Monday, April 26, 2010

Looking for an educational model that will work for my son...

I have always maintained that I am perched on a fence somewhere between homeschooling and public schooling, enjoying different parts of each. I've said that parents should look to their child to see what their needs are before determining what sort of educational model to offer. Decide if your child would do best in a structured linear school environment or free flowing homeschooling setting which offers up more freedom. Consider your child's needs rather than your own preconceived notions regarding education. This will ultimately allow for your child to learn in the setting that best works for them.

If only it were so easy. I have spent the last year trying to figure out what sort of educational model would work best for my son in this area, only to come up empty handed. Unfortunately, I am between a rock and a hard place...the rock being traditional public school and the hard place being homeschooling. Neither option, used exclusively, works for my son.

The biggest drawbacks to public school for my 13 year old son are lack of learning choice and the amount of homework given. My son Ryan hates that he is forced to take certain subjects, especially when he is completely disinterested in the topic or feels he already knows what is being taught. I have talked with my son's school counselor and asked if Ryan could take language arts as an independent study class and was told "no, that certain standards need to be maintained". Ryan is frustrated because the time he spends reading books he has no interest in takes away from the time he has available to work on the novel he is writing.

Ryan also hates how he has to read assigned books for school and fill out tedious worksheets on each book, which takes him away from reading books of his own choosing. Also, the amount of homework given each night is nothing more than busy work. Asking a kid to solve 120 algebra problems in an evening, when 20-40 problems would suffice is a bit much. Each night, Ryan is assigned about 2 hours of that he rushes through, not caring about the quality of it or if it brings about any learning. The goal is to finish, not learn. Public schools, in a desire to increase test scores, tend to think assigning lots of homework accomplishes this goal, when in fact, overloading kids with homework dilutes their interest in learning.

The biggest drawbacks to homeschooling as my son sees it are lack of social opportunities with other teens and lack of learning opportunities based in a classroom setting. Homeschooling as a whole does offer up lots of social opportunities for kids but my son's situation has been a bit different due to his age and the fact that we just recently moved to a new state. It is hard to find homeschooled teenagers when you are new in an area. Many of the homeschooled teens in my area found each other when they were younger and no longer post get togethers on yahoo groups etc..making it hard to break in as a newcomer.

While we did find some teen homeschoolers in this area, there were too few of them to fill out my son's requirements for socialization. That is why we decided to send Ryan to public school in January of this year. We felt it would give Ryan a chance to be around kids his age and also to learn in a classroom setting which he enjoys.

So, we have tried exclusively homeschooling and now exclusively public schooling and have come to the conclusion that neither really works for Ryan. A blend of homeschooling and public schooling is really what would work best for my son. We used this model while living in Illinois and it worked fantastically!! Problem is, the states around NYC don't allow homeschoolers to take classes at the public schools. Many homeschoolers in other parts of the country get around this problem by offering classes in a co-op setting, but there are none in my area at all. Alternative progressive private schools which may work for my son, have tuition's as high as 35K per year. I did find a Waldorf school that was cheaper, but quite a drive from my house.

So, what to do? Again, that rock and a hard place...

I have dumped so much of my energy into trying to make this all work out that I am left exhausted and feeling like I no longer have time to work on my evidenced by my extreme lack of blogging since moving here last summer.

All day public schooling makes Ryan miserable and so does the loneliness of homeschooling in this area. I just wish my husband's move would happen so we could get away from the rigidity of the schooling laws and lack of homeschoolers in this area. Moving would solve some of our problems, but create others. Because my husband's job should be based in the Northeast going forward, we are seriously considering buying a house in Maine, which allows blending homeschooling and public schooling.

Our Maine house would be our permanent residence no matter where in New England my husband was working. This house would be where we would live out our days and build relationships with those in our community. Ryan and I would settle into this home and Mike would commute home on the weekends. Summers and holidays, Ryan and I could travel between where Mike is based and the Maine house. While living in this manner, away from my husband, may sound difficult, it would only be for a short while until my husband could permanently move to be with us.

I welcome the thought of having a home that wouldn't change just because my husband's job did. After buying and selling five homes in almost 25 years of marriage, the thought of purchasing one last home and committing to an area sounds really, really good.

Well, I have rambled on long enough...searching for solutions...and wondering if I've found one...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Layla Girl...

I am just so glad she got to experience the beach. She was so happy there, running with the other dogs, exploring the water's edge. Happy with her whole body, smiling in her face.

She had come a long way- spending the first two years of her life caged up in a laundry room by day- until her owner decided that was no life for a dog, and gave her to us. She came into our lives with a nasty barking habit, and a desire to run if let out of the yard. But slowly, in our home, she decided she had nothing to bark about and nothing to run from because life with us was pretty good.

In our home she had plenty of playmates, my two sons who doted on and loved her immediately, along with our yellow lab Logan, who has also since passed. But this story isn't so much about what we did for her, but what she did for us.

She showed us how to really love. With her sweet disposition, and ready hugs, she was always there- both when we were at our best and also at our worst. She loved us unconditionally. She always got up to greet us when we walked into the door from being away. When we were at home she followed us throughout the house, from room to room, letting us know being with us was the most important thing in the world to her. If only I could be as good to those I love.

She has been our faithful companion hiking beside us through the foothills of the Appalachians in Georgia, the prairies of Illinois, and the beaches of Long Island Sound. She had a good life and so have we because of what she brought into our lives.

We feel her absense everywhere. A void. We no longer have a dog to walk, to feed, to greet, to hug. Nobody for my son to sleep with. Nobody to eat the scraps of food off the floor. The house is way too quiet...

Last night at dinner my son called to Layla, offering her a scrap of food from his plate, before he caught himself and remembered that she was gone. While it will take awhile to come to terms with our loss, we feel honored to have had her in our lives. Our beautiful Layla girl, she had a great run. May we love better because of her and may the little things in life bring us great joy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Breaking the Law...Outdoor Clothes Drying

How do you like the fancy clothesline I rigged up between my car and some hooks in my garage? Very clever if I must say so myself. Doubt the town selectmen would agree with me though, especially given how clotheslines are unlawful here in my town. Maybe this is what folks mean when they say clotheslines look trashy.

My clothesline in Illinois traveled between my son's playfort and a tree. Now I use a car and the garage. Wonder what other contraptions folks have implemented for the purpose of drying clothing?

Wonder when the cops are going to show up?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Compact 2010...A New Way to Shop

So far so good in my attempt to buy nothing new for all of 2010, even though I have been tempted on a few occasions. These occasions came when I was out shopping with my husband as he picked up essentials he needed for work or with my son as he replaced clothing he had grown out of. On these shopping excursions, I couldn't help but wander off to one of my favorite stores to check out their offerings and in no time at all, I would find myself trying things on in the dressing room or slipping my feet into a new pair of shoes. At these times, I would usually tell myself that I quite possibly did need a new outfit for my son's upcoming college graduation, or that my current jeans were ill-fitting and it would be OK to break the Compact for that reason.

But I didn't break the Compact that I had made with both myself and the earth, and didn't bow to temptation, even when confronted with a pair of Frye boots on sale- something I have been longing to own for several years. Time and time again over the last three months, I have simply walked away, telling myself I could always go back if I really needed to, but never actually doing it.

The walking away was made easier in part because I discovered a real gem in my area- a thrift store that sells wonderful high quality clothing. I have been shopping at thrift stores and garage sales for clothing since my 22 year old son started school and have found many nice things over the years, but never before have I found a store with such a nice selection. Another benefit is that many times the clothing I find at my local thrift store is of a higher quality than what I could find at the mall. On a recent weekend tagging along as my husband shopped for new suits at a local mall, I decided to look for something to wear to my son's graduation. I was dismayed at the flimsy material on a outfit I saw at a J.Jill store and happily found a much nicer outfit the following week at the thrift store. Based on the quality, the thrift store outfit would cost much more new than I would ever consider spending which ultimately allows me to spend less to look better.

The pictures above show just a few of the things I have picked up in the last few weeks. I visit the thrift store once a week to check out their current stock and pick up those things I may need for this season or next winter, expanding my wardrobe without impacting the planet. I find it fun and challenging to shop this way and love the thrill of the hunt. All of the women that work at the thrift shop purchase their clothing there and it is amazing to see the fantastic outfits they come up with. It inspires me to try new and different things myself.

Even though I find it easier to find great outfits at my thrift store here than some of the other stores I have tried in the past, I do know that something essential or unique can be found at any thrift store you try. From cloth napkins to books to furniture....I have found it all at a thrift store. Give it a never know what is going to turn up!