Saturday, January 21, 2012

Home Is Where My Heart Is.

Well, so much for my career as a lunch lady! When one goes through cancer, one experiences a lot of different feelings and thought streams. I would guess that I am not the only woman to have cancer and think, "What if I die? What will happen to my children?"

For awhile I danced with the idea that my homeschool friends would take them in for school, and help them make it through. I have no doubt that many of them would be willing to do it. I'm pretty sure I even pleaded with my husband to not ever put them in school. I'm pretty sure he had moments of panic about the whole thing too.

Then I came to the idea that putting them in school might be okay, so that if something did ever happen, they would at least know the drill, be able to "swim" and better to do it while I am here to help them get accustomed, right? So that's what we did.

#1 was already in public high school by this time. She wasn't crazy about it, but God proved Himself faithful in her situation, many times. I thought #2 should go for 6th grade, so she could join band, and sports or whatever interested her. And little #3 begged me to see her local school, since her sisters were "getting to go". So we visited and she liked it a lot. It helped that it is a lovely new suburban school with primary-colored ramps and banners from the ceiling, and it was recently named the #2 elementary school in our state! I felt so much better.

So they went. And, I immediately decided I should get a job while they're gone, so I can bring in money to help remodel this place. So I did. And it was fun. I got a job in the main kitchen at a large high school in the city next door. The pay rate was great, the fellowship was nice and the work was strenuous, but invigorating.

That was last year.

This year, after #2 and #3 had gotten to hear every single cuss word ever invented, on the school bus and beyond, we prepared to do it all over again. Only I went back to work 2 weeks before they went back to school. My mom was in town, so we muddled through, sans kitchen and everything.

Then the middle school notified me that #2 had scored poorly on a statewide test, in math. And their plan to rectify this was to remove her from art (her special talent which I have paid extra to indulge, for years), and put her in a second period of math wherein she would do an online math program that would help her solidify her math foundation.

When she continued to struggle and the regular math class teacher started spending a portion of the class teaching an individual who did not speak english, I met with the guidance counselor to see what my options were. He thought she would be able to get out of this lower-level class, away from the poorly-behaved, unmotivated students, to get into a better environment for learning. When I contacted the math teacher directly, she disagreed. She said #2 should stay in her class, and perhaps stay after school also, for homework club.

So I had her stay. #2 explained to me that homework club involved sitting in the library (sorry, media center), where the math teacher gave her flash cards. This after spending two hours during the day, in math classes.

Something had to give. The homeschooler in me reared her American-born, mother-bear head and said, "Not with my child, you're not." So the lunch-lady career careened into the ditch, and we made major life decisions.

Thank heavens for choice in education! We have friends who have been attending a charter school that is 60% online, 40% brick and mortar, for several years. This year, that same school opened at 100% virtual option, using curriculum I had already admired, developed by the man who wrote The Book of Virtues.

We applied at Thanksgiving and got in for second semester. I went ahead and transferred #3 also. I had spent many years homeschooling #1, and felt like I was missing out on that time with #3. She liked school, but like most children, loves being at home.

Is it perfect? No. Is it easy? It's not HARD. It is a terrific hybrid of homeschooling and accountability/diligence/tutor-type education. We can be online live with the teachers every day if we want or need to. We can motor along on our own, following their pacing guides to make sure we make adequate progress. It is an amazing option that I actually enjoy.

The most wonderful thing about this type of program is that the student doesn't move forward until they exhibit "mastery" of a subject by scoring 80% or above on an assessment. These assessments are frequent and immediately scored by the program. There are oodles of optional activities to assist you when you struggle, and you may retake the assessments as many times as you need.

Isn't that the way education should be? Last year, #2 got left behind when she had trouble with fractions. The class had to move on. Essentially, her can was kicked down the road for next year's teacher to deal with it. If she didn't get it in the time alloted for this year's class, too bad--movin' on. ACK! How many others are being rolled to the side of the road by this type of program?!

Next thing you know, she's giving up on herself and any hope of post-high school education. No one cares WHEN you learn fractions. No one ever asks that. You just need to learn them. If it takes you one month to get them down pat, rather than 2 weeks, no one cares, EVER. But you do have to get them down. This system handles this rather large dilemma wonderfully.

Do I wish I had all my time to myself, to clean house, or read books or post on my blogs? Absolutely. But the confirmation of my decision became clear last week, when #2 told me she wasn't smart enough to attend a college-prep, charter high school I am considering for her. --What?!

She was sure that since she had been relegated to that math class, and its various entities, she would not be able to cut it in a college-prep program. Only halfway through seventh grade and the label is firmly ensconced on her self-esteem. Ugh. I knew right then I had made the right choice, not waiting until the end of this school year.

Change is always hard. My parents moved me in the middle of 7th grade. It was HORRIBLE. Honestly, I think it damaged my academic progress permanently. I thought about that a lot when I was deciding what to do with my daughter. I wish I had never sent her to public school. But what's done is done. And the experience there will teach her many things I cannot.

Thank you, State Legislature, for allowing us to have charter schools. Thank you, Mr. Bill Bennett for developing the K12 curriculum. Thank you, Sally N., for telling me to go home to my children.

1 comment:

dfites said...

So well said!! I know you aren't looking for praise but you are an awesome Mom and I admire you.