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...



Darcy -- You rambled yourself right into a solution for your rock and a hard place. Maine is a progressive state and you sound like your family would fit in very nicely there. Also, its a beautiful state full of history and places to discover. It is unfortunate that certain states are so rigid -- I think they are only looking at the bottom line -- test scores so they can get larger financial allotments from the federal government. It's a production line. Follow your gut and your son will be fine -- barbara

Wendy said...

I know how frustrating it is to be a homeschooling parent with teens new to an area. Been there, done that! I am lucky to have been in Maine, however, where my teen daughter was permitted to take classes at the public school, but that wasn't really an ideal situation for us. She needed a social outlet, but that's not really what she found at the school.

In retrospect, I wish I had been able to support her in joining a local theatre group or doing 4-H or something like that, which is not a "school" or a "homeschool" thing.

We've been able to do that with my younger girls, who are in a 4-H group, are very active in dance, take music lessons and art classes, and participate in a monthly outdoor skills class. Their closest friends are girls they dance with most of whom go to school (but not in our town, and so even if my girls went to school, it wouldn't be with their best friends :).

Finding that balance is a real challenge.

Is Virtual High School an option for you?

Darcy said...

Wendy and Barbara- thanks for your comments.

Wendy- I don't think virtual school would work because my son loves to learn in a classroom with other kids. He gets motivated by the energy of the classroom and tends to dislike sitting alone and doing school work. Thanks for the great suggestion though. I know many of my homeschooling friends use virtual school and love it!

Barbara- Following my gut is what I have been doing and I understand eventually the path will unfold. For now, I am going to keep my son in school here until we have a better idea of where my husband will be transfered. That way we can minimize Ryan's transitions.