concern of mine. Though do you think that you can counteract the effects? I mean, for example, Spencer will still have contact with the kids there for four hours a day between classes and after school sports, then he'll be getting a job this summer (and every summer) plus he's very involved in the youth group at church. And then of course when you have a big family I think that helps with the socialization issue as well. But am I kidding myself?

The Vegetarian-Eskimos said...

You are not crazy! I've been there. This happened to our family in elementary school for a period of time. It very well may happen again in high school. You have a good plan. Plus Spencer is old enough to help you on the balancing act. I think it's a great idea!

Janel said...

As a second generation homeschooler, I'm just sorry you don't know more successful homeschool families. I could argue that I know a similar percentage of public school families in the same social boat. Families with issues are still families with issues no matter what type of education they pursue. The issues just manifest themselves differently depending on the school options.

I attended public school until 8th grade and then was homeschooled in high school. I loved it. My younger brother hated it. That said, my parents went the homeschool pioneer route and unplugged everything, so he felt disconnected. I loved the solitude so I could focus better.

My kiddos are currently part of a homeschool co-op, take other classes and have friends with blue hair, so I think that counts for socialization. It's how the parents works it. But I am evil and make them do chores.

I see the beauty in the mix you have planned. It sounds like it will work. Email if you have questions.

Shannon said...

I say go for it. I am homeschooling one of my boys this year, and not by choice. I am surprised at how fast he is learning and how much I am enjoying it. If I had the resources it looks like you do, I would keep it up, but in Malawi homeschooling is a very lonely game so he will be returning to school next year.

I am not sure if this is useful, or wanted, info but when a foreign service family gets posted someplace that doesn't have an adequate high school and they are not will to send the kiddo to boarding school one of the recommended high school options is the Independent Study High School, an online highschool program by the University of Nebraska. I don't know much about it personally other than it exists. It might be worth looking into, but then again you may have all the resources you need available in your city.

Good luck with what ever you decide to do.

Scribbit said...

Janel--I think it's probably unfair that homeschool has that image. You're right that you get problems in public school too, more in fact, but I think people scrutinize homeschooling more because it's the rogue thing to do. But boy is it getting popular. They said on a local NPR show here that 41% of all ASD students are in optional programs now. That includes homeschool, charter, optional schools (like ours). Obviously if the percentage is that high there's something wrong with the ASD curriculum. You can't have that many people dissatisfied and not have it mean something.

Kathy G said...

What does Spencer think about the plan?

Stephanie said...

hmmmm well I think you know how I feel about homeschooling, and considering the SAT scores my twelve year old got this year, I'd hope you'd consider us academically successful....

I think your plan is a good one for the priorities and values of your family. Though I wonder how difficult it will be for him going between the two where he isn't all at school or all homeschooling.

Really please don't buy the socialization argument. Truly, is real life sitting in a room with 20-30 other people your age memorizing facts to spout out on a test and then forget, and generally trying to figure out how to do the least amount possible to get the grade that will satisfy your parents? School is not real life, and frankly I don't think it does much to prepare children for real life.

Homeschooling can be used as a bubble to shelter your kids from the world. (Honestly, I think a little shelter from things other parents let their children watch/do/see is needed, especially for younger children.) But it doesn't mean you hide them away and they become socially backwards. In most cases I've observed homeschooled children interact better with their peers and with adults.

Spencer has a wonderful interest and talent. Homeschooling allows the flexibility for him to really pursue that. I'd let him run with that while covering the other academic bases that you feel are important.

Scribbit said...

Stephanie-I agree with you--I've heard that socialization argument over adn over again and thought it seemed a bit tired. Maybe if Spencer were an only child. Though you do sometimes see here the attitude where parents want to raise kids in a bubble. I'm with you, you do have to protect and shelter, that's the job of a parent, though sometimes they go overboard. Or I see parents who want their kids to only learn religion and school is about Bible study rather than a well rounded curriculum. My sister just started this year and it's been going well for her and I have some friends who do it well so they've led me to think it can be well done :)

And of course I'd have no doubt as to your success--though I didn't exactly count you in my little study :) I'm talking folks here in Anchorage which can be quite back-woodsy sometimes. We have friends who took their kids out of school so he could be his dad's assistant at work and the kid can't read at all.

You bring up a good point about the problems of going back and forth. We live next door to the school so I'd hoped that it wouldn't be that big of a deal for him to just walk home at lunch and finish his day at home when it's still quiet. But maybe that wouldn't work so well. I'll have to give it some thought.

Kathy--He's all for it which kind of surprised me. He's been looking forward to going to South for a long time now and so when I kind of floated the idea to him I thought that he'd hate it and that would be the end of it right there. But instead he was excited about it. I think that that's probably because he'll still get to see his friends for plenty of time during the day but also get to learn more. He's had a new history teacher this year and the guy (unlike the man he replaced) doesn't teach them much. He went from loving history to wondering why he was coming so to not be bored appeals to him.

Though I am concerned that he thinks that homeschooling means a freebie or something. One of the things I need to do if we go this route is to firmly outline our expectations for teh amount of study time we'll expect. Maybe even draw up a schedule or contract or something. I don't want him thinking he's off teh hook for a couple hours each day.

carol at A Secnd Cup said...

This is my 10th grader's reading list for homeschool for this year: Beowulf, Confessions, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Eusebius: The Church History, On the Incarnation of Our Lord, Rule of St Benedict in English,The Song of Roland, The Dragon and the Raven, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Nine Tailors,The Bondage of the Will, The Canterbury Tales, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, History of the Kings of Britain, Macbeth, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,Henry V, King Richard III, The Return of the King, The Two Towers, Winning His Spurs. We use a Veritas Press curriculum. That is just history and literature.
As for being in a bubble, she has a wide circle of friends and interacts daily with people of different ages and backgrounds.
Homeschooling is what you make it.

Patricia L said...

Doing a little bit of both sounds like a pretty good plan. If you'd said you were going to do on-line courses for the subjects you weren't feeling upto teaching then I'd have an earful for you, but using the strengths of the public school seems smart.

I find Jodi Picoult quite entertaining and have several of her books, but I am not sure what to think about her being required reading in any highschool lit. class.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I'm sure Spencer will thrive!

I would ask around and see if anyone has taken high school courses online through BYU. I know some kids haven't enjoyed them, but I can't give you any details.

Here is an online address for a homeschooling company in Utah: ldfr.com They have great resources and advice. You could also go to their discussion board and do a search about BYU online classes. I know they've been discussed there.

Stephanie said...

It's too bad your experience with homeschool families has been so negative. My experience has been very much the opposite. In 8th grade I started homeshooling my son. I couldn't take D being passing, some (not all) teachers who just didn't care, he HATED school and just wouldn't do what he needed to. I figured at least I would KNOW what had been assigned! We had high standards, and he had a very well rounded education than he would have in public school, he was able to move quickly through subjects he excelled in, and more slowly through subjects he struggled in, and he was able to focus on things that interested him while still meeting the requirements of the program. As someone else said, it is what you make it. The kids in our program do as well if not better than the kids in other schools in the area.
He did great on his SAT's, and graduated early with a good (not perfect) gpa, and several ap and college classes. It's a rewarding, but often frustrating process, believe me you will both want to quit many times. At one point in his jr year, my son really wanted to go back to public school, when we looked at the curriculum, we realized he was far ahead, and we ended up doing college classes instead. I have to admit, my son WAS able to spend less time per day on schoolwork than he did in public school, without other kids to slow down and distract, "fluffy" silly assignments etc... things move much quicker. I used pre made curriculums, took some online classes through K12, and had some things that did great, and some that frankly sucked. It was a learning experience for sure. In the end, my son got his diploma last year, and when I asked him if if was worth it, homeschooling, and he said what I had long expected, he would have dropped out if he had stayed in public school. That alone was worth the blood, sweat and tears. If my other two were interested in homeschooling, I would enthusiastically do so, but as they are not, and are doing reasonably well, they attend public school instead. I say go for it! Good luck on your decision.

Janel said...

I think you would find that the homeschooling environment in New England and goodly parts of the Continental U.S. are completely different than what you might typically find in your area Michelle. All the New England states - and most of the country - have testing and reporting of some kind each year. You can't get away with illiterate kids for long.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I have not met one homeschooled kid that wasn't articulate, outgoing, and friendly. However, I've seen public schooled kids that just stare and don't know how to respond when my daughter tells them "hello". It seems that outside of the cliques they are use to they can't function. It makes me want to ask parents of public schooled kids "Aren't you worried about socialization?" Seriously, I thought that argument was debunked 10 plus years ago for the general population. As far as academics, please educate yourself:
http://www.youcanhomeschool.org/starthere/default.asp?bhcp=1

Once people couldn't argue about academics anymore, they turned toward socialization. Since that's been debunked, they are now turning toward us teaching our religious beliefs as fact.

Susan said...

I would agree that there are homeschooling fams who drop the ball with their kids (although I don't personally know any). Or overprotect. The same can be said of some families who send their kiddos to public school or even private school.

It's what you make of it.

It sounds to me like you and your husband are engaged and on top of things, willing to find a balance, and willing to fight for your children. That's key.

The socialization thing is really a non-issue. I don't think that socializing with peers who are all the same age and level of maturity is a mark of being well prepared to "navigate life." Public school is really a bubble of sorts, if you think about it. It's not the sort of environment you encounter in the real world.

And knowledge, true knowledge, isn't tested by worksheets or standardized tests in real life.

I do think that homeschooling offers all kinds of unique learning (and social!) opportunities children in ps never have a chance at. I've found that as homeschoolers we have so much more time to truly dig deep into our studies. Read more books. Have more discussions. Witness more of nature. Learn more by doing.

Blessings to you as your family makes a decision on this. I think you'll do great if you decide to go forward with it, but only you know what is right for your family. I don't think there's an absolute right or wrong answer when it comes to "homeschool or not to homeschool." It's definitely a big commitment worth spending some time mulling over.

Jordan McCollum said...

Wait, are we actually arguing that high school better represents "real life" than . . . the real world? Did we mean The Real World on MTV? I'm confused.

I realize that the ages covered in high school are an important stage in burgeoning independence, but the societies formed in most high schools are such bizarre little microcosms that I have a hard time believing those peer groups create a better place to learn who you are and what you want for yourself, or how to make informed decisions—and they most especially do not represent "the real world."

I've heard one home school grad point out that she learned to interact with people of all ages and social levels, instead of just her peer group and teachers. The socialization argument is a straw man.

Anonymous said...

Socialization? There are some things that go on in the public school system that I for one wouldn't be sorry that they would miss socializing in.

The Source said...

There are so many resources available for home education these days! My children are thriving. The homeschool co-op group that we belong to currently serves about 60 families. We can’t take on anymore for next year because we have outgrown the facility. There is no chance of these kids living in a bubble. The do have to meet deadlines. They do have to show up on time and turn in their work. They’re required to dissect eyeballs and write papers analyzing Jane Austen novels. Some of our 8th graders just scored in the 1400’s on their SATs.

Dads who are engineers frequently give of their time to teach in Physics lab. A mom who is a physical therapist with a doctorate degree teaches Anatomy and Advanced Bio. Former teachers are also involved. Our middle schoolers have toured biomedical research labs, forensics facilities and prosthetics labs. The kids participate in math and engineering events, literary competitions and take college courses at the local universities. Most of our seniors have been accepted to GOOD universities (Clemson, Furman, etc.)
On the other hand…there definitely are those families that just don’t seem to care. Their kids turn in assignments late or do unsatisfactory work. They miss classes a lot. It’s obvious that they aren’t working on grade level, but it isn’t because they can’t. It’s because no one is making them. I would compare that to my daughter’s public school classmates. Some parents and students CARE and others just don’t. Home schooling, just like any other type of education, is going to be what YOU and your child make of it. And it sounds to me like you and Spencer are on track to do quite well. Actually, the ability to read the material and glean the important information, schedule the work according to a syllabus and complete it on time...those are the skills my college kids had to learn on their own. My homeschooled 7th graders are on top of this already. No bubbles here.

The Source said...

I just wanted to mention that many of the things that are going on in Grace’s school are also happening at my daughter’s public high school. She’s graduating this spring. We have nine more weeks of school left in the year and would you like to guess how many papers she has been required to write for her honors level Advanced Composition class? Two.
There is no failure at her school. The students couldn’t bring home an F on a test if they tried. This is because of a little program implemented last year. If a student fails a test on the first attempt, they get 7 days to retake it, at which point they can make no grade below a D. During the 7 days in which they’re supposed to be studying to take the SAME test again, they’re treated to lunchtime study hall in the school’s coffee cafĂ© (with a free latte) and tutoring. If they neglect to turn in a project or a paper…same rules apply. They have seven days to bring their work to school with no penalty. Where’s the incentive to study the first time?? Why bother to DO your work by the deadline??
I’m pretty sure this isn’t how the “real” world works. I know that if my husband doesn’t show up to work, fails to meet a deadline, or messes up royally, he will be reprimanded or fired. No one’s going to treat him to a caramel macchiato! ;)

Flea said...

After a four year hiatus from homeschooling (we all hated it), I'll be homeschooling my youngest again this fall (8th grade). Not only will he learn more, he won't be bullied. It won't eat him alive to be at school. And it'll be one kid instead of three.

The socialization is crap. We homeschooled nine years. My kids have been in a GREAT public school for four. Socialization means they can only relate to people their own age. They use crude humor and foul language (mine took a stand early on and refuse to). Socially they're exposed to far more drugs and pre-marital sex than they would be in a homeschool group. Not the social circle I consider ideal.

We're going to use the free public charter school for homeschool students, K12. It looks great. We'll see. So far dealing with my "personal liaison" has been extremely annoying and I want to smack her. We may ditch it mid-way and opt for something else if the bureaucracy keeps getting in the way of the education.

Sorry. Exposed nerve. Heh.

Anywho, I researched the heck out of supplementary videos (my boy has a graduate level vocabulary and an auditory memory) and can send you a list of very cool links if you'd like. Full length documentaries, math sites, etc.

Karen Olson said...

I went back and forth about whether to post a comment. I think you have a good plan. I would suggest that you look at any advanced placement classes that are offered at your school. They might suit your needs better.
First I work for a school district (in an elementary school- not as a teacher thou).
I have two children in high school, a senior and a freshman, some classes that are at the high school sound similar to the ones you described, but when we looked and read the syllabus’ for the classes we opted for the AP classes instead. My daughter/senior is going to enter college next year as a sophomore due to all of her AP classes and college classes that she has been able to take at her HS. My son is on the same track. I can understand your thoughts about the reading material (19 minutes) but my daughter read that for class and then wrote and presented a paper to the class on her feelings about it. She has also read classic. The teacher picks subjects (current and classics) that the class can identify and discuss that might relate to any current situations.
On the other hand my sister home schools her 4 children and I have seen some interesting differences. They pass our state required tests and are strong in certain subjects, but being homeschooled has disadvantages.
I a child is struggling in a subject a teacher can identify when they are not picking up a subject and recognize that they need to be approached/taught a different way (children learn different ways-watching, mimicking, tactically, hearing, etc.) which is not available or recognized when your homeschooled. And I have to get on the socialization issue. Some of it is true and some false. Depending on what classes/activities outside of home are taken will affect socialization. Make sure that they are exposed to opposing views and gifted/challenged students/teachers. I will make a more rounded and trustworthy person for the future.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you guys are being smart about this. I don't really agree with homeschooling, but its good to hear that you are incorportating both. Homeschooling where you think the school system lacks, but making it so that he still has a place to socialize and learn. Great idea. I know someone who was their whole academic life, and I am not so sure it was a great idea. They weren't very good at meeting new people,and were anxious in new settings with other people around. Good luck, I am sure it will be great!

Scribbit said...

Oh, I should have mentioned that all the classes I'm talking about are either honors classes (for 9th and 10th) or AP classes for 11th. They're considered the same thing here but particularly when it comes to "honors" the definition is rather loose as far as I can tell. Grace has taken a few non-AP classes such as economics and humanities to fill her requirements and they're not offered as AP classes and they were soft as well.

Anonymous said...

I follow your blog off and on and am highly interested in your discussions about your daughter's high school experiences. I teach high school in the Anchorage School District and I almost cry to read your tales. Thankfully, I teach science, which seems to have worked out pretty well for you so far. I love my job. Love teaching high school kids. And as I sit here at my desk at 5:15 pm fine tuning my lessons for tomorrow I keep your comments and frustrations in mind.

planetnomad said...

I think you'd be fine at homeschooling. Socialization isn't an issue since Spencer's been in school till now and would still take 3 classes, and there are a ton of good options out there for online stuff. (I know homeschoolers yell that school doesn't offer a "real world" but I think learning to get on with a diverse group of your peers is good prep for the working world)
I don't think of homeschooling as the best choice in very many circumstances, but it may be for you right now. :) Regardless, it's your decision and I'll certainly respect whichever one you make. (I hope that doesn't sound condescending; i'm trying to say that I respect you to make good choices for your kids)

Mandy said...

I only read a few comments and the one that said, "delay's learning to navigate real life" I have a few thoughts on that one.

First, my middle schooler comes home telling me some very disturbing things. His school is large with 350 students in his grade (over 700 students total in only 2 grades) and he hears and sees a lot. My son is a bit sheltered and so comes home asking me what this word means and if it is bad why would they say it, etc... and it was really bothering me but after prayer and talking it over with my husband we decided to keep him in as we can/will continue discussing the things he faces as he will always have to face them, but it's our job to let him know that behavior is not right or normal.

So, maybe I agree with her comment to a point, only to a point, do we really want our kids to be just like everyone else? Isn't it okay to have peculiar kids if they are making the right choices? It sounds to me your son will be getting plenty of social time and if he doesn't act like the rest of the teens "because he's been delayed" count your blessings.

Anonymous said...

go for it...I think you guys will You can make homeschooling work. I've been a high school teacher and I've seen everything you descsribed and worse. I've also seen wonderful, hardworking teachers who truly care about their students. Grace was just unlucky to get a series of weak teachers. The way you and Spencer have it worked out he will be getting the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'n not really an illiterate. My typewriter just got away from me re all the typos.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you know so many unsuccessful home schooled stories. We home schooled our child all the way through and he entered college at college-levels which is not the norm for kids coming out of public high school. It can be done! But the thing is, it has to be done with a whole-heart attitude...for the parents and the student. As for being socialized? Are you serious?? Home schooled kids get to spend time with people of ALL ages and I can't think of a better way to "socialize" a child than that! I wish you well.

Staci said...

We're going thru' a similar thing at the moment. My daughter was homeschooled thru' primary and started high school last year. She is really struggling with the 'waste of time' - teachers not coming to class, being late, bad discipline, extended deadlines and basic disinterest from the students (and this is a private school that we are paying a huge amount of money for). We are now thinking that she would be better off educationally at home where she can get on with the required work and thereby have more time to do the things that she finds interesting. Look forward to hearing about your future experiences.

Lori said...

Partial homeschooling for Spencer sounds like the right idea with two minor caveats. First, having done American Government and Economics in high school through a homeschool program, I'd say that some curriculum isn't challenging enough. Make sure that you as a teacher of sorts aren't just having him read and answer questions. I felt my courses lacked debate and in depth conversations.

Which brings me to my second thought, homeschooling is solitary. It sounds like Spencer is socially fine, but will he be able to see multiple points of view from different pieces of literature? Perhaps there's some sort of reading group/book club he could take part in? That would have helped me take something out of Economics, because while I got an A in the class, I cannot recall one interesting thing that came from my textbook.

Anonymous said...

I hope you have reported the tardy and inappropriate behavior or your child's teachers to the principal. I do think parents have to get involved at their kids' schools and work to bring up the level of academics.

Anonymous said...

Every family that homeschools or sends their kids to school are doing what is best for their kids. I'm not a fan of the "homeschooling is popular at the moment." That is like saying that I need to change my shirt since it is not in style. Give parents options and they will pick the combinations that work for them. That is why homeschooling is 'popular' at the moment. One can buy more types of tooth paste and that is considered a good thing, but when it comes to education only one form is approved.

Being an outsider looking into another family and seeing "oddities" is about making the observer feel good about their choices. Raising kids is about doing the best you can which some second guessing mixed in. It is not trying to get approval from other people.

As far as socialization, how did we get to the extended adolescence? Talk about missing out on life experiences.

Kim said...

Fascinating comment thread. I am currently going through the same decision re my 10-year-old (am looking into homeschooling her next year during 6th grade).

In our situation, it's not so much the academic content but the strict boundaries of her school that is giving us fits. She's a very artistic, flighty, out-of-the-box kid who is certainly bright, but terribly disorganized, and is getting poor grades in certain subjects NOT because of her grasp of the material but because her work is late, sloppy, etc. She does not like to jump through the hoops, and is feeling very discouraged and apathetic toward school.

Regarding the socialization angle, she's fallen into a group of snotty girls and I actually want to get her away from the extremely worldly mentality (makeup, boys, clothes, gossip, etc) that she seems to be getting pulled into. So maybe I am looking to encase her in a bubble, but I'd like to think that I'm removing her from an unhealthy environment and surrounding her with better friends—she's involved in other activities outside of school with some really great kids (ice skating, church, etc.)

Good luck with the pros and cons! I know what you're going through . . .

Chrissy said...

I might have missed something, but does Anchorage have the option for a high school student to attend partial days at a local community college for credit (or UAA or something)? Many, many juniors and seniors in my hometown took this option - some even graduated high school WITH an associates degree as well! It helped the kids who were looking for something more - one of my friends who went this route is now a PHD, teaching at an Ohio school.

Have you spoken to administrators, teachers about it? Public school isn't perfect, but I've always felt that when you work with the school instead of against it things work out.

Roo said...

Michelle, I don't have any kids, but I have lots of kids around my life. Based on what I've seen of homeschoolers, I think you are approaching it in a good way. You are not completely shutting him off from the world of public education. He'll still be involved in sports and as you stated, he's not an only child, so I think you've got the socialization part covered.

I too have had negative opinions of homeschooled kids in the past, but I'm seeing more and more very accomplished homeschoolers. You need to do what is best for your child. And just because it may work for Spencer doesn't mean it will work for your other children. I believe you may have to reevaluate for each child.

I wish you the best of luck with this. I'll be anxious to hear what your final decision is.

Rhonda

Roo said...

P.S. If people are concerned about the social side of it, I believe that you could probably tell them that he has all of his church friends and activities as well.

valnbunch said...

Michelle,
Having happily homeschooled 4 kids in Alaska for 10 years, I'm totally supportive of your homeschool choice. You sound like a motivated mom who is interested in her child's well being and education. Mix that with all the resources available and you've got a great formula for success.
The biggest reason for we love it is because my kids still love to learn and want to work hard to study. That desire is often squashed after years at public school.
BTW, I have 2 high school kids at Williamsburg Academy. We love, love, love it! ~Valerie

Kris said...

Just like kids in public school, home school kids will vary widely in their academic and social skills. However, I have never heard that home school kids can't read, that's a new one on me. We just pulled our kids from public school last fall and I am thrilled. I am now in charge of what they're learning, they don't have to fit in with the crowd socially or academically. Their curricula is individualized both to them and more importantly to my husband and me and our concept of a quality education. What we encountered in the public school was not what I consider socialization in any sense of the word. My boys did not pick up positive social habits at school, only negative ones. Now I can spend a good amount of time with them teaching good habits of all kinds. I love it! We have control of our time, and we can better enjoy church activities, Boy Scouts, sports and whatever else we want to get involved in. They don't live in a bubble. In fact, I feel as though we have removed them from a bubble: the public school classroom.

Stephanie said...

I had to read al the other comments first, I could only agree with most of what I read. So many good points put so well!
I homeschool 2 of my 4 children. My youngest is only 5 months ( no school there) and the oldest an 15 year old A+ honors student is finishing up his freshman year in our military public Highschool, so that he can go to ROTC. He was homeschooled. He is dual enrolled in AP classes at the Highschool and in a community college. He is apalled daily at the going on's and to-do's at his school! He says they do get "social-lized", he gives reports that would "curl the toes"!...and un-like Linda, I don't have any reason to not believe my son. He also thanks me for not putting him in "school" before he was ready, he says "I don't know if I would be able to deal with it, the crazy-ness, you don't know Mom, it's insane,"
At home I have a 10 year old that is nearly deaf, he is doing wounderful and is on grade level( I do give them standard-tests) But, while he is on task with his studies, he is getting to work with electric circutry that he would never get a chance to do at "school". ..and the only socialization he is missing out on is "being bullied and torchered for being the "special kid" with the big head-phones.
My daughter is 8 and is finishing up the 4th grade. She is also learning to speak Hawaiian ( we are moving to the Island this summer).
we live in on post housing where every apartment has at least 3 kids ( 1 kid per bedroom) so the kids do get plenty of interaction with others their age. I also get to see that my kids can talk with older adults and children younger than themselves, with no problem. they are also better mannered than most of their age-mates. Of course they are behind in some areas... my children don't seem to "get" the sexual inundo, that other kids are understanding already, and they don;t know how to back-talk or sass me like some of their friends do... I guess we are midssing out?
Maybe you don't know many successful Homeschoolers IRL, but it looks like you know quite a few here on-line, which can be used as a super-valuable resource.
I wish you luck, I took a whole summer to make my choice to HS. But I hae never regretted it!

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Wow, you have a lot of comments already. So without reading them, and at the risk of repeating them, I think your plan sounds like a good one. Really, you have a good program if your son can take the classes that would be hard to teach at home (math and science) at school, and the classes where you're strong and they're weak at home (English and history). PE, if they're motivated that way, not a problem. Same with art. If I were in your shoes, knowing what you do about your school system (too many movies in some classes, great in others), this sounds like a very good solution. And perhaps there's a way to determine if he's getting all he needs to get along the way, so you know if he's keeping up. From what I'm hearing, he'll do great, and thrive.

I admire parents who look at each child as their own person, and try to figure out what is best for that child. We only have one, so that's easy for us. But with more, it's more complicated. Good for you for knowing the difference between your children and their needs.

Denise said...

You've mentioned before that you really respect Mr. Kemper at South. Did you know that he and his wife homeschool all five of their boys? My husband teaches at Hanshew and we homeschool also. So it's not just people outside the system who think it is broken.

Ditto the other homeschool advocates. Check out the studies, those NOT done by advocates of homeschooling. Read up on how many colleges, even Ivy League, have homeschool preferences at least in part because those students tend to be much better independent self-starters than their public/private school peers. And do not be afraid.

Annie said...

I'm so sorry you've heard and believe such negative things about homeschooling. My two were homeschooled K through 12. They are both on the Deans List, world travelers, and outgoing, social individuals.

We do not live in a one size fits all world, so why do we educate our children that way?

Elizabeth said...

I think you guys will be great homeschoolers. I'm actually surprised after following your blog for so long, I thought you already were. lol.

We have been homeschooling since my oldest started reading at 4 years old. It just worked for us. I was already teaching him at home why stop and send him somewhere else. I don't necessarily agree with the comment that "Home schooling...delays learning to navigate real life". I think that the way children have been educated for the past, what 100 years, is not "real life" At what other point in your life will you be seated 8 hours per day with only your same aged peers. If anything that stifles real life.

I've heard the socialization argument so many times its just something I tend to ignore. It comes up as the last ditch effort argument. For the last 3 school years my kids have been in a 2 day a week options program where the learn science and spanish. The oldest 2 have tested at or above grade level every time. The third one will be testing this next year.

Of the hundreds of homeschooling families that I've known or met, I'd say probably a hand full of them meet the backwards, un-socialized stereotype. The majority are blessed with ridiculously smart and creative kids who have gone on to really make something of themselves. My husband was homeschooled the majority of his education and he learned to be a self starter. If he wants to learn something he just gets a book and learns it.

I know you didn't mean to start a comment-fest but it tends to be a touchy subject. lol. I hope you'll have such great success that you'll soon be writing on the opposite side of the debate.

Jessica said...

Best of luck! I have no children so not sure I can comment on it, but seems you've covered a lot of the potential holes. You're also flexible so I'm sure you'll adjust as needed. Spencer seems quite creative - this may be the best way to educate him without crushing that creativity and curiosity. I look forward to reading about your journey as always!

Holly said...

I am not opposed to homeschooling (at least in theory, as my kids are still too young to try it) and think you might as well explore it as an option. As a friend of our family, who is a college professor, told us when the subject came up, "You will probably do just as well as a public school, and definitely no worse."

Daisy said...

Online resources - I'm glad you're looking into those. Some families homeschool well; I believe you have the high standards it'll take to make it happen.
Good luck!

Evelyn Theresa said...

I think homeschooling in your case makes sense, especially since it isn't like you're completely isolating him. My sister had English classes like you're describing and so my Mom pulled her out. She still went for most other subjects and stayed on the tennis team (they took state this year). But she had a real passion for the piano so instead of wasting time in English class watching movies, she would practice for 2 hours at home. She already was an avid reader, so she got all the broad reading needed and she wrote some papers on her reading - which is more than she did while in school.

She was just accepted to college with a scholarship. Socially she had no problems because she was still in team sports and at school for many other classes. Some of her friends didn't even realize she went home half day since they all were in different classes anyway.

Linda said...

I homeschool my children - AFTER a public school experience. I can only say that I noticed a distinct improvement in scholastic abilities, especially reading. My daughter who was NOT interested even in reading Dr. Suess, now devours books. For me it's all about choosing the program that will work best for you and your family. Homeschooling has opened up an entire world for us. We're not tied to school schedules, we can travel when we want, we choose our own breaks, and my children will be finished with school in less than 4 weeks - children here in the public school system still have 2.5 months of school left. My children are extremely well socialized, and have no emotional or social issues. We chose homeschooling because it was best for our family, not because it was in style, and I'm honestly learning a lot that I never learned having a public school education. My third/fourth grader is studying the constitution and the declaration of independence - in detail. She has developed a love of George Washington, and keeps begging me to read about Thomas Jefferson. Our curriculum isn't limited to one program, I chose things that would best help my children through the entire spectrum. A good site to browse for curriculum (HS included) is www.sonlight.com. Good luck!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

First of all, I admire someone willing to reconsider something they NEVER intended to do. Perhaps my children will end up in school one year :) I give you credit for being willing to think outside your box!

Second, I agree with most comments encouraging you to go for it. You have the best of both worlds. I wish kids here could take just 1-3 classes and do the rest at home! Awesome!

Finally, I think the most interesting thing has been to read your "view" of homeschooling. Over here on the fast paced, high tech, crazy hyper North East - homeschoolers (as a group) FAR outperform their public schooled peers - and the schools are HIGHLY rated! But, as someone pointed out, there are oddities in both situations. It was just interesting to me to hear your view in your area. It is just really different :)

I think some of it comes from someones motivation to homeschool...there are parents just trying to raise their kids in a bubble for sure.

Henry Cate said...

"I'm considering home schooling."

My two cents: Go for it. Try it out for a year and see what you think.

Good luck with your decision.

Michelle at Growing Good Children said...

I've also been considering home schooling for my two boys, although they are appreciatively younger than your children. I too worry about their socialization and whether I could do a good job. They are currently attending an excellent school but I worry they are missing out on lots of extra curricular culture -- museums and art galleries, etc. Their homework takes up so much of their time and because we live in Southern California, the crowds are exhausting. Good luck! I'm sure your son will have an excellent future.

Liz said...

Just read your blogging ebook and I had to check out your blog. I'm just barely getting started with my first blog, and learning a lot from your book and some of the resources you mentioned. I think it's ironic that the first post I read on your site is about homeschooling, because that's one of the main topics I plan to blog about!

page2 said...

I just worry that there is a trend starting where parents with high moral and academic standards are taking their children out of the public school system. I wish they'd leave their kids in the public schools so my children could associate with them there. They can be a positive influence on my kids. Perhaps if someday only the dregs of society are using the public schools then I will need to consider home schooling my kids too, but I don't want to.

patricia said...

Such an interesting discussion since I used to think so poorly about homeschooling and have changed my mind recently. I really like your idea of mixing the bag. He's getting the best from all over. My totally unexperienced-in-the-matter idea would be to go for it. Good luck!

Henry Cate said...

"I wish they'd leave their kids in the public schools so my children could associate with them there. They can be a positive influence on my kids."

Page2, I am afraid that I don't think the public school system can be fixed. For several decades thousands of experts have tried to improve our government schools, yet decade after decade things have gotten worse.

I will not ask my children to sacrific a good education, both academic and moral, in the hopes that maybe some other children might do better. Parents have little influence or control in government schools.

hotpinksky35 said...

Considering your public school homeschooling might not be a bad idea. I have mixed feelings about the whole homeschool thing but it evidently works for some families.

Anonymous said...

I think you made a good compromise. Anchorage schools, unlike many public schools, seem to be adequate. Social skills ARE important. You and Andrew are certainly capable of filling in the gaps. Some states, like Colorado, have a quasi-voucher system, so parents can choose from public and charter schools, but it does not sound like that is an option for you. You seem to have found some good online resources. Camille is homeschooling the two younger ones, but, I think will put them in private grade school, then home school. The point is this: one size does not fit all. You are fortunate to have options. Much love. MOMM

anna angela said...

Your plan sounds well balanced and thought out. I've always wanted to homeschool my kids bec I share a lot of the issues you're concerned about. But I'm far from having my own kids and I won't know what public education would look like in the future wherever I ended up living. So if it's not too much trouble, keep us abreast if you do homeschool your son. And thank you for your post! I didn't know there were many kinds of homeschooling out there.

Pumpernickel Pickle said...

Don't do it. I was a Home schooled kid and now at 27 years old I am still upset at my parents for taking me out of public school for 4th through 8th grade. No public school system is perfect but your kids need to face problems instead of hide from them. I am one of those "anti social" kids. It can be scarring.

Mrs. Sam said...

LOVED and love homeschooling....it's just another avenue to education. Know yourself, know your kids and do what you can. Kids from our local homeschool group have gone onto higher education and have excellent relationships. No bubbles here.

Lei said...

Not crazy. More power to ya! And best of luck. :)

Robin Sue said...

We have taken our children's education, year by year, child by child, teacher by teacher. You seem to be looking at all sides pro's and cons. I think it will all work out as you are very involved in your children's lives. We attend a Classical Christian School and love that our children are reading the Greats. We use veritas press and saxon math. My biology which I teach is Bob Jones and Botany is Apologia. I hang out with some of the best homeschoolers I have ever met and all have great success stories with their children all because they did the teaching, lesson plans, and mentoring, and joined some really great co-ops. Here in VA we have some really great resources. Best wishes!

The Petersen Family said...

I've not read your blog in a week or two and just saw this post. I was home schooled and while I believe the lack of socialization argument is not true but rather it is usually a family thing not a Homeschooling thing because let's face it Homeschooling families are just different. That being said I love the way that Alaska has it set up. You can join the homeschool charter schools and still have to take the same tests they do in school so you make sure they are on target. My son starts kindergarten this year and the charter school I'm thinking of joining has sponsor teachers that are there to support you so you make sure that they are getting everything. I have to say that I love too that here in AK you can use part of money for music lessons, sports lessons, art lessons. We didn't have that in the states I lived in. For someone who I'll follow through with it, as I believe that you will, Homeschooling is not only a good option it can be far better than the local schools.

Anonymous said...

All of the complaints about home schooling can be applied, sometimes doubled for public schools. What is the ratio of kids who were home schooled have won scholastic honors? I think it's pretty high. My granddaughter struggled with math for nine years until her mom found a math program, had her teach younger siblings and all of the sudden her math scores went way up. MOMM

Stephanie said...

I think you will be an excellent teacher and it sounds like a wonderful plan that will lead to positive results.

I was homeschooled through 8th grade and then attended a private high school. After that, I went to a state university for undergrad and on to graduate school.

I had a very positive experience as a homeschooled child. I was actively involved in many social activities (ballet, soccer, spanish, theatre, volunteering, more). When the time came to test into high school, I had a firm academic foundation and was ahead of my peers. I am grateful that my parents made that decision.

Homeschooling may not be for all parents or all children in all situations, but I firmly believe that is a viable option in many cases.

stephanie@metropolitanmama.net

Rachel said...

We have homeschooled from the beginning and highly recommend it... lots of activities to keep them "connected" but definitely worth it. I vote for "give it a try". :)

Kelly Marks said...

I don't think you are crazy at all. I think it is smart to take advantage of the flexibility available in schooling your son so that you can put together a school program that works for him and the whole family. It's great that students and families have these choices today, something unheard of in my school days.